On the afternoon of 14 November 1835, JS was visited by of Miami Township, Clermont County, Ohio, some 230 miles southwest of . According to JS’s journal, Holmes had called to “make enquiry about the establishment of the and to be instructed more perfectly in our doctrine.” Holmes spent the next several days in Kirtland and, after learning more about the church, requested that JS ask God when and where he should be . On 16 November 1835, JS dictated the revelation presented here, which gave Holmes the personal instruction he sought.
Aside from the account of this visit recorded in JS’s journal, little is known about . An 1880 county history indicates that he was a merchant in , which is approximately sixteen miles northeast of ; he also worked as a postmaster from 1837 to 1846. According to JS’s journal, Holmes had been a Methodist until he “was excommunicated for receiving, the of the church of the latter-day Saints into his house.”
While it was not unusual for visitors who were curious about the Latter-day Saints to arrive in unsolicited—between June 1835 and January 1836, JS entertained at least ten men of varying religious faiths who were interested in learning about him and the church—JS seemed particularly interested in , perhaps because of his desire to “unite with the Church.” During Holmes’s stay in Kirtland he dined with JS, attended a church meeting, and viewed the Egyptian mummies JS and others had recently purchased. In a notable conversation between JS and Holmes, a brief summary of which was dictated to and recorded in JS’s journal, JS described his first vision of Deity, the second time he recounted that event in less than a week: “I commenced and gave him a brief relation of my experience while in my juvenile years, say from 6, years old up to the time I received the first visitation of Angels which was when I was about 14, years old and also the visitations that I received afterward, concerning the book of Mormon, and a short account of the rise and progress of the church, up to this, date.”
On the evening of 16 November, JS dictated a revelation that advised that he “had better not be baptised here.” The revelation was presumably delivered to Holmes that night or the next day. copied the text into JS’s journal, which represents the only extant copy. According to JS’s journal, Holmes left the next day, “being strong in the faith of the gospel of Christ and determined to obey the requirements of the same,” but there is no evidence that he ever joined the church.
From 24 October 1835 to 21 January 1836, JS’s journal notes visits he received from at least nine people who were not members of the church (and several more whose religious identification is unclear); another visit is recorded in a 15 June 1835 letter. Some of the visitors came from cities in Ohio, while others trekked from neighboring states. (See JS, Journal, 30 Oct. and 9–11 Nov. 1835; and Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 15 June 1835.)
his duty to be here, or wait until he returned home;— The word of the Lord came to unto me saying, that had better not be baptised here, and that he had better not return by water, also that there were three men that were seeking his destruction, to be ware of his eneys [enemies] [p. 45]
Because Holmes lived in Miami Township, he may have traveled home by land or via the Ohio and Erie Canal (from Cleveland to Portsmouth) and the Ohio River. The admonition not to return by water may be related to an August 1831 revelation in which the Saints were warned of the “many dangers upon the waters”; the revelation also prophesied that “the days will come that no flesh shall be safe upon the waters.” (Revelation, 12 Aug. 1831 [D&C 61].)