Book of the Law of the Lord, Record Book, 1841–1845; handwriting of , , , and ; 477 pages; CHL. Includes shorthand, redactions, and use marks.
“The Book of the Law of the Lord” is a large, leather-bound blank book made with thick paper. The paper bears a star-shaped watermark in the middle of each leaf and was printed with forty-seven blue lines on each side. The text block was originally formed with thirty gatherings of eight leaves each. The second gathering, however, has only six leaves. This six-leaf gathering was the result of either a binding error or one sheet coming loose from the binding before the book was inscribed (the book’s inscription and pagination run through this gathering without any missing text or skipped page numbers). The gatherings were sewn all along. Each set of endpapers consisted of a gathering of four leaves of unlined paper, but only two leaves are now extant in the back gathering. The trimmed pages measure 16¼ × 10½ inches (41 × 27 cm). Headbands were sewn onto the text block. The exterior pages of the endpapers are joined to the pasteboards with strips of pink cloth. Marbled papers featuring a shell pattern with green body and veins of red and yellow are glued to the inside covers of the boards and to the exterior page of each gathering of endpapers. The leaf edges are stained green. The text block is bound in ledger style to the boards. The spine was constructed with four false raised bands demarcating five panels. The boards and spine are covered in suede with additional leather strips that cover the top and bottom of the book, including the first and fifth panels of the spine. The suede was blind tooled on the outside covers, the raised bands of the spine, and the turned-in edges on the inside cover. The additional leather strips are embossed with dual lines and vegetal designs along the borders and have gold line filling. The spine is further embossed with the number “6” in twenty-point type on the fifth panel. The second and fourth panels have black-painted squares of paper glued to them. These feature gold lining and decoration at the top and bottom. The completed volume measures 17 × 11 × 2¼ inches (43 × 28 × 6 cm) and includes 244 free leaves. A penciled inscription at the inside top corner of page [ii]—the verso of the front marbled flyleaf—gives what appears to be an expensive price for this high-quality blank book: “bth | 10.00”.
inscribed nine revelations in the book on the first twenty-three pages of lined paper. made minor revisions to these revelation texts. Apparently either Richards or Thompson inscribed page numbers on pages 3–18, beginning at the first page of lined paper, in a stylized script. Richards inscribed page numbers on pages 19–25 as well as on the next several dozen pages. At some point, page , the recto of the last leaf of unlined endpaper in the front of the book, was inscribed with a title: “THE | BOOK | of the | LAW | of the | LORD”. Because these words are hand lettered in various ornate styles, the handwriting cannot be identified. A matching title appears on the spine of the volume: the square of black paper on the second panel of the spine bears a smaller rectangular label of white paper with a hand-lettered inscription: “LAW | — of the — | LORD.” Revelations were inscribed only on the first twenty-five pages of the volume, except in a couple of instances where they were copied into journal entries that were later inscribed in the volume. The bulk of the volume comprises records of donations in cash and in kind for the construction of the . Journal entries for JS are inscribed on intermittent pages from 26 to 215. Willard Richards inscribed pages 26–126 of the book, with help from on pages 27–28 and 72–87. Clayton inscribed the rest of the volume, pages 127–477, with help from on pages 168–171 and from on pages 189–190 and 192–201. These clerks and scribes generally paginated the book and inscribed dateline page headers along the way as they inscribed its texts.
The “Law of the Lord” is listed as such in inventories of church records made in Salt Lake City in the 1850s. These show that the volume reposed for a time in the office of church president . At some point, the book was marked on the spine with an archival sticker, which was later removed. The book eventually was housed with the papers of Joseph Fielding Smith, apparently during his tenure as church historian and recorder (1921–1970), and then became part of the First Presidency’s papers when he became church president in 1970. In 2010 the First Presidency gave custody of the book to the Church History Library.
“Inventory. Historian’s Office. 4th April 1855,” ; “Inventory. Historian’s Office. G. S. L. City April 1. 1857,” ; “Historian’s Office Inventory G. S. L. City March 19. 1858,” ; “Historian’s Office Catalogue Book March 1858,” , Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL.
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.
Letter of Transfer, Salt Lake City, UT, 8 Jan. 2010, CHL.
Letter of Transfer, Salt Lake City, UT, 8 Jan. 2010. CHL.
On 19 January 1841, JS dictated a revelation in , Illinois, designating the city as the new place for the . The revelation initially addressed JS personally before instructing other individuals and the Saints generally. Over the coming years, the lengthy revelation would function as a sort of sacred charter for the Saints in Nauvoo in much the same way as the recently passed act to incorporate the city served as a secular charter.
Since their expulsion from northern in winter 1838–1839, the Saints had devoted much of their time to resettling in the area of , Illinois, where they cleared the heavily forested peninsula, drained the swampy flats along the , planted crops, and built homes for the rapid influx of church members. Consequently, winter 1840–1841 provided church leaders the first real opportunity after the disruptive expulsion from Missouri to formally organize the new community and to restructure the church. The timing and content of the January revelation came after a series of efforts over the preceding months to seek incorporation of both the city and church from the legislature.
While the city charter signaled the church’s lasting presence in , this revelation assured church members that relocating to did not entail abandoning their efforts to establish in . The revelation stated that Nauvoo was to be “a corner stone of Zion” (or a “” of Zion) but not Zion itself. The city was not intended to be merely a temporary refuge either, as indicated by the revelation’s commandment to build a there. The revelation directed that a proclamation be written to the “kings of the world” inviting them to come to Nauvoo “with your gold and your silver, to the help of my people.” The proclamation’s prescribed contents (references to the “glory” of Zion and the invitation to leaders of the earth to come bearing gold, silver, and other precious materials), along with other elements of the revelation regarding the welcoming of visitors to the city, directly echoes the prophetic language in Isaiah chapters 60 and 62.
In order to have somewhere to host the anticipated distinguished visitors, the “weary traveler,” or anyone coming to to “contemplate the word of the Lord,” the revelation directed that a boardinghouse be built. The revelation devoted more space to the subject of building this “” than to any other topic. Because JS and were to donate the land on which the hotel would be built, the Smith family was to live there and serve as the hosts, a role in which JS and Emma had been serving since their arrival in the area. The revelation gave specific instructions to a number of individuals in Nauvoo, frequently recommending that they donate to the construction of the Nauvoo House by buying shares of stock. It concluded by officially reorganizing the church’s government, naming appointments to various ecclesiastical offices and quorums.
In some cases, rather than giving new instruction, the revelation provided formal approval and authority to earlier decisions and actions. The commandment to build a in , for instance, gave divine mandate to an instruction that JS had been voicing publicly for over half a year. The revelation underscored the importance of building a temple in Nauvoo by declaring that certain —like for the dead—were appropriately performed only in the temple. The revelation described Nauvoo as the cornerstone of Zion; an October 1839 of the church had already designated the city as a new gathering place for the Saints. Similarly, most of the church leadership assignments identified in the revelation reflected prior appointments.
One of the few revelations from the period to be later canonized by the church, the 19 January revelation served as divine direction for the Saints for the duration of their time in . Mayor read it at the general conference of the church in Nauvoo on 7 April 1841. The text was published in the 1 June issue of the church’s Nauvoo newspaper, Times and Seasons, as well as in the September 1841 issue of the Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, printed in , England. The Saints in Illinois referred to the revelation frequently in print and in public settings.
The version featured here is the earliest extant copy of the revelation, inscribed by in the Book of the Law of the Lord sometime between 19 January and 7 April 1841, when read the revelation publicly from this source. The absence of editorial revisions and the presence of some inadvertently duplicated passages indicate that Thompson was copying the version in the Book of the Law of the Lord from an earlier draft that is no longer extant.
The revelation’s injunction to rulers of the world to come and “give heed to the light and glory of Zion, for the set time has come, to favor her” closely mirrored Isaiah’s prophetic statements: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. . . . And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” The revelation specifically directed rulers to bring “the box tree, and the fir tree, and the pine tree,” paralleling Isaiah’s statement that “the glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together.” A circa 1841 draft of the proclamation by Robert B. Thompson contains the parenthetical note “(Isaiah—LX, LXI, LXII.),” indicating that the NauvooSaints recognized the connection between Isaiah’s prophecy and the 19 January revelation. (Isaiah 60:1, 3, 13; “A Religious Proclamation,” JS Collection, CHL.)
If my servant will do my will, let him not move his family unto the eastern lands, but let him change their habitation even as I have said: Behold, it is not my will that he should seek to find safety and refuge out of the city which I have appointed unto you, even the city of . Verily I say unto you, even now, that if he will hearken unto my voice it shall be well with him, even so, Amen.
And again verily I say unto you, let my servant pay stock into the hands of those whom I have appointed to build a house for boarding, even the , this let him do if he will have an interest and let him hearken unto the council counsel of my servant Joseph, and labor with his own hands that he may obtain the confidence of men, and when he shall prove himself faithful in all things that shall be entrusted unto his care, yea even a few things, he shall be made ruler over many; let him therefore abase himself, that he may be exalted, even so, Amen.
And again, verily I say unto you if my servant will obey my voice, let him build a house for my servant Joseph according to the contract which <he> has made with him, as the door shall be open to him from time to time, and let him repent of all his folly and clothe himself with charity, and cease to do evil and lay aside all his hard speeches, and pay stock also into the hands of the of the for himself and for his generation after him, from generation to generation and hearken unto the council counsel of my servant Joseph and and , and unto the authorities which I have called to lay the foundation of , and it shall be well with him, forever and ever, even so Amen.
And again, verily I say unto you let my no man pay stock to the quorum of the , unless he shall be a believer in the Book of Mormon and the revelations I have given unto you saith the Lord your God for that which is more or less than this cometh of evil, and shall be attended with cursings and not blessing saith the Lord your God, even so Amen
And again, verily I say unto you let the quorum of the , have a just recompence of wages, for all their labors which they do in building the , and let their wages be as shall [p. 12]
At this time, Rigdon was residing in the “lower stone house”—a two-story home in Nauvoo on the bank of the Mississippi River, purchased in 1839 from Isaac Galland. (Hancock Co., IL, Deed Records, 1817–1917, vol. 12-G, p. 247, 30 Apr. 1839, microfilm 954,195, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL; “List of Property in the City of Nauvoo,” 1841, Nauvoo block 132, Nauvoo, IL, Records, CHL; Advertisement, Times and Seasons, 2 Aug. 1841, 2:502.)
It is unclear to which house this instruction refers. Whether it was an alternative residence for JS and his family that was never built or an earlier iteration of the project that became the Nauvoo House, no preexisting contract with Foster has been located.