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.)
as my servant Joseph shall shew unto them, upon the place which he shall shew unto them also; and it shall be for a house for boarding; a house that strangers may come from afar to lodge therein— therefore let it be a good house, worthy of all acceptation, that the weary traveller may find health and safety, while he shall contemplate the word of the Lord, and the corner stone I have appointed for . This shall be a healthy habitation, if it be built unto my name, and if the Governor which shall be appointed unto it, shall not suffer any pollution to come upon it— It shall be holy, or the Lord your God will not dwell therein.
And, again, verily I say unto you, let all my , from afar; ‘And send ye swift messengers, yea, chosen messengers and say unto them, Come ye, with all your gold, and your silver, and your preceious stones, and with all your antiquitiees, and with all who have knowledge of antiquities, that will come, may come, and bring the box tree, and the fir tree, and the pine tree, together with all the precious trees of the earth, and with iron, with copper and with brass, and with zink <and with> all your precious things of the earth, and build a unto mine my name, for the Most High to dwell therein, for there is not place found on the earth; that he may come and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the ; for a baptismal font there is not upon the earth; that they, my saints may be for those who are dead, for this belongeth to my , and cannot be acceptable to me, only in the days of your poverty, wherein ye are not able to build a house unto me; but I command you, all ye my saints to build a unto me, and I grant unto you a sufficien[t] time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms, shall be acceptable unto me. But behold, at the end of this appointment, your baptisms for your dead, shall not be acceptable unto me, and if you do not these things, at the end of the appointment, ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God. For verily I say unto you, that after you have had sufficient time to build a unto me, wherein the ordinance of baptizing for the dead belongeth, and for which the same was instituted from before the foundation of the world, your baptisms for your dead cannot be acceptable unto me, for therein are the of the Holy Priesthood ordained, that you may receive honor and glory. And after this time, your baptisms for the dead, by those who are scattered abroad are not acceptable unto me, saith the Lord; for it is ordained that in Zion and in her , and in Jerusalem [p. 5]
After construction began on the temple, one of the first priorities was building a baptismal font. A temporary, wooden baptismal font was dedicated in the basement of the unfinished temple on 8 November 1841 and was one of the earliest uses of the temple space. (Clayton, History of the Nauvoo Temple, 20–21.)
Clayton, William. History of the Nauvoo Temple, ca. 1845. CHL. MS 3365.
JS first taught the doctrine of baptism for the dead publicly in a funeral sermon for Seymour Brunson on 15 August 1840. By the following month, these baptisms were being performed in the Mississippi River. (Simon Baker, “15 Aug. 1840 Minutes of Recollection of Joseph Smith’s Sermon,” JS Collection, CHL; Jane Harper Neyman and Vienna Jaques, Statement, 29 Nov. 1854, Historian’s Office, JS History Documents, ca. 1839–1860, CHL; see also Letter to Quorum of the Twelve, 15 Dec. 1840.)
Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL. MS 155.
Historian’s Office. Joseph Smith History Documents, 1839–1860. CHL. CR 100 396.