Revelation, [, Susquehanna Co., PA, Mar. 1829]. Featured version copied [ca. Apr. 1829]; handwriting of ; three pages; Newel K. Whitney, Papers, BYU. Includes docket, later notations, and archival marking.
Single foolscap page folded in half to create two leaves, each measuring 12⅜ × 7½ inches (31 × 19 cm). Docket in handwriting of on the verso of the final leaf reads “Respecting translating the | Book of mormon”. Other writing, consisting of unrelated lists of names and mathematical calculations, in both pencil and ink by an unidentified scribe appears to have been created circa mid-1830.
This document is part of a collection of revelations found within the Papers, which comprise three different groups of material: early Mormon material, largely relating to the finances of the church; Newel K. Whitney personal papers; and Whitney family papers. The Whitney papers include nineteen manuscript revelations. The dates of the majority of the revelations indicate that Whitney, likely in his role as bishop of the church, received and retained copies of revelations from mid-1831 through late 1833. Because the featured text was dictated well before Whitney joined the church, it is unknown when or under what circumstances Whitney acquired this manuscript.
According to the register of the Papers, following the death of Whitney, his daughter Mary Jane, who married Isaac Groo, obtained possession of the papers. The Brigham Young University library, Provo, Utah, acquired these papers from descendants of Mary Jane and Isaac Groo between 1969 and 1974.
All extant versions of this revelation that bear a date have it as March 1829. Although the featured version gives no explicit date of creation, ’s handwriting provides a clue to the dating. This document appears to provide one of only two known samples of Cowdery’s early stylized or formalized handwriting. The other is a 6 April 1829 agreement between JS and his father-in-law, . Once Cowdery began taking dictation from JS of the Book of Mormon translation, his handwriting evolved into the style that characterized his handwriting for the remainder of his life. If, as the similarities of handwriting style would suggest, this copy of the revelation was created around the same time as the above-mentioned agreement, the document would have been created circa April 1829. This creation date would make this the earliest extant version of any revelation text dictated by JS.
This revelation, which promised he would see the if he humbled himself, was “given to Joseph and Martin, in , Pennsylvania, March, 1829.” JS had last seen Harris in the summer of 1828 when he traveled to and found that Harris had lost the portion of the later referred to as “the Book of Lehi.” JS returned to Harmony disheartened and without Harris, his scribe. He did not “go immediately to translating, but went to laboring” on the small farm he had purchased from his father-in-law, . There is no indication that JS and Harris met again until March 1829, when Harris traveled to Harmony to see him.
later reported that “in March the People Rose up & united against the Work[,] gathering testimey [testimony] against the Plates.” As Harris recalled, these persecutors threatened a lawsuit and “Said they had testamoney Enough & if I did not Put Joseph in Jail & his for Deseption they Would me.” According to , Harris’s (also named Lucy) played a central role in generating this opposition to JS’s work: she “mounted her horse [and] flew through the neighborhood like a dark spirit from house to house making diligent enquiry at every house for miles where she had the least hope of gleaning anything that would subserve her purpose.” Lucy Harris sought to prove that JS had pretended to have gold plates “for the express purpose of obtaining money from those who might be so credulous as to believe him . . . [and] entered a complaint before a magistrate at Lyons [New York].” It was in the midst of these difficulties that Harris traveled to to see JS. According to the revelation’s heading in the 1833 Book of Commandments, “Martin desired of the Lord to know whether Joseph had, in his possession, the record of the .” ’s father, , reported that Harris hoped to gain a “greater witness” of the plates.
Addressing ’s concerns, the revelation spoke of his desiring “a witness that my Servant Joseph hath got the things which he hath testified,” but stated that JS could not show them to anyone. Harris was then told that God would show the plates to three witnesses who would publicly testify of what they saw, and he was promised he would be one of those witnesses, “if he will go out & bow down before me & humble himself in mighty prayer & faith in the sincerity of his heart.” The revelation also warned JS that “there are many that lie in wait to destroy thee,” perhaps an allusion to those preparing a lawsuit against JS, and declared that “the Swoard of Justice” hung above the people of that generation and that if they would “persist in the hardness of ther hearts the time cometh that it must fall upon them.” The revelation asserted that the book’s authenticity would be evidenced primarily by its message, not by the plates. If the people would not believe the translation, they also would not believe even if JS “could show them all things.”
Though was not allowed to view the plates during his March 1829 visit to , the revelation allayed his doubts. William S. Sayre, a fellow traveler with Harris on the stagecoach back to , recalled that one of the other passengers “did not believe that Joe [JS] was capable of composing any thing, but that Joe’s was a man of some education & cunning & shr[e]wd . . . & was duping others through Joe, & that they were cheating” Harris out of his money. Harris, however, told his fellow passengers that JS “had found a gold bible & stone in which he look’d & was thereby enabled to translate the very ancient chara[c]ters.” He further explained that JS had “read to him a good deal of the bible & he [Harris] repeated to those in the stage verse after verse of what Smith had read to him.” Harris also defended JS at the hearing in Lyons, New York. Although no contemporary account of this trial has been located, remembered a report that three witnesses each claimed JS had admitted to fabricating the story of the plates to deceive Martin Harris. But Harris, taking the stand, testified that JS had not defrauded him and that Harris had put only “$50 into his hands . . . for the purpose of doing the work of the Lord.”
reported that he saw JS and comparing two manuscript copies of this revelation shortly after it was dictated. Though it is unknown what happened to those copies, this text is the earliest extant copy of any of JS’s revelations. possibly created it in April 1829, copying from an earlier manuscript. Another early version of this revelation was copied into Revelation Book 1, but the pages that contained it are missing. The editors of the 1833 Book of Commandments used Revelation Book 1 as their source, but it is unknown what editing to this revelation was done prior to its publication. The differences between the text featured here and the version in the Book of Commandments demonstrate that Revelation Book 1 may not consistently represent the earliest text of JS’s revelations.
Isaac Hale, Affidavit, Harmony, PA, 20 Mar. 1834, in “Mormonism,” Susquehanna Register, and Northern Pennsylvanian (Montrose, PA), 1 May 1834, . Martin Harris later stated that a man named Rogers accompanied him on the journey to Harmony. Unknown to Harris at the time, Rogers had plotted with Martin’s wife, Lucy Harris, that he would cut off “the covering of the Plates” with his knife when JS displayed them. No other known source mentions this scheme or provides evidence that Rogers followed through with it. Rogers cannot be positively identified, though there was a Joseph Rogers living near Manchester in Phelpstown who later gave a negative account about the Smiths and claimed to have affidavits demonstrating that they were thieves. (“Testamoney of Martin Harris,” 4 Sept. 1870, , Edward Stevenson, Collection, CHL; “Joseph Rogers’ Statement,” in Naked Truths about Mormonism [Oakland, CA], Apr. 1888, 1.)
Susquehanna Register, and Northern Pennsylvanian. Montrose, PA. 1831–1836.
Stevenson, Edward. Collection, 1849–1922. CHL. MS 4806.
Naked Truths about Mormonism: Also a Journal for Important, Newly Apprehended Truths, and Miscellany. Oakland, CA. Jan. and Apr. 1888.
William S. Sayre, Bainbridge, NY, to James T. Cobb, [Salt Lake City, Utah Territory], 31 Aug. 1878, in Theodore Albert Schroeder Papers. Although Sayre called his fellow passenger “Richards,” he admitted uncertainty about the name, and the details of Sayre’s account—which describes the man as the Palmyra resident who later financed the Book of Mormon—leave little doubt it was Martin Harris. Sayre dated the incident to April 1829, and Harris was known to be traveling from Harmony to Palmyra in March. The claim that JS was incapable of composing anything and was being assisted by his father was echoed in Harris’s statement, quoted previously, that those involved in the lawsuit wanted to put both JS and his father in jail for deception.
Theodore Albert Schroeder Papers, 1845–1901. Microfilm. [Madison, WI]: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Division of Archives and Manuscripts, [ca. 1987]. Copy at CHL. MS 9391.
Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 8, . Lucy Mack Smith wrote that the first witness claimed the box in which JS kept the plates was filled with sand and that JS told him it was “to deceive the people,” the second witness claimed JS said the box was filled with lead, and the third witness declared the box was empty but was used to get Martin Harris’s money. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 8, –.)
Behold I say unto you that my servant hath desired A witness that my Servant Joseph hath got the things which he hath testified that he hath got and now Behold thus shall ye say unto him I the Lord am God I have given these things unto him & I have commanded him that he should stand as A witness of these things nevertheless I have caused him that he should enter into A with me that he should not show them except I Command him & he hath no power over them e[x]cept I grant it unto him & he hath A gift to the Book & I have commanded him that he should shall pretend to no other gift for I will grant unto him no other gift and verily I say unto you that woe shall come unto the Inhabitents of the Earth if they will not hearken unto my words for Behold if they will not believe my words they would not believe my servants if it were possible he could show them all things O ye unbelieving ye stiffnecked Generation Behold I have reserved the things which have been spoken of which I have entrusted to my servant for A wise perpose in me & it shall be made Known unto future Generations but for this Generation they shall have my word yea & the testimony of three of my Servants shall go forth with my word unto this Generation yea three shall Know of A surety that those things are true for I will give them power that they may Behold & vew these things as they are & to none else will I grant this power among this Generation & the testimony of three Witnesses will I send forth & my word & behold whosoever beleaveth in my word him will I visit with the manifestations of my spirit & they shall be Born of me & their testimony shall also go forth & thus if the People of this Generation harden not their hearts I will work a reformation among them & I will put down all lieings & deceivings & & envyings & strifes & Idolatries and sorceries & all maner of Iniquities & I will establish my yea even the church which was taught by my Desiples & now if this Generation do hardon their hearts [p. 1]
Three men—Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris—attested in June 1829 that an angel from heaven presented the plates for their inspection. Their testimony was published in the first edition of the Book of Mormon in 1830 and in all subsequent editions. In addition to affirming that they saw the plates, they stated, “We also know that they [the plates] have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us.” (Testimony of Three Witnesses, Late June 1829; see also Historical Introduction to Revelation, June 1829–E [D&C 17].)
In the nineteenth century, “sorceries” referred to illicit magical practices usually wrought “by the assistance or supposed assistance of evil spirits.” (“Sorcery,” in American Dictionary.)
An American Dictionary of the English Language: Intended to Exhibit, I. the Origin, Affinities and Primary Signification of English Words, as far as They Have Been Ascertained. . . . Edited by Noah Webster. New York: S. Converse, 1828.