Testimony, circa 2 November 1831
Testimony, [, OH, ca. 2 Nov. 1831]; signed by , , , , and . Featured version, titled “73 Revelation,” copied with five signatures [between 3 Nov. and ca. 11 Nov. 1831] in Revelation Book 1, p. 121, with additional signatures of , , , , , , , , Joshua Fairchild, , , , and added [between mid-Nov. 1831 and ca. Jan. 1832]; handwriting of ; CHL. Includes redactions. For more complete source information, see the source note for Revelation Book 1.
According to the history JS initiated in 1838, a 1–2 November 1831 in , Ohio, considered what was called a “testimony of the witnesses to the book of the Lord’s .” The circumstances surrounding the production of this testimony are ambiguous. The conference minutes explain that JS asked attendees “what testimony they were willing to attach to these commandments,” meaning the revelations to be published in a compilation called the Book of Commandments. Some stated “they were willing to testify to the world that they knew that they were of the Lord,” but the minutes do not clearly state when or how the statement was produced.The history JS began in 1838 provides more detail: After JS dictated the “preface” to the Book of Commandments, “some conversation was had concerning Revelations and language.” A new revelation followed, informing the elders that some had not received “a testimony of the truth of those commandments which are lying before you” because of “fears in your hearts.” To help those who had not received such a witness, the revelation invited “the most wise among you” to write a revelation “like unto” one dictated by JS. If they could not “make one like unto it,” the revelation declared, the elders would be obligated to testify that JS’s revelations came from God. The history states that after the presentation of this revelation, attempted to “write a commandment like unto one of the least of the Lord’s, but failed.” Subsequently, the elders “renewed their faith . . . in the truth of the commandments and revelations which the Lord had given to the church through his [JS’s] instrumentality.” JS then dictated a “testimony” of the divine origin of his revelations for the elders to sign. Five elders apparently signed that day, and twelve others signed later.Whatever the precise scenario, the production of such a testimony paralleled what JS did when publishing the Book of Mormon. Following instructions given in that book and in other revelations, JS included the testimony of three witnesses and a separate testimony of eight witnesses declaring that they had seen the plates and the engravings from which the Book of Mormon was . For the testimony to the revelations in the Book of Commandments, JS seemed less concerned about securing testimonies from a specific number of individuals, apparently allowing all those who desired to testify of the revelations’ truthfulness to do so—perhaps excluding only those who were formal witnesses of the Book of Mormon. Only four of the listed attendees at the 1–2 November conference did not sign the testimony: and , two of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon; and and , two of the eight witnesses.The original manuscript of this document is not extant, but copied it into Revelation Book 1. Whitmer also copied the first five signatures on the document—apparently those signed at the 1–2 November conference. The other signatures are originals. , one of the signatories, did not attend the 1–2 November meeting but was in for an 11 November 1831 conference before departing to preach in other areas of , at which time he likely signed the document. Since Cahoon’s signature is the first original one in the text, Whitmer had likely already copied the testimony with its previous signatures by 11 November. Twelve other signatures were later added to the statement, the majority of which were inscribed after John Whitmer and took the revelation book to in November 1831. The testimony was likely intended to be published in the back of the Book of Commandments—as were the testimonies of the witnesses to the in the Book of Mormon—but because production of the Book of Commandments was terminated by the destruction of the church’s printing office in Missouri, the statement was not printed in that book.
JS History, vol. A-1, 162. For additional information on this conference, see Minutes, 1–2 Nov. 1831.
JS History, vol. A-1, 161.
Revelation, ca. 2 Nov. 1831 [D&C 67:3–9].
JS History, vol. A-1, 162. Neither in his contemporary journal nor in letters he later wrote recalling this conference did McLellin ever mention trying to write a revelation. In 1882, McLellin did say that he, Oliver Cowdery, and Sidney Rigdon were appointed as a committee to write a preface to the Book of Commandments and that when they presented it, the conference did not accept it. Whether this is related to the incident described in the history is unclear. (McLellin, Journal, Oct.–Nov. 1831; William E. McLellin, Independence, MO, to Mark H. Forscutt, Plano, IL, 1 Oct. 1871, Saints’ Herald, 15 July 1872, 435–436; William E. McLellin, “From a Letter Dated Dec. 14th, 1878,” John L. Traughber Papers, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City; “Letter from Elder W. H. Kelley,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Mar. 1882, 67.)
McLellin, William E. Journal, Apr.–June 1836. William E. McLellin, Papers, 1831–1836, 1877–1878. CHL. MS 13538, box 1, fd. 6. Also available as Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836 (Provo, UT: BYU Studies; Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).
Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.
McLellin, Wiliam E. “From a Letter Dated Dec. 14th, 1878.” John L. Traughber Papers. J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.
Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 110–111, 548 [2 Nephi 27:12–14; Ether 5:2–3]; Revelation, Mar. 1829 [D&C 5:11]; Revelation, June 1829–E [D&C 17:1–3]; Testimony of Three Witnesses, Late June 1829; Testimony of Eight Witnesses, Late June 1829.
Fifty-six years later, David Whitmer claimed that he opposed publishing the revelations. If this was the case, it may be a reason why he did not sign. For a list of conference attendees, see Minutes, 1–2 Nov. 1831. (Whitmer, Address to All Believers in Christ, 54–55.)
Whitmer, David. An Address to All Believers in Christ. Richmond, MO: By the author, 1887.
See Minutes, 11 Nov. 1831; Cahoon, Diary, Nov. 1831.
Cahoon, Reynolds. Diaries, 1831–1832. CHL. MS 1115.
“The Testimony of Three Witnesses”; “And Also the Testimony of Eight Witnesses,” in Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., –.
See “Proposed Sixth Gathering of the Book of Commandments.” A version of the testimony without signatures was included in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants as a testimony of that book. It was presented as “the written testimony” of twelve men who had been designated apostles in the church. (“General Assembly,” in Doctrine and Covenants, 1835 ed., 256.)
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