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Revelation, 7 August 1831 [D&C 59]

On 7 August 1831, JS dictated a revelation in Missouri “instructing the sa[i]nts how to keep the sabath & how to fast and pray.”1

Revelation, 7 Aug. 1831, in Revelation Book 1, p. 98, in JSP, MRB:169 [D&C 59].  

 
The revelation was specifically addressed to those “who have come up unto” Missouri, in fulfillment of the commandment to gather there and build up the city of Zion.2

Revelation, 6 June 1831 [D&C 52]; Revelation, 20 July 1831 [D&C 57]; Revelation, 1 Aug. 1831 [D&C 58]. This revelation may have resulted in part from a desire to know what rewards such individuals would obtain. The statement “trouble me no more concerning this matter”—which appears in the closing portion of the revelation—suggests that the revelation came as a response to inquiry on the part of JS or others with him.  

 
Some of the instruction in the revelation probably came in response to the conduct of the inhabitants of Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, among whom these Saints were living. Many of those already in Jackson County had migrated there from southern states, whereas most church members entering the area were from the Northeast. As William W. Phelps, who traveled with JS to Missouri, explained in a July 1831 letter, Jackson County residents were “emigrants from Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and the Carolinas, &c., with customs, manners, modes of living and a climate entirely different from the northerners.”3

William W. Phelps, “Extract of a Letter from the Late Editor,” Ontario Phoenix (Canandaigua, NY), 7 Sept. 1831, [2].
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Ontario Phoenix. Canandaigua, NY. 1828–1832.

One custom that was especially different was Sabbath day observance. A later JS history characterized “many” of the residents as “the basest of men [who] had fled from the face of civilized society, to the frontier country to escape the hand of justice, in their midnight revels, their sabbath breaking, horseracing, and gambling.”4

JS, “Church History,” Times and Seasons, 1 Mar. 1842, 3:708, in JSP, H1:497. According to one history of Independence, the first clerk of the circuit court even left the town because of “the rough exterior and uncultivated manners of the people.” (History of Jackson County, Missouri, 104.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

The History of Jackson County, Missouri, Containing a History of the County, Its Cities, Towns, Etc. Kansas City, MO: Union Historical Co., 1881.

A traveler to western Missouri in 1833 made a similar observation, stating that “the only indications of its being Sunday” in the area was “the unusual Gambling & noise, & assemblies around taverns.”5

Edward Ellsworth to Chauncey Goodrich Jr., 8 Aug. 1833, Fort Leavenworth, quoted in Irving, Indian Sketches, xxii.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Irving, John Treat. Indian Sketches, Taken During an Expedition to the Pawnee Tribes [1833], ed. John Francis McDermott. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1955.

Sabbath day observance, however, was an important component of worship to many members of the Church of Christ.6

Hartley, My Fellow Servants, 343–344.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Hartley, William G. My Fellow Servants: Essays on the History of the Priesthood. Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2010.

Perhaps because of the general nonobservance of the Sabbath among the inhabitants of Jackson County, the 7 August revelation emphasized the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy, outlining what church members should do on that day. These guidelines filled a void that neither the “Articles and Covenants” of the church nor the February 1831 revelation giving the “Laws of the Church of Christ” had addressed, thereby providing direction to those who would be building up the city of Zion without the benefit of JS’s in-person leadership.7

A 1 August revelation instructed JS to return to Ohio. (Revelation, 1 Aug. 1831 [D&C 58:58]; see also “Articles of the Church of Christ,” ca. June 1829; Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:1–73]; and Revelation, 23 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:74–93].)  

 
The revelation may have also been a response to the concerns of those who had gone to Missouri and felt daunted by the task of building up Zion in a region described by one observer as containing only “two or three merchants stores, and fifteen or twenty dwelling houses, built mostly of logs hewed on both sides.”8

Ezra Booth, “Mormonism—No VI,” Ohio Star (Ravenna), 17 Nov. 1831, [3].
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Ohio Star. Ravenna. 1830–1854.

Washington Irving, who traveled through Independence in 1832 on an expedition with federal Indian commissioners, also commented on the “rougher and rougher life” he encountered as he got closer to the town, while his traveling companion Charles Latrobe described Independence as “full of promise” but containing “nothing but a ragged congeries of five or six rough log huts, two or three clapboard houses, two or three so-called hotels, alias grogshops; [and] a few stores.”9

Washington Irving, Independence, MO, to “Mrs. Paris,” New York, 26 Sept. 1832, in Irving, Life and Letters of Washington Irving, 33, 38; Latrobe, Rambler in North America, 104.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Irving, Pierre M. The Life and Letters of Washington Irving. Vol. 3. New York: G. P. Putnam, 1863.

Latrobe, Charles Joseph. The Rambler in North America, MDCCCXXXII—MDCCCXXXIII. Vol. 1. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1835.

Perhaps to encourage the Saints in such conditions, the revelation promised the bounties of the earth to church members and reminded them to express gratitude to God.
The revelation assured heavenly rewards for the obedient who would die in Zion—prompted, perhaps, by the death on the morning of 7 August of Polly Peck Knight, the fifty-seven–year-old wife of Joseph Knight Sr., and a friend of JS and his family. Polly Knight had traveled to Missouri with the Colesville Saints, but after falling ill she became “the first death in the church in this land.” It is unclear whether this revelation was dictated before or after JS was informed of her death.10

JS History, vol. A-1, 139; see also Knight, Reminiscences, 9. A later JS history gives Polly Knight’s date of death as 6 August, but Edward Partridge, writing to his wife on 7 August, declared, “This morning old Mrs Knight died.” (Edward Partridge, Independence, MO, to Lydia Clisbee Partridge, 5–7 Aug. 1831, Edward Partridge, Letters, 1831–1835, CHL.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Knight, Joseph, Sr. Reminiscences, no date. CHL.

Partridge, Edward. Letters, 1831–1835. CHL.

Oliver Cowdery served as the scribe for the original inscription of this revelation. The copy featured here belonged to Newel K. Whitney and is also in Cowdery’s hand. Whitney’s copy may be the original but is more likely a fair copy. It was likely made for him sometime after Cowdery returned to Ohio at the end of August.11

Cowdery reached Kirtland, Ohio, on 27 August 1831. A 30 August 1831 revelation directed that Whitney be appointed an agent in Ohio and that he accompany Cowdery to different churches in the area to raise money for land purchases in Zion. Cowdery may have copied the 7 August revelation for Whitney in preparation for this trip, or he may have made a copy for Whitney as they traveled together. (JS History, vol. A-1, 146; Revelation, 30 Aug. 1831 [D&C 63:45–46].)  

 
Around that same time, John Whitmer copied the revelation into Revelation Book 1.12

Revelation Book 1, pp. 98–100, in JSP, MRB:5, 169–173.  

 
That there are few differences between the two copies suggests they were made around the same time or from the same copy.13

A copy of the revelation exists in the “Book of Commandments Law and Covenant,” book A, in Samuel Smith’s handwriting. Although Smith was likely present when the revelation was dictated (he arrived in Missouri on 4 August), he probably did not make his copy until after the spring of 1832, since it follows revelations in book A that are dated in early 1832. Smith’s copy, too, is similar to the other early manuscript copies; it is possible, though not likely, that Smith’s copy is earlier than the Whitney copy featured herein. (Edward Partridge, Independence, MO, to Lydia Clisbee Partridge, 5–7 Aug. 1831, Edward Partridge, Letters, 1831–1835, CHL; see also Hyde and Smith, Notebook, [69]–[74].)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Partridge, Edward. Letters, 1831–1835. CHL.

Hyde, Orson, and Samuel Smith. Notebook of Revelations, 1832. Revelations Collection, 1831–ca. 1844, 1847, 1861, ca. 1876. CHL.

Facts