26023

“Church History,” 1 March 1842

heavenly vision and saw two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in features, and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon-day. They told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom. And I was expressly commanded to “go not after them,” at the same time receiving a promise that the fulness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me.
On the evening of the 21st of September, A. D. 1823, while I was praying unto God, and endeavoring to exercise faith in the precious promises of scripture on a sudden a light like that of day, only of a far purer and more glorious appearance, and brightness burst into the room, indeed the first sight was as though the house was filled with consuming fire; the appearance produced a shock that affected the whole body; in a moment a personage stood before me surrounded with a glory yet greater than that with which I was already surrounded. This messenger proclaimed himself to be an angel of God sent to bring the joyful tidings, that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled, that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the gospel, in all its fulness to be preached in power, unto all nations that a people might be prepared for the millennial reign.
I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of his purposes in this glorious dispensation.
I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country

North American constitutional republic. Constitution ratified, 17 Sept. 1787. Population in 1805 about 6,000,000; in 1830 about 13,000,000; and in 1844 about 20,000,000. Louisiana Purchase, 1803, doubled size of U.S. Consisted of seventeen states at time ...

More Info
, and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people was made known unto me: I was also told where there was deposited some plates on which were engraven an abridgement of the records of the ancient prophets that had existed on this continent. The angel appeared to me three times the same night and unfolded the same things. After having received many visits from the angels of God unfolding the majesty, and glory of the events that should transpire in the last days, on the morning of the 22d of September A. D. 1827, the angel of the Lord delivered the records into my hands.
These records were engraven on plates which had the appearance of gold, each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters and bound together in a volume, as the leaves of a book with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters on the unsealed part were small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction and much skill in the art of engraving. With the records was found a curious instrument which the ancients called “Urim and Thummim,” which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate.
Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift, and power of God.
In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the tower of Babel, at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites and came directly from the tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country

North American constitutional republic. Constitution ratified, 17 Sept. 1787. Population in 1805 about 6,000,000; in 1830 about 13,000,000; and in 1844 about 20,000,000. Louisiana Purchase, 1803, doubled size of U.S. Consisted of seventeen states at time ...

More Info
. This book also tells us that our Saviour made his appearance upon this continent after his resurrection, that he planted the gospel here in all its fulness, and richness, and power, and blessing; that they had apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists; the same order, the same priesthood, the [p. 707]
heavenly vision and saw two glorious  personages who exactly resembled each  other in features, and likeness, surround ed with a brilliant light which eclipsed the  sun at noon-day.4

JS identified these two personages as God the Father and Jesus Christ. (JS History, vol. A-1, 3; see also JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 3; JS, Journal, 9–11 Nov. 1835; and JS, “Latter Day Saints,” p. 405.  


They told me that all  religious denominations were believing in  incorrect doctrines, and that none of them  was acknowledged of God as his church  and kingdom. And I was expressly com manded to “go not after them,”5

See Luke 17:23.  


at the  same time receiving a promise that the  fulness of the gospel should at some future  time be made known unto me.
On the evening of the 21st of Septem ber, A. D. 1823, while I was praying  unto God, and endeavoring to exercise  faith in the precious promises of scripture  on a sudden a light like that of day, only  of a far purer and more glorious appear ance, and brightness burst into the room,  indeed the first sight was as though the  house was filled with consuming fire; the  appearance produced a shock that affected  the whole body; in a moment a personage  stood before me surrounded with a glory  yet greater than that with which I was  already surrounded.6

JS also recounted this experience in JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 4; JS, Journal, 9–11 Nov. 1835; JS History, vol. A-1, 4–7; and JS, “Latter-day Saints.” He previously identified the messenger as Moroni. ([JS], Editorial, Elders’ Journal, July 1838, 42–44.)  


This messenger  proclaimed himself to be an angel of God  sent to bring the joyful tidings, that the  covenant which God made with ancient  Israel was at hand to be fulfilled, that  the preparatory work for the second com ing of the Messiah was speedily to com mence; that the time was at hand for the  gospel, in all its fulness to be preached in  power, unto all nations that a people  might be prepared for the millennial  reign.
I was informed that I was chosen to be  an instrument in the hands of God to  bring about some of his purposes in this  glorious dispensation.
I was also informed concerning the ab original inhabitants of this country

North American constitutional republic. Constitution ratified, 17 Sept. 1787. Population in 1805 about 6,000,000; in 1830 about 13,000,000; and in 1844 about 20,000,000. Louisiana Purchase, 1803, doubled size of U.S. Consisted of seventeen states at time ...

More Info
, and  shown who they were, and from whence  they came; a brief sketch of their origin,  progress, civilization, laws, governments,  of their righteousness and iniquity, and  the blessings of God being finally with drawn from them as a people was made  known unto me: I was also told where  there was deposited some plates on  which were engraven an abridgement of  the records of the ancient prophets that  had existed on this continent. The an gel appeared to me three times the same  night and unfolded the same things. Af ter having received many visits from the  angels of God unfolding the majesty, and  glory of the events that should transpire  in the last days, on the morning of the  22d of September A. D. 1827, the an gel of the Lord delivered the records into  my hands.7

Much of the following account of the gold plates quotes Orson Pratt’s Interesting Account.  


These records were engraven on plates  which had the appearance of gold, each  plate was six inches wide and eight in ches long and not quite so thick as com mon tin. They were filled with engra vings, in Egyptian characters and bound  together in a volume, as the leaves of a  book with three rings running through  the whole. The volume was something  near six inches in thickness, a part of  which was sealed. The characters on  the unsealed part were small, and beau tifully engraved. The whole book exhib ited many marks of antiquity in its  construction and much skill in the art of  engraving. With the records was found  a curious instrument which the ancients  called “Urim and Thummim,” which  consisted of two transparent stones set in  the rim of a bow fastened to a breast plate.
Through the medium of the Urim and  Thummim I translated the record by the  gift, and power of God.
In this important and interesting book  the history of ancient America is unfold ed, from its first settlement by a colony  that came from the tower of Babel, at  the confusion of languages to the begin ning of the fifth century of the Christian  era. We are informed by these records  that America in ancient times has been  inhabited by two distinct races of people.  The first were called Jaredites and came  directly from the tower of Babel. The  second race came directly from the city  of Jerusalem, about six hundred years  before Christ. They were principally Is raelites, of the descendants of Joseph.  The Jaredites were destroyed about the  time that the Israelites came from Jeru salem, who succeeded them in the inheri tance of the country. The principal  nation of the second race fell in battle to wards the close of the fourth century.  The remnant are the Indians that now  inhabit this country

North American constitutional republic. Constitution ratified, 17 Sept. 1787. Population in 1805 about 6,000,000; in 1830 about 13,000,000; and in 1844 about 20,000,000. Louisiana Purchase, 1803, doubled size of U.S. Consisted of seventeen states at time ...

More Info
. This book also tells  us that our Saviour made his appearance  upon this continent after his resurrection,  that he planted the gospel here in all its  fulness, and richness, and power, and  blessing; that they had apostles, prophets,  pastors, teachers and evangelists; the  same order, the same priesthood, the [p. 707]
PreviousNext
In 1842, Boston

Capital city located on eastern seaboard of Massachusetts at mouth of Charles River. Founded by English Puritans, 1630; received city charter, 1822. Population in 1820 about 43,000; in 1830 about 61,000; and in 1840 about 93,000. JS’s ancestor Robert Smith...

More Info
lawyer George Barstow

19 June 1812–9 Sept. 1883. College professor, lawyer, historian. Born in Haverhill, Grafton Co., New Hampshire. Son of William Barstow and Abigail Townsend. Attended Dartmouth College, 1835, in Hanover, Grafton Co. Moved to Yarmouth Port, Barnstable Co., ...

View Full Bio
asked his friend John Wentworth

5 Mar. 1815–16 Oct. 1888. Teacher, newspaper editor and owner, lawyer, politician, historian. Born in Sandwich, Strafford Co., New Hampshire. Son of Paul Wentworth and Lydia Cogswell. Graduated from Dartmouth College, 1836. Moved to Chicago, 25 Oct. 1836....

View Full Bio
, owner and editor of the weekly Chicago Democrat, to write to JS requesting a summary of the doctrines and history of the Latter-day Saints. Barstow was working on a history of New Hampshire, and he sought information about the Mormons for possible inclusion in the book. Barstow ultimately made 1819 the closing date of his study, and because the Mormons did not organize as a church until 1830, they did not have a place in his volume. JS’s essay was published instead as “Church History” in the church’s newspaper Times and Seasons.1

George Barstow, The History of New Hampshire from Its Discovery, in 1614, to the Passage of the Toleration Act, in 1819 (Concord, NH: I. S. Boyd, 1842). Barstow’s initial interest in Mormonism may have been prompted by recent Latter-day Saint missionary activity and church growth in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. (See Eli P. Maginn, Salem, MA, to JS, Nauvoo, IL, 22 Mar. 1842, Times and Seasons, 2 May 1842, 3:778–779; see also Williams, “Missionary Movements of the LDS Church in New England,” 128–133, 147–156.)  


Opportunities for favorable treatment of the church in non-Mormon publications were rare, and some previous attempts had not been entirely successful. On 4 January 1833, JS wrote a letter to Noah C. Saxton

25 Jan. 1798–23 June 1834. Evangelist, Christian newspaper editor. Born in Wilbraham, Hampden Co., Massachusetts. Son of Noah Saxton and Patty Bliss. Graduated from Union College in Schenectady, Schenectady Co., New York, 1818. Received preacher license, ...

View Full Bio
, editor of the New York

Located in northeast region of U.S. Area settled by Dutch traders, 1620s; later governed by Britain, 1664–1776. Admitted to U.S. as state, 1788. Population in 1810 about 1,000,000; in 1820 about 1,400,000; in 1830 about 1,900,000; and in 1840 about 2,400,...

More Info
newspaper American Revivalist, and Rochester Observer. JS told Saxton that the letter had been written “by the commandment of God” and asked the editor to publish the entire letter, but Saxton published only excerpts. JS wrote again on 12 February 1833 asking that the whole of his previous letter be “laid before the public,” but Saxton did not publish it.2

“Mormonism,” American Revivalist, and Rochester [NY] Observer, 2 Feb. 1833, [2]; JS, Kirtland, OH, to Noah C. Saxton, Rochester, NY, 4 Jan. 1833, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 14–18; JS, Kirtland, OH, to Noah C. Saxton, Rochester, NY, 12 Feb. 1833, in JS Letterbook 1, p. 28.  


In 1836, in a volume titled The Religious Creeds and Statistics of Every Christian Denomination in the United States and British Provinces, editor John Hayward included a summary of the Book of Mormon and short excerpts from the Doctrine and Covenants as well as a statement of beliefs furnished by church member Joseph Young

7 Apr. 1797–16 July 1881. Farmer, painter, glazier. Born at Hopkinton, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. Son of John Young and Abigail (Nabby) Howe. Moved to Auburn, Cayuga Co., New York, before 1830. Joined Methodist church, before Apr. 1832. Baptized into LDS...

View Full Bio
, but these materials were bracketed by negative statements from Isaac Hale

21 Mar. 1763–11 Jan. 1839. Farmer, hunter, innkeeper. Born in Waterbury, New Haven Co., Connecticut. Son of Reuben Hale and Diantha Ward. Member of Methodist church. Moved to Wells, Albany Co., New York (later in Rutland Co., Vermont), ca. 1771, to live with...

View Full Bio
(the father of JS’s wife Emma Smith

10 July 1804–30 Apr. 1879. Scribe, editor, boardinghouse operator, clothier. Born at Willingborough Township (later in Harmony), Susquehanna Co., Pennsylvania. Daughter of Isaac Hale and Elizabeth Lewis. Member of Methodist church at Harmony (later in Oakland...

View Full Bio
) and from the skeptical Hayward.3

Hayward, Religious Creeds and Statistics, 130–142. In 1842 Hayward published The Book of Religions; Comprising the Views, Creeds, Sentiments, or Opinions, of All the Principal Religious Sects in the World, Particularly of All Christian Denominations in Europe and America; to Which Are Added Church and Missionary Statistics, together with Biographical Sketches (Boston: John Hayward, 1842). After referring to the material on “Mormonites” in his 1836 volume, Hayward excerpted passages from “Church History.” (Hayward, Book of Religions, 260–266.)  


In 1839, the editor of the St. Louis Gazette asked church apostle John Taylor

1 Nov. 1808–25 July 1887. Preacher, editor, publisher, politician. Born at Milnthorpe, Westmoreland Co., England. Son of James Taylor and Agnes Taylor, members of Church of England. Around age sixteen, joined Methodists and was local preacher. Migrated from...

View Full Bio
for an article about the church but then declined to print it; Taylor published the history himself as A Short Account of the Murders, Roberies, Burnings, Thefts, and Other Outrages Committed by the Mob and Militia of the State of Missouri, upon the Latter Day Saints.4

John Taylor, A Short Account of the Murders, Roberies, Burnings, Thefts, and Other Outrages Committed by the Mob and Militia of the State of Missouri, upon the Latter Day Saints. The Persecutions They Have Endured for Their Religion, and Their Banishment from That State by the Authorities Thereof ([Springfield, IL]: [By the author], [1839]).  


JS responded to Wentworth

5 Mar. 1815–16 Oct. 1888. Teacher, newspaper editor and owner, lawyer, politician, historian. Born in Sandwich, Strafford Co., New Hampshire. Son of Paul Wentworth and Lydia Cogswell. Graduated from Dartmouth College, 1836. Moved to Chicago, 25 Oct. 1836....

View Full Bio
’s request with a “sketch of the rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-Day Saints.” In this history, which later came to be known among Latter-day Saints as the “Wentworth letter,” JS recounted his first vision of Deity and the production of the Book of Mormon. He also included a thirteen-point summary of Latter-day Saint beliefs, known today as the Articles of Faith.5

In 1851, Franklin D. Richards published the Articles of Faith as part of a pamphlet titled The Pearl of Great Price: Being a Choice Selection from the Revelations, Translations, and Narrations of Joseph Smith, First Prophet, Seer, and Revelator to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The entire Pearl of Great Price, including the Articles of Faith, was canonized as scripture in 1880. (See Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 2:234–238; see also Whittaker, “Articles of Faith,” 63–78.)  


As he had done when he wrote Saxton

25 Jan. 1798–23 June 1834. Evangelist, Christian newspaper editor. Born in Wilbraham, Hampden Co., Massachusetts. Son of Noah Saxton and Patty Bliss. Graduated from Union College in Schenectady, Schenectady Co., New York, 1818. Received preacher license, ...

View Full Bio
nine years earlier, JS asked that Barstow

19 June 1812–9 Sept. 1883. College professor, lawyer, historian. Born in Haverhill, Grafton Co., New Hampshire. Son of William Barstow and Abigail Townsend. Attended Dartmouth College, 1835, in Hanover, Grafton Co. Moved to Yarmouth Port, Barnstable Co., ...

View Full Bio
“publish the account entire, ungarnished, and without misrepresentation.”6

JS, “Church History,” 706.  


The essay appeared under the title “Church History” in the 1 March 1842 issue of the Nauvoo

Principal gathering place for Saints following expulsion from Missouri. Beginning in 1839, LDS church purchased lands in earlier settlement of Commerce and planned settlement of Commerce City, as well as surrounding areas. Served as church headquarters, 1839...

More Info
, Illinois, Times and Seasons.7

The issue was published no earlier than 2 March, when JS read the proof sheets. (JS, Journal, 2 Mar. 1842.)  


No manuscript copy has been located, and it is not known how much of the history was originally written or dictated by JS. “Church History” echoes some wording from Orson Pratt

19 Sept. 1811–3 Oct. 1881. Farmer, writer, teacher, merchant, surveyor, editor, publisher. Born at Hartford, Washington Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Moved to New Lebanon, Columbia Co., New York, 1814; to Canaan, Columbia Co., fall...

View Full Bio
’s A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records. Pratt’s summary of church beliefs, upon which JS drew for the list of thirteen church beliefs in “Church History,” was in turn based on a theological summary written by Parley P. Pratt

12 Apr. 1807–13 May 1857. Farmer, editor, publisher, teacher, school administrator, legislator, explorer, author. Born at Burlington, Otsego Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Traveled west with brother William to acquire land, 1823....

View Full Bio
.8

See Pratt and Higbee, An Address . . . to the Citizens of Washington,; compare Pratt, Late Persecution of the Church, iii–xiii.  


Other individuals may have been involved in compiling the essay, including Willard Richards

24 June 1804–11 Mar. 1854. Teacher, lecturer, doctor, clerk, printer, editor, postmaster. Born at Hopkinton, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. Son of Joseph Richards and Rhoda Howe. Moved to Richmond, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts, 1813. Moved to Chatham, Columbia...

View Full Bio
, who wrote extensively as JS’s scribe during this period. Because William W. Phelps

17 Feb. 1792–7 Mar. 1872. Writer, teacher, printer, newspaper editor, publisher, postmaster, lawyer. Born at Hanover, Morris Co., New Jersey. Son of Enon Phelps and Mehitabel Goldsmith. Moved to Homer, Cortland Co., New York, 1800. Married Sally Waterman,...

View Full Bio
revised and expanded the text of “Church History” a year later in answer to a request from editor Israel Daniel Rupp

10 July 1803–31 May 1878. Bookseller, editor, historian, insurance agent, teacher, translator. Born in East Pennsboro (later in Hampden), Cumberland Co., Pennsylvania. Son of George Rupp and Christina Boeshor. Member of Reformed faith. Moved to Allen, Cumberland...

View Full Bio
, it is possible that Phelps helped compose the original essay. However, Phelps’s active role as scribe and composer for JS apparently did not commence until late 1842.
Whatever his debt to Phelps

17 Feb. 1792–7 Mar. 1872. Writer, teacher, printer, newspaper editor, publisher, postmaster, lawyer. Born at Hanover, Morris Co., New Jersey. Son of Enon Phelps and Mehitabel Goldsmith. Moved to Homer, Cortland Co., New York, 1800. Married Sally Waterman,...

View Full Bio
, Pratt

19 Sept. 1811–3 Oct. 1881. Farmer, writer, teacher, merchant, surveyor, editor, publisher. Born at Hartford, Washington Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Moved to New Lebanon, Columbia Co., New York, 1814; to Canaan, Columbia Co., fall...

View Full Bio
, or others, JS took responsibility for “Church History” when it was published in the Times and Seasons. His name appears as author, and a note below his name further confirms his approval: “This paper commences my editorial career, I alone stand responsible for it, and shall do for all papers having my signature henceforward.”9

“To Subscribers,” Times and Seasons, 1 Mar. 1842, 3:710; see also Woodruff, Journal, 3 Feb. 1842.  


When the history was updated and sent to Rupp

10 July 1803–31 May 1878. Bookseller, editor, historian, insurance agent, teacher, translator. Born in East Pennsboro (later in Hampden), Cumberland Co., Pennsylvania. Son of George Rupp and Christina Boeshor. Member of Reformed faith. Moved to Allen, Cumberland...

View Full Bio
for publication, JS again accepted responsibility for the text.

Facts