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John Corrill, A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1839

John Corrill, A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1839

The simple story as related by others was this. Sometime in A. D. 1825, as nearly as I can recollect, Smith was informed by an angel, that there was a valuable record concealed in the earth, and the time had now arrived for it to be brought forth and published to the world. After being warned several times, he went to the spot and found the record engraved on leaves or plates of gold, fastened together by rings passing through one edge of all the leaves, on which they would turn as you opened them. The plates, as near as I can remember, were said to be about six by eight inches square, and very thin. This Book was carefully enclosed in a stone box, provided for that purpose, which Smith broke open. After he obtained the plates, and before he left the place, he began to contemplate the vast riches that he would acquire by their means. While thus thinking and contemplating upon the subject, the Angel hid the plates from his view, and chastised him for his wickedness in acting contrary to the commandment; for the Angel had informed him that it was for the bringing about of God’s purposes in the salvation of his people, that the Lord gave him access to the plates; but as he thought to become rich and aggrandize himself, therefore he should not obtain the plates any more till he repented of his folly. A year or more elapsed before he obtained the plates again, which I think he did in A. D. 1827; after which, through much difficulty, on account of persecution and poverty, he translated it by degrees, with the assistance of Oliver Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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and others, who wrote as he dictated. If I remember right, the language in which it was written on the plates, was the reformed Egyptian. And Martin Harris

18 May 1783–10 July 1875. Farmer. Born at Easton, Albany Co., New York. Son of Nathan Harris and Rhoda Lapham. Moved with parents to area of Swift’s landing (later in Palmyra), Ontario Co., New York, 1793. Married first his first cousin Lucy Harris, 27 Mar...

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, who contributed much towards the publication of the Book, drew off several of the characters on paper, took them to the learned in 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,...

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, to see if they could be translated, but was requested to bring them the plates, which Smith was forbidden to do of the Lord, but was commanded to translate them himself, which he did, by the help of what he calls the Urim and Thummim, two stones set in a bow, and furnished by an Angel for that purpose.
After finishing the translation, the plates and stones of Urim and Thummin were again taken and concealed by the Angel for a wise purpose, and the translation published to the world in the winter of A. D. 1829 and ’30.
In the course of the translation, these plates were shown to eleven persons, by the special command of God: three of whom had it manifested and shown to them by an Angel from Heaven, who declared the truth of the Book, and the other eight saw the plates and handled them; and all were commanded to bear testimony to the world, of the truth of what they had seen and handled, which they did, and published their testimony in the end of the Book.
On the sixth day of April, A. D. 1830, they organized the first church in the State of 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,...

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, consisting of six members only.
This tale, simple as it is, formed a new subject of contemplation for me. As to the preservation of the record, if the plates were pure gold, of course they would remain pure any length of time, and as to the language, it might as well be reformed Egyptian as any other language, if it had to be translated by the power of God.
I searched the Scriptures again to see if God had ever concealed or [p. 12]
The simple story as related by others was this. Sometime in A. D.  1825,6

According to JS’s history, the following events occurred 21–22 September 1823. (JS History, vol. A-1, 5–7.)  


as nearly as I can recollect, Smith was informed by an angel,7

JS identified this angel as Moroni. Corrill named Moroni in chapter I as the person who buried the gold plates in the hill named Cumorah. ([JS], Editorial, Elders’ Journal, July 1838, 42–43.)  


 that there was a valuable record concealed in the earth, and the time  had now arrived for it to be brought forth and published to the world.  After being warned several times, he went to the spot and found the  record engraved on leaves or plates of gold, fastened together by rings  passing through one edge of all the leaves, on which they would turn  as you opened them. The plates, as near as I can remember, were  said to be about six by eight inches square, and very thin. This Book  was carefully enclosed in a stone box, provided for that purpose, which  Smith broke open. After he obtained the plates, and before he left  the place, he began to contemplate the vast riches that he would ac quire by their means. While thus thinking and contemplating upon  the subject, the Angel hid the plates from his view, and chastised him  for his wickedness in acting contrary to the commandment; for the  Angel had informed him that it was for the bringing about of God’s  purposes in the salvation of his people, that the Lord gave him access  to the plates; but as he thought to become rich and aggrandize himself,  therefore he should not obtain the plates any more till he repented of  his folly. A year or more elapsed before he obtained the plates again,  which I think he did in A. D. 1827;8

JS’s history gives the date 22 September 1827. (JS History, vol. A-1, 8.)  


after which, through much diffi culty, on account of persecution and poverty, he translated it by de grees, with the assistance of Oliver Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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and others, who wrote  as he dictated. If I remember right, the language in which it was  written on the plates, was the reformed Egyptian. And Martin Harris

18 May 1783–10 July 1875. Farmer. Born at Easton, Albany Co., New York. Son of Nathan Harris and Rhoda Lapham. Moved with parents to area of Swift’s landing (later in Palmyra), Ontario Co., New York, 1793. Married first his first cousin Lucy Harris, 27 Mar...

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,  who contributed much towards the publication of the Book, drew off  several of the characters on paper, took them to the learned in 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,...

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, to see if they could be translated,9

For other accounts of Martin Harris’s involvement, see JS History, ca. summer 1832, 5; and JS History, vol. A-1, 8–10; see also Bennett, “Read This I Pray Thee,” 190–216.  


but was requested to bring  them the plates, which Smith was forbidden to do of the Lord, but was  commanded to translate them himself, which he did, by the help of  what he calls the Urim and Thummim, two stones set in a bow, and  furnished by an Angel for that purpose.
After finishing the translation, the plates and stones of Urim and  Thummin were again taken and concealed by the Angel for a wise  purpose, and the translation published to the world in the winter of A.  D. 1829 and ’30.10

The first copies of the Book of Mormon were offered for sale 26 March 1830. (“The Book of Mormon,” Wayne Sentinel [Palmyra, NY], 26 Mar. 1830, [3].)  


In the course of the translation, these plates were shown to eleven  persons, by the special command of God: three of whom had it mani fested and shown to them by an Angel from Heaven, who declared the  truth of the Book, and the other eight saw the plates and handled them;  and all were commanded to bear testimony to the world, of the truth  of what they had seen and handled, which they did, and published their  testimony in the end of the Book.
On the sixth day of April, A. D. 1830, they organized the first  church in the State of 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,...

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, consisting of six members only.
This tale, simple as it is, formed a new subject of contemplation  for me. As to the preservation of the record, if the plates were pure  gold, of course they would remain pure any length of time, and as to  the language, it might as well be reformed Egyptian as any other lan guage, if it had to be translated by the power of God.
I searched the Scriptures again to see if God had ever concealed or [p. 12]
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John Corrill

17 Sept. 1794–26 Sept. 1842. Surveyor, politician, author. Born at Worcester Co., Massachusetts. Married Margaret Lyndiff, ca. 1830. Lived at Harpersfield, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, 1830. Baptized into LDS church, 10 Jan. 1831, at Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Ordained...

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’s history of early Mormonism grew out of the renewed historical effort undertaken by JS and other church leaders in 1838, following the removal of church historian John Whitmer

27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...

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. Whitmer was excommunicated by the Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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high council 10 March 1838. Shortly thereafter, on 6 April, Elias Higbee

23 Oct. 1795–8 June 1843. Clerk, judge, surveyor. Born at Galloway, Gloucester Co., New Jersey. Son of Isaac Higbee and Sophia Somers. Moved to Clermont Co., Ohio, 1803. Married Sarah Elizabeth Ward, 10 Sept. 1818, in Tate Township, Clermont Co. Lived at ...

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and John Corrill were appointed “to write and keep the Church history,” apparently taking Whitmer’s place.1

Minute Book 2, 10 Mar. and 6 Apr. 1838.  


As historian, Whitmer had kept historical notes and other records, but he refused to surrender them to the church clerk. On 9 April, JS and Sidney Rigdon

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

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, his counselor in the church presidency, sent Whitmer a letter asking him to turn over the notes. At the same time, they claimed to have in hand (even without Whitmer’s account) “all the materials” needed for a new history, which they intended to commence writing within the week.2

JS and Sidney Rigdon, Far West, MO, to John Whitmer, 9 Apr. 1838.  


By the end of the month, JS and Rigdon, with their scribe George W. Robinson

14 May 1814–10 Feb. 1878. Clerk, postmaster, merchant, clothier, banker. Born at Pawlet, Rutland Co., Vermont. Baptized into LDS church and moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, by 1836. Clerk and recorder for Kirtland high council, beginning Jan. 1836. Married...

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, began work on the historical narrative that was later serially published as “The History of Joseph Smith” and eventually became the six-volume History of the Church.3

JS, Journal, 27 Apr. and 30 Apr.–4 May 1838. The “History of Joseph Smith,” was published serially in the Times and Seasons from 15 March 1842 to 15 February 1846. (See “Joseph Smith’s Historical Enterprise;” and Jessee, “Writing of Joseph Smith’s History,” 449–450, 462.)  


The nature of Elias Higbee

23 Oct. 1795–8 June 1843. Clerk, judge, surveyor. Born at Galloway, Gloucester Co., New Jersey. Son of Isaac Higbee and Sophia Somers. Moved to Clermont Co., Ohio, 1803. Married Sarah Elizabeth Ward, 10 Sept. 1818, in Tate Township, Clermont Co. Lived at ...

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’s and John Corrill

17 Sept. 1794–26 Sept. 1842. Surveyor, politician, author. Born at Worcester Co., Massachusetts. Married Margaret Lyndiff, ca. 1830. Lived at Harpersfield, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, 1830. Baptized into LDS church, 10 Jan. 1831, at Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Ordained...

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’s work as church historians and the relationship of their work to that of JS, Rigdon

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

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, and Robinson

14 May 1814–10 Feb. 1878. Clerk, postmaster, merchant, clothier, banker. Born at Pawlet, Rutland Co., Vermont. Baptized into LDS church and moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, by 1836. Clerk and recorder for Kirtland high council, beginning Jan. 1836. Married...

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are unclear. Perhaps Higbee and Corrill were to gather and compile materials from which JS, Rigdon, and Robinson would compose the narrative history. A year later, in Illinois

Became part of Northwest Territory of U.S., 1787. Admitted as state, 1818. Population in 1840 about 480,000. Population in 1845 about 660,000. Plentiful, inexpensive land attracted settlers from northern and southern states. Following expulsion from Missouri...

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, Higbee did gather affidavits and petitions as part of the Latter-day Saints’ effort to obtain redress for Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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losses, but he did not write a formal history. In contrast, Corrill went on to produce a narrative history of the church, though it was not the institutional chronicle expected. Corrill had distanced himself from the church by fall 1838; he published his history through a St. Louis

Located on west side of Mississippi River about fifteen miles south of confluence with Missouri River. Founded as fur-trading post by French settlers, 1764. Incorporated as town, 1809. First Mississippi steamboat docked by town, 1817. Incorporated as fourth...

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publisher the next year, titling it A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, (Commonly Called Mormons;) Including an Account of Their Doctrine and Discipline; with the Reasons of the Author for Leaving the Church. Although Corrill’s history does not mention anything about being assigned to write a history, his appointment as a church historian in April 1838 seems to have prompted him to begin such an undertaking, and in response to the assignment, he likely began collecting documents and, like John Whitmer

27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...

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before him, taking notes on events as they unfolded.
Corrill

17 Sept. 1794–26 Sept. 1842. Surveyor, politician, author. Born at Worcester Co., Massachusetts. Married Margaret Lyndiff, ca. 1830. Lived at Harpersfield, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, 1830. Baptized into LDS church, 10 Jan. 1831, at Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Ordained...

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brought several years of church leadership and experience to his history. He converted to Mormonism in Ohio

French explored area, 1669. British took possession following French and Indian War, 1763. Ceded to U.S., 1783. First permanent white settlement established, 1788. Northeastern portion maintained as part of Connecticut, 1786, and called Connecticut Western...

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within a year of the church’s organization and was quickly appointed as a counselor in the bishopric, which soon moved to Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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to oversee the Mormon migration to their “Zion” in Jackson County

Settled at Fort Osage, 1808. County created, 16 Feb. 1825; organized 1826. Named after U.S. president Andrew Jackson. Featured fertile lands along Missouri River and was Santa Fe Trail departure point, which attracted immigrants to area. Area of county reduced...

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.4

Minute Book 2, 3 June 1831.  


In this and other duties, Corrill was involved in activities related to church record keeping. In 1832, he was appointed to keep the roster of church members in Jackson County, Missouri, as well as to superintend church schools there.5

Oliver Cowdery, Independence, MO, to JS, Kirtland, OH, 28 Jan. 1832, JS Collection, CHL.  


He also served as clerk for several church meetings.6

See Minute Book 2, 2 Aug. 1831; 13 July 1832; 15 Nov. 1836; 7 Apr., 11 June, and 1 Aug. 1837; and 24 Feb. 1838.  


When the Saints were expelled from Jackson County, the opponents of the Mormons allowed Corrill and Sidney Gilbert

28 Dec. 1789–29 June 1834. Merchant. Born at New Haven, New Haven Co., Connecticut. Son of Eli Gilbert and Lydia Hemingway. Moved to Huntington, Fairfield Co., Connecticut; to Monroe, Monroe Co., Michigan Territory, by Sept. 1818; to Painesville, Geauga Co...

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to stay behind to “wind up the business of the society.”7

Whitmer, History, 44.  


In Kirtland

Located ten miles south of Lake Erie. Settled by 1811. Organized by 1818. Population in 1830 about 55 Latter-day Saints and 1,000 others; in 1838 about 2,000 Saints and 1,200 others; in 1839 about 100 Saints and 1,500 others. Mormon missionaries visited township...

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, Ohio, in September 1835, following the expulsion from Jackson County

Settled at Fort Osage, 1808. County created, 16 Feb. 1825; organized 1826. Named after U.S. president Andrew Jackson. Featured fertile lands along Missouri River and was Santa Fe Trail departure point, which attracted immigrants to area. Area of county reduced...

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, JS gave John Corrill

17 Sept. 1794–26 Sept. 1842. Surveyor, politician, author. Born at Worcester Co., Massachusetts. Married Margaret Lyndiff, ca. 1830. Lived at Harpersfield, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, 1830. Baptized into LDS church, 10 Jan. 1831, at Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Ordained...

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a blessing in which Corrill was appointed to build the temple

JS revelation, dated 20 July 1831, directed temple to be built short distance west of courthouse on hill just outside of Independence, Missouri. JS directed dedication of temple site by Sidney Rigdon, 3 Aug. 1831. On same date, church claimed site for eventual...

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in Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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, apparently in anticipation that the Saints would soon return to Jackson County.8

JS to John Corrill, Blessing, 22 Sept. 1835, in Patriarchal Blessings, 1:14.  


JS’s journal entry for 4 October 1835 suggests an amiable relationship between Corrill and JS, recounting a short journey they made together: “When about a mile from home we saw two Dears playing in the field which diverted our minds by giving an impatus to our thoughts upon the subject of the creation of God we conversed upon many topicks and the day passed off in a very agreeable manner and the Lord blessed our souls.”9

JS, Journal, 4 Oct. 1835.  


In early 1836, JS appointed Corrill to oversee the completion of the interior finishing of the temple

JS revelation of Jan. 1831 directed Latter-day Saints to migrate to Ohio, where they would “be endowed with power from on high.” JS Revelation of Dec. 1832 directed Saints to “establish . . . an house of God.” JS Revelation of 1 June 1833 chastened Saints...

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in Kirtland.10

JS, Journal, 15 Jan. 1836. Little is known about Corrill’s involvement in architecture or construction, but Truman Angell called Corrill the “leading mechanic” for the Kirtland temple. The inventory of his personal property at the time of Corrill’s death listed tools, instruments, and architectural books that could have been useful to him in such endeavors. (Angell, Autobiography, 15; “A Bill of the Widows Dowery of John Corrill Dec’d,” 10 Mar. 1843, Adams Co., IL, Estate Records, ca. 1832–1938, box 287, microfilm 933,951, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.)  


After returning to Missouri, Corrill helped to locate and purchase new land and obtain local permissions that led to the creation of Caldwell County

Located in northwest Missouri. Settled by whites, by 1831. Described as being “one-third timber and two-thirds prairie” in 1836. Created specifically for Latter-day Saints by Missouri state legislature, 29 Dec. 1836, in attempt to solve “Mormon problem.” ...

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as an enclave for Latter-day Saint settlement in Missouri, and he then served as the first state legislator elected from Caldwell County.11

Reed Peck, Quincy, IL, to “Dear Friends,” 18 Sept. 1839, p. 11, Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA; Journal, of the House of Representatives, of the State of Missouri [1838–1839], 2.  


Corrill was released from the Missouri bishopric in 1837 after being appointed to the related office of “Keeper of the Lords’, store house.”12

Minute Book 2, 1 Aug. and 22 May 1837. JS’s revelations assigned supervision of the communal storehouse to the bishop and his counselors. (See Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831, in Doctrine and Covenants 13:10, 1835 ed. [D&C 42:34]; and Revelation, 20 May 1831, in Doctrine and Covenants 23:4, 1835 ed. [D&C 51:13].)  


Long situated near the center of the church hierarchy and then officially appointed as a historian, John Corrill

17 Sept. 1794–26 Sept. 1842. Surveyor, politician, author. Born at Worcester Co., Massachusetts. Married Margaret Lyndiff, ca. 1830. Lived at Harpersfield, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, 1830. Baptized into LDS church, 10 Jan. 1831, at Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Ordained...

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provided valuable historical details in A Brief History of the Church, particularly concerning the Mormon sojourn in Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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. But the booklet also tells the story of Corrill’s spiritual journey into and then out of the church and was, as its title declares, a public explication of his reasons for leaving. In the introduction to his history, Corrill explained his motives for writing. He recounted frequent conversations with his “friends”—possibly colleagues in the Missouri House of Representatives—in which they asked why he ever associated with the Mormons and how he could have subscribed to their irrational “delusions.” Corrill wrote that he intended to use his history to answer these questions “for the satisfaction” of inquirers. His narrative would reveal the “true character” of the church and explain, as he put it, “the reasons of my own conduct.” He was thus explicit that he was writing history in the service of a personal apologia.
As he explained it, Corrill

17 Sept. 1794–26 Sept. 1842. Surveyor, politician, author. Born at Worcester Co., Massachusetts. Married Margaret Lyndiff, ca. 1830. Lived at Harpersfield, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, 1830. Baptized into LDS church, 10 Jan. 1831, at Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Ordained...

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understood authority in the church as spread among several governing bodies, each acting as “a check upon each other” such that “authority was reserved to the people.”13

Corrill, Brief History, 25.  


He came to believe, however, that JS had grown increasingly authoritarian over time. Like other early converts to Mormonism, Corrill was intellectually and emotionally attached to America’s political culture of republicanism, a civil religion that circumscribed narrowly the role of religious leaders. An August 1838 entry in JS’s journal, as kept by George W. Robinson

14 May 1814–10 Feb. 1878. Clerk, postmaster, merchant, clothier, banker. Born at Pawlet, Rutland Co., Vermont. Baptized into LDS church and moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, by 1836. Clerk and recorder for Kirtland high council, beginning Jan. 1836. Married...

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, summarized the growing dissonance between JS and Corrill. After recounting that “Prest. Joseph spent some considerable time this day in conversation with br. John Corril,” the entry noted Corrill’s independent stance:
Br. Corril

17 Sept. 1794–26 Sept. 1842. Surveyor, politician, author. Born at Worcester Co., Massachusetts. Married Margaret Lyndiff, ca. 1830. Lived at Harpersfield, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, 1830. Baptized into LDS church, 10 Jan. 1831, at Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Ordained...

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s. conduct for some time past, has been verry unbecoming indeed especially a man in whoom so much confidence has been placed, He has been diffculted to keep track and walk step, by step, with the great wheal which is propelled by the arm of the great Jehovah, he says he will not yeald his Judgement, to any thing proposed by the Church, or any individuals of the Church, or even the voice of the great (I am,) given through the appointed organ, as revelation, but will always act upon his Judgement let him believe in whatever religion he may, he says he will always say what he pleases, for he says he is a republican, and as such he will do, say, act, and believe, what he pleases.14

JS, Journal, 31 Aug. 1838; compare Oliver Cowdery’s statements in connection with Cowdery’s own 12 April 1838 excommunication, as recorded in Minute Book 2, 12 Apr. 1838; see also JS, Journal, 12 Apr. 1838.  


In fact, as indicated in his own history, Corrill came to disapprove of the church’s course even before this time. He especially resented the emphasis placed on conformity, the organization of an extralegal military society known as the Danites, and actions taken to intimidate dissenters.
The final straw for Corrill

17 Sept. 1794–26 Sept. 1842. Surveyor, politician, author. Born at Worcester Co., Massachusetts. Married Margaret Lyndiff, ca. 1830. Lived at Harpersfield, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, 1830. Baptized into LDS church, 10 Jan. 1831, at Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Ordained...

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was JS’s October 1838 mobilization of Latter-day Saints in Caldwell County

Located in northwest Missouri. Settled by whites, by 1831. Described as being “one-third timber and two-thirds prairie” in 1836. Created specifically for Latter-day Saints by Missouri state legislature, 29 Dec. 1836, in attempt to solve “Mormon problem.” ...

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for preemptive strikes against the vigilantes who were preparing to drive the Saints from neighboring Daviess County

Area in northwest Missouri settled by European Americans, 1830. Sparsely inhabited until 1838. Created from Ray Co., Dec. 1836, in attempt to resolve conflicts related to Mormon settlement in that region. County is transected diagonally from northwest to ...

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. As he recounted in the history, Corrill now wished to separate himself from the church, but the militarization of the Mormon community ruled out both defection and conscientious objection: “there was no other chance for me and the other dissenters but to pretend to take hold with the rest,” he wrote.15

Corrill, Brief History, 37.  


By 4 November 1838, a few days after the Saints surrendered to the state militia, JS learned that Corrill intended to leave the church.16

JS, Independence, MO, to Emma Smith, Far West, MO, 4 Nov. 1838, JS Materials, CCLA.  


A week later Corrill testified against JS and Sidney Rigdon

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

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in a court of inquiry.17

John Corrill, Testimony, Richmond, MO, Nov. 1838, State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Treason and Other Crimes [Mo. 5th Cir. Ct. 1838], in State of Missouri, “Evidence.”  


Four months after that, when most of the Saints had relocated from Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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to Illinois

Became part of Northwest Territory of U.S., 1787. Admitted as state, 1818. Population in 1840 about 480,000. Population in 1845 about 660,000. Plentiful, inexpensive land attracted settlers from northern and southern states. Following expulsion from Missouri...

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, he and other dissenters were formally excommunicated in absentia in Quincy

Located on high limestone bluffs east of Mississippi River, about forty-five miles south of Nauvoo. Settled 1821. Adams Co. seat, 1825. Incorporated as town, 1834. Received city charter, 1840. Population in 1835 about 800; in 1840 about 2,300; and in 1845...

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, Illinois, 17 March 1839.18

“Extracts of the Minutes of Conferences,” Times and Seasons, 1 Nov. 1839, 1:15.  


In spite of the rift with church leaders, Corrill

17 Sept. 1794–26 Sept. 1842. Surveyor, politician, author. Born at Worcester Co., Massachusetts. Married Margaret Lyndiff, ca. 1830. Lived at Harpersfield, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, 1830. Baptized into LDS church, 10 Jan. 1831, at Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Ordained...

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maintained a degree of sympathy for the Latter-day Saints and continued his interaction with them. In December 1838 he presented in the Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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state legislature two petitions for redress on behalf of the dispossessed Saints.19

Corrill, Brief History, 44; see also “Letter from the Editor,” Missouri Republican (St. Louis), 24 Dec. 1838, [2]; Journal, of the House of Representatives, of the State of Missouri 19 Dec. 1838, 128; Edward Partridge et al., “Copy of a Memorial to the Legislature of Missouri,” in Greene, Facts Relative to the Expulsion, 10–16.)  


A month later, however, he presented another bill that manifested his attitude toward JS’s prophetic claims and the Mormon community by that time. The proposed law sought to “punish persons who may attempt to prophesy or speak in the name of the Lord,” stating that it was “the best way to prevent the recurrence of the evils heretofore experienced with the Mormons.” The bill was defeated 44–41.20

“Letter from the Editor,” Missouri Republican (St. Louis), 25 Jan. 1839, [2]; see also Journal, of the House of Representatives, of the State of Missouri, 19 Jan. 1839, 254–255.  


As noted, Corrill

17 Sept. 1794–26 Sept. 1842. Surveyor, politician, author. Born at Worcester Co., Massachusetts. Married Margaret Lyndiff, ca. 1830. Lived at Harpersfield, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, 1830. Baptized into LDS church, 10 Jan. 1831, at Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Ordained...

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apparently began writing his narrative, or at least drafting notes, while still serving as an officially appointed church historian in Far West

Originally called Shoal Creek. Located fifty-five miles northeast of Independence. Surveyed 1823; first settled by whites, 1831. Site purchased, 8 Aug. 1836, before Caldwell Co. was organized for Latter-day Saints in Missouri. William W. Phelps and John Whitmer...

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. This is evident early in his narrative, when he reported the removal of the Zion (Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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) presidency in February 1838. Corrill related that they had been replaced by apostle Thomas B. Marsh

1 Nov. 1800–Jan. 1866. Farmer, hotel worker, waiter, horse groom, grocer, type foundry worker, teacher. Born at Acton, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. Son of James Marsh and Molly Law. Married first Elizabeth Godkin, 1 Nov. 1820, at New York City. Moved to ...

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and two assistants, who “served as presidents, pro tempore, until Smith and Rigden

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

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arrived, and even until now.”21

Corrill, Brief History, 28.  


That Corrill’s account has Marsh as president “even until now” indicates Corrill wrote this passage before late October 1838, when Marsh left Far West and prepared a statement against JS and the Saints.22

Marsh abandoned his office by 24 October, the date of a statement he swore in Richmond, Missouri, against JS and the Mormons. Marsh may have left Far West by 20 October. Corrill later covered Marsh’s departure in chapter 22 of his history. (Thomas B. Marsh and Orson Hyde, Affidavit, Richmond, MO, 24 Oct. 1838, Mormon War Papers, MSA; Rockwood, Journal, 21 Oct. 1838; Corrill, Brief History, 39.)  


Corrill clearly finished writing his work after 19 December 1838, the last date covered in his narrative. He concluded by noting that some Saints awaited the results of their petitions to the government and hoped to remain in Missouri, which suggests he finished drafting his work before 26 January, when the Latter-day Saints as a body resolved to evacuate the state.23

“Proceedings of Meeting No 1 Jany 26th 1839,” Far West Committee, Minutes, CHL. However, since it appears Corrill did not return to Far West after traveling to Jefferson City for the legislative session, word of the Saints’ decision to evacuate may not have reached him until later. By mid-February the Saints were packing and leaving en masse, and by the end of April they had resettled in Illinois. (See Gentry, “Latter-day Saints in Northern Missouri,” chap. 14, esp. pp. 422–425.)  


Corrill probably had drafted most or all of his narrative as of 11 February 1839, the day he secured a copyright for his work with the clerk of the Missouri district of the federal copyright office.24

The copyright application included a printed copy of the preliminary title page. Although some formatting changes were made to the title page before final printing, the title itself remained the same, indicating that by the time Corrill applied for copyright, his manuscript had progressed to the point that he could provide a title that described in detail the structure of the book. (See Corrill, Brief History, [4].)  


John Corrill

17 Sept. 1794–26 Sept. 1842. Surveyor, politician, author. Born at Worcester Co., Massachusetts. Married Margaret Lyndiff, ca. 1830. Lived at Harpersfield, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, 1830. Baptized into LDS church, 10 Jan. 1831, at Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Ordained...

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arranged for Thomas Watson & Son of St. Louis

Located on west side of Mississippi River about fifteen miles south of confluence with Missouri River. Founded as fur-trading post by French settlers, 1764. Incorporated as town, 1809. First Mississippi steamboat docked by town, 1817. Incorporated as fourth...

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to print his work.25

The title page of the printed work does not list the printer, but a letter dated 21 April 1839, which discusses details of printing the work, is addressed to Thomas Watson & Son. Thomas Watson and his son John H. Watson owned the Missouri Argus newspaper in St. Louis from September 1837 to November 1839. (John Corrill, Springfield, IL, to Thomas and [John H.] Watson, St. Louis, MO, 21 Apr. 1839, John Fletcher Darby, Papers, Missouri History Museum, St. Louis; Abel Rathbone Corbin, “To the Patrons of the Missouri Argus,” Missouri Argus [St. Louis], 27 Sept. 1837, [1]; Thomas and John H. Watson, “To the Patrons of the Missouri Argus,” Missouri Argus, 22 Nov. 1839, [2].)  


The manuscript that was apparently used to print the history is extant but incomplete.26

The manuscript came into the possession of John Fletcher Darby, who served during the same term as Corrill in the Missouri legislature. Darby was mayor of St. Louis for four terms and later represented Missouri as a member of Congress. (Journal, of the Senate, of the State of Missouri, 3; Darby, Personal Recollections, 181, 202, 277, 450.)  


It includes the title page, copyright notice, and preface but is missing twenty-one pages, including the nineteen manuscript pages that constitute chapters 1–6.27

Of the ninety-two pages of Corrill’s manuscript, pages 1–19, 24, and 36 are missing. Corrill wrote only on the recto side of each leaf, leaving the versos blank.  


The manuscript is almost entirely in Corrill’s handwriting, although some of the chapter summaries (added after Corrill drafted the narrative) were written in a different hand, possibly that of the printer.28

Up through chapter 14, the existing manuscript was written with chapter headings and space for chapter summaries, while chapters 15–27 (with the exception of chapter 26) were written without chapter breaks or space for summaries. In this later part of the manuscript, the pages were cut at the point where a new chapter was to begin, and a chapter heading and summary were pasted to the manuscript on a separate slip of paper. Text lost in the cutting was recopied on the slip of paper. Because the earlier portion of the text was created in anticipation of chapter headings, it is possible that the earlier portion of the manuscript is a later copy made after chapter breaks were introduced in the later portion of the manuscript.  


In a 21 April 1839 letter addressed to Thomas Watson & Son, Corrill requested help in correcting his punctuation and capitalization.29

J. Corrill to T. and [J. H.] Watson, 21 Apr. 1839.  


It is uncertain whether the printer or the author made the more substantive changes evident in the printed version. Corrill may have approved all significant changes, but it appears he did not have the opportunity to proofread the text after typesettting, as we would have presumably corrected obvious misspellings, such as “Uorley” to “Morley.” Corrill’s 21 April letter requested that the publisher include a sample he sent them of JS’s “new translation” or inspired revision of the Bible. Printing had apparently already begun by this time, since the addition seems to have caused misnumbering of pages.30

The printers planned Corrill’s history to be a forty-eight-page booklet, printed on three sheets. Leaving the front matter to be printed last, they began numbering chapter 1 with page 7, presumably reserving an eight-page gathering for front matter, two pages of which would contain an unnumbered advertisement or half title. Appending Matthew 24 added text the publishers had not planned space for, a situation which would normally have forced them to add an extra gathering at the back of the book. Rather than doing so, they shortened the front matter from eight pages to four. As a result, page 7 at the start of chapter 1 became a misnumbering. In the end, the body of the history ran three and a half pages beyond its allotted forty pages.  


Corrill

17 Sept. 1794–26 Sept. 1842. Surveyor, politician, author. Born at Worcester Co., Massachusetts. Married Margaret Lyndiff, ca. 1830. Lived at Harpersfield, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, 1830. Baptized into LDS church, 10 Jan. 1831, at Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Ordained...

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’s history opens with three chapters describing his introduction to the church. Through study of the Bible, he satisfied himself as to the need for a restoration of original Christianity, and he eventually came to accept as valid JS’s prophetic role in carrying out that restoration. Chapters 4–8 summarize the origin and contents of the Book of Mormon and then outline important and sometimes distinctive Mormon doctrines such as the restoration of priesthood, baptism by immersion, spiritual gifts, and the “gathering.” Corrill presented this early Latter-day Saint doctrine in a thoughtful way that justified his original conclusion that Mormonism was biblical and rational. In chapter 9, Corrill begins recounting church history to which he had been an eyewitness. He related the eagerness of the Saints to gather in Jackson County

Settled at Fort Osage, 1808. County created, 16 Feb. 1825; organized 1826. Named after U.S. president Andrew Jackson. Featured fertile lands along Missouri River and was Santa Fe Trail departure point, which attracted immigrants to area. Area of county reduced...

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and the dilemma their rapidly growing presence posed for their Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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neighbors. He also described the growth of the church in Kirtland

Located ten miles south of Lake Erie. Settled by 1811. Organized by 1818. Population in 1830 about 55 Latter-day Saints and 1,000 others; in 1838 about 2,000 Saints and 1,200 others; in 1839 about 100 Saints and 1,500 others. Mormon missionaries visited township...

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, the organization of the 1834 expedition to Missouri, the interior detail of the House of the Lord

JS revelation of Jan. 1831 directed Latter-day Saints to migrate to Ohio, where they would “be endowed with power from on high.” JS Revelation of Dec. 1832 directed Saints to “establish . . . an house of God.” JS Revelation of 1 June 1833 chastened Saints...

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, the preparation of church officers to receive a special “endowment” of heavenly power, and the downward spiral of the church’s financial situation in Kirtland.
Corrill

17 Sept. 1794–26 Sept. 1842. Surveyor, politician, author. Born at Worcester Co., Massachusetts. Married Margaret Lyndiff, ca. 1830. Lived at Harpersfield, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, 1830. Baptized into LDS church, 10 Jan. 1831, at Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Ordained...

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’s “brief history of the church” focuses particularly on the events of summer and fall 1838. In chapter 16, following his discussion of the “Salt Sermon” delivered by Sidney Rigdon

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

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on 17 June 1838, Corrill sounded his first note of alarm. A “mob spirit,” he noted, arose among some church members who threatened violence against dissenters. Subsequent chapters narrate the expulsion of dissenters, the organization of the Danite society, the fray between Latter-day Saints and other Missourians at the Daviess County

Area in northwest Missouri settled by European Americans, 1830. Sparsely inhabited until 1838. Created from Ray Co., Dec. 1836, in attempt to resolve conflicts related to Mormon settlement in that region. County is transected diagonally from northwest to ...

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election, the beginning of anti-Mormon activity in Daviess County, the expulsion of the Saints from De Witt

Located on bluffs north of Missouri River, about six miles above mouth of Grand River. Permanently settled, by 1826. Laid out, 1836. First called Elderport; name changed to De Witt, 1837, when town acquired by speculators David Thomas and Henry Root, who ...

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, the preemptive strike against opponents in Daviess County, the massacre of Saints living at Hawn’s Mill, Governor Lilburn W. Boggs

14 Dec. 1796–14 Mar. 1860. Bookkeeper, bank cashier, merchant, Indian agent and trader, lawyer, doctor, postmaster, politician. Born at Lexington, Fayette Co., Kentucky. Son of John M. Boggs and Martha Oliver. Served in War of 1812. Moved to St. Louis, ca...

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’s order to exterminate the Mormons, the militia siege of Far West

Originally called Shoal Creek. Located fifty-five miles northeast of Independence. Surveyed 1823; first settled by whites, 1831. Site purchased, 8 Aug. 1836, before Caldwell Co. was organized for Latter-day Saints in Missouri. William W. Phelps and John Whitmer...

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, and the arrest and imprisonment of JS and other church leaders. Corrill concluded his final chapter with “a few remarks to the church,” explaining his disillusionment with the church’s claim to revelatory leadership and calling on the Latter-day Saints to exercise “common sense” and, as he puts it, “that sound reason with which God has endowed you.” Whereas the beginning of Corrill’s narrative explained to his new friends how he came to associate with the Saints and believe their doctrines, the conclusion of his narrative explained to his former coreligionists his reasons for leaving them.
Following Corrill

17 Sept. 1794–26 Sept. 1842. Surveyor, politician, author. Born at Worcester Co., Massachusetts. Married Margaret Lyndiff, ca. 1830. Lived at Harpersfield, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, 1830. Baptized into LDS church, 10 Jan. 1831, at Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Ordained...

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’s concluding remarks is a final section headed “To the Reader,” which presents the text of Matthew 24 from JS’s “new translation” of the Bible. Corrill sent a handwritten copy of this text in his 21 April 1839 letter requesting that the publisher add it. The copy Corrill sent was taken from a broadside that was apparently published in the mid-1830s.31

The broadside, which is undated and carries no indication of the publisher, is believed to have been printed and circulated in Kirtland. (Extract from the New Translation of the Bible [Kirtland, OH]: [ca. 1835?]; see also Durham, “History of Joseph Smith’s Revision of the Bible,” 85–96; and Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 1:60–61.)  


Having mentioned JS’s revision of the Bible early in his history, Corrill decided to “indulge the reader with a small specimen or sample of the new translation.” In his letter to the printer, Corrill explained that adding the passage would “make the book more saleable especially among the Mormormoms [Mormons], for many are greedy after that Chapter.”32

J. Corrill to T. and [J. H.] Watson, 21 Apr. 1839.  


The 5 July 1839 issue of the St. Louis Missouri Argus, on whose press Corrill

17 Sept. 1794–26 Sept. 1842. Surveyor, politician, author. Born at Worcester Co., Massachusetts. Married Margaret Lyndiff, ca. 1830. Lived at Harpersfield, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, 1830. Baptized into LDS church, 10 Jan. 1831, at Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio. Ordained...

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’s history was printed, included a notification that the booklet would “be ready for delivery in a few weeks.”33

“A New Verdict,” Missouri Argus, (St. Louis), 5 July 1839, [2].  


Thus it probably went on sale in July or August 1839. Corrill’s 21 April 1839 letter to the printer also indicated his intention to purchase “1/4 or 1/2” of the print run.34

J. Corrill to T. and [J. H.] Watson, 21 Apr. 1839.  


Corrill had approximately three hundred copies of the history in his possession at the time he died; if this figure represents a fourth to a half of the print run, then the entire print run must have included at least six to twelve hundred copies.35

“A Bill of the Widows Dowery of John Corrill Dec’d,” 10 Mar. 1843, Adams Co., IL, Estate Records, ca. 1832–1938, box 287, microfilm 933,951, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.  


It was apparently his intention to personally market the book to the Mormons. Leaving Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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, Corrill moved to Springfield

Settled by 1819. Incorporated as town, 1832. Became state capital, 1837. Incorporated as city, 1840. Sangamon Co. seat. Population in 1840 about 2,600. Stake of LDS church organized in Springfield, Nov. 1840; discontinued May 1841; branch organized, Jan. ...

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and then Quincy

Located on high limestone bluffs east of Mississippi River, about forty-five miles south of Nauvoo. Settled 1821. Adams Co. seat, 1825. Incorporated as town, 1834. Received city charter, 1840. Population in 1835 about 800; in 1840 about 2,300; and in 1845...

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, Illinois, where he maintained contact with the Latter-day Saints located about fifty miles upriver in Commerce

Located near middle of western boundary of state, bordering Mississippi River. European Americans settled area, 1820s. From bank of river, several feet above high-water mark, ground described as nearly level for six or seven blocks before gradually sloping...

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(soon Nauvoo).36

Corrill moved to Quincy by January 1840. There he submitted a petition to the United States Senate and House of Representatives similar to those written by hundreds of Latter-day Saints at that time, seeking redress from the federal government for the losses and hardships to which they had been subjected in Missouri. On his own behalf and that of the Saints with whom he was no longer numbered, he requested a congressional investigation and asked that Congress “restore . . . all their rights of Citizenship, remunerate their losses and properly chastise the guilty.” Corrill visited Nauvoo in March 1841 representing some of the Saints’ creditors. He met with JS and attempted to collect on outstanding debts but later counseled those he represented that the dispossessed Saints were still poor and that JS was hostile toward attempts to collect debts incurred in Missouri. (John Corrill, Affidavit, Quincy, IL, 9 Jan. 1840, photocopy, Material Relating to Mormon Expulsion from Missouri, CHL; John Corrill, Quincy, IL, to Edward M. Samuel and Michael Arthur, Liberty, MO, 21 Mar. 1841, enclosed in Edward M. Samuel and Michael Arthur, Liberty, MO, to Thomas Reynolds, Jefferson City, MO, 5 Apr. 1841, Thomas Reynolds, Office of the Governor, MSA.)  


Despite Corrill’s departure from the church, the Saints apparently saw his history as useful, and some no doubt purchased copies. Even after Corrill’s death on 26 September 1842, The Prophet, a Latter-day Saint newspaper published in New York

Dutch founded New Netherland colony, 1625. Incorporated under British control and renamed New York, 1664. Harbor contributed to economic and population growth of city; became largest city in American colonies. British troops defeated Continental Army under...

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, repeatedly advertised that it had copies of his history available for purchase.37

Adams Co., IL, Probate Letters of Administration, 1826–1849, vol. C, 162, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL. The weekly paper advertised the book in all but one issue from 15 June 1844 until its final issue, 24 May 1845.  


Facts