31764

John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847

Images of this item © Community of Christ and licensed to the Joseph Smith Papers Project. Inquiries about high-resolution images of this item for scholarly use should be directed to the Community of Christ Library-Archives, Independence, Missouri.
become void and of none affect; and wo to him by whom this offence cometh, for it had been better for him that he had been drownd in the depth of the sea; but blessed are they who have kept the covenant, and observed the commandment, for they shall obtain mercy.
Wherefore, go to now and flee the land, lest your enemies come upon you; and take your journey , and appoint whom you will to be your leader, and to pay moneys for you. And thus you shall take your Journey into the regions westward, unto the land of 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...

More Info
, unto the borders of the Lamanites. And after you have done Journeying, behold I say unto you, seek ye a living like unto men, until I prepare a place for you.
And [a]gain, be patient in tribulation until I come: and behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me, and they who have sought me early, shall find rest to their souls; even so: Amen.”
After some of the elders had left, and the time for Joseph Smith Jr. and others to leave. Some of those who had been commanded to take their Journey speedily, that some had denied the faith, and turned from the truth. And the church at Thompson

Located about twenty miles northeast of Kirtland, Ohio. Settled 1800. Surveyed 1809. Incorporated 1817. Population in 1830 about 700. Population in 1840 about 1,000. Latter-day Saints from Colesville, New York, were directed to settle in area on 759 acres...

More Info
Ohio, had not done according to the will of the [Lord]. Therefore, before Joseph and his company left thus came the word of the Lord; saying: Hearken O ye my people which profes my name, &c. See, book doctrine & covenants first edition published at 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...

More Info
Ohio, page 197. insert the revelation.
The Church at Thompson

Located about twenty miles northeast of Kirtland, Ohio. Settled 1800. Surveyed 1809. Incorporated 1817. Population in 1830 about 700. Population in 1840 about 1,000. Latter-day Saints from Colesville, New York, were directed to settle in area on 759 acres...

More Info
made all posible haste to leav 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...

More Info
, and left and none of their enemies harmed them.
The Church at Chardon

Located eight miles south of Lake Erie and immediately east of Kirtland Township. Settled by 1812. Included village of Chardon. Population of township in 1820 about 430; in 1830 about 880; and in 1840 about 1,100. Two of JS’s sisters resided in township. ...

More Info
Ohio was also anxious to take their Journey 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...

More Info
: and by much teasing they obtained a permit to take their Journey. [p. 30]
become void and of none affect; and wo to him by whom  this offenc[e] cometh, for it had been better for him that he  had been drownd in the depth of the sea; but blessed are  they who have kept the covenant, and observed the command ment, for they shall obtain mercy.
Wherefore, go to now and flee the land, lest your enemies  come upon you; and take your journey into the regions  westward, and appoint whom you will to be your leader,  and to pay moneys for you. And thus you shall take your  Journey <into you the regions> westward, unto the land of 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...

More Info
, unto the bor ders of the Lamanites. And after you have done Journey ing, behold I say unto you, seek ye a living like unto  men, until I prepare a place for you.87

In other words, the law of consecration was suspended among the Saints from Colesville for a time.  


And [a]gain, be patient in tribulation until I come: and  behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me, and th[e]y  who have sought me early, shall find rest to their souls;  even so: Amen.[”]
After some time some of the elders had left, and  the time for Joseph Smith Jr. and others to leave. Some of  those who had been commanded to take their Journey  speedily, that some had denied the faith, and turned from the  truth. And the church at Thompson

Located about twenty miles northeast of Kirtland, Ohio. Settled 1800. Surveyed 1809. Incorporated 1817. Population in 1830 about 700. Population in 1840 about 1,000. Latter-day Saints from Colesville, New York, were directed to settle in area on 759 acres...

More Info
Ohio, had not done  according to the will of the [Lord?]. Therefore, before Joseph and his  company left thus came the word of the Lord; saying:  Hearken O ye my people which profes my name, &c.  See, book doctrine & covenants first edition published  at 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...

More Info
Ohio, page 197. insert the revelation.88

Revelation, 15 June 1831, in Doctrine and Covenants 69, 1835 ed. [D&C 56]. This revelation reprimanded the Saints at Thompson and instructed Ezra Thayer in particular to “repent of his pride, and of his selfishness.” A revelation of 15 May 1831 had promised Thayer that he and his family could live in a house, not yet vacated, on the property of Frederick G. Williams. When these arrangements did not work out by 15 June, Thayer was reluctant to leave on a preaching mission to which he had been appointed a week earlier. Thayer was apparently able to make amends; he was later appointed to missionary duty. (Doctrine and Covenants 69:3, 1835 ed. [D&C 56:8]; Revelation, 15 May 1831, in Revelation Book 1, p. 85; Revelation, 6 June 1831, in Doctrine and Covenants 66:5, 1835 ed. [D&C 52:22]; Revelation, 25 Jan. 1832, in Doctrine and Covenants 87:5, 1835 ed. [D&C 75:31].)  


The Church at Thompson

Located about twenty miles northeast of Kirtland, Ohio. Settled 1800. Surveyed 1809. Incorporated 1817. Population in 1830 about 700. Population in 1840 about 1,000. Latter-day Saints from Colesville, New York, were directed to settle in area on 759 acres...

More Info
made all posible haste to  leav 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...

More Info
, and left and none of their enemies harm ed them.89

The first group of the Colesville Saints who were living at Thompson departed 28 June 1831 and arrived at Independence Landing in Jackson County, Missouri, on 26 July 1831, according to the church newspaper in Kirtland; other sources have them landing 25 July. The group of about sixty men, women, and children, settled twelve miles west of Independence in Kaw Township. (Parley P. Pratt et al., “‘The Mormons’ So Called,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Extra, Feb. 1834, [1]; see also Porter, “Colesville Branch in Kaw Township,” 286–287.)  


The Church at Chardon

Located eight miles south of Lake Erie and immediately east of Kirtland Township. Settled by 1812. Included village of Chardon. Population of township in 1820 about 430; in 1830 about 880; and in 1840 about 1,100. Two of JS’s sisters resided in township. ...

More Info
Ohio was also anxious to take  their Journey 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...

More Info
: and by much teasing they obtained  a permit to take their Journey.90

A certificate of worthiness was required for church members to move to Missouri. The church newspaper referred to these permits: “And the saints will remember that the Bishop in the land of Zion, will not receive any, as wise stewards, without they bring a recommend from the Bishop in Ohio, or from three elders.” (“The Elders in the Land of Zion to the Church of Christ Scattered Abroad,” The Evening and the Morning Star, July 1832, [5].)  


[p. 30]
PreviousNext
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...

View Full Bio
, History, 1831–ca. 1847, as found in “The Book of John, Whitmer kept by Comma[n]d,” ca. 1838–ca. 1847; handwriting of 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...

View Full Bio
; ninety-six pages (two additional leaves missing); CCLA. Includes redactions, editing marks, and archival marking.
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...

View Full Bio
inscribed his history into a blank book containing leaves ruled with thirty-four blue-green horizontal lines (now faded). Evidence suggests there were originally twelve gatherings of twelve leaves (twenty-four pages) each. The entire fifth gathering is missing from the current volume, and one extra leaf not part of the original text block was inserted between the fourth and sixth gatherings, making 133 interior leaves in the current volume. The text block was sewn all along on recessed cords. The blank leaves measure 12¼ x 7⅞ inches (31 x 20 cm); the inscribed leaves are slightly smaller in width, having been trimmed about ⅛ inch (0.3 cm) during conservation work. The volume was constructed with front and back covers of pasteboard and likely had a hollow-back spine and quarter-leather binding. The outside covers are adorned in shell marbled paper, with gray-green body and veins of blue and red. The complete volume currently measures 12½ x 8⅛ x 1 inches (32 x 21 x 3 cm).
Details of the original state of the volume are impossible to determine because of conservation work done in the second half of the twentieth century. Initially the inscribed leaves were removed from the original boards and from the intact blank leaves of the volume and rebound separately in a modern comb binding. These inscribed leaves were later removed from this binding, reinforced along the bound edge with paper, laminated with thin paper, and bound in a modern case binding. A third conservation effort reversed the earlier work by removing the laminated material and reattaching the inscribed leaves to the blank leaves and the original boards.
The final leaf of the fourth gathering contains manuscript pages 95 and 96. The next two leaves, containing manuscript pages 97 through 100, are missing. They were removed before 1893, when Andrew Jenson, a representative of the Church Historian’s Office in Salt Lake City, inspected the volume and noted that it was missing two leaves at that point. Evidence indicates that the remaining leaves of the fifth gathering were intact but blank when Jenson inspected the volume in 1893, suggesting they were discarded during the first conservation effort in the twentieth century. The first blank leaf following manuscript page 96 does not match the texture or form of the other blank leaves, but it does bear a slight water stain matching staining found on almost all leaves within the book. It may be an extra flyleaf from either the front or back of the volume inserted after page 96, or it may be paper from a different source; in either case, it was inserted early enough to be stained with the rest of the volume. The endpapers are original and currently consist of pastedowns and single flyleaves in the front and back of the volume.
An unidentified scribe, most likely working in the nineteenth century, wrote “Church History” on the top of the front cover. A green adhesive label is affixed to the front cover. At some point, someone attempted to remove the label but succeeded in removing only portions of it. The only writing visible on the label is “HURC”, a remnant of the word “CHURCH”. The current spine of the volume was added during conservation work, and thus it is unknown whether the original spine bore a title. The recto of the front flyleaf contains several redactions or archival markings in graphite in an unknown hand: “John Whitmer | written | 1835–1838 | after 1860” and “MS History of church | 1830–1838”. The verso is blank, aside from offsetting from the first interior page and a stamped “1072” near the bottom. 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...

View Full Bio
inscribed his history from page 1 through the bottom of page 96, at which point the narrative ends midsentence, suggesting it originally continued onto the next page. When Andrew Jenson saw the book in 1893 while visiting Missouri to gather historical information, he made a handwritten copy of the volume and provided a physical description. He wrote that “four pages or two leaves have been torn off the book, which is seen from fragments of the leaves remaining.” He also noted that “the next page left intact is 101. No other writing, however, appears on this page, nor on any of the succeeding pages.”1

Whitmer, “The Book of John Whitmer,” Andrew Jenson typescript, ca. Mar. 1894, 68.  


Jenson’s earlier draft stated that the page “is numbered 101.”2

Whitmer, “The Book of John Whitmer,” Andrew Jenson manuscript copy, ca. Sept. 1893, 85.  


If this was the case, then the page numbered 101 was part of the fifth gathering and is now missing. At some point, likely during the early twentieth century, the leaf containing pages 95 and 96 was repaired with adhesive tape; the tape was removed during a later conservation effort.3

The leaf currently bears remnants of this tape. Microfilm made of the manuscript in 1974 shows clear evidence of the tape. (Whitmer, “The Book of John Whitmer,” microfilm, Oct. 1974, Research Library and Archives, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Independence, MO, copy at CHL.)  


Redactions were made by John Whitmer himself, and subsequent editing marks were made that correspond to the early twentieth-century publication of Whitmer’s history by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (RLDS church).4

“Church History,” Journal of History, Jan. 1908, 43–63; Apr. 1908, 135–150; July 1908, 292–305.  


Following his excommunication in 1838, 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...

View Full Bio
apparently retained possession of the history. In a January 1844 offer to sell his history to the church, Whitmer wrote that the “church history” was “at my controll but not in my Possession.”5

John Whitmer, Far West, MO, to William W. Phelps, Nauvoo, IL, 8 Jan. 1844, JS Office Papers, CHL.  


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
declined the offer,6

Willard Richards, Nauvoo, IL, to John Whitmer, Far West, MO, 23 Feb. 1844, copy, Willard Richards, Papers, CHL.  


and Whitmer certainly had the “Book of John Whitmer” after January 1844, because he updated the volume after JS’s death.
It appears 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...

View Full Bio
retained his papers until his death in July 1878, after which his widow, Sarah Maria Jackson Whitmer, sent the “Book of John Whitmer” (though apparently not any earlier notes or drafts) and other papers to Richmond

Area settled, ca. 1814. Officially platted as Ray Co. seat, 1827. Population in 1840 about 500. Seat of Fifth Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri; also location of courthouse and jails. JS and about sixty other Mormon men were incarcerated here while awaiting...

More Info
, Missouri, where Whitmer’s brother David

7 Jan. 1805–25 Jan. 1888. Farmer, livery keeper. Born near Harrisburg, Dauphin Co., Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Raised Presbyterian. Moved to Ontario Co., New York, shortly after birth. Attended German Reformed Church. Arranged...

View Full Bio
resided.7

Whitmer, “The Book of John Whitmer,” Andrew Jenson typescript, ca. Mar. 1894, [69]; “Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith,” Deseret News, 27 Nov. 1878, 674–675; 4 Dec. 1878, 690.  


David Whitmer had possession of the volume in the 1880s, before his death in 1888.8

“Revelation Revisers,” Missouri Republican (St. Louis), 16 July 1884, [7]; see also “The Book of Mormon,” Chicago Tribune, 17 Dec. 1885, 3.  


In 1893, when Andrew Jenson inspected and copied the “Book of John Whitmer,” it was in the possession of David J. Whitmer, David Whitmer’s son. Following David J. Whitmer’s death, his nephew George Schweich, a grandson of David Whitmer, took possession of the material, along with the Book of Mormon printer’s manuscript and other early Latter-day Saint manuscripts.9

Andrew Jenson et al., “Historical Landmarks,” Deseret Evening News, 26 Sept. 1888, 7; T. E. Lloyd, “The Carroll-Lloyd Expose,” Zion’s Ensign, 15 July 1893, 6; “The Book of Mormon,” New York Times, 21 Sept. 1899, 9; George Schweich, Richmond, MO, to O. R. Beardsley, 17 Jan. 1900, Miscellanea, Marie Eccles-Caine Archives of Intermountain Americana, Utah State University Special Collections, Logan; Walter W. Smith, Independence, MO, to S. A. Burgess, Independence, MO, 15 Apr. 1926, J. F. Curtis Papers, CCLA; see also Heman C. Smith, Lamoni, IA, to George Schweich, 20 July 1896, CCLA.  


By 1902, the First Presidency of the RLDS church approved the purchase of papers owned by Schweich, including the “Book of John Whitmer,” the Book of Mormon printer’s manuscript, and several leaves that had been separated from Revelation Book 1.10

“Minutes of First Presidency,” 24 Apr. 1902, CCLA; Walter W. Smith, Independence, MO, to the RLDS First Presidency, Independence, MO, 14 Sept. 1925, Whitmer Papers, CCLA; see also Source Note to Revelation Book 1.  


The RLDS church, later renamed the Community of Christ, has maintained custody of the Whitmer history since that time.

Facts