31842

Minutes, 1–2 November 1831

Br. Joseph Smith jr. said that inasmuch as the Lord had bestowed a great blessing upon us in giving commandments

Generally, a divine mandate that church members were expected to obey; more specifically, a text dictated by JS in the first-person voice of Deity that served to communicate knowledge and instruction to JS and his followers. Occasionally, other inspired texts...

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and revelations, asked the conference

A meeting where ecclesiastical officers and other church members could conduct church business. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church directed the elders to hold conferences to perform “Church business.” The first of these conferences was held on 9 June...

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what testimony they were willing to attach to these commandments which should shortly be sent to the world. A number of the brethren arose and said that they were willing to testify to the world that they knew that they were of the Lord.
Revelation received relative to the same.3

This may be the revelation instructing the elders to have one of the wisest among them attempt to compose a revelation, although that revelation bears the date of 2 November. It is also possible that the revelation here referenced is the actual text of the testimony of the revelations’ divine origin that several elders signed. (See Revelation, ca. 2 Nov. 1831 [D&C 67:6–7]; and Testimony, ca. 2 Nov. 1831.)  


Conference adjourned until morning.
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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Clerk of Con.
Conference convened according to adjournment.
Br. 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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appointed Moderator, & 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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Clerk. Opened, Prayer by br. 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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Br Lyman Johnson

24 Oct. 1811–20 Dec. 1859. Merchant, lawyer, hotelier. Born at Pomfret, Windsor Co., Vermont. Son of John Johnson and Alice (Elsa) Jacobs. Moved to Hiram, Portage Co., Ohio, Mar. 1818. Baptized into LDS church by Sidney Rigdon, Feb. 1831. Ordained an elder...

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was then ordained

The conferral of power and authority; to appoint, decree, or set apart. Church members, primarily adults, were ordained to ecclesiastical offices and other responsibilities by the laying on of hands by those with the proper authority. Ordinations to priesthood...

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to the Highpriesthood

The authority and power held by certain officers in the church. The Book of Mormon referred to the high priesthood as God’s “holy order, which was after the order of his Son,” and indicated that Melchizedek, a biblical figure, was a high priest “after this...

View Glossary
4

Johnson was ordained an elder at the conference in Orange, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, that occurred just a week earlier. (Minutes, 25–26 Oct. 1831.)  


under the hand of br 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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5

The revelation to Lyman Johnson, Orson Hyde, Luke Johnson, and William E. McLellin given at this conference may have been given either just prior to or just after Lyman Johnson’s ordination, since the revelation discusses some of the responsibilities and duties of those ordained to the priesthood. (Revelation, 1 Nov. 1831–A [D&C 68].)  


The Revelation of last evening read by the moderator the brethren then arose in turn and bore witness to the truth of the Book of Commandments. After which br. Joseph Smith jr. arose & expressed his feelings & gratitude concerning the commandment & Preface received yesterday. Conference closed. prayer by br. 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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.
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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[p. 16]
Br. Joseph Smith jr. said that inasmuch as the Lord had bestowed a great  blessing upon us in giving commandments

Generally, a divine mandate that church members were expected to obey; more specifically, a text dictated by JS in the first-person voice of Deity that served to communicate knowledge and instruction to JS and his followers. Occasionally, other inspired texts...

View Glossary
and revelations, asked the conference

A meeting where ecclesiastical officers and other church members could conduct church business. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church directed the elders to hold conferences to perform “Church business.” The first of these conferences was held on 9 June...

View Glossary
what  testimony they were willing to attach to these commandments which should shortly  be sent to the world. A number of the brethren arose and said that they were  willing to testify to the world that they knew that they were of the Lord.
Revelation received relative to the same.3

This may be the revelation instructing the elders to have one of the wisest among them attempt to compose a revelation, although that revelation bears the date of 2 November. It is also possible that the revelation here referenced is the actual text of the testimony of the revelations’ divine origin that several elders signed. (See Revelation, ca. 2 Nov. 1831 [D&C 67:6–7]; and Testimony, ca. 2 Nov. 1831.)  


Conference convened according adjourned adjourned until morning.
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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Clerk of Con.
Conference convened according to adjournment.
Br. 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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appointed Moderator, & 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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Clerk. Opened, Prayer by  br. 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...

View Full Bio
Br Lyman Johnson

24 Oct. 1811–20 Dec. 1859. Merchant, lawyer, hotelier. Born at Pomfret, Windsor Co., Vermont. Son of John Johnson and Alice (Elsa) Jacobs. Moved to Hiram, Portage Co., Ohio, Mar. 1818. Baptized into LDS church by Sidney Rigdon, Feb. 1831. Ordained an elder...

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was then ordained

The conferral of power and authority; to appoint, decree, or set apart. Church members, primarily adults, were ordained to ecclesiastical offices and other responsibilities by the laying on of hands by those with the proper authority. Ordinations to priesthood...

View Glossary
to the Highpriesthood

The authority and power held by certain officers in the church. The Book of Mormon referred to the high priesthood as God’s “holy order, which was after the order of his Son,” and indicated that Melchizedek, a biblical figure, was a high priest “after this...

View Glossary
4

Johnson was ordained an elder at the conference in Orange, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, that occurred just a week earlier. (Minutes, 25–26 Oct. 1831.)  


under the  hand of br 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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5

The revelation to Lyman Johnson, Orson Hyde, Luke Johnson, and William E. McLellin given at this conference may have been given either just prior to or just after Lyman Johnson’s ordination, since the revelation discusses some of the responsibilities and duties of those ordained to the priesthood. (Revelation, 1 Nov. 1831–A [D&C 68].)  


The Revelation of last evening read by the moderator the brethren then arose in turn  and bore witness to the truth of the Book of Commandments. After which br. Joseph Smith jr.  arose & expressed his feelings & gratitude concerning the commandment & Preface received  yesterday. Conference closed. prayer by br. 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...

View Full Bio
.
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
[p. 16]
Previous
On 1–2 November 1831, ten elders

A male leader in the church generally; an ecclesiastical and priesthood office or one holding that office; a proselytizing missionary. The Book of Mormon explained that elders ordained priests and teachers and administered “the flesh and blood of Christ unto...

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held a conference

A meeting where ecclesiastical officers and other church members could conduct church business. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church directed the elders to hold conferences to perform “Church business.” The first of these conferences was held on 9 June...

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in an upstairs bedroom of the Hiram

Area settled by immigrants from Pennsylvania and New England, ca. 1802. Located in northeastern Ohio about twenty-five miles southeast of Kirtland. Population in 1830 about 500. Population in 1840 about 1,100. JS lived in township at home of John and Alice...

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, Ohio, home of John

14 Apr. 1779–30 July 1843. Farmer, innkeeper. Born at Chesterfield, Cheshire Co., New Hampshire. Son of Israel Johnson and Abigail Higgins. Married Alice (Elsa) Jacobs, 22 June 1800. Moved to Pomfret, Windsor Co., Vermont, ca. 1803. Settled at Hiram, Portage...

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and Alice (Elsa) Jacobs Johnson—the room in which JS was working on his Bible revision.1

William E. McLellin, Independence, MO, to Mark H. Forscutt, Plano, IL, 1 Oct. 1871, Saints’ Herald, 15 July 1872, 435–436.  


The conference focused on a proposal to publish JS’s revelations. Exactly when the decision to publish the revelations was made is unclear. As early as summer 1830, JS and 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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had begun to “arrange and copy” the existing revelations.2

JS History, vol. A-1, 50.  


Whitmer also began copying revelations into a designated book, perhaps at the time he and JS began to arrange them or possibly following his assignment in spring 1831 to keep a history and record of the church.3

See Historical Introduction to Revelation Book 1; and Revelation, ca. 8 Mar. 1831–B [D&C 47:1].  


In June 1831, 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,...

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, a former newspaper editor, was directed to help 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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with the church’s printing needs. Just a month later, Phelps was designated as the “Printer unto the Church,” with Cowdery as an assistant.4 After obtaining “the necessaries” for the printing venture, Phelps and his family 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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in the fall of 1831.5

Edward Partridge, Independence, MO, to Lydia Clisbee Partridge, 5–7 Aug. 1831, Edward Partridge, Letters, 1831–1835, CHL; see also JS History, vol. A-1, 154.  


With JS and Whitmer copying revelations and Phelps and Cowdery setting up a proper printing establishment, the church had the necessary components to publish the revelations.
Public access to the revelations was an issue in fall 1831, in part because of publicity given to a series of letters written by former church member Ezra Booth

14 Feb. 1792–before 12 Jan. 1873. Farmer, minister. Born in Newtown, Fairfield Co., Connecticut. Admitted on trial to Methodist ministry, 4 Sept. 1816, and stationed in the Ohio District in Beaver, Pike Co. Admitted into full connection and elected a deacon...

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, who was highly critical of JS. The 20 October 1831 issue of the Ohio Star published one of the letters, which contained a lengthy exposition about the revealed “commandments

Generally, a divine mandate that church members were expected to obey; more specifically, a text dictated by JS in the first-person voice of Deity that served to communicate knowledge and instruction to JS and his followers. Occasionally, other inspired texts...

View Glossary
” dictated by JS, most of which, according to Booth, were “concealed from the world.” Booth’s letters claimed that JS’s revelations included commandments requiring “that the Church shall build him an elegant house, and give him 1000 dollars,” though neither demand appears in any known revelation.6

Ezra Booth, “Mormonism—No. II,” Ohio Star (Ravenna), 20 Oct. 1831, [3].  


JS and others may have felt some need to publish the revelations in an attempt to answer Booth’s allegations.7

Others before Booth made similar charges about the secrecy of the revelations, but the Booth letters made a larger impact and evoked a larger response. (See, for example, “The Mormon Creed,” Painesville [OH] Telegraph, 19 Apr. 1831, [4]; and JS History, vol. A-1, 179.)  


The minutes of the 1–2 November conference open with a query regarding how many copies of the Book of Commandments (a compilation of revelations) should be published. Because the conference opened with a question about the size of the print run, the actual decision to print the revelations was likely made prior to the conference. William E. McLellin

18 Jan. 1806–14 Mar. 1883. Schoolteacher, physician, publisher. Born at Smith Co., Tennessee. Son of Charles McLellin and Sarah (a Cherokee Indian). Married first Cynthia Ann, 30 July 1829. Wife died, by summer 1831. Baptized into LDS church by Hyrum Smith...

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recollected, however, that it was at the conference that “it was first determined to print the revelations.”8

William E. McLellin, Independence, MO, to Mark H. Forscutt, Plano, IL, 1 Oct. 1871, Saints’ Herald, 15 July 1872, 435.  


McLellin may have been correct that the decision was made at the conference, or he may not have been informed about the decision until the conference. Either way, the minutes focus on the number of copies to be printed and fail to note discussion about publishing or a decision to publish. While the minutes of the conference are silent, reminiscent accounts indicate there were frank conversations about major issues surrounding the publication decision. McLellin, for example, recounted many years later that when a committee presented a draft preface to the Book of Commandments to the conference, the “‘Conference picked it all to pieces.’”9

“Letter from Elder W. H. Kelley,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Mar. 1882, 67.  


He also remembered that “hours were spent” discussing whether to publish the revelations before “it was finally decided to have them printed.”10

William E. McLellin, “From a Letter Dated Dec. 14th, 1878,” John L. Traughber Papers, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.  


More than fifty years after the conference, David Whitmer

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...

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claimed that he and “a few of the brethren” objected to the decision to publish the revelations, believing “that it was not the will of the Lord that the revelations should be published.”11

Whitmer, Address to All Believers in Christ, 54.  


Whitmer claimed that he had cited a March 1831 revelation to support his opposition. That revelation commands, “Keep these things from going abroad unto the world that ye may accomplish this work in the eyes of the people & in the eyes of your enemies that they may not know your works untill ye have accomplished the thing which I have commanded you.”12 Fearing that publication of the revelations, which included commandments relative to the building of the city of Zion

Also referred to as New Jerusalem. JS revelation, dated Sept. 1830, prophesied that “city of Zion” would be built among Lamanites (American Indians). JS directed Oliver Cowdery and other missionaries preaching among American Indians in Missouri to find location...

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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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, would upset settlers in Independence

Located twelve miles from western Missouri border. Permanently settled, platted, and designated county seat, 1827. Hub for steamboat travel on Missouri River. Point of departure for Santa Fe Trail. Population in 1831 about 300. Mormon population by summer...

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, Jackson County, Missouri, David Whitmer “withstood Brothers Joseph and Sydney

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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to the face.” Whitmer added that JS told him that “any man who objects to having these revelations published, shall have his part taken out of the Tree of Life and out of the Holy City.”13

Whitmer, Address to All Believers in Christ, 54–55. Whitmer’s account, published in 1887, mistakenly gave the date of the decision to publish the revelations as “the spring of 1832,” although he correctly provided the location of the conference as Hiram. Since Whitmer’s purpose in publishing this account was to argue that JS was a fallen prophet (for several reasons including JS’s willingness to publish the revelations), and since the account was written so much later, Whitmer may have overstated his own opposition to the decision.  


The minutes themselves recount no such confrontation, but such dissent seems plausible, given that prior to this time there were no authorized publications of JS revelations, and church members generally accessed them only through verbal recitations or by making their own copies.14

Unauthorized publications of the revelations, however, had appeared in a number of regional newspapers. The Painesville Telegraph published the church’s “Articles and Covenants” on 19 April 1831, having obtained a copy from Martin Harris. The Western Courier published the February 1831 revelation giving the “Laws of the Church of Christ” in September 1831, having obtained it from “a responsible and intelligent individual, who has devoted much time to make himself acquainted with the principles, practices and objects of the Mormonite leaders”—probably Symonds Rider, a disaffected elder. (“The Mormon Creed,” Painesville [OH] Telegraph, 19 Apr. 1831, [4]; Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830 [D&C 20]; “Secret Bye Laws of the Mormonites,” Western Courier [Ravenna, OH], 1 Sept. 1831, [1]; see also “Joseph Smith–Era Publications of Revelations.”)  


The four documents that follow these minutes (three revelations and a signed statement) are all associated with this conference. However, because these and other early extant minutes are brief and obviously incomplete, it is difficult to know when in the course of the conference these documents were recorded. The first document referred to by the minutes is a revelation called a “preface” to the Book of Commandments, which the minutes state was “received by inspiration” in the afternoon of 1 November.15 Another revelation, directed to Orson Hyde

8 Jan. 1805–28 Nov. 1878. Laborer, clerk, storekeeper, teacher, editor, businessman, lawyer, judge. Born at Oxford, New Haven Co., Connecticut. Son of Nathan Hyde and Sally Thorpe. Moved to Derby, New Haven Co., 1812. Moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, ...

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, Luke Johnson

3 Nov. 1807–8 Dec. 1861. Farmer, teacher, doctor. Born at Pomfret, Windsor Co., Vermont. Son of John Johnson and Alice (Elsa) Jacobs. Lived at Hiram, Portage Co., Ohio, when baptized into LDS church by JS, 10 May 1831. Ordained a priest by Christian Whitmer...

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, Lyman Johnson

24 Oct. 1811–20 Dec. 1859. Merchant, lawyer, hotelier. Born at Pomfret, Windsor Co., Vermont. Son of John Johnson and Alice (Elsa) Jacobs. Moved to Hiram, Portage Co., Ohio, Mar. 1818. Baptized into LDS church by Sidney Rigdon, Feb. 1831. Ordained an elder...

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, and William E. McLellin

18 Jan. 1806–14 Mar. 1883. Schoolteacher, physician, publisher. Born at Smith Co., Tennessee. Son of Charles McLellin and Sarah (a Cherokee Indian). Married first Cynthia Ann, 30 July 1829. Wife died, by summer 1831. Baptized into LDS church by Hyrum Smith...

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, also came sometime on 1 November.16 The minutes further mention a “testimony” to accompany the printed revelations. Two years earlier, in preparation for the publication of the Book of Mormon, eleven men signed statements attesting to the existence of the gold plates

A record engraved on gold plates, which JS translated and published as the Book of Mormon. The text explained that the plates were an abridgement of other ancient records and were written by an American prophet named Mormon and his son Moroni. The plates ...

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.17 The desire for a similar published testimony for the Book of Commandments led to a revelation outlining procedures the elders could follow to verify that JS’s revelations were the result of inspiration.18

JS History, vol. A-1, 161; Revelation, ca. 2 Nov. 1831 [D&C 67].  


A statement about the divine origin of the revelations—apparently the “testimony” referred to in the minutes—was presented at the conference and later signed by several elders.19

Testimony, ca. 2 Nov. 1831; JS History, vol. A-1, 162–163.  


The fourth document referred to in the minutes is a revelation that addresses the doubts and concerns of some elders at the conference regarding imperfections in the language of the revelations.
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 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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, both appointed clerks of the conference (Cowdery on 1 November, Whitmer on 2 November), kept the minutes. Even though Cowdery was the designated clerk for 1 November, Whitmer apparently kept minutes for that morning’s session rather than Cowdery, possibly because of Cowdery’s involvement in the morning’s discussion. Ebenezer Robinson

25 May 1816–11 Mar. 1891. Printer, editor, publisher. Born at Floyd (near Rome), Oneida Co., New York. Son of Nathan Robinson and Mary Brown. Moved to Utica, Oneida Co., ca. 1831, and learned printing trade at Utica Observer. Moved to Ravenna, Portage Co....

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later copied the minutes into Minute Book 2.

Facts