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Revelation, 20 March 1832

In November 1831, 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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traveled 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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with manuscript copies of JS’s revelations so that 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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, the church printer, could publish them.1

Whitmer, History, 38; JS History, vol. A-1, 166.  


In a January 1832 letter, Cowdery informed JS that publication of the revelations could proceed in Missouri as soon as a sufficient supply of paper was obtained.2 On 20 March 1832, the revelation featured here instructed JS to suspend work on his revision of the Bible and take paper to Missouri for the printing of the Book of Commandments. The instruction to travel immediately to Missouri allowed JS to comply with other revelations as well. On 1 March 1832, a revelation informed those who were 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 high priesthood

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...

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that “the time ha[d] come” for the church to organize its “Literary and Merchantile establishments” in both 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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and Missouri. The 1 March revelation also instructed JS, 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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, and Newel K. Whitney

3/5 Feb. 1795–23 Sept. 1850. Trader, merchant. Born at Marlborough, Windham Co., Vermont. Son of Samuel Whitney and Susanna Kimball. Moved to Fairfield, Herkimer Co., New York, 1803. Merchant at Plattsburg, Clinton Co., New York, 1814. Mercantile clerk for...

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to “sit in councel with the saints who are in zion

JS revelation, dated 20 July 1831, designated Missouri as “land of promise” for gathering of Saints and place for “city of Zion,” with Independence area as “center place” of Zion. Latter-day Saint settlements elsewhere, such as in Kirtland, Ohio, became known...

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” to prevent Satan

A fallen angel, or son of God, known by many names, including Lucifer, the devil, the father of lies, the prince of darkness, perdition, and the adversary. In the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and JS’s Bible revisions, Satan was described as a tempter of men...

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from “turn[ing] there hearts away from the truth that they become blinded.”3

Revelation, 1 Mar. 1832 [D&C 78:1, 3, 9–10].  


Under these circumstances, questions arose of how to provide paper for the revelations and whether going to Missouri superseded completing the revision of the New Testament. The 20 March revelation answered these questions.
Both of the questions asked in this revelation begin with the words “shall we,” indicating that the questions were posed by more than one person and suggesting that more than one person was answered. Frederick G. Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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’s index for Revelation Book 2 characterized this set of questions and answers as a “commandment

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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to Joseph Sidney

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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& Newel

3/5 Feb. 1795–23 Sept. 1850. Trader, merchant. Born at Marlborough, Windham Co., Vermont. Son of Samuel Whitney and Susanna Kimball. Moved to Fairfield, Herkimer Co., New York, 1803. Merchant at Plattsburg, Clinton Co., New York, 1814. Mercantile clerk for...

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to purchase paper and omit translating

To produce a text from one written in another language; in JS’s usage, most often through divine means. JS considered the ability to translate to be a gift of the spirit, like the gift of interpreting tongues. He recounted that he translated “reformed Egyptian...

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for the present time.”4

Williams probably created this entry in the book’s index by January 1833. (Revelation Book 2, Index, [1].)  


Whitney was not involved with the Bible revision, and it is not known if he was present when the revelation was dictated. However, Whitney, JS, and Rigdon were all commanded to travel 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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three weeks earlier. Regardless of whether Whitney was present, the answer to the first question directed Whitney to purchase the paper. The second question, “shall we finish the translation of the New testament before we go to Zion

JS revelation, dated 20 July 1831, designated Missouri as “land of promise” for gathering of Saints and place for “city of Zion,” with Independence area as “center place” of Zion. Latter-day Saint settlements elsewhere, such as in Kirtland, Ohio, became known...

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,” further indicates that the questions were asked by—and the answers directed to—those working on the Bible revision at this time. Between 16 February and 1 April 1832, Rigdon assisted JS with the revision, but toward the end of this period Jesse Gause

Ca. 1784–ca. Sept. 1836. Schoolteacher. Born at East Marlborough, Chester Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Gause (Goss) and Mary Beverly. Joined Society of Friends (Quakers), 1806. Moved to Fayette Co., Pennsylvania, 1808; to Chester Co., 1811; and to Wilmington...

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apparently also provided assistance and therefore may also have been present when the revelation was dictated.5

See New Testament Revision 2, part 2, pp. 114–152 [Joseph Smith Translation, John 5:20–Revelation 12:12]; Faulring et al., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 69–70; and Jennings, “Consequential Counselor,” 183–185, 201–203.  


It is likely that 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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, JS’s principal scribe, wrote the revelation as JS dictated it. He may then have made a copy for Whitney

3/5 Feb. 1795–23 Sept. 1850. Trader, merchant. Born at Marlborough, Windham Co., Vermont. Son of Samuel Whitney and Susanna Kimball. Moved to Fairfield, Herkimer Co., New York, 1803. Merchant at Plattsburg, Clinton Co., New York, 1814. Mercantile clerk for...

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, but the lack of punctuation and the interlinear corrections and clarifications in the copy in Whitney’s possession suggest that it could be the original inscription. Whitney endorsed the revelation at the bottom of the page, dating it 20 March 1832 and giving the location as 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. He added two endorsements—probably at a later time—on the back of the document: “Revelation as to paper for 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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1832” and “Command as to Paper for Zion

JS revelation, dated 20 July 1831, designated Missouri as “land of promise” for gathering of Saints and place for “city of Zion,” with Independence area as “center place” of Zion. Latter-day Saint settlements elsewhere, such as in Kirtland, Ohio, became known...

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Apl. 1832.” The April date in the second endorsement is unlikely because JS departed 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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on 1 April and Whitney’s apparently earlier endorsement of 20 March has corroboration.6

Also, in the phrase “Command as to Paper for Zion Apl. 1832,” it is possible that the date of April 1832 modifies only “Paper for Zion,” rather than the commandment to take it there. JS, Rigdon, and Whitney acquired the paper and started for Missouri in April.  


When Frederick G. Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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copied the revelation into Revelation Book 2, probably sometime before JS left for Missouri, he gave its place and date as “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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Portage County Ohio March 20th. 1832.”7

Revelation Book 2, p. 19. Even if Whitney’s copy is not the original, it is a more complete copy than those in Revelation Book 1 and Revelation Book 2. The Whitney copy contains two questions and two answers, while the copy in Revelation Book 1 (made by Whitmer, probably sometime after April 1832) includes only the first answer. The Revelation Book 2 copy, meanwhile, contains everything except for the first question. Further, the copy in Whitney’s possession is the only manuscript copy with “first” and “second” written before the questions. Although Rigdon may have inserted these words, they could also be a part of the original inscription. The copies in Revelation Books 1 and 2 each had an “X” drawn through them, presumably to exclude the revelation from publication. This revelation was never published, and no other manuscript copies of it are known beyond the three discussed here. (Revelation Book 1, p. 148.)  


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