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Revelation, 27–28 December 1832 [D&C 88:1–126]

A Revelation given the first Elders of this  Church of Christ in the last days Dec 27th 18321

This heading may have appeared in the original manuscript. John Whitmer’s copy of the revelation in Revelation Book 1 contains a similar introduction: “A Revelation given to the first Elders of this church of Christ organized in these last days Given December 27, 1832.” (Revelation, 27–28 Dec. 1832, in Revelation Book 1, p. 158, in JSP, MRB:293 [D&C 88:1–126].)  

 
Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, who have  assembled yourselves together, to receive his will  concerning you, behold this is pleasing unto [p. 33]
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JS dictated a lengthy revelation at a conference of high priests in Kirtland, Ohio, on 27–28 December 1832.1

For additional information on this conference, see Minutes, 27–28 Dec. 1832.  

 
The revelation’s heading, which was probably provided by Frederick G. Williams, states that the revelation was addressed to the “first Elders” of the church. The text of the revelation describes its audience as those who had congregated at the conference in Kirtland “to receive his [God’s] will concerning you.” Although in later years the term “first Elders” generally referred to the leading elders of the church, here it appears to have a less hierarchical meaning, equating the elders to whom the revelation was addressed with “the first Elders labourers, in this last kingdom” who were referenced in a parable presented in this revelation.2

See, for example, Revelation, 22 June 1834, in Revelation Book 2, p. 97, in JSP, MRB:611 [D&C 105:7]; and JS, Journal, 5 Oct. 1835, in JSP, J1:68.  

 
A later JS history emphasizes that the revelation came two days after a revelation describing an outbreak of wars and slave rebellions that would precede Christ’s second coming.3
JS called this revelation “the Olieve leaf which we have plucked from the tree of Paradise” and “the Lords message of peace to us.” Perhaps JS described the revelation in this way because it offset the stark apocalyptic imagery of the 25 December revelation or perhaps because he saw its messages regarding the conduct of church members and the need for unity as a way to heal ongoing difficulties with Missouri church leaders.4 Like the 25 December prophecy of war, the 27–28 December revelation discusses eschatological events, but interspersed throughout the revelation are explanations of the requirements to enter the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms in the life to come and an exposition on light and its relation to Jesus Christ.5

For more information on these kingdoms, see Vision, 16 Feb. 1832 [D&C 76].  

 
Much like the first chapter of the book of John (which JS revised in late 1831 or early 1832 as part of his Bible revision6

Faulring et al., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 69.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Faulring, Scott H., Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds. Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004.

), the first part of this revelation connects Christ with light and the creative process. This explanation expanded on ideas expressed in earlier revelations. Revelations in 1829, for example, generally used the concept of light to represent Jesus Christ.7

See Revelation, Apr. 1829–A [D&C 6:21]; Revelation, Spring 1829 [D&C 10:58]; and Revelation, June 1829–A [D&C 14:9].  

 
By 1831, revelations were also using light as a metaphor for the gospel and as a more abstract representation of truth and knowledge.8 The 27–28 December revelation brings such ideas together by explaining that Christ’s light, which the revelation defines as truth and knowledge, is in all things, is the power by which they were created, and is the law governing them. Such concepts were not entirely novel; in the 1700s, Swedish theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, for example, argued that “the light which proceeds from the Lord as a sun is Divine Truth, from which the angels derive all their wisdom and intelligence,” but this revelation goes further in its connection of light to the creative and governing processes.9

Miscellaneous Theological Works, 148, 154–155; Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 206–207.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Miscellaneous Theological Works of Emanuel Swedenborg, Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. New York: American Swedenborg Printing and Publishing Society, 1892.

Bushman, Richard Lyman. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. With the assistance of Jed Woodworth. New York: Knopf, 2005.

While it explored theological themes, the revelation also issued concrete directives, instructing the elders to sanctify themselves at a “solemn assembly,” to construct a house of God, and to be taught there in both spiritual and temporal matters before embarking on their missions to the Gentiles “for the last time.” These instructions came in response to specific prayers that God show “his will . . . concerning the upbuilding of Zion,” which suggests that the revelation would apply only to church members in Missouri. Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, however, took the direction as a call to action.10 Just two weeks after JS dictated this revelation, he informed church leaders in Missouri that the revelation provided a commandment from God “to build an house of God, & establish a school for the Prophets” in Kirtland. Regarding the direction as “the word of the Lord to us,”11 JS and the Saints in Kirtland promptly began to organize the “school for the Prophets.” A revelation dictated less than a week after the 27–28 December revelation, which would later become associated with it, provided more instructions on establishing the school.12

Revelation, 3 Jan. 1833 [D&C 88:127–137].  

 
Over the next several months, church leaders took steps to construct a schoolhouse for “the Elders who should come in to receive ther education for the ministry” and broke ground for the building they called the House of the Lord.13

Minute Book 1, 4 May 1833; see also Revelation, 8 Mar. 1833, in Doctrine and Covenants 84:5, 1835 ed. [D&C 90:13–15]. Apparently, the Saints did not act quickly enough: a June 1833 revelation condemned them for not having begun construction. Site location and groundbreaking occurred soon thereafter. The House of the Lord was completed and dedicated in March 1836. (Revelation, 1 June 1833, in Doctrine and Covenants 95, 1835 ed. [D&C 95:3, 8, 13–17]; Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 14, [1]–[2]; JS, Journal, 27, 29, 30, and 31 Mar. 1836, in JSP, J1:200–216.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God. Compiled by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams. Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams, 1835. Also available in Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations. Vol. 2 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).

Smith, Lucy Mack. History, 1844–1845. 18 books. CHL. Also available in Lavina Fielding Anderson, ed., Lucy’s Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001).

Many Saints focused more on the revelation’s immediate directives than on its metaphysical aspects. Samuel Smith, for example, wrote in his journal that the revelation instructed “the first labourers in this last vinyard” to “call a sollem assembly” where they could “sanctify themselves & wash their hands & feet for a testimony” against an unbelieving generation. He also highlighted the revelation’s requirement to “appoint a teacher among” the elders so that they could obtain “knowledge of countries & languages.”14

Samuel Smith, Diary, Dec. 1832.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Smith, Samuel. Diary, Feb. 1832–May 1833. CHL.

Nowhere in his journal did Samuel Smith refer to the eschatology of the revelation or its other doctrinal points. Likewise, when William W. Phelps printed part of the revelation in the February 1833 issue of The Evening and the Morning Star, he chose portions explaining the solemn assembly15

The phrase “solemn assembly” is found a number of times in the Old Testament, usually referring to a gathering of elders in a spirit of fasting and prayer. (See, for example, Joel 1:14; and 2:15.)  

 
and the construction of the House of the Lord.16

“Revelation,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Feb. 1833, [5].
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

As the note at the end of the inscription indicates, Frederick G. Williams wrote this revelation as JS dictated it. The original manuscript is not extant; Williams copied the revelation into Revelation Book 2, probably between late January and late February 1833. Soon after dictating the revelation, JS transmitted it to the Saints in Missouri by enclosing a copy of the text in a letter to Phelps, explaining that its contents showed “that the Lord approves of us & has accepted us, & established his name in kirtland for the salvation of the nations.”17 This revelation was first published in its entirety on a broadside in late 1833 or early 1834.18

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you, who have assembled yourselves together, [Kirtland, OH: ca. Jan. 1834], copy at BYU [D&C 88–89]. A portion of the revelation was published earlier, in The Evening and the Morning Star. (“Revelation,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Feb. 1833, [5].)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you, who have assembled yourselves together [D&C 88–89]. [Kirtland, OH: ca. Jan. 1834]. Copy at BYU.

The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

It was later combined and printed with the revelation of 3 January 1833.19

Revelation, 27–28 Dec. 1832 and 3 Jan. 1833, in Doctrine and Covenants 7, 1835 ed. [D&C 88].
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God. Compiled by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams. Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams, 1835. Also available in Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations. Vol. 2 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).

Facts