26091

Revelation, 5 January 1831 [D&C 39]

42nd Commandment Recd Jan. 5th. 1831
there was a man by the name of James [Covel] who covenanted with  the Lord that he would obey any commandment that the  Lord would give through his servent Joseph & <accordingly> he enquird  of the Lord & he received these words as follows
given at Fayette Seneca County state New York1

John Whitmer likely created the preceding three-paragraph heading when he copied the text into Revelation Book 1.  

 
Saying hearken ye & listen to the voice of him who is from  all eternity to all eternity2

See, for example, Old Testament Revision 1, p. 17 [Moses 7:29]; and Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 160, 582 [Mosiah 3:5; Moroni 8:18].
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Old Testament Revision 1 / “A Revelation Given to Joseph the Revelator June 1830,” 1830–1831. CCLA. Also available in Scott H. Faulring, 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), 75–152.

The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon, upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi. Palmyra, NY: E. B. Grandin, 1830.

the great I am even Jesus Christ th[e]  light & the life of the world3

See, for example, Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 189, 473, 477 [Mosiah 16:9; 3 Nephi 9:18; 11:11]; and Revelation, 4 Nov. 1830 [D&C 34:2]; compare John 8:12.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon, upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi. Palmyra, NY: E. B. Grandin, 1830.

a light which shineth in  darkness & the darkness comprehendeth it not4 the same which  came in the maridian of time unto my own & my own  Received me not but to as many as received me gave I  power to become my Sons & even so will I give unto as  many as Receive me power to become my Sons. & Verily Verily  I say unto you he that receiveth my Gospel Receiveth me &  this is my Gospel Repentance & Baptism by water & then [p. 58]
Next
JS dictated this revelation in Fayette, New York, for James Covel, a Protestant minister, three days after the Church of Christ’s third conference. When John Whitmer recorded this text in Revelation Book 1 a few months later, he wrote that Covel “covenanted with the Lord that he would obey any commandment that the Lord would give through his servent Joseph.”
The identity of the revelation’s recipient is not known with certainty. Two individuals living in New York at the time fit the general description, and no source definitively identifies either man as the recipient. The earliest extant manuscript copy of the revelation, featured below, provides only a given name. The first printed version in 1833 expanded “James” to “James (C.,)” with no additional information, and in 1835 the name was given as “James Covill” in the Doctrine and Covenants.1

Book of Commandments 41; Doctrine and Covenants 59, 1835 ed.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

A Book of Commandments, for the Government of the Church of Christ, Organized according to Law, on the 6th of April, 1830. Zion [Independence], MO: W. W. Phelps, 1833.

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.

JS’s history also uses this spelling because its editors relied on the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants for the revelation text. The history adds that Covill “had been a baptist minister for about forty years.”2

JS History, vol. A-1, 91.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

JS History / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1838–1856. Vols. A-1–F-1 (original), A-2–E-2 (fair copy). CHL. The history for the period after 5 Aug. 1838 was composed after the death of Joseph Smith.

James Covill, a Baptist minister from Ellery, New York, who in 1831 was over seventy years old, fits this description, but he lived on the far western edge of the state, more than one hundred fifty miles away.3

Coburn, Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, 735; 1830 U.S. Census, Ellery, Chautauque Co., NY, 317; see also 1840 U.S. Census, Ripley, Chautauque Co., NY, 271.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Coburn, A. L. Wing. Encyclopedia of Illinois Including Genealogy, Family Records and Biography of McHenry County Citizens. Vol. 2, McHenry County Citizens. Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, edited by Newton Bateman and Paul Selby. Chicago: Munsell, 1903.

Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.

JS and Sidney Rigdon could have met Covill on their way to Ohio at the end of January, but according to this earliest copy of the revelation, it was “given at Fayette” on 5 January 1831.4

John Whitmer was likely not present when the revelation was dictated, but he did write the informative heading in this copy of the revelation within months of the event.  

 
The recipient of the revelation was much more likely James Covel, a Methodist elder from Canadice, New York. The index to Revelation Book 1 describes the recipient as “a Methodist Priest,” not a Baptist.5

Revelation Book 1, p. [208].
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Revelation Book 1 / “A Book of Commandments and Revelations of the Lord Given to Joseph the Seer and Others by the Inspiration of God and Gift and Power of the Holy Ghost Which Beareth Re[c]ord of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost Which Is One God Infinite and Eternal World without End Amen,” 1831–1835. CHL.

James Covel lived about twenty miles southwest of Canandaigua, New York, and had been associated with the Methodist church for nearly forty years.6

1830 U.S. Census, Canadice, Ontario Co., NY, 263; Stevens, Memorials of the Introduction of Methodism into the Eastern States, 119; Doughty, Life of Samuel Stilwell, 44; Seaman, Annals of New York Methodism, 227, 229.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.

Stevens, Abel. Memorials of the Introduction of Methodism into the Eastern States: Comprising Biographical Notices of Its Early Preachers, Sketches of Its First Churches, and Reminiscences of Its Early Struggles and Successes. Boston: Charles H. Peirce, 1848.

Doughty, Samuel Stilwell. The Life of Samuel Stilwell, with Notices of Some of His Contemporaries. New York: Brown and Wilson, 1877.

Seaman, Samuel A. Annals of New York Methodism: Being a History of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the City of New York from A.D. 1766 to A.D. 1890. New York: Hunt and Eaton, 1892.

He may have heard JS or Sidney Rigdon preaching in the Canandaigua area. After JS and several others preached “with great power” in Ezra Thayer’s barn near Canandaigua in October 1830, they were invited to preach in Canandaigua. “They had promised that we should meet in the Methodist Meeting house,” Thayer later wrote, “but the Trustees could not agree.”7

“Testimony of Brother E. Thayre,” True Latter Day Saints’ Herald, Oct. 1862, 83. In addition to JS, Hyrum Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, Peter Whitmer Jr., Parley P. Pratt, and Ziba Peterson preached at the October meeting in Thayer’s barn.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.

As president of the regional Methodist conference, Covel was likely aware of the request.8

On 13 February 1830, Covel was elected president of the Methodist regional conference that included the districts of Rochester, Conhocton, Genesee, and Oneida. (Drinkhouse, History of Methodist Reform, 243–244.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Drinkhouse, Edward J. History of Methodist Reform Synoptical of General Methodism 1703–1898 with Special and Comprehensive Reference to Its Most Salient Exhibition in the History of the Methodist Protestant Church. Vol. 2. Board of Publication of the Methodist Protestant Church, 1899.

In December a Mormon preacher, probably JS or Rigdon, “delivered a discourse in the Town House [in Canandaigua] to an assembly of two or three hundred people.”9

“Credulity,” Pennsylvania Inquirer and Morning Journal (Philadelphia), 29 Dec. 1830, [2]; see also “Testimony of Brother E. Thayre,” True Latter Day Saints’ Herald, Oct. 1862, 83.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Pennsylvania Inquirer and Morning Journal. Philadelphia. 1830–1834.

Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.

Covel may have attended the December meeting and then traveled to Fayette, where the revelation was dictated.
Within a day after JS dictated this revelation, Covel departed from Fayette without explanation, leaving JS and Rigdon to wonder why he did not follow the commandment. A revelation on 6 January explained “why he obeyed not the word.”10

JS History, vol. A-1, 92; Revelation, 6 Jan. 1831 [D&C 40].
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

JS History / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1838–1856. Vols. A-1–F-1 (original), A-2–E-2 (fair copy). CHL. The history for the period after 5 Aug. 1838 was composed after the death of Joseph Smith.

Facts