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Revelation, 5 January 1831 [D&C 39]

Cometh the Baptism of fire & the Holy ghost yea even the  comforter which knoweth all things & teacheth the peacibl things  of the Kingdom & Now Behold I say unto you my servent  James I have looked upon thee & thy works & I know thee  & now verily I say unto the[e] thine heart is right before me  at present Behold I have bestowed great blessings upon thy  head Nevertheless thou hast seen great Sorrow for thou hast  rejected me many times because of pride & be cause of the  world but behold the days of thy deliverance is come  arise & be baptized & wash away your sins calling on my  name & ye shall receive my spirit & a blessing so great  as ye have never known5

See Acts 22:16.  

 
& I have prepared thee for a greater  work6 thou shalt Preach the fulness of my Gospel which  I have sent forth in these last days. yea even the covenant  which I have sent forth to recover my People which are  of the house of Israel & it shall come to pass that power  shall rest upon thee thou shalt have great faith & I will  be with thee & go before thy face yea thou art called to  Labour in my Vineyard & to build up my Church & to bring  forth Zion that it may Rejoice upon the hills & flourish Behold  Verily Verily I say unto you thou art not called to go to unto  the Eastern countries7

This is likely a reference to the eastern seaboard of the United States, including New York City, where Covel had earlier established a medical practice and was active in the Methodist church. (Longworth, Longworth’s American Almanac, 146–147; Doughty, Life of Samuel Stilwell, 44.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Longworth, Thomas. Longworth’s American Almanac, New-York Register, and City Directory,for the Forty-Seventh Year of American Independence. Containing a List of Banks,Insurance Companies, Post-Office Establishments, &c. &c. New York: By the author, 1822.

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

but thou art called to go to Ohio & in  asmuch as my People shall assemble themselves at the Oohio  I have kept in store a blessing such as is not known among  the children of men & it shall be poured forth upon your  their heads & from thence ye shall go forth into all Nations8  Behold Verily Verily I say unto you that the people in Ohio  call upon me in much faith believeing I would stay my  hand in Judgement upon the Nations but I cannot deny  my word Wherefore lay to with your might & call forth  Labourers into my Vinyard that it may be pruned for the  last time9 & inasmuch as they do Repent & receive the fulness  of my Gospel & become sanctified & I will stay my hand  in Judgement wherefore go forth crying with a loud voice  saying the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand crying Hosannah  blessed is the name of the most high God go forth [p. 59]
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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