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Revelation, 7 August 1831 [D&C 59]

On 7 August 1831, JS dictated a revelation 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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“instructing the sa[i]nts how to keep the sabath & how to fast and pray.”1

Revelation, 7 Aug. 1831, in Revelation Book 1, p. 98 [D&C 59].  


The revelation was specifically addressed to those “who have come up unto” Missouri, in fulfillment of the commandment to gather there and build up the city of Zion.2

Revelation, 6 June 1831 [D&C 52]; Revelation, 20 July 1831 [D&C 57]; Revelation, 1 Aug. 1831 [D&C 58]. This revelation may have resulted in part from a desire to know what rewards such individuals would obtain. The statement “trouble me no more concerning this matter”—which appears in the closing portion of the revelation—suggests that the revelation came as a response to inquiry on the part of JS or others with him.  


Some of the instruction in the revelation probably came in response to the conduct of the inhabitants of 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, among whom these Saints were living. Many of those already in Jackson County

Settled at Fort Osage, 1808. County created, 16 Feb. 1825; organized 1826. Named after U.S. president Andrew Jackson. Featured fertile lands along Missouri River and was Santa Fe Trail departure point, which attracted immigrants to area. Area of county reduced...

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had migrated there from southern states, whereas most church members entering the area were from the Northeast. As 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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, who traveled with JS to Missouri, explained in a July 1831 letter, Jackson County

Settled at Fort Osage, 1808. County created, 16 Feb. 1825; organized 1826. Named after U.S. president Andrew Jackson. Featured fertile lands along Missouri River and was Santa Fe Trail departure point, which attracted immigrants to area. Area of county reduced...

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residents were “emigrants from Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and the Carolinas, &c., with customs, manners, modes of living and a climate entirely different from the northerners.”3

William W. Phelps, “Extract of a Letter from the Late Editor,” Ontario Phoenix (Canandaigua, NY), 7 Sept. 1831, [2].  


One custom that was especially different was Sabbath day observance. A later JS history characterizes many of the residents as “the basest of men” who “had fled from the face of civilized society, to the frontier country to escape the hand of justice, in their midnight revels, their sabbath breaking, horseracing, and gambling.”4

JS, “Church History,” Times and Seasons, 1 Mar. 1842, 3:708. According to one history of Independence, the first clerk of the circuit court even left the town because of “the rough exterior and uncultivated manners of the people.” (History of Jackson County, Missouri, 104.)  


A traveler to western Missouri in 1833 made a similar observation, stating that “the only indications of its being Sunday” in the area was “the unusual Gambling & noise, & assemblies around taverns.”5

Edward Ellsworth to Chauncey Goodrich Jr., 8 Aug. 1833, Fort Leavenworth, quoted in Irving, Indian Sketches, xxii.  


Sabbath day observance, however, was an important component of worship to many members of the Church of Christ

The Book of Mormon related that when Christ set up his church in the Americas, “they which were baptized in the name of Jesus, were called the church of Christ.” The first name used to denote the church JS organized on 6 April 1830 was “the Church of Christ...

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.6

Hartley, My Fellow Servants, 343–344.  


Perhaps because of the general nonobservance of the Sabbath among the inhabitants of Jackson County, the 7 August revelation emphasized the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy, outlining what church members should do on that day. These guidelines filled a void that neither the “Articles and Covenants

A foundational document presented at the first conference of the church for the approval of church members. The Articles and Covenants included a brief historical prologue, a declaration of beliefs, and a description of the offices, ordinances, and procedures...

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” of the church nor the February 1831 revelation giving the “Laws of the Church of Christ” had addressed, thereby providing direction to those who would be building up the city of Zion

A specific location in Missouri; also a literal or figurative gathering of believers in Jesus Christ, characterized by adherence to ideals of harmony, equality, and purity. In JS’s earliest revelations “the cause of Zion” was used to broadly describe the ...

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without the benefit of JS’s in-person leadership.7

A 1 August revelation had instructed JS to return to Ohio. (Revelation, 1 Aug. 1831 [D&C 58:58]; see also “Articles of the Church of Christ,” ca. June 1829; Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:1–72]; and Revelation, 23 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:74–93].)  


The revelation may have also been a response to the concerns of those who had gone 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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and felt daunted by the task of building up Zion in a region described by one observer as containing only “two or three merchants stores, and fifteen or twenty dwelling houses, built mostly of logs hewed on both sides.”8

Ezra Booth, “Mormonism—No VI,” Ohio Star (Ravenna), 17 Nov. 1831, [3].  


The writer Washington Irving, who traveled through 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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in 1832 on an expedition with federal Indian commissioners, also commented on the “rougher and rougher life” he encountered as he got closer to the town, while his traveling companion Charles Latrobe described Independence as “full of promise” but containing “nothing but a ragged congeries of five or six rough log huts, two or three clapboard houses, two or three so-called hotels, alias grogshops; [and] a few stores.”9

Washington Irving, Independence, MO, to “Mrs. Paris,” New York, 26 Sept. 1832, in Irving, Life and Letters of Washington Irving, 33, 38; Latrobe, Rambler in North America, 104.  


Perhaps to encourage the Saints in such conditions, the revelation promised the bounties of the earth to church members and reminded them to express gratitude to God.
The revelation assured heavenly rewards for the obedient who would die in Zion—prompted, perhaps, by the death on the morning of 7 August of Polly Peck Knight

16 Apr. 1774–7 Aug. 1831. Born in Guilford, Cumberland Co., New York (later in Windham Co., Vermont). Daughter of Joseph Peck and Elizabeth Read. Married Joseph Knight Sr., 1795, in Windham Co. Moved to Jericho (later Bainbridge), Chenango Co., New York, ...

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, the fifty-seven–year-old wife of Joseph Knight Sr.

3 Nov. 1772–2 Feb. 1847. Farmer, miller. Born at Oakham, Worcester Co., Massachusetts. Son of Benjamin Knight and Sarah Crouch. Lived at Marlboro, Windham Co., Vermont, by 1780. Married first Polly Peck, 1795, in Windham Co. Moved to Jericho (later Bainbridge...

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, and a friend of JS and his family. Polly Knight had 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 the Colesville

Area settled, beginning 1785. Formed from Windsor Township, Apr. 1821. Population in 1830 about 2,400. Villages within township included Harpursville, Nineveh, and Colesville. Susquehanna River ran through eastern portion of township. JS worked for Joseph...

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Saints, but after falling ill she became “the first death in the church in this land.” It is unclear whether this revelation was dictated before or after JS was informed of her death.10

JS History, vol. A-1, 139; see also Knight, Reminiscences, 9. A later JS history gives Polly Knight’s date of death as 6 August, but Edward Partridge, writing to his wife on 7 August, declared, “This morning old Mrs Knight died.” (Edward Partridge, Independence, MO, to Lydia Clisbee Partridge, 5–7 Aug. 1831, Edward Partridge, Letters, 1831–1835, CHL.)  


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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served as the scribe for the original inscription of this revelation. The copy featured here belonged to 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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and is also in Cowdery’s handwriting. Whitney’s copy may be the original but is more likely a fair copy. It was likely made for him sometime after Cowdery returned to 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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at the end of August.11

Cowdery reached Kirtland, Ohio, on 27 August 1831. A 30 August 1831 revelation directed that Whitney be appointed an agent in Ohio and that he accompany Cowdery to different churches in the area to raise money for land purchases in Zion. Cowdery may have copied the 7 August revelation for Whitney in preparation for this trip, or he may have made a copy for Whitney as they traveled together. (JS History, vol. A-1, 146; Revelation, 30 Aug. 1831 [D&C 63:45–46].)  


Around that same time, 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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copied the revelation into Revelation Book 1.12

Revelation Book 1, pp. 98–100.  


That there are few differences between the two copies suggests they were made around the same time or from the same copy.13

A copy of the revelation exists in the “Book of Commandments Law and Covenant,” book A, in Samuel Smith’s handwriting. Although Smith was likely present when the revelation was dictated (he arrived in Missouri on 4 August), he probably did not make his copy until after the spring of 1832, since it follows revelations in book A that are dated in early 1832. Smith’s copy, too, is similar to the other early manuscript copies; it is possible, though not likely, that Smith’s copy is earlier than the Whitney copy featured herein. (Hyde and Smith, Notebook, [69]–[74]; Edward Partridge, Independence, MO, to Lydia Clisbee Partridge, 5–7 Aug. 1831, Edward Partridge, Letters, 1831–1835, CHL.)  


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