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Revelation, circa 8 March 1831–B [D&C 47]

Up your voice in Meetings when ever it shall be expedient & again I say unto you that it shall be appointed unto you to Keep the Church Record & History continually for 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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I have appointed to an other office wherefore it shall be given thee by the comforter to write these things even so amen [p. 80]
Up your voice in Meetings when ever it shall be  expedient & again I say unto you that it shall be appo inted unto you to Keep the Church Record & History  continually for 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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I have appointed to an other  office wherefore it shall be given thee by th[e] comforter  to write these things even so amen [p. 80]
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This revelation appointed 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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to take up the work formerly done by 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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as scribe and recorder—and added a new responsibility. Cowdery, who was “called . . . to write for” JS by April 1829,1

Revelation, Apr. 1829–D [D&C 9:4]. Cowdery’s calling to write for JS may have been initiated even before they met in April 1829. JS’s circa summer 1832 history explains that Cowdery had seen both the Lord and the gold plates in a vision, an experience that encouraged him to travel to Harmony, Pennsylvania, to meet JS. (JS History, ca. Summer 1832, [6].)  


was the principal scribe for the Book of Mormon and JS’s early revelations and, once 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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was organized in April 1830, kept minutes at meetings. He also served as scribe for early portions of JS’s inspired revision of the Bible. By the time of this revelation, however, Cowdery was away on a mission, and Whitmer had assumed some of Cowdery’s formal duties. He succeeded Cowdery as scribe for JS’s Bible revision2

Cowdery departed on his mission by late October 1830, after which John Whitmer became the primary scribe for the Bible revision, except for during a short period when Emma Smith wrote for JS. Sidney Rigdon, Jesse Gause, and Frederick G. Williams were the primary scribes for the Bible revision after November 1831. (See Faulring et al., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 43–47, 57–59, 63–73.)  


and also assisted JS in gathering and copying revelations, a work that culminated in the creation of a manuscript book of revelations.3

JS History, vol. A-1, 50; see also Historical Introduction to Revelation Book 1. In his role of recorder, Cowdery kept minutes for the 9 June 1830 conference and was there appointed “to keep the Church record and Conference Minutes until the next conference,” held 26 September 1830. At the 9 April 1831 conference, John Whitmer “was appointed to keep the Church record & history by the voice of ten Elders.” (Minutes, 9 June 1830; Minutes, 26 Sept. 1830; Minute Book 2, 9 Apr. 1831.)  


The following revelation not only formalized Whitmer’s assignment to “assist my servent Joseph” in such writing duties but added that he should also “write & keep a regulal [regular] history.”4

Although Cowdery created many records upon which a history could be based, no formal narrative history written by him is known. Even so, Whitmer made clear in his own history that he saw his work as continuing the work that Cowdery had begun. Later, beginning in 1834, Cowdery wrote a series of letters that detailed aspects of early church history. (Whitmer, History, 1, 25; see also JSP, H1:38–89.)  


The revelation then reiterated this dual appointment, directing that Whitmer “Keep the Church Record & History continually for Oliver I have appointed to an other office.”5

Although Cowdery and Whitmer were JS’s primary scribes from 1828 to 1831, other scribes assisted JS on a more limited and temporary basis. These included, among others, Martin Harris, Samuel Smith, Emma Smith, Reuben Hale, Peter Whitmer Jr., and Sidney Rigdon. (See Faulring et al., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 43–48.)  


Before the establishment of the church, JS’s primary need for scribal assistance was for recording revelatory texts, as demonstrated by 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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’s work on the translation

To produce a new text through a revelatory, rather than scholarly, process by the “gift and power of God.” In the Book of Mormon, the ancient prophet Mosiah translated records into his own language using “interpreters,” or “two stones which was fastened into...

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of the Book of Mormon as well as his careful recording of at least sixteen revelations. The need for other kinds of record keeping increased once 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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was organized. The first lines of a revelation recorded on 6 April 1830, the day of organization, proclaimed that “there Shall a Record be kept among you,”6 and the church’s foundational “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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” commanded that a record of members be kept and that members be provided with certificates of good standing that could be presented to the various branches of the church.7 Cowdery responded by keeping these records until he departed in October 1830 for a mission to the American Indians. David Whitmer

7 Jan. 1805–25 Jan. 1888. Farmer, livery keeper. Born near Harrisburg, Dauphin Co., Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Raised Presbyterian. Moved to Ontario Co., New York, shortly after birth. Attended German Reformed Church. Arranged...

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was temporarily appointed to record conference

A meeting where ecclesiastical officers and other church members could conduct church business. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church directed the elders to hold conferences to perform “Church business.” The first of these conferences was held on 9 June...

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minutes,8

The minutes of the 26 September 1830 conference record the appointment of David Whitmer “to keep the Church records until the next Conference,” but there is no evidence that he fulfilled this responsibility. (Minutes, 26 Sept. 1830.)  


and in March 1831, 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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was appointed to replace Cowdery. About the time this revelation was dictated, John Whitmer began inscribing Revelation Book 1.
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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was a willing scribe but a reluctant historian. At the 9 April 1831 conference

A meeting where ecclesiastical officers and other church members could conduct church business. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church directed the elders to hold conferences to perform “Church business.” The first of these conferences was held on 9 June...

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he responded affirmatively by keeping the minutes when “appointed to keep the Church record & history by the voice of ten Elders

A male leader in the church generally; an ecclesiastical and priesthood office or one holding that office; a proselytizing missionary. The Book of Mormon explained that elders ordained priests and teachers and administered “the flesh and blood of Christ unto...

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.”9

Minute Book 2, 9 Apr. 1831.  


But according to Whitmer’s own history, when JS told him that in addition to keeping church records “you must also keep the Church history,” he initially declined: “I would rather not do it but observed that the will of the Lord be done, and if he desires it, I desire that he would manifest it through Joseph the Seer.”10

Whitmer, History, 24.  


As a result of this conversation, JS dictated the revelation presented here. Whitmer likely composed its heading when copying it into Revelation Book 1, acknowledging that the text was dictated “in consequenc[e] of not feeling reconsiled to write at the request of Joseph with[o]ut 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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.”
Prior to the dictation of this revelation, record keeping in the church was often sporadic and incomplete. After 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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was appointed church historian and recorder, the number of documents recording church history increased substantially. Minutes of church conferences

A meeting where ecclesiastical officers and other church members could conduct church business. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church directed the elders to hold conferences to perform “Church business.” The first of these conferences was held on 9 June...

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generally contained more detail than they had previously, and Whitmer’s creation of Revelation Book 1 preserved most of JS’s early revelations. Whitmer also wrote a ninety-six-page narrative history that primarily described events from fall 1830 through the mid-1830s.11

The full text of Whitmer’s history is reproduced in JSP, H2:2–110.  


Facts