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History, 1834–1836


Editorial Note
As explained previously, 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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apparently wrote the entry for 5 December 1834 sometime between the meeting held that evening and the related meeting held the following day. This promptness suggests that Cowdery’s entry for the 6 December 1834 meeting was likewise written the day of that meeting or shortly thereafter. The blank pages between the 6 December entry and the next section of the history were likely reserved for further historical entries, but no similar contemporaneous entries were made here or anywhere else in the history.

Chapter 1.

5 December 1834 • Friday

Friday Evening, December 5, 1834. According to the direction of the Holy Spirit, Pres ident Smith, assistant Presidents, [Sidney] Rigdon

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

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and [Frederick G.] Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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, assembled for the  purpose of ordaining <first> High Counsellor [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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5

Cowdery had been designated the first speaker of the Kirtland high council at that body’s organizational meeting held 17 February 1834, after the members “cast lots or ballot, to ascertain who should speak first.” JS’s journal entry for 5 December 1834, also in Cowdery’s handwriting, states that the church presidency assembled “to converse upon the welfare of the church.” (Minute Book 1, 17 Feb. 1834; JS, Journal, 5 Dec. 1834.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Minute Book 1 / “Conference A,” 1832–1837. CHL. Also available at josephsmithpapers.org.

to the office of assistant  President of the High and Holy Priesthood in the Church of the Latter-Day Saints.
It is necessary, for the special benefit of the reader, that he be instructed <into, or> con cerning the power and authority of the above named Priesthood.
First. The office of the President is to preside over the whole Chu[r]ch; to be  considered as at the head; to receive revelations for the Church; to be a Seer, and  Revelator <and Prophet—> having all the gifts of God:— having taking <Moses> for an ensample. Which is  Second.6

TEXT: Cowdery may have originally inscribed “Second” after writing “gifts of God” above, and then canceled “Second” and added the text after “gifts of God”.  

 
the office and station of the above President Smith, ac cording to the calling of God, and the ordination which he has received.7

JS’s early revelations identified him as a Moses-like prophet. (See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 66–68 [2 Nephi 3:6–25]; Revelation, Sept. 1830–B, in Doctrine and Covenants 51:1–2, 1835 ed. [D&C 28:1–7]; and Revelation, 24 Feb. 1834, in Doctrine and Covenants 101:3, 1844 ed. [D&C 103:16].)
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.

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).

The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God. Compiled by Joseph Smith. 2nd ed. Nauvoo, IL: John Taylor, 1844. Selections 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).

Second. The office of Assistant President is to assist in presiding  over the whole chu[r]ch, and to officiate in the abscence of the President, accor ding to their <his> rank and appointment, viz: President 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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, first; Pres ident Rigdon

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

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Second, and President Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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Third, as they <were> are sev erally called. The office of this Priesthood is also to act as Spokesman—taking  Aaron for an ensample.8

Aaron was chosen as spokesman for Moses. JS’s revelations earlier identified an Aaron-like role for Cowdery. (See Exodus 4:10–16; Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 67 [2 Nephi 3:17–18]; and Revelation, Sept. 1830–B, in Doctrine and Covenants 51:2, 1835 ed. [D&C 28:3].)
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.

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).

The virtue of this the <above> Priesthood is to hold the keys of the kingdom of heaven,  or the Church militant.9

The “Church militant” refers to “the Church on earth considered as warring against the powers of evil,” as opposed to the “church triumphant,” the part of the church that has “overcome the world, and entered into glory.” (“Church militant,” in Oxford English Dictionary, 2:404.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Oxford English Dictionary. Compact ed. 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971.

The reader may further understand, that Presidents <the> reason why President <High Counsellor> 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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 was not previously ordained <to the Presidency,> was, in consequence of his necessary attendance in Zion, to  assist Wm 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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in conducting the printing business; but that this promise was  made by the angel while in company with President Smith, at the time they recievd  the office of the lesser priesthood.10

JS later recounted that he and Cowdery received the lesser priesthood from John the Baptist on 15 May 1829 and that the angelic visitor instructed that Cowdery be made second elder, next to JS as first elder. JS and Cowdery were acknowledged in these positions at the organization of the church. (JS History, vol. A-1, 17–18; Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830, in Doctrine and Covenants 2:1, 1835 ed. [D&C 20:2–3].)
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.

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).

And further: The circumstances and situation  of the Church requiring, Presidents Rigdon

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

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and Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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were previously or dained, to assist President Smith.
After this short explination, we now proceed to give an account of the  acts, promises, and blessings of this memorable Evening:
First. After assembling, we received a rebuke for our former low,  uncultivated, and disrespectful manner of communication, and saluta tion, with, and unto each other, by the voice of the Spirit, saying unto us: Verily,  condemnation resteth upon you, who are appointed to lead my Chu[r]ch,  and to be saviors of men:11

A revelation earlier in 1834 stated that the Lord’s people “were set to be a light unto the world, and to be the saviors of men.” (Revelation, 24 Feb. 1834, in Doctrine and Covenants 101:2, 1844 ed. [D&C 103:9]; compare Obadiah 1:21.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God. Compiled by Joseph Smith. 2nd ed. Nauvoo, IL: John Taylor, 1844. Selections 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).

and also upon the church: And there must needs be a  repentance and a refor[m]ation among you, in all things, in your ensamples  before the Chuch, and before the world, in all your manners, habits and customs,  and salutations one toward another—rendering unto every man the respect  due the office, and calling, and priesthood, whereunto I the Lord have appoin ted and ordained you. Amen. [p. 17]
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JS’s 1834–1836 history is a composite historical record consisting of genealogical tables, journal-like entries, and transcripts of newspaper articles. It shifts abruptly in format from one unfinished section to the next. The order of handwriting in the history roughly matches that found in the 1835–1836 journal, and like the journal, the history passed from 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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to Frederick G. Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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to Warren Parrish

10 Jan. 1803–3 Jan. 1877. Clergyman, gardener. Born in New York. Son of John Parrish and Ruth Farr. Married first Elizabeth (Betsey) Patten of Westmoreland Co., New Hampshire, ca. 1822. Lived at Alexandria, Jefferson Co., New York, 1830. Purchased land at...

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to Warren Cowdery

17 Oct. 1788–23 Feb. 1851. Physician, druggist, farmer, editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Married Patience Simonds, 22 Sept. 1814, in Pawlet, Rutland Co. Moved to Freedom, Cattaraugus Co., New York, 1816...

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. Finally, it returned to Parrish. The purpose for which the record was created is unclear, as is the rationale for its differing formats. At the beginning, the 1834–1836 history may have had as much to do with Oliver Cowdery, its first scribe, as with JS. Cowdery was serving at the time as scribe for JS’s first 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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journal. He had transformed that journal into a jointly authored document by writing in the first person plural, making both himself and JS the protagonists. Cowdery made his final entry in the first Ohio journal 5 December 1834, the day he was ordained an assistant president to JS in the general church presidency and placed ahead of JS’s other assistants. He may have begun the 1834–1836 history in response to his new appointment.
The new record was begun in a massive blank book. 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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left the first twelve pages blank, possibly for a title page and other introductory material to be written later. He then inscribed columns and headings on the next eight pages to reserve them for the genealogies of the four members of the new church presidency. On the following page, he began an entry dated 5 December 1834, the same date as his last entry in JS’s first 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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journal.
Just as 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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converted JS’s first 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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journal into a JS-Cowdery journal, he may have conceived of the 1834–1836 history as a record for all four members of the church presidency. Cowdery’s entry for 5 December 1834 provided a lengthier and more formal account of his elevation to the church presidency than did JS’s first Ohio journal. Regardless of its purpose, however, the daily log was discontinued after two entries.
The next section of the history, begun months later, is a transcript of 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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’s series of eight letters on church history published in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate between October 1834 and October 1835. Frederick G. Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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, who began the transcription, may have begun working under Cowdery’s direction, but by 29 October 1835 JS had assumed effective control of the document. JS’s journal entry of that date, which notes his employment of Warren Parrish

10 Jan. 1803–3 Jan. 1877. Clergyman, gardener. Born in New York. Son of John Parrish and Ruth Farr. Married first Elizabeth (Betsey) Patten of Westmoreland Co., New Hampshire, ca. 1822. Lived at Alexandria, Jefferson Co., New York, 1830. Purchased land at...

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as his scribe, also records that Parrish “commenced writing in my journal a history of my life, concluding President Cowdery 2d letter to W. 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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, which president Williams had begun.”1

JS, Journal, 29 Oct. 1835; see also entry for 29 Oct. 1835 herein. In this case, “my journal” refers to JS’s 1834–1836 history, which JS also called his “large journal.”  

 
The final section of JS’s history, transcribed by Warren Cowdery

17 Oct. 1788–23 Feb. 1851. Physician, druggist, farmer, editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Married Patience Simonds, 22 Sept. 1814, in Pawlet, Rutland Co. Moved to Freedom, Cattaraugus Co., New York, 1816...

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and Warren Parrish

10 Jan. 1803–3 Jan. 1877. Clergyman, gardener. Born in New York. Son of John Parrish and Ruth Farr. Married first Elizabeth (Betsey) Patten of Westmoreland Co., New Hampshire, ca. 1822. Lived at Alexandria, Jefferson Co., New York, 1830. Purchased land at...

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, is a revised version of JS’s daily journal entries from late September 1835 to late January 1836.2 Warren Cowdery explained that the intention was to provide a “faithful narration of every important item in his every-day-occurrences.”3

JS History, 1834–1836, 105.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

JS History, 1834–1836 / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1834–1836. In Joseph Smith et al., History, 1838–1856, vol. A-1, back of book (earliest numbering), 9–20, 46–187. CHL.

The revised entries continue to 18 January 1836. Warren Parrish, the final scribe to write in JS’s 1834–1836 history, may have ceased his work in order to embark on a proselytizing mission. However, the reasons for JS’s discontinuing the history entirely are not known.
Further information about the different sections of the 1834–1836 history may be found in intratextual notes preceding each section.
As noted above, the first section of the history includes initial work to compile genealogical data for each member of the church presidency. In an 1832 letter to church leaders 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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, JS outlined the contents of the church history to be kept by 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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. In addition to an account of “all things that transpire in Zion,” JS instructed that the record include the names of those who had formally consecrated their property and received church land. At the second coming of Jesus Christ, he wrote, this record would be used to reward “the Saints whose names are found and the names of their fathers and of their children enroled in the Book of the Law of God.”4

JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 1, 3.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

JS Letterbook 1 / Smith, Joseph. “Letter Book A,” 1832–1835. Joseph Smith Collection. 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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apparently followed this model when he began this new historical record in early December 1834. He reserved the pages at the beginning of the history to record family information for JS, himself, Sidney Rigdon

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

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, and Frederick G. Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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, the four members of the general church presidency as designated on 5 December 1834. Inscribing headings to eight pages, Cowdery intended to prepare two genealogical tables for each of the four presidents, one to identify wife and children and the second to identify parents and siblings. The left column lists births and marriages; the column on the right was reserved for deaths. That Cowdery did not create or even leave room for similar tables for the two assistant presidents appointed on 6 December 1834 suggests that he inscribed both the tables and the entry for 5 December between the 5 and 6 December meetings.

Facts