Chapter Eight

Gathering to Ohio

“Chapter Eight: Gathering to Ohio,” Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (2003), 89–101

When the year 1831 arrived, most members of the Church were thinking of gathering to Ohio. Sometime in December of 1830 the Lord commanded his people to move to Ohio (see D&C 37:3). Because of this, Joseph and his scribe, Sidney Rigdon, temporarily stopped the translation of the scriptures. On New Year’s Day the Prophet and his associates in Fayette completed preparations for the third general conference of the Church, which was scheduled to consider the move to Ohio.

The Saints Instructed to Gather

On 2 January 1831 the Saints from the various branches throughout New York met in the home of Peter Whitmer, Sr. After transacting some Church business, Joseph Smith “addressed the congregation and exhorted them to stand fast, looking forward considering the end of their salvation.” Following his remarks, several Church members inquired about the commandment to move to Ohio. In the “presence of the congregation,”1 Joseph Smith prayed to the Lord and received a revelation (see D&C 38). It promised the Latter-day Saints “greater riches, even a land of promise, a land flowing with milk and honey, upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh;

“And I will give it unto you for the land of your inheritance, if you seek it with all your hearts” (D&C 38:18–19). The precise location of Zion, however, was not revealed. For the present, the Saints were to go to Ohio, where the Lord promised to reveal to them his “law,” endow them with power, and give further instructions pertaining to the growth of the Church (see D&C 38:32–33).

Not everyone at the conference was in harmony with this revelation. A few people claimed that Joseph Smith invented it to deceive the people and to enrich himself. John Whitmer wrote in his history that this claim arose because the hearts of the Saints “were not right in the sight of the Lord, for they wanted to serve [both] God and man.” In addition, some people were reluctant “to leave prosperous farms and comfortable circumstances for the uncertainties” of the Western Reserve in Ohio.2 There was the prospect that many would lose money and some might even be unable to sell their property (see D&C 38:37). Most of the New York Saints, however, reconciled themselves to the commandment and made preparations to leave.

Following the conference, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon went to Colesville to strengthen the members of the Colesville branch and to preach for the last time to nonmembers in the vicinity. Threats on their lives prevented them from extended proselyting. Upon their return to Fayette, the Prophet sent John Whitmer to Ohio with copies of several of the revelations to comfort and strengthen the Saints. Brother Whitmer was also assigned to be their presiding elder until the arrival of the Prophet. By the time he arrived in Kirtland, the membership of the Church in Geauga and Cuyahoga Counties in Ohio had swelled to about three hundred, more than twice the number reported only two months earlier.3 Since the departure of the missionaries to the Lamanites, proselyting in the area had continued unabated. One of the most successful missionaries was the former restorationist preacher John Murdock. Between November 1830 and March 1831, he baptized over seventy settlers living in Cuyahoga County.4 Other missionaries fared equally well in their labors in Ohio.

Whitmer, John

John Whitmer (1802–78) was the first presiding elder of the Kirtland Saints until Joseph Smith arrived in February 1831.

Gathering to Ohio Begins

Moving to Ohio was advantageous to the young Church. By leaving New York the Saints hoped to leave behind religious persecution, particularly in the Colesville area. In addition, there were more Church members in Ohio than anywhere else, and gathering in one place enabled everyone to receive instructions from the Prophet, thus maintaining doctrinal and organizational uniformity. Ohio’s available waterways also provided a gateway to the rest of the country for missionary work. But, most important, the move to Ohio was a step closer to “the borders by the Lamanites,” where Zion would be established (D&C 28:9). In Ohio many principles pertaining to the building of Zion could be implemented.

Joseph Smith was eager to meet with the Saints in Ohio, and John Whitmer wrote urging him to come right away. Joseph sought the Lord’s will and was told to leave immediately, but the prospect of moving seemed grim to Emma. She had moved seven times in the first four years of marriage and was just recovering from a month-long illness in addition to being six months pregnant. Under such conditions the three-hundred mile trip to Ohio in the dead of winter was arduous at best. Joseph Knight graciously provided a sleigh to make traveling less strenuous for her. At the end of January 1831, Joseph and Emma Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Edward Partridge set out for Kirtland.

About the first of February the sleigh pulled up in front of Newel K. Whitney’s store in Kirtland. Joseph sprang from the sleigh and entered the store. “‘Newel K. Whitney! Thou art the man,’ he exclaimed, extending his hand cordially, as if to an old and familiar acquaintance. ‘You have the advantage of me,’ replied the merchant, … ‘I could not call you by name as you have me.’ ‘I am Joseph the Prophet,’ said the stranger smiling. ‘You’ve prayed me here, now what do you want of me?’” Joseph explained to the amazed merchant that back in New York he had seen Newel in a vision praying for him to come to Kirtland.5 The Whitneys received Joseph and Emma Smith with kindness and invited them to live temporarily with them. During the next several weeks the Smiths “received every kindness and attention which could be expected, and especially from Sister Whitney.”6

Ohio. Lake Co. Kirtland. Newel K. Whitney Store

The Newel K. Whitney store, located at the four corners area in Kirtland, was built between 1826 and 1827. Many important things took place there, including the following:

  1. Joseph and Emma Smith lived there beginning in the fall of 1832.

  2. The store became the headquarters of the Church.

  3. Joseph Smith III was born there on 6 November 1832.

  4. The School of the Prophets, which commenced on 24 January 1833 and ended sometime in April, was held there.

  5. Many revelations were given there to the Prophet Joseph Smith, including Doctrine and Covenants 84, 87–89, 95, and 98.

  6. For a time the store was used as the bishops’ storehouse.

  7. Joseph Smith completed much of the translation of the Bible there.

In 1979 the Church acquired the Newel K. Whitney store and soon after began to restore it. The building was dedicated 25 August 1984 by President Gordon B. Hinckley.

Between the end of January and the middle of May 1831, most of the New York Saints sold their possessions, packed their most precious material goods, and migrated to Kirtland and the adjacent areas. Joseph Smith and a few others went early and were followed by three separate companies—the Colesville Saints, members from Fayette and surrounding locations in Seneca County, and those from Palmyra-Manchester. A few others came later in the year.

The Colesville branch was the first group to leave. They arrived in Buffalo on 1 May to find that bitter lake winds had blown ice into the Buffalo harbor, which delayed them for eleven dreary days. They finally arrived in Fairport, Ohio, on 14 May. Over two hundred people went to Ohio, some by sleigh and stage coach, but most by canal barges to Buffalo and then by steamboats and schooners on Lake Erie.

Meanwhile Church members in the Fayette vicinity also prepared for migration. With her older sons and husband already gone, Lucy Smith, a natural leader in her own right, organized a party of about fifty people (twenty adults and thirty children) to occupy a barge on the Cayuga and Seneca Canal. Another group of about thirty, organized by Thomas B. Marsh, took passage on an accompanying barge, and together the two boats traveled to Buffalo.

Smith, Lucy Mack

Lucy Mack Smith (1776–1856)

En route, Lucy “called the brethren and sisters together, and reminded them that we were traveling by the commandment of the Lord, as much as Father Lehi was, when he left Jerusalem; and, if faithful, we had the same reasons to expect the blessings of God.”7 Although they suffered from hunger because some had brought clothing rather than food, they sang and prayed as they journeyed and left a favorable impression on the captain. Lucy took charge of the situation and prevented greater suffering.

When they arrived in Buffalo, they met the icebound Colesville Saints. After several anxious days in Buffalo, a number of the children had become sick, and many of the group were hungry and discouraged. They took deck passage on a boat, put their things on board, and obtained temporary shelter for the women and children until early the next morning. When they were back on board, Lucy persuaded the still murmuring group to ask the Lord to break the twenty-foot clogs of ice that jammed the harbor. She explained, “A noise was heard, like bursting thunder. The captain cried, ‘Every man to his post.’ The ice parted, leaving barely a passage for the boat, and so narrow that as the boat passed through the buckets of the waterwheel were torn off with a crash. … We had barely passed through the avenue when the ice closed together again.” The Colesville group followed a few days later.8

As these New York Saints were arriving in Ohio, a third party of about fifty people left Palmyra, New York, under the direction of Martin Harris. With their arrival in Ohio, the first phase of the westward movement of the Latter-day Saints ended. In contrast to many Americans who migrated westward at the same time seeking free or inexpensive land, adventure, or escape from creditors, these humble people moved in response to a commandment of God.9

Early Challenges in Ohio

During the three months Joseph Smith was in Kirtland before the Saints from New York began to arrive, he faced many challenges arising from the rapid growth of the Church there. The first problem was the manifestation of “strange notions and false spirits” among the members of the branch.10 Because they lacked the guidance of Church authorities in northern Ohio, some new members entertained “wild enthusiastic notions” about the effects of the Holy Spirit upon the converted. John Corrill, an early Ohio convert, was disturbed by the bizarre actions of some of the young people who claimed they saw visions: “They conducted themselves in a strange manner, sometimes imitating Indians in their maneuvers, sometimes running out into the fields, getting on stumps of trees and there preaching as though surrounded by a congregation,—all the while so completely absorbed in visions as to be apparently insensible to all that was passing around them.”11 Satan’s inroads in the Church were due to the credulity and gullibility of these new Saints who brought some of their previous ways with them and were without priesthood direction for a few months.

Only a few members behaved in this manner, however. “The more substantial minded looked upon it with astonishment, and were suspicious that it was from an evil source.”12 Distressed by what he saw, Joseph felt that these excesses were “calculated to bring disgrace upon the church of God; to cause the spirit of God to be withdrawn; and to uproot and destroy those glorious principles which had been developed for the salvation of the human family.”13 “With a little caution and some wisdom” and the guidance of several revelations, he succeeded in overcoming these problems.14

Still, in late February 1831, some individuals continued to claim they had received revelations. This was not a new problem; Hiram Page had done the same thing in Fayette the previous fall (see D&C 28). One of these so-called “revelators” was a professed prophetess named Hubble, who claimed she should be allowed to become a teacher in the Church. According to John Whitmer, she “appeared to be very sanctimonious and deceived some who were not able to detect her in her hypocrisy.” Many saw through her false claims, however, and “her follies and abominations were made manifest.”15 The Prophet inquired of the Lord about her stratagems. In a revelation directed to the elders of the Church, the Lord declared “that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until [Joseph Smith] be taken, if he abide in me” (D&C 43:3). So-called revelations through others for the guidance of the Church were not of God (see D&C 43:4–6).

Shortly thereafter another revelation called the elders to go forth by twos in all directions to preach the gospel (see D&C 44:1–3; 42:6–7). Soon many elders were seen going into villages and towns throughout Ohio. For example, John Corrill recounted that he and Solomon Hancock “went to New London, about one hundred miles from Kirtland, where we built up a church [branch] of thirty-six members in about three weeks time, though we were bitterly opposed by other preachers.”16 That spring the Church in Ohio increased by several hundred converts.

The growing Church did not go unnoticed in northern Ohio. Joseph Smith wrote that in the spring of 1831, “many false reports, lies, and foolish stories, were published in the newspapers, and circulated in every direction, to prevent people from investigating the work, or embracing the faith.”17 For example, a devastating earthquake struck near Peking, China, which a young Mormon girl had predicted six weeks earlier. This event convinced Symonds Ryder, a well-known Campbellite preacher who had been perplexed over Mormonism for some time, to join the Church. His conversion caused quite a disturbance in the vicinity, and the earthquake was heralded in the newspapers as Mormonism in China. “But to the joy of the Saints who had to struggle against everything that prejudice and wickedness could invent,” the Prophet received a revelation that identified numerous signs that will precede the Second Coming of the Lord.18 In it the Saints were commanded to “stand in holy places” and take “the Holy Spirit for their guide,” and they were promised that they would be rewarded for this with the establishment of the “New Jerusalem” (D&C 45:32, 57, 66).

Also in the spring of 1831 a Methodist preacher named Ezra Booth brought a party to Kirtland, which included a well-to-do farmer named John Johnson and his wife, Alice, from Hiram, Ohio. Alice’s arm was partially paralyzed from rheumatism, and she could not raise it above her head. As they talked with the Prophet, one of the visitors asked if there was anyone on earth who had the power to cure Alice’s lame arm. When the conversation turned to another subject, Joseph went up to Mrs. Johnson, took her by the hand, and with calm assurance said, “Woman, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I command thee to be whole.” As Joseph went from the room, leaving everyone astonished and speechless, she raised her arm. The next day she hung out her first wash in over six years without any pain. Ezra Booth and some members of the Johnson family joined the Church as a result of the healing. The miracle also attracted wide acclaim throughout northern Ohio.19

That same spring Parley P. Pratt returned to Kirtland with a report on the mission to the Lamanites and was delighted to see the tremendous growth of the Church. He was especially happy that Joseph had moved to Ohio. Parley was soon called to go on a mission to a religious group called the Shakers in northern Ohio.

The Shakers (United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming) originated in England and came to America in 1774 because of persecution. “They derive their name from their manner of worship, which [involved] singing, dancing, and clapping hands” to music, but “their dress and manner are similar to those of the [Quakers,] so they were sometimes called the Shaking Quakers.” The Shaking Quakers were led by Ann Lee from 1754 to 1784. She had claimed to be the Messiah returned to earth in female form. She taught that men and women were equals and that there should be no marriage among the believers.20 Leman Copley, a former Shaker, had converted to Mormonism but still believed that the Shakers were correct in many of their doctrines, so he asked Joseph for guidance on the matter.21 The revelation Joseph Smith received repudiated the Shaker doctrines of celibacy, abstaining from meat, and God appearing in the form of a woman. Sidney Rigdon, Parley P. Pratt, and Leman Copley were also called to take the gospel to the Shakers (see D&C 49). The trio visited a settlement of Shakers near Cleveland, Ohio, but according to Parley, “they utterly refused to hear or obey the gospel.”22

Elder Pratt then visited a number of branches of the Latter-day Saints in the Western Reserve, where he found the same spiritual fanaticism among the members that Joseph Smith had encountered when he arrived in Kirtland in February. Other elders were also disheartened by what they saw. John Whitmer related, “Some would fancy to themselves that they had the sword of Laban, and would wield it as expert as a light dragoon, some would act like an Indian in the act of scalping, some would slide or scoot on the floor, with the rapidity of a serpent, which termed sailing in the boat to the Lamanites, preaching the gospel, and many other vain and foolish maneuvers, that are unmeaning and unprofitable to mention. Thus the devil blinded the eyes of some good and honest disciples.”23 Parley Pratt concurred that “a false and lying spirit seemed to be creeping into the Church.”24

Uncertain how to handle these spiritual phenomena, the brethren joined with the Prophet in prayer in his translating room in Kirtland. Joseph then dictated a revelation (see D&C 50). Elder Pratt remembered the sublime experience of observing a revelation in process: “Each sentence was uttered slowly and very distinctly, and with a pause between each, sufficiently long for it to be recorded, by an ordinary writer, in long hand.”25

The Lord began by acknowledging that there were many “false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world” (D&C 50:2–3) and that Satan was seeking to deceive the people that he might overthrow them. Therefore the Lord gave the brethren a key by which they could detect and deal with evil spirits:

“Wherefore, it shall come to pass, that if you behold a spirit manifested that you cannot understand, and you receive not that spirit, ye shall ask of the Father in the name of Jesus; and if he give not unto you that spirit, then you may know that it is not of God.

“And it shall be given unto you, power over that spirit; and you shall proclaim against that spirit with a loud voice that it is not of God” (D&C 50:31–32).

The Law of Consecration

Now settled in Kirtland, the Prophet was eager to know the Lord’s will concerning the economic salvation of the Saints, many of whom were impoverished, particularly those who had left their homes in New York. His interest in the Lord’s economic program was aroused when he arrived in Ohio and discovered a group of about fifty people who had established a cooperative venture based on their interpretation of statements in the book of Acts describing the early Saints as having all things in common (see Acts 2:44–45; 4:32). This group, known as “the family,” formerly followers of Sidney Rigdon, were members of the Church living on Isaac Morley’s farm near the village of Kirtland. When John Whitmer arrived in mid-January, he noted that what they were doing created many problems. For example, Heman Bassett took a pocket watch belonging to Levi Hancock and sold it. When asked why, Heman replied, “Oh, I thought it was all in the family.” Levi responded that he did not like such “family doing” and would not endure it any longer.26

The Prophet Joseph, however, realized the need to establish a more perfect system to meet the growing economic needs of the Church. Revenue was required to finance various Church undertakings, such as publishing revelations and missionary tracts. The Prophet was without a home for his family; Sidney Rigdon had lost his pastoral home and the economic support he had previously received from his congregation. Money, goods, and property were needed to help the poor and to assist immigrants who were sacrificing much to gather to Ohio, so Joseph inquired of the Lord.

On 4 February 1831 the Prophet received a revelation calling for Edward Partridge to serve as the first bishop of the Church, with instructions for him to devote his time to this calling (see D&C 41:9). Five days later another important revelation was received, embracing the law of the Church. It gave Bishop Partridge further instruction on his responsibilities and outlined the new economic system (see D&C 42).

One of the underlying principles of this new economic system was that the earth and everything on it belonged to the Lord, and man was a steward (see Psalm 24:1; D&C 104:13–14). Under the law of consecration, members of the Church were asked to consecrate, or deed, all their property, both real and personal, to the bishop of the Church. He would then grant an “inheritance,” or stewardship, to an individual from the properties received. The size of the stewardship depended on the circumstances, wants, and needs of the family, as determined jointly by the bishop and the prospective steward (see D&C 42:32–33; 51:3). The family then administered its stewardship to the best of their ability. If they were industrious and successful, then at the year’s end they would have a net gain called a surplus (profit). Any surplus remaining beyond the wants and needs of the family was to be turned over to the storehouse to be used by the bishop to “administer to the poor and needy” (D&C 42:34). The law of consecration was designed to bring about relative economic equality and eliminate greed and poverty.27

The Church gradually learned more about the law of consecration as additional revelations were given. For example, the Prophet asked the Lord how the Church should acquire lands for the settlement of the incoming Saints. Those with property in Kirtland were commanded to impart freely of their lands. Other funds were to be consecrated to buy more land (see D&C 48:2–3). The bedraggled New York Saints began arriving in May, and it was necessary to get them settled. The responsibility rested with Bishop Partridge, so he sought direction from the Prophet. The bishop was instructed to begin apportioning stewardships to the immigrants (see D&C 51:3). “And let every man deal honestly, and be alike among this people, and receive alike, that ye may be one, even as I have commanded you” (v. 9).

Significant Revelations about the Law of Consecration and the United Order


Where Received

Where Recorded


4 Feb. 1831

Kirtland, Ohio

D&C 41:9

Edward Partridge appointed as first bishop.

9 Feb. 1831

Kirtland, Ohio

D&C 42:30–34

Law of consecration explained.

Feb. 1831

Kirtland, Ohio

D&C 44:6

Saints to administer to the poor according to law.

7 Mar. 1831

Kirtland, Ohio

D&C 45:64–75

Call to gather Zion: prospect of New Jerusalem.

Mar. 1831

Kirtland, Ohio

D&C 48

Saints who settled in Ohio to save money for inheritance in Zion.

May 1831

Thompson, Ohio

D&C 51:3ff

Bishop Partridge to appoint portions (stewardships) according to family size, circumstances, wants, and needs. Storehouse to be established.

June 1831

Kirtland, Ohio

D&C 56:16–20

Rich and poor commanded to repent.

20 July 1831

Jackson County, Missouri

D&C 57

Missouri appointed and consecrated as the land of inheritance and center place for Zion.

1 Aug. 1831

Jackson County, Missouri

D&C 58:1–9, 50–57

Zion to come after much tribulation. Early immigrants honored to lay foundation of Zion. Lands to be purchased in Independence.

Aug. 1831

Kirtland, Ohio

D&C 63:27–31

Saints commanded to purchase lands with money and forbidden to obtain lands by blood.

12 Nov. 1831

Kirtland, Ohio

D&C 70:1–8

Elders appointed stewards over revelations. Surpluses to be consecrated to the Church.

4 Dec. 1831

Kirtland, Ohio

D&C 72

Newel K. Whitney appointed as second bishop of the Church in Kirtland. Further duties of bishop made known.

Mar. 1832

Hiram, Ohio

D&C 78

Saints commanded to establish storehouses in Zion and to further organize so Church would be independent.

26 April 1832

Jackson County, Missouri

D&C 82:11–12

United order to be established to manage affairs in Zion and Kirtland.

30 Apr. 1832

Independence, Missouri

D&C 83

Widows and orphans to be provided for by consecration of the Church to storehouses.

27 Nov. 1832

Kirtland, Ohio

D&C 85

To receive an inheritance in Zion a person must be willing to live the law of consecration.

25 June 1833

Kirtland, Ohio

History of the Church, 1:364–65

Letter from the Prophet to Bishop Edward Partridge on the size of a member’s stewardship.

2 Aug. 1833

Kirtland, Ohio

D&C 97:10–21

House (temple) in Zion (Jackson County) commanded. Zion is pure in heart.

6 Aug. 1833

Kirtland, Ohio

D&C 98

Saints commanded to follow the Constitution. Law of war and law of forgiveness given to Saints.

12 Oct. 1833

Perrysburg, New York

D&C 100:13–17

Chastened Zion to be redeemed.

10 Dec. 1833

Kirtland, Ohio

History of the Church, 1:453–56

Letter from the Prophet to retain lands: petition to God to return Saints to land of inheritances.

16 Dec. 1833

Kirtland, Ohio

D&C 101

Reasons given for Saints’ expulsion from Jackson County. Zion not to be moved out of her place. Saints to rely on constitutional process.

24 Feb. 1834

Kirtland, Ohio

D&C 103

Saints to redeem Zion after tribulation. Zion to be redeemed by power.

23 Apr. 1834

Kirtland, Ohio

D&C 104:47–66

Separation of united order in Kirtland and Zion. Sacred treasury provided for.

22 June 1834

Fishing River, Missouri

D&C 105

Redemption of Zion postponed until Saints are prepared, endowed, and numerous. United order dissolved until after Zion’s redemption.

1 Sept. 1835

Kirtland, Ohio

History of the Church, 2:254

Prophet’s letter to elders of the Church relating his June 1831 vision to go to western Missouri.

(Adapted from William O. Nelson, Ensign, Jan. 1979, p. 23.)

The revelations to Joseph Smith concerning the law of consecration began with the revelations in February 1831, soon after the Prophet Joseph arrived in Ohio. Over the next 4 1/2 years the Lord revealed many principles connected with the law of consecration. As can be seen in the accompanying chart, most of them were given in Kirtland.

Joseph Smith directed the Colesville immigrants to settle in Thompson, Ohio, a few miles east of Kirtland, on property owned by Leman Copley. The Saints in Seneca County were assigned to live on the Isaac Morley farm, where they erected log cabins and planted crops. Although Bishop Partridge tried to inaugurate the law of consecration in Thompson, conflicts prevented its full implementation. Because of the failure of his mission to the Shakers, Leman Copley broke his contract that allowed Latter-day Saints to occupy his farmland and ordered them off his property. When informed of the difficulties, the Prophet sought and obtained a revelation instructing Newel Knight, president of the Colesville branch, and others living on the Copley farm to “repent of all their sins, and … journey into the regions westward, unto the land of Missouri, unto the borders of the Lamanites” (D&C 54:3, 8). Shortly thereafter, at least fourteen families under Newel Knight’s direction left for the Missouri frontier.28

In the February revelation calling Edward Partridge to be bishop, the Lord had directed Joseph and Sidney to resume the inspired translation of the Bible. “And again, it is meet that my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., should have a house built, in which to live and translate” (D&C 41:7). Five days later the Prophet received the following instruction:

“Thou shalt ask, and my scriptures shall be given as I have appointed, and they shall be preserved in safety;

“And it is expedient that thou shouldst hold thy peace concerning them, and not teach them until ye have received them in full” (D&C 42:56–57). The pair diligently continued their work almost daily throughout the spring in a small house constructed for Joseph and Emma on Isaac Morley’s farm.

At this time Emma went into labor. She had not yet recovered from her illness and the arduous midwinter journey from New York. On 30 April she delivered twins, but they lived only three hours. She and Joseph had now lost all three children born to them. Coincidentally, twins were born on 1 May to Julia Murdock, but she died following their birth. Elder John Murdock was leaving on a mission about this time and consented when Joseph asked if he and Emma could adopt the children. Emma and Joseph’s grief was eased, and they willingly took the infants—a girl named Julia and a boy named Joseph—to raise as their own.

Kirtland Temple

Cemetery across the street to the north of the Kirtland Temple. Louisa and Thaddeus, the twins born to Joseph and Emma Smith, are buried in this cemetery. Jerusha Smith (Hyrum’s wife) and Mary Duty Smith (grandmother of the Prophet) are also buried here.

General Conference in Ohio

The fourth general conference of the Church convened in a schoolhouse in Kirtland township on Friday, 3 June 1831. Many missionaries in Ohio returned for the meetings. Minutes record that sixty-three priesthood holders were in attendance.29 In Joseph Smith’s words, “The Lord displayed His power to the most perfect satisfaction of the Saints” at the conference.30 After the opening business, Joseph announced that the Lord wanted worthy elders “ordained to the high priesthood.”31 These were the first ordinations to the office of high priest in this dispensation. The Prophet ordained five brethren high priests; one of them, Lyman Wight, ordained several more in the same meeting. John Corrill and Isaac Morley were called to be counselors to Bishop Edward Partridge and were set apart to that calling by Lyman Wight.32

During the conference the Spirit was with the Prophet in an “unusual manner. And [he] prophesied that John the Revelator was then among the ten tribes of Israel … to prepare them for their return from their long dispersion.”33 The spirit of prophecy also rested upon Lyman Wight: “He said the coming of the Savior should be like the sun rising in the east, and will cover the whole earth.” He predicted that some of the brethren would suffer martyrdom for the sake of their religion and would seal their testimony of Christ with their blood.34 The Prophet Joseph, Harvey Whitlock, and Lyman Wight saw the heavens open and Jesus Christ sitting on the right hand of the Father. Lyman testified that he saw the Son of God making intercession to the Father for the Saints.35

Not all that happened at the conference was good. As it had happened in previous months, a manifestation of evil spirits appeared. Church historian John Whitmer related that “the devil took a notion, to make known his power.”36 Horrid noises shrieked through the meeting, and several men were thrown around violently by evil spirits. Harvey Green was thrown on the floor in convulsions. The Prophet laid hands upon him and cast out an evil spirit. Harvey Whitlock and John Murdock were bound so they could not speak. Joseph Smith said that all of this was a fulfillment of the scriptures stating that the “man of sin” would be revealed (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3). The Prophet saw the design of Satan and commanded him in the name of Christ to depart, which he did to the “joy and comfort” of those present.37 These early experiences in Kirtland served as a warning to all Saints to avoid tampering with evil spirits and to avoid excessive spiritual zeal.

Thus ended the first critical months of gathering the New York Saints to Ohio and establishing the headquarters of the Church there. While members experienced several encounters with evil spirits, they also received valuable instructions and saw the power of God overcome the power of the evil one. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon resumed work on the inspired translation of the Bible. The eternal principles of the law of consecration were revealed, and further foundations were laid for the great latter-day missionary work.

Show References


  1. In F. Mark McKiernan and Roger D. Launius, eds., An Early Latter Day Saint History: The Book of John Whitmer (Independence, Mo.: Herald Publishing House, 1980), pp. 32–33.

  2. In McKiernan and Launius, An Early Latter Day Saint History, p. 35.

  3. See McKiernan and Launius, An Early Latter Day Saint History, p. 36.

  4. See “Journal of John Murdock,” Nov. 1830–July 1859, LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City.

  5. In History of the Church, 1:146.

  6. History of the Church, 1:146; this paragraph is derived from Milton V. Backman, Jr., The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830–1838 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983), pp. 43–45.

  7. Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith, ed. Preston Nibley (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), p. 196.

  8. Smith, History of Joseph Smith, pp. 200–205.

  9. Previous two paragraphs derived from Backman, Heavens Resound, pp. 47, 49.

  10. History of the Church, 1:146.

  11. John Corrill, Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints (St. Louis: John Corrill, 1839), p. 13; see also Joseph Smith, “Try the Spirits,” Times and Seasons, 1 Apr. 1842, p. 747.

  12. Corrill, Brief History of the Church, p. 13.

  13. In Times and Seasons, 1 Apr. 1842, p. 747; spelling standardized.

  14. History of the Church, 1:146.

  15. In McKiernan and Launius, An Early Latter Day Saint History, p. 42; spelling standardized.

  16. Corrill, Brief History of the Church, p. 13.

  17. History of the Church, 1:158.

  18. History of the Church, 1:158.

  19. In History of the Church, 1:215–16; see also Millennial Star, 31 Dec. 1864, p. 834. For a confirmation of the spelling of “Alice Johnson,” see photo on file of her grave in Walnut Hill Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

  20. John Hayward, The Book of All Religions (Concord, N.H.: I. S. Boyd and E. W. Buswell, 1843), pp. 83–84.

  21. See History of the Church, 1:167.

  22. Parley P. Pratt, ed., Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Classics in Mormon Literature series (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985), p. 47.

  23. In McKiernan and Launius, An Early Latter Day Saint History, p. 62; spelling and punctuation standardized.

  24. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 48; spelling, punctuation, and capitalization standardized.

  25. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 48.

  26. Levi W. Hancock, “Levi Hancock Journal,” LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City, p. 81.

  27. Previous three paragraphs derived from Backman, Heavens Resound, p. 65.

  28. Derived from Backman, Heavens Resound, p. 66. See also Larry C. Porter, “A Study of the Origins of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the States of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816–1831,” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1971, pp. 299–303.

  29. See Donald Q. Cannon and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., Far West Record: Minutes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1844 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983), pp. 6–7.

  30. History of the Church, 1:175.

  31. In McKiernan and Launius, An Early Latter Day Saint History, p. 66; punctuation and capitalization standardized.

  32. See Cannon and Cook, Far West Record, p. 7.

  33. In McKiernan and Launius, An Early Latter Day Saint History, p. 66; punctuation and capitalization standardized.

  34. In McKiernan and Launius, An Early Latter Day Saint History, p. 67; punctuation standardized.

  35. In McKiernan and Launius, An Early Latter Day Saint History, p. 67; see also “Levi Hancock Journal,” LDS Historical Department, Salt Lake City, pp. 91–92.

  36. In McKiernan and Launius, An Early Latter Day Saint History, p. 71.

  37. In McKiernan and Launius, An Early Latter Day Saint History, p. 71; see also History of the Church, 1:175.