Church History
Joseph Smith’s Revelations, Doctrine and Covenants 5


“Doctrine and Covenants 5,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (2020)

“Doctrine and Covenants 5,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers

Doctrine and Covenants 5

Revelation, March 1829

Source Note

Revelation, [Harmony Township, Susquehanna Co., PA, Mar. 1829]. Featured version copied [ca. Apr. 1829]; handwriting of Oliver Cowdery; three pages; Newel K. Whitney, Papers, BYU. Includes docket, later notations, and archival marking. For more information, see the source note on the Joseph Smith Papers website.

Historical Introduction

This revelation, which promised Martin Harris he would see the gold plates if he humbled himself, was “given to Joseph and Martin, in Harmony, Pennsylvania, March, 1829.”1 JS had last seen Harris in the summer of 1828 when he traveled to New York and found that Harris had lost the portion of the translation later referred to as “the Book of Lehi.” JS returned to Harmony disheartened and without Harris, his scribe. He did not “go immediately to translating, but went to laboring” on the small farm he had purchased from his father-in-law, Isaac Hale.2 There is no indication that JS and Harris met again until March 1829, when Harris traveled to Harmony to see him.

Harris later reported that “in March the People Rose up & united against the Work[,] gathering testimey [testimony] against the Plates.” As Harris recalled, these persecutors threatened a lawsuit and “Said they had testamoney Enough & if I did not Put Joseph in Jail & his father for Deseption they Would me.”3 According to Lucy Mack Smith, Harris’s wife (also named Lucy) played a central role in generating this opposition to JS’s work: she “mounted her horse [and] flew through the neighborhood like a dark spirit from house to house making diligent enquiry at every house for miles where she had the least hope of gleaning anything that would subserve her purpose.” Lucy Harris sought to prove that JS had pretended to have gold plates “for the express purpose of obtaining money from those who might be so credulous as to believe him … [and] entered a complaint before a magistrate at Lyons [New York].”4 It was in the midst of these difficulties that Harris traveled to Harmony to see JS. According to the revelation’s heading in the 1833 Book of Commandments, “Martin desired of the Lord to know whether Joseph had, in his possession, the record of the Nephites.”5 Emma Smith’s father, Isaac Hale, reported that Harris hoped to gain a “greater witness” of the plates.6

Addressing Harris’s concerns, the revelation spoke of his desiring “a witness that my Servant Joseph hath got the things which he hath testified,” but stated that JS could not show them to anyone. Harris was then told that God would show the plates to three witnesses who would publicly testify of what they saw, and he was promised he would be one of those witnesses, “if he will go out & bow down before me & humble himself in mighty prayer & faith in the sincerity of his heart.” The revelation also warned JS that “there are many that lie in wait to destroy thee,” perhaps an allusion to those preparing a lawsuit against JS, and declared that “the Swoard of Justice” hung above the people of that generation and that if they would “persist in the hardness of ther hearts the time cometh that it must fall upon them.” The revelation asserted that the book’s authenticity would be evidenced primarily by its message, not by the plates. If the people would not believe the translation, they also would not believe even if JS “could show them all things.”

Though Harris was not allowed to view the plates during his March 1829 visit to Harmony, the revelation allayed his doubts. William S. Sayre, a fellow traveler with Harris on the stagecoach back to Palmyra, recalled that one of the other passengers “did not believe that Joe [JS] was capable of composing any thing, but that Joe’s father was a man of some education & cunning & shr[e]wd … & was duping others through Joe, & that they were cheating” Harris out of his money. Harris, however, told his fellow passengers that JS “had found a gold bible & stone in which he look’d & was thereby enabled to translate the very ancient chara[c]ters.” He further explained that JS had “read to him a good deal of the bible & he [Harris] repeated to those in the stage verse after verse of what Smith had read to him.”7 Harris also defended JS at the hearing in Lyons, New York. Although no contemporary account of this trial has been located, Lucy Mack Smith remembered a report that three witnesses each claimed JS had admitted to fabricating the story of the plates to deceive Martin Harris. But Harris, taking the stand, testified that JS had not defrauded him and that Harris had put only “$50 into his hands … for the purpose of doing the work of the Lord.”8

Isaac Hale reported that he saw JS and Harris comparing two manuscript copies of this revelation shortly after it was dictated.9 Though it is unknown what happened to those copies, this text is the earliest extant copy of any of JS’s revelations.10 Oliver Cowdery possibly created it in April 1829, copying from an earlier manuscript. Another early version of this revelation was copied into Revelation Book 1, but the pages that contained it are missing.11 The editors of the 1833 Book of Commandments used Revelation Book 1 as their source, but it is unknown what editing to this revelation was done prior to its publication.12 The differences between the text featured here and the version in the Book of Commandments demonstrate that Revelation Book 1 may not consistently represent the earliest text of JS’s revelations.


[1]Behold I say unto you that my servant13 hath desired A witness that my Servant Joseph hath got the things14 which he hath testified that he hath got [2]and now Behold thus shall ye say unto him I the Lord am God I have given these things unto him & I have commanded him that he should stand as A witness of these things [3]nevertheless I have caused him that he should enter into A covenant with me that he should not show them except I Command him & he hath no power over them e[x]cept I grant it unto him [4]& he hath A gift to translate the Book15 & I have commanded him that he should shall pretend to no other gift for I will grant unto him no other gift [5]and verily I say unto you that woe shall come unto the Inhabitents of the Earth if they will not hearken unto my words [7]for Behold if they will not believe my words they would not believe my servants if it were possible he could show them all things [8]O ye unbelieving ye stiffnecked Generation [9]Behold I have reserved the things which have been spoken of which I have entrusted to my servant for A wise perpose in me & it shall be made Known unto future Generations [10]but for this Generation they shall have my word [11]yea & the testimony of three of my Servants shall go forth with my word unto this Generation [12]yea three shall Know of A surety that those things are true [13]for I will give them power that they may Behold & vew these things as they are16 [14]& to none else will I grant this power among this Generation17 [15]& the testimony of three Witnesses will I send forth18 & my word [16]& behold whosoever beleaveth in my word him will I visit with the manifestations of my spirit & they shall be Born of me [18]& their testimony shall also go forth & thus if the People of this Generation harden not their hearts I will work a reformation among them [19]& I will put down all lieings & deceivings & Priest Craft & envyings & strifes & Idolatries and sorceries19 & all maner of Iniquities & I will establish my Church yea even the church which was taught by my Desiples20 & now if this Generation do hardon their hearts [p. 1] against my words Behold I deliver them up unto Satan for he reigneth & hath much Power at this time for he that hath hath got great hold upon the hearts of the People of this Generation & how far from the iniquities of Sodom and Gomorrah do they come at this time & Behold the Swoard of Justice doth hang above their heads & if they persist in the hardness of ther hearts the time cometh that it must fall upon them [20]Behold I tell you these things even as I also told the People of the destruction of Jerusalem21 & my word shall be verrified at this time as it hath hitherto been verrified [21]& now I command my Servant Joseph that he repenteth & walketh more uprightly before me & yield to the perswations of men no more [22]& that he be firm in Keeping the commandments which I have commanded him22 & if he do this Behold I grant unto him Eternal life even if he should be slain. [23]And now I speak again concerning the the man that desireeth the Witness23 [24]Behold I say unto him if he exalteth himself & doth not humble himself sufficiently before me I will grant unto him no such vews but if he will go out & bow down before me & humble himself in mighty prayer & faith in the sincerity of his heart then will I grant unto him a vew of the things which he desireth to vew [25]then shall he say unto the People of this Generation Behold I have seen the things & I know of a surety that they are true for I have seen them & they have been shone unto me by the Power of God24 [26]& I command him that he say no more except I have seen them & they have been shone unto me by the Power of God25 & these are the words which he shall say [27]but if he deny this he shall brake the covenant which he hath covenanted with me & Behold he is condemned [28]& now except he humble himself & acknowledge unto me the things which he hath done that is wrong & covenant with me that he will Keep my commandments & exercise faith in me Behold I say unto him he shall have no such vews for I will grant unto him no such vews of which I have spoken [29]& if this be the case I command him that he shall do no more nor trouble me no more Concerning this matter [30]& if this be the case Behold I say unto you Joseph when thou hast translated a few more [p. 2] pages & then shalt thou stop for a season even untill I command thee again. then thou mayest translate [31]& excep thou do this Behold thou shalt have no more gift & I will take away the things which I have entrusted with thee26 [32]& now because I foresee the lieing in wait to destroy thee yea I foresee that if my Servant humbleth not himself & receive a witness from my hand that he will fall into transgression [33]& there are many that lie in wait to destroy thee off the face of the Earth & for this cause that thy Days may be prolounged I have given unto you these Commandments [34]Yea for this Cause have I said stop & stand still untill I Command thee & I will provide means whereby thou mayest Accomplish the thing I have Commanded thee27 [35]& if thou art faithful in Keeping my Commandments ye shall be lifted up at the last Day [p. 3]

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Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdrey
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Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdrey
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Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdrey

Revelation for Martin Harris. In March 1829, Joseph Smith dictated this revelation for Martin Harris, who desired a “witness” of the gold plates. Oliver Cowdery recorded the revelation on one foolscap page folded in half. It was later folded multiple times and is heavily worn on the outside fold. This is the earliest known copy of any of Joseph Smith’s revelations. Revelation, Mar. 1829 [D&C 5], Newel K. Whitney, Papers, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.

Notes

  1. Book of Commandments 4.

  2. Preface to Book of Mormon, ca. Aug. 1829, in JSP, D1:92; JS History, vol. A-1, 11, in JSP, H1:266 (Draft 2).

  3. “Testamoney of Martin Harris,” 4 Sept. 1870, [4], Edward Stevenson, Collection, CHL.

  4. Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 8, [5].

  5. Book of Commandments 4.

  6. Isaac Hale, Affidavit, Harmony, PA, 20 Mar. 1834, in “Mormonism,” Susquehanna Register, and Northern Pennsylvanian (Montrose, PA), 1 May 1834, [1]. Martin Harris later stated that a man named Rogers accompanied him on the journey to Harmony. Unknown to Harris at the time, Rogers had plotted with Martin’s wife, Lucy Harris, that he would cut off “the covering of the Plates” with his knife when JS displayed them. No other known source mentions this scheme or provides evidence that Rogers followed through with it. Rogers cannot be positively identified, though there was a Joseph Rogers living near Manchester in Phelpstown who later gave a negative account about the Smiths and claimed to have affidavits demonstrating that they were thieves. (“Testamoney of Martin Harris,” 4 Sept. 1870, [4], Edward Stevenson, Collection, CHL; “Joseph Rogers’ Statement,” in Naked Truths about Mormonism [Oakland, CA], Apr. 1888, 1.)

  7. William S. Sayre, Bainbridge, NY, to James T. Cobb, [Salt Lake City, Utah Territory], 31 Aug. 1878, in Theodore Albert Schroeder Papers. Although Sayre called his fellow passenger “Richards,” he admitted uncertainty about the name, and the details of Sayre’s account—which describes the man as the Palmyra resident who later financed the Book of Mormon—leave little doubt it was Martin Harris. Sayre dated the incident to April 1829, and Harris was known to be traveling from Harmony to Palmyra in March. The claim that JS was incapable of composing anything and was being assisted by his father was echoed in Harris’s statement, quoted previously, that those involved in the lawsuit wanted to put both JS and his father in jail for deception.

  8. Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 8, [7]. Lucy Mack Smith wrote that the first witness claimed the box in which JS kept the plates was filled with sand and that JS told him it was “to deceive the people,” the second witness claimed JS said the box was filled with lead, and the third witness declared the box was empty but was used to get Martin Harris’s money. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 8, [6]–[7].)

  9. Isaac Hale, Affidavit, Harmony, PA, 20 Mar. 1834, in “Mormonism,” Susquehanna Register, and Northern Pennsylvanian (Montrose, PA), 1 May 1834, [1].

  10. Revelation, July 1828 [D&C 3], herein, by contrast, is the earliest JS revelation for which a text has survived.

  11. Revelation Book 1, p. [207], in JSP, MRB:385.

  12. See Book of Commandments 4.

  13. Martin Harris.

  14. The 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants has “plates.” (Doctrine and Covenants 32:1, 1835 ed. [D&C 5:1].)

  15. On the “gift to translate,” see “Joseph Smith Documents Dating through June 1831,” in JSP, D1:xxix–xxxiii.

  16. Three men—Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris—attested in June 1829 that an angel from heaven presented the plates for their inspection. Their testimony was published in the first edition of the Book of Mormon in 1830 and in all subsequent editions. In addition to affirming that they saw the plates, they stated, “We also know that they [the plates] have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us.” (Testimony of Three Witnesses, Late June 1829, in JSP, D1:381; see also Historical Introduction to Revelation, June 1829–E [D&C 17], herein.)

  17. Shortly after the experience of the Three Witnesses, eight others stated that they had seen and handled the plates. (Testimony of Eight Witnesses, Late June 1829, in JSP, D1:385–387.)

  18. JS later translated Book of Mormon passages about the three chosen witnesses. (See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 110, 548 [2 Nephi 27:12; Ether 5:2–4].)

  19. In the nineteenth century, “sorceries” referred to illicit magical practices usually wrought “by the assistance or supposed assistance of evil spirits.” (“Sorcery,” in American Dictionary [1828].)

  20. Establishing a church was again referred to in a revelation not long after the reception of this revelation. (Revelation, Spring 1829 [D&C 10:53], herein.)

  21. See Matthew 24:1–2; and Luke 21:20–24.

  22. See Revelation, July 1828 [D&C 3:5–9], herein.

  23. Martin Harris.

  24. As early as 1831, a newspaper reported that Harris had spoken of seeing the plates. While there are few other early accounts of his experience with the plates, Harris frequently affirmed later in his life that he had seen them. (“Mormonism,” Painesville [OH] Telegraph, 15 Mar. 1831, [1]; see also, for example, Thomas Godfrey, John E. Godfrey, and John Buttars, Affidavits, Cache Co., UT, 2 July 1933, Jesse P. Rich, Affidavits concerning Martin Harris, 1933, CHL; and William Pilkington, Affidavit, Cache Co., UT, 3 Apr. 1934, William Pilkington, Autobiography and Statements, 1934–1939, CHL.)

  25. Years later, Martin Harris may have had this passage in mind when he told an interviewer, “I am forbidden to say anything how the Lord showed them to me, except that by the power of God I have seen them.” (“Mormonism—No. II,” Tiffany’s Monthly, Aug. 1859, 166.)

  26. This happened previously when JS disregarded divine counsel. (See Historical Introduction to Revelation, July 1828 [D&C 3], herein.)

  27. Among the “means” that would soon be provided to enable JS to continue the translation of the Book of Mormon was the arrival in early April of Oliver Cowdery, who would serve as JS’s scribe. Lucy Mack Smith later recalled that JS keenly felt the need for clerical assistance and “accordingly 2 or 3 days before the arrival of Oliver … called upon His Heavenly Father for the promised assistance and was informed that the same should be forthcoming in a few days.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 8, [4].)