“Doctrine and Covenants 39,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (2020)
“Doctrine and Covenants 39,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers
Revelation, Fayette Township, Seneca Co., NY, to James Covel, 5 Jan. 1831. Featured version, titled “42nd Commandment Recd Jan. 5th. 1831,” copied [ca. Mar. 1831] in Revelation Book 1, pp. 58–60; handwriting of John Whitmer; CHL. Includes redactions. For more information, see the source note for Revelation Book 1 on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
JS dictated this revelation in Fayette, New York, for James Covel, a Protestant minister, three days after the Church of Christ’s third conference. When John Whitmer recorded this text in Revelation Book 1 a few months later, he wrote that Covel “covenanted with the Lord that he would obey any commandment that the Lord would give through his servent Joseph.”
The identity of the revelation’s recipient is not known with certainty. Two individuals living in New York at the time fit the general description, and no source definitively identifies either man as the recipient. The earliest extant manuscript copy of the revelation, featured below, provides only a given name. The first printed version in 1833 expanded “James” to “James (C.,)” with no additional information, and in 1835 the name was given as “James Covill” in the Doctrine and Covenants.1 JS’s history also uses this spelling because its editors relied on the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants for the revelation text. The history adds that Covill “had been a baptist minister for about forty years.”2 James Covill, a Baptist minister from Ellery, New York, who in 1831 was over seventy years old, fits this description, but he lived on the far western edge of the state, more than one hundred fifty miles away.3 JS and Sidney Rigdon could have met Covill on their way to Ohio at the end of January, but according to this earliest copy of the revelation, it was “given at Fayette” on 5 January 1831.4
The recipient of the revelation was much more likely James Covel, a Methodist elder from Canadice, New York. The index to Revelation Book 1 describes the recipient as “a Methodist Priest,” not a Baptist.5 James Covel lived about twenty miles southwest of Canandaigua, New York, and had been associated with the Methodist church for nearly forty years.6 He may have heard JS or Sidney Rigdon preaching in the Canandaigua area. After JS and several others preached “with great power” in Ezra Thayer’s barn near Canandaigua in October 1830, they were invited to preach in Canandaigua. “They had promised that we should meet in the Methodist Meeting house,” Thayer later wrote, “but the Trustees could not agree.”7 As president of the regional Methodist conference, Covel was likely aware of the request.8 In December a “Mormon” preacher, probably JS or Rigdon, “delivered a discourse in the Town House [in Canandaigua] to an assembly of two or three hundred people.”9 Covel may have attended the December meeting and then traveled to Fayette, where the revelation was dictated.
Within a day after JS dictated this revelation, Covel departed from Fayette without explanation, leaving JS and Rigdon to wonder why he did not follow the commandment. A revelation on 6 January explained “why he obeyed not the word.”10
42nd Commandment Recd Jan. 5th. 1831
there was a man by the name of James [Covel] who covenanted with the Lord that he would obey any commandment that the Lord would give through his servent Joseph & <accordingly> he enquird of the Lord & he received these words as follows
given at Fayette Seneca County state New York11
Saying hearken ye & listen to the voice of him who is from all eternity to all eternity12 the great I am even Jesus Christ th[e] light & the life of the world13 a light which shineth in darkness & the darkness comprehendeth it not14 the same which came in the maridian of time unto my own & my own Received me not but to as many as received me gave I power to become my Sons & even so will I give unto as many as Receive me power to become my Sons. & Verily Verily I say unto you he that receiveth my Gospel Receiveth me & this is my Gospel Repentance & Baptism by water & then [p. 58] Cometh the Baptism of fire & the Holy ghost yea even the comforter which knoweth all things & teacheth the peacibl things of the Kingdom & Now Behold I say unto you my servent James I have looked upon thee & thy works & I know thee & now verily I say unto the[e] thine heart is right before me at present Behold I have bestowed great blessings upon thy head Nevertheless thou hast seen great Sorrow for thou hast rejected me many times because of pride & be cause of the world but behold the days of thy deliverance is come arise & be baptized & wash away your sins calling on my name & ye shall receive my spirit & a blessing so great as ye have never known15 & I have prepared thee for a greater work16 thou shalt Preach the fulness of my Gospel which I have sent forth in these last days. yea even the covenant which I have sent forth to recover my People which are of the house of Israel & it shall come to pass that power shall rest upon thee thou shalt have great faith & I will be with thee & go before thy face yea thou art called to Labour in my Vineyard & to build up my Church & to bring forth Zion that it may Rejoice upon the hills & flourish Behold Verily Verily I say unto you thou art not called to go
to unto the Eastern countries17 but thou art called to go to Ohio & in asmuch as my People shall assemble themselves at the Oohio I have kept in store a blessing such as is not known among the children of men & it shall be poured forth upon your their heads & from thence ye shall go forth into all Nations18 Behold Verily Verily I say unto you that the people in Ohio call upon me in much faith believeing I would stay my hand in Judgement upon the Nations but I cannot deny my word Wherefore lay to with your might & call forth Labourers into my Vinyard that it may be pruned for the last time19 & inasmuch as they do Repent & receive the fulness of my Gospel & become sanctified & I will stay my hand in Judgement wherefore go forth crying with a loud voice saying the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand crying Hosannah blessed is the name of the most high God [20–21]go forth [p. 59] Baptizing with water preparing for the time of my coming is at hand the day nor the hour no man knoweth but it shurely shall come & he that Receiveth these things receiveth me & they shall be gethered unto me into <unto> in time & in eternity & again it shall come to pass that on as many as ye shall baptize with water ye shall lay your hands in the name of Christ & they shall receive the Holy ghost & shall be a looking forth for the time of my coming & shall know me Behold I come quickly even so amen