“Doctrine and Covenants 41,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (2020)
“Doctrine and Covenants 41,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers
Revelation, Kirtland Township, OH, 4 Feb. 1831. Featured version, titled “44 Commandment given Feb. 4th. 1831,” copied [ca. Mar. 1831] in Revelation Book 1, pp. 61–62; handwriting of John Whitmer; CHL. Includes redactions. For more information, see the source note for Revelation Book 1 on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
This revelation was dictated the same day JS arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, from New York.1 According to John Whitmer’s headnote, inscribed a few months later in spring 1831, the revelation was a response to JS’s prayer regarding an offer made by new convert Leman Copley to provide JS and Sidney Rigdon “houses & provisions” on his farm in Thompson Township, Ohio, about twenty miles east of Kirtland.2 JS and his family were in need of housing because of their recent move, and Sidney and Phebe Rigdon had lost a house apparently being built for them by his former Campbellite congregation in nearby Mentor, Ohio, when he converted to the Church of Christ.3 Early published versions of this revelation did not include Whitmer’s headnote,4 and in their later histories neither JS nor Whitmer connected Copley’s offer to this revelation. Both histories instead place the revelation in the context of concerns about religious excesses among the new church members in Ohio. The revelation, however, does not explicitly address this matter.
In setting the scene for the revelation, John Whitmer wrote in his history: “About these days Joseph the Prophet and Sidney [Rigdon] arrived at Kirtland to the joy and satisfaction of the Saints. The disciples had all things common, and were going to destruction very fast as to temporal things: for they considered from reading the scripture that what belonged to a brother belonged to any of the brethren, therefore they would take each others clothes and other property and use it without leave: which brought on confusion and disappointments: for they did not understand the scripture. After Joseph lived here a few days the word of the Lord came.”5 JS’s history gave a similar introduction: “The branch of the church in this part of the Lord’s vineyard, which had increased to nearly one hundred members, were striving to do the will of God, so far as they knew it; though some strange notions and false spirits had crept in among them. With a little caution, and some wisdom, I soon assisted the brethren and sisters to overcome them. The plan of ‘common stock,’ which had existed in what was called ‘the family,’ whose members generally had embraced the ever lasting gospel, was readily abandoned for the more perfect law of the Lord: and the false spirits were easily discerned and rejected by the light of revelation.”6
The revelation instructed church members that JS “should have a house built in which to live & translate” and that Sidney Rigdon “should have a comfortable Room to live in.” Though silent about Copley’s offer of assistance, JS’s history explained that upon their arrival in Kirtland JS and Emma Smith “were kindly received and welcomed into the house of brother N[ewel] K. Whitney.” The history continues, “I and my wife lived in the family of Brother Whitney several weeks, and received every kindness and attention, which could be expected, and especially from Sister [Elizabeth Ann] Whitney.”7 Although neither JS nor Sidney Rigdon accepted Copley’s offer to live in Thompson, Copley made a similar offer a few months later to the group of church members migrating to Ohio from Colesville, New York.8
John Whitmer’s headnote in Revelation Book 1 listed another purpose for this revelation: “pointing at [out] the office of Edward [Partridge],” who the revelation commanded to be ordained as the church’s first bishop. This is the first extant document that uses bishop as an office in the church. JS first met Ohio businessman and hatter Edward Partridge in December 1830 in Fayette, New York. Partridge had accompanied recent convert Sidney Rigdon on a trip to New York to meet JS. On 9 December, JS dictated a revelation calling Partridge to “preach my Gospel as with the voice of a Trump,” and Partridge was baptized by JS two days later.9 Partridge spent the next month and a half sharing his new faith with relatives and friends in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, an effort that his daughter Emily later characterized as unsuccessful.10 He returned to New York from Massachusetts in time to join JS, Emma, and Sidney Rigdon in their move to Ohio during the last week of January 1831.11
44 Commandment given Feb. 4th. 1831
at Kirtland Geauga County Ohio given to the Church in these parts it pointing at12 the office of Edward [Partridge] &c & there was a man by the name of Coply [Leman Copley] in the Township of Thompson who had requested <his> Brother [JS]13 & Sidney [Rigdon]
& to live with him & he would furnish them houses & provisions &c then By Joseph enquired of the lord & Received as follows14
Hearken & hear oh! my People saith your lord & your God ye whom I delight to bless with the greatest of blessings ye that hear me & ye that hear me not will I curse with that have professed my name with the heaviest of all cursings hearken oh ye Elders of my Church whom I have called Behold I give unto you a commandment that ye shall assemble yourselves to gether to agree upon my my word & by the prayer of your faith ye shall receive my law15 that ye may know how to govern my
Church Church & have all things right before me & I will be your ruler & ye shall see that my law is kept he that Receiveth my law & doeth it the same is my Deciple & he that saith he Receiveth it & Doeth it not the same is not my Deciple & shall be cast out from among you for it is not meet that the things which belong to the [p. 61] Children of the Kingdom should be cast before Swine16 & again it is meet that my servent Joseph should have a house built in which to live & translate17 & again it is meet that my Servent Sidney should have a comfortable Room to live in & again I have called my Servent Edward & give him a commandment that he should be appointed by the voice of the Church & be ordained a bishop unto the Church18 & leave his merchandise & spend all his time in the labours of the Church19 & see to all things as it shall be appointed in my Laws in the day that I shall give them & this because his heart is pure before me for he is like unto Nathaniel of old in whome there is no guile20 these words are given unto you & they are pure before me wherefore be ye aware how you hold them for they are to be answered upon your souls in the day of Judgement even so amen