“Doctrine and Covenants 42,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (2020)
“Doctrine and Covenants 42,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers
Revelation, Kirtland Township, OH, [9 Feb.] 1831. Featured version, titled “The Laws of the Church of Christ,” copied May 1831; handwriting of Symonds Rider; six pages; Revelations Collection, CHL. Includes archival marking. For more information, see the source note on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
A late December 1830 revelation first directed members of the Church of Christ to migrate from New York to Ohio, and at a church conference a few days later, another revelation declared, “There [in Ohio] I will give unto you my law.”1 Within a month, JS himself relocated to Ohio, and immediately after his arrival in Kirtland, the church received on 4 February 1831 the revelatory promise, “By the prayer of your faith ye shall receive my law that ye may know how to govern my Church.”2 Less than a week later, on 9 February, JS dictated the revelation featured here during the course of a meeting of twelve elders who were “called together, and united in mighty prayer.”3 John Whitmer titled it “The Laws of the Church of Christ.”
Outside of Revelation Book 1, there are few extant manuscript copies of most of JS’s early revelations. The 9 February 1831 revelation, however, is an exception: five early manuscript copies survive.4 This was one of the earliest revelations to be published; it was printed in part by two Ohio newspapers only a few months after its dictation.5 The most complete version of the revelation (presented here) is in the handwriting of early church member Symonds Rider and was possibly created 23 May 1831, the date Rider inscribed on the manuscript. This is likely the earliest of the five early surviving manuscripts, although it is possible that the partial copy found in Revelation Book 1 was recorded first.
The earliest extant copies of this revelation suggest that “the Law” may have originally been a compilation of five distinct revelatory commandments, each given in response to a practical question posed by the twelve elders present at the 9 February 1831 meeting.6 The elders apparently asked questions of JS, who then dictated revelatory answers, closing each answer with the words “even so Amen.” The Rider document featured here collates the revelations into a single document divided into five sections. Although it is unknown whether the initial writing captured the texts as a single document, early manuscripts confirm that the individual answers were originally understood as separate commandments. For example, when John Whitmer copied what he titled “The Church Law” into Zebedee Coltrin’s diary, he included only the second section, and in September 1831 local newspapers published the first and second sections as “the Law.”7 Further, although only the second of the five sections was titled “the Law” in the early manuscripts, the composite document, including all five sections, also came to be known as “the Law.”8 When the revelation was published in the Book of Commandments, it was introduced as “A Revelation given to twelve elders assembled in Kirtland, Ohio; and also the law for the government of the church, given in the presence of the same.” By describing the revelation in two parts, the heading suggests that the second through fifth sections of the text were considered together as “the Law.”9
On 23 February, two weeks after the initial dictation of this text, JS and seven elders met to determine “How the Elders of the church of Christ are to act upon the points of the Law,” and JS dictated several additional paragraphs of instruction.10 Analysis of the early manuscripts of the 9 February revelation and the 23 February revelation suggests that “the Law” was a working document, meant to be revised or expanded as new circumstances raised new questions. In three of the five early manuscripts, the 23 February revelation was included at the end of the 9 February text.11
The historical context for the 9 February revelation included the recent conversion of a significant number of Ohio members and the imminent arrival of church members from New York, a migration the Ohio converts first learned of from John Whitmer when he arrived in Ohio in mid-January.12 The elders’ first question was whether the various communities should gather “into one place or continue in seperate establishments.” This question was answered in conjunction with a commandment that called the elders to preach “to the regions westward” and “build up my Church in every region.”
Second, the elders inquired about the “Law regulating the Church in her present situation till the time of her gathering.” The revelatory response codified basic matters of authority, moral conduct, and economic organization, addressing specific concerns among the membership. In the first six months after the organization of the Church of Christ, questions had arisen in New York about authority13 and also about who could receive revelation for the church.14 Converts in Ohio asked similar questions. Many had been baptized by Cowdery and his companions, but the missionaries’ departure for Missouri at the same time Sidney Rigdon left Kirtland to meet JS in New York left the new converts without experienced leaders.15 In the absence of such leadership, several charismatic individuals offered their own revelations to bolster their self-declared authority.16
In addition, the second section responded to the form of communalism that many Ohio converts had previously embraced. In their effort to strictly apply the New Testament passage calling for believers to have “all things common,” they formed a communal group called “the Family,” with several families sharing Isaac and Lucy Morley’s home and farm.17 However, “the Law” modified the Ohio members’ communal ownership of property. It commanded members to “conscrate all [their] propertys,” which in the religious terminology of the day meant to “set apart, dedicate, or devote, to the service and worship of God” one’s possessions.18 This vision of consecration shared similarities with practices of other utopian communities, such as the Shakers and the Owenites.19 This revelation not only provided a guideline for economic organization directed by the church but also outlined a code of conduct to which members of the church were expected to adhere, as well as procedures for casting out those who did not.
Third, knowing that many members of the church would leave their homes to preach, the elders then inquired about the welfare of their families while they were “proclaiming repentance or are otherwise engaged in the Service of the Church.” This concern was initially raised in New York in late September and early October 1830, when several members were called to proselytizing missions.20 This revelation answered that they should “go forth in the power of my spirit preaching my Gospel two by two in my name” and that their families would be supported by the consecrated properties held by the church.
While the first three questions addressed in the 9 February revelation involved relationships within the church, the fourth question asked, perhaps with some urgency given the previous commandment to consecrate their property, “How far it is the will of the Lord that we Should have dealings with the wo[r]ld & how we Should conduct our dealings with them?” The brief answer was to avoid becoming indebted to the world but to counsel together and seek the Spirit in whatever dealings were necessary.
The elders’ final question addressed the concerns of Ohio members about the expected influx of members gathering from New York: “What preperations we shall make for our Brethren from the East & when & how?” The revelation called for single residences for each family, located as close together as possible, and instructed the bishop, Edward Partridge, to appoint individuals who would assist him in procuring and distributing the land.
The text of this revelation, together with the church’s founding “Articles and Covenants,” may have served to unify the Ohio and New York membership into a single community of believers by organizing them under the same laws and regulations.21 The New York members had been promised such a commandment as soon as they united with the Ohio members, and the questions asked at the 9 February meeting were followed by revelations that brought the two groups together under one law.22
The Laws of the Church of Christ
Kirtland Geauga Ohio May 23d 183123 A Commandment to <the> Elder[s]
[First Shall the Church come to gether into one place or continue in seperate establishments?]24
Hearken oh! ye Elders of my Church who have assembled yourselves together in my name even Jesus Christ the Son of
God the living God the Saveiour of the world in as much as they believe on my name & keep my commandments again I say unto you hearken & hear & obey the laws which I Shall give unto you for verily I say as ye have assembled yourselves together according to the commandment wherewith I commanded you and are agreed as touching this one thing & have asked me in my name even so ye shall receive25 Behold verily I say unto you I give unto you this first Commandment that ye shall go forth in my name every one of you except my servant Joseph & Sidny [Sidney Rigdon] & I give unto them a commandment that they shall go forth for a little Season & it shall be given by the power of my spirit when they Shall return & ye Shall go forth in the power of my Spirit preaching my Gospel two by two in my name lifting up your voices as with the voice of a trump declaring my word like unto Angels of God & ye shall go forth baptizing with water <saying> repent ye repent ye for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand & from this place ye shall go forth in to the regions westward & in as much as ye shall find my deciples ye shall build up my church in every region26 untill the time shall come when it Shall be revealed unto you from on high & the City of the New Jerusalam Shall be prepared that ye may [p. ] be gathered in one that ye may be my people & I will be your God27 & again I say unto you that my Servant Edward [Partridge] shall stand in the office wherewith I have appointed him28 & it shall come to pass that if he transgress another shall be appointed in his Stead29 even so Amen——
The Law?30 Again I say unto you that it shall not be given unto any one to go forth to preach my gospel or to build up my church except they be ordained by some one that hath authority & it is known to the church that he hath authority & have been regularly ordained by the leaders of the church31 & again the Elders priests & teachers of this Church shall teach the scriptures which are in the Bible & the Book of Mormon in the which is the fullness of the Gospel & thou Shalt observe the covenants & church articles32 to do them & <this> Shall be thy teaching<s> & thou shalt be directed by the spirit it shall be given the[e] by the prayer of faith & if ye receive not the spirit ye shall not teach & all this ye shall observe to do as I have commanded concerning your teaching untill the fulness of my Scripture be given33 & as ye Shall lift your voices by the comforter ye shall speak and prophecy as seemeth me good for behold the Comforter knoweth all things & beareth record of the father & the Son & now behold I Speak unto the church——
Thou shalt not kill & he that killeth shall not have forgiveness neither in this world neither in the world to come & again thou shallt not kill he that killeth shall die,34 Thou shalt not steel & he that steeleth & will not repent shall be cast out Thou shalt not lie he that lieth & will not repent shall be cast out Thoue shalt love thy wife with all thy heart & shalt cleave unto her & none else & he that looketh on a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith & shall not have the spirit & if he repent not he shall be cast out—— [p. ]
Thou shalt not commit adultery & he that committeth adultery & repenteth not shall be cast out & he that committeth adultery & repentteth with all his heart & forsaketh & doeth it no more thou shalt forgive him but if he doeth it again he shall not be forgiven but shall be cast out Thou shalt not speak evil of thy neighbour or do him any harm Thou knowest my laws they <are> given in my Scriptures he that sinneth & repenteth not shall be cast out if thou lovest me thou shall serve & keep all my commandments & Behold thou shalt conscrate all thy
property properties that which thou hast unto me with a covena[n]t and Deed which cannot be broken & they Shall be laid before the Bishop of my church & two of the Elders such as he shall appoint & set apart for that purpose35 & it shall come to pass that the Bishop of my church after that he has received the properties of my church that it cannot be taken from him you he shall appoint every man a Steward over his own property or that which he hath received in as much as shall be sufficient for him self and family & the residue shall be kept to administer to him that hath not that every man may receive according as he stands in need36 & the residue shall be kept in my store house to administer to the poor and needy37 as shall be appointed by the Elders of the church & the Bishop38 & for the purpose of purchaseing Land & building up of the New Jerusalem which is here after to be revealed39 that my covenant people may be gathered in one in the day that <I> shall come to my temple & this I do for the salvation of my people40 & it shall come to pass that he that sinneth & rep[e]nteth not shall be cast out & shall not receive again that which he hath consecrated unto me, for it shall come to pass that which I spake by the mouth of my prophets shall be fulfilld for I will consecrate the riches of the Gentiles unto my people which are of the house of Israel41 & Again thou Shalt not be proud in thy heart let all thy garments be plain & their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands42 & let all things be done in cleanliness before me—— [p. ]
Thou Shalt not be Idle for he that is Idle shall <not> eat the bread nor wear the garment of the labourer & whosoever among you that is sick & hath not faith to be healed but believeth Shall be nourished in all tenderness with herbs and mild food43 & that not of the world & the Elders of the church two or more Shall be called & shall pray for and lay their hands upon them in my name44 & if they die they shall die unto me & if they shall live <they shall live> unto me Thou
shall <shalt> live together in love insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die & more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious resurrection & it shall come to pass that that they that die in me shall not taste of death for it shall be sweet unto them & they that die not in me wo is them for their death is bitter & again it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed & is not appointed unto death shall be healed he that hath faith to see shall see he that hath faith to hear shall hear the Lame that have faith <to> leep shall <leep>45 & they that have not faith to do these things but believe in me hath power to become my sons & in asmuch as they break not my Laws thou Shalt bear their infirmities thou shalt stand in the place of thy Stewardship thou shalt not take thy brothers garment thou shalt pay for that which thou <shalt receive> shall receive of thy Brother46 & if thou obtain more than that which would be for thy support thou shalt give it unto my store house that it may be done according to that which I have Spoken,47 Thou shalt ask & my scriptures shall be given as I have appointed & for thy Salvation thou shalt hold thy peace concerning them untill ye have received them & then I give unto you a commandment that ye should teach them unto all men & they also shall be taught unto all nations kindreds Toungs & People thou Shalt take the things which thou hast received which thou knowest to have been my Law to be my Law to govern my church & he that doeth according to these things shall be saved & he that doeth them not [p. ] shall be damned if he continue[.] if thou shalt ask thou shalt receive Revelation upon Revelation knowledge upon knowledge that thou mayest know the mysteries & the peacible things of the kingdom48 that which bringeth joy that which life Eternal thou shalt ask & it shall be revealed unto you in mine own due time when the New Jerusalem shall be built thou shalt ask & it shall be revealed in mine own due time & behold it shall come to pass that my Servants Shall be sent both to the East & to the west the north & to the South & even now let him that goes to the East teach them that are converted to flee to the west & this because [of] that which is to come & secret combinations Behold thou shalt observe all these things & great Shall be thy reward thou shalt observe to keep the mysteries of the Kingdom unto thy Self for it is not given unto the world to know the mysteries49 [66–67]& these Laws which ye have received are sufficient for <you> both here & in the New Jerusalem but he that lacketh knowledge let him ask of me & I will give him liberally & & upbraid him not50 Lift up your hearts & rejoice for unto you the Kingdom is given
Even so Amen——
3d How the Elders are to dispose of their families while they are proclaiming repentance or are otherwise engaged in the Service of the Church?51
The Priests and Teachers Shall have their Stewardship given them as the members. And the Elders are to assist the Bishop in all things & he is to see that their families are supported out of the property which is consecrated to the Lord either a stewardship or otherwise as may be thought best by the Elders
& & Bishop [p. ]
4th How far it is the will of the Lord that we Should have dealings with the wo[r]ld & how we Should conduct our dealings with them?52
Thou Shalt contract no debts with them & again the Elders & Bishop shall Council together & they shall do by the direction
s of the spirit as it must be necessary——
5th What preperations we shall make for our Brethren from the East & when & how?53
There shall be as many appointed as must needs be necessary to assist the Bishop in obtaining places that they may be together as much as can be54 & is directed by the holy Spirit & every family Shall have places that they may live by themselves55 & every Church Shall be organized in as close bodies as they can be in consequence of the enemy!——
Revelation, [Kirtland Township, OH], 23 Feb. 1831. Featured version, titled “February 23d 1831 the rules and regulations of the Law,” copied May 1831; handwriting of Symonds Rider; three pages; Revelations Collection, CHL. For more information, see the source note on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
On 22 February 1831, JS wrote to Martin Harris referencing the “Laws of the Church of Christ” that JS had dictated 9 February: “We have received the laws of the Kingdom since we came here and the Disciples in these parts have received them gladly.”56 The next day, 23 February, JS and seven elders met to determine “how the Elders of the church of Christ are to act upon the points of the Law,” and the following revelation was recorded. In providing detailed guidance on how to discipline serious transgressors of the moral law, the revelation significantly elaborated on the few lines offered on the subject in the church’s earlier “Articles and Covenants.”57
Early members evidently saw the 23 February revelation as building upon the 9 February revelation, also known as “the Law,” by expanding on the guidelines it provided. After this revelation was dictated, “the Law” comprised eight sections in all, five received on 9 February and three on 23 February. Of the earliest extant copies of the Law, only the Symonds Rider copy, the version featured here, includes all eight sections; it separates the 9 February revelation from the 23 February revelation by including the date and an introductory heading between the fifth and sixth sections. The version found in Revelation Book 1 includes the first five sections, dictated 9 February, as well as a loose leaf containing only the eighth section, or final paragraph, of the 23 February dictation.58 Some later published versions also exclude the first two paragraphs of the 23 February revelation, possibly because those sections seem to summarize content found in the first five sections. Textually, only the eighth and final paragraph in this document employs the divine first-person, which is possibly the reason it was the only portion of the 23 February revelation to be copied into Revelation Book 1.
February 23d 1831 the rules and regulations of the <Law>
How the Elders of the church of Christ are to act upon the points of the Law given by Jesus Christ to the Church in the presents of twelve Elders February 9th 1831 as agreed upon by Seven
Elders Elders Feby 23d 1831 according to to the commandment of God59——
1th The first commandment in the law teaches that all the Elders shall go unto the regions westward and labour to build up Churches unto Christ wheresoever they shall <find> any to receive them and obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ except Joseph & Sidney [Rigdon] and Edward [Partridge] and Such as the Bishop Shall appoint to assist him in his duties according to the Law which we have received this commandment as far as it respects these Elders to be sent to the west is a special one for the time being incumbent on the present Elders who shall return when directed by the Holy Spirit60——
2d Every person who belongeth to this church of Christ Shall observe all the Commandments [p. ] and covenants of the Church and it shall come to pass that if any person among you shall kill they shall be delivered up and dealt with according to the Laws of the land for remember that he hath no forgiveness and it shall be proven according to the Laws of the land but if any man shall commit Adultery he Shall be tried before two Elders of the Church or more and every word shall be established against him by two witnesses of the Church and not of the world but if there are more than two witnesses it is better but he shall be condemned by the mouth of two witnesses and the Elders shall lay the case before the Church and the Church shall lift up their hands against them that they may be
dealt dealt with according to <the> Law and if it can be it is necessary that the Bishop is present also and thus ye shall do in all cases which shall come before you61 and if a n man shall rob he shall be delivered up unto the Law and if he shall steal he shall be delivered up unto the Law and if he lie he shall be delivered up unto the Law if he do any manner of iniquity he shall be delivered up unto the Law even that of God and if thy Brother offend thee, thou shalt take him between him and thee alone and if he confess thou shalt be reconciled and if he confess not thou shalt take another with thee and then if he confess not thou Shalt deliver him up unto the Church not to the members but to the Elders and it shall be done in a meeting and that not before the world62 and if thy Brother offend many he shall be chastened before many and if any one offend openly he shall be rebuked openly that he may be ashamed63 and if he confess not he Shall be delivered up unto the law, if any shall offend in secret he shall be rebuked in Secret the <that he> may have oportunity to confess in Secret to him whome he [p. ] he has offended and to God that the Brethren may not speak reproachfully of him and thus shall ye conduct in all things——
How to act in cases of adultery64
Behold verily I say unto you whatsoever person among you having put away their companion for the cause of fornication or in otherwords if he shall testify before you in all Lowliness of heart that this is the case ye shall not cast them out from among you but if ye shall find that any person hath left their companion for the sake of adultery and they themselves are the offender and their companions are living they shall be cast out
out from among you and again I say unto you that ye be watchful and careful with all inquiry that ye receive none such among you if they are married and if they are not married they shall repent of all their sins or ye shall not receive them65—— [p. ]