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Joseph Smith’s Revelations, Doctrine and Covenants 50
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“Doctrine and Covenants 50,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (2020)

“Doctrine and Covenants 50,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers

Doctrine and Covenants 50

Revelation, 9 May 1831

Source Note

Revelation, Kirtland Township, OH, 9 May 1831. Featured version, titled “52nd Commandment May 9th. 1831,” copied [between ca. May and June 1831] in Revelation Book 1, pp. 82–85; handwriting of John Whitmer; CHL. Includes redactions. For more information, see the source note for Revelation Book 1 on the Joseph Smith Papers website.

Historical Introduction

In late fall 1830, Oliver Cowdery and his missionary companions left Kirtland, Ohio, on their way to preach to the American Indians in the territory just west of Missouri after having baptized more than one hundred persons into the church. In addition, several leaders among the Ohio converts departed as well. Frederick G. Williams, who accompanied Cowdery on the mission to the Indians, departed in November, and Edward Partridge and Sidney Rigdon traveled to New York soon afterward to meet with JS. The new church members in Ohio were left without an experienced leader until John Whitmer arrived in January 1831.1 Upon his arrival, Whitmer noted with dismay that “the enemy of all righteous had got hold of some of those who profesed to be his followers, because they had not sufficent knowledge to detect him in all his devices.”2 When Parley P. Pratt, one of the missionaries who introduced the teachings of the church to Ohio residents, returned to Kirtland from Missouri in spring 1831, he too was concerned with “new and strange” behaviors he saw in the church: “As I went forth among the different branches, some very strange spiritual operations were manifested, which were disgusting, rather than edifying. Some persons would seem to swoon away, and make unseemly gestures, and be drawn or disfigured in their countenances. Others would fall into ecstacies, and be drawn into contortions, cramp, fits, etc. Others would seem to have visions and revelations, which were not edifying, and which were not congenial to the doctrine and spirit of the gospel. In short, a false and lying spirit seemed to be creeping into the Church.”3

Such ostentatious displays did not go unnoticed in the surrounding community. The Painesville Telegraph reported, “Immediately after Mr. R[igdon] and the four pretended prophets left Kirtland, a scene of the wildest enthusiasm was exhibited, chiefly, however, among the young people; they would fall, as without strength, roll upon the floor, and, so mad were they that even the females were seen in a cold winter day, lying under the bare canopy of heaven, with no couch or pillow but the fleecy snow.”4

After JS arrived in Ohio in February 1831, he worked to curtail what he perceived to be excessive and ostentatious spiritual behaviors among the believers. In early March he wrote to his brother Hyrum that he had been “ingageed in regulating the Churches here as the deciples are numerous and the devil had made many attempts to over throw them it has been a Serious job but the Lord is with us and we have overcome and have all things regular.”5 A revelation a few days later urged church members to walk “uprightly before me … that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits or doctrines of Devils or the commandments of men for some are of men & others of Devils Wherefore beware lest ye are deceived.”6

The problem of discerning between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors apparently continued for several months. When John Whitmer described the 9 May revelation featured here in his later history, he provided this setting for it:

Some had visions and could not tell what they saw, 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 and [on] the floor, with the rapidity of a serpent, which the[y] termed sailing in the boat to the Lamanites, preaching the gospel. And many other vain and foolish manoeuvers that are unseeming, and unprofitable to mention. Thus the devil blinded the eyes of some good and honest disciples. … These things grievd the servants of the Lord, and some conversed together on this subject, and otheers came in and we were at Joseph Smith Jr. the seers, and made it a matter of consultation, for many would not turn from their folly, unless God would give a revelation, therfore the Lord spake to Joseph.7

Surviving accounts demonstrate that in the months following this revelation, the elders of the church employed the revelation’s guidelines instructing them what to do “if ye behold a spirit manifested that ye cannot understand.” JS was involved in one such situation a few weeks after this revelation, when he determined that a manifestation involving Harvey Whitlock was of the devil.8 A short time later, Jared Carter recounted another attempt to follow the specific directions given in the revelation when he encountered a woman possessed with a spirit during a church meeting.9


52nd Commandment May 9th. 1831

A Revelation to the Elders of this Church given at Kirtland geauga Ohio in consequence of their not being perfectly acquainted with the different opperations of the Spirits which are abroad in the Earth & thus saith the Lord unto them as follows10

[1]Hearken o ye Elders of my Church & give ear to the voice of the living God & attend to the words of wisdom which shall be given unto you according as ye have asked & are agreed as touching the Church & the spirits which have gone abroad in the Earth11 [2]Behold verily I say unto you that there are many spirits which are false spirits which have gone forth in the Earth12 deceiving the world [3]& also Satan hath sought to deceive you that he might overthrow you [4]Behold I the Lord have looked upon you & have seen abominations in the Church which profess my name [5]but blessed are they who are faithfull & endure whether in life or in death for they shall inherit eternal life [6]but wo be unto them that are deceivers & hypocrites for thus saith the Lord I will bring them to Judgement [7]behold verily I say unto you there are hypocrites among you & have deceived some which have given the adve[r]sary power but behold such shall be reclaimed [8]but the hypocrites shall be detected & shall be cut off either in life or in death even as I will & wo is them that is cut off from my Church for the same is overcome of the world [9]wherefore let every man be aware lest he do that which is not in truth & righteousness before me [10]& now come saith the Lord by the spirit by the Elders of his Church & let us reason together13 that ye may understand [p. 82] [11]let us reason even as a man reasoneth one with another face to face [12]now when a man reasoneth he under[stand]eth of man because he reasoneth as a man even so will I the Lord reason with you that you may understand [13]wherefore I the Lord asketh you this question unto what were14 ye ordained [14]to Preach my Gospel by the spirit even the comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth [15]& then received you spirits which ye could not understand & received them to be of God & in this are ye Justified? [16]Behold ye shall answer this yourselves nevertheles I will be mercyfull unto you he that is weak among you hereafter shall be made strong [17]verily I say unto you he that is ordained of me & sent forth to preach the word of truth by the comforter the spirit of truth doth he preach it by the spirit of truth or some other way [18]& if by some other way it be not of God [19]& again he that receiveth the word of truth doth he receive it by the spirit of truth or some other way [20]if it be some other way it be not of God [21]therefore why is it that ye cannot understand & know that he <that> receiveth the word by the spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the spirit of truth [22]wherefore he that <preacheth & he that> receiveth understandeth one another & both are edified & rejoice together [23]& that which doth not edify is not of God & is darkness [24]that which is of God is light & he that receiveth light & continueth in god receiveth more light & that light groweth lighter brighter and brighter untill the perfect day15 [25]& again verily I say unto you & I say it that you may know the truth that you may choose chase darkness from among you [26]for he that is ordaned of God & sent forth the same is apponted to be the greatest notwithstanding he is least & the servent of all [27]wherefore he is possessor of all things <for all things> are subject unto him both in Heaven & on the Earth the life & the light the spirit & the power sent forth by the will of the father through Jesus Christ his son [28]but no man is possessor of all things except he be purified & cleansed from all sin [29]& if ye are purified & cleansed from all sin ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus & it shall be done [30]but know this it shall be given [p. 83] you what ye shall ask & as ye are appointed to the head The spirits shall be subject unto you [31]wherefore it shall come to pass that if ye behold a spirit manifested that ye cannot understand & you receive not that spirit ye shall ask of the father in the name of Jesus & if he gave give not unto you that spirits then ye may know that it is not of God [32]& it shall be given unto you power that spi over that spirit & you shall proclaim against that spirit with a loud voice that it is not of God [33]not with railing accusation that ye be not over come neither with boasting nor rejoicing lest you be seased [seized] therewith [34]he that receiveth of God let it [him] account it of God & let him rejoice that he is accounted of God worthy to receive [35]& by giving heed & doing these things which ye have received & which ye shall hereafter receive [illegible]16 the Kingdom is given unto you of the father & power to over come all things which is not ordained of him [36]& Behold verily I say unto you blessed are you that hear these words of mine from the mouth of my servent for your sins are forgiven you [37]Let my Servent Joseph [Wakefield] in whom I am well pleased & my servent Parley [P. Pratt]17 go forth among the Churches & strengthen them by the word of exhortation18 [38]& also my servent John [Corrill] or as many of my servents as are ordained unto this office & let them labour in the vinyard & let no man hinder them of doing that which I have appointed unto them [39]wherefore in this thing my Servent Edward [Partridge] is not Justified nevertheless let him repent & he shall be forgiven—— [40]Behold ye are little Children & ye cannot bear all things now ye must grow in grace & in the knowledge of the truth [41]fear not little children for you are mine & I have overcome the world & you are of them which my father hath given me [42]& none of them which my father hath given me shall be lost [43]& the father & I are one I am in the father & the father in me & I in you as much as ye have received me ye are in me & am I in you19 [44]wherefore I am in your midst & I am the good shepherd [p. 84] [45]& the day cometh that you shall hear my voice & see me & know that I am [46]watch therefore that ye may be ready even So Amen