“Doctrine and Covenants 59,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (2020)
“Doctrine and Covenants 59,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers
Revelation, “land of Zion” [Missouri], 7 Aug. 1831; copied [ca. 30 Aug. 1831]; handwriting of Oliver Cowdery; one page; Newel K. Whitney, Papers, BYU. Includes dockets and archival marking. For more information, see the source note on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
On 7 August 1831, JS dictated a revelation in Missouri “instructing the sa[i]nts how to keep the sabath & how to fast and pray.”1 The revelation was specifically addressed to those “who have come up unto” Missouri, in fulfillment of the commandment to gather there and build up the city of Zion.2 Some of the instruction in the revelation probably came in response to the conduct of the inhabitants of Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, among whom these Saints were living. Many of those already in Jackson County had migrated there from southern states, whereas most church members entering the area were from the Northeast. As William W. Phelps, who traveled with JS to Missouri, explained in a July 1831 letter, Jackson County residents were “emigrants from Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and the Carolinas, &c., with customs, manners, modes of living and a climate entirely different from the northerners.”3 One custom that was especially different was Sabbath day observance. A later JS history characterizes many of the residents as “the basest of men” who “had fled from the face of civilized society, to the frontier country to escape the hand of justice, in their midnight revels, their sabbath breaking, horseracing, and gambling.”4 A traveler to western Missouri in 1833 made a similar observation, stating that “the only indications of its being Sunday” in the area was “the unusual Gambling & noise, & assemblies around taverns.”5 Sabbath day observance, however, was an important component of worship to many members of the Church of Christ.6 Perhaps because of the general nonobservance of the Sabbath among the inhabitants of Jackson County, the 7 August revelation emphasized the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy, outlining what church members should do on that day. These guidelines filled a void that neither the “Articles and Covenants” of the church nor the February 1831 revelation giving the “Laws of the Church of Christ” had addressed, thereby providing direction to those who would be building up the city of Zion without the benefit of JS’s in-person leadership.7
The revelation may have also been a response to the concerns of those who had gone to Missouri and felt daunted by the task of building up Zion in a region described by one observer as containing only “two or three merchants stores, and fifteen or twenty dwelling houses, built mostly of logs hewed on both sides.”8 The writer Washington Irving, who traveled through Independence in 1832 on an expedition with federal Indian commissioners, also commented on the “rougher and rougher life” he encountered as he got closer to the town, while his traveling companion Charles Latrobe described Independence as “full of promise” but containing “nothing but a ragged congeries of five or six rough log huts, two or three clapboard houses, two or three so-called hotels, alias grogshops; [and] a few stores.”9 Perhaps to encourage the Saints in such conditions, the revelation promised the bounties of the earth to church members and reminded them to express gratitude to God.
The revelation assured heavenly rewards for the obedient who would die in Zion—prompted, perhaps, by the death on the morning of 7 August of Polly Peck Knight, the fifty-seven–year-old wife of Joseph Knight Sr., and a friend of JS and his family. Polly Knight had traveled to Missouri with the Colesville Saints, but after falling ill she became “the first death in the church in this land.” It is unclear whether this revelation was dictated before or after JS was informed of her death.10
Oliver Cowdery served as the scribe for the original inscription of this revelation. The copy featured here belonged to Newel K. Whitney and is also in Cowdery’s handwriting. Whitney’s copy may be the original but is more likely a fair copy. It was likely made for him sometime after Cowdery returned to Ohio at the end of August.11 Around that same time, John Whitmer copied the revelation into Revelation Book 1.12 That there are few differences between the two copies suggests they were made around the same time or from the same copy.13
Behold blessed saith the Lord are they who have come up unto this land with an eye single to my glory14 according to my Commandments for them that live shall inherit the earth and them that die shall rest from all their labours & their works shall follow them15 they shall receive a crown in the mansions of my Father which I have prepared for them.16 Yea blessed are they whose feet stand upon the land of Zion who have obeyed my Gospel for they shall receive for their reward the good things of the earth & it shall bring forth in her strength17 & they also shall be crowned with blessings from above yea & with commandments not a few & with revelations in their time they that are faithful & diligent before me. Wherefore I give unto them a commandment saying thus Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart with all thy might mind & strength & in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself18 thou shalt not steal neither commit adultry nor kill or do any thing like unto it19 thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things thou shalt offer a sacrafice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness even that of a broken heart & a contrite spirit.20 And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world21 thou shalt go to the house of prayer & offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day22 for verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labours & to pay thy devotions unto the most high Nevertheless thy vows should be offered up in righteousness <in> all days & at all times but remember that on this the Lords day thou shalt offer thine oblations & thy sacraments unto the most High Confessing thy sins unto thy brethren & before the Lord & on this day thou shalt do none other <things> only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart23 that thy fastings may be perfect or in other words that thy joy may be full verily this is fasting and prayer or in other words rejoicing & prayer.24 And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving with cheerful hearts & coutenances not with much laughter (for this is sin) but with a glad heart & a cheerful countenance verily I say that inasmuch as ye do this the fulness of the earth is yours25 the beasts of the fields & the fowls of the air & that which climbeth upon trees & walketh upon the earth yea & the herb & the good things which cometh of the earth whether for food or for raiment or for houses or for barns or for orchards or for gardens or for vineyards yea all things which cometh of the earth in the season therof is made for the benefit & the <use> of man both to please the eye & to gladen the heart yea for food & for raiment for taste & for smell to strengthen the body & to enliven the soul26 & it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man for unto this end were they made to be used with judgement not to excess neither by extortion & in nothing doth man offend God or against none is his wrath kindled save those who Confess not his hand in all things & obey not his commandments behold this is according to the law & the prophets. Wherefore trouble me no more concerning this matter but learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward even peace in this world & eternal life in the world to come I the Lord hath spoken it & the spirit beareth record Amen
Given by Joseph the translatior & written by Oliver [Cowdery] August 7. 1831 in the land of Zion27