“Doctrine and Covenants 83,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (2020)
“Doctrine and Covenants 83,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers
Revelation, “Zion” [Independence, Jackson Co., MO], 31 May [30 Apr.] 1832. Featured version copied [ca. 31 May 1832]; handwriting of Sidney Rigdon; one page; Newel K. Whitney, Papers, BYU. Includes docket and archival marking. For more information, see the source note on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
According to a later JS history, JS “sat in council with the brethren” on 30 April 1832 in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, and dictated a revelation clarifying the rights of women and children who had lost their husbands or fathers.1 Although there were civil laws outlining specific property rights for women upon the death of their husbands, it was not clear what would happen if a husband had consecrated property to the church. The 30 April revelation helped clarify the church’s position in such instances.
An earlier revelation on the laws of the church outlined principles of consecration, stating that consecration was a means for church members to take care of the poor among them. That revelation instructed members to consecrate their properties to the church and bishops to convey back stewardships that were sufficient for their needs and those of their families. The “residue” of the consecrated property was then kept in the “store house to administer to the poor and needy.”2 In accordance with this revelation, a few church members in Ohio consecrated properties to the church for a brief time in 1831.3 After Missouri was designated as the location of Zion in July 1831, the practice of consecration was instituted there.4 As more members consecrated property, questions inevitably arose. For example, according to Missouri statutes, a woman had no claim on her personal property when she married, giving up that right to her husband. If her husband died, a woman had a dower right, or a right to a third part of her husband’s real estate. She was also “entitled absolutely to a share” in her husband’s “other personal estate” that was “equal to the share of a child of such deceased husband, after the payment of debts.”5 The doctrine of consecration, as established in the “Laws of the Church of Christ” and subsequent revelations, did not address what claims a widow had on property her husband had consecrated to the church or what would happen to children who lost their fathers.6
JS apparently became concerned about such questions while in Missouri in April 1832. Perhaps one reason was his short trip from 28–29 April to visit the Saints from Colesville, New York, who had settled about twelve miles west of Independence in Kaw Township, Missouri. JS had good friends in this settlement, including the Knight family. He later reported that he “received a welcome only known by brethren and sisters united as one in the same faith.”7 Among those living in Kaw Township were at least two widows: Phebe Crosby Peck, who had four children, and Anna Slade Rogers, who had a daughter.8These women’s husbands died in 1829 before the revelation on the “Laws of the Church of Christ” was dictated, but JS’s association with them may have prompted him to wonder about a widow’s claim to consecrated property, which may in turn have led to this 30 April revelation.9
Sidney Rigdon may have written this revelation as JS dictated it in late April 1832. The apparent misdating of “May 31st” indicates that the version featured here, in Rigdon’s handwriting, is probably not the original but is a copy made for Newel K. Whitney. Whitney corrected this error in an endorsement that labeled and characterized the revelation: “as to Women & children; Inheretance at Zion 30 apl. 1832.” Sometime after April 1832, John Whitmer copied the revelation into Revelation Book 1, giving it the date of 30 April—a date that was perpetuated in a later JS history. It was also published in the January 1833 issue of The Evening and the Morning Star under the title “Items in Addition to the Laws for the Government of the Church of Christ, Given April, 1832.”
30 31st— 1832
Verily thus saith the Lord in addition to the laws of the church10 concerning women and children who belong to the church who have lost their husbands or fathers11 
<a> women <woman> <women> have <has> <have> claim on their husbands untill <t>he<y> is <are> taken and if they are not found transgressors they remain upon their inheritinces all children have claim upon their parents untill they are of age12 and after that they have claim upon the church or in other words the Lords storehouse for inheritences13 [1/4 page blank]