“Doctrine and Covenants 90,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (2020)
“Doctrine and Covenants 90,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers
Revelation, Kirtland Township, OH, 8 Mar. 1833; copied [ca. Mar. 1833]; handwriting of Frederick G. Williams; three pages; Newel K. Whitney, Papers, BYU. Includes docket and archival marking. For more information, see the source note on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
Marking a significant development in the church’s chief governing body, this revelation announced that the counselors in the presidency of the high priesthood were equal with JS “in holding the keys of this Last Kingdom.” The presidency of the high priesthood had its beginnings sixteen months earlier, on 11 November 1831, when a revelation established the office of the president of the high priesthood. That revelation called the office of the high priesthood “the greatest of all” and said that “it must needs be that one be appointed of the high Priest hood to preside over the Priest hood & he shall be called President of the high Priest hood of the Church” and have the duty to “preside over the whole church.”1 At a church conference in Amherst, Ohio, held on 25 January 1832, JS was ordained as president of the high priesthood by Sidney Rigdon.2
The 11 November 1831 revelation also gave the president authority to appoint twelve counselors to form a disciplinary court, introducing the idea that a body of counselors was to support the president.3 Precedent for forming a leadership body of three people came earlier in 1831 when Edward Partridge was designated as the church’s first bishop with “two of the Elders” appointed to assist him in attending to the temporal and spiritual concerns of the church.4 On 8 March 1832, JS chose and ordained Jesse Gause and Sidney Rigdon to assist him as “councillers of the ministry of the presidency of th[e] high Pristhood.”5 A revelation dictated around the same time affirmed that the president of the high priesthood had “authority to preside with the assistence of his councellers over all the Concerns of the church.”6 On 15 March 1832, JS dictated another revelation that elevated the counselors to positions of authority, second only to JS, in managing the affairs of the church. It formally called Gause “to be a high Priest in my church and councellor unto my servant Joseph,” explained the duties of the counselors, and affirmed that “the keys of the Kingdom” belong “always to the prisidency of the high Priesthood.”7 Gause was excommunicated from the Church of Christ on 3 December 1832, and a month later, on 5 January 1833, Frederick G. Williams was called to replace Gause in serving as “Councillor & scribe unto my servant Joseph.”8 Williams probably assumed his new role immediately; he was identified as a counselor in the presidency of the high priesthood in the minutes of a conference held on 22 January 1833, though he was not ordained to this position until 18 March 1833.9 The structure of the presidency remained unchanged until December 1834.10
Before the revelation featured here was dictated, JS was assisted by his counselors as he had been previously by Oliver Cowdery, who had been called in 1830 to support JS as “second elder.”11 The minutes of a conference of high priests that assembled on 22 January 1833 likewise indicated a hierarchy in the presidency, with JS as “President,” Sidney Rigdon as “cheif scribe and high counceler,” and Williams as “assistant scribe and counceler.”12 The following revelation, however, directed that JS’s counselors, Rigdon and Williams, be made “equal” with the president in holding the keys of the kingdom. It likewise authorized the three men to labor together to “set in order all the affairs of this Church and kingdom.” Though JS retained presiding authority, the governing body of the church now had three presidents. Following this revelation, the members of the presidency of the high priesthood signed some letters and official documents with their names in the order of JS, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams and with the associated title of “Presidents of the High Priesthood.”13 By 1835 this presidency was also known as the “first presidency” of the church.14
In addition to giving instructions regarding the presidency of the high priesthood, this revelation expressed displeasure with some church members in Missouri. JS’s interactions with Missouri leaders in spring 1832, his series of letters with William W. Phelps and Sidney Gilbert from June 1832 to January 1833, and a revelation dated 22 and 23 September 1832 emphasized that Missouri church leaders needed to repent of ongoing disputes and perceived backbiting against JS.15 These interactions and documents likewise reveal a continuing discord between the leaders of the church in Kirtland, Ohio, and those in Independence, Missouri. Some Missouri leaders believed that if JS would move to Independence, his presence would help alleviate many of the misunderstandings and hard feelings that had existed for months between church officials in the two locations. On 14 January 1833, Orson Hyde and Hyrum Smith penned a letter on behalf of a conference of high priests and elders held in Kirtland to inform the Missouri Saints in a united voice “that Br J. will not settle in Zion until she repent and purify herself & abide by the new covenant, and remember the commandments which have been given her, to do them as well as say them.”16 The revelation featured here reiterated displeasure with specific Missouri leaders for unrepentant behavior. It also clarified that JS would be called to preside over the church in Independence in the Lord’s “own due time.”
This revelation also directed members of the presidency of the high priesthood to set their houses in order, gave instructions concerning the residences of Joseph Smith Sr. and Sidney Rigdon, and emphasized the need to continue the ongoing translation of the Old Testament. It also directed the relocation of Vienna Jaques—a church member who had recently consecrated a significant amount of money to the church—from Kirtland to Jackson County, Missouri.17 How or when church members in Kirtland or Missouri learned of this revelation is unknown, as no extant contemporary sources mention it.
18Kirtland 8th of March 1833
A Commandment given unto Joseph saying thus saith the Lord verily verily I say unto you my son thy sins are forgiven thee according to thy petition for thy prayers and the prayers of thy brethren have come up into my ears therefore thou art blessed from henceforth that bear the keys of the kingdom19 given unto you20 which kingdom is coming forth for the Last time21 verily I say unto you the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you whilst thou art in the world neither in the world to come22 never[the]less through you shall the oricles23 be given unto another yea even unto the church and all they who receive the oricles of God let them be aware how they hold them lest they are accounted as a light thing and are brought under condemnation thereby24 and stumble and fall25 when the storms descend <&> the winds blow and the rains descend and beat upon their house26 and again verily I say unto thy brethren Sidney [Rigdon] and Fredrick [Frederick G. Williams] there27 sins are forgiven them also and they are accounted as equal with thee in holding the keys of this Last Kingdom as also through your administration the <keys of the> School of the prophets which I have commanded to be organized that thereby they may be perfected in their minstry for the salvation of Zion and of the Nations of Israel and of the Gentiles28 as many as will believe that through your administration they may receive the word and through their administration the word may go forth unto the ends of the earth unto the Gentiles first and then behold and Lo they shall turn unto the Jews29 and then cometh the day when the arm of the Lord shall be reveiled in power in convincing the nations the heathen nations the house of Joseph of the Gospel of their salvation30 for it shall come to pass in that day that evry man shall hear the fulness of the Gospel31 in his own Tongue32 and in his own Language through thou who are ordained unto this power [p. ] by the administration of the comforter shed forth33 upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ34 and now verely I say unto you I give unto you a commandment that you continue in this ministry and presidency and when you have finished the translation of the prophets35 you shall from
them <thence> forth preside over the affairs of the Church and the School and from time to time as shall be manifest by the comfoter36 receive revelations to unfold the mystres [mysteries] of the kingdom37 and set in order the churches and study and Learn and become acquainted with all good books and with Languages tongues and people &c &c38 and this shall be your business and mission in all your Lives39 to preside in council and set in order all the affairs of this Church and kingdom be not ashamed neither confounded but be admonished in all your high mindedness and pride for it bringeth a snare upon your souls40 set in order your houseses keep slothfulness and uncleanliness far from you41 now verily I say unto you let there be a place provided as soon as it is possable for you for the family of thy councellor & scribe even Frederick42 and <let> mine Aged servant Joseph [Smith Sr.] continue with his family upon the place <where he now lives> and let it not be sold untill the mouth of the Lord shall name43 and let thy councellor even Sidney remain where he now resides untill the mouth of the Lord shall name44 <and> let the Bishop45 search dilligently to obtain an agent and let it be a man who has got riches in store a man of God and of strong faith that thereby he may be enabled to discharge evry debt that the store house of the Lord may not be brought in to disrepute before the eyes of the people46 search diligently pray always and be believing and all things shall work together for your good if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant where with ye have covenanted [p. ] one with another let your families be small especially my mine aged Servant Joseph as pertaining to thou who do not belong to your families that those things that are provided for you to bring to pass my work are not taken from you and given to those that are not worthy and thereby you are hindred in accomplishing <those things which> I have commanded you47 and again verely I say unto you it is my will that my hand maid en Viana [Vienna Jaques] should receive money to bear her expences and go up unto the Land of Zion and the residue of her money I will consecrate unto myself and reward her in mine own due time verely I say unto you <that> it is meet in mine eyes that she should go up unto the Land of Zion and receive an inheritance48 from the hand of the Bishop that she may settle down in peace49 <in as much as she is faithful> and not be Idle in her days from thenceforth50 and behold verely I say unto you that ye shall write this commandment and say unto your brethren in Zion in Love greeting that I have called you also to preside over Zion in mine own due time therefore let them cease wear[y]ing me51 concerning this matter52 behold I say unto you that your brethren in Zion begin to repent53 and the Angels rejoice over them nevertheless I am not well pleased with many things and I am not well please[d] with my servant William E McLel[l]in neithe[r] with my servant sidney Gilbert and the Bishop also and others have many things to repent of54 but verely I say unto you that I the Lord will contend with Zion55 and plead with her strong ones56 and chasten her untill she overcome and are clean before me for she shall not be moved57 out of her place I the Lord have spoken it— Am[en]— [p. ]