“Doctrine and Covenants 119,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (2020)
“Doctrine and Covenants 119,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers
Revelation, Far West, Caldwell Co., MO, 8 July 1838. Featured version copied [ca. 8 July 1838]; handwriting of Edward Partridge; one page; Revelations Collection, CHL. Includes docket. For more information, see the source note on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
On Sunday, 8 July 1838, JS dictated five revelations, each of which concerned church leadership or finances; one of these revelations outlined a plan for raising church revenue. The subject of church finances was not new to the Saints. From the time the church was established, JS dictated revelations and instituted programs related to economic and social concerns. An 1831 revelation on “the Laws of the Church of Christ” directed the Latter-day Saints to consecrate their property to the church bishop and then manage stewardships of property or other responsibilities assigned to them.1 Church members attempted to follow this program of consecration and stewardship in Jackson County, Missouri, but their attempts ended when they were driven out of the county in 1833.2 In the early and mid-1830s, JS and other church leaders in Ohio engaged in a number of business and banking ventures, most of which ultimately failed.3 The troubled situation of church finances was compounded by the nationwide panic of 1837 and the ensuing economic recession.4 During this period, JS and Sidney Rigdon incurred several thousand dollars of debt.5
In the latter half of 1837, the bishops in Missouri and Kirtland, Ohio, took new steps to address the church’s financial problems. In September, the church published an appeal from Bishop Newel K. Whitney and his counselors in Kirtland, calling on church members everywhere to “bring their tithes into the store house” to relieve church debts and to help establish the community of Saints in Missouri.6 While this general request did not include recommended donation amounts, in December 1837 a committee composed of Edward Partridge, the bishop of Zion; Isaac Morley, the first counselor in the bishopric; and John Corrill, the appointed “keeper of the Lord’s Storehouse,”7 proposed that every head of household be asked to annually donate a certain percentage of net worth, with the percentage based on church needs for the year. To cover anticipated church expenses for 1838, the committee proposed a “tithing” of 2 percent. The committee believed that such a program would “be in some degree fullfilling the law of consecration.”8 In February 1838, when Thomas B. Marsh, the pro tempore president of Zion, wrote to JS about coming to Missouri, Marsh reported that the Saints there “seem to wish to have the whole law of God lived up to; and we think that the church will rejoice to come up to the law of consecration, as soon as their leaders shall say the word, or show them how to do it.”9 In April a revelation called for Far West, Missouri, to be built up as a city of Zion with a temple but directed the presidency not to go into debt to build the Far West temple as they had when building the Kirtland temple.10 The issue of JS’s and Rigdon’s debts was raised again in May when the two petitioned the high council to obtain compensation for their services in the church.11 Debts continued to loom over JS and Rigdon, and on 8 July 1838 the first payment on a debt totaling over $4,000 was due to JS’s attorneys.12
That day, JS dictated this revelation on tithing—apparently in a church leadership meeting held in Far West.13 This revelation was the third dictated that day that George W. Robinson copied into JS’s journal. A copy of the revelation states that JS dictated it in direct response to the petition, “Lord, show unto thy servents how much thou requirest of the properties of thy people for a Tithing?”14 The resulting revelation called for the Latter-day Saints to consecrate all of their surplus property and thereafter to pay “one tenth of all their interest annually.” Robinson, who was present at the leadership meeting, may have transcribed the revelation as JS dictated it.
The revelation was read later that day to a congregation of Latter-day Saints. Over the next few weeks, church members responded to the revelation by consecrating surplus property. According to the 27 July entry in JS’s journal, “Some time past the bretheren or saints have come up day after day to consecrate, and to bring their offerings into the store house of the lord, … They have come up hither Thus far, according to the ord[e]r of the Dan-Ites.”15 Officers in the Danite society had attended the leadership meeting in which JS apparently dictated this revelation, and members of the society were now helping gather the consecrated goods.16 The success in collecting surplus property apparently did not last long. John Corrill, the keeper of the storehouse, recounted in 1839 that the Danites “set out to enforce the law of consecration; but this did not amount to much.”17 Brigham Young, who was serving in the pro tempore church presidency in Zion, recollected several years later that church members were sparing in what they considered surplus property.18
Robinson made a copy of the revelation in JS’s journal, apparently sometime in mid- or late July 1838.19 The revelation was also copied by other church leaders: Newel K. Whitney made one copy, and Edward Partridge made at least two copies.20 A comparison of the copies by Robinson, Whitney, and Partridge suggests that one of Partridge’s copies most closely represents the wording of the original revelation. This version is featured here.21 Partridge was present when the revelation was dictated and probably made the featured copy shortly thereafter; the latest possible copying date is 27 May 1840, the day he died.
Far West July 8th 1838
Question O Lord show unto thy servants22 how much thou requirest of the properties of thy people for a tithing?
Answer. Verily thus saith the Lord, I require all their surplus property,23 to be put into the hands of the bishop of my church of Zion24 for the building of mine house25 and for the laying the foundation of Zion26 and for the priesthood and for the debts of the presidency of my church and this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people and after that those who have
been thus been tithed shall pay one tenth27 of all their interest annually28 and this shall be a standing law unto them forever for my holy priesthood saith the Lord. Verily I say unto you it shall come to pass that all those who gather unto the land of Zion shall be tithed of their surplus properties and shall observe this law or they shall not be found worthy to abide among you29 and behold I say unto you if my people observe not this law to keep it holy and by this law sanctify the land of Zion unto me30 that my statutes and <my> judgements31 may be kept thereon that it may be most holy, behold verily I say unto you it shall not be a land of Zion unto you[.] And this shall be an ensample unto all the stakes of Zion even so amen