Volume 2 Chapter 16 | BYU Studies

Volume 2 Chapter 16

 

Chapter 16

Progress of Affairs at Kirtland—Discovery of the Book of Abraham.

[Page 227]

Change of Editors on the "Messenger and Advocate."About the middle of May, W. W. Phelps and John Whitmer, Presidents of the Church in Missouri, arrived at Kirtland, and John Whitmer was appointed to take the place of President Oliver Cowdery, in conducting the Messenger and Advocate.

Frederick G. Williams was appointed to edit the Northern Times, a weekly newspaper, which we had commenced in February last, in favor of Democracy; and W. W. Phelps (with his son Waterman) made his home with my family, and assisted the committee in compiling the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.

Minutes of Conference held at New Portage, June 6th.

The Elders and brethren assembled in conference, June 6th, at New Portage, Oliver Cowdery, presiding.

Elder David Matthews, who was suspended at a previous conference, for unchristian conduct, was present.

After hearing the testimony, the council unanimously agreed that there had been due contrition of spirit manifested by him, in his walk and conversation since his suspension; and Elder Matthews was restored.

Elder Barkdall preferred a claim against Elder Keeler, for services said to be rendered some eight or nine years since, and to have been awarded by a former council.

It appeared there had been a decision in favor of Elder Barkdall, but no testimony was produced by either of the parties to substantiate a claim, or prove a payment. It was, therefore, Resolved:—That both the accuser and the accused have manifested a bad spirit, and deserve the severe rebuke of this council.

[Page 228]

Elder Milo Hays was tried for not obeying the Word of Wisdom, and for covenant breaking.

Both charges were sustained by testimony, and Elder Hays was excluded from the Church.

Several other cases of discipline were attended to, and conference adjourned at 12 o'clock at night.

Sunday morning, President Oliver Cowdery preached, after which four were baptized.

The council again organized in the evening, and ordained Jacob Myers an Elder.

The case of Elders Barkdall and Keeler was again called up; four councilors spoke on the subject, when it was decided that they have one week and no more to settle their differences with each other, and make confession to the Church, or lose their standing.

W. A. Cowdery, Clerk.

Instructions of the Prophet to the Elders and Saints in Missouri.

[Page 229]

The Presidency, Bishop, and High Council of Zion, having removed to Kirtland, or gone forth in the vineyard, I caused it to be published in the June number of the Messenger and Advocate, that according to the order of the kingdom begun in the last days, to prepare men for the rest of the Lord, the Elders in Zion or in her immediate region, have no authority or right to meddle with her spiritual affairs, to regulate her concerns, or hold councils for the expulsion of members, in her unorganized condition. The High Council has been expressly organized to administer in all her spiritual affairs; and the Bishop and his council are set over her temporal matters ; so that the Elders' acts are null and void. Now, the Lord wants the wheat and tares to grow together; for Zion must be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. Every Elder that can, after providing for his family (if he has any) and paying his debts, must go forth and clear his skirts from the blood of this generation. While they are in that region, [Missouri] instead of trying members for transgression, or offenses, let every one labor to prepare himself for the vineyard, sparing a little time to comfort the mourners, to bind up the broken-hearted, to reclaim the backslider, to bring back the wanderer, to re-invite into the kingdom such as have been cut off, by encouraging them to lay to while the day lasts, and work righteousness, and, with one heart and one mind, prepare to help to redeem Zion, that goodly land of promise, where the willing and obedient shall be blessed. 1

[Page 230]

The mission of Mr. Hewitt.

About this time, I received an introduction to Mr. Hewitt, a preacher who had come out from Europe, with his wife, to examine this work; he stated that he was delegated by his church for this purpose, and presented a letter of commendation, a copy of which follows:

To the Saints of the Most High:

Dear Brethren in the Lord.—At a council of the pastors of our church, held March 28th, 1835, upon the propriety of Reverend John visiting you, it was resolved and approved that as he had an anxious desire to go to America to see things that are spoken of in one of your papers brought here by a merchant from New York, he should have, as he desired, the sanction of the council, and if it pleased the Lord, His approval. The Lord hath seen our joy and gladness to hear that He was raising up a people for Himself in that part of the New World, as well as here. O, may our faith increase that He may have Evangelists, Apostles, and Prophets, filled with the power of the Spirit, and performing His will in destroying the works of darkness.

[Page 231]

The Reverend Mr. Hewitt was professor of mathematics in Rotherham Independent Seminary, and four years pastor of Barnsley Independent church. He commenced preaching the doctrines we taught, about two years since, and was excommunicated. Many of his flock followed him, so that he was eventually installed in the same church, and the Lord's work prospered. As he is a living epistle, you will have, if all be well, a full explanation. Many will follow, should he approve of the country, etc., who will help the cause, because the Lord hath favored them with this world's goods. We had an utterance during our meeting, which caused us to sing for joy. The Lord was pleased with our brother's holy determination to see you; and we understand that persecution had been great among you, or would be, but we were commanded not to fear, for He would be with us. Praise the Lord.

The time is at hand when distance shall be no barrier between us; but when on the wings of love, Jehovah's messages shall be communicated by His Saints. The Lord bless our brother, and may he prove a blessing to you. Be not afraid of our enemies; they shall, unless they repent, be cast down by the Lord of Hosts. The workers of iniquity have been used by the prince of darkness to play the counterfeit; but discernment has been given to us, that they were immediately put to shame, by being detected, so that the flock never suffered as yet by them.

[Page 232]

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father, and from the Spirit, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I am, dear sir,

Your brother in the Gospel,

Thomas Shaw.

Barnsley, April 21, 1835. 2

The interview with Mr. Hewitt was brief, and he left with the understanding that he would call again and renew his investigations. As he did not return according to agreement, and hearing he was at Fairport, the council of the Presidency sent him the following letter:—

To the Reverend Mr. Hewitt:

Sir—In consequence of your not returning as we understood you would at your introduction to us, it was resolved and approved in council, on the evening of the 14th instant, that the bearer of this communication, Oliver Cowdery, one of the presiding Elders of our Church, should proceed to Fairport, and ascertain if possible, the cause of your delay; and this is done as one reason, that we feel an anxious desire for the salvation of the souls of men, and to satisfy your inquiries concerning the religion we profess. If at Fairport it is the sincere desire of the council, that Mr. Hewitt return, that we may satisfy him concerning our religion, and he satisfy us concerning his; for we feel as great a desire for the welfare of his people, as he can for ours.

With respect, etc.,

W. W. Phelps, Clerk.

[Page 233]

The indifference of Mr. Hewitt.

Elder Cowdery immediately repaired to Fairport, and on the day following reported to the Council that Mr. Hewitt was not in the place: that he left their letter with Mrs. Hewitt, who informed him that her "husband had frequently spoken of his wish to become further acquainted with the people whom he had come out from Europe to see." But the next we heard of the Reverend John Hewitt was that he had opened a school in Painsville, Ohio.

Mr. Hewitt was an elder of the Irvingite 3 church, in Barnsley, England, and was sent as a delegate from that church, as expressed in the letter from Mr. Shaw, of April 21st, to visit the Saints in America, and ascertain their faith and principles; and if Mr. Hewitt found them as they expected, the Saints in America might expect help from them (the church in Barnsley) as they were rich in temporal things and had received the gift of tongues in the church.

[Page 234]

Subscriptions for the Temple.

June 18.—Nine hundred and fifty dollars were subscribed for the temple, by the Saints in Kirtland. Great anxiety was manifested to roll on the work.

The twenty-first, being Sunday, I preached in Kirtland on the Evangelical Order. 4

Thursday, June 25.—There was a meeting in Kirtland to subscribe for the building of the Temple; and $6,232.50 was added to the list. Joseph Smith subscribed $500; Oliver Cowdery, $750; W. W. Phelps, $500; John Whitmer, $500; and Frederick G. Williams, $500; of the above, all of which they paid within one hour, and the people were astonished.

[Page 235]

Conference in Canada.

June 29.—Six of the traveling High Council, viz.:—David W. Patten, Heber C. Kimball, Luke S. Johnson, Orson Pratt, John F. Boynton, and Lyman E. Johnson, assembled in conference with the church in Loborough, Upper Canada. The church in Loborough, composed of twenty-five members, were uninformed in many principles of the new covenant, not having had the same privilege of instruction as the churches in the United States.

Brothers Henry and Jacob Wood, who had been suspended, had a rehearing, but were cut off. Elder Frederick M. Van Leuven, was appointed presiding Elder, and a number were added to the Church during their stay.

Michael H. Chandler and the Egyptian Mummies.

On the 3rd of July, Michael H. Chandler came to Kirtland to exhibit some Egyptian mummies. There were four human figures, together with some two or more rolls of papyrus covered with hieroglyphic figures and devices. As Mr. Chandler had been told I could translate them, he brought me some of the characters, and I gave him the interpretation, and like a gentleman, he gave me the following certificate:

Kirtland, July 6, 1835.

This is to make known to all who may be desirous, concerning the knowledge of Mr. Joseph Smith, Jun., in deciphering the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic characters in my possession, which I have, in many eminent cities, showed to the most learned; and, from the information that I could ever learn, or meet with, I and that of Mr. Joseph Smith, Jun., to correspond in the most minute matters.

Michael H. Chandler,

Traveling with, and proprietor of, Egyptian mummies. 5

Sunday 5.—I preached in the afternoon.

The case of Michael H. Barton.

Michael H. Barton tried to get into the Church, but he was not willing to confess and forsake all his sins—and he was rejected.

[Page 236]

The Writings of Abraham and Joseph.

Soon after this, some of the Saints at Kirtland purchased the mummies and papyrus, a description of which will appear hereafter, and with W. W. Phelps and Oliver Cowdery as scribes, I commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt, etc.,—a more full account of which will appear in its place, as I proceed to examine or unfold them. Truly we can say, the Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of peace and truth.

Edmund Bosley Tried for Breaking Covenant.

On the 9th I rode to Cleveland, in company with Elder Cowdery and others. On the 14th a charge was preferred against Elder Edmund Bosley, to a council of the Presidency, for unchristian-like conduct, in breaking a certain sacred covenant, made September 4, 1834.

I instructed the council on points of duty, such as observing covenants, etc., and testified to the truth of the above covenant.

President Oliver Cowdery testified that he himself framed the covenant alluded to, and that at the time when Bosley said that he had a witness that it was the will of the Lord that he should consecrate the surplus of his property over and above what would be needful for his and his family's support.

Bishop Whitney stated that Elder Bosley agreed to let the Presidency and others have money on loan, for the printing of the Revelations, if he could control his property in one year, or, as soon as he obtained it.

Decided that Elder Bosley broke the covenant which he made September 4, 1834—therefore he is not a member of this Church, unless he make satisfaction to those whom he injured.

Also Isaac H. Bishop was complained of as having spoken evil of the High Council, by saying that "the High Council had the wrong tree to bark up," which was testified to by J. M. Corrill, President Rigdon and others.

[Page 237]

It was decided that Isaac H. Bishop shall make public confession to the satisfaction of the injured, and walk as a saint in all things.

The hand of the Lord shall be upon them, until they repent in sackcloth and ashes, and shall effect their temporal and spiritual interests unless they repent.

Chapter 16

1. The whole article is so valuable that, notwithstanding to publish it entire leads to a repetition of part of the above, it is placed here in a foot note.

To the Saints Scattered Abroad.

"Dear Brethren:—It is a duty which every saint ought to render to his brethren freely—to always love them, and ever succor them. To be justified before God we must love one another: we must overcome evil; we must visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction, and we must keep ourselves unspotted from the world: for such virtues flow from the great fountain of pure religion. Strengthening our faith by adding every good quality that adorns the children of the blessed Jesus, we can pray in the season of prayer; we can love our neighbor as ourselves, and be faithful in tribulation, knowing that the reward of such is greater in the kingdom of heaven. What a consolation! What a joy! Let me live the life of the righteous, and let my reward be like this!

According to the order of the kingdom begun in the last days, to prepare men for the rest of the Lord, the Elders in Zion, or in her immediate region, have no authority or right to meddle with her spiritual affairs, to regulate her concerns, or hold councils for the expulsion of members in her unorganized condition. The High Council bas been expressly organized to administer in all her spiritual affairs; and the Bishop and his council, are set over her temporal matter: so that the Elders' acts are null and void. Now the Lord wants the tares and wheat to grow together: for Zion must be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. Every Elder that can, after providing for (if he has any) and paying his debts, must go forth and clear his skirts from the blood of this generation. While they are in that region instead of trying members for transgressions, or offenses, let every one labor to prepare himself for the vineyard, sparing a little time to comfort the mourners; to bind up the broken-hearted; to reclaim the backslider; to bring back the wanderer; to re invite into the kingdom such as have been cut off, by encouraging them to lay to while the day lasts, and work righteousness, and, with one heart and one mind, prepare to help redeem Zion, that goodly land of promise, where the willing and the obedient shall be blessed. Souls are as precious in the sight of God as they ever were; and the Elders were never called to drive any down to hell, but to persuade and invite all men everywhere to repent, that they may become the heirs of salvation. It is the acceptable year of the Lord: liberate the captives that they may sing hosanna. The Priests, too, should not be idle: their duties are plain, and unless they do them diligently, they cannot expect to be approved. Righteousness must be the aim of the Saints in all things, and when the covenants are published, they will learn that great things must be expected from them. Do good and work righteousness with an eye single to the glory of God, and you shall reap your reward when the Lord recompenses every one according to his work. The Teachers and Deacons are the standing ministers of the Church, and in the absence of other officers, great things and holy walk are required of them. They must strengthen the members' faith; persuade such as are out of the way to repent, and turn to God and live; meekly persuade and urge every one to forgive one another all their trespasses, offenses and sins, that they may work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Brethren, bear and forbear one with another, for so the Lord does with us. Pray for your enemies in the Church and curse not your foes without: for vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, and I will repay. To every ordained member, and to all, we say, be merciful and you shall find mercy. Seek to help save souls, not to destroy them: for verily you know, that "there is more joy in heaven, over one sinner that repents, than there is over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance." Strive not about the mysteries of the kingdom; cast not your pearls before swine, give not the bread of the children to dogs, lest you and the children should suffer, and you thereby offend your righteous Judge. Your brethren who leave their families, with whom they have enjoyed an earthly measure of peace and joy, to carry glad tidings around the world, expect great things of you, while you are privileged to enjoy the blessings of the Saints' society. They pray our heavenly Father that you may be very prayerful, very humble, and very charitable; working diligently, spiritually and temporally for the redemption of Zion, that the pure in heart may return with songs of everlasting joy to build up her waste places, and meet the Lord when He comes in His glory. Brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ, we entreat you to live worthy of the blessings that shall follow after much tribulation, to satiate the souls of them that hold out faithful to the end."—Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1, No. 8, pp. 137-8.

The substance of the foregoing article from the Messenger and Advocate is also contained, according to John Whitmer's history (manuscript page 52) in a letter to Hezekiah Peck, signed by Joseph Smith, Jun., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams, W. W. Phelps and John Whitmer; the opening paragraph of which is as follows:

"The Presidency of Kirtland and Zion say that the Lord has manifested by revelation of His spirit, that the High Priests, Teachers, Priests, and Deacons, or in other words, all the officers in the land of Clay county, Missouri, belonging to the Church, are more or less in transgression, because they have not enjoyed the Spirit of God sufficiently to be able to comprehend their duties respecting themselves and the welfare of Zion; thereby having been left to act in a manner that is detrimental to the interest, and also a hindrance to the redemption of Zion. Now if they will be wise, they will humble themselves in a peculiar manner that God may open the eyes of their understanding. It will be clearly manifested what the design and purposes of the Almighty are with regard to them, and the children of Zion that they should let the High Council, which is appointed of God and ordained for that purpose, make and regulate all the affairs of Zion, and that it is the will of God that her children should stand still and see the salvation of redemption." Then follows the substance of the Messenger and Advocate article. This letter has the following post script written personally by the Prophet, to Brother Peck, and is a gem which manifests the profound sympathy of the Prophet for the faithful in Israel:

"P.S.—Brother Hezekiah Peck: We remember your family with all the first families of the Church who first embraced the truth. We remember your losses and sorrows; our first ties are not broken; we participate with you in the evil as well as the good, in the sorrows as well as the joys; our union, we trust, is stronger than death, and shall never be severed. Remember us unto all who believe in the fullness of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We hereby authorize you, Hezekiah Peck, our beloved brother, to read this epistle and communicate it unto all the brotherhood in all that region of country.

"Dictated by me, your unworthy brother, and fellow laborer in the testimony of the Book of Mormon. Signed by my own hand in the token of the everlasting covenant. Joseph Smith, Jun."

2. This communication in the Prophet's history as published in the Millennial Star appears under the date of April 21st, 1835; but it was thought to be a better grouping of events to bring it down to this date—first half of June—where the whole incident may be disposed of in a single reference to it. Following is a remark of the Prophet's respecting the letter as published in the Star, but which under our present arrangement of the matter is not necessary in the text of the History: "One object, and only one, has induced us to lay the foregoing letter from England, before our matters; and that is, the good of the cause of God. It might have remained in our possession, perhaps for years, in silence, had it not been for circumstances, which we will briefly mention hereafter." These "circumstances" are those relating to the indifferent actions of Mr. Hewitt, as set forth in the text.

3. This is not the name accepted by the Church which Mr. Hewitt represented. The religious body usually called "Irvingites" object to any designation "which implies sectarianism" and therefore, they themselves use no other name than the "Catholic Apostolic Church," of which the congregation at Barnsley, England, was but a branch. Such was the prominence, however, for learning, social and ecclesiastical standing of Reverend Edward Irving that when he gave the influence of his name and standing to what was probably a really spiritual awakening among some of the people in western and southern Scotland, the movement received his name, hence "Irvingites." Mr. Irving was born in Annan, Dumfrieshire, August 15, 1792, and in his early ministry was associated with such men as Doctors Chalmers and Canning. He created no little stir in higher circles of religious society in London for a time; but his announcement of the near approach of the coming of the Son of Man, attended by the judgments of God, together with his strictures against the looseness of fashionable life, soon displeased the worldly who for a time flocked to hear him; and the people of fashion soon separated from his congregation. He taught the doctrine that the spiritual gifts of the Gospel were to continue forever in the Church, together with the New Testament organization of the Church. The Irvingite views of this New Testament organization are set forth in the following: "There are, as in the apostolic times, four ministeries:1st, that of 'apostle;' 2nd, that of 'prophet;' 3rd, that of 'evangelist;' and 4th, that of 'pastor.' The apostles are invested with spiritual prerogatives; they alone can administer the Holy Ghost by laying on of hands; to them the mysteries of God are revealed and unfolded to the Church; and they decide on matters of order and discipline. Nothing that transpires in any Church in the way of 'prophetic utterance' can be authoritatively explained save by them; and the various 'angels of the Churches' are bound to bring all such utterances under their cognizance, in order that they may be rightly interpreted. The function of the 'prophet' has been already indicated. The work of an 'evangelist' mainly consists in endeavoring to 'bring' in, those who are without. The 'angel' of the Catholic Apostolic Church, corresponds with the bishop of other Christian denominations. The ministers of each full congregation comprise an angel, with a four-fold ministry (consisting of elders, prophets, evangelists, and pastors;) and a ministry of deacons to take charge of temporal matters. This ministry is supported by tithes, the people giving a tenth of their income for the support of the priesthood. Church affairs were managed by a council of ministers of all classes, whose selection and arrangement are conceived to have been foreshadowed in the structure of the Mosaic tabernacle." The sympathy of the members of the Catholic Apostolic Church at Barnsley who believed in the spiritual gifts of the Gospel, and what they understood to be the New Testament organization of the Church, readily explains the interest they would naturally feel in the Latter-Day Saints in America, when they would come to hear of the things which God had established among them; and it is regretted that they did not send a more faithful representative than Mr. Hewitt to enquire into the work of the Lord as developed in divine manifestations to the Prophet Joseph. "This Mr. Hewitt," says John Whitmer in his manuscript history of the Church, page 52, "did not obey the Gospel; neither would he investigate the matter. Thus ended the mission of Mr. Hewitt."

4. Of the evangelical or patriarchal order of Priesthood in the Church it is said in the revelations of God: "The order of this Priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made. This order was instituted in the days of Adam, and came down by lineage in the following manner." Then follow the names of those who successively held the evangelical Priesthood in ancient times (D&C 107). According to the word of the Lord, at the time this order of Priesthood was conferred upon Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet, it is said "The Patriarch holds the keys of the patriarchal blessings upon the heads of all my people, that whoever he blesses shall be blessed, and whoever he curses shall be cursed; that whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (D&C 124:92-93.) It was undoubtedly upon this order of priesthood that the Prophet spoke in the meeting of the twenty-first of June.

5. Mr. Chandler is responsible for the English of the above certificate, and I do not feel at liberty to edit it.