Volume 2 Chapter 18 | BYU Studies

Volume 2 Chapter 18

 

Chapter 18

The Book of Doctrine and Covenants Presented To the General Assembly of the Priesthood and the Church.

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A general assembly of the Church of Latter-day Saints was held at Kirtland on the 17th of August, 1835, to take into consideration the labors of a committee appointed by a general assembly of the Church on the 24th of September, 1834, for the purpose of arranging the items of the doctrine of Jesus Christ for the government of the Church. The names of the committee were: Joseph Smith, Jun., Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery and Frederick G. Williams, who, having finished said book according to the instructions given them, deem it necessary to call a general assembly of the Church to see whether the book be approved or not by the authorities of the Church: that it may, if approved, become a law and a rule of faith and practice to the Church. Wherefore, Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon, members of the First Presidency, (Presidents Joseph Smith, Jun., and Frederick G. Williams being absent on a visit to the Saints in Michigan,) appointed Thomas Burdick, Warren Parrish, and Sylvester Smith clerks, and proceeded to organize the whole assembly as follows:

They organized 1 the High Council of the church at Kirtland, and Presidents W. W. Phelps and John Whitmer organized the High Council of the church in Missouri.

Bishop Newel K. Whitney organized his counselors of the church in Kirtland, and acting Bishop John Corrill organized the counselors of the church in Missouri.

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Presidents Leonard Rich, Levi W. Hancock, Sylvester Smith and Lyman Sherman organized the council of the Seventy. Elder John Gould, acting president, organized the Elders. Ira Ames, acting president, organized the Priests. Erastus Babbitt, acting president, organized the Teachers. William Burgess, acting president, organized the Deacons. And they also, as the assembly was large, appointed Thomas Gates, John Young, William Cowdery, Andrew H. Aldrich, Job L. Lewis and Oliver Higley assistant presidents of the day, to assist in preserving order in the whole assembly.

Elder Levi W. Hancock being appointed chorister, a hymn was sung, and the services for the day opened by the prayer of President Oliver Cowdery, and the solemnities of eternity rested upon the audience.

Another hymn was then sung. After transacting some business for the Church, such as ordaining Morris Phelps to the High Priesthood; Warren Parrish, to the First Seventy; Sherman Gilbert, an Elder; and blessing James Foster, Dean Gould, Benjamin Gifford, Elisha H. Groves and Joseph Hartshorn, the assembly adjourned for one hour.

Afternoon: A hymn was sung, when President Rigdon arose and rebuked some of the authorities for not being in their seats at the time appointed.

President Cowdery arose and introduced the "Book of Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter-day Saints," in behalf of the committee. He was followed by President Rigdon, who explained the manner by which they intended to obtain the voice of the assembly for or against said book.

According to said arrangement, W. W. Phelps bore record that the book presented to the assembly was true. President John Whitmer, also, rose and testified that it was true.

Elder John Smith, taking the lead of the High Council in Kirtland, bore record that the revelations in said book were true, and that the lectures were judiciously arranged and compiled, and were profitable for doctrine. Whereupon, the High Council of Kirtland accepted and acknowledged them as the doctrine and covenants of their faith by a unanimous vote.

Elder Levi Jackman, taking the lead for the High Council of the church in Missouri, bore testimony that the revelations in said book were true, and the said High Council of Missouri accepted and acknowledged them as the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote.

President W. W. Phelps then read the written testimony of the Twelve, as follows:

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Testimony of the Twelve Apostles to the Truth of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.

"The testimony of the Witnesses to the Book of the Lord's Commandments, which commandments He gave to His Church through Joseph Smith, Jun., who was appointed by the voice of the Church, for this purpose.

"We therefore feel willing to bear testimony to all the world of mankind, to every creature upon the face of all the earth, that the Lord has borne record to our souls, through the Holy Ghost shed earth upon us, that these Commandments were given by inspiration of God, and are profitable for all men, and are verily true. We give this testimony unto the world, the Lord being our helper; and it is through the grace of God the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ, that we are permitted to have this privilege of bearing this testimony unto the world, in the which we rejoice exceedingly, praying the Lord always that the children of men may be profited thereby.

(Signed)

"Thomas B. Marsh,

"David W. Patten,

"Brigham Young,

"Heber C. Kimball,

"Orson Hyde,

"Wm. E. M'Lellin,

"Parley P. Pratt,

"Luke S. Johnson,

"William Smith,

"Orson Pratt,

"John F. Boynton,

"Lyman E. Johnson." 2

Elder Leonard Rich bore record of the truth of the book, and the council of the Seventy accepted and acknowledged it as the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote.

Bishop Newel K. Whitney bore record of the truth of the book, and with his counselors accepted and acknowledged it as the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote.

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Acting Bishop John Corrill bore record of the truth of the book, and with his counselors accepted and acknowledged it as the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote.

Acting President John Gould gave his testimony in favor of the book, and with the Elder accepted and acknowledge it as the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote.

Ira Ames, acting president of the Priests, gave his testimony in favor of the book, and with the Priests accepted and acknowledged it as the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote.

Erastus Babbitt, acting president of the Teachers, gave his testimony in favor of the book, and they accepted and acknowledged it as the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote.

William Burgess, acting president of the Deacons, bore record of the truth of the book, and they accepted and acknowledged it as the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote.

The venerable assistant president, Thomas Gates, then bore record of the truth of the book, and with his five silver-haired assistants, and the whole congregation, accepted and acknowledged it as the doctrine and covenants of their faith, by a unanimous vote.

The several authorities and the general assembly, by a unanimous vote, accepted the labor of the committee.

President W. W. Phelps then read the following article on marriage, 3 which was accepted and adopted and ordered to be printed in said book, by a unanimous vote, namely:

Article on Marriage.

"According to the custom of all civilized nations, marriage is regulated by laws and ceremonies; therefore we believe that all marriages in this Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints should be solemnized in a public meeting or feast prepared for that purpose, and that the solemnization should be performed by a Presiding High Priest, High Priest, Bishop, Elder or Priest, not even prohibiting those persons who are desirous to get married, of being married by other authority. We believe that it is not right to prohibit members of this Church from marrying out of the Church, if it be their determination so to do; but such persons will be considered weak in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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"Marriage should be celebrated with prayer and thanksgiving, and at the solemnization, the persons to be married, standing together, the man on the right and the woman on the left, shall be addressed by the person officiating as he shall be directed by the Holy Spirit, and if there be no legal objections, he shall say, calling each by name: 'You both mutually agree to be each other's companion, husband and wife, observing the legal rights belonging to this condition: that is, keeping yourselves wholly for each other, and from all others, during your lives?' And when they have both answered 'yes,' he shall pronounce them 'husband and wife,' in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the laws of the country and authority vested in him. 'May God add His blessing and keep you to fulfill your covenants from henceforth and forever. Amen.'

"The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages solemnized in his branch. All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this Church should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband; neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband. All children are bound by law to obey their parents, and to influence them to embrace any religious faith, or be baptized, or leave their parents without their consent, is unlawful and unjust. We believe that husbands, parents, and masters, who exercise control over their wives, children and servants, and prevent them from embracing the truth, will have to answer for that sin."

President Oliver Cowdery then read the following article on "Governments and Laws in General," which was accepted and adopted and ordered to be printed in said book, by a unanimous vote:

Of Governments and Laws in General.

"That our belief with regard to earthly governments and laws in general may not be misinterpreted nor misunderstood, we have thought proper to present, at the close of this volume, our opinion concerning the same.

"We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man, and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them for the good and safety of society.

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"We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held in violate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, and the right and control of property, and the protection of life.

"We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same, and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for, and upheld by the voice of the people (if a republic,) or the will of the sovereign.

"We believe that religion is instituted of God, and that men are amenable to Him, and to Him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences; of men, or dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.

"We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience.

"We believe that every man should be honored in his station; ruler or magistrate as such—being placed for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws all men owe respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would he supplanted by anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations between man and man; and divine laws given of heaven prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker.

"We believe that rulers, states, and governments have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief; but we do not believe that they have a right, in justice, to deprive citizens of this privilege, or proscribe them in their opinions, so long as a regard and reverence are shown to the laws, and such religious opinions do not justify sedition or conspiracy.

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"We believe that the commission of crime should be punished according to the nature of the offense, that murder, treason, robbery, theft, and the breach of the general peace, in all respects, should be punished according to their criminality, and their tendency to evil among men, by the laws of that government in which the offense is committed; and for the public peace and tranquility all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment.

"We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.

"We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world's goods, or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb; or to inflict any physical punishment upon them; they can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship.

"We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances where personal abuse is inflicted, or the right of property or character infringed, where such laws exist as will protect the same; but we believe that all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends and property, and the government from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency when immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded.

"We believe it just to preach the Gospel to the nations of the earth, and warn the righteous to save themselves from the corruption of the world; but we do not believe it right to interfere with bond servants; neither preach the Gospel to, nor baptize them contrary to the will and wish of their masters; nor to meddle with or influence them in the least to cause them to be dissatisfied with their situations in this life, thereby jeopardizing the lives of men; such interference we believe to be unlawful, and unjust, and dangerous to the peace of every government allowing human beings to be held in servitude."

A hymn was then sung. President Sidney Rigdon returned thanks; after which the assembly was blessed by the Presidency with uplifted hands, and dismissed.

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Oliver Cowdery,

Sidney Rigdon, Presidents.

Thomas Burdick,

Warren Parrish,

Sylvester Smith, Clerks. 4

Chapter 18

1. The use of the term "organized" here means merely that the various councils and quorums were arranged by their respective presidencies in the order proper for that assembly, not that they were then organized in the sense of bringing them into existence.

2. In this testimony of the Twelve to the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, as published in the History of Joseph Smith in the Millennial Star, the names of the Apostles were not appended, but it is thought proper that they should be inserted here in the order in which they stood in the quorum. The document was undoubtedly prepared before the departure of the Twelve for the east, as it was well known that the work of the committee on selection and compilation would present the Doctrine and Covenants to a general assembly before the Twelve would return.

3. It should be observed that this "Article on Marriage" presented by W. W. Phelps, and also the one on "Government and Laws in General," presented by Oliver Cowdery, were not presented as revelations and were not published as such at the time, but were expressions of course, of the belief of the Saints at that period on those subjects. It should also be noted that these two articles were presented and acted upon in the absence of the Prophet who was at the time visiting Saints and preaching in Michigan.

4. Following is the title page and preface of the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Doctrine and Covenants of The Church of the Latter-Day Saints:

Carefully Selected

From The Revelations of God,

And Compiled By

Joseph Smith, Junior.

Oliver Cowdery,

Sidney Rigdon,

Frederick G. Williams,

(Presiding Elders of the Church,)

Proprietors.

Kirtland, Ohio,

Printed By F.G. Williams and Company.,

For the Proprietors.

1835.

Preface.

To the Members of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints,

Dear Brethren:—We deem it to be unnecessary to entertain you with a lengthy preface to the following volume, but merely to say that it contains in short the leading items of the religion which we have professed to believe.

The first part of the book will be found to contain a series of lectures as delivered before a theological class in this place, and in consequence of their embracing the important doctrine of salvation, we have arranged them in the following work.

The second part contains items or principles for the regulation of the Church as taken from the revelations which have been given since its organization, as well as from former ones.

There may be an aversion in the minds of some against receiving anything purporting to be articles of religious faith, in consequence of there being so many now extant; but if men believe a system, and profess that it was given by inspiration, certainly the more intelligibly they can present it, the better. It does not make a principle untrue to print it, neither does it make it true not to print it.

The Church, viewing this subject to be of importance, appointed, through their servants and delegates the High Council, your servants to select and compile this work. Several reasons might be adduced in favor of this move of the Council, but we only add a few words. They knew that the Church was evil spoken of in many places, its faith and belief misrepresented, and the way of truth thus subverted. By some it was represented as disbelieving the Bible; by others as being an enemy to all good order and uprightness; and by others as being injurious to the peace of all governments, civil and political.

We have, therefore, endeavored to present, though in few words, our belief, and when we say this, humbly trust, the faith and principles of this society as a body.

We do not present this little volume with any other expectation than that we are to be called to answer to every principle advanced, in that day when the secrets of all hearts will be revealed, and the reward of every man's labor be given him.

With sentiments of esteem and sincere respect, we subscribe ourselves your brethren in the bonds of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Joseph Smith, Jun.,

Oliver Cowdery,

Sidney Rigdon,

Frederick G. Williams.

Kirtland Ohio, February 17, 1835.