Volume 2 Chapter 23 | BYU Studies

Volume 2 Chapter 23

 

Chapter 23

The Ministry of the Prophet in Kirtland.

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The visit of Mr. Messenger.

Friday, November 13.—Attended school during school hours: after school, returned home. Mr. Messenger, a Universalist minister, of Bainbridge, Chenango county, New York, came in to make some inquiries about Hezekiah Peck's family. We entered into conversation upon religious subjects, and went to President Rigdon's and spent the evening in conversation. We preached the Gospel to him, and bore testimony of what we had seen and heard.

He attempted to raise some objections, but the force of truth bore him down, and he was silent, although unbelieving.

I returned home and retired to rest.

Saturday, 14.—Thus came the word of the Lord unto me, saying:

Revelation to Warren Parrish.

Verily thus saith the Lord unto my servant Joseph, concerning my servant Warren Parrish. Behold his sins are forgiven him, because of his desires to do the works of righteousness. Therefore, inasmuch as he will continue to hearken unto my voice, he shall be blessed with wisdom, and with a sound mind, even above his fellows. Behold, it shall come to pass in his day, that he shall see great things show forth themselves unto my people; he shall see much of my ancient records, and shall know of hidden things, and shall be endowed with a knowledge of hidden languages; and if he desire and shall seek it at my hands, he shall be privileged with writing much of my word, as a scribe unto me for the benefit of my people; therefore this shall be his calling until I shall order it otherwise in my wisdom, and it shall be said of him in time to come, Behold Warren, the Lord's scribe for the Lord's Seer, whom He hath appointed in Israel. Therefore, if he will keep my commandments, he shall be lifted up at the last day. Even so. Amen.

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Inquiries by Erastus Holmes.

This afternoon, Erastus Holmes, of Newbury, Ohio, called on me to inquire about the establishment of the Church, and to be instructed in doctrine more perfectly.

I gave him a brief relation of my experience while in my juvenile years, say from six years old up to the time I received my first vision, which was when I was about fourteen years old; also the revelations that I received afterwards concerning the Book of Mormon, and a short account of the rise and progress of the Church up to this date.

He listened very attentively, and seemed highly gratified, and intends to unite with the Church.

On Sabbath morning, 15th, he went with me to meeting, which was held in the schoolhouse, as the plastering of the chapel was not yet finished.

President Rigdon preached on the subject of men being called to preach the Gospel, their qualifications, etc. We had a fine discourse, it was very interesting indeed. Mr. Holmes was well satisfied, and returned and dined with me. Said Holmes has been a member of the Methodist church, and was excommunicated for receiving the Elders of the Latter-day Saints into his house.

Went to meeting in the afternoon. Before partaking of the Sacrament, Isaac Hill's case was agitated again, and settled after much controversy. He was retained in the Church, by making a humble acknowledgement before the Church, and consenting to have his confession published in the Messenger and Advocate; after which the ordinance of the Lord's Supper was administered, and the meeting closed late. Returned home and spent the evening.

Monday 16.—At home. Dictated the following letter for publication in the Messenger and Advocate.

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The Case of Harvey Whitlock.

The same day, I received a letter from Harvey Whitlock, of which the following is a copy—

Harvey Whitlock's Letter.

Dear Sir.—Having a few leisure moments, I have at last concluded to do what my own judgment has long dictated would be right, but the allurements of many vices have long retarded the hand that would wield the pen to make intelligent the communication that I wish to send to you; and even now, that ambition, which is a prevailing and predominant principle among the great mass of natural men, forbids that plainness of sentiment with which I wish to write; for know assuredly, sir, to you I wish to unbosom my feelings, and unveil the secrets of my heart, as before the omniscient Judge of all the earth. Be not surprised, when I declare unto you, as the Spirit will bear record, that my faith is firm and unshaken in the things of the everlasting Gospel, as it is proclaimed by the servants of the Latter-day Saints.

Dear Brother Joseph, (if I may be allowed the expression,) when I consider the happy times, and peaceful moments, and pleasant seasons I have enjoyed with you and this people, contrasted with my now degraded state; together with the high and important station I have held before God, and the abyss into which I have fallen—it is a subject that swells my heart too big for utterance, and I am overwhelmed with feelings that language cannot express. As I desire to know the will of God concerning me, and believing it is my duty to make known unto you my real situation, I shall dispassionately proceed to give a true and untarnished relation.

I need not tell you that in former times I have preached the word, and endeavored to be instant in season, and out of season—to reprove, rebuke, exhort, and faithfully to discharge that trust reposed in me. But oh! with what grief, and lamentable sorrow, and anguish, do I have to relate that I have fallen from that princely station whereunto our God has called me. Reasons why are unnecessary, may the fact suffice, and believe me when I tell you, that I have sunk myself (since my last separation from this body) in crimes of the deepest dye. And that I may the better enable you to understand what my real sins are, I will mention (although pride forbids it) some that I am not guilty of. My hands have not been stained with innocent blood, neither have I lain couched around the cottages of my fellow men, to seize and carry off the booty; nor have I slandered my neighbor, nor borne false testimony, nor taken unlawful hire, nor oppressed the widow or fatherless, neither have I persecuted the Saints. But my hands are swift to do iniquity, and my feet are fast running in the paths of vice and folly, and my heart is quick to devise wicked imaginations; nevertheless, I am impressed with the sure thought that I am fast hastening into a world of disembodied beings, without God, and with but one hope in the world, which is to know that to err is human, but to forgive is divine.

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Much I might say in relation to myself, and the original difficulties with the Church, but I will forbear; and inasmuch as I have been charged with things that I am not guilty of, I am now more than doubly guilty, and am now willing to forgive and forget, only let me know that I am within the reach of mercy. If I am not, I have no reflections to cast, but say that I have sealed my own doom, and pronounced my own sentence. If the day is passed by with me, may I here beg leave to entreat of those who are still toiling up the rugged ascent, to make their way to the realms of endless felicity and delight, to stop not for anchors here below, follow not my example, but steer their course onward in spite of all the combined powers of earth and hell, for know that one misstep here is only retrievable by a thousand groans and tears before God.

Dear Brother Joseph, let me entreat you, on the reception of this letter, as you regard the salvation of my soul, to inquire at the hand of the Lord, in my behalf; for I this day, in the presence of God, do covenant to abide the word that may be given, for I am willing to receive any chastisement that the Lord sees I deserve. Now hear my prayer, and suffer me to break forth in the agony of my soul. O ye angels! that surround the throne of God, princes of heaven that excel in strength, ye who are clothed with transcendent brightness, plead, O plead for one of the most wretched of the sons of men. O ye heavens! whose azure arches rise immensely high, and stretch immeasurably wide—grand amphitheatre of nature, throne of the Eternal God, bow to hear the prayer of a poor, wretched, bewildered, way-wanderer to eternity. O! Thou great omnipotent and omnipresent Jehovah! Thou who sittest upon the throne, before whom all things are present; Thou maker, moulder, and fashioner of all things visible and invisible, breathe, O breathe into the ears of Thy servant the Prophet, words suitably adapted to my case and situation. Speak once more, make known Thy will concerning me; which favors I ask in the name of the Son of God. Amen.

Yours respectfully,

Harvey Whitlock.

To Joseph Smith.

N.B.—I hope you will not let any business prevent you from answering this letter in haste.

I answered as follows:

Kirtland, November 16, 1835.

Brother Harvey Whitlock—I have received your letter of the 28th of September, 1835, and I have read it twice, and it gave me sensations that are better imagined than described, let it suffice that I say that the very flood gates of my heart were broken up—I could not refrain from weeping. I thank God that it has entered into your heart to try to return to the Lord, and to this people, if it so be that He will have mercy upon you. I have inquired of the Lord concerning your case; these words came to me.

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Revelation to Harvey Whitlock.

"Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you—Let him who was my servant Harvey, return unto me, and unto the bosom of my Church, and forsake all the sins wherewith he has offended against me, and pursue from henceforth a virtuous and upright life, and remain under the direction of those whom I have appointed to be pillars and heads of my Church. And behold, saith the Lord your God, his sins shall be blotted out from under heaven, and shall be forgotten from among men, and shall not come up in mine ears, nor be recorded as a memorial against him, but I will lift him up, as out of deep mire, and he shall be exalted upon the high places, and shall be counted worthy to stand among princes, and shall yet be made a polished shaft in my quiver for bringing down the strongholds of wickedness among those who set themselves up on high, that they may take counsel against me, and against my anointed ones in the last days. Therefore, let him prepare himself speedily and come unto you, even to Kirtland. And inasmuch as he shall hearken unto all your counsel from henceforth, he shall be restored unto his former state, and shall be saved unto the uttermost, even as the Lord your God liveth. Amen."

Thus you see, my dear brother, the willingness of our heavenly Father to forgive sins, and restore to favor all those who are willing to humble themselves before Him, and confess their sins, and forsake them, and return to Him with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy, to serve Him to the end.

Marvel not that the Lord has condescended to speak from the heavens, and give you instructions whereby you may learn your duty. He has heard your prayers and witnessed your humility, and holds forth the hand of paternal affection for your return; the angels rejoice over you, while the Saints are willing to receive you again into fellowship.

I hope, on the receipt of this, you will lose no time in coming to Kirtland, for if you get here in season, you will have the privilege of attending the school of the Prophets, which has already commenced, and also receive instructions in doctrine and principle, from those whom God has appointed, whereby you may be qualified to go forth, and declare the true doctrines of the Kingdom, according to the mind and will of God; and when you come to Kirtland, it will be explained to you why God has condescended to give you a revelation according to your request.

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Please give my respects to your family, and be assured I am yours in the bonds of the new and everlasting covenant,

Joseph Smith, Jun.

Council Concerning Brethren Going to Missouri.

In the course of the day, Father Beaman, Elder Strong, and others, called to counsel with me. In the evening a council was called at my house to counsel with Alva Beaman on the subject of his moving to Missouri. I had previously told him that the Lord had said that he had better go to Missouri next spring; however, he wished a council called. The council met, and President David Whitmer arose and said, the Spirit manifested to him that it was Brother Beaman's duty to go. Others bore the same testimony.

The Word of the Lord as to Mr. Holmes' Baptism.

The same night, I received the word of the Lord on Mr. Holmes' case. He had desired that I would inquire at the hand of the Lord, whether it was his duty to be baptized here, or wait until he returned home. The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Mr. Holmes had better not be baptized here; that he had better not return by water; also that there were three men seeking his destruction; he must beware of his enemies.

Tuesday 17.—Exhibited the alphabet of the ancient records, to Mr. Holmes, and some others. Went with him to Frederick G. Williams', to see the mummies. We then took the parting hand, and he started for home, being strong in the faith of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and determined to obey its requirements. I returned home and spent the day in dictating and comparing letters. A fine, pleasant day, although cool.

This evening, at early candle light, I preached at the schoolhouse.

Wednesday, 18.—At home in the forenoon, until about eleven o'clock. I then went to Preserved Harris', to preach his father's funeral sermon, by the request of his family. I preached on the subject of the resurrection. The congregation were very attentive. My wife, my mother, and my scribe, accompanied me to the funeral. Pleasant outing, but cool and cloudy on our return.

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Minutes of a Council Meeting at New Portage.

This day a Council of High Priests and Elders of the Church of Latter-day Saints, was held at New Portage, to hear the complaint of Sister Clarissa Matthews, against Elder Reuben Keeler, for prosecuting in a court of law, and taking her property on execution, (notwithstanding he had received his pay, or the most part of it) and refusing to allow her for what she had paid to him; also forfeiting his word, as he had frequently stated to her that he would not take her property in such a manner; and also for oppressing her family in an unchristian-like manner.

Elder Keeler pleaded not guilty, but the Council decided that he was guilty of the first and last charges; and gave judgment accordingly; with which Elder Keeler refused to comply, and said he would appeal to the High Council at Kirtland.

Ambrose Palmer, Presiding Elder.

Joseph B. Bosworth, Clerk.

Debate on the Question of Miracles.

In the evening, Bishop Whitney, his wife, father, mother, and sister-in-law, came and invited me and my wife to go with them and visit Father Smith and family. My wife was unwell, and could not go, but my scribe and I went.

When we arrived, some of the young Elders were about engaging in a debate on the subject of miracles. The question—"Was it, or was it not, the design of Christ to establish His Gospel by miracles?" After an interesting debate of three hours or more, during which time much talent was displayed, it was decided, by the President of the debate, in the negative, which was a righteous decision.

I discovered in this debate, much warmth displayed, too much zeal for mastery, too much of that enthusiasm that characterizes a lawyer at the bar, who is determined to defend his cause, right or wrong. I therefore availed myself of this favorable opportunity to drop a few words upon this subject, by way of advice, that they might improve their minds and cultivate their powers of intellect in a proper manner, that they might not incur the displeasure of heaven; that they should handle sacred things very sacredly, and with due deference to the opinions of others, and with an eye single to the glory of God.

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Translating the Egyptian Records.

Thursday, 19.—Went, in company with Dr. Williams and my scribe, to see how the workmen prospered in finishing the House of the Lord. The masons in the inside had commenced putting on the finishing coat of plaster. On my return, I met Lloyd and Lorenzo Lewis, and conversed with them upon the subject of their being disaffected. I found that they were not so, as touching the faith of the Church, but were displeased with some of the members. I returned home and spent the day in translating the Egyptian records. A warm and pleasant day.

Friday, 20.—At home in the morning. Weather warm and rainy. We spent the day in translating, and made rapid progress.

Return of Oliver Cowdery from New York.

In the evening, President Cowdery returned from New York, bringing with him a quantity of Hebrew books, for the benefit of the school. He presented me with a Hebrew Bible, Lexicon, and Grammar, also a Greek Lexicon, and Webster's English Dictionary. President Cowdery had a prosperous journey, according to the prayers of the Saints in Kirtland.

Arrangement for Studying Hebrew.

Saturday, 21.—Spent the day at home, in examining my books, and studying the Hebrew alphabet.

At evening, met with our Hebrew class, to make some arrangements about a teacher. It was decided, by the voice of the school, to send to New York, for a Jew to teach us the language, if we could get released from the engagements we had made with Dr. Piexotto to teach us, having ascertained that he was not qualified to give us the knowledge we wished to acquire of the Hebrew.

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Sunday, 22.—Went to meeting at the usual hour. Simeon Carter preached from the 7th of Matthew. President Rigdon's brother-in-law and other relatives were at meeting.

In the afternoon the meeting was held in the schoolhouse.

Case of Andrew Jackson Squires.

In the evening, a Council of High Priests and Elders was held in the presence of the members of the Church, when Mr. Andrew Jackson Squires, who had been an ordained Elder in the Church, and for a time had preached the gospel successfully, but after a while sent his license to President Smith, in a letter, came before the Council, and confessed that he had been in temptation, and fallen into error, so much as to join the Methodists; yet said he had no faith in their doctrine. He desired to return to the fellowship of the Church, asked forgiveness of the brethren, and restoration of his license.

I spoke of the impropriety of turning away from the truth, and going after a people so destitute of the spirit of righteousness as the Methodists.

President Rigdon showed the folly of fellowshiping any doctrine or spirit aside from that of Christ.

Mr. Squires arose and said he felt firm in the determination of doing the will of God in all things, or as far as him lies the power; was sorry for his faults, and, by the grace of God, would forsake them in future.

Council and Church voted to restore him to fellowship, and the office of Elder also, and that the clerk give him a license.

Monday, 23.—Several brethren called to converse with me, and see the records. Received a letter from Jared Carter. Spent the day in conversation, and in studying the Hebrew. A stormy day.

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Tuesday, 24.—At home. Spent the forenoon instructing those that called to inquire concerning the things of God in the last days.

In the afternoon we translated some of the Egyptian records.

The Marriage of Newel Knight.

I had an invitation to attend a wedding at Brother Hyrum Smith's in the evening; also to solemnize the matrimonial ceremony between Newel Knight and Lydia Goldthwaite. My wife accompanied me. On our arrival a considerable company had collected. The bridegroom and bride came in, and took their seats, which gave me to understand that they were ready. After prayers, I requested them to rise, and join hands. I then remarked that marriage was an institution of heaven, instituted in the garden of Eden; that it was necessary it should be solemnized by the authority of the everlasting Priesthood. The ceremony was original with me, and in substance as follows—You covenant to be each other's companions through life, and discharge the duties of husband and wife in every respect; to which they assented. I then pronounced them husband and wife in the name of God, and also pronounced upon them the blessings that the Lord conferred upon Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, that is, to multiply and replenish the earth, with the addition of long life and prosperity. Dismissed them and returned home. Freezing cold, some snow on the ground.

Translating the Egyptian Records.

Wednesday, 25.—Spent the day in translating. Harvey Redfield and Jesse Hithcock arrived from Missouri. The latter says that he has no doubt but a dose of poison was administered to him, in a bowl of milk, but God delivered him.

Thursday, 26.—Spent the day in translating Egyptian characters from the papyrus, though severely afflicted with a cold. Robert Rathbone and George Morey arrived from Zion.

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Friday, 27.—Much afflicted with my cold, yet I am determined to overcome in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Spent the day at home, reading Hebrew. Brother Parrish, my scribe, being afflicted with a cold, asked me to lay my hands on him in the name of the Lord. I did so, and in return I asked him to lay his hands on me. We were both relieved.

The case of Josiah Clark.

Saturday, 28—Spent the morning in comparing our Journal. Elder Josiah Clark, from the state of Kentucky, called on me. Considerably recovered from my cold. Cold and stormy, snow falling, and winter seems fast to be closing in, all nature shrinks before the chilling blasts of rigid winter. Elder Clark, above mentioned, whose residence is about three miles from Cincinnati, was bitten by a mad dog some three or four years since; has doctored much, and received some benefit, but is much afflicted notwithstanding He came here that he might be benefitted by the prayers of the Church. Accordingly we prayed for him and laid hands on him in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and anointed him with oil, and rebuked his afflictions, praying our heavenly Father to hear and answer our prayers, according to our faith. Cold and snowy.

Preaching of Morley and Partridge.

Sunday, 29.—Went to meeting at the usual hour. Elder Morley preached; and in the afternoon, Bishop Partridge. These discourses were well adapted to the times in which we live, and the circumstances under which we are placed. Their words were words of wisdom, like apples of gold in pictures of silver, spoken in the simple accents of a child, yet sublime as the voice of an angel. The Saints appeared to be much pleased with the beautiful discourses of these two fathers in Israel. After these services closed, three of the Zion brethren came forward and received their blessings, and Solon Foster was ordained an Elder. The Lord's Supper was administered. Spent the evening at home. Snow fell about one foot deep. Very cold.

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Monday, 30.—The snow continues to fall—an uncommon storm for this country, and this season of the year. Spent the day in reviewing and copying the letter I dictated on the 16th, concerning the gathering, for the Messenger and Advocate. Henry Capron, an old acquaintance from Manchester, New York, called on me. I showed him the Egyptian records.