A MONTH passed in Kirtland in regular routine work, with nothing of peculiar importance transpiring until August 17, 1835, when the quorums of the church met in General Assembly, the minutes of which are as follows:-
"At a General Assembly of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, according to previous notice, held on the 17th of August, 1835, to take into consideration the labors of a certain committee which had been appointed by a General Assembly of September 24, 1834, as follows:-
"'The Assembly being duly organized, and after transacting certain business of the church, proceeded to appoint a committee to arrange the items of doctrine of Jesus Christ, for the government of his church of the Latter Day Saints, which church was organized and commenced its rise on the 6th day of April, 1830. These items are to be taken from the Bible, Book of Mormon, and the revelations which have been given to said church up to this date, or shall be until such arrangement is made.
:"'Elder Samuel H. Smith, for the assembly, moved that Presiding Elders, Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams compose said committee. The nomination was seconded by Elder Hyrum Smith, whereupon it received the unanimous vote of the assembly.
"'Oliver H Cowdery,}
"Wherefore O. Cowdery and S. Rigdon, Presidents of the First Presidency appointed Thomas Burdick, Warren Parrish,
and Sylvester Smith, clerks, and proceeded to organize the whole assembly, as follows: They organized the High Council of the church at Kirtland, and Presidents W. W. Phelps and J. Whitmer proceeded and organized the High Council of the church in Missouri. Bishop Newel K. Whitney proceeded and organized his counselors of the church in Kirtland, and acting Bishop John Corrill, organized the counselors of the church in Missouri: and also Presidents Leonard Rich, Levi W. Hancock, Sylvester Smith, and Lyman Sherman, organized the Council of the Seventy; and also, Elder John Gould, acting President, organized the traveling elders; and also Ira Ames, acting President, organized the Priests; and also Erastus Babbit, acting President, organized the Teachers; and also 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, as assistant presidents of the day, to assist in preserving order, etc., in the whole assembly. Elder Levi W. Hancock appointed chorister: a hymn was then sung and the services of the day opened by the prayer of President O. Cowdery, and the solemnities of eternity rested upon the audience. Another hymn was sung: after transacting some business for the church the audience adjourned for one hour.
"Afternoon.-After a hymn was sung, 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: the other two committee, named above, were absent. According to said arrangement W. W. Phelps bore record that the book presented to the assembly, was true. President John Whitmer also arose 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 of 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 follow: 'The testimony of the witnesses to the book of the Lord's commandments, which he gave to his church through Joseph Smith, Jr., 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, and upon the islands of the sea, that the Lord has borne record to our souls, through the Holy Ghost shed forth 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.' 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 N. E. 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.
"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 traveling Elders, accepted and acknowledged 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 Babbit, 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 silverheaded 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 of the labors of the committee.
"President W. W. Phelps then read an article on Marriage, which was accepted and adopted, and ordered to be printed in said book, by a unanimous vote. 1
"President O. Cowdery then read an article on 'governments and laws in general,' which was accepted and adopted, and ordered to be printed in said book, by a unanimous vote. 2
"A hymn was then sung. President S. Rigdon returned thanks, after which the assembly was blessed by the Presidency, with uplifted hands, and dismissed.
Some comments on the Book of Doctrine and Covenants will be necessary in order to present to the reader the difference
between it and the "Book of Commandments" published by W. W. Phelps, at Independence, Missouri, in 1833.
It is true that the revelations were sent to Zion for publication, by the hands of Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer. Some work was done on them but the issue was never completed, the press and office being destroyed while the work was being done. The most of those that were printed were destroyed by the mob. Some of them were preserved by individuals, who picked up the scattered sheets, and a few copies of the unfinished work are still in existence. The Book of "Doctrine and Covenants" contains revelations that the other does not, and parts of some of the revelations found in both books read differently.
The point as to which is the more reliable wherein they differ, has been a subject of much discussion. We are not able to account for how the differences occurred, but we think the testimony is overwhelmingly in favor of the correctness of the revelations as published in the Doctrine and Covenants:-
1. The Book of Commandments was never indorsed [endorsed] by conference, quorum, council, or assembly that we have any record of. The Book of Doctrine and Covenants was indorsed [endorsed] by the General Assembly, as the minutes herein published show; first by the quorums separately, and then by the assembly as a whole, and that in every instance by unanimous vote.
2. The Book of Commandments, so far as we know, never in early days received the indorsement [endorsement] of a leading man of the church, so far as the correctness of the revelations is concerned. The Book of Doctrine and Covenants received the indorsement [endorsement] of the committee compiling it; namely, Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, F. G. Williams, and Oliver Cowdery; 3
of all the members of the Quorum
of Twelve; of Leonard Rich, of the Presidency of Seventy; of W. W. Phelps, John Whitmer, John Smith, for the High Council in Kirtland; of Levi Jackman, for the High Council in Missouri; of Bishops N. K Whitney, John Corrill; of John Gould, acting President of the Elders, of Ira Ames, acting President of the Priests; of Erastus Babbit, acting President of the Teachers; of William Burgess, acting President of the Deacons; and of the aged Thomas Gates.
To question the correctness of the revelations as published in Doctrine and Covenants is to question the honor of these men, some of whom were with the church from the beginning and knew whereof they affirmed; and among these witnesses is W. W. Phelps, the very man who published the "Book of Commandments."
3. No one in those early days ever questioned the correctness of the revelations as published in the "Doctrine and Covenants," while of the revelations in the Book of Commandments published by W. W. Phelps, and by him also published in the Evening and Morning Star, we find the following:-
"There are many typographical errors in both volumes, and especially in the last, which we shall endeavor carefully to correct as well as principle, if we discover any. It is also proper for us to say, that in the first fourteen numbers, in the revelations, are many errors, typographical, and others, occasioned by transcribing manuscript; but as we shall have access to originals, we shall endeavor to make proper corrections."-Evening and Morning Star, vol. 2, p. 384.
The first fourteen numbers of the Star were published at Independence, Missouri, and edited by W. W. Phelps. When the press was destroyed the publication was transferred to Kirtland, Ohio, and edited by Oliver Cowdery, where also the first fourteen numbers were reprinted.
In the first number of the original issue we find what is now section 17 of the Doctrine and Covenants substantially as it appears in the Book of Commandments; but in the reprint it appears substantially in harmony with the Doctrine and Covenants; and the difference is explained by Oliver Cowdery, as follows:-
"On the revelations we merely say, that we were not a little surprised to find the previous print so different from the original. We have given them a careful comparison, assisted by individuals whose known integrity and ability is uncensurable. Thus saying we cast no reflections upon those who were intrusted [entrusted] with the responsibility of publishing them in Missouri, as our own labors were included in that important service to the church, and it was our unceasing endeavor to have them correspond with the copy furnished us. We believe they are now correct. If not in every word, at least in principle. For the special good of the church we have also added a few items from other revelations.-[Editor of the
Latter Day Saints Messenger and Advocate.]"-Evening and Morning Star, vol. 1, p. 16.
This last sentence has been interpreted to mean that "a few items from other revelations" were added to this one, but he evidently intended to say he had added other items in the reprint not found in the first issue of the paper. But these other items are not incorporated with this revelation. Here then is positive evidence that the revelations in the Book of Commandments were found to be wrong when compared with originals. Later this revelation was published the third time, and this time just as it appears in the Doctrine and Covenants. (See Evening and Morning Star, volume 2, page 193.
Of this the Editor, Oliver Cowdery, states:-
"We have again inserted the articles and covenants according to our promise in a previous number, for the benefit of our brethren abroad who have not the first number of the first volume. As there were some errors which had got into them by transcribing, we have since obtained the original copy and made the necessary corrections."-Evening and Morning Star, vol. 2, p. 196.
To doubt the correctness of the revelations as they appear in the Doctrine and Covenants is to doubt the veracity of Oliver Cowdery as well as the testimony of all those who testified in the above-mentioned assembly. If we were prepared to do this we would lay down the pen, having no history to write. We feel sure then that we can historically affirm that the revelations contained in the Doctrine and Covenants are substantially in harmony with the originals.
In connection with this point we will cite the testimony of John Whitmer and then leave it with our readers.
In his "Address" when leaving the Editorial chair of the Messenger and Advocate, in March. 1836, after bearing testimony to the Book of Mormon, which we have before referred to, he adds:-
"I would do injustice to my own feelings if I did not here notice still further the work of the Lord in these last days: The revelations and commandments given to us are, in my estimation, equally true with the Book of Mormon, and equally
necessary for salvation. It is necessary to live by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God: and I know that the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Book of Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, contain the revealed will of heaven. I further know that God will continue to reveal himself to his church and people, until he has gathered his elect into his fold, and prepared them to dwell in his presence."-Messenger and Advocate, vol. 2, p. 287.
[from page 575
1. 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 and Savior Jesus Christ.
2. 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 their names: "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 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 blessings and keep you to fulfill your covenants from henceforth and forever. Amen."
3. The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages solemnized in his branch.
4. All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized
[from page 576
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.
2OF 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.
1. 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, either in making laws or administering them, for the good and safety of society.
2. We believe that no Government can exist, in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.
3. 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.
4. 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 religions opinion prompts them to infringe upon the rights an d 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, nor 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.
5. 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.
6. We believe that every man should be honored in his station: rulers and magistrates 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 be supplanted by anarchy and terror: human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations,
[from page 577
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.
7. 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 is shown to the laws, and such religious opinions do not justify sedition nor conspiracy.
8. 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 tranquillity, all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders, against good laws, to punishment.
9. 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.
10. 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 dealing 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 put them in jeopardy either life or limb, neither to inflict any physical punishment upon them,-they can only excommunicate them from their society and withdraw from their fellowship.
11. 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 exigencies, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded.
12. 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.
[from page 578
To the members of the church of the Latter Day Saints-
-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
[from page 579
as delivered before a Theological class in this place, and in consequence of their embracing the important doctrine of salvation, we have arranged them into 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, JR.
F. G. WILLIAMS.
Kirtland, Ohio, February 17, 1835.