"Ye Shall Receive My Law"

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This is an excerpt from The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Vol. 1: June 1828-July 1831.

A JS revelation in late December 1830 and another in early January 1831 altered the geography of the new religion by directing that all church members in New York gather in Ohio. The New York branches quickly began preparations for a mass exodus. Many of the believers sacrificed substantial assets and valuable land in New York as they sought to obey the revelation in anticipation of the prophesied blessings, especially the promise to be “endowed with power from on high.” JS and Emma Smith left for Kirtland, Ohio, in late January 1831 along with Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge, two Ohio residents who had traveled to New York to meet JS a month earlier. The group reached Kirtland around the first of February, having stopped to preach and to visit believers on their way.

On 4 February, the church’s elders were promised by revelation, “By the prayer of your faith ye shall receive my law that ye may know how to govern my Church.” Accordingly, on 9 February twelve elders “united in mighty prayer” and JS dictated a revelation subsequently titled “The Laws of the Church of Christ.” Several other revelations before the end of June 1831 addressed problems challenging church members as the Ohio and New York believers gathered together in the area around Kirtland. The revelations addressed the gathering, church leadership, missionary work, communal living, and controversies surrounding expressions of spiritual exuberance. The latter was a recurring problem, and JS dictated a number of revelations that attempted to provide a template for understanding the difference between proper and improper spiritual manifestations. In May 1831, a revelation called for missionary efforts to be directed toward the Shaker community located near Kirtland. Though that attempt proved futile, the membership of the church in Ohio continued to grow through migration and conversion.

Meanwhile, Oliver Cowdery and his missionary companions attempted to teach the Shawnee and Delaware Indians in the territory immediately west of Missouri. Though they reported that their initial teaching was well received by some of the Indians, a federal Indian agent forced them to suspend their teaching and ordered them to leave tribal lands until they had a proper permit. In response, Cowdery wrote a letter to William Clark, superintendent of Indian affairs, seeking official sanction for their endeavors and dispatched Parley P. Pratt to counsel with JS on the matter. Cowdery and the others stayed in Jackson County, Missouri, where they baptized a few converts as they awaited further instructions from Ohio and an anticipated federal authorization to resume preaching among the Indians.

In addition to being commissioned to preach, Cowdery and his companions had been charged to “rear up a pillar as a witness where the Temple of God shall be built, in the glorious New-Jerusalem,” even though the precise location of the prophesied city had not yet been identified. A month after his arrival in Kirtland, JS dictated a revelation in which the voice of the Lord declared: “Gether ye out from the Eastern lands assemble ye yourselves together ye Elders of my Church ge [go] ye forth into the western countries call upon the inhabitants to repent & in as much as they do repent build up Churches unto me & with one heart & with one mind gether up your riches that you may purchase an inheritance which shall hereafter be appointed you & it shall be called the New Jerusalem a land of peace a City of refuge a place of safety for the saints of The most high God & the glory of the Lord shall be there.” The expectation of an impending establishment of the New Jerusalem in the West informed many of the actions taken and documents created during these early months in Ohio.

By late spring 1831, nearly all the New York members of the church had moved to Ohio and joined together with the growing number of Ohio converts. In early June, most of the elders of the church met at a conference in Kirtland, during which many received the “high priesthood,” and shortly thereafter, on 6 June, JS dictated a revelation calling over two dozen men to leave on proselytizing missions. Most, including JS and Sidney Rigdon, were called to Missouri in anticipation of a conference to be held there with Cowdery and his missionary companions.

(Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, Richard Lyman Bushman, and Matthew J. Grow, The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, vol. 1: July 1828–June 1831 [Salt Lake City: The Church Historian’s Press, 2013], 239–41).

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