Covenant of Oliver Cowdery and Others, 17 October 1830
, , , and , Covenant, , Ontario Co., NY, 17 Oct. 1830; signed by Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, and Peter Whitmer Jr., attested by JS and . Featured version in Ezra Booth, Letter, Nelson Township, OH, to Ira Eddy, [likely Nelson Township, OH], 29 Nov. 1831, in “Mormonism—Nos. VIII–IX,” Ohio Star (Ravenna), 8 Dec. 1831, . The transcription was made from a digital image of the Ohio Star which is currently part of a bound volume held at the Library of Congress.
In September and October 1830, a series of revelations directed , , , and to serve a mission “among the ”—understood by them to be the American Indians. In the following signed statement, Cowdery committed himself to follow the he had received, and Whitmer, Pratt, and Peterson promised to assist Cowdery. This is the earliest extant document following the establishment of the in which individuals covenanted in writing to obey commandments of God.
The original revelation calling to preach among the Indians stated that the site of the prophesied gathering was “not Revealed & no man knoweth where the City shall be built,” but that it would be “among the Lamanites” and that the specific location would be “given hereafter.” The signed indicates that Cowdery, , , and were to not only preach the gospel among the Lamanites but also “rear up a pillar as a witness where the Temple of God shall be built” in the . Jesus Christ explained in the Book of Mormon that the New Jerusalem was to be a city for “my people that they may be gathered in, which are scattered upon all the face of the land.” The Book of Mormon also prophesied that the New Jerusalem “should be built up upon this land,” referring to the Americas. Although revelations in September 1830 referred to the place of gathering, this document contains the first recorded use of the term New Jerusalem following the establishment of the church. Cowdery and his companions reportedly preached to others about the founding of the New Jerusalem during their travels through and taught that those who believed and were would need to “stand in readiness to go to some unknown region where God will provide a place of refuge for his people.”
The text featured here was included in a letter from to Ira Eddy. Eddy and Booth were two of the earliest Methodist preachers in and counties in . Booth embraced JS’s message in May 1831, but he became disillusioned and left the church a few months later. Soon after, he began writing his grievances, accompanied by this and other documents, in a series of letters to Eddy that were later printed in the Ravenna newspaper, the Ohio Star. The text of the covenant appeared in the 8 December 1831 edition of the Star, accompanying the eighth letter, and was later published in the 20 December 1831 issue of the Painesville Telegraph. Even though Booth published this document in an effort to discredit the church, the fact that he accurately quoted other Mormon documents gives this text credibility as a legitimate copy of a nonextant document.
Lucy Mack Smith described a similar type of document created in 1828 when Martin Harris took what JS later called the “Book of Lehi” to show his wife. Smith explained that Harris “bound himself in a written covenant of the most solemn nature, that he would strictly comply with the injunctions which he had received.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 127.)
“The Book of Mormon,” Painesville (OH) Telegraph, 7 Dec. 1830, . The Palmyra, New York, Reflector reported that Cowdery and his companions “had been directed to locate the site for the New Jerusalem, which they should know, the moment they should ‘step their feet’ upon it.” (“Book of Mormon,” Reflector [Palmyra, NY], 14 Feb. 1831, 102, italics in original.)
History of Portage County, Ohio, 533; Pioneer and General History of Geauga County, Ohio, 295. The relationship between the two was close enough that in 1829 Eddy named his newborn son Ezra Booth Eddy. (Eddy, Eddy Family in America, 408–409.)
History of Portage County, Ohio. Containing a History of the County, Its Townships, Towns, Villages, Schools, Churches, Industries, Etc. . . . Chicago: Warner, Beers, 1885.
Pioneer and General History of Geauga County, with Sketches of Some of the Pioneers and Prominent Men. [Burton, OH]: Historical Society of Geauga County, 1880.
Eddy, Ruth Story Devereux, comp. The Eddy Family in America. Boston: T. O. Metcalf, 1930.
Hayden, Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, 250–252. Booth’s disaffection from the Church of Christ followed a disappointing journey he made to Missouri shortly after his conversion, “for the purpose of exploring the promised land—laying the foundation of the City of Zion, and placing the corner-stone of the Temple of God.” He later wrote, “On our arrival in the western part of the State of Missouri, the place of our destination, we discovered that prophecy and visions had failed, or rather had proved to be false.” Booth further explained to Eddy, “A journey of 1000 miles to the west, has taught me far more abundantly, than I should probably have learned from any other source. It has taught me quite beyond my former knowledge, the imbecility of human nature, and especially my own weakness. It has unfolded in its proper character, a delusion to which I had fallen a victim, and taught me the humiliating truth—that I was exerting the powers both of my mind and body, and sacrificing my time and property to build up a system of delusion, almost unparalleled in the annals of the world.” (Ezra Booth, Nelson, OH, to Ira Eddy, 12 Sept. 1831, in Ohio Star [Ravenna], 13 Oct. 1831, , italics in original.)
Hayden, Amos Sutton. Early History of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, Ohio; with Biographical Sketches of the Principal Agents in Their Religious Movement. Cincinnati: Chase and Hall, 1875.
As published in the Ohio Star,Booth’s letter paired the missionary covenant with an accurate copy of the September 1830 revelation that called Cowdery on the mission to the Lamanites. Booth also accurately referenced portions of other revelations, such as Revelation, July 1830–C [D&C 25], and Revelation, 1 August 1831 [D&C 58]. (Ezra Booth, “Mormonism—No. II,” Ohio Star [Ravenna], 20 Oct. 1831, ; Ezra Booth, “Mormonism—No. V,” Ohio Star, 10 Nov. 1831, .)
Ohio Star. Ravenna. 1830–1854.
, Oct. 17, 1830.
I, , being commanded of the Lord God, to go forth unto the , to proclaim glad tidings of great joy unto them, by presenting unto them the fulness of the Gospel, of the only begotten son of God; and also, to rear up a pillar as a witness where the Temple of God shall be built, in the glorious ; and having certain brothers with me, who are called of God to assist me, whose names are , and , do therefore most solemnly covenant before God, that I will walk humbly before him, and do this business, and this glorious work according as he shall direct me by the Holy Ghost; ever praying for mine and their prosperity, and deliverance from bonds, and from imprisonments, and whatsoever may befal us, with all patience and faith.— Amen.
We, the undersigned, being called and commanded of the Lord God, to accompany our Brother , to go to the Lamanites, and to assist in the above mentioned glorious work and business. We do, therefore, most solemnly covenant before God, that we will assist him faithfully in this thing, by giving heed unto all his words and advice, which is, or shall be given him by the spirit of truth, ever praying with all prayer and supplication, for our and his prosperity, and our deliverance from bonds, and imprisonments, and whatsoever may come upon us, with all patience and faith.—Amen.
An Ohio correspondent for the PalmyraReflector claimed that upon the missionaries’ arrival in the West, “Indians followed Cowdery daily, and finally saw him enter the promised land, where he placed a pole in the ground, with a light on its top, to designate the site of the New Jerusalem.” It is uncertain how the reporter would have obtained this knowledge, and none of the participants related such an event. (“Book of Mormon,” Reflector [Palmyra, NY], 14 Feb. 1831, 102, italics in original.)
The first two signatories, JS and David Whitmer, were apparently witnesses to the two covenants. Although the newspaper listed their signatures together with those of the other three, who signed the covenant as additional missionaries to the Lamanites, the separation between the two groups was probably clear in the original document.