Revelation, Bank of the [at McIlwaine’s Bend], MO, 12 Aug. 1831. Featured version copied [ca. Sept. 1831] in Revelation Book 1, pp. 101–103; handwriting of ; CHL. Includes redactions. For more complete source information, see the source note for Revelation Book 1.
Having overseen the dedication of the land for the establishment of , JS departed , Jackson County, Missouri, for on 9 August 1831 in the company of ten . On 12 August, at a location on the that a later JS history calls “McIlwaine’s Bend,” JS dictated a revelation explaining the many dangers that existed on the river and instructing most of those returning to Ohio to leave the water and travel by land. The content of the revelation reflected experiences JS and his group had gone through as they made their way to , Missouri. Although nothing eventful occurred in the first day or two of their journey, discord apparently arose within the group when chastised some of the elders for inappropriate conduct and warned them that misfortune would befall them if they did not repent. Soon after, a sawyer—a submerged tree anchored to the bottom of the river—nearly capsized the canoe carrying JS and . Unnerved by this encounter, JS instructed the group to exit the water and camp for the night. According to a later JS history, then experienced “an open vision, by daylight,” of “the Destroyer, in his most horrible power, rid[ing] upon the face of the waters.” The contention within the group was resolved later that night, and JS dictated the revelation the next morning.
The revelation stated that God had permitted the elders to travel via the to , as instructed in an 8 August revelation, so that they could testify of the dangers on the water and warn church members not to travel to on the river. At the time, the Missouri River was considered navigable only approximately three months out of the year. An 1837 Missouri gazetteer referred to the “mad water” of the river and noted that “freights and ensurance and pilot-wages” were higher for Missouri River navigation than for other waterways because of “the dangers of the ever-varying channel of the river.” Other publications noted the frequent occurrence of sawyers, which were “the most formidable dangers to navigation of the river” and caused 70 percent of all steamboat wrecks. “These snags were the terror of the pilot,” according to an early history of Missouri River navigation, and were perhaps one reason for ’s designation of the river in the revelation’s heading as “the River Distruction.” After speaking to some of the elders who journeyed to Missouri, relayed that the river “is always rily and bubly and looks mad as if it had been cursed.” The revelation emphasized again the need for the elders to proclaim the gospel as they journeyed home and gave specific instructions to JS, , and to forego traveling on the river. Thereafter, JS, Rigdon, and Cowdery traveled by land to St. Louis and then took a stagecoach to , Ohio, by way of .
The original manuscript of this revelation is not extant. Presumably, either or , two of JS’s scribes, wrote the revelation as JS dictated it. copied the revelation into Revelation Book 1, probably shortly after JS, Rigdon, and Cowdery returned to , Ohio. also made a copy in a book of revelations he was keeping, probably in this same time period.
JS History, vol. A-1, 142. Reynolds Cahoon noted in his journal that the group traveled for “about 100 mile[s]” towards St. Louis before leaving the river, indicating that JS dictated the revelation approximately one hundred miles downstream from Independence. In Sidney Gilbert’s copy of the revelation, he gave the location as “on the Banks of the Missouri about 40 miles above Chairton [Chariton].” McIlwaine’s Bend was, therefore, probably at a site five miles west of Miami, Saline County, Missouri, and may have been what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1878 called Teteseau Bend, “an abrupt four-mile southward U-shaped bend.” This bend no longer exists because the river’s channel has changed. William Clark may have referred to this same bend when he wrote in his journal that his expedition with Meriwether Lewis was passing through “the worst part” of the Missouri River in June 1804—a time when they were traveling just west of the area where Miami was later established. (Cahoon, Diary, 9 Aug. 1831; Gilbert, Notebook, ; Berrett, Sacred Places, 4:138–139; Moulton and Dunlay, Journals of Lewis and Clark, 2:301–302.)
Cahoon, Reynolds. Diaries, 1831–1832. CHL. MS 1115.
Gilbert, Algernon Sidney. Notebook of Revelations, 1831–ca. 1833. Revelations Collection, 1831–ca. 1844, 1847, 1861, ca. 1876. CHL. MS 4583, box 1, fd. 2.
Berrett, LaMar C., ed. Sacred Places: A Comprehensive Guide to Early LDS Historical Sites. 6 vols. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999–2007.
JS History, vol. A-1, 142. Neither Ezra Booth nor Reynolds Cahoon—two members of the group who wrote contemporary accounts of the journey—mentioned Phelps’s vision. Since Phelps helped prepare this section of JS’s history, the information about the vision likely came directly from him. (See Ezra Booth, “Mormonism—No. VII,” Ohio Star [Ravenna], 24 Nov. 1831, ; Cahoon, Diary, 9 Aug. 1831; see also Jessee, “Writing of Joseph Smith’s History,” 441.)
Ohio Star. Ravenna. 1830–1854.
Cahoon, Reynolds. Diaries, 1831–1832. CHL. MS 1115.
Wetmore, Gazetteer of the State of Missouri, 33–35.
Wetmore, Alphonso, comp. Gazetteer of the State of Missouri. With a Map of the State, from the Office of the Surveyor-General, Including the Latest Additions and Surveys . . . . St. Louis: C. Keemle, 1837.
Chittenden, History of Early Steamboat Navigation, 1:80–81.
Chittenden, Hiram Martin. History of Early Steamboat Navigation on the Missouri River: Life and Adventures of Joseph La Barge, Pioneer Navigator and Indian Trader. . . . 2 vols. New York: Francis P. Harper, 1903.
Behooveth me that ye should part wherefore let them my servent & take their former company & let them take their Journey in haste that they may fill their mission & through faith they shall overcome & in as much as they are faithfull they shall be preserved & I the Lord will be with them & let the residue take that which is needfull for clothing let my servent take that which is not needfull with them him as you shall agree & now behold for your good I give unto you a concerning these things & I the Lord will reason with you as with men in days of old Behold I the Lord in the begining belessed the waters but in the last days by the mouth of my servent John I cursed the waters wherefore the days will come that no flesh shall be safe upon the waters & it shall be said in days to come that none is able to go up to the upon the waters but he that is upright in heart & as I the Lord in the begining cursed the land even so in the last days have I blessed it in its time for the use of my saints that they may partake the fatness thereof & now I give unto you a commandment & what I say unto one I say unto all that you shall forewarn your brethren concerning these waters that they come not in Journeying on upon them lest their faith fail & they are caught in her snares I the Lord hath decreed & the destroyer rideth upon the face thereof & I revoke not the decree I the Lord was angery with you yesterday but to day mine anger is turned away wherefore let those whom I have spoken that should take their Journey in haste again I say unto you let them take their Journey in haste & it mattereth not unto me after a little if it so be that they fill their mission whether they go by water or by land let this be as it is made known unto them according to their Judgement & now concerning my servents Joseph & let them come not again upon the waters save it be upon the canal while Journeying unto their homes or in other words they shall not come upon upon the waters <to Journey> save upon the canal Behold I the Lord have appointed a way for the Journeying of my saints [p. 102]
A May 1831 revelation stated that “when a man reasoneth he under[stand]eth of man because he reasoneth as a man even so will I the Lord reason with you that you may understand.” (Revelation, 9 May 1831 [D&C 50:12].)
According to the creation account in Genesis, when God separated the land from the water, he called both good. The Bible does not contain an explicit reference to John (presumably John the Revelator) cursing the waters, but John’s vision of the last days included a burning mountain and a great star falling into the waters, causing death and destruction and making the waters “bitter.” (Genesis 1:9–10; Revelation 8:8–11.)
Shortly before leaving to Missouri, JS added “and what I say unto one I say unto all men” to Matthew 24:42 during his revision of the Bible. (New Testament Revision 1, p. 57 [Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 24:42]; see also Faulring et al., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 66.)
New Testament Revision 1 / “A Translation of the New Testament Translated by the Power of God,” 1831. CCLA. Also available in Scott H. Faulring, Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004), 153–228.
Faulring, Scott H., Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds. Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004.
In the context of this revelation, “destroyer” apparently refers to death. This usage, which appears in the biblical account of the Passover, was present in discourse of Protestant America in the 1830s, in which the “destroyer” was often equated with death or the “Angel of Death.” (See Exodus 12:23; Robinson, Calmet’s Dictionary of the Holy Bible, 61; and “Cleavland Tuesday June 5th,” Scioto Gazette [Chillicothe, OH], 20 June 1832, .)
Robinson, Edward. Calmet’s Dictionary of the Holy Bible, as Published by the Late Mr. Charles Taylor. . . . Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1832.
When JS traveled to Missouri, he took the Ohio and Erie Canal as far as Newark, Ohio, and then traveled west to Dayton, where he took the Miami Canal south to Cincinnati. Although the Ohio and Erie Canal, which was intended to connect Lake Erie with the Ohio River, extended as far south as Chillicothe, Ohio. But the stretch from Chillicothe to the Ohio River at Portsmouth was still under construction, making it necessary to cross by land to Dayton to reach the Miami Canal. On their return journey to Kirtland, JS, Rigdon, and Cowdery did not use the canal system. (William W. Phelps, “Extract of a Letter from the Late Editor,” Ontario Phoenix [Canandaigua, NY], 7 Sept. 1831, ; 1833 Ohio Gazetteer, xxviii–xxix; Woods, Ohio’s Grand Canal, 18–19; see also JS History, vol. A-1, 146.)
Ontario Phoenix. Canandaigua, NY. 1828–1832.
The 1833 Ohio Gazetteer, or, Topographical Dictionary: Being a Continuation of the Work Originally Compiled by the Late John Kilbourn. Revised by a citizen of Columbus. 11th ed. Columbus, OH: Scott and Wright, 1833. Reprint, Knightstown, IN: Bookmark, 1978.