William W. Phelps, “Rise and Progress of the Church of Christ,” April 1833

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

RISE AND PROGRESS OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.
HAVING promised in our last number, something on the rise and progress of the church of Christ, we commence with the intention of giving a relation of a few facts, as they have occurred since the church was organized in eighteen hundred and thirty. We shall be brief in this article, as we design to give from time to time the progress of this church, for the benefit of inquirers as well as the satisfaction of those who believe.
Soon after the book of Mormon came forth, containing the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the church was organized on the sixth of April, in ; soon after, a branch was established in , and the June following, another in , New York.
We shall not give, at this time, the particulars attending the organization of these branches of the church; neither shall we publish in this, the account of the persecution of those who were then called and authorized to preach the everlasting gospel. Twenty more were added to the church in and , in the month of April; and on the 28th of June, thirteen were baptized in : and of these we can say as Paul said of the five hundred who saw the Savior after he had risen from the dead: The greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. In October, (1830) the number of disciples had increased to between seventy and eighty, when four of the elders started for the west, and founded a branch of the church at , Ohio, around which many have since arisen.
These first four, having added one to their number, proceeded to the west, after having baptized one hundred and thirty disciples in less than four weeks and ordained four of them elders, and finally stopped in the western bounds of the state of , having been preserved by the hand of the Lord, and directed by his Spirit.
In the winter, (1831) the church in the state of , after a commandment had been received from the Lord, began to prepare to remove to the state of . The following is a part of the revelation referred to above: And that ye might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people without spot and blameless: wherefore for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the ; and there I will give unto you my law, and there you shall be endowed with power from on high, and from thence, whomsoever I will shall go forth unto all nations, and it shall be told them what they shall do, for I have a great work laid up in store: for Israel shall be saved, and I will lead them whithersoever I will, and no power shall stay my hand.
In the spring the greater part of the disciples who were in , removed to the . In June, the word having been preached in many places and hundreds having been baptized, a number of the elders, by the commandment of the Lord, journeyed west, proclaiming the gospel and bearing testimony of the work of the Lord in these last days; saying none other things than that which the prophets and apostles had written, and that which was taught them by the Comforter, by the prayer of faith, as the Lord had said. Many gladly received the word and were baptized, so that branches of the church were built up in many places, notwithstanding the opposition with which the elders were often met.
Indeed we have the testimony before our eyes of the faithfulness with which they discharged their duty in publishing salvation to their fellow men. Many have already come up to the land of Zion who were fruits of their labors; and by what we can learn from time to time, we are reminded of the parable of the seed, for we are certain that much of it has fallen on good ground: and we are sure, having the testimony in our hearts, that those faithful elders, although often fateagued and wearied with the length of their journey, will at the last day receive a crown of eternal life, and joy unspeakable in the everlasting kingdom of God and the Lamb, with those that they were the means of turning from darkness to light. And while reflecting on this subject, a few words from Daniel seems to be applicable: And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever. For the word of the Lord to them has thus far been verified, which says: Let them go two by two, and thus let them preach by the way in every congregation, baptizing by water, and the laying on of the hands by the water’s edge: for thus saith the Lord, I will cut my work short in righteousness: for the days cometh that I will send forth judgment unto victory.
In July they began to arrive in the western boundaries of , and shortly after, a branch of the church from , New York, came on by water, and thus the gathering commenced.
From this time, the progress of the church though gradual, has been more than many of great faith had anticipated. Many churches have been built up in different states, and some hundreds of members have come up to this land, and are striving to keep the commandments of the Lord, that they may be prepared, whether in life or in death, to meet him when he comes in his glory with all his holy angels.
[I]t may be proper to say, as we have often said before, that this church is taught by the revelations of the Lord, in all things, as they have been received from time to time from the days of Adam, until now. And it is really a matter of joy to see how fast the work of the gathering is continuing amid the discouragements, persecutions, and false statements of the world.
It has been reported that the church had settled in this country, and were living as one family. This is not so.
The faith of the church has greatly increased in these first three years of its existance, in these last days. Much is said at home and abroad about Mormonites, as the world has seen fit to call the diciples of Jesus Christ, but wherever the gospel has been truly set forth; wherever the book of Mormon has been fully explained and understood, and wherever men have listened with unprejudiced minds to learn the truth for the purpose of escaping the desolations and calamities which are already abroad in the earth, there the Lord has borne record of his own work by his Spirit.
While the gifts in many instances have been manifested beyond doubt, in healing the sick, &c. some have doubted and some have believed, as in the days of the apostles; and even from the beginning this has been the case more or less, and will be till satan is bound
We promised to correct as many falsehoods as we could, that were in circulation. In this article we have commenced, but upon looking at some of the late misrepresentations that have found their way to the public, we think the best method will be for us to continue an account of the rise and progress of the church, and publish the truth as we have done; for, of all the statements that have been published in the newspapers of the day concerning this church, not one has reached us but what in a greater or less degree was untrue; and what adds more to our astonishment, is, that these publications came from those who proffess the religion of Christ. By this however we do not intend to cast any reflections, for we remember the example of our Lord, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again.
The progress of the chu[r]ch has been great, and while we witness the spread of the work, knowing it is of God, we are willing to give the world all the light we can that will lead them to salvation. [p. [4]]

Footnotes

  1. 1

    See “Prospects of the Church,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Mar. 1833, [4].  

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

  2. 2

    Phelps devoted several pages of an earlier issue to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. (“The Book of Mormon,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Jan. 1833, [1]–[3].)  

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

  3. 3

    The earliest sources place the organizational meeting at Fayette, New York, and later JS documents support this designation.a Some later documents, including the present history, locate the meeting at Manchester. The discrepancy may originate with William W. Phelps himself, who was not involved with the church at the time of the organizational meeting and therefore appears to have misidentified the location. While preparing the Book of Commandments for publication based on Revelation Book 1, the editors (who included Phelps) added “given in Manchester, New-York,” to a 6 April 1830 revelation in chapter 22.b Records linked to Phelps or Orson Pratt (who also was not present at the church’s organizational meeting and who later spoke of Fayette as the correct location) state that the 6 April meeting took place in Manchester.c Later printings of the Doctrine and Covenants and of Pratt’s Interesting Account either omit references to Manchester as the site or revise the meeting place to Fayette.d  

    Revelation Book 1 / “A Book of Commandments and Revelations of the Lord Given to Joseph the Seer and Others by the Inspiration of God and Gift and Power of the Holy Ghost Which Beareth Re[c]ord of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost Which Is One God Infinite and Eternal World without End Amen,” 1831–1835. CHL. Also available in Robin Scott Jensen, Robert J. Woodford, and Steven C. Harper, eds., Manuscript Revelation Books, facsimile edition, first volume of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2009).

    JS History / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1838–1856. Vols. A-1–F-1 (original), A-2–E-2 (fair copy). Historian’s Office, History of the Church, 1839–ca. 1882. CHL. CR 100 102, boxes 1–7. The history for the period after 5 Aug. 1838 was composed after the death of Joseph Smith.

    A Book of Commandments, for the Government of the Church of Christ, Organized according to Law, on the 6th of April, 1830. Zion [Independence], MO: W. W. Phelps, 1833.

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

    Pratt, Orson. A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records. Edinburgh: Ballantyne and Hughes, 1840.

    Journal of Discourses. 26 vols. Liverpool: F. D. Richards, 1855–1886.

    Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God. Compiled by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams. Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams, 1835.

    Pratt, Orson. Remarkable Visions. By Orson Pratt, One of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Liverpool: R. James, 1848.

    (aRevelation Book 1, p. 28; JS History, vol. A-1, 37.bSee Book of Commandments, chap. 22 [D&C 21]; compare Revelation Book 1, p. 28.c“Prospects of the Church,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Mar. 1833, [4]; Pratt, Interesting Account, 23–24; Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 7 Oct. 1869, 13:193.dDoctrine and Covenants 46, 1835 ed. [D&C 21]; Pratt, Remarkable Visions, 12.)
  4. 4

    See 1 Corinthians 15:6.  

  5. 5

    Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer Jr., and Ziba Peterson were commanded by revelation to preach the gospel among the “Lamanites.” (Revelation, Sept. 1830–B, in Book of Commandments 30:7 [D&C 28:8]; Revelation, Sept. 1830–D, in Book of Commandments 32:1–4 [D&C 30:5–6]; Revelation, Oct. 1830–A, in Doctrine and Covenants 54, 1835 ed. [D&C 32]; see also Jennings, “First Mormon Mission to the Indians,” 288–299; Backman, “Non-Mormon View of the Birth of Mormonism in Ohio,” 306–311; and the discussion of this mission in volume 1 of the Documents series.)  

    A Book of Commandments, for the Government of the Church of Christ, Organized according to Law, on the 6th of April, 1830. Zion [Independence], MO: W. W. Phelps, 1833. Also available in Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations. Vol. 2 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).

    Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God. Compiled by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams. Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams, 1835. Also available in Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations. Vol. 2 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).

    Jennings, Warren A. “The First Mormon Mission to the Indians,” Kansas Historical Quarterly 38 (Autumn 1971): 288–299.

    Backman, Milton V., Jr. “A Non-Mormon View of the Birth of Mormonism in Ohio.” BYU Studies 12 (Spring 1972): 307–311.

  6. 6

    Frederick G. Williams. (Whitmer, Journal, Dec. 1831, [1]; Oliver Cowdery, Kaw Township, MO, to “Dearly Beloved Brethren & Sisters,” 8 Apr. 1831, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 10–12.)  

    Whitmer, Peter, Jr. Journal, Dec. 1831. CHL. MS 5873.

    JS Letterbook 1 / Smith, Joseph. “Letter Book A,” 1832–1835. Joseph Smith Collection. CHL. MS 155, box 2, fd. 1.

  7. 7

    Revelation, 2 Jan. 1831, in “Revelations,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Jan. 1833, [5]–[6] [D&C 38:31–33].  

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

  8. 8

    See Revelation, 6 June 1831, in Revelation Book 1, pp. 87–89 [D&C 52]. Twenty-eight men were called to proselytize while traveling to Missouri, though not all went.  

    Revelation Book 1 / “A Book of Commandments and Revelations of the Lord Given to Joseph the Seer and Others by the Inspiration of God and Gift and Power of the Holy Ghost Which Beareth Re[c]ord of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost Which Is One God Infinite and Eternal World without End Amen,” 1831–1835. CHL.

  9. 9

    See Matthew 13:3–9, 18–23.  

  10. 10

    See Daniel 12:3.  

  11. 11

    See Revelation, 6 June 1831, in Revelation Book 1, p. 88 [D&C 52:10–11].  

    Revelation Book 1 / “A Book of Commandments and Revelations of the Lord Given to Joseph the Seer and Others by the Inspiration of God and Gift and Power of the Holy Ghost Which Beareth Re[c]ord of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost Which Is One God Infinite and Eternal World without End Amen,” 1831–1835. CHL.

  12. 12

    Joseph Knight and his family formed the core of a group of early JS supporters in Colesville, New York. They moved as a group to Thompson, Ohio, and became one of the first congregations to enter into a communal arrangement. When difficulties arose over land ownership in Ohio, members of the Colesville branch moved to Kaw Township near Independence, Missouri. (Porter, “Colesville Branch in Kaw Township,” 281–287; see also Revelation, 10 June 1831, in Book of Commandments 56 [D&C 54].)  

    Porter, Larry C. “The Colesville Branch in Kaw Township, Jackson County, Missouri, 1831–1833.” In Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History: Missouri, edited by Arnold K. Garr and Clark V. Johnson, 281–311. Provo, UT: Department of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University, 1994.

    A Book of Commandments, for the Government of the Church of Christ, Organized according to Law, on the 6th of April, 1830. Zion [Independence], MO: W. W. Phelps, 1833.

  13. 13

    TEXT: Original has “t”, preceded by a one-character space.  

  14. 14

    Several newspapers characterized early Mormons as holding property in common.a This characterization stemmed from revelations commanding the Saints to “consecrate all [their] properties” to the bishop of the church, after which the bishop would “appoint every man a steward over his own property, or that which he has received,” according to a particular need, whereupon the “residue” or surplus would be given to the “poor & needy.”b This system of consecration was the subject of an editorial in the Star published two months after “Rise and Progress”: “It may be well to remark in this place, for the benefit of the public, that . . . the church of Christ flourishes, and the righteous are gathered; and when they are gathered, instead of becoming a common stock family, as has been said, or of making preparations to become rich in the goods of this world, as is supposed, each man receives a warranty deed securing to himself and heirs, his inheritance in fee simple forever.”c Surviving printed consecration forms confirm that the Saints briefly practiced the consecration of property in Jackson County, Missouri, though never as a joint stock or “family” arrangement.d  

    Connecticut Courant. Hartford, CT. 1764–.

    Painesville Telegraph. Painesville, OH. 1822–1986.

    Independent Messenger. Milford and Boston, MA. 1831; Boston, 1832–1839.

    A Book of Commandments, for the Government of the Church of Christ, Organized according to Law, on the 6th of April, 1830. Zion [Independence], MO: W. W. Phelps, 1833. Also available in Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations. Vol. 2 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

    Arrington, Leonard J., Feramorz Y. Fox, and Dean L. May. Building the City of God: Community and Cooperation among the Mormons. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976.

    (a See, for example, “Fanaticism,” Connecticut Courant (Hartford), 12 July 1831, [1]; Benjamin Shattuck, Letter to the editor, Painesville (OH) Telegraph, 26 Apr. 1831, [3]; and Benton Pixley, “The Mormonites,” Independent Messenger (Milford, MA), 29 Nov. 1832.b Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831, in Book of Commandments 44:26–29 [D&C 42:30–33].c “The Progress of the Church of Christ,” The Evening and the Morning Star, June 1833, 100.d See Arrington et al., Building the City of God, 23–26.)
  15. 15

    The Niagara Courier, reporting Phelps’s conversion, noted in its 30 August 1831 issue that he had “joined himself to the Mormonites.” Phelps noted in a previous issue of The Evening and the Morning Star that “Christ’s disciples were nick-named CHRISTIANS, in the meridian of time; and his disciples, are now called MORMONITES without authority or provocation, by the sectarian papers, as well as the political.” Early critics of JS referred to his followers as “Mormonites”; the term was popularized by Alexander Campbell in his February 1831 article attacking the Book of Mormon. (Editorial, Niagara Courier (Lockport, NY), 30 Aug. 1831, qtd. in Bowen, “Versatile W. W. Phelps,” 28; Notice, The Evening and the Morning Star, Aug. 1832, [7]; Alexander Campbell, “Delusions,” Millennial Harbinger, Feb. 1831, 85–96; see also Campbell, Delusions, 3, 6, 10, 13.)  

    Bowen, Walter Dean. “The Versatile W. W. Phelps—Mormon Writer, Educator and Pioneer.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1958.

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

    Millennial Harbinger. Bethany, VA. Jan. 1830–Dec. 1870.

    Campbell, Alexander. Delusions. An Analysis of the Book of Mormon; with an Examination of Its Internal and External Evidences, and a Refutation of Its Pretences to Divine Authority. Boston: Benjamin H. Greene, 1832.

  16. 16

    See Revelation 20:2; and Revelation, ca. 7 Mar. 1831, in Doctrine and Covenants 15:10, 1835 ed. [D&C 45:55].  

    Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God. Compiled by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams. Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams, 1835. Also available in Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations. Vol. 2 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).

  17. 17

    For the larger context of early reports of Mormonism in the press, see Norton, “Comparative Images,” chaps. 7–8.  

    Norton, Walter A. “Comparative Images: Mormonism and Contemporary Religions as Seen by Village Newspapermen in Western New York and Northeastern Ohio, 1820–1833.” PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1972.

  18. 18

    See 1 Peter 2:23.