, Blessing, to JS and , , Geauga Co., OH, 9 Dec. 1834. Featured version copied [between 14 and 28 Sept. 1835] in Patriarchal Blessing Book 1, pp. 3–5; handwriting of ; CHL.
, Patriarchal Blessing Book 1, [Dec. 1834–ca. Spring 1868]; handwriting of , , , , , , , Robert L. Campbell, John L. Smith, Richard Bentley, and James C. Snow; 144 pages, plus 52 pages of index; Patriarchal Blessings, CHL. Includes tipped in documents, redactions, use marks, and archival marking.
Patriarchal Blessing Book 1 is a commercially produced ledger measuring 17 × 10⅞ × 1¼ inches (43 × 28 × 3 cm) with tan leather-covered boards. The volume contains ninety-eight leaves measuring 16⅜ × 10½ inches (42 × 27 cm).
The ledger’s front page contains the title “The Book of Patriarchal Blessings 1834.” Robert L. Campbell recorded in the front of the volume “A History of this Record,” which was written in 1859 by church historians and . That history explains the provenance of the ledger, which was stolen on a couple of occasions, before obtained it and delivered it to in January 1859. The ledger was re-bound at least once. In a 7 October 1835 notation in Patriarchal Blessing Book 1, indicated that it would be impossible to collect all blessings given by Joseph Smith Sr., leaving the volume incomplete.
The first patriarchal blessings recorded in the ledger are those gave to his children and their spouses on 9 December 1834 at a special feast. began serving as the primary scribe for Patriarchal Blessing Book 1 probably sometime in September 1835 when he was appointed church recorder, and he likely recorded these blessings around that same time. served as the primary scribe for Patriarchal Blessing Book 1 until April 1836 when his brother , the assistant recorder, took over scribal duties. A variety of clerks inscribed the text of loose blessings into the ledger in and after 1837; active recording of ’s blessings to individuals continued until April 1868.
On 6 December 1834, JS and the other members of the to the offices of and assistant president of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Three days later, Joseph Smith Sr. called his family together at JS’s home and served them a large feast. On that occasion, he arranged his children according to age and bestowed patriarchal, or father’s, blessings upon each of them and their spouses, including JS and .
The office of church patriarch was not clearly defined at this time. In September 1835, , who served as a clerk and recorder for patriarchal blessings, recorded the earliest history of the office of patriarch in ’s patriarchal blessing book. He stated that JS, “the first ,” was the “first patriarch of the church.” In fact, JS did give blessings prior to 9 December 1834, though he did not necessarily connect them to the office of church patriarch. Joseph Smith Sr. also gave father’s blessings prior to his formal ordination. For example, on 22 January 1833, Joseph Smith Sr. laid his hands on JS’s head and gave him a blessing. On 19 February 1834, he blessed his sons JS and . After JS ordained to the office of high counselor on 24 September 1834, Joseph Smith Sr. “proceeded to bless him [Hyrum] also in the name of the Lord.”
Some historians have suggested that JS called and ordained his father to the office of church patriarch on 18 December 1833. This supposition is based on ’s 1835 account of blessings that JS gave to his family and other church leaders in December 1833. Although contemporaneous versions of the December 1833 blessings appear in JS’s 1832–1834 journal, in September 1835 Cowdery wrote expanded versions of the blessings in the patriarchal blessing book. According to the 1835 versions, was to “be called a prince over his posterity, holding the keys of the patriarchal priesthood over the kingdom of God on earth.” He was also to “sit in the general assembly of patriarchs, even in council with the Ancient of Days when he shall sit and all the patriarchs with him and shall enjoy his right and authority under the direction of the Ancient of Days.” This information, however, was not included in the blessing as recorded in JS’s 1832–1834 journal. Furthermore, in his brief history of the office of patriarch, Cowdery wrote that Joseph Smith Sr. was ordained to the authority of “president and patriarch, under the hands of his son Joseph, myself, , and , presidents of the church.” Joseph Smith Sr.’s ordination as a president of the high priesthood occurred on 6 December 1834. The record of this meeting does not specify that the ordination to patriarch occurred at the same time, but Cowdery’s implication was that the two ordinations happened on the same occasion. Therefore, it is almost certain that Joseph Smith Sr.’s ordination to the office of patriarch occurred in December 1834.
The recording of blessings given on 9 December 1834 suggests that considered the blessings of husband and wife to be one. Rather than separating the blessings from each other, he recorded them together, signing and dating them as the clerk and recorder before moving to the next couple’s blessings. Further evidence that these husband-and-wife blessings were intertwined comes from the recording of the blessing of , JS’s younger brother. When originally blessed in December 1834, Don Carlos was not married. Upon Don Carlos’s marriage to in September 1835, gave him another blessing and blessed Agnes as well. Before recording these blessings in the patriarchal blessing book, Cowdery wrote, “The next in order is Don Carlos Smith, the youngest son of president Joseph Smith, sen. he was blessed at the time [9 December 1834], but in consequence of these blessings not being recorded until after this young man was married, it was though[t] best to lay hands upon him again, with his wife, and record both blessings together.” Since these blessings were recorded for the married couples and not simply for the individuals, the featured text includes ’s blessing with JS’s blessing. These blessings were the longest of all the blessings Joseph Smith Sr. gave to his children and their spouses on 9 December 1834. Full of scriptural allusions and references to his son’s prophetic calling and to Emma’s faithfulness under duress, the blessings refer to past events in JS’s and Emma’s lives and reflect aspirations and promises for them individually and as a couple.
did not record JS’s and ’s blessings in the patriarchal blessing book until September 1835. It is unclear whether Cowdery copied from an earlier version when recording the blessings or whether he simply worked with notes. In an 1835 letter, wrote about the recording of his own patriarchal blessing from Partridge noted that the blessing was not “delivered and written sentence by sentence” but that Smith “delivered them as fast as he naturaly speaks.” “In the mean time,” Partridge continued, “the heads were sketched down and they had to be filled out from memory.” This blessing and the others given on 9 December 1834 represent some of the few early blessings from Joseph Smith Sr. for which a record exists. According to an 1859 history of the patriarchal blessing book, “a considerable number of blessings which were given by that Patriarch, were not recorded, through the negligence of the Scribes.”
In that record, Cowdery wrote, “For although his father [Joseph Smith Sr.] laid hands upon, and blessed the fatherless, thereby securing the blessings of the Lord unto them and their posterity, he was not the first elder, because God called upon his son Joseph and ordained him to this power and delivered to him the Keys of the kingdom, that is, of authority and spiritual blessings upon the Church.” (Patriarchal Blessings, 1:8.)
George A. Smith and Wilford Woodruff, Statement, 1859, CHL.
Smith, George Albert, and Wilford Woodruff. Statement, 1859. CHL. MS 4159.
Joseph Smith, junior was born in Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont, December 23, 1805.
Joseph, my son, I lay my hands upon thy head in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to . The Lord thy God has called thee by name out of the heavens: thou hast heard his voice from on high from time to time, even in thy youth. The hand of the angel of his presence has been extended toward thee by which thou hast been lifted up and sustained; yea, the Lord has delivered thee from the hands of thine enemies and thou hast been made to rejoice in his salvation: thou hast sought to know his ways, and from thy childhood thou hast meditated much upon the great things of his law. Thou hast suffered much in thy youth, and the poverty and afflictions of thy ’s family have been a grief to thy soul. Thou hast desired to see them delivered from bondage, for thou hast lov’d them with a perfect love. Thou hast stood by thy , and like Shem, would have covered his nakedness, rather than see him exposed to shame: when the daughters of the laughed, thy heart has been moved with a just anger to avenge thy kindred. Thou hast been an obedient son: the commands of thy and the reproofs of thy , thou hast respected and obeyed— for all these things the Lord my God will bless thee. Thou hast been called, even in thy youth to the great work of the Lord: to do a work in this generation which no other man would do as thyself, in all things according to the will of the Lo[r]d. A marvelous work and a wonder has the Lord wrought by thy hand, even that which shall prepare the way for the remnants of his people to come in among the Gentiles, with their fulness, as the tribes of Israel are restored. I bless thee with the blessings of thy fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and even the blessings of thy father Joseph, the son of Jacob. Behold, he looked after his posterity in the last days, when they should be scattered and driven by the Gentiles, and wept before the Lord: he sought diligently to know from whence the son should come who should bring forth the word of the Lord, by which they might be enlightened, and brought back to the true fold, and his eyes beheld thee, my son: his heart rejoiced and his soul was satisfied, and he said, As my blessings are to extend to the utmost bounds of the everlastings hills; as my father’s blessing prevailed above the blessings of his progen[i]tors, and as my branches are to run over the wall, and my seed are to inherit the choice land whereon the of God shall stand in the last days, from among my seed, scattered with the Gentiles, shall a choice arise whose bowels shall be as a fountain of truth, whose loins shall be girded with the girdle of righteousness, whose hands shall be lifted with acceptance before the God of Jacob to turn away his anger from his annointed, whose heart shall meditate great wisdom, whose intelligence shall circumscribe and <and> comprehend the deep things of God, and whose mouth shall utter the law of the just: [p. 3]
Concerning his interest in religion at an early age, JS wrote in 1832, “At about the age of twelve years my mind became seriously imprest with regard to the all importent concerns for the wellfare of my immortal Soul which led me to searching the scriptures believeing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God.” (JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 1–2.)
Joseph Smith Sr. lost his farm in New York in 1825 and struggled to support his family thereafter. Prior to bestowing blessings on his children on 9 December 1834, he stated, “My frame is feeble because of the many trials and fateagues which I have endured in this life.” He further stated that he had often not been faithful to the Lord, and “I have not always set that example before my family that I ought: I have not been diligent in teaching them the commandments of the Lord. . . . Notwithstanding all this my folly, which has been a cause of grief to my family, the Lord has often visited me in visions and in dreams, and has brought me, with my family, through many offlictions, and I this day thank his holy name.” In his 1832 history, JS said, “I fell into transgressions and sinned in many things which brought a wound upon my soul and there were many things which transpired that cannot be writen and my Fathers family have suffered many persicutions and afflictions.” (Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, 66–68; Patriarchal Blessings, 1:1; JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 4.)
Bushman, Richard Lyman. Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984.