JS dictated a revelation on 26 April 1838 stating that the city of , Missouri, “should be built up” by the gathering of the Saints and that they should build a there. Since the creation of in 1836, in and elsewhere had been gathering in Far West, the county’s principal Mormon community, and in surrounding settlements. In early 1837, about a year before JS’s arrival, members and drew a plan for a temple and appointed a committee to superintend construction of the temple in Far West’s central lot. In April 1837, the questioned the Zion presidency’s authority to appoint such a committee and even to select the site for the city. This problem was somewhat resolved, and several hundred Saints assembled to begin excavating for the temple foundation in July. When JS and visited Far West in November, they participated in a council meeting wherein the members resolved to expand the size of the existing city plat. This resolution suggests that JS and the other council members approved the location of the city and its central lot. Moreover, the council members apparently authorized the plan to build a temple and approved the location, but it was decided to suspend any construction work “till the Lord shall reveal it to be his will to be commenced.”
After JS moved to in March 1838 and helped root dissension out of the church, he and the high council turned their attention to developing as the church’s gathering center. On 21 April, they passed several resolutions to build the community, including improving the used for community meetings, building one or more , and reestablishing the church press. By this time, thousands of Saints were living in Far West and its vicinity and hundreds more were expected from within the next few months. The gathering of the Saints, especially with heavy migration from , would eventually require settlement beyond the bounds of Far West, and church leaders had already begun efforts to locate other sites for settlement.
JS’s revelation of 26 April 1838 spoke to these recent developments. The revelation was addressed to JS, other church leaders, and all other members of the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”—which the revelation specified was the new official name of the church. The revelation enjoined the church’s leaders and members to continue gathering to , to sanctify the city through living, and to build the . The Saints were instructed to begin work on the temple on 4 July and to build it according to a pattern that would be revealed to the First Presidency. When church members resided in earlier in the 1830s, no revelations had instructed the Saints to establish a city of gathering or to construct a temple there. The plan for the Saints in up until this time had been one of temporary settlement while waiting for a return to the “centre place” of in . The 26 April 1838 revelation marked a change in Mormon plans in Missouri. Though the Latter-day Saints were not in Zion’s “centre place” at and were not building “the ,” they were commanded to build up a city of Zion with a temple. The revelation concluded with a commandment to the Saints to build up Far West and to establish other communities “in the regions round about” as directed by their prophet.
The revelation was probably dictated orally and written down by a scribe, as was typical with JS’s revelations. copied the revelation into JS’s “Scriptory Book,” apparently around the time JS dictated the revelation. The Latter-day Saints followed the direction of the revelation by laying the cornerstones of the on 4 July 1838, whereupon gave a speech in which he vigorously asserted the rights of the Latter-day Saints to settle wherever they pleased.
“Revelations,” Ensign of Liberty, Aug. 1849, 98–99; see also William E. McLellin, Independence, MO, to Joseph Smith III, [Plano, IL], July 1872, typescript, Letters and Documents Copied from Originals in the Office of the Church Historian, Reorganized Church, CHL; and Pratt, Autobiography, 65.
Ensign of Liberty. Kirtland, OH. Mar. 1847–Aug. 1849.
McLellin, William E. Letter, Independence, MO, to Joseph Smith III, [Plano, IL], July 1872. Letters and Documents Copied from Originals in the Office of the Church Historian, Reorganized Church, no date. Typescript. CHL. MS 9090. Original at CCLA.
Pratt, Parley P. The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, One of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Embracing His Life, Ministry and Travels, with Extracts, in Prose and Verse, from His Miscellaneous Writings. Edited by Parley P. Pratt Jr. New York: Russell Brothers, 1874.
in all the world, For thus shall my Church be called in the Last days even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Verrily I say unto you all; arise and shine forth forth that thy light may be a standard for the nations and that thy gathering to-gether upon the land of and upon her may be for a defence and for a reffuge from the storm and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole Earth, Let the City , be a holy and land unto me, and <it shall> be called <most> holy for the ground upon which thou standest is holy Therefore I command you to build an unto me for the togethering of my Saints that they may worship me, and let there be a begining of this work; and a foundation and a preparatory work, this following Summer; and let the begining be made on the 4th day of July next; and from that time forth let my people labour diligently to build an , unto my name, and in one year from this day, let them recommence laying the foundation of my ; thus let them from that time forth laibour diligently untill it shall be finished, from the Corner Stone thereof unto the top thereof, untill there shall not any thing remain that is not finished.
Verrily I say unto you let not my servant Joseph neither my Servant , neither my Servant , get in debt any more for the building of an unto my name. But let my be built unto my name according to the pattern which I will shew unto them, and if my people build it not according to the pattern which I Shall shew unto their , I will not accept it at their hands, But if my people do build it according to the pattern which I shall shew unto their presidency, even my servant Joseph and his Councilors; then I will accept it at [p. 33]
The first name used to identify the church that JS organized on 6 April 1830 was “the Church of Christ.”a In 1834 a conference of church leaders changed the name to “The Church of the Latter Day Saints,” perhaps to avoid confusion with other churches named Church of Christ.b On occasion, the two names of the church were combined as “the church of Christ of Latter Day Saints.”c The Kirtland dissenters seem to have criticized church leaders for removing Christ’s name from the formal name of the church. In a June 1838 letter, Thomas B. Marsh wrote that the dissenters “claimed, themselves to be the old standard, called themslves the Church of Christ, excluded that of saints, and set at naught Br. Joseph and the whole Church, denounceing them as Heriticks.” Restoring the name of Christ to the name of the church may have answered this criticism.d The name specified in the revelation, a combination of the two earlier names of the church, began to be used in the early months of 1838.e
JS dictated a revelation in 1831 that designated “the land of Missorie” as “the Land which I, have appointed & consecrated for the gethering of the Saints” and as “the Land of Zion.” The term stake, used by Saints to describe an approved place for gathering outside of the principal Mormon community in Missouri, derived from the biblical metaphor of Zion as a tent whose “curtains” were stretched out, with cords fastened to the ground by stakes. (Revelation, 20 July 1831 [D&C 57:1, 14]; Isaiah 54:2–3; Revelation, 26 Apr. 1832 [D&C 82:13–14].)
See Exodus 3:5; see also Acts 7:33. The Book of Mormon teaches that the Americas, like the land of Canaan in the Bible, are a “land of promise” and a “holy land.”a JS dictated a revelation in 1831 specifically designating Missouri as a “land of promise.”b In his 4 September 1837 letter to the Saints in Far West, JS began by blessing the name of the Lord, who “has delivered you many times from the hands of your enimies And planted you many times in an heavenly or holy place,” implying that Far West was a holy place.c On 23 July 1838, Reynolds Cahoon wrote a letter to Newel K. Whitney, reporting: “It is said by some that Jacson Co. is where the gardon of Edon was[.] Far west is where Adam dwelt after he was driven from the gardin[.] Adam on-di Ahman is where he built an alter & blest his sons this I have not heard from Br. Joseph but expect it is his teachings.”d
Robison, Elwin C. The First Mormon Temple: Design, Construction, and Historic Context of the Kirtland Temple. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1997.
Madsen, Gordon A. “Tabulating the Impact of Litigation on the Kirtland Economy.” In Sustaining the Law: Joseph Smith’s Legal Encounters, edited by Gordon A. Madsen, Jeffrey N. Walker, and John W. Welch, 227–246. Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2014.