Testimony, [, OH, ca. 2 Nov. 1831]; signed by , , , , and . Featured version, titled “73 Revelation,” copied with five signatures [between 3 Nov. and ca. 11 Nov. 1831] in Revelation Book 1, p. 121, with additional signatures of , , , , , , , , Joshua Fairchild, , , , and added [between mid-Nov. 1831 and ca. Jan. 1832]; handwriting of ; CHL. Includes redactions. For more complete source information, see the source note for Revelation Book 1.
According to the history JS initiated in 1838, a 1–2 November 1831 in , Ohio, considered what was called a “testimony of the witnesses to the book of the Lord’s .” The circumstances surrounding the production of this testimony are ambiguous. The conference minutes explain that JS asked attendees “what testimony they were willing to attach to these commandments,” meaning the revelations to be published in a compilation called the Book of Commandments. Some stated “they were willing to testify to the world that they knew that they were of the Lord,” but the minutes do not clearly state when or how the statement was produced.
The history JS began in 1838 provides more detail: After JS dictated the “preface” to the Book of Commandments, “some conversation was had concerning Revelations and language.” A new revelation followed, informing the elders that some had not received “a testimony of the truth of those commandments which are lying before you” because of “fears in your hearts.” To help those who had not received such a witness, the revelation invited “the most wise among you” to write a revelation “like unto” one dictated by JS. If they could not “make one like unto it,” the revelation declared, the elders would be obligated to testify that JS’s revelations came from God. The history states that after the presentation of this revelation, attempted to “write a commandment like unto one of the least of the Lord’s, but failed.” Subsequently, the elders “renewed their faith . . . in the truth of the commandments and revelations which the Lord had given to the church through his [JS’s] instrumentality.” JS then dictated a “testimony” of the divine origin of his revelations for the elders to sign. Five elders apparently signed that day, and twelve others signed later.
Whatever the precise scenario, the production of such a testimony paralleled what JS did when publishing the Book of Mormon. Following instructions given in that book and in other revelations, JS included the testimony of three witnesses and a separate testimony of eight witnesses declaring that they had seen the plates and the engravings from which the Book of Mormon was . For the testimony to the revelations in the Book of Commandments, JS seemed less concerned about securing testimonies from a specific number of individuals, apparently allowing all those who desired to testify of the revelations’ truthfulness to do so—perhaps excluding only those who were formal witnesses of the Book of Mormon. Only four of the listed attendees at the 1–2 November conference did not sign the testimony: and , two of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon; and and , two of the eight witnesses.
The original manuscript of this document is not extant, but copied it into Revelation Book 1. Whitmer also copied the first five signatures on the document—apparently those signed at the 1–2 November conference. The other signatures are originals. , one of the signatories, did not attend the 1–2 November meeting but was in for an 11 November 1831 conference before departing to preach in other areas of , at which time he likely signed the document. Since Cahoon’s signature is the first original one in the text, Whitmer had likely already copied the testimony with its previous signatures by 11 November. Twelve other signatures were later added to the statement, the majority of which were inscribed after John Whitmer and took the revelation book to in November 1831. The testimony was likely intended to be published in the back of the Book of Commandments—as were the testimonies of the witnesses to the in the Book of Mormon—but because production of the Book of Commandments was terminated by the destruction of the church’s printing office in Missouri, the statement was not printed in that book.
JS History, vol. A-1, 162. Neither in his contemporary journal nor in letters he later wrote recalling this conference did McLellin ever mention trying to write a revelation. In 1882, McLellin did say that he, Oliver Cowdery, and Sidney Rigdon were appointed as a committee to write a preface to the Book of Commandments and that when they presented it, the conference did not accept it. Whether this is related to the incident described in the history is unclear. (McLellin, Journal, Oct.–Nov. 1831; William E. McLellin, Independence, MO, to Mark H. Forscutt, Plano, IL, 1 Oct. 1871, Saints’ Herald, 15 July 1872, 435–436; William E. McLellin, “From a Letter Dated Dec. 14th, 1878,” John L. Traughber Papers, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City; “Letter from Elder W. H. Kelley,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Mar. 1882, 67.)
McLellin, William E. Journal, Apr.–June 1836. William E. McLellin, Papers, 1831–1836, 1877–1878. CHL. MS 13538, box 1, fd. 6. Also available as Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836 (Provo, UT: BYU Studies; Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).
Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.
McLellin, Wiliam E. “From a Letter Dated Dec. 14th, 1878.” John L. Traughber Papers. J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.
Fifty-six years later, David Whitmer claimed that he opposed publishing the revelations. If this was the case, it may be a reason why he did not sign. For a list of conference attendees, see Minutes, 1–2 Nov. 1831. (Whitmer, Address to All Believers in Christ, 54–55.)
Whitmer, David. An Address to All Believers in Christ. Richmond, MO: By the author, 1887.
The Testimony of the witnesses to the Book of the Lords commandments which he gave to his through Joseph Smith Jr who was appointed by the vos [voice] of the Church for this purpose
We the undersigners feel willing to bear testimony to all the world of mankind to every creature upon all the face of all the Earth upon the Islands of the Sea that god hath born record to our souls through the Holy Ghost shed forth upon us that these are given by inspiration of God & are profitable for all men & are verily true we give this testimony unto the world the Lord being my helper & it is through the grace of God the father & his Son Jesus Christ that we are permitted to have this privelege of bearing this testimony unto the world in the which we rejoice exceedingly by praying the Lord always that the children of men may be profited thereby Amen
John Whitmer handwriting ends; individual signatories begin. The remaining signatures in this column and all the signatures in the left column except Marsh’s were likely inscribed at a conference held in Missouri in late January 1832. Marsh returned to Kirtland in January 1832 from a trip to Missouri and Indiana, arriving nearly two months after Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer left Ohio with Revelation Book 1. However, in late November and early December 1831, while traveling back to Kirtland, Ohio, Marsh attended conferences in Indiana. Cowdery and Whitmer, on their way to Missouri, were at these conferences as well, and it is possible that Marsh signed the testimony at that time. If he did not sign it then, he would not have been able to sign it until he moved to Jackson County, Missouri, in November 1832. (See Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 28 Jan. 1832; Minute Book 2, 29 Nov.–1 Dec. and 6–7 Dec. 1831; “T B Marsh,” , Historian’s Office, Histories of the Twelve, ca. 1858–1880, CHL.)
Historian’s Office. Histories of the Twelve, 1856–1858, 1861. CHL. CR 100 93.