Mormon History 1830-1844

Aerial Commissions
    Introduction
 
 
"Commission written by the finger of God"   [November 1830] In March 17, 1831, the Le Roy Gazette, reprints an article from an as-yet-unlocated issue of the Geauga Gazette, probably published in November 1830, reports the arrival of Oliver Cowdery and his companions "in our village … about two weeks since:" "The men claim to act under a 'commission written by the finger of God'—they are very enthusiastic, and tolerably resolute …"   "Delusion," Le Roy Gazette, Mar. 17, 1831. Source The article also refers to the baptism of Sidney Rigdon "[i]mmediately after their arrival here."
Signed by Jesus Christ   On December 7, 1830, a letter in the Painesville Telegraph reports that Oliver's "commission" was allegedly "written and signed by the hand of Jesus Christ."
<I>Painesville Telegraph</I>
')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">PT, Dec. 7, 1830. Source
    Is there a connection between (1) Oliver's 1830 commission, (2) Ezra Thayer's 1830 vision of Oliver handing him a mission call on a roll of paper (¶ Member Visions), and (3) the aerial commissions described below?    
Signed by Christ   In February 1831, the Painesville Telegraph claims that Oliver "and his friends" had exhibited commissions and papers "said to be signed by Christ himself!!!"    
Signed "I am the Christ"   In April 1831, the paper declares, "the fact is admitted," that Oliver had "exhibited to a chosen few a commission sealed, & signed 'I am the Christ.'"    
Not included in Mormonism Unvailed   In 1834, Telegraph publisher E. D. Howe, publishes the first major anti-Mormon book, Mormonism Unvailed, which naturally includes much of the material he had written for the paper. Why he does not include the assertion that Oliver's commission was signed by the Lord, I do not know. He does include, however, the story of three young men who    
Aerial commissions   pretended to have received commissions to preach, from the skies, after having jumped into the air as high as they could. … One of the young men referred to, freely acknowledge, some months afterwards, that he knew not what he did, for two or three weeks.— Such is the mind of man, when his reason is dethroned by [106] physical causes. One of these aerial commissions, which they all supposed was signed and sealed by Christ himself, we here subjoin, verbatim:  
<i>Mormonism Unvailed</i>, Eber D. Howe &#40;Painesville, Ohio: author, 1834&#41;.
')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">Mormonism unvailed, 105–106.
  Howe then repeats the text he originally published in the April 12, 1831 Telegraph article >.    
  What, if any, was Oliver's role in the "aerial commissions," and who claimed them?    
Edson Fuller, Heman Basset, Burr Riggs commissions   Howe acknowledges that the aerial commissions were not reported until well after Oliver's departure for Missouri (he left in November 1830, the commissions were announced "some three months" before April 12—early January 1831). Levi Hancock's January 1831 diary account describes of the arrival of Edson Fuller, Heman Basset, and Burr Riggs in his part of the country, and confirms the type of behavior and even details of Heman's commission reported in the April Painesville Telegraph. (In a rare and refreshing display of candor, Levi ruefully concludes, "I believed it all like a fool.")   ¶ Levi Hancock
Warner Doty's commission   The April 12 Telegraph quotes the copy of one of the original commissions, which was found in the pocket of Warner Doty after his March 30 death at age 29.    
    In 1885, Newel K. Whitney's anti-Mormon brother, S. F. Whitney, wrote a lengthy statement of his experience of the Mormons. Among many other things, he claimed that Warner's uncle had written it as a prank and that Warner was one of those who pretended to catch the commission out of the air. I can't square those two ideas. We may never know whether S. F. Whitney or E. B. Howe was closer to the truth.   ¶ Warner Doty
Oliver's commission   However, with regard to Oliver's "commission" purportedly signed by Jesus Christ, it seems likely that Oliver carried a revelation given by Joseph calling him on the mission to the Lamanites. The revelation is not known, though the revelations for his companions, Peter Whitmer Jr., Ziba Peterson, and Parley P. Pratt (h) were published in the Book of Commandments and Doctrine and Covenants.   D&C 30, 32
Thomas B. Marsh's call   Thomas B. Marsh's mission call was given in the same period (September [26–28], 1830) as Peter Jr.'s and probably within days of Oliver's call. Thomas's revelation concludes, "These words are not of man nor of men, but of me, even Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, by the will of the Father. Amen." If Oliver's calling, commission, or whatever it may have been called, concluded with words similar to Thomas's, it is not difficult to imagine how second- or third-hand reports might describe it as "signed" by the Lord. It may also be that Howe did not include the references to Oliver's "signed" commission in his book because he had learned the nature of Mormon revelations.   ¶ D&C 31:16

Thomas B. Marsh (h)
    In any case, it an interesting commentary on the times, hopes, expectations, and enthusiasm of at least some 1830–1831 converts that revelations or commissions could quite literally fall from the heavens to be snatched up and quickly copied before they disappeared.    
Sidney Rigdon's commission   The Ohio Star of December 29, 1831 publishes Symonds Ryder's response to Sidney Rigdon's challenge to a debate and includes a note that Symonds also "sent us a transcript of the 'Commandment' by which Rigdon received his authority to preach Mormonism" (D&C 35). The Painesville Telegraph reprints the Star's text on January 17, 1832, with a note that the revelation "is what Rigdon calls his commission, and bears the impress of his own fertile imagination."   Symonds Ryder, letter to the editor, Ohio Star, Dec. 29, 1831. Source

"Miscellaneous,"
<I>Painesville Telegraph</I>
')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">PT, Jan. 17, 1832. Source Symonds is spelled Simonds.  
      References     December 7, 1830

Oliver's credentials signed by Jesus
  Those who are the friends and advocates of this wonderful book, state that Mr. Oliver Cowd[e]ry has his commission directly from the God of heaven, and that he has his credentials, written and signed by the hand of Jesus Christ, with whom he has personally conversed, and as such, said Cowdery claims that he and his associates are the only persons on earth who are qualified to administer in his name. <I>Painesville Telegraph</I>')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">PT, Dec. 7, 1830. Source  
  February 14, 1831

Frequent interviews with with angels

Commission exhibited

Oliver authorizes three
Mormon missionaries proclaimed that there had been no religion in the world for 1500 years, … that Joseph Smith had now received a commission from God for that purpose … Smith (they affirmed) had seen God frequently and personally—Cowdery and his friends had frequent interviews with angels. … Smith was continually receiving new revelations, and it would probably take him 1000 years to complete them—commissions and papers were exhibited, said to be signed by Christ himself!!! Cowdery authorized three persons to preach, &c., … "Book of Mormon," <I>Painesville Telegraph</I>')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">PT, Feb. 14 1831. Source    
   

[Mid-January 1831]

Visionary mission calls

They also have a way of receiving a commission from the Lord to go and preach. They are first warned and called while in a vision that they must go into the world and preach; at another time they receive a commission on a roll of paper handed to them from above in the presence of all in the room; but what is contained on the paper I have not yet learned; three of the young men that have received their commission in this way have gone to preach; one by the name of Heman Basset, one Edson Fuller, and Burr Riggs; they have been gone about ten days and I have not yet heard from them.   Josiah Jones, ¶ History of the Mormonites

Member Visions

gone about ten days: ¶ Levi Hancock indicates they arrived in Rome, Ashtabula County in January 1831.
   
    April 12, 1831

[Oliver] authorizes three

Commission signed, "I am the Christ"
  Some three months since, it wa[s] boldly asserted by those under the influence of the "Gold Bible" imposition, that three young men, while in the spirit, had received commissions direct from Heaven, on parchment, which they caught in their hands in the air, and had only time to copy them, before the parchment disappeared. We believe the fact is admitted, that Cowdery while here, exhibited to a chosen few a commission sealed, & signed "I am the Christ."   "A Mormon Commission," <I>Painesville Telegraph</I>')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">PT, Apr. 12, 1831. Source But the one which we give below appears to have only the seal. It was found in the pocket of young Doty, who recently died among them, and would appear to be a copy of one of the three mentioned above, by its tenor and purport. At first view, we supposed that this commission was given to Doty himself, which led us to the statement in our last, that he was duly commissioned to preach, which is said not to be the fact. We take it verbatim, only punctuating so that it can be understood: Find parchment
Oh my Servant there is a great work for you and the other two of your brethren. I send a messenger to tell you where to go and find a piece of parchment that shall contain these words:—   Servant: servant, in <i>Mormonism Unvailed</i>, Eber D. Howe &#40;Painesville, Ohio: author, 1834&#41;.')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">Mormonism unvailed, 106. Teach repentance     You shall teach repentance and remission of sins to all who shall come in the sound of your voice—I command you that you do these things in sincerity and in truth; and if you do, you shall be blessed.—     With Burr Riggs and Edson Fuller     The time is shortly acoming and is not far distant when you shall be bound together for life—the names of your brethren are these: Burr Riggs and Edson Fuller, and if they are not faithful I will choose another in their stead—my work must be done.   distant, when: distant when in <i>Mormonism Unvailed</i>, Eber D. Howe &#40;Painesville, Ohio: author, 1834&#41;.')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">Mormonism unvailed, 106. Serve me     My servants, you shall go forth from place to place, and if you are true to your trust, they shall hear. Remember that I am the Lord your God—serve me above all others, and I will bless you, in the end, Amen.   others, and: others andin <i>Mormonism Unvailed</i>, Eber D. Howe &#40;Painesville, Ohio: author, 1834&#41;.')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">Mormonism unvailed, 106.

amen: Amen in <i>Mormonism Unvailed</i>, Eber D. Howe &#40;Painesville, Ohio: author, 1834&#41;.')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">Mormonism unvailed, 106.
Messenger   That you had a messenger tell you to go and get the other night, you must not show to any son of Adam.—Obey this and I will stand by you in all cases:—my servants, obey my commandments in all cases, and I will provide.   Adam.—Obey: Adam. Obey in <i>Mormonism Unvailed</i>, Eber D. Howe &#40;Painesville, Ohio: author, 1834&#41;.')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">Mormonism unvailed, 106. Be ready

 

Be ye always ready,
Be ye always ready, whenever I shall call.
Be ye always ready, My seal [image of a crown]   ¶ Levi Hancock More to come

Ruler over many
  There shall be something of greater importance revealed when I shall call you to go:—my servants, be faithful over a few things, and I will make you a ruler over many. Amen, Amen, Amen.   amen, amen, amen: Amen, Amen, Amen in <i>Mormonism Unvailed</i>, Eber D. Howe &#40;Painesville, Ohio: author, 1834&#41;.')" onmouseout="kill()" target="_blank" class="ref">Mormonism unvailed, 106. Hundreds believe To the disgrace of human nature, we are compelled to say, that there are some hundreds of civilized beings who actually believe that documents similar to the above have been written out by the finger of God, and sent down to certain persons. Many will indeed tell you that it is not a subject of belief with them, because they know it to be so, but alas! they are commanded of Heaven not to inform the world how they know it! Other documents forthcoming We have other documents of a similar description on hand, from the factory of Smith, Rigdon & Co. which will be forthcoming.     Duty to expose We can assure our readers that we take no pleasure in publishing any thing on this subject. But we always deemed it as a bounden duty to expose every base imposition which may be attempted upon the credulous and unsuspecting.     Exposed Masonry, now Mormonism

Mason oaths and fear of death

Mormon wrath of God
For this reason we have endeavored to hold up Freemasonry naked before the world, and for this we must hold up Mormonism, as fast as we can obtain its secrets. The one screened itself from public view by horrid oaths and the fear of death—the other is endeavoring to do the same thing, by impressing upon the minds of its victims, a belief that the wrath of God will abide upon them for disclosing to the world any of its mysticisms <.    
Beliefs & Practices
Kirtland 1830–1831




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