This week we will be studying the D&C 37-40 Come Follow Me Lesson. This lesson focuses on the call to Ohio, and the moving of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from New York to Ohio. We will focus on how the Lord prepares His Zion. The asking. The Response. The Promises.
Here is what you have to look forward to this week:
One Little Word
What Could Have Been
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A September 1830 revelation declared that all members of the Church of Christ should gather together into one place. A second revelation decreed that a “City” (the New Jerusalem) would be located “among the Lamanites.” Within a month, Joseph Smith sent missionaries to search out the location for the New Jerusalem—understood to be the future gathering place—and to preach to American Indians. Traveling first to northeastern Ohio, these missionaries preached in the areas around Kirtland and Mentor. They remained in Ohio a few weeks and baptized several dozen individuals, many of whom were members of Sidney Rigdon’s restorationist congregation, before continuing west. After passing through Independence, Missouri, the group attempted to preach to the Indians who had been relocated by the United States government to territory just beyond the western border of Missouri.
This revelation, dictated at a church conference in Fayette, New York, came three days after a 30 December 1830 revelation commanded the church to “assemble together at the Ohio.” The 2 January 1831 revelation elaborated on the earlier commandment by reiterating the call to gather and promising the members they would be thereafter endowed with “power from on high.”
Joseph Smith dictated this revelation in Fayette, New York, for James Covel, a Protestant minister, three days after the Church of Christ’s third conference. When John Whitmer recorded this text in Revelation Book 1 a few months later, he wrote that Covel “covenanted with the Lord that he would obey any commandment that the Lord would give through his servent Joseph.”
By 6 January 1831, the day after a revelation called him to preach the gospel, Methodist minister James Covel had departed Fayette, New York, leaving JS and Sidney Rigdon searching for an explanation. As Joseph Smith later recalled, after Covel “rejected the word of the Lord, and returned to his former principles and people,” the Lord gave Joseph and Sidney Rigdon this 6 January 1831 revelation, “explaining why he obeyed not the word.”
Newel Knight remembered that “the Saints manifested unshaken confidence in the great work in which they were engaged.” Established families who were prospering in New York left for Ohio shortly after the January 1831 conference. Expecting twins, Emma Smith bade her parents farewell and went with Joseph “at the time of his going” (D&C 25:6) in late January. She never saw her parents again. She was cleaving to covenants and laying aside the things of this world in lieu of incorruptible treasures in a better one (D&C 25:10; 38:17-20). Polly and Joseph Knight fled persecutors near Colesville, New York, and left their farms and mills there to be sold. Along the way they provided Emma and Joseph means for their trip to Ohio. The remaining sixty-seven Saints from Colesville helped each other prepare and determined “to travel together in one company” under the leadership of Newel Knight.
From Ohio Joseph sent for his father and his brother Hyrum, and they came quickly in March. That left his capable mother, Lucy Mack Smith, to lead the rest of her family and others, about fifty in all, from Waterloo, New York, as soon as “the brethren considered the spring sufficiently open for traveling on the water…Lucy Mack Smith had wanted the oldest man, a Brother Humphreys, to lead her group, but he declined, and “the whole company responded together, ‘we will do just as Mother Smith says.'” An Esquire Chamberlain gave her funds to feed the sizable group, money sorely needed as the trip wore on. Lucy compared her little band to Lehi’s. She was frustrated that some of the Saints “did not seem to consider that the revelation that they should help each other was binding upon them” (see vv. 24-27).
There was, for her taste, too much worldliness among them…While waiting for the ice to clear so the boat could move, Lucy went ashore in search of a room in which the sisters could rest and tend sick children. She found only selfishness, “human nature,” she called it, until “a fine, cheerful old lady” gave her board in exchange for the gospel. Lucy taught the good woman restored truth until two o’clock in the morning. She considered herself an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ. She was frustrated by Saints who feared to let others know they were Latter-day Saints.
“You will be mobbed before morning,” Thomas Marsh told Lucy when she refused to keep her faith secret. “Mob it is, then,” she shot back, “for we shall sing and attend to prayers before sunset, mob or no mob.” Lucy opened her mouth and it was filled with song, with the good word of God, and with reproof in season. She left boat captains and deckhands, the woman at the boarding house, and a man on the shore all wanting more of the testimony that flowed freely
from her. Over and over Mother Smith acted in faith. She led and served her fellow Saints while she extended the glad tidings to those they passed on the way. Lucy seized her agency to obtain power over the telestial world, rather than letting it have power over her. She predicted that if her company would unitedly call upon God to break the ice, “as sure as the Lord lives, it shall be done.” It happened as she said, though the ice quickly “closed together again, and the Colesville brethren were left in Buffalo,” she wrote, “unable to follow us.” Rumors began immediately that the boat would sink, “so that when we arrived at Fairport, we read in the papers news of our own death.” Neither death, hell, or the devil could deter Mother Smith.
Isn’t amazing what the Saints did in the early days of the restored Church? We are so grateful for the revelations the Lord gave Joseph Smith and others to help bring the Church to what it is today. Follow us on Instagram @dontmissthisstudy to keep studying with us!