John the Revelator among the Ten Tribes in 1831

The fourth general conference of the Church convened in a schoolhouse in Kirtland township on Friday, 3 June 1831. Many missionaries in Ohio returned for the meetings. Minutes record that sixty-three priesthood holders were in attendance. 29 In Joseph Smith’s words, “The Lord displayed His power to the most perfect satisfaction of the Saints” at the conference. 30 After the opening business, Joseph announced that the Lord wanted worthy elders “ordained to the high priesthood.” 31 These were the first ordinations to the office of high priest in this dispensation. The Prophet ordained five brethren high priests; one of them, Lyman Wight, ordained several more in the same meeting. John Corrill and Isaac Morley were called to be counselors to Bishop Edward Partridge and were set apart to that calling by Lyman Wight. 32

During the conference the Spirit was with the Prophet in an “unusual manner. And [he] prophesied that John the Revelator was then among the ten tribes of Israel . . . to prepare them for their return from their long dispersion.” 

33. In McKiernan and Launius, An Early Latter Day Saint History, p. 66

Newel Knight Has His Calling and Election Made Sure

First Conference of the Church

By June 1830 the Saints in New York were located primarily in Manchester, Fayette, and Colesville. The membership of the Church at this point was about thirty people. Following revealed instructions (see D&C 20:75 ), the Prophet called them together for the first conference of the Church on 9 June, at Fayette. Many people attended who already believed or were eager to learn. Those assembled partook of the sacrament, and several recent converts were confirmed. Samuel H. Smith was ordained an elder, and Joseph Smith, Sr., and Hyrum were ordained priests. Ten brethren received “licenses,” which were small documents certifying they were authorized to represent the Church (see D&C 20:64–65 ). Oliver Cowdery kept the minutes of this meeting and was appointed by the conference to keep the official Church records.

map of New York and Pennsylvania
The three centers of the Church in New York in June of 1830: (1) Manchester township, (2) Fayette township, and (3) the Colesville area

[click for scalable version]

Joseph Smith read to the congregation the “Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ” (most of sections 20 and 22 of the Doctrine and Covenants ), which contain significant instructions pertaining to the order of the Church. 11

Joseph Smith wrote, “Much exhortation and instruction was given, and the Holy Ghost was poured out upon us in a miraculous manner—many of our number prophesied, whilst others had the heavens opened to their view.” Newel Knight was filled with unspeakable love and peace. He saw a vision of the Savior and learned that he would someday be admitted into the presence of the Lord.

“Such scenes as these were calculated to inspire our hearts with joy unspeakable, and fill us with awe and reverence for that Almighty Being. . . . To find ourselves engaged in the very same order of things as observed by the holy Apostles of old; to realize the importance and solemnity of such proceedings; and to witness and feel with our own natural senses, the like glorious manifestations of the powers of the Priesthood, the gifts and blessings of the Holy Ghost, and the goodness and condescension of a merciful God unto such as obey the everlasting Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, combined to create within us sensations of rapturous gratitude, and inspire us with fresh zeal and energy in the cause of truth.” 12

handwritten certificate
Joseph Smith, Sr., certificate of ordination as a priest signed by Joseph Smith, Jr., and Oliver Cowdery.

Shortly after this conference twelve people were baptized in Seneca Lake by David Whitmer. They included Joseph Smith’s sister Katherine and his brothers William and Don Carlos.

12. History of the Church, 1:84–86.

Joseph Smith Sr.’s Vision of the Tree of Life

Joseph Smith’s father had a vision similar in many ways to Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life:

Later in 1811, Joseph, Sr., experienced a second profound dream that related to his family. It was much like Lehi’s dream of the tree of life. He found himself following a path to a beautiful fruit tree. As he began to eat the delicious fruit, he realized that he must bring his wife and family to the tree so they could enjoy it together. He went and brought them, and they began to eat. He reported that “We were exceedingly happy, insomuch that our joy could not easily be expressed.” 21

Religious Philosophy of Asael Smith

Asael Smith [1744-1830] was the paternal grandfather of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Asael’s philosophy agreed with that of the Universalists, who believed in Jesus Christ as a god of love who would save all of his children. Like all Universalists, Asael was more comfortable with a god who was more interested in saving than in destroying mankind. He believed that life continued after death.

In an address to his family, Asael wrote: “The soul is immortal. . . . Do all to God in a serious manner. When you think of him, speak of him, pray to him, or in any way make your addresses to his great majesty, be in good earnest. . . . And as to religion, study the nature of religion, and see whether it consists in outward formalities, or in the hidden man of the heart. . . .

“Sure I am my Savior, Christ, is perfect, and never will fail in one circumstance. To him I commit your souls, bodies, estates, names, characters, lives, deaths and all—and myself, waiting when he shall change my vile body and make it like his own glorious body.” 3

Asael Smith also predicted that “God was going to raise up some branch of his family to be a great benefit to mankind.” 4 Many years later when his son Joseph Smith, Sr., gave him a recently published Book of Mormon, he was vitally interested. George A. Smith recorded, “My grandfather Asael fully believed the Book of Mormon, which he read nearly through.” 5 Asael died in the fall of 1830, confident that his grandson Joseph was the long-anticipated prophet and that he had heralded in a new religious age.

The Divine Tutoring of The Prophet Joseph Smith

During the four years that the Prophet Joseph returned to the Hill Cumorah to meet with Moroni, each time he was taught in gospel principles as well as the history of the inhabitants of the Americas……

But did you know as well that during those three years, Joseph was also visited and taught by Nephi, Alma, the Twelve Nephite Disciples, and Mormon?

Joseph’s Preparation Continues

The monumental work of bringing forth the Book of Mormon was foretold by ancient prophets (see Isaiah 29, Ezekiel 37:15–20, Moses 7:62). A work of such magnitude requires careful preparation. In this instance, it required four years of tutoring. During that time Joseph met annually with Moroni at the Hill Cumorah to receive instructions in preparation for receiving the plates. Other Nephite prophets who had a vital interest in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon also played a significant role in Joseph’s preparation. Nephi, Alma, the twelve Apostles chosen by the Savior in America, and Mormon all instructed Joseph.9 His education was intense during this period.

His mother, Lucy, describes their evening conversations: “Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing [interesting] recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them.”10

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