Book of Commandments (Independence, Missouri, W. W. Phelps & Co. 1833). L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University.
For most of Joseph Smith’s ministry the location of the establishment of the Church had little consequence. Between 1833 and 1844, several official Church publications identified or suggested that Manchester was the location where Smith and Cowdery organized the Church of Christ. This fact suggests, even if the publications were wrong, that those who were not at the establishment meeting likely believed it took place in Manchester. Without discussion or regard for these publications, members of the Church passively allowed for the idea that the Church was established in Manchester. There is no record of readers showing concern or even caring about whether it was established in Manchester or Fayette. In fact, a serious study about the location never took place until late in the twentieth century. Once the Church built a cabin that represented the Whitmers’ Fayette log house in 1980, historians looking at these official Church publications took them seriously and attempted to make sense of them.
Before the Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1835, the Church compiled the first sixty-five of Joseph Smith’s revelations in the Book of Commandments, which offers several clues to the location of the establishment of the Church. It was the first time the revelations were collected and made available to the public in one source. Those who were able to obtain a copy of the book viewed it as scripture, just as they would the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835. The Book of Commandments did not reach its potential readership because most of the printed pages were destroyed by a Missouri mob on 20 July 1833. However, the several dozen copies that were preserved, which included around sixty-five of the revelations, influenced many believers and continued until 1835 to be the only printed volume that included the extant revelations.
The Book of Commandments is relevant to the establishment of the Church since it seems to suggest that Joseph Smith established the Church in Manchester. Though this could be a mistake, the first printed collection of Smith’s revelations in 1833 in the Book of Commandments included six revelations that the editors dated as if Smith had dictated them on the day the Church was established in Manchester. One of the revelations includes the voice of God, commanding those in attendance at the meeting to sustain Joseph Smith as the prophet and seer of the Church of Christ. Thus Smith had certainly dictated one of the revelations at the establishment meeting (now D&C 21). The other five revelations did not
Doctrine and Covenants section 23 split into chapters XVII–XXL. Book of Commandments (Independence, Missouri, W. W. Phelps & Co. 1833), 43–44. L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University.
indicate where they were received. They were dictated to individuals one after the other, explaining to each their particular duties in the newly founded Church. The revelations were for individuals who were all apparently in Manchester on 6 April 1830, and the headings in the Book of Commandments locate all six of the revelations in Manchester, New York, and date all six revelations 6 April 1830. If they were mistakes, it appears that they were editorial mistakes, since the location was clearly identified in the heading and not the actual text of the revelation. Yet Cowdery was one of the editors and would have presumably been able to identify a mistake like this, since he was at the establishment meeting. Though Joseph Smith was not in Independence, Missouri, when the Book of Commandments was typeset and printed, Oliver Cowdery, W. W. Phelps, and others printed the book under Smith’s instructions in fulfillment of a revelation that he had dictated in the fall of 1831.
Though the Book of Commandments maintained an important influence over the membership, it was not the first Church-sanctioned publication that claimed the Church was established in Manchester. Phelps printed an article in the March 1833 issue of The Evening and the Morning Star, the Church newspaper in Missouri, stating Smith established the Church on 6 April 1830 in Manchester. Whereas the headings to the revelations in the Book of Commandments gave the location of where Smith dictated his revelations, it never stated directly that he established the Church in Manchester. Phelps wrote as if he were positive that he knew the location. Commemorating the organization of the Church in March 1833, he wrote that “it will be three years this sixth of April next, since the church of Christ was organized, in Manchester, New York, with six members.” Further celebrating the organization, he elaborated upon his earlier statement in the April issue of The Evening and the Morning Star. He wrote, “Soon after the book of Mormon came forth, containing the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the church was organized on the sixth of April, in Manchester; soon after, a branch was established in Fayette, and the June following, another in Colesville, New York.” Phelps seems to be cognizant of the locations that Smith visited; he recognized that there was a meeting in Fayette, but he implies that it was held to form a particular congregation of the Church—just after the Church was officially organized in Manchester. Phelps, however, was not present at the establishment meeting, and he likely gained his confidence in the location through his editorial work on Book of Commandments instead of from personal knowledge of the establishment meeting (this point will be examined more carefully below).
Doctrine and Covenants (Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams & Co., 1835).
Though these two publications were the earliest Church publications and both of them pointed toward Manchester as the establishment site, the next edition of Smith’s printed revelations in 1835 did not maintain their early emphasis. Joseph Smith worked directly with Oliver Cowdery and the presidency of the Church to edit the Doctrine and Covenants (1835). Smith and Cowdery together were the pair most able to identify and correct any issue of misdating and misidentifying the location where Smith dictated the revelations and their association with the establishment meeting. Unfortunately, instead of clarifying the details of date and place, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery completely removed the locations from the headings of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants instead of choosing between Manchester and Fayette. They systematically excluded the location where most of the revelations were dictated to reduce the size of the headings for each revelation. This makes is difficult to know whether they disapproved of the location Phelps had printed earlier.
As if the location that was removed from the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants was irrelevant, other Church publications followed the location printed in The Evening and the Morning Star and the Book of Commandments. One of the most influential early Mormon pamphlets, for example, reported that Joseph Smith established the Church in Manchester. In his pamphlet A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records, Apostle Orson Pratt proclaimed, “And on the sixth of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty, the ‘Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ was organized, in the town of Manchester, Ontario County, State of New York, North America.” The printer published at least two thousand copies of Pratt’s work in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1840, and the next year an American imprint was published in New York, followed by numerous American editions and prints. It was also published in Europe and Australia and in Danish, Dutch, and Swedish. Missionaries distributed thousands of copies of Pratt’s pamphlet throughout parts of the world, especially in Britain and the United States. It dwarfed the influence of the dozens of copies of the Book of Commandments by its distribution, perpetuating Pratt’s statement that the Church was organized in Manchester.
A Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions (Edinburgh, UK: Ballantyne and Hughes, 1840)
Pratt’s pamphlet influenced other important printed accounts that included the location of the organization of the Church—in particular, a letter Joseph Smith sent to John Wentworth in 1842. Wentworth had written to Smith to obtain a history of the rise and progress of the Latter-day Saints for a friend, George Barstow, who was writing a history of New Hampshire. Smith obliged, and though Barstow never used the letter in his history, it became an important historical account about the Church and a mainstay for defining Church doctrine after it was published in the Times and Seasons on 1 March 1842. This letter borrowed several passages from Pratt’s Remarkable Visions and quoted directly from it, though without attribution, that “on the sixth of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty, the ‘Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ was organized, in the town of Manchester, Ontario County, State of New York.” The precise, word-for-word statement was used again when a statement of the Church’s history and beliefs was solicited by I. D. Rupp, who published the statement in the History of the Religious Denominations That Exist in the US. As requested, Joseph Smith had W. W. Phelps prepare a letter that explained that an article would be “matured and forwarded in season to meet your anticipations.” Though Smith was credited as author of the article, Phelps, who was not at the organization and had been perpetuating Manchester as the location of the organization since 1833 in print, was the primary compiler of the article. With the supporting text of Orson Pratt’s widely distributed pamphlet (which may have been relying on Phelps’s earlier publications), he likely included the location without any reservation. Published sources like these continued to influence Mormon understanding of the Church’s organization.
Even Elder George A. Smith, Church Historian, was recorded to have stated in 1855 that the Church was organized in Manchester, as did the Apostle Heber C. Kimball in 1862. Though there was certainly a strong
Orson Pratt, Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, 23–24.
oral tradition among early Latter-day Saints, because the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants did not include the location of the early 1830 revelations, the only place in print members could turn to identify the location was the few copies of the Book of
Commandments that existed or Phelps’s editorial in 1833. This makes it possible that the entire print tradition regarding the organization of the Church could be traced back to the early works printed by Phelps in Independence, Missouri. It is difficult to know, however, how much Cowdery was involved with setting the type for the Book of Commandments. Because he helped establish the Church with Joseph Smith, he knew where it happened, but it is impossible to know if he purposely set the location to Manchester. Either way, these publications from 1833 to 1862 were either official Church publications or produced by early leaders of the Church.
Michael Marquardt highlighted the print tradition amongst early Mormons to argue that the Church was established in Manchester. He created a reason to doubt Joseph Smith’s history of the Church, forcing apologists and the Church Historian’s Office to examine the historical record more closely. He aggressively stoked the fire of historical inquiry that professors Larry C. Porter and Richard Lloyd Anderson of Brigham Young University had been burning since the 1970s—that the Church was established in Fayette. As negative as Marquardt’s intentions were, the archives were speaking more loudly. He polarized the approach but insisted on the fact that documents speak for themselves. By 2003 Marlin K. Jensen became a major cog in developing scholarly historical work in the Church in his role as Church Historian. Those involved with the Joseph Smith Papers Project worked diligently to make the earliest manuscript of Smith’s revelations available to the public.
Joseph Smith, “Church History,” Times and Seasons, 1 March 1842, 705–6.
The Book of Commandments and Revelations, as it is called, has major implications for knowing where the Church was established. It helps uncover the underlying cause of the print tradition that described the Church as if it had been organized in Manchester, New York. The crux of the matter seems to be found in the typesetting of the Book of Commandments, which was done with the “Book of Commandments & Revelations” (hereafter referred to as Revelation Book 1) as its guide.
The Book of Commandments and Revelations, Church History Library. See JSP, R1:8, http://
In the summer of 1830, Joseph Smith and John Whitmer began collecting copies of the extant revelations. Smith’s history stated, “I began to arrange and copy the revelations which we had received from time to time; in which I was assisted by John Whitmer.” Most of the known revelations up to that point in the summer of 1830 were personal in nature, and the originals may have been in the possession of the individuals who they were originally dictated for, but after they gathered them together, Joseph Smith and John Whitmer attempted to arrange them in the order that they believed they were given. Whitmer subsequently copied the revelations into Revelation Book 1. He began this book in the spring of 1831, capturing the earliest extant versions of the revelations. He copied most of them in chronological order, including the date and location of their dictation. Revelation Book 1 was the manuscript copy used by those who compiled the Book of Commandments in Independence, Missouri. In its current state, the manuscript includes the editorial marks of the editors, marks that W. W. Phelps, largely incorporated when he set the type from Revelation Book 1.
John Whitmer’s convention in transcribing revelations into the manuscript was to provide the date and place of the revelation whenever he could. Revelation Book 1 therefore becomes the earliest extant source that identifies the location for D&C 21, which Whitmer recorded as Fayette. Although he seemed confident about the place, he originally wrote incorrectly that it was dictated in an unidentified month in “1829,” which opens the possibility that he was also mistaken about the location. However, Cowdery retained Fayette but changed the date when he edited Revelation Book 1 in preparation for its publication: he crossed out “1829” and inserted
The Book of Commandments and Revelations, pp. 32 and 34. Example of Oliver Cowdery’s dating practice for early revelations. There are three July 1830 revelations recorded in a series; Oliver only dated the first revelation. See http://
“Apil [sic] 1830.” Whitmer seems to have “rolled over” or “borrowed” the correct 1829 date from the previous revelation and misapplied it here; its contents clearly came after the Church was founded. Whitmer may have “rolled over” the previous revelation’s locations but, likely from personal experience, located section 21 in Fayette.
The Book of Commandments and Revelations, p. 28. Blue handwriting, Oliver Cowdery; Red Handwriting, Sidney Rigdon. The “6” shows Rigdon’s idiosyncratic way of writing sixes.
Oliver Cowdery’s clarifications regarding the date and place of D&C 21, given on the day the Church was organized, also offer a possible explanation for why the Book of Commandments and other printed sources after it seem to support the idea that the organization occurred in Manchester. Cowdery edited the dates for all the revelations from April 1829 to October 1830 in Revelation Book 1, revelations for which he likely was the original scribe or recorder. As noted above, his revisions to Revelation Book 1 followed a regular pattern by inserting the month in which Joseph Smith dictated the revelations but never specifying the exact day. In most instances, Cowdery did not add the month to each revelation because when Smith dictated more than one revelation in a single month, Cowdery only inserted the month into the heading of the first revelation given in that month. Even if Cowdery remembered or could reconstruct the day that each revelation was dictated, he only added the month. Whitmer had already arranged almost all of the revelations in chronological order, which made it easy for Cowdery to confidently add a date to only the first revelation of each month. Apparently, Cowdery either communicated this to W. W. Phelps, the typesetter, or assumed that Phelps would identify his pattern and add the date for all of the other revelations that were included in each given month.
At some point, however, John Whitmer inserted a “6” between “Ap[r]il” and “1830.” Whitmer apparently knew or thought he knew the date for this Fayette revelation, which had likely been dictated in his own home. It is less clear, however, whether he intended that all the undated revelations that followed be assigned the same date, as was the convention Cowdery had established in Revelation Book 1. Phelps, who was clearly familiar with Cowdery’s dating scheme, but apparently unaware of John Whitmer’s disruption of that scheme, followed the usual pattern. Therefore, when he or an assistant typeset the headings to the Fayette revelation and the five Manchester revelations that followed, he gave them all the date of 6 April 1830. At the same time, the heading of the Fayette revelation was changed in the Book of Commandments to fit the location of the five Manchester revelations that followed, each of which had a heading of 6 April 1830 with Manchester as the location. The dates and locations of the April revelations were thus conflated.
The editing and typesetting error here likely created the bedrock for other print editions that claimed the Church was founded in Manchester by solidifying 6 April 1830 and Manchester in the minds of the readers of the Book of Commandments. Phelps was likely responsible for the mistake in the Book of Commandments, and it was he who claimed that the Church was organized in Manchester in The Evening and the Morning Star in March and April 1833—issues that were printed around the same time as the relevant early gatherings of the Book of Commandments.
Printed sources contributed significantly to the distribution of knowledge among early members, especially once there were members in both Missouri and Ohio and the Church had expanded across other state boundaries and even to Britain. When Orson Pratt compiled his pamphlet Remarkable Visions in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1840, he likely relied upon the available printed sources that described the location of the organization of the Church. He did not have access to the early manuscript accounts, like Revelation Book 1, that would have caused him to question Phelps’s printed accounts. Furthermore, the later 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, a book Pratt was familiar with, excluded the location of those revelations that Joseph Smith dictated in April 1830. Once Pratt, who was not a member of the Church until months after the organization, had access to Smith’s printed history when he returned to the United States, he changed his pamphlet (which originally stated the Church was established in Manchester) to explain that the Church was organized in Fayette. This change is important because the “Wentworth letter” was at least partially compiled from information used in Orson Pratt’s pamphlet. Therefore, the printed accounts that claimed the Church was organized in Manchester perpetuated Phelps’s mistake. The mistake likely originated with him in the Book of Commandments and The Evening and the Morning Star. Once Smith’s account in his 1839 history was printed in the fall of 1842 in the Times and Seasons, which stated that the Church was established in Fayette, new editions of Pratt’s pamphlet included the same location correction.
A scrutiny of early Mormon record keeping and its weaknesses, combined with an appreciation for the influence of printing and print culture, shows that the entire early Mormon print tradition regarding the organization of the Church in Manchester is possibly based on the misinterpretation of this single character that John Whitmer inserted into Revelation Book 1. Even though the printed accounts were widely distributed among members, extant documents demonstrate that from 1830 to 1844, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery consistently described Fayette as the location where the Church of Christ was organized.
Book of Commandments and Revelations, page 28 (Doctrine and Covenants section 21), http://
 The printed accounts associating Manchester with the place of Church organization are attributable primarily to William W. Phelps and Orson Pratt and will be discussed below.
 This first attempt by the Church to print the revelations occurred in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri. John Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery used Revelation Book 1 to print the revelations in the Evening and the Morning Star on the press founded by William W. Phelps. Member of the Church’s Literary Firm originally planned to print ten thousand copies but later reduced their plans to include three thousand copies. See JSP, R2:3–12; “To His Excellency, Daniel Dunklin,” Evening and the Morning Star, December 1833, 114; Mary E. Rollins Lightner to the Editor, 12 February 1904, Deseret Evening News, 20 February 1904.
 See “To His Excellency, Daniel Dunklin,” 114; Mary E. Rollins Lightner to the Editor, 20 February 1904.
 See JSP, R2:301–10; Robert J. Woodford, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 1” (PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1974); H. Michael Marquardt, “Early Texts of Joseph Smith’s Revelations, 1828–1833,” Restoration 1 (July 1982): 8–11.
 See Revelation, 6 April 1830 [D&C 21], in JSP, R1:27–29; Revelation, April 1830–A [D&C 23:1–2], in JSP, R1:29; Revelation, April 1830–B [D&C 23:3], in JSP, R1:29; Revelation, April 1830–C [D&C 23:4], in JSP, R1:29–31; Revelation, April 1830–D [D&C 23:5], in JSP, R1:31; Revelation, April 1830–E [D&C 23:6–7], in JSP, R1:31.
 See Revelation, 6 April 1830 [D&C 21], in JSP, R1:27: “Thou shalt be called a seer & a Translater & A Prophet an Apostle of Jesus Christ an Elder of the Church.”
 They were individually to Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, Samuel Smith, Joseph Smith Sr., and Joseph Knight Sr.
 See Revelation, April 1830–A [D&C 23:1–2], in JSP, R2:55; Revelation, April 1830–B [D&C 23:3], in JSP, R2:55; Revelation, April 1830–C [D&C 23:4], in JSP, R2:56; Revelation, April 1830–D [D&C 23:5], in JSP, R2:56; Revelation, April 1830–E [D&C 23:6–7], in JSP, R2:56; Revelation, 6 April 1830 [D&C 21], in JSP, R2:57.
 See Revelation, 1 November 1831–B [D&C 1], in JSP, D2:103–8.
 Phelps wrote in May that “it will be three years this sixth of April next, since the church of Christ was organized, in Manchester, New York, with six members.” The Evening and the Morning Star, March 1833, 76. In April he wrote, “Soon after the book of Mormon came forth, containing the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the church was organized on the sixth of April, in Manchester; soon after, a branch was established in Fayette, and the June following, another in Colesville, New York.” The Evening and the Morning Star, April 1833, 84.
 The Evening and the Morning Star, March 1833, 76.
 The Evening and the Morning Star, April 1833, 84.
 Phelps’s statement seems to be contradictory because Joseph Smith would have had to form a branch of the Church before he established the Church of Christ.
 According to the earliest versions of D&C 21 and all its subsequent copies, Oliver Cowdery was commanded to ordain Joseph Smith to be the prophet and seer, suggesting that he was in fact at the meeting.
 In September of 1834, soon after Joseph Smith and others returned from Zion’s Camp, a committee was organized by Smith to organize “the doctrine of Jesus Christ” into a “book of Covenants.” The committee included Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams, all of which were presidents of the High Priesthood. Minute Book 1, 76, 24 September 1834, Joseph Smith Collection, Church History Library.
 See Revelation, April 6 1830 [D&C 21], in JSP, R2:487. See also Jedidiah Morgan Grant, A Collection of Facts, Relative to the Course Taken by Elder Sidney Rigdon (Philadelphia: Brown, Dicking & Guilbert, 1844), 5.
 If Cowdery wanted to explicitly fix the mistake, he would have printed the right location in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. By removing the location, however, it appears that he was doing what he had done with other revelations in the editing process.
 Appendix, Orson Pratt, A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records, 1840, in JSP, H1:540. See also Historical Introduction to Appendix, in JSP, H1:517–20.
 See Orson Pratt, Edinburgh, Scotland, to George A. Smith, Manchester, England, 24 September 1840, George A. Smith Papers, Church History Library.
 See, for example, Pratt, Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions (New York: Joseph W. Harrison, 1842).
 See George Barstow, History of New Hampshire, from Its Discovery, in 1614, to the Passage of the Toleration Act, in 1818 (Concord, NH: I. S. Boyd, 1842).
 See Peter Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church, Volume One, 1830–1847 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, 1997), 1:60–61; 2:63–64, 262–65. There was a New York version printed in 1841, another British version printed in 1848, and an Australian version printed in 1851. It was also printed in Copenhagen in 1851 and Amsterdam in about 1865. See the appendix to Orson Pratt, A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, 1840, in JSP, H1:517. Orson Pratt’s inclusions are highlights in the text.
 See Clyde, Williams & Co., Harrisburg, PA, to Joseph Smith, Nauvoo, IL, ca. 15 July 1843; Joseph Smith, Nauvoo, IL, to Clyde, Williams & Co., Harrisburg, PA, 1 Aug. 1843, Joseph Smith Collection, Church History Library. Because Smith had recently published in the Times and Seasons that the Church was organized in Fayette as part of the official Church history, it seems clear that Phelps was the person who was responsible for printing that Manchester was the location where the Church was organized. The Wentworth letter was printed in March 1842 in the Times and Seasons declaring to its Mormon readers and others that “On the 6th of April, 1830, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was first organized in the town of Manchester, Ontario co., state of New York.” See Historical Introduction to Appendix, in JSP, H1:517–20; Times and Seasons, 1 March 1842, 708. The Wentworth letter was not intended to build a case for Manchester as the location of the establishment meeting; in 1842, there was no controversy about the location, and it is likely that the location went unnoticed by the readers. Once Orson Pratt revised the pamphlet, he realized that he had printed “Manchester” when he needed to print “Fayette.”
 See Deseret News, 5 September 1855, 203; Deseret News, 19 September 1862, 2. For other late claims that may indicate the idea of Manchester that persisted after the 1840s, see Interview of Benjamin Saunders, 1884, in the W. H. Kelley Collection, “Miscellany 1795–1948,” 27, Consortium of Church Libraries and Archives; Statement by C. R. Stafford, in Deming, Naked Truths About Mormonism, 3; Shortsville Enterprise, 18 March 1904.
 See Robin Jensen, “From Manuscript to Printed Page: An Analysis of the History of the Book of Commandments and Revelations,” 19–52; Introduction, in JSP, R1:xx-xxiv.
 History Drafts, 1838–circa 1841, in JSP, H1:424.
 “Arrange” meant to order them in some manner, and it was probably not alphabetically but chronologically.
 See Donald Q. Cannon and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Far West Record: Minutes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1844 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983), 46; Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams, and Martin Harris to Brethren in Zion, June 25, 1833, Joseph Smith Collection, Church History Library.
 Only the last portion of the revelation is extant, whereas the location is generally recorded in the first few lines of the revelation. Smith was in Fayette only for about four months or less and likely only there consecutively for the month of June 1829. Then he went back and forth between Fayette and Manchester during July and September. From October 1829 to March 1830 he was living at his home in Harmony, Pennsylvania.
 See The Evening and the Morning Star, March 1833, 76; April 1833, 84.