DC 114 Historical Background
The year 1838 was transitional for the Church. First of all, the headquarters of the Church was in transition from Kirtland to Far West, Missouri. Secondly, apostasy among leading brethren changed church leadership significantly. The problem, among others, was that the Presidency of this stake of Zion was remiss in some of their duties. A high council (including a common council of all church members in Missouri) was called to address these issues. In essence, they were holding a church council on the entire stake presidency. Some questioned whether the council had the proper authority. Others, including Apostle David W. Patten, felt like the proceedings were completely legal and necessary. It's important to note that the Prophet Joseph Smith did not arrive in Far West until March 14th and was not present at any of the church councils mentioned below.
- Feb. 5, 1838, Far West, Missouri-the Presidency of the Missouri Church, David Whitmer, William W. Phelps, and John Whitmer are removed from their office for misuse of Church funds, etc. During the proceedings, David W. Patten, "spoke with the much zeal against the Presidency, and in favor of Joseph Smith, Jun., and that the wolves alluded to, in his letter, were the dissenters in Kirtland." (History of the Church, 3:4)
- Feb. 6-9, 1838 The actions of the high council were ratified by a general membership vote-"the Committee of the whole Church in Zion, in General Assembly." (History of the Church, 3:3-4)
- March 29, 1838 Joseph Smith writes a letter approving the actions of the aforementioned council:
- The difficulties of the Church had been adjusted before my arrival here, by a judicious High Council, with Thomas B. Marsh and David W. Patten, who acted as presidents pro tempore of the Church of Zion, being appointed by the voice of the Council and Church, William W. Phelps and John Whitmer having been cut off from the Church, David Whitmer remaining as yet. The Saints at this time are in union; and peace and love prevail throughout; in a word, heaven smiles upon the Saints in Caldwell. (History of the Church, 3:11)
- April 12, 1838 Oliver Cowdery is excommunicated. (History of the Church, 3:16-18)
- April 13, 1838 David Whitmer is excommunicated .(History of the Church, 3:18-19)
- "Joseph Smith and his family arrived in Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri, on 14 March 1838. Four days before his arrival, the high council in Missouri had excommunicated W. W. Phelps and John Whitmer. A month later, on 12 and 13 April 1838, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Lyman Johnson were also excommunicated. This was a time in which the Prophet Joseph could no longer be entirely certain on whom he could rely. Men he counted as brothers, both in Kirtland and in Missouri, had betrayed him or had simply lost their conviction that he was still a prophet." (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 4:103)
DC 114:1 my servant David W. Patten
"Birth: 14 November 1799, Theresa, near Indian River Falls, New York. Son of Benoni Patten and Edith (Abigail) Cole.
Death: 25 October 1838, Battle of Crooked River, Missouri.
"In his youth David W. Patten journeyed alone from New York to southeastern Michigan, where he made himself a home in the woods. He attended Methodist meetings even though 'I was looking for the Church of Christ to arise in its purity, according to the promise of Christ, and [believed] that I should live to see it.' A letter from his brother John Patten conveyed information about the restoration of the gospel. David traveled over three hundred miles to Indiana to converse with John about the new religion. Convinced of its truth, he was baptized by his brother. At the time of his baptism he stood six feet, one inch in height and weighed over two hundred pounds.
"David was ordained an elder on 17 June 1832 and immediately began serving a mission in Michigan. On the mission he discovered his gift of healing: 'The Lord did work with me wonderfully, in signs and wonders following them that believed in the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, insomuch that the deaf were made to hear, the blind to see, and the lame were made whole. Fevers, palsies, crooked and withered limbs, and in fact all manner of diseases common to the country, were healed by the power of God, that was manifested through his servants.'
"By the fall of 1833 he had completed three missions and was residing in Kirtland until the Prophet asked him to serve the brethren in Missouri. The Prophet hoped that David would prove to be a blessing to the Saints, and wrote, 'O, may God grant it a blessing for Zion, as a kind angel from heaven.' David reached Clay County in March 1834 and spent his days and nights ministering to the exiled Saints.
"On one occasion an enraged mobber threatened him with a bowie knife, swearing, 'You d-d Mormon, I'll cut your d-d throat.' David calmly responded, 'My friend, do nothing rash.' His gentle composure caused the mobber to assume that David was carrying a concealed weapon, and he fled.
"David left Missouri to journey to the southern states, where again he preached the gospel and healed the sick. While on this mission David laid his hands on the head of Johnston F. Lang's wife, who had been ill for eight years. She was instantly healed.
"On 15 February 1835 David was ordained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and blessed, 'O God, give this, Thy servant, a knowledge of Thy will; may he be like one of old, who bore testimony of Jesus; may he be a new man from this day forth.' In May 1835 he joined his brethren of the Twelve in missionary service in the eastern states, traveling through New York, Canada, Vermont, and Maine. His next mission was to the southern states.
"In Tennessee he was arrested for promising the Holy Ghost to those who accepted baptism. He and his companion were held under a two thousand dollar bond until their trial on 22 June 1835. According to Wilford Woodruff, 'They plead their own cause. Although men came forward and testified they did receive the Holy Ghost after they were baptized, the brethren were condemned; but were finally released by paying the expenses of the mob court.'
"Feeling the injustice of the court, David 'arose to his feet and delivered a speech of about twenty minutes, holding them spell-bound while he told them of their wickedness and abominations that they were guilty of, also of the curse of God that awaited them, if they did not repent, for taking up two harmless, inoffensive men for preaching the Gospel of Christ.' The judge exclaimed, 'You must be armed with secret weapons, or you would not talk in this fearless manner to an armed court.' David replied, 'I have weapons that you know not of, and they are given me of God.' After the court session David was 'warned in a dream to get up and flee, as the mob would soon be there.'
"As he was leaving Tennessee he 'suddenly became aware that a person [Cain] on foot by his side was keeping pace with the mule on which he rode.' Abraham O. Smoot recorded from memory David's description of the wandering traveler:
His head was about even with my shoulders as I sat in my saddle. He wore no clothing, but was covered with hair. His skin was very dark. I asked him where he dwelt and he replied that he had no home, that he was a wanderer in the earth and traveled to and fro. He said he was a very miserable creature, that he had earnestly sought death during his sojourn upon the earth, but that he could not die, and his mission was to destroy the souls of men. About the time he expressed himself thus, I rebuked him in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by virtue of the Holy Priesthood, and commanded him to go hence, and he immediately departed out of my sight.
"After a two-year absence David returned to Kirtland, where he witnessed apostasy and experienced personal sorrow and inward struggles as his brother-in-law, Warren Parrish, sought to destroy his faith. It is believed that David made known to the Prophet that he wished to die a martyr's death. The Prophet responded, 'When a man of your faith asks the Lord for anything, he generally gets it.'
"The fulfillment of the Prophet's rejoinder was in October 1838. Violent mob action was taking place in Missouri, and bands of lawless men roamed the country, destroying homes, burning crops, and ravishing women. For his defense of the Saints, David was known as 'Captain Fearnot.' On 24 October 1838, when news reached Far West that mobbers had taken prisoners near Crooked River, David responded, and about midnight seventy-five men volunteered to serve under his command. It was near Crooked River that a shot was fired and the battle ensued. Biographer Lycurgus A. Wilson wrote: 'With the watch-word God and Liberty, on his lips, David, ordering a charge, ran forward. The mob fled in confusion before the rush that followed ... but as David led the pursuit down the river bank, a mobber who had taken refuge behind a tree for a momentary pause before taking to the river, turned and shot him in the abdomen.' The brethren rallied around their wounded leader and carried him to the home of Stephen Winchester.
"David's dying words were, 'I feel that I have kept the faith, I have finished my course, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me.' To his wife he said, 'Whatever you do else, O do not deny the faith.' He prayed, 'Father, I ask Thee in the name of Jesus Christ, that thou wouldst release my spirit, and receive it unto Thyself.' He then said, 'Brethren, you have held me by your faith, but do give me up, and let me go, I beseech you.' David Patten died at 10:00 p.m. on 25 October 1838 at the age of thirty-eight.
"Of his martyrdom the Prophet Joseph wrote: 'Brother David W. Patten was a very worthy man, beloved by all good men who knew him. He was one of the Twelve Apostles, and died as he lived, a man of God and strong in the faith of a glorious resurrection, in a world where mobs will have no power or place.'
"At his funeral on 27 October 1838 the Prophet, while pointing to David's lifeless body, stated, 'There lies a man that has done just as he said he would-he has laid down his life for his friends.' His remains were laid to rest with military honors at Far West, and his grave is now unmarked and unknown.
"Of his noble spirit the Lord stated, in a revelation to the Prophet, 'David Patten I have taken unto myself; behold, his priesthood no man taketh from him' (D&C 124:13). He assured the Prophet, 'My servant David Patten ... is with me at this time' (D&C 124:19). (Susan Easton Black, Who's Who in the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 217 - 221)
DC 114:1 that he may perform a mission unto me next spring
David Patten would never serve the mission promised him in this revelation-at least on this side of the veil. He would suffer a martyr's death 6 months after receiving this promise.
"David Patten's situation was one which holds a great deal of interest and fascination for members of the Church and students of its history. Elder Patten was directed specifically to prepare for a mission to be performed the following spring. The events in Far West, however, were such that by the next spring when the Twelve were to leave from the Temple lot, they had to do so at the peril of their very lives. In fact, by the time of their departure-because of persecution and other factors-at least four of the original members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had become disaffected from the Church. These were William E. McLellin, Luke S. and Lyman E. Johnson, and John F. Boynton.
"Elder Patten has become almost legendary in the history of the Church for his courage and personal power in the face of adversity. He was a fearless defender of the faith and also of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Elder Patten stood six feet, one inch tall and weighed over two hundred pounds; he was a man of great physical strength. A biographer recorded that on one occasion he picked up a man bodily and threw him out of the house for continually disturbing a preaching meeting. On another occasion, he went outside to meet a mob bent on doing bodily harm to him and his fellow missionaries. Upon hearing of their intentions, he bared his chest and invited them to shoot him if it would satisfy them. Instead of shooting, they began to fear and ran as if in peril of their own lives.
"According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, David Patten had confided to him sometime in the early summer of 1838 that he, Patten, had been praying and 'had asked the Lord to let him die the death of a martyr.' Lycurgus Wilson, who wrote of the life of Elder Patten, suggested that this desire to die as a martyr probably came as a result of the revelation in section 114. The Prophet expressed sorrow at such a request, 'for,' according to Wilson, the prophet stated, 'when a man of your faith asks the Lord for anything, he generally gets it.' (David F. Boone, Studies in Scripture, Vol. 1: The Doctrine and Covenants, ed. by Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989], 440)
DC 114:2 inasmuch as there are those among you who deny my name, others shall be planted in their stead
It's heartbreaking to think of great men like Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer being excommunicated from the Church. Should they have been shown more leniency? While we may be partial to them for their faithfulness as witnesses to the Book of Mormon, it was part of the Lord's plan for all three witnesses of the Book of Mormon to leave the Church. If disaffected with Joseph Smith, the skeptic might charge, they would certainly deny the Book of Mormon. Yet, not one of them did-whether in the church or out-all three maintained their testimony of seeing the angel Moroni, hearing the voice of God declaring unto them of its truthfulness, and looking upon the record with their own eyes.
This verse to Elder Patten seems to acknowledge the recent difficulties with leading brethren being excommunicated. The Lord does not excuse the Brethren. He does not find fault with the proceedings of the church councils. He doesn't command the Prophet Joseph to go and smooth things over. He declares: "inasmuch as there are those among you who deny my name, others shall be planted in their stead and receive their bishopric." (In this verse, bishopric is a general term used in reference to any church office, see Ps. 109:8; Acts 1:20)
"Each of the three witnesses left: Martin Harris, friend and benefactor of Joseph Smith; Oliver Cowdery, who wrote almost the entire Book of Mormon as Joseph dictated it-assistant president of the Church, capable, intelligent, scholarly Oliver-lost in apostasy; David Whitmer, who with Joseph and Oliver beheld an angel holding the plates and heard the voice of God speaking from the heavens. David Whitmer and Joseph Smith had resided in the same home for months. To have any one of these three personal friends, fellow witnesses, leave the faith and reject Joseph's prophetic calling would have been distressing, but how difficult to lose all three. Of the eight witnesses, half apostatized; some became very vocal in renouncing Joseph Smith. As one glances through the names of the original Quorum of the Twelve selected in 1835, no less than half apostatized. Some left briefly and then returned repentant; some were never to return. Wilford Woodruff, speaking of this apostasy, said:
I passed through that scene [great apostasy in Kirtland], as did some others who are now with us. . . . Even Apostles took occasion to rise up and endeavored to dictate and direct the Prophet of God. Those who testified to the Book of Mormon were led away through not keeping the commandments of God and thinking that they themselves were great men. Some of them were learned men; some of them considered themselves very smart men, and they were so smart that they wanted to dictate and direct the Prophet of God. The consequence of all this was that they turned aside from the commandments of God. Some of them had been true and faithful in their labors in the ministry. I have heard Oliver Cowdery testify of the Book of Mormon by the power of God, when it seemed as if the very earth trembled under his feet. He was filled with the Holy Ghost and the power of God while he was faithful, and so were many of these men. But Oliver Cowdery yielded to the temptation of the evil one, and we may say he apostatized. So did Martin Harris, and several others connected with them. They left the Church, they turned against Joseph and they said he was a fallen prophet, and they themselves wanted to direct the Church. Several of these men called upon me in that time of apostasy and asked me to join them against the Prophet; the Prophet was fallen, they said. Now, I had seen enough myself of the Prophet of God and I had read enough of the revelations of God through him, to know that he was a Prophet of God, and not a fallen Prophet. I saw that these men were yielding to the devil, and I told them so. Said I: "You will all go to hell unless you repent. Joseph has been raised up by the power of God and to the Church and kingdom of God here on the earth." (Leon R. Hartshorn, Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1970], 93)