Dr. Einar C. Erickson
Ancient Document Mormon Scholar
Main Menu
Articles View Hits


For example the Magi mentioned at the beginning of Mathew 2:1-12, it was sometimes thought that these Magi had learned of the birth of Christ from the books written by Seth. The way in which the Magi knew about the coming of Jesus attracted the attention of certain Christians.


"The Church Leaders felt that the time had come for the Indians to receive the knowledge of their origin."  (Wilcox p. 15) The second conference of the Church had been held in September 1830. "At this time a great desire was manifested by several of the Elders respecting the remnants of the house of Joseph, the Lamanites, residing in the west—knowing [as outlined in the Book of Mormon] that the purposes of God were great respecting that people, and hoping that the time had come when the promises of the Almighty in regard to them were about to be accomplished, and that they would receive the gospel, and enjoy its blessings. The desire being so great, it was agreed that we should inquire of the Lord respecting the propriety of sending some of the Elders among them, which we accordingly did." (HC l:118)  D&C Sections 28, and 32, identified Parley Parker Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Ziba Peterson and Peter Whitmer, Jr., as those who were called to go into the wilderness among the Lamanites. (HC l:118-119)  Preparations were made, copies of the revelations were given to each of them and "the men made a covenant with the Lord which they wrote down and signed before they left. Manchester, New York, October 17, 1830."  (Kelly p. 68)  A copy of what they signed is available in Cook p. 44. The women of the church helped prepare items for their mission, and preparations were made for their departure as discussed in Part 1 of this series.

Other missionaries were called to go elsewhere. Hyrum Smith was called to preside and teach at Colesville, New York. Shortly after he left, a man came to his parent's home demanding [payment of] a fourteen-dollar debt, but he would be willing to forgive the debt if the Smiths would burn all the copies of the Book of Mormon in their home and renounce the whole business. Joseph's father refused, so he was arrested, taken to Canandaigua and jailed. Lucy Smith wrote of this experience of her husband: "I shuddered when I first heard these heavy doors creaking upon their hinges; but then I thought to myself, I was not the first man who had been imprisoned for the truth's sake; and when I should meet Paul in the  Paradise of God I would tell him that I, too, had been in the bonds for the Gospel which he had preached. And this has been my only consolation." (Smith, p. 185)  He remained in jail for thirty days, taught those with him in jail the gospel, after their release he baptized them. (Kelly p. 68)  So, perhaps there was purpose in that incident.


The newly called missionaries  "... bade adieu to their brethren and friends, and commenced their journey, preaching by the way and leaving a sealing testimony behind them, lifting up their vice like a trump in the different villages through which they passed." (HC l:120)  They departed from Fayette on 17 October 1830. (Black p. 221) They traveled about 100 miles directly eastward to Buffalo, New York.  It was winter time, and the winter of 1830 would turn out to be most severe. After traveling for some days, stopping overnight, teaching where they could gather interested parties, and walking steadily, they probably made this leg of their journey before November. A horse under a steady walk can travel about 2.5 miles an hour, this is called a league. Infantry walking steadily can travel at the rate of 3 miles per hour; that is why Infantry have no problem in keeping up with cavalry.  Did they average about 15-20 miles per day? The missionaries had fore knowledge of at least four Indian encampments near Buffalo. The nearest one to their line of travel and the first they came to was southeast of the City of Buffalo. Elder Pratt wrote in his Journal that this was "where they spent part of a day instructing them in the knowledge of their forefathers. These Indians were of the Cattaraugus tribe [Seneca] and kindly received the brethren, who left with certain of their number who could read English, two copies of the Book of Mormon."  They learned from the Indians that they were being moved west (Kelly p. 69) as part of the ‘Indian Removal Act' of 1830. (Parker p. 136; also see Part II of this series p. 9; HC l:120)  There was no follow up on what the results of this brief encounter was, or whatever became of the two Indians who received a copy of the Book of Mormon.  It does not appear that the missionaries lingered in or near the city of Buffalo, but moved on, and continued their Journey westward. (HC l:120)


"They continued their journey until they came to Kirtland, Ohio." (HC l:120)  Pratt wanted to continue to Mentor, Ohio because of friends he had there. "where they tarried some time, there being quite a number of that place and vicinity who believed their testimony, and came forward and obeyed the Gospel. Among the number were Mr. Sidney Rigdon, and a large portion of the church over which he presided." (HC p. 120)  Pratt wrote: "At length [we] called upon Mr. Rigdon, [actually he was the first person they called upon], (HC p. 122) my former friend and instructor, in the Reformed Baptist Society, He received us cordially and entertained us with hospitality. We soon presented him with a Book of Mormon, and related to him the history of the same, stating that it was a revelation from God." (HC l:122) " He was much interested, and promised a thorough perusal of the book.." (Kelly p. 69)  Rigdon faced serious choices. "His congregation had built him a church, bought him a farm, and built a home on it because Sidney would not accept money for preaching. He and his family were about to move into the new home." (Kelly p. 69)  The arrival of the missionaries and the challenge of the Book of Mormon made him cautious in accepting Parley's word concerning the Book of Mormon. But the Missionaries gave him time; they left Mentor to visit Kirtland five miles away, and said they would be back in two weeks. Rigdon got so engaged in the book that it was hard for him to quit long enough to eat his meals. He read it both day and night. At least he had read it through and pondered and thought over it. (Kelly p. 69)  "Acceptance of Mormonism would mean the loss of the new home, [and the new church, the new farm, and his new congregation], but Rigdon and his wife were convinced it was the gospel of Jesus Christ." (Kelly p. 70)  They prepared for baptism. Later he would assert that the truth was made known to him in a remarkable manner by a revelation: "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto me, but my Father which is in heaven." (HC l:125) 

Elder Pratt had success in Kirtland and sent word to Rigdon that they intended a baptism and invited Rigdon to come to Kirtland for the ceremony. Rigdon and his wife did attend, but before his own baptism he wanted to explain to his congregation and ask their forgiveness. At a large meeting he addressed his people with great affection for nearly two hours, they were all reduced to tears. He forgave all, asked forgiveness from all, and the next morning, with most of them attending, he was baptized by Elder Oliver Cowdery. (HC p. 120)  After his baptism, he stood in the water and spoke to the crowd for some time, in such an inspiring way that many of the crowd then joined him in baptism; later most of his congregation would join the church. The several weeks in the Kirtland area changed Church History, Sidney Rigdon, Orson Hyde,  Philo Dibble, John Murdock and Frederick Williams, and their wives, to name but a few, were converted; most became influential and leaders in the Church. (Kelly 70-73) A branch of twenty members was established in the Kirtland region. (HC l:125) Soon it would grow by 100 more.  Here the first temple would be built with six months of divine assistance and visions, and great heavenly revelations being received. (Anderson pp. 107-113)

While converted, Edward Partridge refused to be baptized until he had first met Joseph Smith. Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge would travel that same month to visit Joseph. They found Joseph, and were impressed. On Dec 11, the Lord instructed Edward Partridge to be baptized and declare the gospel abroad. Joseph baptized him in the Seneca River. Frederick Williams, joined the four missionaries and continued with them on their mission. (HC l:128)


The five missionaries continued their journey, the weather getting colder and making it difficult to travel. "Fifty miles west of Kirtland the missionaries visited the home of Simeon Carter. When a warrant was served against Elder Pratt in the Carter home, Ziba accompanied him to the courtroom. Near midnight Parley invited Ziba to sing the hymn "Oh How Happy Are They" with him to the judge. The exasperated judge jailed Parley but allowed Ziba to rejoin the other missionaries. (Black p. 221) Apparently the charges were trumped up and Pratt was released and the missionaries continued their travels. After a journey of nearly another 150 miles, they arrived in the early part of 1831 at an Indian encampment near Fort Sandusky, Ohio, on the southern end of Lake Erie. Where they spent Christmas is not known, what successes they might have had in the long journey along Lake Erie are briefly hinted at, no records have been forthcoming. It does not seem that they traveled on the Lake because of winter conditions.


In December 1830 a short revelation, Section 37, had been received by Joseph temporary stopping the work on the Inspired Revision of the Scriptures, and instructing the saints to assemble at the Ohio, referring to a future return of Oliver Cowdery. In Fayette, on Jan 2, 1831 a conference was held transacting Church business and receiving new revelations, including Section 38. Section 39 on January 5 was also received. Section 40 was received later in January, soon after, as a result of the Missionary success in Kirtland, Joseph Smith and Emma, along with Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge, left for Kirtland arriving there February l, 1831; the branch of 20 members had now grown to 120. Part IV of this series will discuss the subsequent revelations which finally led to Joseph going to Jackson County, Missouri to dedicate the site of the Temple of the New Jerusalem and Zion on Aug 3, 1831.


‘On June 18, [1812] the United States declared war against Great Britain. Both sides then sent agents throughout the northwest to enlist Indian allies. Brigadier-General William Hull on his way to take command at Detroit, induced the Indians to hold a council at Fort Wayne, seventy or so miles east of Fort Sandusky. The Indians gathering there included Seneca, Iroquois, Shawnee, and Wyandots among many other tribes. "There several chiefs spoke in favor of joining the United States. [The great warrior and statesman of the Shawnee, Tecumseh, tricked by the Americans, had been defeated at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811] ...Tecumseh argued passionately against it. ‘Here is a chance...such as will never occur again - for us Indians of North America to form ourselves into one great combination'. Twice in the [Peace Pipe ceremonies] he broke the Peace Pipe handed to him by a pro-American Wyandot (Huron Chief). [It was a terrible insulting gesture and a grievous break of ceremonial custom]...(later he did smoke [the Peace Pipe] with the Wyandot); he wanted no hard feelings between Indians)... Then [in desperation], gathering a large war party, he marched to Fort Malden and joined the British." (Debo pp. 115-116)  But he had made the wrong choice. He was killed, at the age of 45, by the Americans in the War of 1812, fighting as an English Brigadier General at the Battle of the Thames. This battle was fought on the west shores of Lake Erie. (See map, also Erickson p. 13, PART II, 23 May 2007)


This was a time of great tumult among men on the earth and the earth itself. On "December 15th [1811] came the first shock of one of the worst earthquakes on record. [The worst the United States has ever experienced, called the New Madrid Earthquake, registered 10+ it was followed by another about the same size in January 1812]  It was centered along the Mississippi, where great masses of the banks fell into the stream, two river towns in Missouri were destroyed, and the earth was thrown into great rolling waves that burst open in long fissures. The tremors were felt as far east as Savannah, and houses began to shake, they [the Indians] were sure Tecumseh had told them he would stamp his foot and the earth would tremble." (Debo p. 114) The severe earthquakes changed the course of the Mississippi River and formed a large lake. Lately this area has been acting up again. The earthquake left a lasting impression on the Indians.


Frenchmen had come south in canoes on Lake Erie from Detroit and established this coastal Fort. The Yellowstone Trail came through this region; some twenty tribes had encampments in a great arc down the Ohio Valley.  In 1807 the Cayuga Seneca, one of the Iroquois Confederacy sold their lands near Buffalo, New York and joined other Seneca near the Fort. Only a small encampment had remained behind of the Cattaraugus Seneca that was visited by the missionaries. Now the Missionaries met with the Wyandot, remnants of the Hurons. The great chief Pontiac once captured the Fort. By 1819 most of the Indians that had gathered in the region were being driven by the Congressional Removal acts to the Missouri region. So, only a small portion of the Wyandot remained in the region to be taught by the missionaries for a few days. (See Indian Era Forts, by Phil Konstantin)  A small Wyandot group is still in the region in Wyandot County, Ohio.


"The missionaries to the Lamanites spent several days among a tribe of Indians in western Ohio known as the Wyandot." (Kelly p. 73)  These were displaced Hurons, having been driven southward by their own relatives, the Iroquois, and then driven and  further displaced by the Indian Removal Acts of 1828 and 1830, as discussed in PART 11 of this series.  Except for that brief statement from the writings of Parley P. Pratt, there is very little recorded about what the missionaries did during those several days among the Wyandot. The fact that they spent several days would mean they communicated a considerable amount concerning the Book of Mormon; perhaps they left a Book of Mormon or two with them. Their response or acceptance of the visit is not available.


From Sandusky, the missionaries traveled to Cincinnati, where they boarded a steamer bound for St. Louis. However, when they reached the mouth of the Ohio River, the ice was too thick for the boat to proceed. (Kelly p. 73) So, during the extreme conditions of a severe winter in January 1831, Pratt recorded: "We therefore landed and pursued our journey on foot for two hundred miles to the neighborhood of St. Louis.  We halted for a few days...about twenty miles from St. Louis, on account of a dreadful storm of rain and snow, which lasted for a week or more during which the snow fell in some places near three feet deep...In the Beginning of 1831 we renewed our journey; and, passing through St. Louis and St. Charles, we traveled on foot for three [more] hundred miles through vast prairies and through trackless wilds of snow—no beaten road; house few and far between; and the bleak northwest wind always blowing in our faces with a keenness which would almost take the skin off the face. We traveled for whole days, from morning till night, without a house or fire, wading in snow to the knees at every step, and the cold so intense that the snow did not melt on the south side of the houses, even in the mid-day sun, for nearly six weeks. We carried on our backs our changes of clothing, several books, [extra Book of Mormons] and corn bread and raw pork. We often ate our frozen bread and pork by the way, when the bread would be so frozen that we could not bite or penetrate any part of it but the outside crust. After much fatigue and some suffering we arrived in Independence, in the county of Jackson, on the extreme western frontiers of Missouri, and of the United States." (Kelly p. 73)  They had arrived in February 1831. The weather was now improving. They were eager to conduct their mission.  Their capacity for enduring privations was great. They were zealous missionaries.

"This was about fifteen hundred miles from where we had started, and we'd performed more of the journey on foot, through a wilderness country, in the worst season of the year, occupying about four months, during which we'd preached the gospel to tens of thousands of Gentiles and two nations of Indians; baptizing, confirming and organizing many hundreds of people into churches of Latter-Day Saints." (Kelly p. 74)  Without providing details, Pratt tells us they had encountered tens of thousands of Gentiles, interrupting their journey to preach, teach, baptize, and organize groups into Churches all along the way of their travels. Up to this time they had visited two Indian Nations, the Cattaraugus (Seneca) and Wyandots (Hurons). They were to meet with two additional Indian nations, the Shawnee and the Delaware's, before the Journey was through. There is no doubt some records of these successes that someone someday might compile into an interesting report. Pratt concluded: "This was the first mission performed by Elders of the Church in any of the States west of New York, and we were the first members of the same which were ever on this frontier." (Kelly p. 74)  The Church was now nine months old, and where Joseph was located there were more than two hundred members, not counting the members added to the Church by the activities of these five missionaries.   


Independence was a small rugged frontier town. Beyond it, to the west, were the Indian tribes that had been removed to the west since 1807, most of them after 1818, by the United States Government.  When the missionaries arrived the removal was still in progress and was to continue for another seventeen years.  It was now near mid-February.

They continued their journey to the state line. From the lands of the Louisiana Puchase of 1803, the territory of Missouri was carved out and granted statehood August 10, 1821. Jackson County was created from the Osage Indian Reservation after the signing of the 1825 Indian treaty, then this part of Missouri was opened for settlement in 1826. It was named after General Andrew Jackson who became president in 1828 and promptly enacted the Indian Removal Acts of 1828 and 1830. About the time they arrived they were able for part of a day to meet with some Shawnee. These and other Indians were being driven to small reservations in the Indian Nation region, or Oklahoma. The state line was an impassable barrier, with strictly enforced legal enactments; [it] guarded the sacred soil of the Indians. The Missionaries stopped with Colonel Robert Patterson at what was later known as the Vogal Place, near Westport, the site of a future horrible Civil War battle. Patterson was one of four families who had settled west of the Big Blue in 1825. From the Patterson homestead, the missionaries continued north of the Kaw River into the Indian reservation of the Delawares. This reservation extended about eight miles from the mouth of the Kaw River in what is at present Wyandotte County, Kansas. (Wilcox 72, p. 21) But they needed a permit to cross the river and visit the Indians. Thus the first Latter Day Saints arrived at Independence near mid February 1831. (Dyer p. 35)

They found a place to lodge, but they had to sustain themselves as they were nearly entirely without substance. Independence, Missouri was the great jumping off point to all points west. The course of the American empire could not be stayed until the shores of the Pacific had been reached and the intermediate distance claimed and populated. (Wilcox 72 p. 19)  On January 29, 1822, four trail worn traders rode into Franklin, Missouri, after a forty-eight day ride from San Miguel, 50 miles southeast of Santa Fe, Mexico, with packs filled with silver pesos. When Franklin was flooded out by the Missouri River, the new headquarters for trade was established at Independence. (Brown p. 1) There was a least twenty stores of general merchandise bordering the town square. These were clustered around the new two story, brick courthouse started in November 1829 now nearing completion. A temporary building of hewn logs was later, in 1832, sold to Gilbert and Whitney, latter-day-saint merchants from Kirtland. (Wilcox 72, p. 21)  Peter Whitmer and Ziba Peterson obtained work as tailors making garments for the men departing one caravan after another for Santa Fe and the Rocky Mountains.  The serious part of the mission, the actual teaching of the Indians became the responsibility of Oliver Cowdery, Parley Pratt and Frederick Williams. They soon were oriented and became familiar with the region and the Indian groups. Most of the Indians were on the west side of the river.

"The Indian intercourse laws and regulations of the War Department, then in charge of Indian affairs, prohibited white persons from settling or residing in the Indian Territory, except by special license or permit of the superintendent of Indian Affairs at St. Louis, on recommendation of the Indian agent in charge. Oliver Cowdery tried to obtain a permit. In Book D, of the records of the St. Louis Superintendancy of Indian Affairs, is a letter from Cowdery to General Clark [of Lewis and Clark fame] dated February 14, 183l, [no doubt prepared soon after their arrival and getting to know the protocol of the region.], from Independence, Missouri ‘asking for a permit for myself and all who may be recommended to me by the society to have free intercourse with several tribes.'" (Wilcox 72, p. 22-23) The records do not show that he received this permit, but the missionaries did make strenuous efforts to proselyte among the Indians, and they did cross the river many times during the subsequent week or so, which they probably would not have done without some kind of authorization. They may have had temporary permission from Cummings who was the one locally in charge.


The three missionaries were soon introduced, by whom is not known, to the leader of the Delaware, Chief Anderson. (Kelly p. 76)  Pratt recorded.

"[We] were soon introduced to an aged and venerable looking man, who had long stood at the head of the Delaware. [He was the leader of ten tribes]  He was seated on a sofa of furs, skins, and blankets, before a fire in the center of his lodge which was a comfortable cabin, consisting of two large rooms. His wives were neatly dressed, partly in calicos and partly in skins; and wore a vast amount of silver ornaments. As we entered his cabin he took us by the hand with a hearty welcome, and then motioned us to be seated on a pleasant seat of blankets, or robes. His wives, as this bidding, set before us a tin pan full of beans and corn boiled together, which proved to be good eating, although the three of us made use alternately of the same wooden spoon." (Kelly p. 76)  They agreed to come back the next day and meet with the members of the Indian Council so they would not have to repeat their message, but give it to a larger audience. They followed Indian custom and did not engage directly in the purpose of their mission during this first get acquainted meeting. The next day they crossed the river returning to the Chief's cabin.

Some "Forty men collected around us...who, after shaking us by the hand, were seated in silence; and in a grave and dignified manner awaited the announcement of what we had to offer...Elder Cowdery then commenced as follows:

"Aged Chief and venerable Council of the Delaware nation; we are glad of this opportunity to address you as our red brethren and friends. We have traveled a long distance from towards the raising sun to bring you glad news; we have traveled the wilderness crossed the deep and wide rivers, and waded in the deep snow, and in the face of the storms of winter, to communicate to you great knowledge which has lately come to our ears and hearts; and which will do the red man good as well as the pale face. Once the red men were many; they occupied the country from sea to sea—from the rising to the setting sun; the whole land was theirs; the Great Spirit gave it to them, and no pale face dwelt among them. But now they are few in numbers; their possessions are small, and the pale faces are many. Thousands of moons ago, when the red men's forefather dwelt in peace and possessed this whole land...the Great Spirit talked with them, and revealed His law and His will, and much knowledge to their wise men and prophets. This they wrote in a Book; together with their history, and the things which should befall their children in the latter days. This Book was written on plates of gold, and handed down from father to son for many ages and generations. It was then that the people prospered, and were strong and mighty; they cultivated the earth; built buildings and cities, and abounded in all good things, as the pale faces now do. But they became wicked; they killed one another and shed much blood; they killed their prophets and wise men, and sought to destroy the Book. The Great Spirit became angry and would speak to them no more; they had no more good and wise dreams: no more visions; no more angels sent among them by the Great Spirit; and the Lord commanded Mormon and Moroni, their last wise men and prophets, to hide the Book in the earth; that it might be preserved in safety and be found and made known in the latter day to the pale faces who should posses the land; that they might again make it known to the red man; in order to restore them to the knowledge of the will of the Great Spirit and to His favor. And if the red man would then receive this Book and learn the things written in it, and do according thereunto, they should cease to fight and kill one another; [and] should become one people; cultivate the earth in peace, in common with the pale faces, who were willing to believe and obey the same Book, and be good men and live in peace. Then should the red men become great, and have plenty to eat and good cloths to wear, and should be in favor with the Great Spirit and be his children, while he would be their Great Father, and talk with them, and raise up prophets and wise and good men amongst them again, who should teach them many things. This book, which contained these things, was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him Cumorah, which hill is now in the Sate of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario County. In that neighborhood there lived a young man named Joseph Smith, who prayed to the Great Spirit much, in order that he might know the truth; and the Great Spirit sent an angel to him, and told him where this book was hid by Moroni; and commanded him to go and get it. He accordingly went to the place, and dug in the earth, and found the Book written on golden plates. But it was written in a language of the forefathers of the red man; therefore this young man, being a pale face, could not understand it; but the angel told him and showed him, and gave him knowledge of the language and how to interpret the Book. So he interpreted it into the language of the pale faces, and wrote it on paper, and caused it to be printed, and published thousands of copies among them; and sent us to the red man to bring some copies of it to them, and to tell them this news. So we have now come from him, and here is a copy of the Book, which we now present to our red friend, the Chief of the Delaware, and which we hope he will cause to be read and known among his tribe; it will do them good.  We then presented him with a Book of Mormon. There was a pause in the council, and some conversation in their own tongue, after which the chief made the following replay..." (Kelly pp. 77-78)

The Indians listened carefully, they were a little concerned, the Great Spirit was still speaking to them, they were still getting messengers from him, they still had visions, and they still had prophets!  Their Nephite heritage may not have been broken by total apostasy as had been the case of the destructive Lamanites.  This made them a little cautious about the message delivered. Things they knew about were missing from the message they were receiving. But other things were clearly important.  An episode from the life of Hugh Nibley might make this clearer. "On Easter day in 1954, I was standing with Brother J. Virgil Bushman (1889-1969)...that doughty missionary to the Hopi, before the house of the celebrated Tewaqueptewa, in Old Oraibi, when a small delegation of leading men from the village came up and informed us that they had just learned from the local Protestant missionaries how the Mormons got a lot of their [temple] stuff. It seems that when the famous Chief Tuba (1810-1887) became a Mormon, Jacob Hamblin took him to Salt Lake City to marry his wives in the temple there. While the chief was in town, Joseph  Smith (1805-1844) -none other-took him aside and interrogated him very closely, prying the tribal secrets out of him; from what Chief Tuba told Smith, he proceeded to write the Book of Mormon, establish the temple ordinances,  and found the church. And that, sir, is why the Hopi traditions are so much like those of the Mormons." (Nibley p. xxvii)  It pays to find out from those you are teaching what they already know.


Then Chief Anderson made his reply. Note the content of how his response followed the tone set by Oliver Cowdery's presentation.

"We feel truly thankful to our white friends who have come so far, and been at such pains to tell us good news,, and especially this new news concerning the Book of our fore fathers; it makes us glad in here [in our hearts]...It is now winter, we are new settlers in this place; the snow is deep, our cattle and horses are dying, our wigwams are poor; we have much to do this spring—to build houses, and fence and make farms; but we will build a council house, and meet together, and you will read to us and teach us more concerning the Book of our fathers and the will of the Great Spirit." (Kelly p. 78)

Pratt continued his recording of the events. "We continued for several days to instruct the old chief and many of his tribe. [This would have brought the contact up to at least five days] The interest became more and more intense on their part, from day to day, until at length nearly the whole tribe began to feel a spirit of inquiry and excitement on the subject." (Kelly p. 78) No doubt this was because their on going presentations would have given them more information on the restoration, Joseph Smith, the prophet, and the content of the Book of Mormon, kindling interest because of more and more connecting parallels and mutual experiences, and answering their questions. They would have learned among other things that their belief in three Holy Men who visited and instructed the Indians was detailed in the account of the Three Nephites in the Book of Mormon. (Cryer p. 368) The visits to the Indians by the White God was certainly evident by the very content of the Book of Mormon. (Cryer p. 368) The interest was intense. So much interest was sparked in the Indians that "jealousy and envy arose among the sectarian missionaries. To them this [Mormon] preaching was political imbecility...They became irritated by Oliver Cowdery's sermons which promised the Delaware that they should be restored to all their rights and privileges, should become one people in common with the palefaces." (Wilcox p. 23)  This was not in harmony with the Indian Removal Act at all. Then "Richard Cummings, Indian agent, ordered the missionaries out of the Indian territory. The first notice was disregarded [the missionaries expected God would intervene on their behalf], the old Tennessean went in person. He gave them the choice of moving eastward to the end of the road or westward to the Leavenworth guardhouse." (Wilcox p. 23) The missionaries had no choice. God had other plans.


The agitation had been in particular stimulated by a William Gillis. He had been a missionary and trader for many years with the Delaware in southeast Missouri and accompanied the tribe to their new reservation. "Not only were the Latter Day Saint missionaries expelled but Gillis [as well as other sectarian missionaries] was required by Cummings to leave." (Wilcox 72, pp. 23-24)  Gillis' efforts had backfired on him. After leaving the Indian territory, he made settlement on land near the old Kansas City water works plant, later became one of the founders of the town." (Wilcox 72, p. 24) He became involved with Gabriel Prudhomme who had received a land grant in October 1830. Prudhomme died in 1831. His heirs eventually sought to sell the land grant. On November 14, 1838, some thirty men "assembled near the river at the foot of what later became Grand Avenue [of Kansas City] to a small cattle lot...Squire George Tate mounted the perch...proceeded to announce the sale belonging to the estate. ..There were few outside bidders, and the townsite was purchased by the bid of W. L. Sublett, [of the Mountain Man Family] for which fourteen men gave their notes." (Wilcox 75, p. 255) One of those men was William Gillis. This was the beginning of the promotion of the future Kansas City. By 1848 after the end of the Mexican War, great wagon trains were outfitting there and headed for Oregon and all parts west. (Hough pp 2-3)  Independence remained the jump-off point for Santa Fe and Mexico which then had become American lands. Gillis continued to follow his activities as a trader.

But before the mission was terminated, Pratt said: "We found several among them who could read, and to them we gave copies of the Book, explaining to them that it was the book of their forefathers. Some began to rejoice exceedingly, and took great pains to tell the news to others, in their own language." (Kelly p. 78)  So, in addition to the Chief being given a copy of the Book of Mormon, members of the tribal council now had copies they could read personally. All of this in the third week of February of 1831.


The success and excitement created by the missionaries inevitably came to the attention of other preachers and ministers, who themselves were trying to convert the Indians. These men became antagonistic and complained to the government Indian agents. Who, apparently without examining the evidence or making a reasonable investigation, declared the Mormon Missionaries ‘disturbers of the peace' and ordered them out of Indian Country. (Kelly p. 78)  They had to oblige.


"After the unsuccessful Indian mission, Oliver Cowdery and Ziba Peterson traveled forty miles to the east of Independence where they called upon the Missourians ‘to repent' but again with little success. In a letter of May 7, 1931, Cowdery concluded with: ‘We are well, bless the Lord; and preach the Gospel we will, if earth and hell oppose our way-and we dwell in the midst of scorpions: for in Jesus we trust.'" (Wilcox 72, p. 25; Kelly p. 86)  About that time the newly formed U.S. postal system had been developed so those that remained behind frequently wrote to Joseph Smith to report their activities.

Pratt added after they were expelled from the Indian Territory:  "We accordingly departed from the Indian country, and came over the line, and commenced laboring in Jackson County, Missouri, among the whites. We were well received and listened to by many and some were baptized and added to the Church. Thus ended out first Indian Mission, in which we had preached the gospel in its fullness, [as they had it at that time] and distributed the record of their forefathers among three tribes...the Cattaraugus Indians, near Buffalo, N.Y., the Wyandotte's of Ohio, and the Delaware west of Missouri, [as well as a brief meeting with the Shawnee]. We trust that at some future day, when the servants of God go forth in power to the remnants of Joseph, some precious seed will be found growing in their hearts, which was sewn by us in that early day..."  (Kelly p. 778)


Before they scattered Pratt recorded:  "Elders Cowdery, Whitmer, Peterson, myself, and Frederick Williams, who accompanied us from Kirtland, now assembled in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, and came to the conclusion that one of our number had better return to the Church in Ohio, and perhaps to headquarters in New York, in order to communicate with the Presidency, report ourselves,  pay a visit to the numerous churches we had organized on our outward journey and also procure more books." ( Kelly pp. 78-79)   They were apparently out of the Book of Mormons they had brought with them.

Pratt was elected to return and so he took leave of the others setting on foot and then by boat in late February.  In nine days he arrived at St. Louis, a distance of three hundred miles.  He spent a few days with a friend then took a steamer in St. Louis for a week to Cincinnati. He walked from there to Strongville, Ohio, within forty miles of Kirtland. He had become quite fatigued and was becoming sick and was in much disarray. He stayed a night with an elderly gentleman called Coltrin, finding himself severely sick with measles the next morning.  He spent most of the next two weeks scarcely able to raise his head. The Coltrins took care of him like his own father would have. Then they provided him with a horse on which he arrived at Kirtland. Nearly a thousand members were in the fold in Ohio; mostly those along the trail of the original Journey the missionaries had made. He had been gone six months from his wife, but she like many others were moving to Kirtland, so he stayed there and was rejoined with her not long after. (Kelly pp. 79-80) 

In a letter Oliver Cowdery spoke of the animosities developing. "We verily believe that we also rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. Atheists, Deists, Presbyterian, Methodists, Baptists, and other professed Christians, priests and people with all the devils from the infernal pit are united, and foaming out their own shame [against us]."  (Kelly p. 86)

He also added: "I am lately informed of another tribe of Lamanites, who have abundance of superior quality. The tribe is very numerous; they live three hundred miles west of Santa Fe, and are called Navahoes. Why I mention this tribe is because I feel under obligations to communicate to my brethren, and information concerning the Lamanites that I meet with in our labors and travels, believing, as I do, that much is expected from in this cause of our Lord." (Kelly p. 86) Given a chance he would like to have gone to preach to the Navahoes. It would be many decades before anyone would go there. Today, the Navajos comprise one sixth of all of the Indians left in America. The Cherokee are about the same population, the two tribes represent one third of all of the Indians left in 525 tribes numbering about l.5 million in 1980.



Most Mormon readers are aware of the subsequent history of Oliver Cowdery, his eventual excommunication in Missouri in 1837, his letter to Joseph in Carthage Jail of an offer of legal help, and his later visit to Brigham Young at Winter Quarters where he rejoined the Church, was re-baptized and made preparations to depart to the west. But within a year of his return to the Church he died of Tuberculoses.


Of the five Missionaries, only Parley Pratt went west with the Pioneers; made frequent missions abroad, left a family and a legacy in the Salt Lake Valley, remained a faithful member of the Quorum of the Twelve until he was killed at age 55 on a mission in 1857 to Arkansas. He became another martyr  Much of what we have from Pratt comes from his well received autobiography.  


After the missionaries split up, Ziba and Peter Whitmer, who had taken jobs to support the others, preached to the Indians across the Missouri River on 8 April 1831. Then Ziba with Oliver Cowdery traveled into Lafayette County to the east where Ziba met and converted his future wife, Rebecca Hopper (Black p. 222) Later in the summer of 1831 he preached in Lone Jack, a frontier community in southern Missouri. The Lord Chastised him for his sins on l August 1831, (D&C 58:60) three days later he confessed his faults. But in May 1833 he withdrew from the Church and was excommunicated 25 June 1833. (Black p. 222) He went to live with his wife at Lone Jack where a new settlement was being developed, named after a solitary blackjack oak in the town. "After wearying toil as unusual for a new frontier settlement, the need arose for a school, a Mormon preacher, Ziba Peterson, proposed to instruct the youngsters. He had come in the summer of 1833 and married Miss Hopper, a neighborhood girl. He taught for several years until Martin Rice succeeded him." (Wilcox 72 p. 26)  He then moved to a home next to his father-in-law in Lafayette County. He took his family to California in 1848. His daughter Mary was then six years old, they lived in the gold town of ‘Dry Diggins'   where he became well known and was elected sheriff. He apprehended three desperadoes and hung them, the first legal hanging in California, which led to the changing of the name of the town to ‘Hangtown.' He died of unknown causes some time after the hanging, in 1849 at Placerville, California. (Black p. 221)  His widow moved on to Napa Valley where she purchased a lot in Sonoma from former Missouri governor Liburn W. Boggs. (Black p. 222)  


Along with Ziba, Peter Whitmer, Jr., took up tailoring. Peter became an accomplished Tailor, even being hired by General Alexander Doniphan to prepare him a suit. He remained in Independence until October 1831, and then returned to Kirtland. He soon returned to Missouri and supported his family by his trade as a tailor. He took a room in the home of Liburn W. Boggs, even made him a suit for his inauguration ceremony.  But his family suffered from the mobocracy and persecution in 1833. (Black p. 336)  A Whitmer settlement was established west of the Big Blue River, during the night of October 31, 1833, fifty armed men under the guise of the military, attacked the Whitmer settlement. Ten houses were demolished. (Wilcox 72, p. 26) Pratt came on the scene soon after and wrote: "I was filled with anguish at the awful sights of the houses in ruins, furniture destroyed and strewed about the streets...while some of the men were covered with blood from the blows they received." (Wilcox 72, p. 74) Peter fled to Clay County, became ill in the swamp lands of Clay County, but extended his kindness to help others who were sick, including Heber C. Kimball who recalled his kindness. Peter, like his brother-in-law, Oliver Cowdery, was dying from tuberculoses. Peter's brother died in 1835, and while serving on the high council in 1836 Peter died on 22 September, near Liberty, Missouri keeping the certainty of his former testimony. (Black pp. 335-336)


Frederick Williams was a Justice of the peace in Kirtland when the four missionaries arrived, he and his wife Rebecca readily received their message, but they carefully weighed and compared the Book of Mormon with the Bible, and in October 1830 were baptized. He was acquainted with the frontier, so he joined the missionary group; his insights were helpful on the journey. He was to be gone ten months. He visited the Indians with Pratt and Oliver, and continued to serve until his return to Kirtland. In 1832 he was called to be a counselor to the Prophet (D&C 81) the prophet named a surviving son after Frederick. Joseph placed great confidence in him. In 1834 Frederick deeded his farm to Joseph, joined Zion's camp, serving as the paymaster of the camp. Because of his unwavering faith, he saw the angel [identified as Peter the Apostle] enter the Kirtland Temple when it was dedicated, and also saw the Savior come into the Temple. (Black pp 346-347) Frederick was with Rigdon and Joseph when they had a vision of the Kirtland Temple before it was built. (Anderson p. 157)  Confusing actions of the Church in 1837 over the banking problem and a dispute about the actions of Warren Parrish eliminated Frederick from the First Presidency. (Anderson pp. 204-205) But in 5 August 1838 Joseph entered in his writings that Frederick had been recently re-baptized. He helped write the redress petition of 1840. He was a frequent visitor to the home of the Prophet during the next two years, one night Joseph said to him, "Brother Frederick, I don't like to see you leave. You are going home to die." He answered "I am already a dead man." He died in October 1842 at age 54 in Quincy from a lung hemorrhage, (Black pp. 347-348) probably the results of Tuberculoses, which seemed to have taken a lot of men in their prime at that time.


Members gathered in Kirtland on the 3rd of June 1831, for the fourth conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "The final revelation of the conference called many of the brethren on missions. The missionaries were to travel to Missouri by different routes, preaching as they went, and were to meet on the borders of the lands of the Lamanites where Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, Ziba Peterson, and Frederick G. Williams were still laboring. Once they all had gathered in that place, the Lord promised to reveal the location of the city of Zion, the New Jerusalem." (Kelly pp. 88-89)  

This will be the subject of PART IV, which will conclude this series.


Anderson, Karl Ricks, Joseph Smith's Kirtland, Deseret Book Co., S. L. C., Utah, 1989  

Black, Susan Easton,  Who's Who in the Doctrine and Covenants,  Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, Utah 1997

Cook, Lyndon W., The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Seventy's Mission Book Store, 1981

Cryer, Tom, The Visual Testament and the Israelite Indian, Cryer, 1999

Debo, Angie, A History of the Indians of the United States, The Folio Society, University of Oklahoma Press,  2003

Dyer, Alvin, The Refiner's Fire, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah 1976

Erickson, Einar C., The First Mission of the Church, The Mission to the Lamanites,  PART 11, The Indians., Web Site 23 May 2007

HC-History of the Church, Vol. l, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1946

Hough, Emerson, The Covered Wagon, Tom Doherty Ass. Book, New York,  2000

Kelly, Brian & Petrea, Latter-Day History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Covenant Communications, Inc., American Fork Utah, 2000

Nibley, Hugh, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, an Egyptian Endowment, 2ND Ed. FARMS Vol. 16, Deseret Book Co., Salt lake City, Utah, 2005

Parker, Linda S., Native American Estate, The Struggle over Indian and Hawaiian Lands, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1989

Smith, Lucy Mack, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Ed. Preston Nibley,  Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, Utah 1956

Wilcox, Pearl, 1972, The Latter Day Saints on the Missouri Frontier, Wilcox, Independence Missouri.

                        1975  Jackson County Pioneers, Wilcox,  Independence Missouri

All research and opionions presented on this site are the sole responsibility of Dr. Einar C. Erickson, and should not be interpreted as official statements of the LDS doctrine, beliefs or practice.
To find out more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, please see their offical websites at LDS.org and Mormon.org