and , License, for JS, , Geauga Co., OH, 21 Mar. 1836; printed form with manuscript additions in the handwriting of ; signatures of and ; endorsed by ; two pages; JS Collection, CHL.
One leaf, measuring 5 × 8 inches (13 × 20 cm). The document has three vertical folds. It was printed on the press of the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. The document was signed by , , and on 21 March 1836. The provenance of this document is unknown; it is assumed that the document has remained in continuous institutional custody since its creation.
The ’s founding “Articles and Covenants” allowed for to be issued to , , , and , declaring their office. A license demonstrated to those both inside and outside the church that an individual had been granted authority for a particular assignment or office. A JS revelation from February 1831 required that no one “go forth to preach my gospel or to build up my church except they be by some one that hath authority & it is known to the church that he hath authority & have been regularly ordained by the leaders of the church.” As early as March 1833, licenses issued by the church began attesting to moral character and spiritual worthiness. Whereas earlier licenses were handwritten documents, in February 1834 individuals began receiving printed licenses with blank lines on which the issuer wrote in his name, the date, and the name of the person receiving the license.
At a 3 March 1836 of church leaders, a committee consisting of , , and presented its draft of regulations for licensing priesthood holders. After the council unanimously accepted the licensing resolutions, all “”—that is, men ordained to a priesthood office—were evaluated for worthiness and obtained a new license. In this system, men ordained to offices of the , or higher, priesthood were issued an elder’s license, even if they had already been ordained as a or to another office. The term elder was used in two ways: sometimes it referred generically to all men ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood, and in other cases it pertained specifically to the particular priesthood office of elder. Once an official member received the signed license from the chairman and clerk, it was his responsibility to have it copied into a record book maintained by as part of the church’s larger effort to standardize licensing and track the growing body of men ordained to offices in the higher priesthood. The recipient would retain possession of the original license, such as the one featured here, as proof of his authority.
The license featured here is representative of hundreds of similar licenses that bear JS’s signature; as chairman appointed on 3 March 1836 to sign licenses, JS signed nearly 250 of these new licenses before the end of May 1836. Unlike those licenses, however, JS was the recipient of this license, rather than the signatory.
Of the licenses recorded in the Kirtland Elders’ Certificate record book, only thirteen originals from the period covered in this volume are known to be extant. (See Kirtland Elders’ Certificates; and Calendar of Documents.)
Kirtland Elders’ Certificates / Kirtland Elders Quorum. “Record of Certificates of Membership and Ordinations of the First Members and Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Dating from March 21st 1836 to June 18th 1838 Kirtland Geauga Co. Ohio,” 1836–1838. CHL. CR 100 401.
THIS Certifies thatJoseph Smith, Jr.has been received into the , organized on thesixth of April, in the year of our Lord, one thousand, eight hundred, and thirty, and has been an according to the rules and regulations of said church, and is duly authorized to preach the gospel, agreeably to the authority of that office.
From the satisfactory evidence which we have of his good moral character, and his zeal for the cause of righteousness, and diligent desire to persuade men to forsake evil and embrace truth, we confidently recommend him to all candid and upright people, as a worthy member of society.
We, therefore, in the name, and by the authority of this church, grant unto this, our worthy brother in the Lord, this letter of commendation as a proof of our fellowship and esteem: praying for his success and prosperity in our Redeemer’s cause.
Given by the direction of a of elders of said church, assembled in , Geauga county, Ohio, this <the> 3rdday ofMarchin the year of our Lord, one thousand, eight hundred, and thirty-six.
The Statutes of Ohio and of the Northwestern Territory, Adopted or Enacted from 1788 to 1833 Inclusive: Together with the Ordinance of 1787; the Constitutions of Ohio and of the United States, and Various Public Instruments and Acts of Congress: Illustrated by a Preliminary Sketch of the History of Ohio; Numerous References and Notes, and Copious Indexes. 3 vols. Edited by Salmon P. Chase. Cincinnati: Corey and Fairbank, 1833–1835.
The resolutions to regulate licenses specified that both a chairman “Pro. Tempore” and temporary clerk could sign the licenses for the standing chairman and clerk. At the meeting on 3 March 1836 when the regulations on licensing were approved, JS was appointed as the “standing chairman” and Sidney Rigdon as “chairman protem.” Frederick G. Williams served as the standing clerk to sign licenses, and the authorities of the church appointed Oliver Cowdery as clerk pro tempore. (See Minutes, 3 Mar. 1836; JS, Journal, 3 Mar. 1836.)