“A License Liberty Power & Authority,” License, , Seneca Co., NY, for , 9 June 1830; handwriting of ; signatures of JS and ; one page; Western Americana Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Transcription from digital color image obtained from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 2010.
Single leaf measuring 7 × 7¾ inches (18 × 20 cm). The verso is blank. William E. Benjamin, a autograph and rare book collector and dealer, likely obtained the license circa late 1899 from Whitmer family member George Schweich when Benjamin obtained the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon. William R. Coe obtained the document by the early 1950s at the latest, after which the Coe collection was obtained by the Beinecke Library at Yale University.
Riley, Founder of Mormonism, 80n5, 100n59. The New York Times indicated the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon was “kept in a bank vault in this town.” On 17 January 1900, Schweich wrote to O. R. Beardsley telling him that the manuscript was with Benjamin in New York. (“The Book of Mormon,” New York Times, 21 Sept. 1899, 9; George Schweich, Richmond, MO, to O. R. Beardsley, 17 Jan. 1900, Miscellanea, Marie Eccles-Caine Archives of Intermountain Americana, Utah State University Special Collections, Logan.)
Riley, I. Woodbridge. The Founder of Mormonism: A Psychological Study of Joseph Smith, Jr. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1902.
New York Times. New York City. 1857–.
Schweich, George. Letter, Richmond, MO, to O. R. Beardsley, 17 Jan. 1900. Miscellanea, Marie Eccles-Caine Archives of Intermountain Americana, Utah State University Special Collections, Logan.
See Withington, Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Collection of Western Americana, 32.
Withington, Mary C., comp. A Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Collection of Western Americana Founded by William Robertson Coe, Yale University Library. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1952.
was one of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon and was shortly after the organization of the church on 6 April 1830. This document is a “signifying & proveing” that he held the office of in the newly formed . Whitmer was ordained to this office before the first of the church and received a license at that gathering, as did several other officers. The Book of Mormon described the duties of a teacher in terms similar to those of a ; likewise, “Articles of the Church of Christ,” a June 1829 document prepared by , listed the same duties for teachers and priests. However, “Articles and Covenants,” the document unanimously approved by the church at the 9 June 1830 conference, stated that priests were authorized to “baptize, and administer the ,” while teachers were not. The primary responsibility of teachers was “to watch over the church always.”
Given to signifying & proveing that he is a of this established & regularly organized in these last days A D 1830 on the 6th day of April All of which has been done by the will of God the Father according to his holy calling & the gift & power of the Holy Ghost agreeable to the revelations of Jesus Christ given to Joseph Smith Jun the of the Church signifying that he has been & received into the Church according to the Articles & Covenants of the Church & under the hand of who is an Apostle of our Lord an Elder of the Church
(Joseph Smith Jr first Elder
( Second Elder
Given to the Bearer in held in Seneca County NY June 9th 1830 [p. ]
The title of the license, “A License Liberty Power & Authority,” reflects other contemporary legal language, including that found in the New York laws for incorporating religious societies. (An Act to Provide for the Incorporation of Religious Societies [5 Apr. 1813], Laws of the State of New-York , vol. 2, pp. 212–219; see also An Act Supplementary to the Act, Entitled “An Act to Provide for the Incorporation of Religious Societies,” Passed April 5th, 1813 [12 Apr. 1822], Laws of the State of New-York , chap. 187, p. 187.)
Laws of the State of New-York, Revised and Passed at the Thirty-Sixth Session of the Legislature, With Marginal Notes and References. 2 Vols. Albany: H. C. Southwick and Company, 1813.
TEXT: A thick black ink smudge is found below Oliver Cowdery’s signature, running about the length of his name. Cowdery presumably made the smudge to ensure that no other signatures were added below his.