Historical Context and Background of D&C 36

Early D&C 36 Copy
Early Copy of D&C 36
Source: JosephSmithPapers.org

Video Overview

Brief Synopsis by Steven C. Harper

Edward Partridge grew up in New England. He spent four years apprenticed to a hat maker before becoming a journeyman hatter with ambitions to go west to open his own factory. He married Lydia Clisbee and they moved to Painesville, Ohio, and succeeded according to their dreams. But something was missing. Respected and prosperous, Edward and Lydia still lacked spiritual fulfillment. They began to worship with Sidney Rigdon in 1828 and were nearly ripe to hear the restored gospel from Oliver Cowdery, Parley Pratt, and their companions in the fall of 1830. When the missionaries offered Edward a Book of Mormon, he refused but reconsidered.1 Soon Edward “partly believed,” as Lydia put it, “but he had to take a journey to New York and see the Prophet.”2

Joseph’s mother Lucy picked up the story there. Joseph, she said, was preaching in Waterloo, New York, when Edward arrived. Joseph invited remarks after his sermon, and Edward stood and said “He believed our testimony and was ready to be baptized, ‘if, said he, ‘brother Joseph will baptize me.’”3 Joseph baptized Edward two days later, then received section 36, apparently before Edward was confirmed by Sidney Rigdon.

This revelation shares a theme common to many others. It calls for urgency in declaring repentance to a perverted generation because the Lord is coming soon to burn the wicked. Section 36 not only calls Edward Partridge to preach the gospel; it sets forth the doctrine that every man is a missionary, not so much in the formal sense but as a duty of holding the priesthood. One who holds the priesthood preaches the gospel.

Edward Partridge obeyed this revelation. He was confirmed by the Lord’s hand—that is, by Sidney Rigdon acting for the Lord—and he spent his life declaring repentance and serving as a bishop. In 1835 he traveled roughly two thousand miles, held fifty meetings, visited nearly thirty branches of the Church, preached the gospel, and baptized three people. On November 7, 1835, Joseph received an un-canonized revelation in which the Lord praised Edward and his companion for “the integrity of their harts in laboring in my vinyard for the salvation of the souls of men.”4

1. Richard L. Anderson, “The Impact of the First Preaching in Ohio,” BYU Studies 11:4 (1971): 489.

2. History of Edward Partridge, Jr., 5, quoted in Anderson, “The Impact of the First Preaching in Ohio,” BYU Studies 11:4 (1971): 493.

3. Lavina Fielding Anderson, editor, Lucy’s Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir (Salt Lake City: Signature, 2001), 504–5.

4. “Revelation, 7 November 1835,” p. 20, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed September 25, 2020.

Additional Context by Casey Paul Griffiths

From Doctrine and Covenants Minute

Edward Partridge was working as a successful hatter in Painesville, Ohio, when he received word that a group of missionaries claiming to carry a new book of scripture had arrived in the area. Two years earlier, he and his wife, Lydia, had been members of Sidney Rigdon’s movement. According to Lydia, when the four missionaries arrived at their home, Edward told them that they were imposters, but “Oliver Cowdery replied that he was thankful there was a God in Heaven who knew the hearts of all men.” Oliver’s statement implied that he believed Edward was an honest man who would eventually accept the gospel. Edward, intrigued by the missionaries’ message despite his comments to the men, soon sent one of his employees to obtain a copy of the new book they carried with them (Scott H. Partridge, “Edward Partridge in Painesville, Ohio,” BYU Studies, 42, no. 1 [2003], 56).

Lydia was baptized a short time later, though Edward remained unsure about whether he should join the new religion. Edward had been touched by the missionaries’ message but decided he would not be baptized until he could speak with Joseph Smith face to face. He decided to travel with Sidney Rigdon to New York to meet the Prophet in person. According to Philo Dibble, another new convert from the area, Edward went not only for himself but on behalf of others in Painesville who were interested in the new church. This group of seekers even helped pay part of Edward’s expenses for the trip and chose him to be the messenger because “he is a man who would not lie [to save] his right arm” (Partridge, 56).

After a long journey, Sidney and Edward arrived at the home of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith in early December 1830. Lucy later recalled that

Joseph came with his wife again to Waterloo and appointed a meeting at our house. While he was preaching Sidney Rigdon and Edward Partridge came in. After the sermon a request was made that any who felt to speak should make such remarks as occurred to their minds. Mr. Partridge arose and stated that he had been to Manchester in search of us to ascertain the truth of what we preached that he had visit[ed] some of our neighbors in that place and enquired the character of the family some they said that the Smith family were very respectable people and no one could say ought against them until Joseph deceived them about the plates He had also walked over our farm and seen the neatness, order and industry exhibited in everything around he had seen what we had sacrificed for the truth’s sake and yet our enemies did not dispute our veracity upon any point but that of religion.”

[Edward then said,] “I am ready to be baptized, [if] Brother Joseph will you baptize me.” Joseph replied, “You have traveled a long way this morning, and you are much fatigued, and I think you had better rest and take some refreshment and tomorrow morning be baptized. “Just as you think,” Edward replied, “I am ready.” (Lucy Mack Smith History, 1844–1845, book 10, 11, JSP).

Shortly after this conversation, Joseph dictated the revelation in section 36 on behalf of Edward. Despite the cold weather, Joseph Smith baptized Edward in the Seneca River on December 11. Three days following the baptism, as mentioned in the revelation, Sidney Rigdon ordained him an elder.