Historical Context and Background of D&C 80

Video Overview

Brief Synopsis by Steven C. Harper

Steven Burnett started fast. He converted at age 16 and was ordained a teacher, then an elder, and then a high priest before he turned 18. He was filled with the Holy Ghost and a desire to take the gospel to his relatives. He led his parents into the Church and was called to preach in January 1832 (D&C 75:35) and again in March by section 80.

Stephen and Eden Smith started their mission on July 15 and spent a few days together declaring the gospel in villages south of Kirtland, Ohio.1 Stephen also went east with success. He “was the first one that sounded the glad tidings of the everlasting gospel” in Dalton, New Hampshire.2 By 1838, Stephen felt completely disillusioned. He tried but failed to regain the Spirit. Finally, he “proclaimed all revelation lies” and left the Church. He said that the foundation of his faith failed and the entire structure fell in “a heap of ruins.”3 Joseph thought there was more to it. He thought that Stephen’s unwillingness to consecrate his life to the kingdom of God contributed to his unconversion.4

Eden Smith's journal - page 1Eden Smith's journal - page 2Eden Smith's journal - page 3 Three pages of Eden Smith’s journal, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, covering July 15-19, 1832, the days he and Stephen Burnett preached together in villages south of Kirtland, Ohio.

1. Eden Smith, Journal, Church History Library, Salt Lake City. Stephen Burnett had earlier preached with Eden Smith’s father John. See Lyndon Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Provo, Utah: Seventy’s Mission Bookstore, 1981), 170, 314.

2. Levi B. Wilder to the editor, February 15, 1835, in Messenger and Advocate 1:5 (February 1835): 75.

3. “Letterbook 2,” p. 64, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 7, 2020.

4. “Elders’ Journal, August 1838,” p. 57, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed July 7, 2020.

Additional Context by Casey Paul Griffiths

From Doctrine and Covenants Minute

Stephen Burnett was just seventeen years old when he was ordained to the high priesthood at a conference held in Kirtland, Ohio, in October 1831.1 A few months later, in January 1831, a revelation given at a conference in Amherst, Ohio, directed Stephen to preach the gospel with Ruggles Eames (D&C 75:35). It doesn’t appear that Ruggles Eames or Stephen Burnett ever served the mission to which they were called in that revelation. A few weeks later, Stephen visited Joseph Smith, who received this revelation. The revelation instructed Stephen to begin a new mission with Eden Smith, a twenty-seven-year-old convert from Indiana.2

See “Historical Introduction,” Revelation, 7 March 1832 [D&C 80]

1. Minutes, 25–26 October 1831, p. 14, JSP.

2. “Eden Smith,” Biography, JSP.