Bishop Whitney’s Revelation to Joseph Smith

Years after the revelation (after the problems in Kirtland) informing Oliver Cowdery that it was inappropriate for him to command Joseph Smith because Joseph was at the head of the church, (D&C 28:6), Bishop Whitney sent a note to Joseph Smith:

“Thus saith the voice of the spirit to me, if thy Brother Joseph Smith will attend the feast at thy house this day (at 12 ocl) they poor & lame will rejoice at his presence & also think themselves honored.
“Yours in friendship & Love
“NKW”  (See Dean Jesse, The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. 2, pp. 130-131.)

Joseph responded by immediately canceling the Hebrew school that day and attending with his wife, father and mother the feast for the poor offered by Bishop Whitney.

Clearly, the idea that another person could receive revelation that involved even the church president was not an apostate idea during Joseph’s day as it is in ours. Bishop Whitney was not rebuked by Joseph. Instead he and his revelation were honored by Joseph responding, attending the feast and being grateful for the invitation.

Since Joseph Smith received the early revelations setting the order for the church, and yet responded to Bishop Whitney’s revelation to him, it suggests our current view of limits on who can get revelation may not be the same as Joseph understood them.

It is another interesting topic worth studying in our history to help us understand how the Lord really operates. We should be careful about adopting formulas as the solution to something when the conduct of the Prophet through whom the revelation came did not apply it consistently the same way we do today.