The first endowment of this dispensation did not take place in the Nauvoo Red Brock Store, nor the Kirtland temple, nor the Newel K. Whitney Store with the School of the Prophets. Joseph Smith gave the first endowment of this dispensation in June 1831, at a little log school house on the Isaac Morley farm in Ohio. Heeding the revealed call for the Church to gather to Ohio (see D&C 37) and “that the elders of my church should be called together” (D&C 44:1), about sixty elders gathered for the June 1831 conference to receive an endowment of promised power. The Lord had commanded, “Ye should go to the Ohio; and there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high” (D&C 38:32).
At the June 1831 Conference, Joseph ordained the first men in this dispensation to be high priests after the order of Melchizedek. He promised them power from this high priestly order—power to perform miracles; power to seal people up to eternal life; power like ancient apostles and prophets, power to “break mountains” and “divide the seas” and “put at defiance the armies of nations” (JST Genesis 14:30-31). Joseph promised them that if they would purify and sanctify themselves they too—like the Brother of Jared, Moses, or Isaiah in former days—could have the power to part the veil and see God face-to-face. Some, like Lyman White or Harvey Whitlock said they did. But many of these frontier elders were not yet ready to be endowed with high priestly power nor to rend the veil and see the Lord.
The interior in this painting is set in the log cabin on the Morley farm. The general composition of the painting is thin and vertical, trying to draw the viewer to look upward. Joseph stands in the center of the frame, his countenance visionary white and almost transparent, smiling, pointing the men in the room—and simultaneously the viewer—to look up to behold the Father and Son. The men in the room represent the varied reactions to Joseph’s teachings and promises of heavenly power. Some look upward and seem to see and experience, while others look downward and even slumber, failing to grasp what could be theirs. Yet others look at each other, doubting, reasoning, questioning, fearfully unable to reconcile with their pride with divine promises.
In a way, today we are all part of the June 1831 conference. The same endowment of high priestly power is extended to us. Do we believe it? Do we grasp it? Do we experience it? Or do we doubt it, fear it, experience darkness because of it, slumber through it, or ignore it? This scene of the June 1831 conference could summarize the entire prophetic mission of Joseph Smith in microcosm: striving to endow a people to experience heavenly power, and the varied results of those who hear this invitation.
This original painting was created for my Repicturing the Restoration project published in 2020 by BYU’s Religious Studies Center & Deseret Book.
“Endowment at the June 1831 Conference” 48×30 oil on board, 2019 (comes in a 2.5″ rustic brown frame, 53×35)
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