1886 Revelation

1886 Revelation

In 1911 the apostle John W. Taylor claimed that his father, the prophet John Taylor had recorded a controversial revelation and that he had discovered it in 1887 on his father’s desk. Photographs were made and the handwriting was authenticated however the actual document is now lost. The revelation states that God will never change his word regarding polygamy, that it is an everlasting covenant, and to return to God you must obey this law. The “1886 Revelation” to the prophet John Taylor became one of several revelations that the LDS church does not accept as authentic. Conversely it is one of the primary documents used by Fundamentalist Mormons and practitioners of  polygamy to validate their claims. The full text of the revelation states:

September 27, 1886

My son John, you have asked me concerning the New and Everlasting Covenant how far it is binding upon my people.
Thus saith the Lord: All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name unless they are revoked by me or by my authority, and how can I revoke an everlasting covenant, for I the Lord am everlasting and my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated nor done away with, but they stand forever.
Have I not given my word in great plainness on this subject? Yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my law and the keeping of my commandments, and yet have I borne with them these many years; and this because of their weakness—because of the perilous times, and furthermore, it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regard to these matters. Nevertheless, I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not, and as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph: All those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law. And have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham’s seed and would enter into my glory, they must do the works of Abraham. I have not revoked this law, nor will I, for it is everlasting, and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof; even so, Amen.

Lorin C. Woolley expanded on the story stating that John Taylor received the revelation while he was in hiding from U.S. Marshals in his father’s home. Lorin declares that Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith appeared to John Taylor when he received the revelation, and that the following day five men (including himself) were set apart with a special commission to keep polygamous celestial marriage alive, regardless of future actions by the LDS church.

The church issued The Manifesto in 1890 but they were not entirely honest with their abandonment of polygamy, and even many of the apostles and the prophet continued to marry in secret. It wasn’t until 14 years later with the issuance of the Second Manifesto that polygamy was officially rejected by the church and practitioners would be excommunicated.

The LDS Church took the position that the 1886 document was a fake, and that no such revelation from the prophet John Taylor existed in the churches vault, although B.H. Roberts, and apostles A.W. Ivins and Melvin J. Ballard would later admit after these public declarations that there is a copy in the churches vault.

“As to this pretended revelation it should be said that the archives of the Church contain no such revelation; the archives contain no record of any such revelation, nor any evidence justifying a belief that any such revelation was ever given. From the personal knowledge of some of us, from the uniform and common recollection of the presiding quorums of the Church, from the absence in the Church archives of any evidence whatsoever justifying any belief that such revelation was given, we are justified in affirming that no such revelation exists.”-Deseret News  June 17, 1933

Today most experts agree that the revelation is legitimately John Taylor’s handwriting, but since it was never presented and ratified by the apostles it is not considered valid. In fact apostle Melvin J. Ballad sates that precisely because John Talyor died before he could present it to the church it is invalid.

“If the Lord had wanted plural marriage to continue according to the interpretations some give of President Taylor’s [1886] revelation, he would have allowed President Taylor to have lived and enforced it but He took him and raised up President Wilford Woodruff who was inspired to give the Manifesto…” -Musser, Ballard-Jenson Correspondence Dec 31, 1934

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