Within two months of his baptism on August 20, 1831, William E. McLellin, a former schoolteacher, became deeply involved in the restoration story. Following his conversion, McLellin was ordained an elder and preached the gospel with Hyrum Smith for a few weeks before traveling to Orange, Ohio, in late October for a general conference of the Church. McLellin noted in his journal that it was at this conference that he “first saw brother Joseph the Seer, also brothers Oliver [Cowdery], John [Whitmer] & Sidney [Rigdon] and a great many other Elders.” At the conference, McLellin was ordained a high priest and heard Joseph teach about the powers and duties of that office. “This conference was attended by me with much spiritual edification & comfort to my heart,” he declared.1
After the conference, McLellin traveled to Kirtland and in the course of his journey “stepped off of a large log and strained my ankle very badly”—so much so that he petitioned Joseph to heal him. “He laid his hands on” the ankle, McLellin wrote in his journal, “and it was healed although It was swelled much and had pained me severely.”2 Just a few days later, McLellin decided to test Joseph Smith’s calling. After going to Joseph’s home in Hiram, Ohio, on October 29, McLellin “went before the Lord in secret, and on my knees asked him to reveal the answer to five questions through his Prophet.” Without letting Joseph know what these five questions were, McLellin asked Joseph to provide to him God’s will. The resulting revelation—section 66 in the current Doctrine and Covenants—answered McLellin’s five questions to his “full and entire satisfaction.” Even after he fell away from the Church, McLellin stated that he still considered this revelation an “evidence” of Joseph’s prophetic calling “which I cannot refute.”3
Perhaps William asked the following 5 questions:
1. How does this little church that I have just joined organized by Joseph Smith, fit into the religious world? (D&C 66:2)
2. What is my spiritual standing? (D&C 66:3)
3. What is my role in the Church? I have closed my school and settled my affairs in Illinois. What am I to do now? (D&C 66:5-8)
4.. I have seen and personally experienced the power to heal by both Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Will I be able to have this power? (D&C 66:9)
5. How can I escape the temptation of adultery and other sins which have burdened me, especially since the recent death of my wife? (D&C 66: 9, 10, 12)
1. Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831-1836, (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Studies, 1994), 44-45; Minute Book 2, 25-26 October 1831, Joseph Smith Papers.
2. Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831-1836, (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Studies, 1994), 45.
3. William E. McLellin, Ensign of Liberty, Kirtland, Ohio (Jan. 1848): 61.