Jesse Gause was a counselor to Joseph Smith for nine short months, during which time he also served a brief mission, then disappeared.
Gause was born in 1784 or 1785. He was raised in Pennsylvania and lived for a time in Delaware where he joined the Delaware militia during the War of 1812 and served from 1814 to 1815. He met and married his first wife, Martha Johnson, in 1815, and lived in Philadelphia; Belmont County, Ohio; Jefferson County, Ohio; Chester County, Pennsylvania; and back to Delaware.
Gause joined the Society of Friends, known as Quakers, in 1806. He and Martha settled in Chester County where he taught in a Quaker school. Martha died in 1828 after the birth of their fourth child. Soon after, Gause moved to Hancock, Massachusetts. After moving closer to his extended family, he resigned from Society of Friends and joined the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, known as Shakers. He married Minerva Byram in 1830 and they moved to a Shaker community in North Union, Ohio, in 1831. North Union was situated within fifteen miles of Kirtland, Ohio.
Exactly how Gause became acquainted with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or when he was baptized is unknown, but he quickly gained the Prophet’s confidence and was called to serve as a counselor to Joseph on March 8, 1832; Joseph had been named president of the Church in January. Wikipedia suggests that given the Church was beginning to live the Law of Consecration, both Gause and the other counselor Sidney Rigdon were good choices because both had lived in communal societies. Gause accompanied Joseph to Jackson County, Missouri, between April and June of that year. He also served as a scribe on Joseph’s Bible revision project, later known as the Joseph Smith Translation.
Gause began serving as a missionary on the first of August with Zebedee Coltrin. Gause’s wife Minerva refused to join him in his new religion, so when the missionaries stopped in North Union to preach, Gause tried to persuade her to accept the faith, which she would not. Coltrin became ill and decided to return to Kirtland, so Gause and Coltrin parted ways on August 20. At this point, Gause disappeared and it is not known what turned him away from the Church. He was excommunicated on December 3, 1832. He did not rejoin his wife Minerva and their daughter in North Union, but he may have returned to Chester County to be near his four other children, whom he had left in the care of his sister. He died in Chester County in about 1836. His sister stated in 1873 that he “died away from his family,” which suggests he was estranged from his children.
Doctrine and Covenants Section 81
A week after he had been chosen and ordained as a counselor to the Prophet, Joseph received a revelation concerning Gause’s selection. It is not known if Gause requested a revelation, but the text clarifies his duties as a counselor and member of the Church. Gause is mentioned in the heading, but due to the fact that he disappeared and was subsequently excommunicated, Frederick G. Williams was called to replace him and the counsel became applicable to him. Williams’ name replaced Gause’s in the text of the revelation in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants and remained omitted until . In the 1980 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, Gause’s name was recognized in the historical introduction.
An article on Gause in Revelation in Context gives an explanation:
- By the time the revelation was published in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, Gause’s name had been replaced with that of the man called to take his place: Frederick G. Williams. Subsequent editions of the Doctrine and Covenants retained Williams as the recipient of this revelation. Williams, who replaced Gause as a counselor in January 1833, had been an early convert and supporter of Joseph Smith. Like Gause and Rigdon, Williams also acted as a scribe and clerk to Joseph Smith.
- The written records of Joseph Smith’s early revelations underwent changes when early leaders of the Church prepared those revelatory texts for publication in the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835.8 The changes were logical because some of the revelations no longer reflected the current state of Church organization or doctrinal understanding. As the editors prepared the revelations for print, they likely viewed the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 81 not merely as counsel to an individual, but rather as a more general revelation to a counselor who was to support Joseph Smith. And because Jesse Gause had left the Church, it is understandable that the editors would have substituted the name of Williams instead.
- In some ways, the early revelations were snapshots in time, providing modern readers with a window to the way continuing revelation shaped the early Church. In other ways, the revelations have broader applications. Doctrine and Covenants 81 can be read today not only as an intimate revelation to an early member of the Church, but also as counsel to anyone who is willing to support the prophet.