In a revelation to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon near Fayette, N.Y., in December 1830, the Lord gave the first commandment concerning "a gathering" in this dispensation. Specifically, the Lord directed " . . . ye shall gather to the Ohio, and this because of the enemy and for your sakes." (D&C 37:1.)
On Jan. 2, 1831, members from throughout New York met for the third general conference of the Church, which was scheduled to consider the move to Ohio.The following is from Church History in the Fulness of Times, the manual for Religion 341-43, prepared by the Church Educational System: "Moving to Ohio was advantageous to the young Church. By leaving New York the Saints hoped to leave behind religious persecution, particularly in the Colesville area. In addition, there were more Church members in Ohio than anywhere else, and gathering in one place enabled everyone to receive instructions from the Prophet, thus maintaining doctrinal and organizational uniformity. Ohio's available waterways also provided a gateway to the rest of the country for missionary work. But, most important, the move to Ohio was a step closer to `the borders by the Lamanites,' where Zion would be established. (D&C 28:0.) In Ohio many principles pertaining to the building of Zion could be implemented.
"Joseph Smith was eager to meet with the Saints in Ohio, and John Whitmer wrote urging him to come right away. Joseph sought the Lord's will and was told to leave immediately, but the prospect of moving seemed grim to Emma. She had moved seven times in the first four years of marriage and was just recovering from a month-long illness in addition to being six months pregnant. Under such conditions the three-hundred-mile trip to Ohio in the dead of winter was arduous at best. Joseph Knight graciously provided a sleigh to make traveling less strenuous for her. At the end of January 1831, Joseph and Emma Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Edward Partridge set out for Kirtland.
"About the first of February the sleigh pulled up in front of Newel K. Whitney's store in Kirtland. Joseph sprang from the sleigh and entered the store.
Newel K. Whitney! Thou art the man,' he exclaimed, extending his hand cordially, as if to an old and familiar acquaintance.You have the advantage of me,,' replied the merchant,
. . . I could not call you by name as you have me.'I am Joseph the Prophet,' said the stranger smiling. `You've prayed me here, now what do you want of me?'
"Joseph explained to the merchant that back in New York he had seen Newel in a vision praying for him to come to Kirtland. The Whitneys received Joseph and Emma Smith with kindness and invited them to live temporarily with them. During the next several weeks the Smiths received every kindness and attention which could be expected, especially from Sister Whitney."