For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, April 6th is a day of significance.  It was on this date in 1830 that the church was officially organized in the State of New York.  Regarding the selection of this date for the organization of the church, we have the following from the documents of Joseph Smith:

[W]e obtained of [the Lord] the following, by the spirit of prophecy and revelation; which not only gave us much information, but also pointed out to us the precise day upon which, according to his will and commandment, we should proceed to organize His Church once more here upon the earth.[1]

D&C 20:1 is quoted immediately following this statement, which reads as follows:

The rise of the Church of Christ in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh, it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April.[2]

In short, the Lord made sure his church had its official start on April 6th, which was on a Tuesday in 1830.  The Lord’s selection of this date appears to have been both purposeful and symbolic. Indeed, many church leaders have said that it was on this date the Savior was born.  For example, James E. Talmage in his work Jesus the Christ stated:

We believe April 6th to be the birthday of Jesus Christ as indicated in a revelation of the present dispensation [D&C 20:1] … in which that day is made without qualification the completion of the one thousand eight hundred and thirtieth year since the coming of the Lord in the flesh … We believe that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea, April 6, B.C. 1.[3]

Likewise, President Joseph F. Smith identified April 6th as the birth date of Christ in unmistakably clear terms.  He said:

Strictly speaking, if this Church was organized ‘one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior in the flesh,’ then the sixth of April must have been the anniversary of the Savior’s birthday.  If the organization of the Church had been before or subsequent to that date, if only by one or any number of days, the great event would have been more or less than one thousand eight hundred and thirty years, by just so many days.  Opinions formed by the study of chronological events may or may not be accurate.  But we would scarcely think the Lord would make any mistake about dates.  Least of all he who was born on that day …[4]

In more recent times, President Spencer W. Kimball also confirmed in 1975 that “Christ was born on the sixth of April.”[5]  Five years later he repeated this statement, at General Conference. This was no off-handed comment, but was purposefully stated at a special session of General Conference held at the Peter Whitmer Farm at Fayette, New York, in celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Church’s organization on April 6, 1980. He said, “today we not only celebrate the Sesquicentennial of the organization of the Church, but also the greatest event in human history since the birth of Christ on this day 1,980 years ago.  Today is Easter Sunday.”[6]  Harold B. Lee likewise confirmed that Christ was born on April 6th, stating that April 6th “is a particularly significant date because it commemorates not only the anniversary of the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in this dispensation, but also the anniversary of the birth of the Savior.”[7]

The author has only been able to find two members of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve who have suggested a different birthdate than April 6, and both of them based their conclusions on the findings of scholars rather than revelation. After reviewing the work of scholars, Orson Pratt expressed his belief the birth was on April 11, while J. Reuben Clark said he thought it was in December.[8] But other leading brethren in the church have concluded that April 6 was the date of birth, based on D&C 20:1. Apostle Hyrum M. Smith said “The Church was organized on the 6th of April, 1830. This date was chosen in accordance with a divine command. In all probability the 6th of April is the anniversary of the birthday of our Lord.”[9] In 1971 N. Elden Tanner stated, “Members of the church also believe that Christ was born on April 6 in the year 1 BC.”[10] And in 1986 Neal Maxwell stated, “Significantly, Joseph was released from the bondage of Liberty Jail on 6 April 1839 and a few days later was allowed to escape from his captors. As you know, April 6 is the date of Jesus’ birth. It is also the date of birth of his Latter-day church.”[11]

Still other leading brethren have made similar statements. For example, Gordon B. Hinckley in speaking of the organization of the church said,

I picture in imagination that April 6 of 1830. The few who believed in Joseph’s mission gathered on that day, which was designated by divine revelation as “being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh.”[12]

More recently, Richard G. Scott stated while giving a conference address on April 6, 1997, that “It is April 6th. Modern scripture records that Jesus Christ was born on this day.”[13] And David A. Bednar said in his April 6 conference address in 2014, “Today is April 6. We know by revelation that today is theactual and accurate date of the Savior’s birth. April 6 also is the day on which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized.”[14]

A number of Latter-day Saint scholars have also looked carefully at the question of the Savior’s birth. For example, John C. Lefgren argued in his book April Sixth that scientific evidence supported the birth of Christ on April 6th, exactly 1830 years before the church was organized.[15]  Other scholars have discussed the evidence he relied on, some disputing it and others finding it persuasive.[16] More recently, John A. Tvedtnes in 2014 reviewed the scholarly evidence, concluding that the birth was probably sometime around April 6.[17] But other scholars have debated the date. One of the most notable was Jeffrey R. Chadwick, who concluded that the birth was actually in December.[18] Not long afterward, two scholars contested this view.[19] More recently, John P. Pratt after a complicated and extensive review of many different calendar systems indicated the birth was on April 6, and the birth year was 1 BC–exactly as Joseph F. Smith, James E. Talmage and Spencer W. Kimball had stated.[20]

April 6th in American History

While church members are aware of the significance of this day in the church, less well known are many other significant events that have also occurred on this day, and in particular the events that occurred on this day in American history—events that were the subject of prophecy.  Indeed, April 6th was a significant day in the American War of Independence, establishment of Constitutional government, the American Civil War, Native American losses and sufferings, the First World War, and in some important technological advances in the twentieth century.  This article describes what occurred on April 6th in each of these significant historical events. 

While the focus in these pages is on April 6th, obviously not every major historical event occurred on that date.  There are many important days in American history, such as Independence day on July 4th, Veterans Day on November 11th (formerly ‘armistice day, or the day on which WWI ended), and December 7th as the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Each of these has a unique importance of its own, and made the date of its occurrence significant.  Indeed, it is precisely because these and other historically significant dates are so well known that the events that took place on April 6th are usually overshadowed and forgotten.

Indeed, the significant happenings of April 6th mostly remain hidden in history, like pieces of buried treasure.  A casual reading of history will not reveal them.  Yet the things that happened on this day are often remarkable, and frequently carried a far reaching consequence.  These were often ‘triggering events,’ or occurrences of long lasting import. 

Such events were generally of two unique and very different types.  First were happenings that signified a new beginning or a new birth of something big and important.  Such for example was the beginning of American government under the Constitution, on April 6, 1789.  Second were events of a very destructive and dismal nature, such as the Battle of Shiloh in the American Civil War, or the US declaration of war on Germany in 1917.  Why these events also occurred on the 6th has received little comment.  However, there is a significance to their having occurred on this date of a very different sort.

To be continued…

[1] Joseph Smith, 1 History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1951), 64 (emphasis added).

[2] It has been stated that, according to the original documents,  the quoted language is merely an introductory headnote in the handwriting of John Whitmer, church historian. Some have maintained this means it was not revelatory, but intended as a flourishing way of starting the revelation and giving the date. See Michael De Groote, “What was the Real Date of Jesus’ Birth?” Deseret News, Dec. 24, 2010. However, Joseph Smith apparently approved of the language as being part of the revelation, since he made no effort in subsequent publications of what is now D&C 20 to suggest that the language was a mere introductory comment. This issue will be discussed in greater detail below.

[3] James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1962, 32nd ed.), 104.

[4] B.H. Roberts, Outlines of Ecclesiastical History (Salt Lake City, Utah: George Q. Cannon & Sons, 1895, 2d ed), 17, note 2.  See also Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Press, 1946), 85-86.

[5] Spencer W. Kimball, “Why Call Me Lord, Lord, and Do Not the Things Which I Say?” Ensign, May 1975, 4.  In his first conference address as president of the church in April, 1974, President Kimball said essentially the same thing, stating, “My brothers and sisters and friends, another April has come, and with it the birthdate of the Church, organized on the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which we have celebrated on the sixth of April.”  See Spencer W. Kimball, “Guidelines to Carry Forth the Work of God in Cleanliness,” Ensign, May 1974, 4.

[6] Spencer W. Kimball, “Remarks and Dedication of the Fayette, New York Buildings”Ensign, May 1980, 54.

[7] Harold B. Lee, “Strengthen the Stakes of Zion,” Ensign, July 1973, 2. 

[8] J. Reuben Clark, Our Lord of the Gospels (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1954), preface vi, vii; Orson Pratt, Dec. 29, 1872, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (London: LDS Booksellers Depot, 1854-86), 15:261. Some leading brethren have given a general indication without being as specific on the date. For example, Russell M. Nelson stated at Christmas time in 2011 “We commemorate the humble birth of the Savior at this time of year even though we know it did not occur in December. More likely, the Lord was born in April. Both scriptural and historical evidence suggest a time in the spring of the year, near the Jewish Passover.” Russell M. Nelson, “The Peace and Joy of Knowing the Savior Lives,” Ensign, December 2011, 17.

[9] Hyrum Smith, Doctrine and Covenants Commentary (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1978 ed.), 1:198.

[10] N. Elden Tanner, “Resurrection and Restoration, Ensign, April 1971, 4.

[11] Neal A. Maxwell, “A Choice Seer,” Ensign, August 1986, 8.

[12] Gordon B. Hinckley, “What Hath God Wrought Through His Servant Joseph!” Ensign, May, 1980.

[13] Richard G. Scott, “Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer,” Ensign, May, 1997.

[14] David A. Bednar, “Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease,” Ensign, May 2014, 90.

[15] John C. Lefgren, April Sixth (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1980).

[16] See S. Kent Brown, C. Wilfred Griggs & H. Kimball Hansen, “Book Review of Lefgren’s April Sixth.” BYU Studies 22 (Summer 1982):375-82; J. Pratt, “Afterwards” (Letter to the Editor), BYU Studies 23 (Spring 1983):252-54.

[17] John A. Tvedtnes, “When Was Christ Born?” Interpreter 10 (2014):14, 26.

[18] Jeffrey R. Chadwick, “Dating the Birth of Jesus Christ,” BYU Studies 49 (2010): 4.

[19] Lincoln H. Blumell and Thomas A. Wayment, “When Was Jesus Born? A Response to a Recent Proposal,” BYU Studies 51 (2012): 3.

[20] John P. Pratt, “The Birth Date of Jesus Christ,”, June 24, 2018. []