“Letter Book A,” JS Letterbook 1, [ca. 27 Nov. 1832–ca. 4 Aug. 1835]; handwriting ofFrederick G. Williams, JS,
28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...View Full BioOrson Hyde, and
8 Jan. 1805–28 Nov. 1878. Laborer, clerk, storekeeper, teacher, editor, businessman, lawyer, judge. Born at Oxford, New Haven Co., Connecticut. Son of Nathan Hyde and Sally Thorpe. Moved to Derby, New Haven Co., 1812. Moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, ...View Full BioThis letterbook was inscribed in a medium-size, commercially produced blank book. The book’s ledger paper is horizontally ruled with thirty-six (now faint) blue lines and vertically ruled with four red lines; the paper in the final gathering, however, is missing the horizontal lines. The original book apparently contained nine gatherings of twelve leaves each, but eight leaves were cut from the final gathering.The first three leaves of the volume contain JS’s earliest extant attempt to write a history of his life.The volume was also repurposed as a letterbook. The letterbook begins on the recto of the fourth leaf in the front of the book (immediately following the history). The letters occupy ninety-three pages. The book’s pagination also began anew with the copied letters. The first page of letters bore the inscription “1a”, which is only partially extant on the now-trimmed page but is complete in photocopy and microfilm copies at the Church History Library.3Page 78 is blank. The front flyleaf is now missing—possibly because it bore a title related to the history and was removed when the volume was converted to a letterbook. The letters were copied with quill pens in ink that is now brown. The pagination appears to have been added at different times and possibly in different hands. There are 101 blank pages between the end of the letter transcripts and the excised pages in the back of the book.
Historical Department. Microfilm Reports, 1949–1975. CHL.At some point,Frederick G. Williamsbegan an index or table of contents that identifies the letters copied onto pages 1–25 of the letterbook. This incomplete index is inscribed on paper that does not match the original ledger paper. It was apparently a loose leaf inserted in the volume—as is Williams’s index to the contents of Revelation Book 2The front cover of the book is labeled “Letter Book | A” in black ink. The “A” is written in a formal style that matches the covers of other manuscript volumes in the holdings of the Church History Library. On the spine, a paper label with the hand-lettered title “KIRTLAND LETTER BOOK” was pasted over an earlier, now only partially visible title, “L[tr?] | B[k?]”, written in black ink. These inscriptions are in unidentified handwriting. A small “3” is stamped in dark brown ink at the bottom of the spine. Graphite use marks and copy notes on some pages were apparently made in connection with work on JS’s 1838–1856 history.A reconstruction of the physical history of the artifact helps explain the current material context of the document. Photocopy and microfilm images of the book, as well as an inspection of the conservation work now present in the volume, indicate that the text block separated from the binding at some point. The entire volume was rebound, apparently in the 1990s, including the formerly loose leaf containing a partial index of letters. The back flyleaf was replaced with a leaf of laid paper.Letterbook 1 was used in6and is listed in the inventory of church records made in connection with the exodus from Nauvoo.7The volume is likely accounted for in subsequent Historian’s Office inventories, which list multiple letterbooks.
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.8It is also listed in the 1973 register of the JS Collection.
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.9These archival records indicate continuous institutional custody.
Johnson, Jeffery O. Register of the Joseph Smith Collection in the Church Archives, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1973.JS evidently wrote his history on the first three leaves of the book in summer 1832.10The excised pages in the back of the book were apparently inscribed sometime after the history and before the letterbook. On 27 November 1832, while residing at Kirtland, Ohio, JS wrote a lengthy letter to William W. Phelps, who earlier that year had settled at Independence, Missouri. JS’s missive included a reminder emphasizing the importance of record keeping and history writing to the young church.11JS’s dispatch to Phelps coincided with a new record-keeping initiative in Ohio and became the first entry recorded in what was subsequently designated “Letter Book A.” Beginning on the recto of the fourth leaf in the front of the book (immediately following the history) are ninety-three pages of copied outgoing letters, dated 14 June 1829 through 4 August 1835. The copy of JS’s 27 November 1832 letter to Phelps was apparently copied into the book from the original letter before the original was sent.
- 1 The remnants of five of the leaves are visible. The eight excised leaves are no longer extant.
- 2 These three leaves were later cut from the volume but have since been reattached. For further information about these leaves and the history inscribed on them, see JS History, ca. Summer 1832.
- 3 The photocopy may have been made from the microfilm. The letterbook was filmed on 12 November 1968. (Microfilming Report, entry no. JP 1068, Historical Department, Microfilm Reports, 1949–1975, CHL.)
- 4 At some point, Williams’s index for Revelation Book 2 was attached with adhesive wafers to the inside front cover of the revelation book. (See JSP, MRB:412–413.)
- 5 This index does not list the history.
- 6 See, for example, JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 1–4; compare JS History, vol. A-1, 240–243.
- 7 “Schedule of Church Records. Nauvoo 1846,” .
- 8 “Inventory. Historian’s Office. 4th April 1855,” ; “Historian’s Office Inventory G. S. L. March 19. 1858,” , Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL.
- 9 Johnson, Register of the Joseph Smith Collection, 7.
- 10 See Frederick G. Williams, Statement, no date, Frederick G. Williams, Papers, CHL; JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 1–4. For more information on the dating of the history, see Historical Introduction to JS History, ca. Summer 1832.
- 11 JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 1–4.
- 12 It is possible that a fair copy of the letter was made on loose leaves before it was sent, and that this fair copy was later used to make the copy of record in JS Letterbook 1. There is no evidence, however, of an intermediate copy.
- 13 JS, Letter, Kirtland, OH, ca. 4 Aug. 1835, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 90–93.
On 27 November 1832, while residing atKirtland, Ohio, JS wrote a lengthy letter toWilliam W. Phelps, who earlier that year had settled at
17 Feb. 1792–7 Mar. 1872. Writer, teacher, printer, newspaper editor, publisher, postmaster, lawyer. Born at Hanover, Morris Co., New Jersey. Son of Enon Phelps and Mehitabel Goldsmith. Moved to Homer, Cortland Co., New York, 1800. Married Sally Waterman,...View Full BioIndependence, Missouri. JS’s missive included a reminder stressing the importance of record keeping and history writing to the young church. Portions were later added to the Doctrine and Covenants, the church’s official collection of commandments and revelations. JS began by noting that he wished “to communicate some things which . . . are laying great with weight upon my mind.” He then went on to observe, “Firstly, it is the duty of the lord’[s] clerk whom he has appointed to keep a hystory and a general church record of all things that transpire in Zion . . . and also the[ir] manner of life and the[ir] faith and works.” (JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, Independence, MO, 27 Nov. 1832, JS Letterbook 1, pp. 1–4 [D&C 85:1–2].)
Located twelve miles from western Missouri border. Permanently settled, platted, and designated county seat, 1827. Hub for steamboat travel on Missouri River. Point of departure for Santa Fe Trail. Population in 1831 about 300. Mormon population by summer...More InfoJS’s dispatch toPhelpsreminding those in Missouri of the importance of record keeping coincided with a new record-keeping initiative in Ohio. This letter became the first entry, identified as “Letter first” and “Letter 1,” recorded in what was subsequently designated Letter Book A or Letterbook 1. This record, consisting of ninety-three manuscript pages, preserves copies of early church-related communications dated 14 June 1829 through 4 August 1835. The transcribed text is in the handwriting of JS,
17 Feb. 1792–7 Mar. 1872. Writer, teacher, printer, newspaper editor, publisher, postmaster, lawyer. Born at Hanover, Morris Co., New Jersey. Son of Enon Phelps and Mehitabel Goldsmith. Moved to Homer, Cortland Co., New York, 1800. Married Sally Waterman,...View Full BioFrederick G. Williams,Orson Hyde, and
8 Jan. 1805–28 Nov. 1878. Laborer, clerk, storekeeper, teacher, editor, businessman, lawyer, judge. Born at Oxford, New Haven Co., Connecticut. Son of Nathan Hyde and Sally Thorpe. Moved to Derby, New Haven Co., 1812. Moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, ...View Full BioCorrespondence captured in Letterbook 1 includes six early letters composed or received byOliver Cowdery, four from 1829 and two from 1831. Other letters reflect ongoing communications between the two centers of the early church located in
3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...View Full BioKirtlandandIndependence. Two entries describe the plat of the proposed “City of Zion” to be built at Independence and the dimensions of the “house of the Lord” to be erected there. The concluding item in the collection is a letter that incorporates a set of minutes from a council held in Kirtland on 4 August 1835 censuring the Twelve Apostles for failing to fully comply with their fund-raising responsibilities as they conducted a mission among the branches of the church in the East. Note that letters from Letterbook 1 written to or from JS will also appear with individual introductions in the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers.
Located twelve miles from western Missouri border. Permanently settled, platted, and designated county seat, 1827. Hub for steamboat travel on Missouri River. Point of departure for Santa Fe Trail. Population in 1831 about 300. Mormon population by summer...More InfoLetterbook 1 was initiated during a remarkable surge in record keeping, beginning with the calling ofOliver Cowderyand laterJohn Whitmeras church historians in 1830 and 1831. Revelations and commandments recorded in Revelation Book 1 were sent to
27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...View Full BioMissouriin late 1831 to be published on the church’s first press, and Revelation Book 2 was in use in
Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...More InfoPhelpsencouraging him as editor of the church’s first periodical, The Evening and the Morning Star, then printed inThis upwelling in record keeping was unusual for the time. As scholar Dean C. Jessee has observed, “So primitive were some aspects of record keeping in nineteenth-century America that much of the early Latter-day Saint experience was a pioneering effort. . . . Although Mormon record keeping was inaugurated by [an] 1830 revelation, details for carrying out that commandment were largely hammered out on the anvil of experience in the years that followed.” (Dean C. Jessee, “The Reliability of Joseph Smith’s History,” Journal of Mormon History 3 : 27.) Thus, during a brief span in the early 1830s, JS, along with those working under his direction, commenced the systematic collection and recording of critical documents pertaining to church governance and administration. Throughout the remainder of JS’s lifetime, correspondence-copying, revelation-recording, minute-taking, journal-keeping, and history-drafting activities would remain imperative commitments.