30475

Letter to Edward Partridge, 2 May 1833

This letter from JS in Kirtland

Located ten miles south of Lake Erie. Settled by 1811. Organized by 1818. Population in 1830 about 55 Latter-day Saints and 1,000 others; in 1838 about 2,000 Saints and 1,200 others; in 1839 about 100 Saints and 1,500 others. Mormon missionaries visited township...

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, Ohio, to Bishop

An ecclesiastical and priesthood office. JS appointed Edward Partridge as the first bishop in February 1831. Following this appointment, Partridge functioned as the local leader of the church in Missouri. Later revelations described a bishop’s duties as receiving...

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Edward Partridge

27 Aug. 1793–27 May 1840. Hatter. Born at Pittsfield, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of William Partridge and Jemima Bidwell. Moved to Painesville, Geauga Co., Ohio. Married Lydia Clisbee, 22 Aug. 1819, at Painesville. Initially a Universal Restorationist...

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in Independence

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...

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, Missouri, clarified aspects of JS’s nascent economic order, which was based on consecration

The dedicating of money, lands, goods, or one’s own life for sacred purposes. Both the New Testament and Book of Mormon referred to some groups having “all things common” economically; the Book of Mormon also referred to individuals who consecrated or dedicated...

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and stewardship

One who managed property and goods under the law of consecration; also someone given a specific ecclesiastical responsibility. According to the “Laws of the Church of Christ,” members of the church were to make donations to the bishop, who would record the...

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. The first revelation concerning these arrangements, dictated on 9 February 1831, directed church members to transfer, or “consecrate,” their property to the church via the bishop and his two assistants, or counselors, by a “covena[n]t

A binding agreement between two parties, particularly between God and man. The term covenant was often associated with “commandments,” referring to revelation texts. The gospel as preached by JS—including the need for faith, repentance, baptism, and reception...

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and Deed which cannot be broken.”1

Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:30]. A revelation appointed Edward Partridge as bishop of the church five days earlier. (Revelation, 4 Feb. 1831 [D&C 41:9]; see also License for Edward Partridge, ca. 4 Aug. 1831–ca. 5 Jan. 1832.)  


In addition, a May 1831 revelation directed the bishop to give “a writing” to an individual who consecrated his or her property to the church to “secure unto him his portion that he shall hold it of the Church untill he transgress.”2

Revelation, 20 May 1831 [D&C 51:4].  


In the writing, the bishop would apportion property (both land and personal items), called an inheritance

Generally referred to land promised by or received from God for the church and its members. A January 1831 revelation promised church members a land of inheritance. In March and May 1831, JS dictated revelations commanding members “to purchase lands for an...

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,3

These “inheritances” were reminiscent of the land inheritances that Moses allotted the tribes of Israel. (See, for example, Joshua chaps. 13–14.)  


to individual church members, who would then act as stewards over the property. The amount appropriated to a person was determined by what was deemed “sufficient for him self and family.” Whatever property or money remained after the bishop deeded the stewardships was used for supporting the poor and for “building up of the New Jerusalem

The Book of Mormon indicated that, in preparation for Jesus Christ’s second coming, a city should be built on the American continent and called the New Jerusalem. The Book of Mormon further explained that the remnant of the seed of Joseph (understood to be...

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.”4

Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:32, 35]; see also Revelation, 15 June 1831 [D&C 56:8–10]; and Historical Introduction to Revelation, 15 May 1831. Although the 9 February revelation pointed to the prospect of building the New Jerusalem mentioned by John the Revelator, the building site of the New Jerusalem—Jackson County, Missouri—was not designated until 20 July 1831. (Revelation, 20 July 1831 [D&C 57:3].)  


The wording of these revelations was ambiguous regarding who legally owned the stewardships assigned to church members.
After relocating to Missouri

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...

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, Edward Partridge

27 Aug. 1793–27 May 1840. Hatter. Born at Pittsfield, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of William Partridge and Jemima Bidwell. Moved to Painesville, Geauga Co., Ohio. Married Lydia Clisbee, 22 Aug. 1819, at Painesville. Initially a Universal Restorationist...

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began to issue property to church members. He initially gave members land by lease, rather than by deed, for their stewardship. Sometime between 28 January and 12 October 1832, Partridge provided deeds of stewardship, which were still, in effect, a type of lease, to faithful members of the church who consecrated money, possessions, or property in Jackson County

Settled at Fort Osage, 1808. County created, 16 Feb. 1825; organized 1826. Named after U.S. president Andrew Jackson. Featured fertile lands along Missouri River and was Santa Fe Trail departure point, which attracted immigrants to area. Area of county reduced...

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, Missouri. The deeds of stewardship stipulated that the land assigned to them was to be considered an inheritance over which they held responsibility as stewards, but not as owners. This agreement also mandated that the steward pay property taxes and that all surplus income generated from the property be given to the bishop. In the case of the steward’s defection or excommunication, the church would retain possession of the inheritance.5

How these inheritances were understood and managed is partly revealed in the text of extant inheritance forms. One of Partridge’s forms, for instance, reads that Benjamin Eames gave his consecrated property, valued at $95.75, “for the purpose of purchasing lands in Jackson County Mo, and building up the New Jerusalem, even Zion, and for relieving the wants of the poor and needy. For which I the said Benjamin Eames do covenant and bind myself and my heirs forever, to release all my right and interest to the above described property, unto him the said Edward Partridge, bishop of said church. And I the said Edward Partridge, bishop of said church, having received the above described property, of the said Benjamin Eames do bind myself, that I will cause the same to be expended for the above mentioned purposes of the said Benjamin Eames to the satisfaction of said church; and in case I should be removed from the office of bishop of said church, by death or otherwise, I hereby bind myself and my heirs forever, to make over to my successor in office, for the benefit of said church, all the above described property, which may then be in my possession.” A partial inheritance form for the lease to Joseph Knight Jr. reads: “And as a consideration for the use of the above described property, I the said Joseph Knight junr do bind myself to pay the taxes, and also to pay yearly unto the said Edward Partridge bishop of said church, or his successor in office, for the benefit of said church, all that I shall make or accumulate more than is needful for the support and comfort of myself and family. . . . during the life of the said Joseph Knight Junr unless he transgress, and is not deemed worthy by the authority of the church, according to its laws, to belong to the church. And in that case I the said Joseph Knight Junr do acknowlydge that I forfeit all claim to the above described leased and loaned property, and hereby bind myself to give back the leased, and also pay an equivalent for the loaned, for the benefit of said church, unto the said Edward Partridge bishop of said church, or his successor in office.” (Benjamin Eames and Edward Partridge, Deed of Stewardship, on verso of Edward Partridge, to “Honored Father” et al., 22 Oct. 1834, draft, Edward Partridge, Papers, CHL, emphasis in original; Joseph Knight Jr. and Edward Partridge, Deed of Stewardship, 12 Oct. 1832, CHL, italics added.)  


Thus, the church, not the steward, remained the owner of the property in Missouri.6

A 15 May 1839 affidavit demonstrates that Partridge was the actual owner of the consecrated property. Regarding his landholdings at the time of his expulsion from Missouri, Partridge testified, “Nov. 1833 I was compelled by a mob to leave Jackson county, at which time I held the title to two thousand one hundred and thirty six acres of land all lying in that county and also two village lots situated in the village of Independence.” (Edward Partridge, Petition for Redress, 15 May 1839, copy, Edward Partridge, Papers, CHL; see also the partial deeds of stewardship on verso of Edward Partridge, to “Honored Father” et al., 22 Oct. 1834, draft, Edward Partridge, Papers, CHL.)  


Scholars have argued that Partridge

27 Aug. 1793–27 May 1840. Hatter. Born at Pittsfield, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of William Partridge and Jemima Bidwell. Moved to Painesville, Geauga Co., Ohio. Married Lydia Clisbee, 22 Aug. 1819, at Painesville. Initially a Universal Restorationist...

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’s use of leases rather than deeds offered at least three advantages. First, he was unsure how many Mormons would settle in Jackson County

Settled at Fort Osage, 1808. County created, 16 Feb. 1825; organized 1826. Named after U.S. president Andrew Jackson. Featured fertile lands along Missouri River and was Santa Fe Trail departure point, which attracted immigrants to area. Area of county reduced...

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, and with leases, he retained control over the properties and could more easily reapportion the inheritances if needed. Second, if the lands were leased and not deeded, then greedy settlers who had no intention of building up the church would be dissuaded from settling in hopes of acquiring free land. And finally, since a land stewardship could be revoked if members were not considered in good standing, Partridge could ensure that the tenants avoided idleness and conformed to the church’s ethical standards.7

Arrington et al., Building the City of God, 23.  


Despite these advantages, this land program as implemented by Partridge

27 Aug. 1793–27 May 1840. Hatter. Born at Pittsfield, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of William Partridge and Jemima Bidwell. Moved to Painesville, Geauga Co., Ohio. Married Lydia Clisbee, 22 Aug. 1819, at Painesville. Initially a Universal Restorationist...

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caused problems for both the bishop and the church in Missouri

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...

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. For instance, some members who withdrew from the church wanted to retain their property despite the program’s requirement that they relinquish their inheritances. Some sued for their leased properties and won in Missouri courts. One case, reported in the July 1833 issue of The Evening and the Morning Star, involved “one Bates from New-London, Ohio,” who won a lawsuit against Partridge for fifty dollars. It appears the same case was reported by Benton Pixley in a 4 March 1833 letter written to the editor of the Cincinnati Journal. Pixley reported that an unnamed plaintiff sued Partridge “to recover certain moneys sent to him [Partridge] . . . for certain objects . . . [that] had not been fulfilled.” The plaintiff complained of coercion, stating that if he and others did not conform to expected church behavior, they risked losing the “poor privilege of living on these lands.” Pixley also noted that “several others on this decision stand ready to make s[i]milar demands on the Bishop.”8

“The Elders Stationed in Zion to the Churches Abroad,” The Evening and the Morning Star, July 1833, 110; “Still Later from Mount Zion,” Cincinnati Journal, 22 Mar. 1833, 46, italics in original. Pixley, according to the Cincinnati Journal, was a Presbyterian clergyman who apparently resided in Jackson County at this time. Because of the timing and other similarities of the cases reported in the Star and Journal (for instance, Pixley also reported that the plaintiff sued for fifty dollars), it is possible that Bates was the plaintiff in both reports. Pixley reported that the case was heard “last Friday.” If Bates was the plaintiff in Pixley’s report and if the March 4 date for the newspaper report is accurate, then the date of Bates’s court appearance was Friday, 1 March 1833.  


JS must have been aware of Partridge

27 Aug. 1793–27 May 1840. Hatter. Born at Pittsfield, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of William Partridge and Jemima Bidwell. Moved to Painesville, Geauga Co., Ohio. Married Lydia Clisbee, 22 Aug. 1819, at Painesville. Initially a Universal Restorationist...

View Full Bio
’s legal problems, which were likely outlined in Partridge’s letter to JS, no longer extant, to which JS here responds. On 21 April 1833, JS wrote to Missouri

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...

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leaders, counseling them to align their interpretation of the law of consecration and stewardship with previous revelations concerning these matters and with Missouri’s laws: “On the subject of giving deeds & receiving contrabutions from brethren &c I have nothing further to say on the subject but to make yourselves acquainted with the commandments

Generally, a divine mandate that church members were expected to obey; more specifically, a text dictated by JS in the first-person voice of Deity that served to communicate knowledge and instruction to JS and his followers. Occasionally, other inspired texts...

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of the Lord and the Laws of the State and govern yourselves accordingly.”9 In the letter featured here, JS further counseled Partridge to grant inheritances by deed. The steward would receive an “everlasting inheritance”—a “private stewardship.” If the steward apostatized or was excommunicated, he or she would retain the property. However, the portion from the steward’s original consecration that was given freely for the poor could not be returned, for legally it was considered a charitable donation.10

A redaction made to JS’s 20 May 1831 revelation specifically addressed this issue but does not appear in any version of the revelation predating the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. The revision reads, “If he shall transgress, and is not accounted worthy to belong in the church, he shall not have power to claim that portion which he has consecrated unto the bishop for the poor and the needy of my church: therefore, he shall not retain the gift, but shall only have claim on that portion that is deeded unto him.” (Revelation, 20 May 1831, in Doctrine and Covenants 23:1, 1835 ed. [D&C 51:5].)  


JS also told Partridge that if he allotted land in this manner, “no man can take any advantage of you in law.” No deeds reflecting this change in the implementation of consecration are known. This may be because in late July 1833, less than two months after Partridge received this letter, open hostilities against church members broke out in Missouri, and by the end of the year, the Mormons had been expelled from Jackson County

Settled at Fort Osage, 1808. County created, 16 Feb. 1825; organized 1826. Named after U.S. president Andrew Jackson. Featured fertile lands along Missouri River and was Santa Fe Trail departure point, which attracted immigrants to area. Area of county reduced...

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.

Facts