53991758

Letter to Edward Partridge and Others, 30 March 1834

This item is reproduced by permission of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
as we did of the subject matter; as the word of God means what it says; & it is the word of God, as much as Christ was God, although he was born in a stable, & was rejected by the manner of his birth, notwithstanding he was God. What a mistake! the manner of his birth, & the source from which he sprang caused him to be rejected & cast out, & to be taken & put to death.
Whereas had he pleased the great men, the high priests, the lawyers, & the learned, he might have escaped. But supposing we should happen to make as great a mistake as the Lord did, & come under the censure of big men & fall in the same way, what would be the consequence? The fact was, there was no room in the Inn;8

See Luke 2:7.  


& when man cannot do as they would, they must do as they can; for God set the example before them. For there was no room in the Inn! but there was room found “in the stable; & here was utterly a fault in the eyes of the laughing philosophers;”9

According to the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, published in the latter half of the nineteenth century, Democritus, a Greek philosopher who lived from 460–357 BC, was known as the “laughing philosopher” because he “viewed with supreme contempt the feeble powers of man.” A more contemporary periodical article likewise called Democritus the “laughing philosopher.” The phrase “laughing philosophers” was also used more generally to connote jest, sarcasm, or humor. (Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 733; “Humble Station No Obstacle to the Acquisition of Knowledge,” Friend, 28 Aug. 1830, 361; see also, for example, The Galaxy of Wit: or Laughing Philosopher Being a Collection of Choice Anecdotes . . . , 2 vols. [Boston: J. Reed, 1830].)  


but it is not given to us to understand that he altered his course to please any man. And who was it that triumphed? was it the “laughing philosophers,” or him who never deviated from the will of him who sent him? Now the fact is, if we have made any mistakes in punctuation, or spelling, it has been done in consequence of brother Oliver

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...

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, having come from Zion

JS revelation, dated 20 July 1831, designated Missouri as “land of promise” for gathering of Saints and place for “city of Zion,” with Independence area as “center place” of Zion. Latter-day Saint settlements elsewhere, such as in Kirtland, Ohio, became known...

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in great afflictions, through much fatigue and anxiety, and being sent contrary to his expectations to New York

Located in northeast region of U.S. Area settled by Dutch traders, 1620s; later governed by Britain, 1664–1776. Admitted to U.S. as state, 1788. Population in 1810 about 1,000,000; in 1820 about 1,400,000; in 1830 about 1,900,000; and in 1840 about 2,400,...

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, and obtaining press and Types,10

Oliver Cowdery traveled to New York in October 1833 to purchase new printing equipment. He informed Ambrose Palmer on 30 October that “I purchased a Press & Types, all of which had arrived at Buffalo when I left that place: when they will arrive here is uncertain to us, as that depends upon the providences of our Heavenly Father. If however his providences are favorable, they will arrive in a few days undoubtedly.” Cowdery paid $190.60 for the printing press and $360.21 for type. (Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland Mills, OH, to Ambrose Palmer, New Portage, OH, 30 Oct. 1833, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 8; F. G. Williams and Company, Account Book, 1.)  


and hauling them up in the midst of mobs, when he and I, and all the church

The Book of Mormon related that when Christ set up his church in the Americas, “they which were baptized in the name of Jesus, were called the church of Christ.” The first name used to denote the church JS organized on 6 April 1830 was “the Church of Christ...

View Glossary
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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had to lie every night for a long time upon our arms to keep off mobs, of forties, of eighties, & of hundreds to save our lives and the press, and that we might not be scattered & driven to the four winds!11

See Historical Introduction to Prayer, 11 Jan. 1834.  


And all this in the midst of every kind of confusion & calamity & in the sorrowful tale of Zion

JS revelation, dated 20 July 1831, designated Missouri as “land of promise” for gathering of Saints and place for “city of Zion,” with Independence area as “center place” of Zion. Latter-day Saint settlements elsewhere, such as in Kirtland, Ohio, became known...

More Info
, for the sake of Zion, that the word of God might be printed & sent forth by confidential brethren to the different churches;12

By mid-January 1834, the printing office in Kirtland had printed the 16–17 December 1833 revelation, which explained why the Mormons had been expelled from Jackson County and relayed a parable indicating how Zion was to be redeemed. The church intended to send copies of the revelation to the governor of Missouri and to the president of the United States. The church also distributed copies among its branches, presumably to help recruit people and raise money for the expedition to Missouri. The Painesville Telegraph stated that the revelation was “privately circulated among the deluded followers of the impostor, Smith,” while Mormonism Unvailed declared that it “was taken up by all their priests and carried to all their congregations.” (“A Scrap of Mormonism,” Painesville [OH] Telegraph, 24 Jan. 1834, [1]; Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 155.)  


for the churches are just like you— they will not receive anything but by [p. 32]
as we did of the subject matter; as the word of God  means what it says; & it is the word of God, as much as  Christ was God, although he was born in a stable, &  was rejected by the manner of his birth, notwithstanding  he was God. What a mistake! the manner of his birth, &  the source from which he sprang caused him to be  rejected & cast out, & to be taken & put to death.
Whereas <had> he pleased the great men, the high priests, the  lawyers, & the learned, he might have escaped. But  supposing we should happen to make as great a  mistake as the Lord did, & come under the censure of big  men & fall in the same way, what would be the cons equence? The fact was, there was no room in the Inn;8

See Luke 2:7.  


 & when man cannot do as they would, they must do as  they can; for God set the example before them.  For there was no room in the Inn! but there was room found “ in the stable; & here was utterly a fault in the eyes of the  laughing philosophers;”9

According to the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, published in the latter half of the nineteenth century, Democritus, a Greek philosopher who lived from 460–357 BC, was known as the “laughing philosopher” because he “viewed with supreme contempt the feeble powers of man.” A more contemporary periodical article likewise called Democritus the “laughing philosopher.” The phrase “laughing philosophers” was also used more generally to connote jest, sarcasm, or humor. (Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 733; “Humble Station No Obstacle to the Acquisition of Knowledge,” Friend, 28 Aug. 1830, 361; see also, for example, The Galaxy of Wit: or Laughing Philosopher Being a Collection of Choice Anecdotes . . . , 2 vols. [Boston: J. Reed, 1830].)  


but it is not given to us to understand  that he altered his course to please any man. And who was  it that triumphed? was it the “laughing philosophers,” or him  who never deviated from the will of him who sent him?  Now the fact is, if we have made any mistakes in punctuation, or  spelling, it has been done in consequence of brother Oliver

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 Bio
,  having come from Zion

JS revelation, dated 20 July 1831, designated Missouri as “land of promise” for gathering of Saints and place for “city of Zion,” with Independence area as “center place” of Zion. Latter-day Saint settlements elsewhere, such as in Kirtland, Ohio, became known...

More Info
in great afflictions, through much  fatigue and anxiety, and being sent contrary to his expectations to  New York

Located in northeast region of U.S. Area settled by Dutch traders, 1620s; later governed by Britain, 1664–1776. Admitted to U.S. as state, 1788. Population in 1810 about 1,000,000; in 1820 about 1,400,000; in 1830 about 1,900,000; and in 1840 about 2,400,...

More Info
, and obtain[in]g press and Types,10

Oliver Cowdery traveled to New York in October 1833 to purchase new printing equipment. He informed Ambrose Palmer on 30 October that “I purchased a Press & Types, all of which had arrived at Buffalo when I left that place: when they will arrive here is uncertain to us, as that depends upon the providences of our Heavenly Father. If however his providences are favorable, they will arrive in a few days undoubtedly.” Cowdery paid $190.60 for the printing press and $360.21 for type. (Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland Mills, OH, to Ambrose Palmer, New Portage, OH, 30 Oct. 1833, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 8; F. G. Williams and Company, Account Book, 1.)  


and hauling them up in  the midst of mobs, when he and I, and all the church

The Book of Mormon related that when Christ set up his church in the Americas, “they which were baptized in the name of Jesus, were called the church of Christ.” The first name used to denote the church JS organized on 6 April 1830 was “the Church of Christ...

View Glossary
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...

More Info
 had to lie every night for a long time upon our arms to keep  off mobs, of forties, of eighties, & of hundreds to save our lives and  the press, and that we might not be scattered & driven to the  four winds!11

See Historical Introduction to Prayer, 11 Jan. 1834.  


And all this in the midst of every kind of confu sion & calamity & in the sorrowful tale of Zion

JS revelation, dated 20 July 1831, designated Missouri as “land of promise” for gathering of Saints and place for “city of Zion,” with Independence area as “center place” of Zion. Latter-day Saint settlements elsewhere, such as in Kirtland, Ohio, became known...

More Info
, for the sake of  Zion, that the word of God might be printed & sent forth by  confidential brethren to the different churches;12

By mid-January 1834, the printing office in Kirtland had printed the 16–17 December 1833 revelation, which explained why the Mormons had been expelled from Jackson County and relayed a parable indicating how Zion was to be redeemed. The church intended to send copies of the revelation to the governor of Missouri and to the president of the United States. The church also distributed copies among its branches, presumably to help recruit people and raise money for the expedition to Missouri. The Painesville Telegraph stated that the revelation was “privately circulated among the deluded followers of the impostor, Smith,” while Mormonism Unvailed declared that it “was taken up by all their priests and carried to all their congregations.” (“A Scrap of Mormonism,” Painesville [OH] Telegraph, 24 Jan. 1834, [1]; Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 155.)  


for the churches  are just like you— they will not receive anything but by [p. 32]
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From the end of February to the end of March 1834, JS traveled to recruit individuals for the Camp of Israel

A group of approximately 205 men and about 20 women and children led by JS to Missouri, May–July 1834, to redeem Zion by helping the Saints who had been driven from Jackson County, Missouri, regain their lands; later referred to as “Zion’s Camp.” A 24 February...

View Glossary
expedition 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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.1 On 28 March, he returned to 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...

More Info
, Ohio, and found that he had received several letters from Missouri church leaders, some of which were from members of the United Firm

An organization that supervised the management of church enterprises and properties from 1832 to 1834. In March and April 1832, revelations directed that the church’s publishing and mercantile endeavors be organized. In accordance with this direction, the...

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. Those letters, though no longer extant, seem to have discussed, among other things, the business of the firm, including its losses. The letters from Missouri must have also criticized JS and other Kirtland church leaders; according to JS, the letters contained “sharp, piercing, & cutting reproofs,” partly because of misspellings and grammatical errors that appeared in a published broadside of a December 1833 revelation and partly because of the lack of financial support from Kirtland for Missouri church members. Earlier missives from Missouri were similarly critical of Kirtland church leaders, and Missouri members had been consequently rebuked for being contentious.2 A December 1833 revelation even declared that church members had been driven 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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, Missouri, in part because of the “jar[r]ings and contentions envyings and strifes and lustful and covetous desires among them.”3 Although Phelps

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,...

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acknowledged that “it was right that we should be driven out of the land of Zion

JS revelation, dated 20 July 1831, designated Missouri as “land of promise” for gathering of Saints and place for “city of Zion,” with Independence area as “center place” of Zion. Latter-day Saint settlements elsewhere, such as in Kirtland, Ohio, became known...

More Info
,” the letters that JS received in March 1834 apparently exhibited at least a measure of the same critical spirit found in earlier correspondence.4
After spending the preceding day with his family and in the midst of attending to ecclesiastical affairs, JS penned a reply to the 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...

More Info
leaders on 30 March 1834. The letter, featured here, offers a glimpse into how the hardships of late 1833 and early 1834 affected JS and how he handled criticism. This letter exhibited JS’s frustration over their complaints but also evinced his desire to forgive past transgressions for the sake of unity. In the letter, JS also offered more information on the matters with which Phelps

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 Bio
and others had found fault, bemoaned the persecution the church was experiencing in both Missouri and 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...

More Info
, and reported on the expected expedition of “able brethren” to Missouri. Specifically, he noted church members’ lack of support (in terms of both financial donations and individual volunteers) for the contemplated expedition to Zion

JS revelation, dated 20 July 1831, designated Missouri as “land of promise” for gathering of Saints and place for “city of Zion,” with Independence area as “center place” of Zion. Latter-day Saint settlements elsewhere, such as in Kirtland, Ohio, became known...

More Info
. JS also suggested that though he intended to be part of the expedition, he had other matters to resolve before departing. In fact, it was not until 9 April 1834, after the legal proceedings against Doctor Philastus Hurlbut

3 Feb. 1809–16 June 1883. Clergyman, farmer. Born at Chittenden Co., Vermont. “Doctor” was his given name. Preacher for Methodist Episcopal Church in Jamestown, Chautauque Co., New York. Baptized into LDS church, 1832/1833, at Jamestown. Ordained an elder...

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(who had been charged with threatening to kill JS) had successfully concluded, that JS finally determined to “go to Zion.”5

JS, Journal, 9–10 Apr. 1834. This 9 April notation in JS’s journal is the first known documentary evidence that JS had decided to go with the Camp of Israel.  


The letter further provided information on the advantage of employing 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...

More Info
attorney general Robert W. Wells in the Mormons’ legal suits, on debts and finances 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...

More Info
, on the recent purchase of a printing press by Oliver Cowdery

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 Bio
in New York

Located in northeast region of U.S. Area settled by Dutch traders, 1620s; later governed by Britain, 1664–1776. Admitted to U.S. as state, 1788. Population in 1810 about 1,000,000; in 1820 about 1,400,000; in 1830 about 1,900,000; and in 1840 about 2,400,...

More Info
, and on the selling of 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...

More Info
property. Though some church leaders in Missouri wrote letters to Kirtland in the months following this letter, they did not specifically address this letter or its contents.6

See, for example, “The Outrage in Jackson County, Missouri,” The Evening and the Morning Star, May 1834, 160; and “The Outrage in Jackson County, Missouri,” The Evening and the Morning Star, June 1834, 168.  


Therefore, it is not clear if the men of the United Firm

An organization that supervised the management of church enterprises and properties from 1832 to 1834. In March and April 1832, revelations directed that the church’s publishing and mercantile endeavors be organized. In accordance with this direction, the...

View Glossary
in Missouri received this letter.

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