53991745

Letter to J. G. Fosdick, 3 February 1834

This item is reproduced by permission of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
Kirtland Mills

Located in Newel K. Whitney store in northwest Kirtland on northeast corner of Chardon and Chillicothe roads. Whitney appointed postmaster, 29 Dec. 1826. JS and others listed “Kirtland Mills, Geauga County, Ohio” as return address for letters mailed, 1833...

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Feb. 3, 1834.
Dear Bro. J. G. Fosdick:
Your letter of the 10th. Jan. last is just recd. and this day there has been a regular Council

A gathering of church leaders assembled “for consultation, deliberation and advice”; also a body responsible for governance or administration. As early as 9 February 1831, a revelation instructed that “the Elders & Bishop shall Council together & they shall...

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of H. Priests

An ecclesiastical and priesthood office. Christ and many ancient prophets, including Abraham, were described as being high priests. The Book of Mormon used the term high priest to denote one appointed to lead the church. However, the Book of Mormon also discussed...

View Glossary
& Elders

A male leader in the church generally; an ecclesiastical and priesthood office or one holding that office; a proselytizing missionary. The Book of Mormon explained that elders ordained priests and teachers and administered “the flesh and blood of Christ unto...

View Glossary
in this place, and the subject spoken of in your letter was, we believe, taken into due consideration. We were very sorry to learn that Bro. Joseph Wood had gone so far astray and offered such violence to the pure principles of the Gospel of Christ. But, alas! Such is the depravity of man when lost to a sense of the fear of God and of the ties which bind every virtuous man to the interest and happiness of his follow man.
Every principle inculcated among you which is contrary to virtue, to industry, to wisdom, to good order, to propriety, and in fine, to the pure principles of godliness as contained in the Scriptures of the old and new Testaments, the Book of Mormon and the revelations and 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...

View Glossary
of Jesus Christ, which have been given to his 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 these last days,2

Michigan members of the church could have had access to JS’s revelations in several ways. For example, they could have subscribed to the church’s periodical, The Evening and the Morning Star, which had published about two dozen JS revelations in 1832 and 1833. Church members in Michigan may have also had access to copies of the unfinished Book of Commandments, though these were scarce because a mob in Jackson County, Missouri, had destroyed the printing office in July 1833 while the volume was still being printed. Some church members also had revelations copied for personal use. (See “Joseph Smith–Era Publications of Revelations.”)  


is entirely foreign from the feelings of our breasts, and is that upon which we look down with feelings of the utmost disapprobation; and as consciencious men who expect to render an impartial account, before the searcher of hearts,3

See Jeremiah 17:10; and Psalms 44:21; 139:23.  


of all our transactions here, we cannot look upon any principle contrary to the above with any degree of allowance.4

See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 349 [Alma 45:16]; and Revelation, 1 Nov. 1831–B [D&C 1:31].  


After some investigation of the case of Bro. Wood, in Council, it was decided that he should be cut off from the Church. Accordingly the Council lifted their hands against him and he was excluded from the church on this 3d. day of Feb. 1834. for indulging an idle, partial, overbearing and lustful spirit, and not magnifying his holy calling whereunto he had been ordained

The conferral of power and authority; to appoint, decree, or set apart. Church members, primarily adults, were ordained to ecclesiastical offices and other responsibilities by the laying on of hands by those with the proper authority. Ordinations to priesthood...

View Glossary
. These things were plainly manifest to the satisfaction of all the council, and the Spirit constrained us to separate him from the church.6

According to Cowdery, the decision to excommunicate Wood was not made easily. “None but those who consider the worth of souls [c]an imagine the feelings of our hearts,” Cowdery wrote. “Our sympathies [w]ould have said spare him! had it not been for the [c]onviction of every mind that he could not in justice [s]tand.” (Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland Mills, OH, to J. G. Fosdick, Pontiac, Michigan Territory, 4 Feb. 1834, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 25.)  


Should bro. Joseph Wood, after learning the decission of this council, truly repent of all his sins and bring forth fruit meet to the satisfaction of that branch

An ecclesiastical organization of church members in a particular locale. A branch was generally smaller than a stake or a conference. Branches were also referred to as churches, as in “the Church of Shalersville.” In general, a branch was led by a presiding...

View Glossary
of the Church where he has committed the offences, he can be [p. 23]
Kirtland Mills

Located in Newel K. Whitney store in northwest Kirtland on northeast corner of Chardon and Chillicothe roads. Whitney appointed postmaster, 29 Dec. 1826. JS and others listed “Kirtland Mills, Geauga County, Ohio” as return address for letters mailed, 1833...

More Info
Feb. 3, 1834.
Dear Bro. [J. G.] Fosdick:
Your letter of the 10th. Jan. last is  just recd. and this day there has been a regular Council

A gathering of church leaders assembled “for consultation, deliberation and advice”; also a body responsible for governance or administration. As early as 9 February 1831, a revelation instructed that “the Elders & Bishop shall Council together & they shall...

View Glossary
 of H. Priests

An ecclesiastical and priesthood office. Christ and many ancient prophets, including Abraham, were described as being high priests. The Book of Mormon used the term high priest to denote one appointed to lead the church. However, the Book of Mormon also discussed...

View Glossary
& Elders

A male leader in the church generally; an ecclesiastical and priesthood office or one holding that office; a proselytizing missionary. The Book of Mormon explained that elders ordained priests and teachers and administered “the flesh and blood of Christ unto...

View Glossary
in this place, and the subject spoken  of in your letter was, we believe, taken into due consideration.  We were very sorry to learn that Bro. J[oseph] Wood had gone  so far astray and offered such violence to the pure principles  of the Gospel of Christ. But, alas! Such is the depravity of man  when lost to a sense of the fear of God and of the ties which bind  [e]very1

TEXT: “[Torn edge]very”. Because the left edge of the page is torn, several characters and words are missing from this document. In such places, text has been editorially supplied. Unless otherwise noted, the supplied text here and in the following paragraphs is based on syntax and common spellings.  


virtuous man to the interest and happiness of his follow man.
Every principle inculcated among you which is contrary  [t]o virtue, to industry, to wisdom, to good order, to propriety,  and in fine, to the pure principles of godliness as contained in  the Scriptures of the old and new Testaments, the Book of Mormon  and the revelations and 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...

View Glossary
of Jesus Christ, which  have been given to his 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 these last days,2

Michigan members of the church could have had access to JS’s revelations in several ways. For example, they could have subscribed to the church’s periodical, The Evening and the Morning Star, which had published about two dozen JS revelations in 1832 and 1833. Church members in Michigan may have also had access to copies of the unfinished Book of Commandments, though these were scarce because a mob in Jackson County, Missouri, had destroyed the printing office in July 1833 while the volume was still being printed. Some church members also had revelations copied for personal use. (See “Joseph Smith–Era Publications of Revelations.”)  


is entirely  foreign from the feelings of our breasts, and is that upon which we  look down with feelings of the utmost disapprobation; and as consc [i]encious men who expect to render an impartial account, before  [th]e searcher of hearts,3

See Jeremiah 17:10; and Psalms 44:21; 139:23.  


of all our transactions here, we cannot  [lo]ok upon any principle contrary to the above with any degree  [of] allowance.4

See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 349 [Alma 45:16]; and Revelation, 1 Nov. 1831–B [D&C 1:31].  


After some investigation of the case of Bro. Wood, in Council,  [it] was decided that he should be cut off from the Church.  [Ac]cordingly the Council lifted their hands against him and  [he] was excluded from the church on this 3d. day of Feb. 1834.  [for] indulging an idle, partial, overbearing and lustful5

TEXT: “lustful” is underlined three times.  


spirit, and  [not] magnifying his holy calling whereunto he had been  [ord]ained

The conferral of power and authority; to appoint, decree, or set apart. Church members, primarily adults, were ordained to ecclesiastical offices and other responsibilities by the laying on of hands by those with the proper authority. Ordinations to priesthood...

View Glossary
. These things were plainly manifest to the satisfaction  [of] [a]ll the council, and the Spirit constrained us to separate him  [fro]m the church.6

According to Cowdery, the decision to excommunicate Wood was not made easily. “None but those who consider the worth of souls [c]an imagine the feelings of our hearts,” Cowdery wrote. “Our sympathies [w]ould have said spare him! had it not been for the [c]onviction of every mind that he could not in justice [s]tand.” (Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland Mills, OH, to J. G. Fosdick, Pontiac, Michigan Territory, 4 Feb. 1834, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 25.)  


Should bro. Joseph Wood, after learning  [th]e decission of this council, truly repent of all his sins and  bring forth fruit meet to the satisfaction of that branch

An ecclesiastical organization of church members in a particular locale. A branch was generally smaller than a stake or a conference. Branches were also referred to as churches, as in “the Church of Shalersville.” In general, a branch was led by a presiding...

View Glossary
of the  Church where he has committed the offences, he can be [p. 23]
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This letter was written in response to a 10 January 1834 letter from J. G. Fosdick1

Possibly Jabez G. Fosdick, who purchased land in 1833 in Oakland County, Michigan Territory, where Pontiac is located. A “Jabes Fosdick”—probably the same person—baptized Edward Stevenson in the Pontiac area in December 1833. (Oakland Co., MI, Deed Records, 1821–1926, vol. 9, pp. 277–278, 13 Oct. 1833, microfilm 975,564, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL; Stevenson, Journal, 23 Dec. 1867 and 27 May 1883.)  


regarding Joseph Wood, who had evidently been accused of serious misconduct while laboring as a missionary in the area of Pontiac, Michigan Territory.2

According to Edward Stevenson, Wood was preaching in the Pontiac area with Jared Carter by May 1833. Wood may have arrived in the area with Carter as early as January 1833. Sometime before 7 January 1834, Samuel Bent wrote to Oliver Cowdery indicating that Wood was still in Pontiac. (Stevenson, Journal, 23 Dec. 1867 and 27 May 1883; Stevenson, Autobiography, 1, 14; Samuel Bent, Pontiac, Michigan Territory, to “Dear Sir,” 16 Feb. 1833, The Evening and the Morning Star, Apr. 1833, [8].)  


Fosdick’s letter has not been located and therefore its contents are unknown, but a cover letter penned 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...

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to Fosdick on 11 January 1834 refers to Wood spending time “in idleness or pretended study” and as one “who will dishonor the holy cause and bring a [re]proach upon the Church of Christ

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
, and wound the pure in heart.”3

Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland Mills, OH, to J. G. Fosdick, Pontiac, Michigan Territory, 4 Feb. 1834, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 25.  


A March 1834 letter from Cowdery to Fosdick and others indicated that Wood had committed adultery and that by 16 February 1834 he was also questioning the “honesty and righteousness” of church leaders 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.4

Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland, OH, to J. G. Fosdick et al., Pontiac, Michigan Territory, 7 Mar. 1834, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 28.  


In his 10 January 1834 letter, Fosdick evidently inquired about church governance and the extent of authority held by high priests

An ecclesiastical and priesthood office. Christ and many ancient prophets, including Abraham, were described as being high priests. The Book of Mormon used the term high priest to denote one appointed to lead the church. However, the Book of Mormon also discussed...

View Glossary
in the branches

An ecclesiastical organization of church members in a particular locale. A branch was generally smaller than a stake or a conference. Branches were also referred to as churches, as in “the Church of Shalersville.” In general, a branch was led by a presiding...

View Glossary
of the church. JS’s response in the letter featured here emphasized the authority of local branches over that of individual high priests in disciplinary proceedings and was intended to be a precursor to a fuller treatment on authority to be published later.

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