53991745

Letter to J. G. Fosdick, 3 February 1834

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

An ordinance in which an individual is immersed in water for the remission of sins. The Book of Mormon explained that those with necessary authority were to baptize individuals who had repented of their sins. Baptized individuals also received the gift of...

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and come into 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...

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again if he desire so to do. The instructions which you desire relative to church gov. &c. the extent of the power of a high Priest

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
over any 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...

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of the church, are subjects which will be investigated in the next no. of the Star.7

No such instructions appeared in The Evening and the Morning Star, though it is clear from other sources that church leaders fully intended to publish them at some point. For example, in the postscript to his 7 March 1834 letter to Fosdick, Samuel Bent, and Elijah Fordham, Cowdery wrote that there had not been enough room in the church newspaper to include the instructions concerning church governance, but that they would “probably be in the next” number of the paper. Similarly, the March 1834 issue of the Star ended with a note saying that “some instruction upon the regulation of the church” would be given later. (Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland, OH, to J. G. Fosdick et al., Pontiac, Michigan Territory, 7 Mar. 1834, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 29; Letter to the Church, ca. Mar. 1834.)  


Time will not allow us to write the subjects at full length now; suffice it, therefore, to say that there is no office in this Church which can be placed upon the head of any man that will place him beyond the power & control of any branch of the church where he may be guilty of transgression, even if there is not another 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
member in the church, let the church appoint some brother to preside and let them do as one church did in ancient days “try them who say they are apostles

A title indicating one sent forth to preach; later designated as a specific ecclesiastical and priesthood office. By 1830, JS and Oliver Cowdery were designated as apostles. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church explained that an “apostle is an elder...

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and are not, but are liars,”8

See Revelation 2:2.  


then let them demand their license

A document certifying an individual’s office in the church and authorizing him “to perform the duty of his calling.” The “Articles and Covenants” of the church implied that only elders could issue licenses; individuals ordained by a priest to an office in...

View Glossary
, raise their hands against them and thus they are expelled from the communion of the church. It requires all the members of the church to constitute the body of Christ. One man is not the body, nor are the children of the Kingdom to be tantalized by men who may hold licenses and have authority to preach the gospel; such have the more need to be discreet and humble. Should the individual, after being thus dealt with be dissatisfied with the decission of the church he can appeal to a Bishop’s Court

Official church proceedings convened to handle disputes or allegations of misconduct. The officers of the court were a bishop, his assistants or counselors, and additional high priests or elders assembled on an ad hoc basis. Until high councils were established...

View Glossary
, and should he there be judged guilty, he can yet appeal to a court of 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
and this is an end of all disputes and controversies in the Church of God on earth.9

JS’s instructions given here reflected the contents of an 11 November 1831 revelation that said a bishop had authority to “sit in Judgement upon transgressors . . . by the assistance of his councillors” and that one could appeal a bishop’s decision to the presidency of the high priesthood, which had the power to call twelve other high priests to assist. After the court of the presidency of the high priesthood ruled on a case, “it shall be had in remembrance no more before the Lord,” the revelation read, “for this is the highest court of the church of God & a final desision upon controvers[i]es.” (Revelation, 11 Nov. 1831–B [D&C 107:72, 78–80].)  


Brethren in the new covenant

Generally referred to the “fulness of the gospel”—the sum total of the church’s message, geared toward establishing God’s covenant people on the earth; also used to describe individual elements of the gospel, including marriage. According to JS, the everlasting...

View Glossary
, Farewell.
SignedJoseph Smith Jr. (Moderator
Orson Hyde

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, ...

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(Clerk of Council
Copied by direction of the 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
, 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
[p. 24]
rebaptized

An ordinance in which an individual is immersed in water for the remission of sins. The Book of Mormon explained that those with necessary authority were to baptize individuals who had repented of their sins. Baptized individuals also received the gift of...

View Glossary
and come into 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
again if he desire  so to do. The instructions which you desire relative to  church gov. &c. the extent of the power of a high Priest

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
 over any 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, are subjects which  will be investigated in the next no. of the Star.7

No such instructions appeared in The Evening and the Morning Star, though it is clear from other sources that church leaders fully intended to publish them at some point. For example, in the postscript to his 7 March 1834 letter to Fosdick, Samuel Bent, and Elijah Fordham, Cowdery wrote that there had not been enough room in the church newspaper to include the instructions concerning church governance, but that they would “probably be in the next” number of the paper. Similarly, the March 1834 issue of the Star ended with a note saying that “some instruction upon the regulation of the church” would be given later. (Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland, OH, to J. G. Fosdick et al., Pontiac, Michigan Territory, 7 Mar. 1834, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 29; Letter to the Church, ca. Mar. 1834.)  


Time  will not allow us to write the subjects at full length now;  suffice it, therefore, to say that there is no office in this Church  which can be placed upon the head of any man that will  place him beyond the power & control of any branch of the church  where he may be guilty of transgression, even if there is not  another 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
member in the church, let the church app oint some brother to preside and let them do as one church  did in ancient days “try them who say they are apostles

A title indicating one sent forth to preach; later designated as a specific ecclesiastical and priesthood office. By 1830, JS and Oliver Cowdery were designated as apostles. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church explained that an “apostle is an elder...

View Glossary
and  are not, but are liars,”8

See Revelation 2:2.  


then let them demand their license

A document certifying an individual’s office in the church and authorizing him “to perform the duty of his calling.” The “Articles and Covenants” of the church implied that only elders could issue licenses; individuals ordained by a priest to an office in...

View Glossary
,  raise their hands against them and thus they are expelled  from the communion of the church. It requires all the  members of the church to constitute the body of Christ. One  man is not the body, nor are the children of <the> Kingdom  to be tantalized by men who may hold licenses and have  authority to preach the gospel; such have the more need to  be discreet and humble. Should the individual, after being  thus dealt with be dissatisfied with the decission of the church  he can appeal to a Bishop’s Court

Official church proceedings convened to handle disputes or allegations of misconduct. The officers of the court were a bishop, his assistants or counselors, and additional high priests or elders assembled on an ad hoc basis. Until high councils were established...

View Glossary
, and should he there be  judged guilty, he can yet appeal to a court of high pri[ests]

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
 and this is an end of all disputes and controversies in the  Church of God on earth.9

JS’s instructions given here reflected the contents of an 11 November 1831 revelation that said a bishop had authority to “sit in Judgement upon transgressors . . . by the assistance of his councillors” and that one could appeal a bishop’s decision to the presidency of the high priesthood, which had the power to call twelve other high priests to assist. After the court of the presidency of the high priesthood ruled on a case, “it shall be had in remembrance no more before the Lord,” the revelation read, “for this is the highest court of the church of God & a final desision upon controvers[i]es.” (Revelation, 11 Nov. 1831–B [D&C 107:72, 78–80].)  


Brethren in the new covenant

Generally referred to the “fulness of the gospel”—the sum total of the church’s message, geared toward establishing God’s covenant people on the earth; also used to describe individual elements of the gospel, including marriage. According to JS, the everlasting...

View Glossary
, Farewell.
SignedJoseph Smith Jr. (Moderator
Orson Hyde

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 Bio
(Clerk of Coun[cil]
Copied by direction of the 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
, 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
[p. 24]
Previous
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...

View Full Bio
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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