53991957

Letter to Silas Smith, 26 September 1833

Egypt, why was it necessary that the Lord should begin to speak to them?
The promise or word to Abraham, was, that his seed should serve in bondage, and be afflicted, four hundred years, and after that they should come out with great substance.18

See Genesis 15:13–14.  


Why did they not rely upon this promise, and when they had remained in Egypt, in bondage, four hundred years, come out, without waiting for further revelations,19

Instead of the plural word “revelations,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has the singular “revelation.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 230.)  


but act entirely upon the promise given to Abraham that they should come out?
Paul said to his Hebrew brethren, that God might more abundantly show20

Instead of “might more abundantly show,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “being more abundantly willing to show.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 230.)  


unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, He confirmed it by an oath.21

Hebrews 6:17.  


He also exhorts them, who, through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Notwithstanding, we (said Paul) have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us, which hope we have as an anchor to the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the vail,22

Hebrews 6:18–19.  


yet he was careful to press upon them the necessity of continuing on until they, as well as those who then23

The word “then” is missing at this location in the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 230.)  


inherited the promises, might have the assurance of their salvation confirmed to them, by an oath from the mouth of Him who could not lie; for that seemed to be the example anciently, and Paul holds it out to his Hebrew brethren as an object attainable in his day.
And why not? I admit that by reading the Scriptures of truth the Saints, in the days of Paul, could learn, beyond the power of contradiction, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had the promise of eternal life confirmed to them by an oath of the Lord, but that promise or oath was no assurance to them of their salvation; but they could by walking in the footsteps and continuing in the faith of their fathers, obtain, for themselves an oath for confirmation that they were meet to be partakers of the inheritance, with the Saints in light.
If the Saints in the days of the Apostles were priviledged to take the Ancients24

Instead of “Ancients,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “saints.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 231.)  


for examples,25

See James 5:10.  


and lay hold of the same promises, and attain to the same exalted privilege of knowing that their names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life26

See Revelation 21:27.  


and that they were sealed there as a perpetual memorial before the face of the Most High, will not the same faithfulness, the same purity of heart and the same Faith, bring the same assurance of eternal life, and that in the same manner, to the children of men now in this age of the world? I have no doubt but that the holy Prophets and Apostles and [p. 4]
Egypt, why was it necessary that the Lord should begin to speak to them? 
The promise or word to Abraham, was, that his seed should serve  in bondage, and be afflicted, four hundred years, and after that  they should come out with great substance.18

See Genesis 15:13–14.  


Why did they not rely  upon this promise, and when they had remained in Egypt, in  bondage, four hundred years, come out, without waiting for further  revelations,19

Instead of the plural word “revelations,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has the singular “revelation.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 230.)  


but act entirely upon the promise given to Abraham  that they should come out?
Paul said to his Hebrew brethren, that God might more  abundantly show20

Instead of “might more abundantly show,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “being more abundantly willing to show.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 230.)  


unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His  counsel, He confirmed it by an oath.21

Hebrews 6:17.  


He also exhorts them, who,  through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Notwithstanding, we (said Paul) have fled for refuge to  lay hold upon the hope set before us, which hope we have as an  anchor to the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into  that within the vail,22

Hebrews 6:18–19.  


yet he was careful to press upon them the necessi ty of continuing on until they, as well as those who then23

The word “then” is missing at this location in the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 230.)  


inherited  the promises, might have the assurance of their salvation confirmed  to them, by an oath from the mouth of Him who could not lie; for  that seemed to be the example anciently, and Paul holds it  out to his Hebrew brethren as an object attainable in his day. 
And why not? I admit that by reading the Scriptures of truth  the Saints, in the days of Paul, could learn, beyond the power of  contradiction, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had the promise  of eternal life confirmed to them by an oath of the Lord, but that  promise or oath was <no> assurance to them of their salvation; but they  could by walking in the footsteps and continuing in the faith of their  fathers, obtain, for themselves an oath for confirmation that they  were meet to be partakers of the inheritance, with the Saints  in light.
If the Saints in the days of the Apostles were priviledged  to take the Ancients24

Instead of “Ancients,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “saints.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 231.)  


for examples,25

See James 5:10.  


and lay hold of the same  promises, and attain to the same exalted privilege of knowing  that their names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life26

See Revelation 21:27.  


 and that they were sealed there as a perpetual memorial  before the face of the Most High, will not the same faith fulness, the same purity of heart and the same Faith, bring  the same assurance of eternal life, and that in the same  manner, to the children of men now in this age of the world?  I have no doubt but that the holy Prophets and Apostles and [p. 4]
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JS wrote this 26 September 1833 letter, defending the idea of modern-day revelation, to his uncle Silas Smith

1 Oct. 1779–13 Sept. 1839. Farmer. Born in Derryfield (now Manchester), Hillsborough Co., New Hampshire. Son of Asael Smith and Mary Duty. Moved to Topsfield, Essex Co., Massachusetts, by 1790. Moved to Tunbridge, Orange Co., Vermont, by 1800. Married first...

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, who resided in Stockholm

Located in northern New York, about seventy miles southeast of Montreal and about fifteen miles southeast of St. Lawrence River. Landscape hilly and densely forested, with fertile soil. Region drained by St. Regis River. Area settled, by 1803. Formed from...

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, New York. Besides Silas and his family, several other relatives of JS lived in the Stockholm area at this time, including his grandmother Mary Duty Smith and his uncles Jesse and Asahel Smith

21 May 1773–22 July 1848. Farmer. Born at Windham, Rockingham Co., New Hampshire. Son of Asael Smith and Mary Duty. Moved to Dunbarton, Hillsborough Co., New Hampshire, 15 Apr. 1774; to Derryfield (later Manchester), Hillsborough Co., New Hampshire, 1778;...

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and their families.
Silas

1 Oct. 1779–13 Sept. 1839. Farmer. Born in Derryfield (now Manchester), Hillsborough Co., New Hampshire. Son of Asael Smith and Mary Duty. Moved to Topsfield, Essex Co., Massachusetts, by 1790. Moved to Tunbridge, Orange Co., Vermont, by 1800. Married first...

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, then a Presbyterian, was aware of his nephew’s revelations and of the Book of Mormon. According to a later history written by Silas’s son Jesse Smith, Joseph Smith Sr.

12 July 1771–14 Sept. 1840. Cooper, farmer, teacher, merchant. Born at Topsfield, Essex Co., Massachusetts. Son of Asael Smith and Mary Duty. Nominal member of Congregationalist church at Topsfield. Married to Lucy Mack by Seth Austin, 24 Jan. 1796, at Tunbridge...

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and his son Don Carlos

25 Mar. 1816–7 Aug. 1841. Farmer, printer, editor. Born at Norwich, Windsor Co., Vermont. Son of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack. Moved to Palmyra, Ontario Co., New York, 1816–Jan. 1817. Moved to Manchester, Ontario Co., 1825. Baptized into LDS church by David...

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visited Silas and other family members in 1830. Although Silas received the testimony of his family members “concerning the Latter day Work,” he was “slow about yielding obedience to the Gospel owing to the determined opposition” of his wife, Mary Aikens, and his brother Jesse, an ardent opponent of JS and 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...

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.1

Jesse Smith, Autobiography and Journal, 2.  


Silas likely discussed the Church of Christ and its beliefs in new scripture and modern-day revelation with his brother John Smith

16 July 1781–23 May 1854. Farmer. Born at Derryfield (later Manchester), Rockingham Co., New Hampshire. Son of Asael Smith and Mary Duty. Member of Congregational church. Appointed overseer of highways at Potsdam, St. Lawrence Co., New York, 1810. Married...

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in the year prior to receiving this letter. John was baptized

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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in January 1832, and from July 1832 to late April 1833, he proselytized and held church meetings around the Stockholm

Located in northern New York, about seventy miles southeast of Montreal and about fifteen miles southeast of St. Lawrence River. Landscape hilly and densely forested, with fertile soil. Region drained by St. Regis River. Area settled, by 1803. Formed from...

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area. Sometime in late 1832, John “went to Stockholm [and was] put up for the night at my Brothers,” and in early March 1833 he spent an evening with “Br. Silas” and had a conversation with him on “spiritual things.”2

John Smith, Journal, [Dec. 1832], 11; 8 Mar. 1833. John did not specify that he stayed with Silas, and he could have been referring to his other brother, Asahel Smith, who also lived in Stockholm. It is likely, but not certain, that the “Br. Silas” in John’s journal refers to Silas Smith. (Jesse Smith, Autobiography and Journal, 2.)  


John 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...

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, Ohio, in late May 1833 and undoubtedly told JS of his proselytizing efforts.
JS’s objective in this 26 September letter was to persuade his uncle that it was both scripturally sound and reasonable that God would speak to prophets in modern times as he did in biblical times. Most Christians of the era believed that the canon of scripture was closed and found the idea of additional canonical revelation to be repugnant, even blasphemous.3

For more information on these theological views that were common in nineteenth-century America, see Holland, Sacred Borders.  


This letter is a prime example of the Mormon argument for modern and continuing revelation. In the letter, JS heavily referenced books from both the Old and New Testaments to demonstrate that each age needs to hear the voice of God anew. The ideas expressed in this letter appeared again in the second installment of a serialized letter written by “the 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...

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of the Church 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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” and published in The Evening and the Morning Star in early 1834.4
JS closed this letter by expressing his hope that Silas

1 Oct. 1779–13 Sept. 1839. Farmer. Born in Derryfield (now Manchester), Hillsborough Co., New Hampshire. Son of Asael Smith and Mary Duty. Moved to Topsfield, Essex Co., Massachusetts, by 1790. Moved to Tunbridge, Orange Co., Vermont, by 1800. Married first...

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would eventually join the Church of Christ. Jesse Smith, Silas’s son, recorded that his father received this letter from JS and that Silas “was baptized in the summer of 1835 by Hyrum Smith

9 Feb. 1800–27 June 1844. Farmer, cooper. Born at Tunbridge, Orange Co., Vermont. Son of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack. Moved to Randolph, Orange Co., 1802; to Tunbridge, before May 1803; to Royalton, Windsor Co., Vermont, 1804; to Sharon, Windsor Co., by...

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, and in the spring of 1836 emigrated 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...

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, Ohio,” with family members, including his aged mother, Mary Duty Smith.5

Jesse Smith, Autobiography and Journal, 6. According to a letter from Hyrum Smith, “[It is the will] of god that uncle Silas Should fetch granmother in spite of [all the devils there] are out of Haadees & god will Bless Him in So doing & give her Strinth [to endure the jou]rney.” John Smith wrote in his journal that he returned to Kirtland on 18 May 1836 and “found our mother and brethren from the east.” (Hyrum Smith, Kirtland, OH, to Elias Smith, East Stockholm, NY, 27 Feb. 1836, CHL, missing text supplied from Smith, Life of Joseph F. Smith, 116; John Smith, Journal, 18 May 1836; Elias Smith, Journal, 17–18 May 1836.)  


Jesse Smith transcribed the letter featured here in its entirety into the family history portion of his journal in 1855.6

Jesse’s journal begins with a family history. He began writing in this journal in 1855. (Jesse Smith, Autobiography and Journal, 2–5.)  


He apparently copied the original letter sent by JS, which was evidently still in the possession of the family at the time because the transcript included postal information not contained in any other extant version; Jesse’s copy appears to be the most complete and accurate extant copy. Martha Jane Knowlton Coray transcribed a copy of JS’s letter to Silas

1 Oct. 1779–13 Sept. 1839. Farmer. Born in Derryfield (now Manchester), Hillsborough Co., New Hampshire. Son of Asael Smith and Mary Duty. Moved to Topsfield, Essex Co., Massachusetts, by 1790. Moved to Tunbridge, Orange Co., Vermont, by 1800. Married first...

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for Lucy Mack Smith

8 July 1775–14 May 1856. Oilcloth painter, nurse, fund-raiser, author. Born at Gilsum, Cheshire Co., New Hampshire. Daughter of Solomon Mack Sr. and Lydia Gates. Moved to Montague, Franklin Co., Massachusetts, 1779; to Tunbridge, Orange Co., Vermont, 1788...

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’s history in the mid-1840s. However, that version varies significantly from the text featured here in words, phrases, and punctuation. Some of the variants in the Coray copy make the wording of the letter less clear when compared to Jesse Smith’s transcript. In addition, the Coray copy includes some later, Utah-era redactions and insertions that appear to have been made to match the version in Jesse’s journal. Significant differences between these two versions are noted in footnotes throughout the following transcript.

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