53991957

Letter to Silas Smith, 26 September 1833

given them7

Instead of “them,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “the world.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 229.)  


to understand by anything heretofore revealed that He had ceased to speak, forever, to his creatures, when sought unto in a proper manner, why should it be thought a thing incredible that He should be pleased to speak again, in these last days for their salvation?8

Several months later, JS and his associates in the presidency of the high priesthood reiterated this point in an epistle to the elders of the church. (See Letter to the Church, ca. Mar. 1834.)  


Perhaps you may be surprised at this assertion. That I should say for the salvation of his creatures in these last days, since we have already in our possession a vast volume of his word, which he has previously given
But you will admit that the word spoken to Noah was not sufficient for Abraham, or it was not required of him9

Instead of “him,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “Abraham.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 229.)  


to leave the land of his nativity, and seek an inheritance in a strange country upon the word spoken to Noah, but, for himself he obtained promises from the hand of the Lord, and walked in that perfection10

See Genesis 17:1–22.  


that he was called the friend of God.11

See James 2:23; and Isaiah 41:8.  


Isaac, the promised seed, was not required to rest his hope alone12

The word “alone” is missing at this location in the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 229.)  


upon the promises made to his father Abraham, but was privileged with the assurance of his approbation in the sight of Heaven, by the direct voice of the Lord to him.13

See Genesis 26:2–5.  


If one man can live upon the revelations14

The copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history includes the word “given” here. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 229.)  


to another,15

Here, JS encapsulated the Church of Christ’s rationale for belief in continuing revelation. More than a year earlier, Presbyterian minister Benton Pixley reported that Sidney Rigdon “tells us that we are to look for and expect about these day[s] a new revelation—that the precepts inculcated and given by the Apostles to other people and in other ages are by no means to be applied to us Those promises are not to be received by us as a matter of comfort nor those threatnings as a matter of alarm—for neither one nor the other belong to us—Promises given to a people very different from us—and under very different circumstances eighteen hundred years ago away off on the Contenent of Asia can with no consistency be applied to the people of these United States—We are without a Revalation and must wait upon God and pray for one suited to our times and circumstances.” Church leader John Taylor later expressed, “From the time that Adam first received a communication from God, to the time that John, on the Isle of Patmos, received his communication, or Joseph Smith had the heavens opened to him, it always required new revelations, adapted to the peculiar circumstances in which the churches or individuals were placed. Adam’s revelation did not instruct Noah to build his ark; nor did Noah's revelation tell Lot to forsake Sodom; nor did either of these speak of the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. These all had revelations for themselves, and so had Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, Joseph, and so must we, or we shall make a shipwreck.” (Benton Pixley, Independence, MO, to Absalom Peters, New York City, NY, 1 June 1832, in American Home Missionary Society Papers; John Taylor, “On Priesthood,” LDS Millennial Star, 1 Nov. 1847, 9:323; see also “The Elders in the Land of Zion to the Church of Christ Scattered Abroad,” The Evening and the Morning Star, July 1832, [5].)  


might I not with propriety ask, why the necessity then, of the Lord’s speaking to Isaac as he did, as is recorded in the twenty sixth chapter of Genesis? For the Lord there repeats, or rather, promises again to perform the oath which he had previously sworn to Abraham,16

See Genesis 17:1–22; 22:16–18; 26:3–5.  


and why this repetition to Isaac? Why was not the first promise as sure for Isaac as it was for Abraham? Was not Isaac Abraham’s son, and could he not place implicit confidence in the veracity of his father as being a man of God?
Perhaps you may say that he was a very peculiar man, and different from men in these last days, consequently the Lord favored him with blessings, peculiar and different, as he was different from men in this age.
I admit that he was a peculiar man, and was not only peculiarly blessed, but greatly blessed.
But all the peculiarity that I can discover in the man, or all the difference between him and men in this age, is, that he was more holy and more perfect before God, and came to Him with a purer heart, and more faith than men in this day.
The same might be said on the subject of Jacob’s history. Why was it that the Lord spake to him concerning the same promise, after He had made it once to Abraham, and renewed it to Isaac? Why could not Jacob rest contented upon the word spoken to his fathers?17

See Genesis 35:10–12.  


When the time of the promise drew nigh for the deliverance of the children of Israel from the land of [p. 3]
given them7

Instead of “them,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “the world.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 229.)  


to understand by anything heretofore revealed that He  had ceased to speak, forever, to his creatures, when sought unto  in a proper manner, why should it be thought a thing incredible  that He should be pleased to speak again, in these last days  for their salvation?8

Several months later, JS and his associates in the presidency of the high priesthood reiterated this point in an epistle to the elders of the church. (See Letter to the Church, ca. Mar. 1834.)  


Perhaps you may be surprised at this  assertion. That I should say for the salvation of his creatures  in these last days, since we have already in our possession a  vast volume of his word, which he has previously given
But you will admit that the word spoken to Noah was not suf ficient for Abraham, or it was not required of <him>9

Instead of “him,” the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history has “Abraham.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 229.)  


to leave the land of his  nativity, and seek an inheritance in a strange country upon the word  spoken to Noah, but, for himself he obtained promises from the  hand of the Lord, and walked in that perfection10

See Genesis 17:1–22.  


that he was called  the friend of God.11

See James 2:23; and Isaiah 41:8.  


Isaac, the promised seed, was not required to rest  his hope alone12

The word “alone” is missing at this location in the copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 229.)  


upon the promises made to his father Abraham, but  was privileged with the assurance of his approbation in the sight of  Heaven, by the direct voice of the Lord to him.13

See Genesis 26:2–5.  


If one man can  live upon the revelations14

The copy in Lucy Mack Smith’s history includes the word “given” here. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 229.)  


to another,15

Here, JS encapsulated the Church of Christ’s rationale for belief in continuing revelation. More than a year earlier, Presbyterian minister Benton Pixley reported that Sidney Rigdon “tells us that we are to look for and expect about these day[s] a new revelation—that the precepts inculcated and given by the Apostles to other people and in other ages are by no means to be applied to us Those promises are not to be received by us as a matter of comfort nor those threatnings as a matter of alarm—for neither one nor the other belong to us—Promises given to a people very different from us—and under very different circumstances eighteen hundred years ago away off on the Contenent of Asia can with no consistency be applied to the people of these United States—We are without a Revalation and must wait upon God and pray for one suited to our times and circumstances.” Church leader John Taylor later expressed, “From the time that Adam first received a communication from God, to the time that John, on the Isle of Patmos, received his communication, or Joseph Smith had the heavens opened to him, it always required new revelations, adapted to the peculiar circumstances in which the churches or individuals were placed. Adam’s revelation did not instruct Noah to build his ark; nor did Noah's revelation tell Lot to forsake Sodom; nor did either of these speak of the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. These all had revelations for themselves, and so had Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, Joseph, and so must we, or we shall make a shipwreck.” (Benton Pixley, Independence, MO, to Absalom Peters, New York City, NY, 1 June 1832, in American Home Missionary Society Papers; John Taylor, “On Priesthood,” LDS Millennial Star, 1 Nov. 1847, 9:323; see also “The Elders in the Land of Zion to the Church of Christ Scattered Abroad,” The Evening and the Morning Star, July 1832, [5].)  


might I not with propriety ask,  why the necessity then, of the Lord’s speaking to Isaac as he did, as  is recorded in the twenty sixth chapter of Genesis? For the Lord there  repeats, or rather, promises again to perform the oath which he had  previously sworn to Abraham,16

See Genesis 17:1–22; 22:16–18; 26:3–5.  


and why this repetition to Isaac?  Why was not the first promise as sure for Isaac as it was for Abraham?  Was not Isaac Abraham’s son, and could he not place implicit  confidence in the veracity of his father as <being> a man of God?
Perhaps you may say that he was a very peculiar man, and different  from men in these last days, consequently the Lord favored him  with blessings, peculiar and different, as he was different from men  in this age.
I admit that he was a peculiar man, and was  not only peculiarly blessed, but greatly blessed.
But all  the peculiarity that I can discover in the man, or all the dif ference between him and men in this age, is, that he was  more holy and more perfect before God, and came to Him with  a purer heart, and more faith than men in this day.
The same might be said on the subject of Jacob’s history.  Why was it that the Lord spake to him concerning the same promise,  after He had made it once to Abraham, and renewed it to  Isaac? Why could not Jacob rest contented upon the word  spoken to his fathers?17

See Genesis 35:10–12.  


When the time of the promise drew nigh  for the deliverance of the children of Israel from the land of [p. 3]
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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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