Part 1: 5 September–7 November 1839

From September to early November 1839, JS and other leaders focused on establishing the , Illinois, area as a gathering place for the Latter-day Saints. In the preceding months, church leaders had purchased on credit a large amount of acreage both in the vicinity of Commerce and across the in , Iowa Territory. In September the church filed a plat with , Illinois, for a city to be called . In October the Saints held a general in Commerce, during which they established a in the Commerce area and a of the church in . The conference also appointed and other officers for these areas.
Soon after the conference, the high council—as the high council in was designated—appointed individuals to supervise land sales in the Commerce area, including JS as treasurer of land sales and as “clerk to attend to the land contracts.” High council member was chosen to supervise land contracts and sell town lots, an assignment that required him to consult with JS and when necessary. The high council set the standard price of lots at $500, with acceptable prices ranging from $200 to $800.
Because they purchased most of the land on credit, JS and the church did not have actual title to the land. Therefore, when selling to church members, JS and his counselors in the bonded themselves to provide deeds for the land once the purchasers paid for it. Numerous bonds exist for transactions that occurred during the months of September, October, and November, as do many promissory notes from individuals who did not have the cash to purchase the land outright from the First Presidency. To provide samples of these bonds and promissory notes, this part of the volume includes documents produced in a land transaction between the First Presidency and . Part 1 also includes correspondence, recommendations, minutes of high council meetings, and other documents pertaining to land sales.
and the planned city of were located near the in “a low marshy wet damp and nasty place.” The condition of the land meant that church members who settled there suffered greatly from an illness often called the ague—later identified as malaria—in summer and fall 1839. By the end of that year, at least sixteen Latter-day Saints had died from the disease, including some personal friends of JS. With church members suffering around him, JS gave a sermon in September discouraging the popular view that disease should be seen as divine punishment. Minutes of the church’s October general conference also noted that many members were absent because of illness.
Meanwhile, three of the departed for in September and October 1839, following four of their fellow apostles who had left in August. A July 1838 revelation instructed the Twelve to preach “over the great waters.” Consequently, they were undertaking a proselytizing mission to England, a place where, according to a September 1839 JS letter, “many hundreds have of late been added to our numbers.” A few documents created during September and October relate to the apostles’ mission, including a recommendation JS signed for apostle before he departed for England.
JS spent much of his time in October preparing for a trip to as part of a delegation to petition the federal government for redress for property church members lost when they were expelled from in winter 1838–1839. In addition to minutes of meetings in which JS’s participation in this delegation was clarified, part 1 contains recommendations prepared for JS as well as statements explaining the delegation’s objectives and the church’s intention to publish a history of the conflict in Missouri.
This part contains sixteen documents and primarily consists of land records and agreements, minutes of meetings, and correspondence. Although some of these documents were created in , Adams County, Illinois, most were produced in .
  1. 1

    Leonard, Nauvoo, 54–58; Hancock Co., IL, Plat Books, 1836–1938, vol. 1, pp. 37–39, Nauvoo Plat, 3 Sept. 1839, microfilm 954,774, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.  

    Leonard, Glen M. Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, a People of Promise. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book; Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 2002.

    U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.

  2. 2

    Minutes and Discourses, 5–7 Oct. 1839.  

  3. 3

    Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 21 Oct. 1839, 25–26.  

    Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 1839–1845. CHL. LR 3102 22.

  4. 4

    Examples of these documents are on the Joseph Smith Papers website, josephsmithpapers.org.  

  5. 5

    Butler, Autobiography, [33].  

    Butler, John L. Autobiography, ca. 1859. CHL. MS 2952.

  6. 6

    For more information on the epidemic in summer 1839, including JS’s own illness, see Historical Introduction to Discourse, 28 July 1839.  

  7. 7

    Historian’s Office, JS History, Draft Notes, 11 June 1839, 59; “Obituary,” Times and Seasons, Dec. 1839, 1:32.  

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

  8. 8

    Discourse, 29 Sept. 1839.  

  9. 9

    Minutes and Discourses, 5–7 Oct. 1839.  

  10. 10

    [Parley P. Pratt], “Sketches of Travels in America, and Voyage to England,” LDS Millennial Star, July 1840, 1:49–50; Woodruff, Journal, 8 Aug. 1839; Kimball, “History,” 111; George A. Smith, Journal, 21 Sept. 1839.  

    Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star. Manchester, England, 1840–1842; Liverpool, 1842–1932; London, 1932–1970.

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

    Kimball, Heber C. “History of Heber Chase Kimball by His Own Dictation,” ca. 1842–1856. Heber C. Kimball, Papers, 1837–1866. CHL. MS 627, box 2.

    Smith, George Albert. Journals, 1839–1875. George Albert Smith, Papers. 1834–1877. CHL.

  11. 11

    Revelation, 8 July 1838–A [D&C 118:4]; Letter to Isaac Galland, 11 Sept. 1839.  

  12. 12

    Recommendation for George A. Smith, 21 Sept. 1839.  

  13. 13

    Minutes and Discourses, 5–7 Oct. 1839; Minutes, 4–5 May 1839.