Discourse, 5 June 1842, as Reported by John D. Lee
JS, Discourse, , Hancock Co., IL, 5 June 1842. Featured version copied [between circa 5 June and circa 21 Sept. 1842] in John D. Lee, Journal, 1842–1843, p. 51; handwriting of ; CHL.
Blank book containing seventy-five leaves measuring about 5½ × 3⅝ inches (14 × 9 cm). The original binding is not extant. The volume contains 150 pages inscribed in blue, brown, and black ink. Although the volume is paginated, the pagination is sometimes disordered, apparently caused by missing pages and scribal error. A note on a loose leaf, likely the first page of the original volume, indicates that the book initially belonged to John James Saunders, who gave it to on 28 June 1841. Lee did not begin recording entries in the volume until March 1842. Lee used the volume primarily as a journal, with entries dated from 18 March 1842 to 19 August 1843. He also recorded his 1842 patriarchal blessing in the book. The volume includes illustrations as well as decorative headings and borders. Sometime in the twentieth century the leaves were rebound.
The volume was passed down to descendants of and Sarah Caroline Williams Lee, one of his plural wives, and was donated to the Church Historical Department in 1995.
See the full bibliographic entry for John D. Lee, Journal, 1842–1843, in the CHL catalog.
On 5 June 1842, JS preached a discourse to a large audience in , Illinois, exhorting them, and the world generally, to repent. In his call for repentance, JS singled out those who might instigate mobs to oppress the Latter-day Saints. This discourse may have been motivated by recent developments in Nauvoo. JS delivered this sermon soon after broke away from the and newspapers began printing rumors, spread by Bennett, that JS had been involved in the attempted assassination of , former governor of . JS’s sermon was informed by these events, as well as the resulting fear of reprisals among the Latter-day Saints. JS’s message also fit in the church’s tradition of millennial rhetoric. Church members had always preached about the Millennium, but by 1840, after the federal government failed to grant their petitions for redress for losses they had sustained in Missouri, the Saints’ apocalyptic rhetoric increasingly focused on the fate of the . JS’s sermons contained narratives of national decline and Latter-day Saint redemption.
There are two extant accounts of JS’s 5 June discourse. It was summarized in the 11 June issue of the Wasp, edited by JS’s brother , which reported that JS preached before “an attentive audience of about 8000.” , a Latter-day Saint living in , also took notes on the discourse in his journal. Though Lee’s account is the more comprehensive and detailed of the two, both accounts noted that JS began his sermon by drawing on chapters 32 and 33 of the book of Ezekiel, in which Ezekiel lamented the prophesied downfall of Egypt and its pharaoh and foretells the destruction of the people of Judah, who failed to heed God’s watchman. The authors of both accounts of the sermon also conveyed JS’s warning that “this generation” must repent and turn to God or be consigned to hell, and both writers viewed this warning as the direction of God’s prophet.
However, notable discrepancies also exist between the two accounts, indicating that the Saints interpreted JS’s discourse in different ways. For example, although the Wasp presented the address simply as a public discourse, believed JS’s sermon to be a prophetic revelation and wrote that JS prefaced at least one of his comments with “thus saith the Lord.” In Lee’s account, JS warned the world of divine justice and emphasized that the Latter-day Saints must either repent or join “pharaoh & his hosts” in hell. Lee’s version also suggested that JS spoke in prophetic terms, directing the audience to remember his words and receive the prophesied destruction as a sign that JS truly did speak the word of the Lord.
While in ’s version of the discourse JS encouraged the Saints to look both outward and inward, the summary of the sermon published in the Wasp more clearly pitted the Saints against the outside world. In the Wasp’s account, presumably provided by editor , JS sarcastically described how “Old Pharaoh was comforted, and greatly rejoiced, that he was honored as a kind of King Devil over those uncircumcised nations.” The version printed in the Wasp also indicated that JS directed his warnings toward the Saints’ persecutors, including “mobocrats, miracle rejecters, saint killers, [and] hypocritical priests.”
While the unique perspectives of and shaped their accounts of the discourse, so too did the different forms in which the discourse was recorded. The Wasp printed “the local and general news of the day” for ’s citizens and, as such, had a largely secular and impersonal tone. The newspaper account summarized the sermon, provided contextual details, and emphasized an outward, antagonistic message. In contrast, the inward focus of Lee’s account, demonstrated in the frequent use of the personal pronoun “you,” reflects the private nature of his journal.
likely wrote his account between June and September 1842—presumably sometime shortly after the delivery of the discourse but before Lee’s next journal entry, dated 21 September 1842. These two accounts are the only extant versions of this discourse. Lee’s account is featured here because it offers more detail and because Lee appears to have captured some of JS’s actual words, while the account in the Wasp is only a summary of what JS said.
The Wasp, which titled its account of the sermon “THE PROPHET,” reported that JS gave a “powerful discourse” and concluded by stating that “spring water tastes best right from the fountain.” Although the report implied that JS had spoken as God’s prophet, it did not describe his words as prophecy. (“The Prophet,” Wasp, 11 June 1842, , italics in original.)
Lee recorded his patriarchal blessing—dated 15 January 1839 and recorded in Nauvoo by James Sloan on 9 February 1842—in between his account of the 5 June discourse and his 21 September entry, but he did not include the date when he recorded the blessing in his journal.
Revelation. Given to J. Simth [Smith] .
June 5th. A. D. 1842.
As the word of the Lord. was unto pharoah— King of Egypt— by the mouth of Ezikiel. the prophet. E.Z. 32. <&> 33.—— so— is the word of the Lord: unto this— generation. by the mouth of. Joseph Smith. if they Repent not. they shall be herld [hurled] down to Hell. Also— to you Latter days saints Repent & forsake your sins— or you shall likewise suffer— verily thus saith the Lord— to those that encourage Mobs. to opose &— distress the Mormons. (remember) the same. Mobs that you encourage— shall return to your own houses— & Bosom & shall distress you— & shall spread death & distruction in your midst— yea there be some here to day who shall witness the same & acknowledge this to— be the word of the Lord— others to their shame & everlasting condemnation— Remember. o. ye L.D. saints & perish not. Repent of your <evil> doeings— lest ye be herld down to Hell with pharaoh & his hosts— but if you will turn to the Lord & remember to give him glory & you shall live this shall be a sign unto you when it shall come to Pass—— [p. 51]