During fall 1835, JS received a contrite letter from , who had become estranged from the sometime during the previous two years. Though little is known about the circumstances surrounding his separation, he evidently had a change of heart during the latter part of 1835, which prompted him to write to JS. In a 28 September letter, he appealed to JS to let him know if he was still “within the reach of mercy” and requested that JS “enquire at the hand of the Lord in my behalf.” Penitently, he told JS, “I am willing to receive any chastisement that the Lord sees I deserve.” On 16 November, JS responded to Whitlock’s entreaty and informed him that he had inquired of God and received a revelation that Whitlock should “speedily” return from to , Ohio. If he continued to heed JS’s counsel, Whitlock was told, he would be “restored unto his former state.”
Prior to his estrangement, had been a successful missionary, talented preacher, and prominent member of the branch of the church. He settled in , Missouri, following a summer 1831 mission to “regions west.” Whitlock regularly participated in council meetings, but after his name is mentioned in minutes of an 11 September 1833 meeting, he essentially disappears from the historical record for the next two years. Whitlock’s 28 September 1835 letter to JS offers only cryptic clues as to what might have caused him to distance himself from the church. In the letter, Whitlock obliquely mentions his “original difficulties with the church” and indicates that he was “charged with things” he was “not guilty of.”
JS’s response to ’s appeal offers insight into JS’s personality and leadership style. Though JS condemned members of the church community who openly challenged the laws of God or questioned his authority, he quickly welcomed back those who admitted their faults and made restitution. After receiving JS’s letter, Whitlock promptly obeyed the admonition to return to . During a 30 January 1836 conference of the presidency of the church, Whitlock was officially restored to full fellowship.
McLellin, William E. Journal, 18 July–20 Nov. 1831. William E. McLellin, Papers, 1831–1836, 1877–1878. CHL. MS 13538, box 1, fd. 1. Also available as Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836 (Provo, UT: BYU Studies; Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).
Johnson, Joel H. Autobiographical Sketch, 1879. Typescript. CHL. MS 12931.
I have received your letter of the 28th Sept. 1835, and I have read it twice, and it gave me sensations that are better imagined than discribed; let it suffice, that I say the verry flood-gates of my heart were broken up: I could not refrain from weeping, I thank God, that it has entered into your heart, to try to return to the Lord, and to his people; if it so be, that he will have mercy upon you.
I have inquired of the Lord concerning your case, these words came to me
Verily thus saith the Lord unto you; let him who was my servant , return unto me;— and unto the bosom of my Church, and forsake all the sins wherewith he has offended against me and persue from hence forth a virtuous and upright life, and remain under the direction of those whom I have appointed to be pillars, and heads of my , and behold, saith the Lord, your God; his sins shall be blotted out from under heaven, and shall be forgotten from among men, and shall not come up in mine ears, nor be recorded as <a> memorial against him, but I will lift [p. 42]