Letter from Abel Lamb and Others, circa 28 May 1837
, , , , and , Letter, , Geauga Co., OH, to “the Presidency of the Church of the Latter Day Saints” [JS, , , , , and ], , Geauga Co., OH, ca. 28 May 1837. Featured version copied [ca. 29 May 1837] in Minute Book 1, pp. 226–227; handwriting of Marcellus Cowdery; CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Minute Book 1.
, , , , and signed the letter featured here asking the to investigate the behavior of five prominent men in the church: church , First Presidency member , and , and , a who had also served as JS’s personal scribe. Before this meeting, Parrish, Pratt, Johnson, and others had spoken against JS, criticizing his leadership and accusing him of lying, extortion, and other actions unbecoming of a president of the church. Lamb and the four other elders likely wrote the letter on 28 May 1837, the day before the , Ohio, convened to address the concerns it raised.
Opposition against the First Presidency, and especially JS, began in early 1837. Vague dissatisfaction coalesced into specific accusations by the end of May, when denounced JS for lying and extortion. Then on Sunday, 28 May, about the time this letter was signed, “proclaimed against” JS during Sabbath worship in the . Although the events of 28 May might have prompted Lamb and the others to call for an investigation, at least some of the five men named in the letter had previously expressed their dissatisfaction with JS, as already noted.
The letter calling for an investigation was brought before the high council on 29 May. After the letter was read, stated that it “was not in accordance with the copy” he and presumably the others had received. Parrish did not indicate what differences existed between the two copies, and no other versions of the letter are now extant. In the course of the 29 May meeting, both and objected to being tried by the high council, since an 1831 revelation had specified that members of the church presidency were to be tried by the and his . , who was presiding at the meeting, submitted this jurisdictional question to the high council, who decided that they could not try Williams and Whitmer and discharged them. The council then adjourned for an hour. After they reassembled in the afternoon with Rigdon and presiding, objected to being tried by Rigdon or JS, since both had previously made known their disapproval of his actions. After a discussion of who should appropriately lead the meeting, Rigdon recused himself. The high council attempted to find another member of the presidency to preside, but Cowdery stated that he was also “unfit to judge in the case,” since he had likewise expressed his opinion of Pratt earlier. Williams, who had been implicated in the letter from and the other elders, said he was also unwilling to preside. Without someone to chair the meeting, “the council and assembly then dispersed in confusion.” , who was at the meeting, noted that “the council closed without transacting business.” No extant accounts indicate whether or not these charges were considered again by the Kirtland high council or by the bishop’s council.
By September 1837, those individuals who refused to accept JS’s direction and confess their errors were removed from their leadership positions in the church. Of the five men named in the letter here, only was objected to at a meeting in on 3 September.
Woodruff, Journal, 28 May 1837; Mary Fielding, Kirtland, OH, to Mercy Fielding, [Upper Canada], ca. June 1837, Mary Fielding Smith, Collection, CHL; Historical Introduction to Letter from Parley P. Pratt, 23 May 1837.
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
Smith, Mary Fielding. Collection, ca. 1832–1848. CHL. MS 2779.
Minute Book 1, 29 May 1837. Lamb was appointed to serve on a vigilance committee in a Kirtlandeldersquorum meeting on 17 February 1837 and may have drafted the letter featured here in connection with his service in this position. The purpose of the committee may have been to watch for dissension or other improprieties, but the records of the Kirtland elders quorum provide no specific focus for the committee. Abel Lamb, Peter Shirts, and Joshua Holman are the only elders appointed in the quorum record, but the committee may have included other elders in Kirtland. (Kirtland Elders Quorum, “Record,” 17 Feb. 1837.)
Kirtland Elders Quorum. “A Record of the First Quorurum of Elders Belonging to the Church of Christ: In Kirtland Geauga Co. Ohio,” 1836–1838, 1840–1841. CCLA.
We the undersigned feeling ourselves aggrieved with the conduct of and and also with and and , believing that their course for some time past has been injurious to the church of God in which they are high officers. We therefore desire that the should be assembled and we should have [p. 226]