Letter from John Cleminson, between 1 and 15 May 1842
, Letter, , Lee Co., Iowa Territory, to JS, , Hancock Co., IL, between 1 and 15 May 1842; handwriting of ; four pages; JS Collection, CHL. Includes address, endorsement, notation, and docket.
Bifolium measuring 9¾ × 7¾ inches (25 × 20 cm). The verso of the first leaf and the recto of the second leaf are ruled with twenty-nine blue lines. The left edge of the first leaf and the bottom edges of both leaves have the square cut of manufactured paper. The right edge of the second leaf and the top edges of both leaves are unevenly cut. The letter was trifolded twice in letter style, addressed, and sealed with a red adhesive wafer. The recto and verso of the second leaf, which was used as the wrapper for the letter, bear residue from the wafer; opening the letter tore a hole in the second leaf at the wafer site.
An endorsement from states that JS answered the letter. Richards served as JS’s scribe from December 1841 until JS’s death in June 1844 and served as church historian from December 1842 until his own death in March 1854. A docket was added by , who served as a clerk in the Church Historian’s Office from 1853 to 1859. The document was listed in an inventory that was produced by the Church Historian’s Office circa 1904. By 1973 the document had been included in the JS Collection at the Church Historical Department (now CHL). The endorsement, docket, and Joseph Smith Collection cataloging indicate continuous institutional custody.
See the full bibliographic entry for JS Collection, 1827–1844, in the CHL catalog.
Sometime between 1 and 15 May 1842, wrote a letter to JS defending himself against charges he believed were unjust and asking forgiveness for past actions. Cleminson, whose into the had apparently occurred by 1837, served as a clerk for the Circuit Court in before the Saints were expelled from the state in 1838 and 1839. During the Missouri conflict of 1838, Cleminson grew increasingly uncomfortable with some of the actions of church members, including those of the Danite society. In November 1838, at a hearing before Judge in , Missouri, Cleminson testified that Latter-day Saints stole goods from other residents in , that JS had intimidated Cleminson so that Cleminson would not issue a writ against him, and that the Danites were formed to support JS and the “in all their designs right or rong.” Several days later, Cleminson signed a statement alleging that the state militia at , Missouri, had been “respectful” and “obliging” of the Latter-day Saints, views that most church members did not share.
JS declared in a December 1838 letter to the Saints in that church members had “waded through an ocean of tribulation, and mean abuse” because of the actions of “ill bred and ignorant” men such as , “whose eyes are full of adultery and [who] cannot cease from sin.” These men, JS continued, were “so very ignorant that they cannot appear respectable in any decent and civilized society.”
By the time wrote this letter, he and his family had moved to , Iowa Territory, and Cleminson desired to live once again in fellowship with the Saints. The letter states that Cleminson had sent an earlier letter to JS, which is apparently not extant, and had also spoken with him in person. Cleminson dated the letter “May 1842”; he could have written it anytime between 1 and 15 May, the day JS replied.
Although the missive is addressed only to JS and described as “confidential,” may have written the letter believing it would be shared with JS’s counselors in the , who he acknowledged may have been harmed by his actions. Cleminson added a postscript in which he asked to subscribe to the church newspaper, the Times and Seasons, and stated that the two-dollar cost of the subscription was also sent “by the bearer” of the letter. added a notation to the letter upon reception affirming that Cleminson had sent two dollars in silver—likely two silver dollar coins.
apparently sent the letter from across the to , Illinois, by a courier. As noted above, he wrote that he was sending subscription money “by the bearer.” No postage markings are on the letter, further affirming that it was hand delivered. ’s notations on the letter indicate that it was answered on 15 May, but that response is apparently not extant. By 1846, Cleminson had been ordained a in the church, indicating his request for reconciliation had been granted at some point.
Letter to the Church in Caldwell Co., MO, 16 Dec. 1838. Several of the men JS referred to in the December 1838 letter were excommunicated in March 1839, but Cleminson was not among them. Extant records are not clear as to what, if any, disciplinary action church leaders took against Cleminson. (See “Extracts of the Minutes of Conferences,” Times and Seasons, Nov. 1839, 1:15.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
A March 1842 letter indicates that “Mr. Cleminson & family” were moving to Montrose at that time. In 1840, Cleminson was living in Rockport Township, Caldwell County, Missouri. On 2 April 1841, a public meeting was held in Caldwell County where those attending decided that all remaining church members and those who had dissented from the church needed to leave the county. Cleminson recorded an account of the meeting in a record book he was keeping. He and his family likely left Missouri fearing that this decision would be enforced just as the general expulsion of the Latter-day Saints from Missouri had been two years earlier. (Jacob Scott, Appanoose Township, IL, to Mary Scott Warnock, Springfield, IL, 24 Mar. 1842, CCLA; 1840 U.S. Census, Rockport, Caldwell Co., MO, 183; “Public Meeting Held in the County of Caldwell Missouri April 2d 1841,” in Cleminson, Record, CHL.)
Hanson, Paul M. Papers. CCLA.
Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.
Temple Records Index Bureau, Nauvoo Temple Endowment Register, 254.
Temple Records Index Bureau of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nauvoo Temple Endowment Register, 10 December 1845 to 8 February 1846. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1974.
Must not expect from me a very learned epistle but what I have to say shall at least have truth and sincerity to recommend it. You might have concluded after our brief interview the other day that I had some disclosures to make of an important character but this is not the case. I choose this method of speaking my feelings to you relative to my own case, because it is much easier for me to do it by writing than otherwise. In my former letter to you. I gave a relation of the circumstances in a brief manner and exactly as they transpired that gave rise to my testimony at I therefore consider that it would be unnecessary to repeat them here. I say now as I have said two or three times already that I am sorry that I have been in any wise instrumental in bringing down trouble on you or any other of the . It grieves me to reflect that I should have occasioned you any trouble when you were suffering so much at the hand of your foes and also at the hand of some who had been your friends. I do not wonder at your harsh dealing toward those who have been your friends and afterwards turn to be enemies when you most need there friendship. I hate ingratitude whereever it makes its appearance whether in myself or others I have never sought occasion against you notwithstanding it has been my misfortune to be found in the list of those arrayed against you However I have received a pretty good cudgeling. my character, has been torn to pieces and I represented as one of the worst of men, some of this harsh treatment I have deserved some I have not. I am accused of being in partnership with old Johnson [p. ]