, Letter, , Adams Co., IL, to “the Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” (including JS), [, Hancock Co., IL], 13 May 1839. Featured version copied [between 22 May and 30 Oct. 1839] in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 7, 10–11; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 2.
On 13 May 1839, wrote a letter to the , expressing his concern that two letters church member had written and recently published in local newspapers might cause difficulties with the non-Mormon population in western and with government officials in Illinois and . After the Saints’ expulsion from , most church members were destitute. In early 1839, many gathered to , Illinois, and the surrounding area, where they were met with generosity. Residents of Quincy collected donations on behalf of church members, opened their homes to them, and offered them desperately needed loans.
The editors of both local newspapers, the Quincy Whig and the Quincy Argus, published articles discussing the conflict in , the political repercussions of that conflict, and the treatment of the Saints. On 4 and 11 May 1839, the Quincy Whig published letters that wrote during his imprisonment with JS in the in , Missouri. The letters described the violence the Saints endured in Missouri and condemned Democratic officials in Missouri for their failure to protect the Saints and to redress the Saints for their losses. The editors of the Quincy Whig may have printed Wight’s letters partly to undermine local Democrats, who the editors believed were pandering to the Saints for political gain. However, because the Quincy Democratic Association helped facilitate the Saints’ warm reception there, feared that Wight’s letters might offend the church’s benefactors in . Thompson was also likely sensitive to Wight’s attack on Democrats because Thompson supported the party and worked as an editor for the Democratic Quincy Argus.
On 12 May, met with church leaders in and raised his concerns about ’s letters. The church leaders shared these concerns and appointed a committee to meet with Wight and dissuade him from further politicizing how the Saints were treated in . The next morning, Thompson wrote the letter featured here to the members of the First Presidency, who were in , Illinois. Thompson expressed concern that Wight’s statements would be misconstrued as representing the views of the church as a whole, potentially upsetting local interests in Quincy and leading to a repeat of the Missouri violence. Thompson called upon the First Presidency to “correct the publick mind on this subject, And as a Church disavow all connexions with politics.”
The original letter from to JS is no longer extant. The version featured here was copied, presumably from the original, into JS Letterbook 2 by sometime between 22 May and 30 October 1839.
For more information on the generosity of Quincy residents, see Letter from Edward Partridge, 5 Mar. 1839; “Proceedings in the Town of Quincy,” Quincy (IL) Argus, 16 Mar. 1839, ; George Miller, St. James, MI, to “Dear Brother,” 22 June 1855, in Northern Islander (St. James, MI), 9 Aug. 1855, ; and Tillson, History of the City of Quincy, Illinois, 68.
Quincy Argus. Quincy, IL. 1836–1841.
Northern Islander. St. James, MI. 1850–1856.
Tillson, John. History of the City of Quincy, Illinois. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing, 1900.
See Editorial, Quincy (IL) Whig, 23 Feb. 1839, ; News Item, Quincy (IL) Argus, 2 Mar. 1839, ; “Proceedings in the Town of Quincy,” and “The Mormons, or Latter Day Saints,” Quincy Argus, 16 Mar. 1839, –; “The Mormons,” Quincy Whig, 16 Mar. 1839, ; Isaac Galland, Commerce, IL, 12 Apr. 1839, Letter to the Editors, Quincy Argus, 20 Apr. 1839, ; “The Quincy Argus an Enemy of Missouri,” Quincy Whig, 27 Apr. 1839, ; and “The Mormons,” Quincy Argus, 11 May 1839, .
On 1 May 1839, Wight sent the Quincy Whig a letter containing extracts of a letter he wrote to the Louisville Journal on 2 April 1839. On 4 May, the Whig published the letter, in which Wight assailed Democratic leaders in Missouri. On 7 May 1839, he sent the newspaper a letter consisting of extracts from a 30 March 1839 letter he sent to Thomas Hart Benton, a United States senator from Missouri. The Whig published the condensed letter on 11 May 1839 and included Wight’s introduction to the letter, in which he criticized the Democratic leaders of Missouri. Wight represented himself as one who had “heretofore been a strong advocate” of the Democratic Party. (Lyman Wight, Quincy, IL, 1 May 1839, Letter to the Editors, Quincy [IL] Whig, 4 May 1839, ; Lyman Wight, Quincy, IL, 7 May 1839, Letter to the Editors, Quincy Whig, 11 May 1839, .)
Thompson’s wife, Mercy Fielding Thompson, later recounted that in November 1838, her husband and many male church members were “threatened and persued by a Mob” and fled from Far West, Missouri, arriving in Quincy sometime in January 1839. By the time his family arrived in late February, Thompson had secured housing and a position with the Quincy Argus. (Mercy Fielding Thompson, “Robert B. Thompson Biography,” Nov. 1854, Historian’s Office, JS History Documents, 1839–1860, CHL; Thompson, Autobiographical Sketch, 2–3, 5.)
Historian’s Office. Joseph Smith History Documents, 1839–1860. CHL. CR 100 396.
Thompson, Mercy Rachel Fielding. Autobiographical Sketch, 1880. CHL. MS 4580.
I beg leave to call your attention to a subject of considerable importance to our Church, and which if not attended to is calculated (in my humble opinion) to raise a prejudice in the minds of a considerable portion of the community, and destroy those benevolent and philanthropic feelings which have been manifested towards us as a people by a large portion of this community: I have reference to the Letters of Bro [p. 7]
The Quincy Democratic Association organized multiple committees, undertook fact-finding missions, communicated with Sidney Rigdon and possibly others, and publicly called upon citizens of Quincy to set aside prejudice, disregard rumors concerning the refugee Saints, and aid the starving newcomers. (“Proceedings in the Town of Quincy,” Quincy [IL] Argus, 16 Mar. 1839, .)