, Letter, , Clay Co., MO, to church leaders (including JS), [, Geauga Co., OH], 24 Aug. 1834. Featured version published in The Evening and the Morning Star, Sept. 1834, p. 191. For more complete source information on The Evening and the Morning Star, see the source note for Letter, 30 Oct. 1833.
On 24 August 1834, , one of the presidents of the who was living in , Missouri, wrote a letter to the “brethren” of the church in , Ohio, including JS, though Phelps addressed the letter specifically to , editor of The Evening and the Morning Star. Since the expulsion of the Saints from , Missouri, in fall 1833, Phelps had periodically written letters to the leaders of the church, detailing the plight of church members in Missouri, and Cowdery had then published these letters in the Star. This letter served a similar purpose.
When composed this letter, it had been a little over two months since JS had dictated a revelation informing the that it was no longer necessary to enter and help the Saints regain their land there. The revelation declared that before could be redeemed, the elders of the church must be “ with power from on high.” Church members also needed to “be taught more perfectly, and have experience and know more perfectly concerning their duty, and the things which I [God] require at their hands.” In addition, they were to be “very faithful and prayerful and humb[l]e before” God, while endeavoring to “find favor in the eyes of the people.”
Church leaders designated several individuals to travel to for the endowment of power, and as this letter indicates, the leaders also acted on the counsel to teach church members “more perfectly.” At a meeting of the high council on 31 July 1834, , , , and were appointed “to teach the Disciples” in “how to escape the indignation of our enemies and to keep in favor with those who feel well disposed towards us.” In addition, they were to teach the Saints how to “live as disciples in all lowliness of heart &c.” On 6 August 1834, presented a letter of recommendation, which he copied into this 24 August letter, to the four appointees and to , president of the Missouri high council, explaining that their mission was to “instruct the disciples in things pertaining to their everlasting happiness As well as temporal peace & prosperity &c.” Phelps noted that the four then traveled to twelve different locations in Missouri for this purpose.
’s letter also mentions ’s effort to acquire more land along its northwestern border from the federal government. The land west and northwest of , generally known as the Platte country, contained approximately 3,125 square miles of prairie and timber lands, and efforts to obtain this land had been ongoing since the Missouri general assembly prepared a memorial to Congress on the matter in 1830. Based on this memorial, the U.S. Senate Committee on Territories prepared a bill in July 1832 to add this region to Missouri. By summer 1834, little movement had occurred on the bill; instead, a treaty established with the Potawatomi, Chippewa, and Ottawa Indians in September 1833 specified that these groups would be removed from their homeland near Lake Michigan to an area that included the Platte country. Missouri residents, led by U.S. Senator , opposed that provision of the treaty. Largely because of their opposition, the U.S. Senate amended the September 1833 treaty by removing the Platte country from its provisions. However, some Potawatomis still began moving to the area. Some Wyandot Indians examined the Platte country in summer 1834 as a potential place for their removal from , but they ultimately refused to locate there. Disputes over the Platte country did not end until 1837, when it was officially added to Missouri.
The original of ’s letter has not been located. published excerpts of it in the September 1834 issue of The Evening and the Morning Star. A poem Phelps included at the end of the letter was also published as a hymn text in 1835 in the church’s first hymnbook.
U.S. Senate, Memorial of the General Assembly of Missouri, S. Doc. no. 71, 21st Cong., 2nd Sess., p. 3 (1831); McKee, “Platte Purchase,” 134–135.
Memorial of the General Assembly of Missouri, That the N. and N. W. Boundary May Be Enlarged, and a Mounted Force Granted for the Protection of the Frontier of the State, and Its Trade with Mexico and the Indians. S. Doc. no. 71, 21st Cong., 2nd Sess. (1831).
McKee, Howard I. “The Platte Purchase.” Missouri Historical Review 32 (Jan. 1938): 129–147.
Other Potawatomis located on lands west of Missouri on the Osage River. (Combs, “Platte Purchase and Native American Removal,” 269–272; McKee, “Platte Purchase,” 134–143; Documents Relating to the Extension of the Northern Boundary Line of the State of Missouri, S. Doc. no. 206, 24th Cong., 1st Sess., pp. 1–8 ; Edmunds, “Potawatomis in the Platte Country,” 376.)
Combs, H. Jason. “The Platte Purchase and Native American Removal.” Plains Anthropologist 47, no. 182 (Aug. 2002): 265–274.
McKee, Howard I. “The Platte Purchase.” Missouri Historical Review 32 (Jan. 1938): 129–147.
Documents Relating to the Extension of the Northern Boundary Line of the State of Missouri. S. Doc. no. 206, 24th Cong., 1st Sess. (1836).
Edmunds, R. David. “Potawatomis in the Platte Country: An Indian Removal Incomplete.” Missouri Historical Review 68, no. 4 (July 1974): 375–392.
Smith, “Unsuccessful Negotiation for Removal of the Wyandot Indians,” 310–331. The United States government first proposed that the Wyandot remove to the Platte country in 1831, but a contingent of Wyandots who visited the land that year also recommended against removal. (Oliphant, “Report of the Wyandot Exploring Delegation,” 248–249, 253–258.)
Smith, Dwight L. “An Unsuccessful Negotiation for Removal of the Wyandot Indians from Ohio, 1834.” Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 58 (1949): 305–331.
Oliphant, J. Orin. “The Report of the Wyandot Exploring Delegation, 1831.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 15, no. 3 (Aug. 1947): 248–262.
A Collection of Sacred Hymns, for the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Edited by Emma Smith. Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams, 1835.
, Mo. Aug. 24, 1834
Because I feel a great interest in the cause of our Redeemer, I take a little more time and paper than usual, and write. You are, in general, so well informed of all that is going on in this region of the Lord’s vineyard, that I cannot give any news. When I say all that is going on, I mean between us and the mob, for there are many other things, I presume, that you and the Saints abroad are ignorant of for months.
From petitions sent to Congres by the inhabitants of and other counties, a bill was got up in the house of Representatives, to annex all the land between this county and the , to this , together with a considerable quantity on the north, but it has all fell through, and I have understood that the Wyandots have selected that on the west, for their spot of gathering. A party of Pottowottomies passed through , not long since, on their way to the Kickapoos, whom they will join for the sake of their religion. Their prophet preached in just before the brethren came up last June, on the subject of their religion, and if he had had a true interpreter, would have given great light.
We have had several High Councils for the benefit of the scattered brethren; at one, the following letter was issued to four brethren, viz: , , , and .
“To the Latter Day Saints who have been driven from the land of their inheritance, and also those who are gathering in the regions round about, in the western bounderies of ,—the , established according to the pattern given by our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, send greeting:
Dear Brethren, We have appointed our beloved brother and companion in tribulation, , to meat you in the name of the Lord Jesus. He, in connexion with others duly appointed also, will visit you alternately, for the purpose of instructing you in the necessary qualifications of the Latter Day Saints; that they may be perfected, that the officers and members of the body of Christ, may become very prayerful and very faithful, strictly keeping all the commandments, and walking in holiness before the Lord, continually. That all that mean to have “the Destroyer pass over them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them,” may live according to the “word of wisdom;” that the Saints by industry, diligence, faithfulness, and the prayer of faith, may become purified, and enter upon their inheritance, to build up according to the word of the Lord.
We are sure, If the Saints are very humble, very watchful and very prayful, that few will be deceived by those who have not authority to teach, or who have not the Spirit to teach according to the power of the Holy Ghost, in the scriptures. Lest any man’s blood should be required at your hands, we beseech you, as you value the salvation of souls, and are within, to set an example which is worthy to be followed by those without the k[i]ngdom of our God and his Christ, that peace by grace, and blessings by rightousness, may attend you till you are sanctified and redeemed.”
(Signed) “. Aug. 1, 1834.”
Since this document was issued, meetings have been held alternately at twelve different places, to the joy of the scattered brethren, and so far as I learn to the satisfaction of those who are “without” the kingdom. And they will be continued. It is very sickly now. There has been no rain of note since the first of July; every thing looks sorry for the want of it; and, what is here called “the chill fever” is attacking hundreds. * * * * * * * * , a worthy elder died on Saturday. There is a great deal to humble the Saints and make them possess their souls in patience. The great drought is an index of famine, and so much sickness denotes chastisment, and the Saints have only to say: “Though he slay us, yet will we trust in him.”
* * * * * * * * * *
We are looked upon as slaves, and in many instances, treated so. In fact, we are treated just as the Saints of God ever have been: despised, belied, slandered, whipped, mocked, buffeted, reproached, and considered, by other professors among the sects, as “the jest and riddle of the world,” to be laughed at, and “rendered any thing by every body:” and so be it, for Christ’s sake. The truth is in common meter, (as I have thought in poetry,) as follows:—
An October 1832 treaty moved the Kickapoos to a site on the west bank of the Missouri River, north of Fort Leavenworth. (Articles of a Treaty [24 Oct. 1832], Public Statutes at Large, vol. 7, pp. 391–393.)
The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845. . . . Edited by Richard Peters. 8 vols. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1846–1867.
The prophet mentioned here is probably Kenekuk, a prophet and leader of the Vermillion Kickapoo. Kenekuk, whose belief system was an amalgam of evangelical Protestantism, Catholicism, and traditional Kickapoo religion, counseled his followers to attend services on Sunday and to abstain from alcohol. He also promoted a belief “in heaven, hell, and purgatory,” and “Jesus, the Virgin, and the Saints.” He was noted “for his fiery sermons during the great religious revivals of the 1820s and 1830s.” According to one source, “Travelers and missionaries beat a path to the Kickapoo reservation west of Fort Leavenworth to see this ‘Indian Mahomet.’” (Herring, “Kenekuk, the Kickapoo Prophet,” 295–297; Schultz, “Kennekuk, the Kickapoo Prophet,” 38.)
Herring, Joseph B. “Kenekuk, the Kickapoo Prophet: Acculturation without Assimilation.” American Indian Quarterly 9, no. 3 (Summer 1985): 295–307.
Schultz, George A. “Kennekuk, the Kickapoo Prophet.” Kansas History 3, no. 1 (Spring 1980): 38–46.
The Arkansas Gazette reprinted an article from St. Louis, reporting that parts of Missouri and Illinois had experienced a drought in summer 1834 that “entirely destroyed the prospects of the corn grower.” The article stated that “not enough rain has fallen in the last sixty days to wet the ground two inches.” (News Item, Arkansas Gazette [Little Rock], 30 Sept. 1834, .)
This refers to “malarial or intermittent fever characterized by paroxysms (stages of chills, fever, and sweating at regularly recurring times) and followed by an interval or intermission.” (Carter, “Disease and Death in the Nineteenth Century,” 294.)
Carter, James Byars. “Disease and Death in the Nineteenth Century: A Genealogical Perspective.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 76 (Dec. 1988): 289–301.
In May 1834, John Whitmer noted that church members in Missouri, most of whom were in temporary quarters in Clay County, were “among stranger[s] in a strand [strange] place, being despised, mocked at and laughed to scorn by some, and pitied by others.” He continued, “the mob rages, and the peoples hearts are hardened, and the saints are few in number, and poor, afflicted, caust [cast] out, and smitten by their enemies.” However, Edward Partridge later remembered that “the people of Clay co. were mostly friendly to the saints,” although “there were a few exceptions.” (Whitmer, History, 60–61; “A History, of the Persecution,” Times and Seasons,Feb. 1840, 1:50.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
Phelps appears to have used Isaac Watts’s hymn “A Prospect of Heaven Makes Death Easy” as inspiration for this poem. Watts’s hymn begins, “There is a land of pure delight, / Where saints immortal reign” and includes the line, “So to the Jews old Canaan stood, / While Jordan roll’d between,” which is paraphrased in Phelps’s poem. (Gibbons, Memoirs of the Rev. Isaac Watts, 239–240.)
Gibbons, Thomas. Memoirs of the Rev. Isaac Watts, D. D. London: James Buckland and Thomas Gibbons, 1780.