Letter to Church Leaders in Jackson County, Missouri, 25 June 1833
JS, , , and , Letter, , Geauga Co., OH, to and Others, , Jackson Co., MO, 25 June 1833; sent copy; handwriting of and ; signatures of JS, , , , and ; three pages; JS Collection, CHL. Includes address, postal markings, and docket.
Bifolium measuring 11 × 9 inches (28 × 22 cm) when folded. The letter was trifolded in letter style, addressed, and sealed with a red adhesive wafer. The letter included two enclosures: a “draft of the City of Zion with explanations” and a “draft of the house to be built immediately in for the .” After being delivered, the letter was refolded for filing, and added a filing notation: “Letter from J. S. S. R. F. G. | W. & M. H | June 1833”. The letter has undergone conservation.
This letter, along with other papers belonging to , was in possession of the Partridge family until at least the mid-1880s, sometime after which it came into the possession of the Church Historian’s Office.
See Whitney, “Aaronic Priesthood,” 5–6; Partridge, Genealogical Record, 1; and the full bibliographic entry for the Edward Partridge Papers in the CHL catalog.
Whitney, Orson F. “The Aaronic Priesthood.” Contributor, Apr. 1885, 241–250.
Partridge, Edward, Jr. Genealogical Record. 1878. CHL. MS 1271.
In the first six months of 1833, communication characterized by accusations and chastisement between church leaders in and those in transitioned to messages, such as the letter featured here, that aimed at conciliation and developing a spirit of “perfect harmony.” Correspondence from Missouri, including responses to JS’s letters of 21 April 1833 and 2 May 1833, in part prompted this letter, which addressed inquiries on diverse topics, including , the Book of Commandments, new in , Missouri, and the ’s operations and membership. This letter also included warnings against teaching false doctrine and responded to a question as to whether JS had yet obtained any of the lost books of the Bible.
The letter was part of a package, with two other documents enclosed with it: “a draft of the City of Zion with explanations, and a draft of the house to be built immediately in for the as well as all purposes of Religion and instruction.” This letter gave directions concerning these two other documents. The “house to be built immediately in Zion,” for instance, was to be similar to the that church leaders had begun constructing in , Ohio. It was one of the twenty-four houses of the Lord, or temples, planned to be built in , according to the explanations given in the two documents that accompanied this letter. This letter also advised church leaders that should they “not understand the explanations,” they should send any questions or concerns to leaders in Kirtland so that they “may have a propper understanding” of the city plat and the architectural plan of the House of the Lord. The drafting and sending of the documents in this package represent a significant moment in the articulation of the church presidency’s vision for the growing church in .
This letter and the two enclosed documents were postmarked in on 26 June 1833. By the time church leaders in received the package on 29 July 1833, violent confrontations with antagonistic county residents had already occurred. and immediately replied to this letter to inform the Kirtland leaders of the growing unrest. Such events prevented church leaders from following many of the directions given in this letter.
Though in the handwriting of and , the letter is written primarily in the first-person voice of , who was writing on behalf of the . The letter also contains a postscript from JS.
be taught no more in — We sanction the decission of the and his in relation to this doctrine being a bar of communion The number of disciples in is, about 150 We have commenced building the in this place, and it goes on rapidly— Good news from the East and South, of the success of the Labourers is often saluteing our ears, a general time of health among us, families all well and day and night <we pray> for the salvation of Zion. We deliver over to the buffetings of in the name of the Lord, that he may learn not to transgress the of God. We conclude our letter by the usual salutation in token of the
We hasten to a close because the mail is just going
Joseph Smith Jr
Clk of for the
P.S. We feel gratified with the way in which is conducting the Star at present we hope he will seek to render it more and more interesting. In [re]lation to the size of when is once properly regulated there will be a to each to each square of the size of the one we send you with this; but at present it must be done according to wisdom. It is needful Brethren that you should be all of one heart and of one mind in doing the will of the Lord. there should exist the greatest freedom and familiarity among the Rulers in . We were exceeding sorry to hear the complaint which was made in s letter that the letters attending the olive leaf had been kept from him as it is meet that he should know all thing[s] in relation to as the Lord has appointed him to be a judge in Zion. We hope dear Brethren that the like circumstance will not take place again— When we direct letters to to any of the which pertains to the regulation thereof, we always design that they Should be laid before the so as to enable him to perform his duty, we say say so much hopeing that it will be received in Kindness and our Brethren be careful about each others feelings and walk in love honoring one another more than themselves as is required of the Lord You[r]s as ever [p. ]
Although this may be an accurate number for Kirtland proper, there were also many members in nearby settlements. In contrast, approximately 1,200 church members resided in Missouri at this time. (“The Elders Stationed in Zion to the Churches Abroad,” The Evening and the Morning Star, July 1833, 110–111.)
The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.
Martin Harris had been imprisoned in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, and was in the Springville area of Susquehanna County as late as May 1833. Consequently, he had been in Kirtland only a short time when he signed this letter. According to a letter from his brother Emer Harris, Martin had been incarcerated at Montrose, Susquehanna County, for a few days in January 1833 on “a fals charge of slander” until “we got Bail to answer to Cort the Last Monday in Apriel.” The court postponed Harris’s trial date from 30 April to 3 September; though he was not present at the later trial, the court judged in his favor. Apparently neither JS nor any other church member in Kirtland was aware of Harris’s whereabouts or imprisonment. In late March, Sylvester Smith and Harpin Riggs were tasked to “Journey eastward” to find Martin Harris “and make known to him what the Lord is doing in this place.” Emer and Martin were still in the Springville area on 7 May 1833, though they probably left for Kirtland shortly thereafter. Why Martin Harris signed this letter along with the three men who constituted the presidency of the high priesthood is not known. He may have signed it because it discussed matters pertaining to the United Firm, of which Harris was a member, and the publishing activities of the Literary Firm, in which he had an interest. (Emer Harris, Springville, PA, to “Dearly Beloved Brethern,” Brownhelm, OH, 7 May 1833, Harris Family Papers, BYU; Minutes, 23 Mar. 1833–B; Nelson and Harper, “Imprisonment of Martin Harris in 1833,” 113–119.)
In January 1833, JS urged Phelps, as the editor of The Evening and the Morning Star, to include more history to help make the Star “more interesting” and warned, “If you do not render it more interesting than at present it will fall.” (Letter to William W. Phelps, 11 Jan. 1833.)