Letter to Edward Partridge and Others, 30 March 1834
JS, Letter with postscript by , , Geauga Co., OH, to , , and other members of the , [, MO], 30 Mar. 1834. Featured version copied [ca. 30 Mar. 1834] in Oliver Cowdery, Letterbook, 30–38; handwriting of ; Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. Transcription from digital color image obtained from the Huntington Library in 2011. For more complete source information on Oliver Cowdery, Letterbook, see the source note for Letter to J. G. Fosdick, 3 Feb. 1834.
From the end of February to the end of March 1834, JS traveled to recruit individuals for the expedition to . On 28 March, he returned to , Ohio, and found that he had received several letters from Missouri church leaders, some of which were from members of the . Those letters, though no longer extant, seem to have discussed, among other things, the business of the firm, including its losses. The letters from Missouri must have also criticized JS and other Kirtland church leaders; according to JS, the letters contained “sharp, piercing, & cutting reproofs,” partly because of misspellings and grammatical errors that appeared in a published broadside of a December 1833 revelation and partly because of the lack of financial support from Kirtland for Missouri church members. Earlier missives from Missouri were similarly critical of Kirtland church leaders, and Missouri members had been consequently rebuked for being contentious. A December 1833 revelation even declared that church members had been driven from , Missouri, in part because of the “jar[r]ings and contentions envyings and strifes and lustful and covetous desires among them.” Although acknowledged that “it was right that we should be driven out of the land of ,” the letters that JS received in March 1834 apparently exhibited at least a measure of the same critical spirit found in earlier correspondence.
After spending the preceding day with his family and in the midst of attending to ecclesiastical affairs, JS penned a reply to the leaders on 30 March 1834. The letter, featured here, offers a glimpse into how the hardships of late 1833 and early 1834 affected JS and how he handled criticism. This letter exhibited JS’s frustration over their complaints but also evinced his desire to forgive past transgressions for the sake of unity. In the letter, JS also offered more information on the matters with which and others had found fault, bemoaned the persecution the church was experiencing in both Missouri and , and reported on the expected expedition of “able brethren” to Missouri. Specifically, he noted church members’ lack of support (in terms of both financial donations and individual volunteers) for the contemplated expedition to . JS also suggested that though he intended to be part of the expedition, he had other matters to resolve before departing. In fact, it was not until 9 April 1834, after the legal proceedings against (who had been charged with threatening to kill JS) had successfully concluded, that JS finally determined to “go to Zion.”
The letter further provided information on the advantage of employing attorney general Robert W. Wells in the Mormons’ legal suits, on debts and finances in , on the recent purchase of a printing press by in , and on the selling of property. Though some church leaders in Missouri wrote letters to Kirtland in the months following this letter, they did not specifically address this letter or its contents. Therefore, it is not clear if the men of the in Missouri received this letter.
See, for example, “The Outrage in Jackson County, Missouri,” The Evening and the Morning Star, May 1834, 160; and “The Outrage in Jackson County, Missouri,” The Evening and the Morning Star, June 1834, 168.
The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.
wisdom dictated that we should send it in its own proper light. And if truth, and the word of God will not bear off the Palms and bring us the victory, shall we, who profess to be men of God condescend to folly? Shall we turn aside from the word of God and seek to save our lives, and that we may please men? If men will seek occasion against the truth, will they not seek occasion even if we should shun the truth? The fact is, beloved brethren, we seek not gold or silver or this world’s goods, nor honors nor the applause of men; but we seek to please him, and to do the will of him who hath power not only to destroy the body; but to cast the soul into hell! Ah! men should not attempt to steady the ark of God! But enough on this subject.
Now concerning employing Mr. [Robert W.] Wells of . as Counsellor &c. We think it would be advisable. You may consider that you have our consent: We speak to wise men! Judge ye what we say! Employ, then, Mr. Wells, and although we have neither gold nor silver, we have run into debt for the press, and also to obtain money to pay the debt for , and have received but a very few dollars for the Star and printing as yet, no means of speculation to gain or make money, yet we think that the money can be had, and that there will be no difficulty on this subject: and this, while you are writing to us to reprove us, and telling us, that your dependence for money is on your eastern brethren, and at the same time saying “Dontbuyyourgoldtoo dear!” this is the way that we buy our gold! Now, brethren, let me tell you, that it is my disposition to give and forgive, and to bear & to forbear, with all long suffering and patience, with the foibles, follies, weaknesses, & wickedness of my brethren and all the world of mankind; and my confidence and love toward you is not slackened, nor weakened. And now, if you should be called upon to bear with us a little in any of our weaknesses and follies, and should, with us, receive a rebuke to yourselves, dont be offended, dont in anywise let it hit you, so as to turn over the dish! And when you & I meet face to face, I [p. 34]
In a letter written in late February 1834, Phelps mentioned a visit from Missouri attorney general Robert W. Wells, though Phelps said nothing specific in that letter about employing Wells’s services. In a letter sent to Wells in January 1835, Phelps indicated that Wells had been working on at least one legal case for him but that he could not pay Wells the required fee. In January 1836, Wells informed Phelps that if he could pay fifty dollars by 1 March, he would consider that payment sufficient remuneration and would then “be excused from attending to the suits or acting as atty or counsel.” (Letter from William W. Phelps, 27 Feb. 1834; William W. Phelps, Liberty, MO, to Robert W. Wells, Jefferson City, MO, 5 Jan. 1835; Robert W. Wells, Jefferson City, MO, to William W. Phelps, Liberty, MO, 4 Jan. 1836, William W. Phelps, Collection of Missouri Documents, CHL.)
Phelps, William W. Collection of Missouri Documents, 1833–1837. CHL. MS 657.