JS, Letter, , Ray Co., MO, to , , Caldwell Co., MO, 12 Nov. 1838; handwriting of JS; three pages; JS Materials, CCLA. Includes address, wafer seal, and redactions.
Bifolium measuring 12½ × 7½ inches (32 × 19 cm). The document was trifolded twice in letter style, sealed with an adhesive wafer, and addressed. Later, the leaves became separated and were numbered in graphite. The upper left and right corners of each leaf contain a small hole, perhaps indicating the use of a fastening device. The upper left corners of the leaves were fastened together with staples. Adhesive tape was later applied to both leaves. The letter likely remained in the Smith family’s possession until transferred to the archives of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ).
See Richard Howard, email to Rachel Killebrew, 5 Jan. 2015; Rachel Killebrew, email to David W. Grua, 26 June 2015, copies in editors’ possession.
On 12 November 1838, JS wrote to his wife from , Missouri. He and six other church leaders—, , , , , and —were in the custody of state officials. After spending five days in , Missouri, the prisoners were transported to on 9 November. In Richmond, they and forty-six other Latter-day Saint defendants were scheduled to appear before Judge at a criminal court of inquiry, or preliminary hearing, to determine whether the state possessed sufficient evidence to hold a full trial on charges of treason and other crimes allegedly committed during the recent conflict. For the remainder of the month, JS and his companions were held in “an old log house,” while the forty-six other prisoners were confined in the unfinished Courthouse.
The day the hearing was scheduled to begin—12 November—JS wrote this letter to , perhaps from the log house jail or the county courthouse. He acknowledged receipt of an apparently nonextant missive from Emma, expressed his love and affection for her, wrote personal notes for each of their children, and included a prayer that he would be reunited with his family. He also described the loyalty and unity among the prisoners, affirmed his innocence, and explained that attorneys and had agreed to represent him and his companions. JS noted that Lieutenant Colonel was screening the prisoners’ correspondence, which may have influenced how JS crafted his letter. JS indicated that a “Brother Babbitt,” whose identity remains uncertain, would carry the letter to .
Lyman Wight, Journal, in History of the Reorganized Church, 2:296–297; see also Berrett, Sacred Places, 4:243–249.
The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 8 vols. Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1896–1976.
Berrett, LaMar C., ed. Sacred Places: A Comprehensive Guide to Early LDS Historical Sites. 6 vols. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999–2007.
November 12th 1838
My Dear .
we are prisoners in chains, and under strong guards, for Christ sake and for no other causes although there has been things that were unbeknown to us, and altogether beyond our controal, that might seem, to the mob to be a pretext, for them to persacute us,but on examination, I think that the authorities, will discover our inocence, and set us free, but if this blessing cannot be done obtained, I have this consolation that I am an innocent man, let what will befall me, I recieved your letter which I read over and over again, it was a sweet morsal to me, Oh God grant that I may have the privaliege of seeing once more my lovely Family, in the injoyment, of the sweets of liberty, and sotiaial life, to press them to my bosam and kissng their lovely cheeks would fill my heart with unspeakable greatgrattitude, tell the chilldren that I am alive and trust I shall come and see them before long, comfort their hearts all you can, and try to be comforted yourself, all you can, there is no possible dainger but what we shall be set at Liberty if Justice can be <and> done <and> that you know as well as myself, the tryal will begin today for some of us, and we expect , will plead our cause, we could <git> no others in time for the tryal, they are able man and <will> do well no doubt, is chained next to me he he has a true heart and a firm mind, , is next, , next, , next, , next, , next, and thus we are bound together in chains as well as the cords of everlasting love, we are in good spirits and rejoice that we are counted worthy to be persicuted for christ sake, tell little , he must be a good boy, and Father loves him <with> a perfect love, he is the Eldest must not hurt those that <are> smaller then him, but cumfort them tell little , Father, loves him, with all his heart, he is a lovely boy [p. ]
JS was perhaps referring to the information Sampson Avard shared with John B. Clark. Based on Avard’s information, Clark concluded that the Latter-day Saints “have societies formed under the most binding covenants in form, & the most horrid oaths to circumvent the laws & put them at defiance, & to plunder and burn & murder & divide the spoils for the use of the Church—This is what they call the Danite Club or Society.” Clark argued that the prisoners had committed treason, murder, arson, larceny, and other crimes during the October conflict, all “under the counsel of Joseph Smith jr, the prophet.” On 16 December 1838, JS expressed his concerns about Avard and others: “We have learned also since we have been prisoners that many false and pernicious things which were calculated to lead the saints far astray and to do them great injury as coming from the Presidency, taught by Dr Avard, and we have reason to fear many other designing and corrupt characters like unto himself, which the Presidency never knew of being taught in the Church.” (John B. Clark, Richmond, MO, to Lilburn W. Boggs, 10 Nov. 1838, copy, Mormon War Papers, MSA; Letter to the Church in Caldwell Co., MO, 16 Dec. 1838.)