JS and , Letter, , Geauga Co., OH, to , [, Rutland Co., VT], 13 Apr. 1833. Retained copy, [ca. 13 Apr. 1833], in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 29–32; handwriting of JS and ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 1.
In this document, JS and responded to a letter, no longer extant, from of , Vermont. Written on 5 April 1833, Carter’s letter sought guidance from “the in ” on a number of questions. In addition to what can be inferred from the response featured here, the probable content of Carter’s letter and the questions it may have asked can be deduced from the history of the in Benson, as well as from Carter’s journal and personal history.
In 1797, several members of ’s family established the Baptist Church of . John was elected to be a pastor for that church in 1822, and he served in that role until a group of Baptist ministers from the area decided that his teachings were not in harmony with Baptist orthodoxy. Carter left his post and led a congregation of Free Will Baptists in Benson. In late October 1831, John’s younger brother , who had been into the Church of Christ earlier that year, arrived in Benson while serving a proselytizing mission. While John was preaching in another town, Jared baptized twenty-seven people in Benson, including virtually all of his brother’s Free Will Baptist congregation. In November 1831, Jared introduced John to JS’s teachings. John was baptized into the Church of Christ sometime before 15 January 1832, when Jared left to return to , Ohio.
On 25 April 1832, , along with and , commenced another mission to the New England states. Jared arrived in in late May 1832, and was soon after to the . John then joined Jared in proselytizing in in June and July 1832. On this mission, Jared expressed his confidence in John as a church leader, writing that he “bids fair for extensive usefulness because of his exceding sincerity & acquiered abilities and also because of his constant devotedness” to God. Following Jared’s departure in summer 1832, John became a key leader of the Church of Christ in Benson.
With little communication from church leaders outside of the infrequent visits of missionaries, and having known of JS’s teachings for only approximately one year, experienced both success and challenges in retaining church members and upholding their faith. His journal entries reveal concern about growing unbelief and discord among the Mormons in and the surrounding area beginning in late February 1833, when he found church members “not well united.” In early March 1833, he described the Benson congregation as being “under some trials” and stated that a “division in feeling has taken place.” John attempted to “settle the . . . difficulty,” but hard feelings among the members of his congregation continued. One difficulty he encountered was the claim from Jane McManagal (McMangle) Sherwood, a convert in Benson, that she had received “visions of the Lord.” Carter was curious about the phenomena of receiving revelation and experiencing visions, and in his letter to JS he probably sought information about the nature of these reported heavenly encounters and instruction on how to respond to them.
In his letter also apparently sought further knowledge about the gathering to , a topic he had heard discussed at a church conference in held on 10 August 1832. On 6 March 1833, Carter wrote in his journal that some church members in came to him “to enquire the way to Zion.” Later in the month, he described the desire of Benson converts to travel to and thence to , but he was unsure how to properly offer them assistance. He stated that some had already “made their calculation to go up to Zion,” though “their way appears hegged [hedged] up.”
Delivered by his brother , ’s 5 April 1833 letter was addressed to “the Elders in requesting by them council from God under some peculiar trials.” JS and , two of the three , responded to Carter’s inquiries in the letter featured here. Though signed by both JS and Williams, the letter contains first-person singular pronouns, presumably made by JS as lead author, and statements in first-person plural, as if both JS and Williams were speaking. The letter offers counsel concerning revelation and visions, levels of authority, the responsibilities of church leaders in local ministry, the readmittance of apostates, and how the church members should prepare to go to Zion. JS and Williams also encouraged Carter to seek further instruction from and , who were appointed to preach and build up the church in the New England states that summer.
In late April, mentioned receiving this letter in his journal, writing, “Of this I was glad.” Carter’s journal indicates that he received a second letter from JS on 7 May 1833, which gave “answers to important questions.” This second letter may have been written in response to another missive from Carter, or JS may have simply written a second, follow-up letter to the one featured here. Regardless, no second letter from either Carter or JS is extant.
After receiving this letter—and apparently the second letter mentioned above—from JS, made the immigration of New England Mormons to and a priority. On 16 May 1833, in a letter published in The Evening and the Morning Star, wrote, “I have received a letter from brother informing me, that the church in , Vermont, was going up to Zion, this summer.” In late August 1833, Carter organized the departure of church members from Benson to Ohio and Missouri. He began his journey to on 5 September and effectively closed the branch of the church in Benson with his departure. He arrived in Kirtland sometime after 27 September and was among the twelve men chosen to serve in the church’s first standing high council, organized by JS in Kirtland on 17 February 1834. Carter later traveled in the (later known as Zion’s Camp) and died of cholera in , Missouri, on 24 June 1834.
John S. Carter, Journal, –; Jared Carter, Journal, 39, 48. After leaving to return to Kirtland, Jared wrote, “I had great reason to thank and praise the Lord for what he had done for me and my Brothers and sisters of my fathers family for the whole family had now come into the Glorious work of God with their companions, except one sister and my three Brothers were preachers In this gl[o]rious gospel.” (Jared Carter, Journal, 49.)
John S. Carter, Journal, 10 Mar. 1833. On the day he wrote to Kirtland, John noted in his journal that he “heard Sister Sherwood relate her vision of seeing an Angel.” (John S. Carter, Journal, 5 Apr. 1833.)
Ira Ames, a Vermont man who had married Charity Carter—a cousin of John and Jared—and who had recently joined the Church of Christ, was also at the 10 August conference and wrote that after the conference, he “commenced at once gathering up my means, disposing of my property preparing to gather with the Saints.” (Ames, Autobiography, , ; see also “The Gathering,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Nov. 1832, –.)
Ames, Ira. Autobiography and Journal, 1858. CHL. MS 6055.
The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.
John S. Carter, Journal, 5 Apr. 1833. JS’s later history states, “Brother Jared Carter presented a letter, which he had received from his brother, to me, and requested me to answer it, which I did.” (JS History, vol. A-1, 285.)
to receive any revelation forom [from] any one man or woman without being legally constituted and to that authority and given sufficien[t] proof of it, I will inform you that it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the or any<one>any one to receive instruction for those in authority hig[h]er than themselves, therefore you will see the impropriety of giving <heed> to them, but if any <have a vision>heavenly or a visitation from an hevenaly [heavenly] messenger it must be for their own benefit and instruction, for the fundimental principals, government and doctrine of the church is invested in the of the kingdomas it respects an apostate or one who has been cut off from the Church and wishes to come in again the law of our church expresly says that such shall repent, and be and be admited the same as at the first, the duty of a is to administer spriitual and holy things and to hold Communeion <with> God but not to exorcise [exercise]monarchy monarchal government or to appoint meetings for the without their concent and again it is the high priests duty to be bet[t]er qualifide to teach principles and doctrines than the Elder for the office of Elders is an appendege to the and it <centers &> concentrates in one, and again the proper<process>way of Labouring with a member we are to deal with them percisely as the scripturs direct if thy brother trespass against the[e] take him betwen him and thee alone and if he maketh the satisfaction thou hast saved thy brother and if not proce[e]d to take another with the[e] & [illegible] when there is no they are to be tried by the voice of the Church and if an Elder or an high priest be presant they are to take the lead in managing the business if not by such that have the highest authority, with respect to preparing to go to first it would be pleasing to the lord that that the Church or Churches going to Zion should be organised, and appointeda suitable person who is well acquainted with the Conditions of the Church & and be sent to to inform the and procure from him agreeable to therevelation so doing you will prevent confusion and disorder and escape many difficulties that [p. 30]
A September 1830 revelation implied what JS makes explicit here—that God would not give instructions to someone through another of lesser authority and with lesser responsibility. After JS denounced Oliver Cowdery for supporting Hiram Page’s claim of receiving revelations through a seer stone, this revelation instructed Cowdery, the church’s second elder, “Thou shalt not command him which is at thy head.” (Revelation, Sept. 1830–B [D&C 28:6]; for more information on the requirement for proof of authority, see Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:11].)