JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to the Quorum of the Twelve, , 15 Dec. 1840; handwriting of ; signature of JS; eight pages; JS Collection, CHL. Includes dockets and notations.
Bifolium measuring 12¼ × 7¾ inches (31 × 20 cm) when folded. The text was cross-written: wrote horizontally on the first three pages and then returned to the first page and began writing up the page at a right angle, continuing this cross-writing through the recto of the second leaf. In other words, six pages of text were inscribed on one and a half leaves of the document. The document was then trifolded in letter style, with the blank fourth page on the outside, thereby creating an address panel in the middle of the fourth page, with flaps above and beneath the panel. Thompson inscribed text on those two flaps (which together constitute page  of the document), then added a postscript and addressing at a right angle over the initial writing (page ). Thompson wrote “To the ‘Twelve’” on the address panel. The document was trifolded again in letter style. Folding and wear indicate this was the sent copy. The letter was refolded for filing twice, and each time a docket was added. The earliest docket was written by ; the second docket was written in an unknown hand. Andrew Jenson inscribed two notations.
The dockets and the inclusion of the document in a later inventory suggest this letter was in the custody of the Church Historian’s Office by the mid-nineteenth century. In 1973 the document was included as part of the JS Collection.
“Index to Papers in the Historian’s Office,” ca. 1904, draft, 5; “Index to Papers in the Historian’s Office,” ca. 1904, 5, Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL. The circa 1904 Historian’s Office inventories listed this item as “President Joseph Smith to the Twelve (published under date of Oct. 19, 1840),” reflecting that the letter had been misdated when transcribed into the multivolume manuscript history of the church and subsequently published under that date in the Deseret News. (See JS History, vol. C-1, 1115–1119; and “History of Joseph Smith,” Deseret News [Salt Lake City], 26 Oct. 1854, .)
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.
Johnson, Register to the Joseph Smith Collection, 8; see also the full bibliographic entry for the JS Collection in the CHL catalog.
Johnson, Jeffery O. Register of the Joseph Smith Collection in the Church Archives, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1973.
On 15 December 1840, JS wrote a letter to the members of the then serving a mission in . At the time of this letter, eight of the eleven apostles then making up the were in Great Britain. Seven—, , , , , , and —departed , Illinois, in 1839, and one——was an apostle in April 1840 while in England. and were expected to pass through Great Britain in the coming months on their mission to the Jews in Europe and Palestine, and considered himself too poor to make the journey.
By the time of this letter, membership in had increased to over thirty-five hundred. Under the apostles’ direction, missionaries had been sent to Scotland, Ireland, Australia, and the East Indies. The apostles had also published a hymnal and several issues of a new monthly periodical, the Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star. They additionally had made significant progress toward republishing the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon. Since leaving , the apostles had written several letters to JS and received one known letter from him in return, dated 19 July 1840.
While JS acknowledged the multiple unanswered letters he had received from the Twelve, he seems to have written this 15 December letter in response to a series of questions and posed in a 5 September 1840 letter. JS responded to what he considered the most pertinent questions, particularly those that asked about the timing of the Twelve’s return to , Illinois; the publication of the scriptures in Great Britain; and the migration of British Saints to Nauvoo. Additionally, JS shared local news, reporting on the plans for the Nauvoo , efforts to get the legislature to pass the Nauvoo city charter, the death of , and recent conversions. He also briefly instructed the apostles on for the dead, a practice instituted the previous August and September in Nauvoo, making this the earliest firsthand source from JS to explain this teaching.
The letter is in the handwriting of . The lack of postage markings suggests that it was hand carried rather than mailed to Great Britain. The apostles received the letter by 30 March 1841. A significant excerpt was published in the 1 January 1841 issue of the Times and Seasons and then was reprinted in the Millennial Star in March 1841.
JS first spoke on baptism for the dead on 15 August 1840. The first baptisms for the dead occurred in the Mississippi River as early as 13 September 1840. (Jane Harper Neyman and Vienna Jaques, Statement, 29 Nov. 1854, Historian’s Office, JS History Documents, ca. 1839–1860, CHL; Simon Baker, “15 Aug. 1840 Minutes of Recollection of Joseph Smith’s Sermon,” JS Collection, CHL.)
Historian’s Office. Joseph Smith History Documents, 1839–1860. CHL. CR 100 396.
Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL. MS 155.
who can command a capital even if it be but small, come here as soon as convenient and put up machinery and make such other preparations as may be necessary, so, that when the poor come on they may have employment to come to. This place has advantages for a manufacturing and commercial purposes which but very few can boast of; and by establishing Cotton Factories, Founderies, Potteries &c &c would be the means of bringing in wealth and raising it to a very important elevation. I need not occupy more space on this subject as its reasonableness must be obvious to every mind. In my former epistle I told you my mind respecting the printing of the Book of Mormon. Hymn Book &c &c— I have been favored by receiving a Hymn Book from you and as far as I have examined it I highly approve of it and think it to be a very valuable collection. I am informed that the Book of Mormon is likewise printed, which I am glad to hear, and should be pleased to hear that it was printed in all the different Languages of the earth. You can use your own pleasure respecting printing the Book of Doctrine & Covenants, if there is a great demand for them, I have not any objections, but would rather encourage it.
I am happy to say, that as far as I have been made acquainted with your movements, I have been perfectly satisfied that they have been in wisdom, and I have no doubt but the spirit of the Lord has directed you. and this proves to my mind that you have been humble, and your desires have been, for the salvation of your fellow man, and not your own aggrandizement and selfish interest. As long as the saints manifest such a disposition their councils will be approved of, and their exertions crowned with success. There are many things of minor importance, on which you ask council, but which I think you will be perfectly able to decide upon as I you are more conversant with the peculiar circumstances than I can am, and I feel great confidence in your united wisdom, therefore you will excuse me for not entering into detail. If I should see any thing that was wrong, I should take the priviledge of making known my mind to you and pointing out the evil. [p. ]
JS addressed this topic in a 19 July 1840 letter carried to Great Britain by Lorenzo Snow, who arrived in Liverpool on either 21 or 22 October 1840. While no copy of this letter has been located, a note in JS’s letterbook states that the letter authorized the apostles to publish the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and a hymnal. (Note, in JS Letterbook 2, p. 153; JS History, vol. C-1, 1119; Lorenzo Snow, London, England, to Charlotte Granger, 25 Feb. 1841, in Snow, Letterbook, –.)
JS had been misinformed; many of the steps toward publication of the Book of Mormon had been completed in Great Britain, but the book was not yet printed. The apostles contracted with a printer on 17 June 1840 and purchased paper on 7 July 1840. (John Tompkins, Estimate, 7 June 1840, Brigham Young Office Files, CHL; Brigham Young, Manchester, England, to Willard Richards, Ledbury, England, 17 June 1840, Willard Richards, Journals and Papers, CHL; Woodruff, Journal, 7 July 1840.)
Brigham Young Office Files, 1832–1878. CHL. CR 1234 1.
Richards, Willard. Journals and Papers, 1821–1854. CHL.
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
Several of the original members of the Quorum of the Twelve dissented from the church in 1837 and 1838, which may have caused JS increasing concern about unity within that quorum. On 2 July 1839, JS instructed the Twelve in preparation for their mission, telling them to “be humble & not be exalted & beware of pride & not seek to excell one above another but act for each others good & pray for one & another & honour our brother or make honourable mention of his name.” (Discourse, 2 July 1839.)