Letter to the Church in Clay County, Missouri, 22 January 1834
JS, , and , Letter, , Geauga Co., OH, to “brethren in Christ Jesus scattered abroad,” , MO, 22 Jan. 1834. Retained copy, [ca. 22 Jan. 1834], in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 79–81; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 1.
JS, , and wrote this 22 January 1834 letter in response to a 15 December 1833 letter that wrote from , Missouri, to church leaders in , Ohio, requesting advice on what church members in should do after being driven from their homes in . Phelps and other church leaders in Missouri had already petitioned Missouri governor to help restore church members to their property in Jackson County, to protect them from further violence until they were able to protect themselves, and to commence a court of inquiry into the violence against the Mormons, but they were disappointed by the governor’s response. According to Phelps’s letter, Dunklin had ordered part of the militia to stand prepared to “guard a court martial, and court of Enquiry” and had expressed his willingness to help restore the church members to their lands; however, Dunklin had also indicated that he did not have the authority to keep a military force in Jackson County to protect the Mormons from possible attacks in the future. “I do not write this letter to entertain you with news, or for to wake you up to our dreadful condition,” Phelps wrote to the leaders in Kirtland, “but that you may timely give us some advice what is best to do in our tarry till Zion is redeemed!”
JS and other church leaders in answered ’s question both in the letter featured here and by sending a revelation that JS had dictated on 16–17 December 1833 explaining why church members had been driven out of and instructing them how to obtain redress for their losses. Pursuant to the instructions contained in the letter and revelation, church leaders in petitioned president Andrew Jackson to help restore displaced church members to their homes and property in Jackson County, Missouri. They also wrote to Dunklin, asking him to write to Jackson in support of the church leaders’ petition. Both Jackson and declined their requests. The letter featured here also indicates that JS and church leaders in Kirtland had similarly sent a petition to Dunklin and were also planning to send a petition to Jackson. These petitions have not been located.
In addition to discussing the situation in , the 22 January 1834 letter addressed other issues, including the making of printing type and the activities of , who had been ordered to keep the peace and to appear before the court of common pleas for threatening JS’s life. Hurlbut had recently returned from a journey through , , and , where he had been looking for evidence to support his claim that the Book of Mormon was based on an unpublished work of fiction written by Solomon Spalding and also “to examine the validity of Joseph Smith’s claims to the character of a Prophet.” Although Hurlbut obtained some of Spalding’s papers, both he and were never able to produce a manuscript that bore any relation to the Book of Mormon. However, Hurlbut did collect several purported signatures and statements from people in New York claiming that the Spalding manuscript was the basis for the Book of Mormon and attesting to the poor character of JS and his family. Nevertheless, the letter featured here informed the members that because of the judgment against Hurlbut, “his influence was pritty much distroyed.”
“The Governor is willing to restore us,” Phelps wrote, “but as the constitution gives him no power to guard us, when back, we are not willing to go.” Dunklin’s official response to the petition is dated 4 February 1834; thus Phelps probably received this information about Dunklin’s position from Alexander Doniphan and David R. Atchison, who had been hired as legal counsel to the church and who had been in communication with Missouri attorney general Robert W. Wells. (Letter from William W. Phelps, 15 Dec. 1833; Daniel Dunklin, Jefferson City, MO, to William W. Phelps et al., 4 Feb. 1834, copy; Robert W. Wells, Jefferson City, MO, to Alexander Doniphan and David R. Atchison, 21 Nov. 1833, copy, William W. Phelps, Collection of Missouri Documents, CHL.)
Phelps, William W. Collection of Missouri Documents, 1833–1837. CHL. MS 657.
Edward Partridge et al., Petition to Andrew Jackson, 10 Apr. 1834, copy; Sidney Gilbert et al., Liberty, MO, to Andrew Jackson, 10 Apr. 1834, copy; William W. Phelps et al., Liberty, MO, to Daniel Dunklin, 10 Apr. 1834; Daniel Dunklin, Jefferson City, MO, to William W. Phelps et al., Liberty, MO, 20 Apr. 1834; Daniel Dunklin, Jefferson City, MO, to William W. Phelps et al., Kirtland, OH, 22 Jan. 1836; Lewis Cass, Washington DC, to Sidney Gilbert et al., Liberty, MO, 2 May 1834, William W. Phelps, Collection of Missouri Documents, CHL.
Phelps, William W. Collection of Missouri Documents, 1833–1837. CHL. MS 657.
Winchester, Benjamin. Plain Facts, Shewing the Origin of the Spaulding Story, concerning the Manuscript Found, and Its Being Transformed into the Book of Mormon; with a Short History of Dr. P. Hulbert, the Author of the Said Story . . . Re-published by George J. Adams, Minister of the Gospel, Bedford, England. To Which Is Added, a Letter from Elder S. Rigdon, Also, One from Elder O. Hyde, on the Above Subject. Bedford, England: C. B. Merry, 1841.
Howe, Eber D. Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, from Its Rise to the Present Time. With Sketches of the Characters of Its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible Was Brought before the World. To Which Are Added, Inquiries into the Probability That the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written by One Solomon Spalding, More Than Twenty Years Ago, and by Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance. Painesville, OH: By the author, 1834.
before you receive this We also calculate to send a petition and this revelation to the President forthwith in your behalf and then we will act the part of the poor widow to perfection if possable, and let our rulers read their destiny if they do not lend a helping hand. We exhort you to prosecute and try every lawful means to bring the mob to Justiceas fast ascircumstances willpermit. With regard to your tarrig [tarrying] in we cannot say you must be governed by circumstances. perhaps you will have to hire out or take farms to cultivate to obtain your bread until the Lord deliver.
We have sent you a $50= note US some time ago if you have received it please acknowledge the rec[eip]t of it to us that we may be satisfied you have got it. We Shall do all that is in our power to assist you in every way we can. We know your case is a trying one but be patient and not murmr against the Lord and you shall see that all these things shall turn to your greatest good.
Inquire of and find out the entire secret of mixing or compounding lead and Antimo[n]y so as to make type mettle [metal] and write us concerning it Bro Joseph tells me that he has sent another $50= note making $100, to you, write us concerning it, there is a prospect of the eastern doing something pretty handsome toward the deliverance of in the course of a year if Zion is not delivered otherwise Tho the Lord says this affliction came upon you because of your sin polluting your &c yet there is an exception of some namely the heads of Zion for the Lord said your brethren in begin to repent, and the Angels rejoice over them &c you will also see an exception at the top of the 2d collum of this revelation Therefore this affliction came upon the Church to chastin those in transgression, and prepare the hearts of those who had repented for an from the Lord. We shall not be able to send [p. 80]
In instructing members of the church in Missouri to petition government authorities for help, the 16–17 December 1833 revelation referenced the parable given in Luke 18:1–5 about a widow who importunes an unjust judge for justice. (Revelation, 16–17 Dec. 1833 [D&C 101:81–89].)
The 16–17 December 1833 revelation warned that if the president did not heed the Mormons’ call for help, the Lord will “arise and come forth out of his hiding place & in his fury vex the nation and in his hot displeasure and in his fierce ander [anger] in his time will cut off these wicked unfaithful and unjust stewards and appoint them their portion among hypocrits and unbelievers even in outer darkness where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Revelation, 16–17 Dec. 1833 [D&C 101:89–91].)
Dunklin and other Missouri authorities anticipated that the legal proceedings against members of the Jackson County mob would begin in the February 1834 term of the Jackson County circuit court. On 23 February 1834, Phelps and several other church members, including John Corrill and Edward Partridge, entered Jackson County under a heavy guard to testify at the proceedings. The men, however, were escorted out of Independence the following day—without having offered any testimony in the case—after Judge John F. Ryland, circuit attorney Amos Rees, and Missouri attorney general Robert W. Wells concluded that it was “entirely unnecessarry to investigate this subject on the part of the State, as the jury were equally concerned in the outrages committed it was therefore not likely that any bills [of indictment] would be found and consequently no good could possibly result from any further investigation.” (Letter from William W. Phelps, 27 Feb. 1834; “Mormon Difficulties,” Missouri Intelligencer and Boon’s Lick Advertiser [Columbia], 8 Mar. 1834, .)
Marsh, one of the church’s leaders in Missouri, had worked at a Boston type foundry for several years in the 1820s. A new printing press, replacing the one lost in a mob attack in Jackson County in July 1833, began operation in Kirtland in December 1833. (JS, Journal, 4–6 and 18 Dec. 1833; Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, 30 Mar. 1834, Cowdery, Letterbook, 36–38; “T B Marsh,” , Historian’s Office, Histories of the Twelve, ca. 1856–1858, 1861, CHL.)
Cowdery, Oliver. Letterbook, 1833–1838. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.
Historian’s Office. Histories of the Twelve, 1856–1858, 1861. CHL. CR 100 93.
The top of the second column of the printed version of the 16–17 December 1833 revelation states, “Behold, here is wisdom concerning the children of Zion: even many, but not all: they were found transgressors, therefore, they must needs be chastened. He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that abaseth himself shall be exalted.” (Verily, I Say unto You, concerning Your Brethren Who Have Been Afflicted, [Kirtland, OH: ca. Jan. 1834], copy at CHL [D&C 101:41–42].)
Verily, I say unto you, concerning your brethren who have been afflicted. [Kirtland, OH: ca. Jan. 1834]. Copy at CHL.