Letter to the Elders of the Church, 16 November 1835
JS, Letter, , Geauga Co., OH, to “the elders of the church of the Latter Day Saints,” 16 Nov. 1835. Featured version published in “To the Elders of the Church of the Latter Day Saints,” Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Nov. 1835, 2:209–212. For more complete source information, see the source note for Letter to Oliver Cowdery, Dec. 1834.
This letter to the of the is the second in a three-part series of open letters published in the September, November, and December 1835 issues of the church’s newspaper, the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. According to his journal, JS dictated a “letter for the Advocate” at his home on 16 November 1835, almost certainly referring to the installment featured here.
In this letter, JS again discussed the concept of , as he had in the letter published in the September issue. Building on the doctrinal foundation of repentance and outlined in the earlier letter and drawing heavily on biblical scripture, he asserted that the Latter-day Saints had begun fulfilling the commission to gather Israel to , a New Jerusalem, in preparation for the second coming of Jesus Christ. By this time, the Saints had been driven out of , Missouri, the revealed location for Zion, but JS explained that it would still be established by and for the “elect” of God.
This second letter also instructed the traveling elders to obtain permission from the head of household before preaching to children or wives so as not to engender conflict between husband and wife or parents and children. The letter advised the same caution in preaching to slaves and servants. JS also provided practical instruction to the elders based on his understanding of the Bible and on past problems encountered by Latter-day Saint missionaries. Finally, JS’s message encouraged the elders to provide a “warning voice” to all but to do so tactfully.
JS dictated this letter, probably to his scribe, . The original is no longer extant. After JS dictated this letter, printed it in the November issue of the Messenger and Advocate. In the last installment of his three-part instruction, written on 30 November and 1 December, JS continued to highlight the importance of gathering and further advised the traveling elders on contending against religious misrepresentation.
call them to mind, among all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice, according to all that I thee, this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that then the Lord thy God, will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and thee from all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee; and if any of thine be driven out unto the utmost parts of heaven; from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee; and from thence will he fetch thee.”
It has been said by many of the learned, and wise men, or historians, that the Indians, or aboriginees of this continent, are of the scattered tribes of Israel. It has been conjectured by many others, that the aboriginees of this continent, are not of the tribes of Israel; but the ten tribes have been led away into some unknown regions of the north. Let this be as it may, the prophesy I have just quoted, “will fetch them” in the last days, and place them, in the land which their fathers possessed: and you will find in the 7th verse of the 30th chapt. quoted:—“And the Lord thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee.”
Many may say that this scripture is fulfilled, but let them mark carefully what the prophet says: “If any are driven out unto the utmost parts of heaven;” (which must mean the breadths of the earth.) Now this promise is good to any, if there should be such, that are driven out, even in the last days: therefore, the children of the fathers have claim unto this day: and if these curses are to be laid over on the heads of their enemies, wo be unto the Gentiles: See book of Mormon, page 487, Wo unto the unbelieving of the , saith the Father. Again see book of Mormon, page 497, which says: “Behold this people will I establish in this land, unto the fulfilling of the covenant which I made with your father Jacob: and it shall be a .” Now we learn from the book of Mormon, the very identical continent and spot of land upon which the New Jerusalem is to stand, and it must be caught up according to the vision of John upon the isle of Patmos. Now many will be disposed to say, that this New Jerusalem spoken of, is the Jerusalem that was built by the Jews on the eastern continent: but you will see from Revelations, 21:2, there was a New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, adorned as a bride for her husband. That after this the Revelator was caught away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and saw the great and holy city descending out of heaven from God. Now there are two cities spoken of here, and as every thing cannot be had in so narrow a compass as a letter, I shall say with brevity, that there is a New Jerusalem to be established on this continent.— And also the Jerusalem shall be rebuilt on the eastern continent. See book of Mormon, page 566. Behold, Ether saw the days of Christ, and he spake also concerning the house of Israel, and the Jerusalem from whence Lehi should come: after it should be destroyed it should be built up again, a holy city unto the Lord: wherefore, it could not be a New Jerusalem, for it had been in a time of old. This may suffice upon the subject of gathering until my next.
I now proceed, at the close of my letter, to make a few remarks on the duty of with regard to their teaching parents and children, husbands and wives, masters and slaves, or servants, &c. as I said I would in my former letter. And firstly, it becomes an elder when he is travelling through the world, warning the inhabitants of the earth to together, that they may be built up an holy city unto the Lord, instead of commencing with children, or those who look up to parents or guardians, to influence their minds, thereby drawing them from their duties, which they rightfully owe to such, they should commence their labors with parents, or guardians, and their teachings should be such as are calculated to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers. And no influence should be used, with children contrary to the consent of their parents or guardians.— But all such as can be persuaded in a lawful and righteous manner, and with common consent, we should feel it our duty to influence them to gather with the people of God. But otherwise let the responsibility rest upon the heads of parents or guardians, and all condemnation or consequences, be upon [p. 210]