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.
their heads, according to the which he hath committed unto us: for God has so ordained, that his work shall be cut short in righteousness, in the last days: therefore, first teach the parents, and then, with their consent, let him persuade the children to embrace the gospel also. And if children embrace the gospel, and their parents or guardians are unbelievers, teach them to stay at home and be obedient to their parents or guardians, if they require it; but if they consent to let them gather with the people of God let them do so and there shall be no wrong and let all things be done carefully, and righteously, and God will extend his guardian care to all such.
And secondly, it should be the duty of , when they enter into any house, to let their labors and warning voice, be unto the master of that house: and if he receive the gospel, then he may extend his influence to his wife also, with consent, that peradventure she may receive the gospel; but if a man receive not the gospel, but gives his consent that his wife may receive it, and she believes, then let her receive it. But if the man forbid his wife, or his children before they are of age, to receive the gospel, then it should be the duty of the elder to go his way and use no influence against him: and let the responsibility be upon his head—shake off the dust of thy feet as a testimony against him, and thy skirts shall then be clear of their souls. Their sins are not to be answered upon such as God hath sent to warn them to flee the wrath to come, and save themselves from this untoward generation. The servants of God will not have gone over the nations of the , with a warning voice, until the destroying angel will commence to waste the inhabitants of the earth; and as the prophet hath said, “It shall be a vexation to hear the report.” I speak because I feel for my fellow-men: I do it in the name of the Lord, being moved upon by the Holy Spirit. O that I could snatch them from the vortex of misery, into which I behold them plunging themselves, by their sins, that I may be enabled, by the warning voice, to be an instrument of bringing them to unfeigned repentance, that they may have faith to stand in the evil day.
Thirdly, it should be the duty of an elder, when he enters into a house to salute the master of that house, and if he gain his consent, then he may preach to all that are in that house, but if he gain not his consent, let him go not unto his slaves or servants, but let the responsibility be upon the head of the master of that house, and the consequences thereof; and the guilt of that house is no longer upon thy skirts: Thou art free; therefore, shake off the dust of thy feet, and go thy way. But if the master of that house give consent, that thou mayest preach to his family, his wife, his children, and his servants, his man-servants, or his maid-servants, or his slaves, then it should be the duty of the elder to stand up boldly for the cause of Christ, and warn that people with one accord, to repent and be for the remission of sins, and for the Holy Ghost, always commanding them in the name of the Lord, in the spirit of meekness to be kindly affected one towards another; that the fathers should be kind to their children, husbands to their wives; masters to their slaves or servants; children obedient to their parents, wives to their husbands, and slaves or servants to their masters:
“Wives submit youselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.— For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”—Ephesians, Chapt. V. from the 22d to the end of the 21st [31st] verse.
“Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh: not with eye service as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God.”—Colocians, Chapt. III. from the 18th to the end of the 22d verse. [p. 211]