Letter to the Elders of the Church, 2 October 1835
JS, Letter, [, Geauga Co., OH], to “the elders of the church of Latter Day Saints,” [2 Oct. 1835]. Featured version published in “To the Elders of the Church of Latter Day Saints,” Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Sept. 1835, 1:179–182. For more complete source information, see the source note for Letter to Oliver Cowdery, Dec. 1834.
This letter to the elders of the church was the first 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. The letters instructed the church’s increasingly large and sophisticated missionary force, which by that time included apostles and seventies. The three-part missive reminded them of essential doctrine, such as the establishment of and the gathering of Israel, and provided specific direction to help them succeed in spreading the church’s message. Instruction for traveling elders in the form of open letters such as this one appeared occasionally in the church’s periodicals.In this letter, JS described the revelation that identified , Jackson County, Missouri, as the central gathering place for a latter-day Zion. He acknowledged that this revelation had generated anxiety among Missourians and that the resulting migration of some 1,200 Mormons to western Missouri compounded the unease, culminating in the violent expulsion of Latter-day Saints from in November 1833. JS attempted to clarify the history of the Saints’ settlement in Jackson County and contextualized the revelations and doctrines concerning Zion. He lamented that the Saints’ intentions in settling Jackson County had been distorted by “designing and wicked men” and that the Saints’ own outspoken zealousness regarding the doctrine of gathering had worsened relations in that county. The letter also referred to several New Testament passages to emphasize the duty the elders had to teach the church’s basic doctrines—faith, repentance, remission of sins, and baptism.JS wrote this first installment on 2 October and submitted it to editor , who published it shortly thereafter in the September issue of the Messenger and Advocate, which was then behind schedule. The original letter is no longer extant. JS dictated the second letter of the series six weeks later, on 16 November 1835.