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.
JS, Journal, 2 Oct. 1835. It appears that in late summer and fall 1835, issues of the Messenger and Advocate were being published about a month later than the dates found in the masthead. For instance, the August issue of the periodical was published sometime after 1 September, since it contained an obituary of Mary Hill stating that she died “on Tuesday, (the 1st of Sept.)” The September issue featured JS’s 2 October letter. The October Messenger and Advocate contained letters dated 6 and 7 November 1835, indicating that issue was not published until after those dates. (Obituary for Mary Hill, LDS Messenger and Advocate, Aug. 1835, 1:176; L. T. Coons, 6 Nov. 1835, Letter to the Editor, and Noah Packard, 7 Nov. 1835, Letter to the Editor, LDS Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1835, 2:207, 208.)
Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.
remission of sins should be preached unto all nations.
“Then Peter said unto them, repent, and be every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the . For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”—Acts 2:38, 39.
By this we learn, that the promise of the Holy Ghost, is unto as many as the doctrine of repentance was to be preached, which was unto all nations. And we discover also, that the promise was to extend by lineage: for Peter says, “not only unto you, but unto your children, and unto all that are afar off.” From this we infer that it was to continue unto their children’s children, and even unto as many generations as should come after, even as many as the Lord their God should call.— We discover here that we are blending two principles together, in these quotations. The first is the principle of repentance, and the second is the principle of remission of sins. And we learn from Peter, that remission of sins is obtained by baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; and the gift of the Holy Ghost follows inevitably: for, says Peter, “you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Therefore we believe in preaching the doctrine of repentance in all the world, both to old and young, rich and poor, bond and free, as we shall endeavor to show hereafter—how and in what manner, and how far it is binding upon the consciences of mankind, making proper distinctions between old and young men, women and children, and servants.
But we discover, in order to be benefitted by the doctrine of repentance, we must believe in obtaining the remission of sins. And in order to obtain the remission of sins, we must believe in the doctrine of baptism, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. And if we believe in baptism for the remission of sins, we may expect a fulfilment of the promise of the Holy Ghost: for the promise extends to all whom the Lord our God shall call. And hath he not surely said, as you will find in the last chapter of Revelations:
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth, say, Come. And let him that is athirst, come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Rev. 22:17.
Again the Savior says:
“Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”—Math. 11:28, 29, 30.
Again Isaiah says:
“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.”—Isaiah 45:22, 23, 24.
And to show further connections in proof of the doctrine above named, we quote the following scriptures:
“Him hath God exalted with his right hand, to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”—Acts 5:31, 32.
“But when they believed Philip, preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also; and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles, which were at Jerusalem, heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John; who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost. (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)— Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. . . . And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?—And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And, when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and, passing through, he preached in all the cities, till he came to Cesarea.”—Acts 8:12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17,——36, to the end.
“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision, which believed, were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost: for they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.”—Acts 10:44, 45, 46, 47, 48.
“And on the Sabbath, we went out of the city, by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake un [p. 181]