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.
to the women that resorted thither. And a certain woman, named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was , and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us. . . . . And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm; for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas; and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes, and was baptized, he and all his, staightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”—Acts 16:13, 14, 15.——25, to 35.
“And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul, having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephesus; and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, Have ye received the since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And, when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.”—Acts 19:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
[“]And one Ananias, a devout man, according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. And he said, the God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldst know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldst hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men, of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”—Acts 22:12, 13, 14, 15, 16.
“For, when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk, is unskilful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”—Heb. 5:12, 13, 14.
“Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.[”]—Heb. 6:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
These quotations are so plain, in proving the doctrine of repentance and baptism for the remission of sins, I deem it unnecessary to enlarge this letter with comments upon them—but I shall continue the subject in my next.