JS, Letter, , Geauga Co., OH, to , [, Geauga Co., OH], [ca. 18 Dec. 1835]. Featured version copied [ca. 19 Dec. 1835] in JS, Journal, 1835–1836, pp. 80–87; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS, Journal, 1835–1836.
Shortly after his dramatic confrontation with his younger brother on 16 December, JS responded to a contrite letter he had received from William. According to his journal, JS had spent the day after the fight at home feeling “quite unwell.” On the following morning, 18 December, visited JS’s , Ohio, home. Hyrum had also received an apologetic letter from William, which he read aloud to JS. Hyrum and JS apparently spent the remainder of the morning discussing their younger brother’s troubling behavior and his future welfare.
The fight deeply wounded the Smith family. When and called on JS the evening of 17 December, they were “sorely afflicted in mind on the account of that occurrence.” felt that JS was justified in rebuking their younger brother, and he felt “wounded to the verry soul, with the conduct of .” Despite the physical injuries that William had inflicted on him, JS expressed concern for his brother’s spiritual welfare and optimism about his capacity to change. After writing to his brother, JS recorded in his journal: “I have had many solemn feelings this day Concerning my Brothe[r] William and have prayed in my heart to fervently that the Lord will not cast him off but he may return to the God of Jacob and magnify his apostleship and calling.”
The following letter to offers the most detailed account of the 16 December fight and provides a glimpse of JS’s feelings, personality, and demeanor. The letter also articulates some of JS’s nascent ideas about the duty of leaders to reprove and counsel those under their stewardship, a teaching he would develop more fully in succeeding years.
The dating of JS’s letter to is unclear. The letter, as it was copied in JS’s journal by , was originally inscribed with an incorrect date of 17 December; Parrish later changed the “7” to an “8” so the date read “Friday Dec. 18th 1835.” The first line of the 19 December journal entry, in Parrish’s handwriting, indicates that JS spent that day at home, where he “wrote the above letter to Br. Wm. Smith.” The corresponding 19 December entry in JS’s history, also penned by Parrish, is slightly different. It reads, “He was at home and wrote the above letter, or rather indited it, to his brother William.” In another, later JS history, copied William’s 18 December letter and JS’s response. Before recording the latter, Richards wrote that JS “gave the following answer the same day” he received William’s letter of 18 December. Given the aforementioned cancellation, insertion, and subsequent recording in JS’s journal and histories, the letter is dated here as circa 18 December to reflect both the ambiguity of the dating and the date given by Parrish when he inscribed the letter into the journal.
JS’s letter to is no longer extant, but JS’s scribes recorded three versions of the letter in various church records. Significant differences between the featured text and the copy in JS’s 1834–1836 history are noted; the copy in JS’s later history has no significant differences.
JS, Journal, 17 Dec. 1835. The adaptation of JS’s journal for his history confirms that his poor health was a result of the injuries he had sustained at William’s hands. The exact nature of the injuries is not recorded. (JS History, 1834–1836, 150, 159.)
Fifteen months after writing this letter, JS explained these responsibilities to a group of church members gathered in the Kirtlandtemple. He told them, “It is also the privilege of the Melchisedec priesthood, to reprove, rebuke and admonish, as well as to receive revelations.” He himself “rebuked and admonished his brethren frequently, and that because he loved them.” “These rebukes and admonitions,” he continued, were “for their temporal as well as spiritual welfare. They actually constituted a part of the duties of his station and calling.” (Discourse, 6 Apr. 1837.)
not feel to cast any reflections, upon any one that had spoken; but I felt that it was my <the> duty of old men that set as to be as grave, at least as young men, and that it was our duty to smile at solid arguments, and sound reasoning, and be impreesed, with solemnity, which should be manifest in our countanance, when folly and that which militates against truth and righteousness, rears its head
Therefore in the spirit of my calling and in view of the authority of the that has been confered upon me, it would be my duty to reprove whatever I esteemed to be wrong fondly hoping in my heart that all parties, would concider it right, and therefore humble themselves, that satan might not take the advantage of us, and hinder the progress of our .
Now I want you should bear with me, notwithstanding my plainness—
I would say to you that my feelings, were grieved at the interuption you made upon , I thought, you should have concidered your relation, with him, in your , and not manifest any division of sentiment, between you, and him, for a surrounding multitude to take the advantage of you:— Therefore by way of entreaty, on the account of the anxiety I had for your influence and wellfare, I said, unto you, do not have any feelings, or something to that amount, why I am thus particular, is that if You, have misconstrued, my feelings, toward you, you may be corrected.— [p. 81]
For the past several months, JS had been troubled by what he perceived as jealousies between and disunity exhibited by the newly called members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (JS, Journal, 3 Nov. and 15 Dec. 1835; see also Esplin, “Emergence of Brigham Young,” 166–175.)
Esplin, Ronald K. “The Emergence of Brigham Young and the Twelve to Mormon Leadership, 1830–1841.” PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1981. Also available as The Emergence of Brigham Young and the Twelve to Mormon Leadership, 1830–1841, Dissertations in Latter-day Saint History (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History; BYU Studies, 2006).