JS, Letter, , OH, to , “” [, Jackson Co., MO], 31 July 1832; retained copy; handwriting of ; signature of JS; seven pages; JS Collection, CHL. Includes docket and notations.
Two bifolia, each measuring 12⅞ × 8 inches (33 × 20 cm) when folded. The pages from the first bifolium are in reverse folder page order; the second bifolium is in leaflet page order. Pagination is in the top left corner of each inscribed page in the handwriting of . The letter was tri-folded in letter style. The final page bears an inscription in the handwriting of : “Copy of a letter written to Broth | | Editor of the Evening & morning Star”. A docket on the final page, “Joseph Smiths Letter | to Zion 1832,” is in the handwriting of Newel K. Whitney. Appended to this docket is “July 1831 | N. K. Whitney.” in the handwriting of . Also on the final page is a separate Bullock notation: “July 31— 1845 | N. K. Whitney handed to me”. There is soiling at folds and tearing at fold corners on the final page, obscuring the text on page 7. Ink spotting, smears, and fingerprints are found in the letter.
This version of the letter is a contemporaneous retained copy made by and later filed by . The notation on the last page of the document indicates Whitney gave the letter to Historian’s Office clerk on 31 July 1845, the date of its receipt in the Historian’s Office.
JS’s 31 July 1832 letter to addressed ongoing tensions between church leaders in and . JS labored to establish unity between the two groups for much of the latter part of 1831 and the beginning of 1832, but his efforts were hampered by the distance between them (, Jackson County, Missouri, was nearly nine hundred travel miles from , Ohio) and by occasional criticisms of his leadership. Although a September 1831 revelation chastised those who had “sought occation against him [JS] without a cause” and counseled the of the church to “forgive one another,” problems continued.
In March 1832, a revelation commanded JS, , and to travel to . One reason for the trip was to organize what became known as the , a board governing the mercantile and publishing entities of the church in and . Another reason was to “sit in councel with the saints.” In the course of several meetings held in late April and early May, JS, Rigdon, Whitney, and (who, along with Rigdon, was called as one of JS’s counselors in March 1832) established the United Firm and fostered unity so that “the hearts of all” ran “together in love.”
Yet the harmony achieved in the meetings was fleeting—a fact that apparently concerned JS as early as his May–June 1832 stay in , Indiana, en route to with . JS’s 31 July letter to referenced Whitney shedding many tears in Greenville “for ” and recounted that JS, after communing with God in a grove of trees in Greenville, “viewed the conspiricy” of church leaders in Missouri. These statements indicate that JS and Whitney understood even as they traveled home that tensions still existed with the Missouri leaders. Upon his arrival in Ohio, JS found firm evidence of the continuing tension: a letter dated 2 June 1832 from , a counselor to Bishop , that again raised points of conflict and exhibited some animosity toward JS and other church leaders in Ohio. According to a letter written in January 1833 by and , Corrill’s letter implied that JS was “seeking after Monarchal power and authority.” Apparently, these accusations so upset that he entered into a “frantick” state of mind and claimed that the “keys” had been taken from the church, which caused JS to revoke Rigdon’s priesthood and strip him of his counselor and scribal duties for a brief period in July 1832.
In July, JS also received a letter from , who operated the church’s printing works in . This letter, according to JS’s 31 July reply featured below, exhibited a “cold and indifferent manner” that further disturbed JS and shaped his reply. Phelps’s letter may have been sent directly to JS in , Ohio, or it may have been sent to , where served as postmaster. If Phelps sent the letter to Kirtland, JS may have obtained it during the week of 22–28 July when, as noted in this reply, JS went to Kirtland, perhaps to officiate in Rigdon’s reinstatement. In any case, JS preached in Kirtland on Sunday, 29 July. He then probably spent Monday, 30 July, traveling from Kirtland to Hiram. On the morning of 31 July, JS dictated this letter to , his recently appointed scribe, in response to Phelps’s letter.
JS’s reply expressed his continuing frustration with the leadership. JS noted that their conduct influenced other Mormons in to make false prophecies and unwise statements that apparently generated hostility among local citizens who were not members of the church. But he concluded the letter on an optimistic note, highlighting the success of the missionaries and the good feelings that prevailed in church meetings that he had recently attended.
The document presented here is a complete copy of the letter penned by and signed by JS, including a notation that it is missing only “a few words on the wrapper by way of exhortation complementary &c.” It eventually came into the possession of , the bishop in . apparently received and answered the letter, as indicated in a subsequent letter written by church leaders in .
According to the letter featured below, Sidney Gilbert brought Corrill’s letter with him to Ohio and arrived there before JS. When JS arrived in Ohio, he reunited with his wife Emma and adopted daughter, Julia, who were staying in Kirtland, before apparently moving them back to the John and Alice (Elsa) Jacobs Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio. Gilbert may have given Corrill’s letter to JS when JS was in Kirtland, or he may have brought it to JS in Hiram. (JS History, vol. A-1, 215–216.)
On 28 July, Hyrum Smith wrote in his journal that “Brother Sidney was ordaind to the hight preisthood the second time.” Rigdon was probably reinstated in Kirtland; Hyrum and Rigdon both resided there, and Rigdon had been removed from his office in Kirtland. (Hyrum Smith, Diary and Account Book, 28 July 1832.)
Smith, Hyrum. Diary and Account Book, Nov. 1831–Feb. 1835. Hyrum Smith, Papers, ca. 1832–1844. BYU.
I have received your letter dated 30th June and procede this morning to answer it. I sit down to dictate for to write but cannot write my feelings, neither can toungue, or language paint them to you. I only can observe that I could wish, that my heart, & feelings thereof might for once be laid open before [you], as plain as your own natural face is to you by looking in a mirror; Verily I say untoyou my only hope and confidence is in that God who gave me being in whom there is all power who now is present before me & my heart is naked before his eyes continually he is my comfeter & he forsaketh me not in the seventh trouble and in the mean time I have learned by sad experiance there is no confidence to be placed in in man that the spirit of man is as cold as the northern blast and had I not considered the great care and multitude of business which is crowding upon your mind I could not have excused the cold and indifferent manner in which your letter is writen, true you have expressed fellowship, but the spirit which I possess enjoy, the feeling of my soul enquires does this letter give me the important information which I stood in need of at the present critical moment from your hand concerning yourself your family & business & the faith & fellowship & prosperity of the brethren in &c let your own heart and the integrity of your own soul answer this question & excuse the warmth of feeling of your unworthy yet affectionate brother in the Lord travling through affliction and great tribulation, you informed me that you wrote a few lines to bear up our strength in the glorious labour wherewith our saviour hath been pleased to call us, I rejoice exceedingly for the little strength & information God has been ple[a]sed to give me through your letter— viz— to hear that our brethren from this & have arived safe in and as I trust without accident this is the mercy of our God, but in the discharge <of my Duty> must inform you that they left here under this displeasure of heaven for several reasons now what I write I write without sparing any (or the feeling of any) knowing that God will bear me up in what I write, I will give you some of the reasons, firstly making a mock of the profession of faith in the commandments by proceding contrary thereto in not complying [p. 1]
Much of this “business” revolved around the establishment of the print shop in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri. On 29 May, a conference of elders met “at the office of the Evening & Morning Star,” and Edward Partridge dedicated “the building for Printing & all materials appertaining thereto unto the Lord.” Phelps published the first issue of The Evening and the Morning Star in June, a copy of which came to JS in July. Despite the difficulties with Phelps and others, a later JS history recounts that receiving this first issue of the Star was “a joyous treat to the Saints” and that JS thought it was “delightful indeed . . . to contemplate, that the little band of brethren [in Independence] had become so large, and grown so strong, in so short a space as to be able to issue a paper of their own.” (Minute Book 2, 29 May 1832; JS History, vol. A-1, 216.)
Almost one hundred members of the church emigrated from Hiram and Nelson, in Portage County, Ohio, on 2 May 1832 and arrived in Jackson County, Missouri, on 16 June. (William E. McLellin, Independence, MO, to “Beloved Relatives,” Carthage, TN, 4 Aug. 1832, photocopy, CHL.)
McLellin, William E. Letter, Independence, MO, to “Beloved Relatives,” Carthage, TN, 4 Aug. 1832. Photocopy. CHL. MS 617.