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.
with the requirements of them in not obtaining reccommends &c seccondy [secondly], that the should procede to receive into there fellowship & communion on any other conditions, then the filling his mission to the South countries according to the commandment of Jesus Christ, I cite your minds to thise saying he that loveth Father or Mother wife & Children more than me is not worthy of me thus saith the Lord Thirdly the unorganized & confused state in leaving here, and the evil surmisings which were among them & neglect of duty &c more then this I do not wish to mention, now therefore the buffitings of the advasary be upon all those <among you> who are eniquitous persons and rebelious, I would inform you them they do not have my right hand of fellowship, but I will leave this subject for will not my God and your God do right, I return to your letter you informed me slightly that you heard of the accident to at Idn. [Indiana] A question how did you hear, did any of you receive letters writen by any of us informing you of the critical situation we were placed in, if so how did you treat them if not so have you writen to us to give us that information which would be calculated to releave the mind of its painful anxciety concerning you, whether that fellowship and brotherly love continued among you towards us which you professed when we left you, it is true we received a letter from broth[e]r by the hand of after we arived home from Indiana who had arived here before us, but what did it contain, it gave us this inteligence, that the Devel had been to work with all his inventive immagination to reward us for our toils in travling from this country to amidst a crooked & preverse generation leaving our familys in affliction amidst of death upon the mercy of mobs & of brethren who you know sometimes are found to be u[n]stable unbeleiving, unmerciful & unkind, and in this trying situation to keeping the commandment of God we took our lives in our hands and traveled through evry combination of wickedness to your country for your salvation & for our travail & our toils, suffering & privations as I said before [p. 2]
This third reason may be related to the first: the company’s failure to obtain the proper permissions to go to Missouri. The Evening and the Morning Star noted in July 1832 that when the necessary recommends were not obtained, the result was “confusion, which would produce pestilence.” Such confusion resulted from the lack of coordination regarding how many people could be accommodated by the church in Missouri. (“The Elders in the Land of Zion to the Church of Christ Scattered Abroad,” The Evening and the Morning Star, July 1832, .)
The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.
JS and Whitney probably arrived in Kirtland in late June. In his 6 June letter to Emma Smith, JS wrote that he and Whitney intended to return by about 20 June. His later history indicates that they departed from Greenville sooner than they expected. Martin Harris traveled from Kirtland to Greenville within five days, which suggests that JS and Whitney could not have reached Kirtland before 10 June. Gilbert left Independence for Kirtland on or soon after 2 June 1832 (the date of Corrill’s letter), bringing Corrill’s letter with him. Travel between Ohio and Missouri took roughly three weeks on other trips made in 1831 and 1832, making it unlikely that Gilbert was in Kirtland before 20 June. Rigdon later recalled that JS and Whitney arrived in Kirtland about four weeks after his own 26 May arrival. (JS History, vol. A-1, 215; Letter to Emma Smith, 6 June 1832; JS History, vol. A-1, 142–146, 209–210; Sidney Rigdon, Statement, ca. 1842, Historian’s Office, JS History Documents, ca. 1839–1856, CHL.)
Historian’s Office. Joseph Smith History Documents, 1839–1860. CHL. CR 100 396.
JS, Sidney Rigdon, and Whitney were commanded to travel to Missouri and “sit in councel with the saints who are in zion otherwise satan seeketh to turn there hearts away from the truth that they become blinded & understand not the things which are prepared for them.” (Revelation, 1 Mar. 1832 [D&C 78:9–10].)