Letter to William W. Phelps, 31 July 1832
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 .
Revelation, 11 Sept. 1831 [D&C 64:6, 9].
Revelation, 1 Mar. 1832 [D&C 78:9].
Minutes, 30 Apr. 1832; Minutes, ca. 1 May 1832; Note, 8 Mar. 1832; Minutes, 26–27 Apr. 1832.
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.)
Letter to Edward Partridge and Others, 14 Jan. 1833. Corrill’s letter is not extant.
Cahoon, Diary, July 1832; Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 13, –.
Cahoon, Reynolds. Diaries, 1831–1832. CHL. MS 1115.
Phelps’s letter is not extant.
Other 1832 letters from Missouri leaders to JS were sent to Whitney, including a January 1832 letter from Oliver Cowdery. These letters were addressed to Whitney at the Kirtland Mills post office, which was in Whitney’s store. JS apparently received correspondence from the Missouri leaders through the Kirtland Mills post office. (Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 28 Jan. 1832; Berrett, Sacred Places, 3:11–12.)
Berrett, LaMar C., ed. Sacred Places: A Comprehensive Guide to Early LDS Historical Sites. 6 vols. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999–2007.
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.
JS may have been aware of an incident later reported by Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, and Edward Partridge. According to Whitmer, in March 1832 “enem[i]es held a counsel” in Independence to decide “how they might destroy the saints.” Partridge reported that this meeting was broken up by Indian agent Marston Clark, but “still the hostile spirit of individuals was no less abated.” (Whitmer, History, 38; “A History, of the Persecution, of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints in Missouri,” Times and Seasons, 17 Dec. 1839, 1:17; “The Outrage in Jackson County, Missouri,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Jan. 1834, 122.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.
In a January 1833 letter, Hyrum Smith and Orson Hyde wrote that Phelps and others provided “answers” to letters from church leaders in Ohio that referred to these leadership issues. It is probable that this 31 July letter is one of the letters to which Smith and Hyde referred. Any response that Phelps made to this letter is not extant. (Letter to Edward Partridge and Others, 14 Jan. 1833.)