Report of the First Presidency to the Church, circa 7 April 1841
[JS, , and ], Report, to the , , Hancock Co., IL, ca. 7 Apr. 1841. Featured version published in “Report of the First Presidency,” Times and Seasons, 15 Apr. 1841, vol. 2, no. 12, 384–386. For more complete source information, see the source note for Letter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.
At the beginning of a general of the that commenced on 7 April 1841 in , Illinois, read this report from JS and his counselors in the . The report, describing the state of the church, followed the model of a report read at the previous general conference, held in early October 1840. The April report detailed the growth of the church and encouraged the Saints to gather to Nauvoo. It highlighted progress on construction of the , the First Presidency’s optimistic promises for the city’s growth, and the need for church members to provide financial aid and physical labor to support the growth of Nauvoo.
served as the scribe for the First Presidency’s original report, which is apparently no longer extant. A copy of the original was published in the 15 April 1841 issue of the Times and Seasons in accordance with a resolution of the conference that called for the report’s publication. That version, featured here, is the only known contemporaneous account of the report. No date was given for the creation of the report, but because it was prepared for the April 1841 general conference and delivered by Thompson on 7 April, it was likely created either on 7 April 1841 or in the days before.
tier than the mighty waves of the sea.” Nor, have the flames of persecution, with all the influence of mobs, been able to destroy it; but like Moses’ bush it has stood unconsumed, and now at this moment presents an important spectacle both to men and angels.— Where can we turn our eyes to behold such another? We contemplate a people who have embraced a system of religion unpopular, and the adherence to which has brought upon them repeated persecutions—a people who for their love to God and attachment to his cause, have suffered hunger, nakedness, perils, and almost every privation—a people, who, for the sake of their religion, have had to mour[n] the premature deaths of parents, husbands, wives, and children—a people who have prefered death to slavery and hypocracy, and have honorably maintained their characters, and stood firm and immovable, in times that have tried men’s souls.
Stand fast, ye Saints of God, hold on a little while longer, and the storms of life will be past, and you will be rewarded by that God whose servants you are, and who will duly appreciate all your toils and afflictions for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s. Your names will be handed down to posterity as saints of God, and virtuous men.
But we hope that those scenes of blood and gore will never more occur, but that many, very many such scenes as the present will be witnessed by the saints, and that in the , the foundation of which has been so happily laid, will the saints of the Most High continue to congregate from year to year, in peace and safety.
From the kind and generous feelings manifest, by the citizens of this , since our sojourn among them, we may continue to expect the enjoyment of all the blessings of civil and religious liberty, guaranteed by the constitution. The citizens of have done themselves honor in throwing the mantle of the constitution over a persecuted and afflicted people; and have given evident proof, that they are not only in the enjoyment of the privileges of freemen themselves, but, that they willingly and cheerfully extend that invaluable blessing to others, and that they freely award to faithfulness and virtue their due.
The proceedings of the Legislature in regard to the citizens of this place have been marked with philanthropy and benevolence; and they have laid us under great and lasting obligations, in granting us the several liberal charters we now enjoy, and by which we hope to prosper, until our becomes the most splendid, our University the most learned, and our the most effective, of any in the . In the language of one of our own poets, we would say,
In we’ve found a safe retreat,
A home, a shelter from oppressions dire;
Where we can worship God as we think right,
And mobbers come not to disturb our peace;
Where we can live and hope for better days,
Enjoy again our liberty, our rights:
That social intercourse which freedom grants,
And charity requires of man to man.
And long may charity pervade each breast,
And long may remain the scene
Of rich prosperity by peace secured!
In consequence of the impoverished condition of the saints, the buildings which are in progress of erection do not progress as fast as could be desired; but from the interest which is generally manifested by the saints at large, we hope to accomplish much by a combination of effort, and a concentration of action, and erect the and other buildings, which we so much need for our mutual instruction and the education of our children.
From the reports which have been received, we may expect a large emigration this season. The proclamation which was sent some time ago to the churches abroad, has been responded to, and great numbers are making preparations to come and locate themselves in this and vicinity.
From what we now witness, we are led to look forward with pleasing anticipation to the future, and soon expect to see the thousands of Israel flocking to this region, in obedience to the [p. 385]
Amanda Barnes Smith, whose husband and son were killed at Hawn’s Mill, Missouri, in 1838, wrote an affidavit that encapsulates the experiences of many Latter-day Saints who suffered because of their faith. She wrote, “I thought to myself is this our boasted land of liberty, for Some Said that we must deny our faith or they would kill us.” (Amanda Barnes Smith, Affidavit, Quincy, IL, 18 Apr. 1839, Historian’s Office, JS History Documents, ca. 1839–1860, CHL; see also Introduction to Part 3: 4 Nov. 1838–16 Apr. 1839.)
Historian’s Office. Joseph Smith History Documents, 1839–1860. CHL. CR 100 396.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In 1833 the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Bill of Rights did not apply to individual states. In 1845 the court reiterated this decision, particularly where the right to religious expression was concerned. By submitting a memorial petitioning the federal government for redress for their losses incurred in Missouri in early 1840, JS, Sidney Rigdon, and Elias Higbee added their voices to others at that time who were arguing against such a limited reading of the Constitution. (Barron v. Baltimore, 7 Peters 243 ; Permoli v. Municipality No. 1, 3 Howard 589 ; Memorial to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, ca. 30 Oct. 1839–27 Jan. 1840; see also McBride, “When Joseph Smith Met Martin Van Buren,” 157.)
Peters / Peters, Richard. Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Supreme Court of the United States. 17 vols. Various publishers, 1828–1843.
Howard / Howard, Benjamin C. Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Supreme Court of the United States. 25 vols. Various publishers. 1843–1860.
McBride, Spencer W. Pulpit and Nation: Clergymen and the Politics of Revolutionary America. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017.
A report from the Upper Mississippian describing Nauvoo and the city’s growth was reprinted in the 15 February issue of the Times and Seasons and in another area newspaper, the Sangamo Journal. The report stated that since the Saints arrived in Hancock County, they had “added from 75 to 100 buildings, mostly neat and painted, spread over a large extent of ground, and covering the plain to the bluffs in the rear.— These numerous new, bright looking buildings, scattered about amongst the trees and shrubbery which abound here, present, in warm weather, a delightful appearance.” The report also noted that the city had “some 300 buildings, several small Traders, Tavern keepers, Physicians, and various kinds of mechanics and laborers; and some water craft, among which is a small steam boat called Nauvoo. The landing, soil and timber about the town, are favorable to the future growth of this interesting and growing town. It has a fine country in its rear, and if too many drones and rogues do not creep in among these generally quiet, industrious and economical people, we may expect to see a very considerable city built up here—particularly as many of this sect in Europe, are now known to be about removing to this country—and indeed some two hundred have already arrived at Nauvoo, and the vicinity. Mr. Smith is reported to have said that it is destined to be the largest city in the world!” On 6 May 1841, Edward Hunter estimated there to be “something like 400 houses” in Nauvoo, almost all of which had “been created in the short space of two years.” (“Letters about the West,” Times and Seasons, 15 Feb. 1841, 2:322–323; “Nauvoo,” Sangamo Journal [Springfield, IL], 9 Feb. 1841, ; Edward Hunter, Nauvoo, IL, to Edward Hunter [Uncle], 6 May 1841, typescript, Edward Hunter Correspondence, BYU.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
Sangamo Journal. Springfield, IL. 1831–1847.
Hunter, Edward. Collection, ca. 1798–1965. Photocopy and typescript. CHL.
The First Presidency anticipated the arrival of numerous Saints from England, some who had remained in Kirtland after traveling to the United States the previous fall and others coming with the return of the Twelve later in the year. New converts in the United States were also preparing to gather with the Saints in Nauvoo. A letter from Rufus Beach in Michigan in early March indicated that “the saints in this section of country are making the necessary arrangements to move up to the west the coming summer.” (Historical Introduction to Letter to Vilate Murray Kimball, 2 Mar. 1841; Rufus Beach, Livonia, MI, to Don Carlos Smith, 2 Mar. 1841, in Times and Seasons, 1 Apr. 1841, 2:366.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.