Affidavit, 29 November 1841

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

City of , Ill.,
Nov. 29th A. D. 1841.
To the Public:—
The transpiration of recent events makes it criminal for me to remain longer silent. The tongue of the vile yet speaks, and sends forth the poison of asps—the ears of the spoiler yet hear, and he puts forth his hands to iniquity. It has been proclaimed upon the house-top and in the secret chamber, in the public walks and private circle, throughout the length and breadth of this vast continent, that stealing by the has received my approval; nay, that I have taught the doctrine, encouraged them in plunder, and led on the van—than which nothing is more foreign from my heart. I disfellowship the perpetrators of all such abominations—they are devils and not saints, totally unfit for the society of Christians, or men. It is true that some professing to be Latter Day Saints have taught such vile heresies, but all are not Israel that are of Israel; and I wish it to be distinctly understood in all coming time, that the church over which I have the honor of presiding will ever set its brows like brass, and its face like steel, against all such abominable acts of villany and crime; and to this end I append my affidavit of disavowal taken this day before , that there may be no mistake here [p. 617]after as to my real sentiments, or those of the leaders of the church, in relation to this important matter,——
State of Illinois,) ss.
Before me, , Mayor of the City of , personally came Joseph Smith, of the , (commonly called Mormons,) who being duly sworn according to law, deposeth and saith, that he has never directly or indirectly encouraged the purloining of property, or taught the doctrine of stealing, or any other evil practice, and that all such vile and unlawful acts will ever receive his unqualified and unreserved disapproval, and the most vigorous opposition of the church over which he presides, and further this deponent saith not.
JOSEPH SMITH, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Sworn to, and subscribed before me, at my office, in the City of , this twenty ninth day of November, Anno Domini 1841.
-[L. S.]- ,
Mayor of the City of .
Now it is to be hoped that none will hereafter be so reckless as to state that I, or the church to which I belong, approve of thieving—but that all the friends of law and order will join in ferreting out thieves wherever, and whenever, they may be found, and assist in bringing them to that condign punishment which such infamous crimes so richly merit.
JOSEPH SMITH, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. [p. 618]


  1. 1

    On 18 November, the Ramus stake high council excommunicated five members who had recently been arrested for theft. On 6 October, the Warsaw Signal published a long article by David W. Kilbourne and Edward Kilbourne detailing a number of thefts committed by Latter-day Saints against their Iowa neighbors. (Macedonia Branch, Record, 18 Nov. 1841; David W. Kilbourne and Edward Kilbourne, “Latter-Day-Ism, Number One,” Warsaw [IL] Signal, 6 Oct. 1841, [2]–[3].)  

    Macedonia Branch, Record / “A Record of the Chur[c]h of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints in Macedonia (Also Called Ramus),” 1839–1850. CHL. LR 11808 21.

    Warsaw Signal. Warsaw, IL. 1841–1853.

  2. 2

    See Isaiah 32:6.  

  3. 3

    See Job 20:16; and Romans 3:12–13.  

  4. 4

    See Jeremiah 48:8.  

  5. 5

    See Psalm 125:3.  

  6. 6

    See Luke 12:3; Book of Mormon, 1840 ed., 512 [Mormon 5:8]; and Revelation, 1 Nov. 1831–B [D&C 1:3].  

  7. 7

    See Matthew 24:26.  

  8. 8

    Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines van as “the front of an army; or the front line or foremost division of a fleet.” The suggestion, therefore, was that JS was leading the Latter-day Saints in the recent thefts. In 1841 several American newspapers accused JS and other Latter-day Saint leaders of fraudulent activities. (“Van,” in American Dictionary; “Extraordinary Impositions of the ‘Latter Day Saints,’” Saturday Courier [Philadelphia], 10 July 1841, [2]; “The Mormons,” New-York Tribune, 7 Dec. 1841, [3]; see also “A Letter about Mormonism,” Saturday Courier, 17 July 1841, [2]; “Communication,” Daily Chronicle [Philadelphia], 11 Sept. 1841, [1]; and “The Mormons,” Daily Chronicle, 25 Sept. 1841, [1].)  

    An American Dictionary of the English Language: Intended to Exhibit, I. the Origin, Affinities and Primary Signification of English Words, as far as They Have Been Ascertained. . . . Edited by Noah Webster. New York: S. Converse, 1828.

    Saturday Courier. Philadelphia. 1841–1848.

    New-York Tribune. New York City. 1841–1842.

    Daily Chronicle. Philadelphia. 1828–1834.

  9. 9

    Johnson, Autobiographical Sketch and Journal, 35–36; Holbrook, Autobiography and Journal, 61.  

    Johnson, Joel H. Autobiographical Sketch, 1879. Typescript. CHL. MS 12931.

    Holbrook, Joseph. Autobiography and Journal, not before 1871. Photocopy. CHL. MS 5004. Original in private possession.

  10. 10

    See Romans 9:6.  

  11. 11

    See Isaiah 48:4.  

  12. 12

    See Isaiah 50:7; and Book of Mormon, 1840 ed., 75–76 [2 Nephi 7:7].