Letter from Hyrum Smith, 2 January 1840

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Handcock Co. Illinois Jany 2, 1840
To Joseph Smith Junr. and
Dear Bretheren
It is with feelings of no ordinary Kind that I write to you at this time in answer to the letters with which we were favoured. Your letters were truly interesting, and were read with great interest by the Bretheren here, as well as by myself— We were truly glad to hear of your safe arrival in the City of — Your interview with his Excellency the , and the steps you have since taken for the furtherance of the object you have undertaken to accomplish, and for which you have left the— endearments of home, and the society of your friends.
The mission on which you are engaged is certainly an important one, and which every saint of God, as well as every one whose breast beats high with those patriotick feelings which purchased our national freedom must take a deep interest in—
And although there may be many who do not value your labors— their sectarian prejudices being greater than their love for truth and the constitution of our : yet there are a many who will undoubtedly appreciate your services, and will feel it a pleasure to assist you all that they possibly can.
Conscious of the righteousness of your cause— having having the prayer of the (amongst whom are many who have shared with you the trials persecutions & imprisonment, which have been heaped upon the saints of ) and [p. 91] having the approval of Heaven, I would say, go on dear Bretheren in the name of the Lord, and while you are pleading the cause of the Widdow and the Fatherless, may He who has promised to be a Father to the Fatherless and a husband to the Widdow bless you in your undertaking and arm you with sufficient streng[t]h for the herculean task in which you are engaged: Your exertions will be seconded by the Bretheren in this region, who are desposed to do all they possibly can.
I had just got ready to start for when I received your letter, I no sooner read it than I abandoned the idea of going there. I then made exertions to obtain funds for you in this place; but not being able to get any, and hearing there were bretheren in lately from ; I started off the following day and succeeded in obtaining from Bro. Herringshaw three hundred Dollars which I deposited with Messrs Holems & co Merchants in , subject to the order of , the reason why I deposited it with them was in consequence of the Banks not doing any business and refusing to take deposits &c—
I hope that we shall be able to raise you some more soon: Bro has promised to let us have one hundred Dollars as soon as he gets a remittance from the East, which he expects daily. We have not been able to get much on the City lots since you left, not more than enough to pay some wages for surveying and a few debts. Bro. returned the subscription paper a few days ago, stating that he had not collected any thing on the same since you left, In consequence of my health which has been poor and the coldness of the weather I have not been able to attend to it myself. I hardly think we shall be able to raise the one thousand dollars for Mr by the time he will expect it. is yet in ; not being able to move in consequence of the low stages of water in the ohio river. I received a letter lately from , stating that he was in City of had published [p. 92] another edition of his Book<​s​> of Mormon and wanted permition to print and edition of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants &c with a periodical similar to the [“]Times and Seasons” stating that ther were men who had means, that would assist in these things. He likewise wanted to get priviledge for the to print the Book of Mormon &c in Europe. I wrote in reply that if there were any of the Brethern— disposed to aid, and had means to spare for such purposes to send them to this place, so that not only this place might be benefited, but that the Books might come out under your immediate inspection.
I am afraid some have been induced to tarry and assist in these undertakings; and had made arrangements with to assist in liquidating the debts, I want a Letter as from you Bro. Joseph, as soon as possible, giving me all the instruction you think necessary. I feel the burthen in your absence is great. expresses a a great desire to go to along with , who has promised to pay his and s expenses. Would you think it advisable for them to go or not. The met a few days ago and took your second letter into consideration and passed some resolutions on the subject: appointed committees to get certificates for land, and to get all other information they could— some have gone to and others to different places— We shall forward from time to [time] the information you desire. You will receive enclosed in this a number of Duplicates for land from and others— The is frosen up; the weather is very cold & a great quantity of snow is on the ground and has been for some time. Your family is in tolerable good health excepting one or two. having the chills occasionally.
desires me to inform you, that and Hose have drove into a large quantity of Hogs. They are now engaged [p. 93] in Slaughtering them. I think there will be a good deal of trade carried on in this line another year. You may expect to hear from us soon again. I sent you a copy of the deposit I made to Holmes & Co. which I hope you will receive safe
I am very affectionately
We have concluded not to send any duplicates in this letter. The pac[k]ages of <​dup​>licates <​will​> be directed to , thinking they will come more safe to his address [p. 94]


  1. 1

    Letter to Hyrum Smith and Nauvoo High Council, 5 Dec. 1839; Letter to Seymour Brunson and Nauvoo High Council, 7 Dec. 1839.  

  2. 2

    JS and Higbee arrived in the nation’s capital on 28 November 1839 and met with President Martin Van Buren the next day. (Letter to Hyrum Smith and Nauvoo High Council, 5 Dec. 1839.)  

  3. 3

    After meeting with Martin Van Buren, JS and Higbee combined efforts with the Illinois congressional delegation to continue preparing a memorial that petitioned the federal government for redress and reparations. (Letter to Hyrum Smith and Nauvoo High Council, 5 Dec. 1839; Letter to Seymour Brunson and Nauvoo High Council, 7 Dec. 1839.)  

  4. 4

    In an earlier letter, JS and Higbee lamented the religious prejudice they anticipated from members of Congress. (Letter to Hyrum Smith and Nauvoo High Council, 5 Dec. 1839; see also Letter from James Adams, 4 Jan. 1840.)  

  5. 5

    An 1833 revelation directed church leaders to appeal to the federal government for redress if government officials in Missouri refused to provide reparations. (Revelation, 16–17 Dec. 1833 [D&C 101:86–92].)  

  6. 6

    See Psalm 68:5.  

  7. 7

    Likely Hugh Herringshaw. The minutes of a 29 December 1839 meeting of the Nauvoo high council record that Oliver Granger had recently obtained “four hundred dollars” from “Brother Herringshaw for the use of our breth[r]en who are delegated to Washington.” (Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 29 Dec. 1839, 38, underlining in original.)  

    Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 1839–1845. CHL. LR 3102 22.

  8. 8

    Likely either Joseph T. Holmes or his brother Samuel Holmes, and their respective business partners. Joseph Holmes also functioned as president of the Quincy branch of the Illinois State Bank at this time, although the bank had transacted limited business since halting specie payments in May 1837. (History of Adams County, Illinois, 952; Collins and Perry, Past and Present of the City of Quincy and Adams County, Illinois, 46–47, 60, 110–111, 222, 534; Portrait and Biographical Record of Adams County, Illinois, 452.)  

    The History of Adams County, Illinois. Containing a History of the County—Its Cities, Towns, Etc. . . . Chicago: Murray, Williamson, and Phelps, 1879.

    Collins, William H., and Cicero F. Perry. Past and Present of the City of Quincy and Adams County, Illinois. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing, 1905.

    Portrait and Biographical Record of Adams County, Illinois, Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens, together with Biographies and Portraits of All the Presidents of the United States. Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1892.

  9. 9

    Senator Richard M. Young, part of the Illinois congressional delegation, had agreed to facilitate the financing of the delegation’s trip to Washington DC. (Letter to Hyrum Smith and Nauvoo High Council, 5 Dec. 1839.)  

  10. 10

    During the nationwide financial depression that followed the Panic of 1837 and that particularly affected Illinois and other western states, the Illinois State Bank suspended payments and stopped receiving deposits. This suspension started a chain reaction that halted the business of most other banks in the state, which was likely the reason Hyrum Smith could not deposit money with a bank and had to work through local merchants instead. (“State Bank Suspension,” Sangamo Journal [Springfield, IL], 1 Nov. 1839, [2].)  

    Sangamo Journal. Springfield, IL. 1831–1847.

  11. 11

    Henry G. Sherwood was likely one of the surveyors for the planned town of Nauvoo at this time. (See Memorial to Nauvoo High Council, 18 June 1840.)  

  12. 12

    The subscription referred to here was apparently for the Times and Seasons, the church newspaper recently started in the Commerce area. (See Source Note for Letter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.)  

  13. 13

    In August 1839, the church purchased on credit 89½ acres of land in the planned town of Nauvoo from William White and Horace Hotchkiss. No specific date was set to pay White, but payment was made in full by April 1840. (Bond from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–B; Receipt from William White, 23 Apr. 1840.)  

  14. 14

    News Item, Newark (NJ) Daily Advertiser, 3 Dec. 1839, [2]; Roberts, Practical Views on the Proposed Improvement of the Ohio River, 48.  

    Newark Daily Advertiser. Newark, NJ. 1832–1904.

    Roberts, W. Milnor. Practical Views on the Proposed Improvement of the Ohio River. Philadelphia: Journal of the Franklin Institute, 1857.

  15. 15

    Letter from Parley P. Pratt, 22 Nov. 1839.  

  16. 16

    The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had been sent by JS on a mission to England. At the time Hyrum Smith wrote this letter, several members of that quorum were in the eastern United States preparing for their voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. (See Letter from Parley P. Pratt, 22 Nov. 1839.)  

  17. 17

    Hyrum Smith informed Pratt that the church wanted to publish the Book of Mormon in Commerce under the supervision of JS and his counselors. Smith similarly explained to Lucian R. Foster that, according to revelation, the publication of the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the hymnbook was to be directed by a select few men, a group that included Smith and JS. (Hyrum Smith, Nauvoo, IL, to Parley P. Pratt, New York City, NY, 22 Dec. 1839, in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 80–81; Hyrum Smith, Nauvoo, IL, to Lucian R. Foster, New York City, NY, Jan. 1840, in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 82–84; Revelation, 12 Nov. 1831 [D&C 70:1–6].)  

  18. 18

    In May 1839, Granger was directed by the First Presidency to discharge a number of the church’s outstanding debts with New York merchants. (See Authorization for Oliver Granger, 13 May 1839; Agreement with Mead & Betts, 2 Aug. 1839; and JS, Oliver Granger et al., and John A. Newbould, Agreement, ca. 2 Aug. 1839, Hiram Kimball, Collection, CHL.)  

  19. 19

    In January 1839 and again in May 1839, the First Presidency directed converts emigrating from England and the eastern United States to settle in Kirtland (where many church members continued to reside) because continuing to Missouri was dangerous in the aftermath of Governor Lilburn W. Boggs’s 27 October 1838 “extermination order.” The First Presidency did not direct church members expelled from Missouri to resettle in Kirtland, though some individual church members expressed the desire to return there. According to this letter, JS’s parents were considering returning to Kirtland, though they appear to have intended to visit their former home rather than permanently relocate. JS’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, later recalled that Joseph Smith Sr. was very ill at this time. It is possible that Hyrum Smith asked JS’s opinion about their parents’ visiting Kirtland out of a concern for their father’s health. (Minutes, 4–5 May 1839; Letter to Heber C. Kimball and Brigham Young, 16 Jan. 1839; Authorization for Oliver Granger, 6 May 1839; Kimball, Heber C. Kimball, 68; Vilate Murray Kimball, Commerce, IL, to Heber C. Kimball, New York City, NY, 2 Feb. 1840, photocopy; Heber C. Kimball, New York City, NY, to Vilate Murray Kimball, 5 Mar. 1840, photocopy, Heber C. Kimball, Correspondence, 1837–1864, CHL; Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 18, [1]–[3].)  

    Kimball, Stanley B. Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981.

    Kimball, Heber C. Correspondence, 1837–1864. Private possession. Copy at CHL.

  20. 20

    Letter to Seymour Brunson and Nauvoo High Council, 7 Dec. 1839.  

  21. 21

    Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 30 Dec. 1839, 39–40.  

    Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 1839–1845. CHL. LR 3102 22.

  22. 22

    JS had requested that the high council forward to him certificates verifying that church members still owned land and preemption rights in Missouri as well as affidavits that stated soldiers were unlawfully quartered in church members’ homes during the recent conflict in that state. (Letter to Seymour Brunson and Nauvoo High Council, 7 Dec. 1839.)  

  23. 23

    JS had inquired about the health of his children in a November 1839 letter to Emma Smith, to which Emma replied the following month. (Letter to Emma Smith, 9 Nov. 1839; Letter from Emma Smith, 6 Dec. 1839.)  

  24. 24

    JS and Higbee were staying at the same boardinghouse at this time. It is likely that this statement about Higbee’s “address” concerned whose name to put on the correspondence, rather than the location to which the correspondence should be delivered. (Letter to Hyrum Smith and Nauvoo High Council, 5 Dec. 1839; Historical Introduction to Letter to Seymour Brunson and Nauvoo High Council, 7 Dec. 1839.)