Letter from Thomas Burdick, 28 August 1840

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Aug 28th 1840
We are in the dark concerning the mission and proceedings of , who recently passed through this place. He presents himself first by a letter dated Waterford, Washington Co. Ohio, Muskingham river directed to Hiram Kellogg of . Ohio. (in “haste”).
The following are some of the Items contained in the letter in his own words “Dear brother in the gospel and , I feel it a duty to inform you that I am on my way and mission to the State of , I have just returned from the ! by way of , &c. I started in company with three other Elders who have all got sick & I have been obliged to leave them, two of whom have gone back & the other I left in Covington K.Y. opposite . My mission is urgent indeed. I am now left alone” I and want you to select out if possible three or four preachers and have them ready when I arrive to go to Catteraugus Buffalo Tonawanda, Tuscaroras, Alleganys Onendagas and Oneidas:— I want the bretheren if possible to assist me in getting to the Onida Castle by water for I am in haste to return to at Oct. , & then to my station in the Territory of 9 miles from the Garrison (Levingworth), from whence I have just come. A new scene of things are about to transpire in the west, in fulfilment of prophecy, &c I want your prayers & also the prayers of the bretheren that I may have my health to accomplish my mission. I am not sent to the neither to the Cities of the Sameritans, but to the promised people of the house of Jacob, who if they go through &c”
To this letter he signs his name “ Lamanite” Hyrum Kellogg being absent, his son Henry Kellogg, a Universalist preacher takes the letter out of the Post Office and reads it & replies “the mormons ought to be seen to or words to that amount”; &c— soon afterwards arrives & confirms the letter by preaching much stronger meat than it contains, both in publick and in private: in publick he says “this nation is about to be destroyed” and suggests to the bretheren that there [p. 174] is a place of safety preparing for them away towards the Rockey mountains they may have a long and crooked Road to go to get there” and says but few will be preserved to arrive there, he suggests that twelve may be built up & again thrown downthat the ten tribes are somewhere on a Planet taken from this Plannet which when it comes back will cause this earth to reel to and fro like two Boats meeting— that Adam had 15 or 16 sons before Cain &c. We acknowledge that men of God ought to have enough of this his spirit to enable them to understand all things as they come along; but such teachings are not all understood in this place, they are calculated to make excitement & what the consequences may be I am not able to say. We are not only willing but greatly desire to receive all necessary instructions and information in the order and own due time of the Lord, and whatever and whatever the consequences may be to try to bear up under them as well as we can.
was somewhat indulged in this place & although we were not fully satisfied as to the propriety and truth of all his teachings, yet, we did not take up against him for fear of doing wrong: but since he went away being left rather in the dark with regard to his authority, reflecting on the nature of his mission, & looking at all his proceedings and teachings, I for one cannot help but doubt more and more his being authorized & sent to teach all these things in this place at this time, therefore of my own accord I have written this letter for information: I have directed it to you expecting that, probably Joseph might not be at home, I want the letter put into his hands to be examined and answered according to the mind and will of the Lord. If he is not at home I want it submitted to the and as many of the as are at home that we may receive true information and instruction or none as the Lord will. will probably be back through here in Oct. [p. 175]
When was here was in and has not returned yet. Brother Kellogg is also absent. If the bretheren or you send an answer direct to me or as may be thought best. Tell us as much about sickness and health and every thing else that may be proper as you can afford and it will be thankfully received. Tell us about the health of your (and family[)] in particular.
Yours in the bonds of the
[p. 176]


  1. 1

    Waterford, Ohio, is located in the southeastern portion of the state, roughly 170 miles from Kirtland.  

  2. 2

    Hiram Kellogg (1793–1846) was appointed as a counselor in the Kirtland stake presidency by July 1838. In April 1840, the Times and Seasons published an extract of a letter from Kellogg reporting on the condition of the church in Kirtland. Some evidently saw Kellogg as the presiding authority in Kirtland, even though Oliver Granger had been appointed to that position by a May 1839 conference in Quincy, Illinois. For example, after a group of Saints emigrating from England met Kellogg in October 1840, group member William Clayton referred to Kellogg as “the President Elder of the stake at Kirtland.” A May 1841 conference in Kirtland accepted Kellogg as president of the high priests quorum, but it is unclear when he started functioning in that capacity. (Treman and Poole, History of the Treman, Tremaine, Truman Family in America, 185–186; Kirtland Elders Quorum, “Record,” 22 July 1838; “Important Church News,” Times and Seasons, May 1840, 1:109; Minutes, 4–5 May 1839; Clayton, Diary, 24 Oct. 1840; “Minutes of a Conference,” Times and Seasons, 1 July 1841, 2:458.)  

    Treman, Ebenezer Mack, and Murray E. Poole. The History of the Treman, Tremaine, Truman Family in America; with the Related Families of Mack, Dey, Board and Ayers. . . . Ithaca, NY: Ithaca Democrat, 1901.

    Kirtland Elders Quorum. “A Record of the First Quorurum of Elders Belonging to the Church of Christ: In Kirtland Geauga Co. Ohio,” 1836–1838, 1840–1841. CCLA.

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

    Clayton, William. Diary, Jan.–Nov. 1846. CHL.

  3. 3

    Covington, Kentucky, is across the Ohio River from Cincinnati.  

  4. 4

    Dunham was apparently referring to the locations to which he would be traveling in New York, although it is possible he was referring to specific Indian tribes. The 1837 blessing he received in New York instructed him to “go directly north untill thou shall find a certain tribe of Lamonites, or nation of Indians.” (“A Prophecey upon the Head of Jonathan Dunham,” 15 July 1837, Jonathan Dunham, Papers, CHL.)  

    Dunham, Jonathan. Papers, 1825–1846. CHL.

  5. 5

    Oneida Castle, New York, located on both sides of Oneida Creek, was a settlement organized around 1746 by the Oneida Nation under the name Kanonwalohale. It served as the capital of the nation and became known as Oneida Castle among European Americans, presumably because of its defensive features, which protected it against armed invasion. In 1815 the Oneida Nation transferred ownership of the settlement to European Americans. In the 1840s, approximately three hundred Oneida Indians resided about a mile south of Oneida Castle. (Tiro, People of the Standing Stone, 16, 129–130; Gazetteer of the State of New-York, 300.)  

    Tiro, Karim M. The People of the Standing Stone: The Oneida Nation from the Revolution through the Era of Removal. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011.

    A Gazetteer of the State of New-York: Comprising its Topography, Geology, Mineralogical Resources, Civil Divisions, Canals, Railroads and Public Institutions. . . . Albany: J. Disturnell, 1842.

  6. 6

    Dunham reached the vicinity of Fort Leavenworth in Indian Territory in early June 1840. He spent several days in the area, trying to locate Thomas Hendricks, chief of the Stockbridge Indians; meeting with Kenekuk, the Kickapoo prophet; and attempting to locate Timothy Towsa of the Delaware Nation. Dunham apparently left Indian Territory after being ordered to do so by government officials. (Dunham, Journal, 3–10 June 1840; Walker, “Seeking the ‘Remnant,’” 24.)  

    Dunham, Jonathan. Journals, 1837–1846. Jonathan Dunham, Papers, 1825–1846. CHL. MS 1387, fds. 1–4.

    Walker, Ronald W. “Seeking the ‘Remnant’: The Native American during the Joseph Smith Period.” Journal of Mormon History 19 (Spring 1993): 1–33.

  7. 7

    See Matthew 10:5–6; and Book of Mormon, 1837 ed., 527 [3 Nephi 21:12].  

  8. 8

    Little is known about Henry Kellogg, who was born in 1816 and died in 1862. (Treman and Poole, History of the Treman, Tremaine, Truman Family in America, 186.)  

    Treman, Ebenezer Mack, and Murray E. Poole. The History of the Treman, Tremaine, Truman Family in America; with the Related Families of Mack, Dey, Board and Ayers. . . . Ithaca, NY: Ithaca Democrat, 1901.

  9. 9

    See Hebrews 5:12–14.  

  10. 10

    Church members apparently regarded the Rocky Mountains as a place of possible gathering as early as 1831. Richard W. Cummins, the government agent in Indian Territory, informed superintendent of Indian affairs William Clark that Mormon missionaries preaching to Native Americans in Indian Territory had told him that if they were not allowed to proselytize there, they would “go to the Rocky Mountains” to “be with the Indians.” Similarly, church members Thomas B. Marsh and Elizabeth Godkin Marsh informed Thomas’s sister and brother-in-law in 1831 that they did not know where God would tell them to settle next: “Perhaps it will be to take our march to the Grand preraras [prairies] in the Missouri teretori [territory] or to the shining mountains which is 1500 or 2000 miles west frrom us.” (Richard W. Cummins, Delaware and Shawnee Agency, to William Clark, [St. Louis, MO], 15 Feb. 1831, U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Central Superintendency, Records, vol. 6, p. 114; Thomas B. Marsh and Elizabeth Godkin Marsh to Lewis Abbott and Ann Marsh Abbott, [ca. 11 Apr. 1831], Abbott Family Collection, CHL.)  

    U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Central Superintendency. Records, 1807–1855. Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Also available at kansasmemory.org.

    Abbott Family Collection, 1831–2000. CHL. MS 23457.

  11. 11

    Dunham may have been referring to teachings JS delivered in July 1840 in Nauvoo. Explaining a parable from an 1833 revelation, JS declared, “The redemption of Zion is the redemption of all N & S America and those 12 stake[s] must be built up before the redemption of Zion can take place.” JS added that “the seed of these 12 Olive trees” would be “scattered abroad.” (Discourse, ca. 19 July 1840.)  

  12. 12

    According to Phebe Carter Woodruff, JS had similarly instructed the Saints in Nauvoo in summer 1840. In a letter to her husband, Wilford Woodruff, Phebe stated that JS had “been advanceing new things to the church and publick of late says that this earth was the largest panat [planet] that ever was made and that there has been parts taken from it several times and at the time the 10 tribes were lost there was a part taken from it and that they would all come back and be joined to it again and that would be the realing to & fro like a drunken man &c &c.” (Phebe Carter Woodruff, Montrose, Iowa Territory, to Wilford Woodruff, Liverpool, England, 2 July 1840, digital scan, Wilford Woodruff, Collection, CHL; see also Walker, Diary, 10 Mar. 1881, in Larson and Larson, Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, 540; and “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor, 1 June 1892, 344.)  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Collection, 1831–1905. Digital scans. CHL. Originals in private possession.

    Larson, A. Karl, and Katharine Miles Larson, eds. Diary of Charles Lowell Walker. Vol. 2. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1980.

    Noble, Joseph B. “Early Scenes in Church History.” Juvenile Instructor, 15 May 1880, 112.

  13. 13

    See Old Testament Revision 1, p. 8 [Moses 5:2, 16].  

  14. 14

    Dunham had previously acted without official sanction. In 1839 he was rebuked for calling an unauthorized conference in Springfield, Illinois, and for transacting church business there. (“Extracts of the Minutes of Conferences,” Times and Seasons, Nov. 1839, 1:15.)  

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

  15. 15

    Granger was appointed by a spring 1839 general conference to “preside over the general affairs of the Church” in Kirtland. Granger had been in New York since at least late June 1840 to settle debts that JS and his counselors in the First Presidency owed. (Minutes, 4–5 May 1839; Agreement with Oliver Granger, 29 Apr. 1840; Rhoda Richards, Richmond, MA, to Willard Richards, Manchester, England, 14 and 28 June 1840; 5 July 1840, typescript, Richards Family Papers, CHL.)  

    Richards Family Papers, 1809–1937. BYU.

  16. 16

    Joseph Smith Sr. had been sick for several months. John Smith, Joseph Smith Sr.’s brother, reported on 20 August 1840 that he had visited Joseph, who was “very Sick near unto Death.” (George A. Smith, Autobiography, 21 Sept. 1839, 83–84; John Smith, Journal, 1840–1841, 20 Aug. 1840.)  

    Smith, George A. Autobiography, ca. 1860–1882. George Albert Smith, Papers, 1834–1877. CHL. MS 1322, box 1, fd. 2.

    Smith, John (1781-1854). Journal, 1833–1841. John Smith, Papers, 1833-1854. CHL. MS 1326, box 1, fd. 1.