Letter from William W. Phelps, with Appended Letter from Orson Hyde and John E. Page, 29 June 1840

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

, Ohio, June 29. 1840
Brother Joseph
I am alive and with thee help of God I mean to live still. I am as the prodigal Son, though I never doubt or disbelieve the fulness of the gospel: I have been greatly abased and humbled: And I blessed the God of Israel, when I lately read your prophetic blessing on my head, as follows:—
“The Lord will chasten him because he taketh honor to himself, and when his soul is greatly humbled he will forsake the Evil: Then shall the light of the Lord break upon him as the noon day, and in him shall be no darkness” &c. I have Seen the folly of my way and I tremble at the gulf I have passed. so it is, and why I know not. I prayed and God answered, but what could I do? Says I, I will repent and live, and ask my old brethren to forgive me, and though they chasten me to death, yet I will die with the[m]— for their God is my God. The least place with them is enough for me, yea it is bigger and better than all Babylon. Then I dreamed “That I was in a large house with many mansions, with you and and , and when it was said Supper must be made ready, by one of the cooks, I saw no meat, but you said there was plenty and shewed me much, and as good as I ever saw; And while cutting to cook, you and looked very pleasant and smiled, but ’s heart and mine beat within us, and we took each others hand and cried for Joy”. and I awoke and took courage
I I know my situation, you know it, and God knows it, and I want to be saved if my friends will help me. Like the Captain that was cast away on a desert Island, when he got off he went to sea again, and made his fortune the next time. So let my lot be. I have done wrong and I am Sorry. The beam is in my own eye.
I have not walked with my friends according to my holy : I ask forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ of all the saints for I will do right God helping me, I want your fellowship: If you cannot grant that, grant me your peace and friendship, for we are brethren, and our communion used to be Sweet, and [p. 155] whenever the Lord brings us together again, I will make all the Satisfaction, on every point that saints or God can require. Amen.
Prst Joseph Smith. )
Dear Brother,
We have been in this place a few days and have preached faithfully: a very great prospect of some able and influential men embracing the faith in this place. We have moved along slowly, but have left a sealing testimony: a considerable number. We shall write again soon, as we learn the result of our labors here more particularly, We are well and in good spirits through the favor of the Lord.
requests us to write a few lines in his letter and we cheerfully embrace the opportunity. says he wants to live: But we do not feel ourselves authorized to act upon his case but have reccommended him to you: But he says his poverty will not allow him to visit you in person at this time; and we think he tells the truth. We therefore advise him to write, which he has done. He tells us, verbally, that he is willing to make any sacrifice to procure your fellowship, life not excepted; Yet reposing that confidence in your magnanimity that you will take no advantage of this open and frank confession. If he can obtain your fellowship, he wants to come to as soon as he can. But if he cannot be received into the fellowship of the , he must do the best he can in banishment and exile.
Brethren, with you are the of the kingdom; to you is power given to “exert your clemency or display your vengence” By the former, you will save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins: By the latter, you will forever descourage a returning prodigal, cause sorrow without benefit, pain without pleasure, ending in wretchedness and dispair.
But former experience teaches that you are workmen in the art of saving souls, therefore, with the greater confidence [p. 156] do we reccommend to your clemency and favorable consideration the Author and subject of this communication.
“Whosoever will let him come take of the water of life freely,” says, he will; and so far as we are conserned, we say he may
In the Bonds of the
[p. 157]


  1. 1

    See Luke 15:11–32.  

  2. 2

    JS pronounced this blessing on Phelps in September 1835. (Blessing to William W. Phelps, 22 Sept. 1835.)  

  3. 3

    See Ruth 1:16.  

  4. 4

    See John 14:2; and Revelation, 6 Aug. 1833 [D&C 98:18].  

  5. 5

    See Matthew 7:3–5; Luke 6:41–42; and Book of Mormon, 1837 ed., 510 [3 Nephi 14:3–4].  

  6. 6

    In January 1836, several church leaders, presumably including Phelps, were anointed with “holy oil” in “the loft of the printing office” in Kirtland, Ohio. This anointing prepared individuals for the endowment of power they were to receive in the Kirtland House of the Lord. (JS, Journal, 21 Jan. 1836; Partridge, Journal, 21 Jan. 1836; William W. Phelps to Sally Waterman Phelps, [18 Jan. 1836], William W. Phelps, Papers, BYU.)  

    Partridge, Edward. Journal, Jan. 1835–July 1836. Edward Partridge, Papers, 1818–1839. CHL. MS 892, box 1, fd. 2.

    Phelps, William W. Papers, 1835–1865. BYU.

  7. 7

    Hyde and Page, left Nauvoo, Illinois, in mid-April 1840 to serve a mission to the Jews in New York, Europe, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. Hyde reported in July 1840 that they “preached in the court house to crowded congregations; and also in the grove” in Dayton but baptized “only five persons there.” Hyde continued, however, that they had “left a great harvest for some faithful elders to reap.” (Orson Hyde and John E. Page, Quincy, IL, 28 Apr. 1840, Letter to the Editor, Times and Seasons, June 1840, 1:116–117; Minutes and Discourse, 6–8 Apr. 1840; Orson Hyde, Franklin, OH, 7 July 1840, in Times and Seasons, Aug. 1840, 1:156.)  

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

  8. 8

    See Revelation, 30 Oct. 1831 [D&C 65:2]; Revelation, between ca. 8 and ca. 24 Mar. 1832; and Revelation, 2 Aug. 1833–A [D&C 97:14].  

  9. 9

    In The Ancient History of the Egyptians, Carthaginians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Macedonians, and Grecians, Charles Rollin attributed these words to Themistocles, an exiled Athenian political leader who was petitioning his former enemy—the Persian king Artaxerxes—for protection around 471 BC. It was largely through Themistocles’s machinations that Greece defeated Persia around 480 BC after Persia invaded Greece. (Rollin, Ancient History, 427–429.)  

    Rollin, Charles. The Ancient History of the Egyptians, Carthaginians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Macedonians, and Grecians. Vol. 2. London: Longman, 1839.

  10. 10

    See James 5:20.  

  11. 11

    Hyde himself issued an affidavit against JS and other church leaders in October 1838 and was dropped from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He later sought forgiveness and was restored to his former standing in June 1839. (Thomas B. Marsh and Orson Hyde, Affidavit, Richmond, MO, 24 Oct. 1838, copy, Mormon War Papers, Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City; Historical Introduction to Minutes and Discourses, 5–7 Oct. 1839.)  

    Mormon War Papers, 1838–1841. MSA.

  12. 12

    See Revelation 22:17.