Letter to Emma Smith, 4 April 1839

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

, Clay. Co., Mo, April, 4th, 1839.
Dear— and affectionate— .
Thursday night I sat down just as the sun is going down, as we peak throu the greats of this lonesome prision, to write to you, that I may make known to you my situation. It is I believe <​it is​> now about five months and six days since I have bean under the grimace, of a guard night and day, and within the walls grates and screeking of iron dors, of a lonesome dark durty prison. With immotions known only to God, do I write this letter, the contemplations, of the mind under these circumstances, defies the pen, or tounge, or Angels, to discribe, or paint, to the human mind being, who never experiance what I we experience. This night we expect; is the last night we shall try our weary joints and bones on our dirty straw couches in these walls, let our case hereafter be as it may, as we expect to start tomorrow, for — for our trial, We shall have a change of Venue to some of the lower counties, for the final trial, as our Lawyers generaly say, if law can be adheared to in , as it grants us the privaliege. But you are awere of what we may expect, of beings that <​have​> conducted as they have. We lean of on the arm of Jehovah, and none else, for our deliverance, and if he dont do it, it will not be done, you may be assured, for there is great thirsting for our blood, in this ; not because we are guilty of any thing: but because they say these men <​will​> give an account of what has been done to them; the wrongs they have sustain if it is known, it <​will​> ruin the . So the mob party have sworn, to have our lives, at all hasards, but God will disappoint them we trust, We shall be moved from this at any rate and we are glad of it let what will become of <​us​> we cannot <​get​> into a worse hole [p. [1]] then this is, we shall not stay here but one night besides this <​if that​> thank <​if that​> God, we shall never cast a lingering wish after in clay county mo. Mo. we have enough of it to last forever, may God reward fals swearers according to their works, is all I can wish them. My Dear I think of you and the children continualy, if I could tell you my tale, I think you would say it was altogether enough for once, to grattify the malice of hell that I have suffered. I want <​to​> see little , , , and , Joana, and old major. And as to yourself if you want to know how much I want to see you, examine your feelings, how much you want to see me, and judge for <​you[r]self​>, I would gladly go <​walk​> from here to you barefoot, and bareheaded, and half naked, to see you and think it great pleasure, and never count it toil, but do not think I am babyish, for I do not feel so, I bare with fortitude all my oppression, so does do those that are with me, not one of us have flinched yet, I want you <​should​> not let those little fellows, forgit me, tell them Father loves them with a perfect love, and he is doing all he can to git away from the mob to come to them, do teach them all you can, that they may have good minds, be tender and kind to them, dont <​be​> fractious to them, but listen to their wants, tell them Father says they must be good children, <​and​> mind their mother, My Dear there is great respo[n]sibility resting upon you, in preserveing yourself in honor, and sobriety, before them, and teaching them right things, to form their young and tender minds, that they begin in right paths, and not git contaminated when young, by seeing ungodly examples, I soppose you see [p. [2]] the need of my council, and help, but as <​a​> combinnation <​of​> things have conspired to place me where I am, and I know it <​is​> not my fault, and further if my voice and council, had been heeded I should not have been here, but I find no fault with you, att all I know nothing but what you have done the best you could, if there is any thing it is known to yourself, you must be your own judge, on that subject: and if ether of done us have done wrong it is wise in us to repent of it, and for God sake, do not b[e] so foolish as to yield to the flattery of the Devel, faslshoods, and vainty, in this hour of trouble, that our affections be drawn, away from the right objects, those preasious things, God has given us will rise up in judgement against us in the day of judgement against us if we do not mark well our steps, and ways. My heart has often been exceeding sorrowful when I have thought of these thing[s] for many considerations, one thing let [me?] [adm]onished you by way of my duty, do not [be?] self willed, neither harber a spirit of revevenge: and again remember that he who is my enemys, is yours also, and never give up an old tried friend, who has waded through all manner of toil, for your sake, and throw him away becaus fools may tell <​you​> he <​has​> some faults; these things have accured to <​me​> as I have been writing, I do speak of <​them​> because you do not know them, but because I want to stir up your pure mind by way of rememberance: all feelings of diss[at]isfaction is far from my heart, I wish to act upon that principle of generosity, that will acquit myself in the preasance of [page cut] through the mercy of God You[rs?] [Joseph Smith Jr.] [p. [3]]
APR 5 [p. [4]]


  1. 1

    For a description of the Clay County jail, see Introduction to Part 3: 4 Nov. 1838–16 Apr. 1839.  

  2. 2

    JS and his fellow prisoners were incarcerated in the Clay County jail on 1 December 1838. JS was arrested on 31 October 1838, which may be the date he was using as the basis for his calculation of “five months and six days.” (Letter to Emma Smith, 1 Dec. 1838.)  

  3. 3

    The prisoners departed on 6 April 1839 for Gallatin. (Hyrum Smith, Diary, 6 Apr. 1839.)  

    Smith, Hyrum. Diary, Mar.–Apr. 1839, Oct. 1840. CHL. MS 2945.

  4. 4

    The prisoners began seeking a change of venue as early as January 1839. On 24 January, the prisoners argued in a memorial to the Missouri legislature that they could not receive a fair trial within the fifth judicial circuit. Their petition led to a revised Missouri statute that permitted changes of venue between circuits. Ultimately, the prisoners received a change of venue on different grounds: the legislature reorganized the state’s second and fifth judicial circuits, with Daviess County becoming part of the newly created eleventh circuit. The judge appointed to the eleventh circuit was Thomas Burch, who previously served as the prosecuting attorney in the prisoners’ case. In cases in which the judge previously served as counsel, Missouri law mandated a change of venue. (Historical Introduction to Memorial to the Missouri Legislature, 24 Jan. 1839; Historical Introduction to Promissory Note to John Brassfield, 16 Apr. 1839.)  

  5. 5

    See 2 Chronicles 32:8.  

  6. 6

    In a 22 March 1839 letter to Isaac Galland, JS similarly commented that the church’s enemies believed “the State will be ruined, if the Mormon leaders are liberated, so that they can publish the real facts, of what has been practised upon them.” (Letter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.)  

  7. 7

    For more information on the prosecution witnesses at the November 1838 hearing, see Introduction to Part 3: 4 Nov. 1838–16 Apr. 1839.  

  8. 8

    Probably Johanna Carter (1824–1847), a Latter-day Saint orphan who apparently lived with JS’s family in the 1830s.a Johanna’s mother, Elizabeth Kenyon Carter, died in 1828.b Her father, John Sims Carter, was a participant in the Camp of Israel expedition who died in 1834 in Missouri.c Johanna’s stepmother, Jerusha Carter, died in 1835.d Johanna may have been living with the Smiths on 29 January 1836, when she and her sisters received patriarchal blessings from Joseph Smith Sr.e She possibly was staying with the Smiths in November 1838 in Far West, Missouri.f The inclusion of Johanna in this letter’s list of children suggests that JS considered her one of his “five children,” a reference he made in his 22 March 1839 letter to Isaac Galland.g  

    Smart, Donna Toland, ed. Mormon Midwife: The 1846–1888 Diaries of Patty Bartlett Sessions. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 1997.

    U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

    Statements against William E. McLellin and Others, ca. 1838–1839. CHL.

    (aJS, Journal, 29 Jan. 1836; see also Smart, Mormon Midwife, 71–72.b“Elizabeth Carter,” in General Index to Vital Records of Vermont, Early to 1870, microfilm 27,502, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.c“Afflicting,” The Evening and the Morning Star, July 1834, 176.d“Jerusha Carter,” in General Index to Vital Records of Vermont, Early to 1870, microfilm 27,502, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.eJS, Journal, 29 Jan. 1836.fSee Caroline Clark et al., Complaint against William E. McLellin, no date, Statements against William E. McLellin et al., CHL.gLetter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.)
  9. 9

    Old Major was the Smiths’ dog, a white English mastiff. (See “The Memoirs of President Joseph Smith,” Saints’ Herald, 6 Nov. 1934, 1414; and Davis, Story of the Church, 252.)  

    Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.

    Davis, Inez Smith. The Story of the Church. Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1938.

  10. 10

    TEXT: “b[page torn]”.  

  11. 11

    TEXT: “thing[page torn]”.  

  12. 12

    TEXT: Page torn because of loss of seal.  

  13. 13

    TEXT: Page torn because of loss of seal.  

  14. 14

    TEXT: The dot of an i and possibly the top of an ascender are visible above the clipped portion.  

  15. 15

    TEXT: JS’s signature was cut out of this letter at an unknown date.  

  16. new scribe logo

    Postage rate written in brown ink in unidentified handwriting.  

  17. new scribe logo

    Postmark stamped in red ink.