Letter to Emma Smith and the Relief Society, 31 March 1842

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

To the President of the Greeting
Can the “Female Releif Society of ” be Trusted with some important matters that ought actually to belong to them to see to which men have been under the necessity of seeing to to their chagrin & Mortification in order to prevent iniquitous characters from carrying their iniquity into effect such as, for instance a man who may be aspiring after power & authority and yet without principle; regardles[s] of god, man or the Devil or the interest or welfare of men, or the virtue or innocence of women? Shall the credulity, good faith, & steadfast feelings of our Sisters for the cause of God or truth be imposed upon by believing such men because they say they have authority from Joseph or the or any other Presidency of the and thus with a lie in their mouth deceive & debauch the innocent under the assumption that they are authorized from these sources! May God forbid!
A knowledge of some such thing having come to our ears we imp[r]ove this [p. [1]] favorable opportunity wherein so goodly number of you may be informed that no such authority ever has, ever can, or ever will be given to any man & if any man has been guilty of any such thing let him be treated with utter contempt & let the curse of God fall on his head, & let him be turned out of Society as unworthy of a place among men, & renounced denounced as the blackest & the most unprincipled wretch & finally let him be damned.
We have been informed that some unprincipled men whose names we will not mention at present have been guilty of such crimes: we do not mention their names, not knowing but what there may be some among you who are not sufficiently skilled in Masonry as to keep a secret, therefore suffice it to say there are those & we therefore warn you & forewarn you in the name of the Lord to check and destroy any faith that any innocent person may have in any such character for we don’t want any body to believe any thing as coming from us contrary to the old established morals & virtues & scriptural laws regulating the habits customs & conduct of Society [p. [2]] unless it be by message del[iv]ered to you by our own mouth, by actual revelation & commandment. and all persons pretending to be authorized by us or having any permit or sanction from us are & will be liars & base imposters & you are authorized on the very first intimation of the kind to denounce them as such & fly from <​shun​> them as the fiery flying serpents, whether they are prophets, seers, or Revelators, , , , . or what not, Mayors, Generals, or what not, city council alderman, Marshall, Police, Lord Mayor or the Devil, are alike culpable. & shall be damned for such evil practices; & if you yourself yourselves hear adhere to any thing of the kind you, also shall be damned.
Now beloved Sisters do not believe for a moment that we wish to impose upon you, we actualy do know that such things have existed in the & <​are​> sorry that we are obliged to make mention of any such thing & we want a stop put to them, & we want you to do your part & we will do ours part for we wish to to keep the commandments of God in all things <​as​> given <​directly from heaven​> to us from heaven, living by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord.—
May God add his blessings upon your head & lead you in all the paths of [p. [3]] virtue piety and peace that you may be an ornament unto those to whom you belong & arise up and crown them with power & by so doing you shall be crowned with honor in heaven & shall sit upon throne jud[g]ing them whom you are placed in authority of over in the world and shall be judged of God for all the responsbilitys that are conferred upon you
At a more convenient & appropriate season we will give you further information upon this subject
We are your humble servants in the bonds of the
Let that epistle be had as a private matter in your society & then we shall learn whether you are good masons—
Joseph Smith P. C. J. C. L.
Prst .
P.S. if the Lord be God serve him & if Baal [2 words illegible] [p. [4]]

Footnotes

  1. 1

    In the version copied into the minutes of the Relief Society, the salutation reads, “To the Hon., the President of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, Greeting.” (Relief Society Minute Book, [86], in Derr et al., First Fifty Years of Relief Society, 97.)  

    Derr, Jill Mulvay, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds. The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016.

  2. 2

    According to Wilford Woodruff, JS discussed secrecy in a 19 December 1841 discourse, stating: “The reason we do not have the secrets of the Lord revealed unto us is because we do not keep them but reveal them, we do not keep our own secrets but reveal our difficulties to the world even to our enemies then how would we keep the secrets of the Lord . . . I can keep a secret till dooms day.” On 15 March 1842 JS was initiated into Freemasonry, an organization whose ceremonies often included oaths of secrecy. (Discourse, 19 Dec. 1841; Authorization from Abraham Jonas, 15 Mar. 1842; Minutes, 15–16 Mar. 1842; JS, Journal, 15–16 Mar. 1842; Bernard, Light on Masonry, 20–21, 44–45, 61–63; Webb, Freemason’s Monitor, 250–251; Hardie, New Free-Mason’s Monitor, 63–64.)  

    Bernard, David. Light on Masonry: A Collection of All the Most Important Documents on the Subject of Speculative Free Masonry: Embracing the Reports of the Western Committees in relation to the Abduction of William Morgan, Proceedings of Conventions, Orations, Essays, &c. &c. with All the Degrees of the Order Conferred in a Master’s Lodge. . . . Utica, NY: William Williams, 1829.

    Webb, Thomas Smith. The Freemason’s Monitor; or, Illustrations of Masonry: In Two Parts. Salem, MA: Cushing and Appleton, 1818.

    Hardie, James. The New Free-Mason’s Monitor; or, Masonic Guide. For the Direction of Members of That Ancient and Honourable Fraternity, as Well as for the Information of Those, Who May Be Desirous of Becoming Acquainted with Its Principles. New York: George Long, 1819.

  3. 3

    See Revelation, 27 Feb. 1833 [D&C 89:4].  

  4. 4

    The version copied into the Relief Society Minute Book omits the qualifying phrase “unless it be by message del[iv]ered to you by our own mouth, by actual revelation & commandment.” (See Relief Society Minute Book, [87], in Derr et al., First Fifty Years of Relief Society, 98.)  

    Derr, Jill Mulvay, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds. The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016.

  5. 5

    See Isaiah 14:29; 30:6; and Book of Mormon, 1840 ed., 46 [1 Nephi 17:41].  

  6. 6

    The preceding list may be in reference to the titles of some of the men later accused of soliciting sex from women in Nauvoo. For example, John C. Bennett held the titles of assistant president in the First Presidency, major general of the Nauvoo Legion, and mayor of the city of Nauvoo, and William Smith was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (Sarah Miller, Testimony, 24 May 1842; Catherine Fuller Warren, Testimony, 25 May 1842, Testimonies in Nauvoo High Council Cases, May 1842, CHL.)  

    Testimonies in Nauvoo High Council Cases, May 1842. CHL.

  7. 7

    See Deuteronomy 8:3.  

  8. 8

    “Ornament” refers to “a person who enhances or adds distinction to his or her sphere, time, etc.” The word was used to describe a man or woman who was an asset to or model for society. (“Ornament,” in Oxford English Dictionary, 7:602.)  

    Oxford English Dictionary. Compact ed. 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971.

  9. 9

    TEXT: Possibly “honors”. The copy of the letter inscribed into the Relief Society Minute Book contains the word “honors” instead of “power.” (Relief Society Minute Book, [88], in Derr et al., First Fifty Years of Relief Society, 99.)  

    Derr, Jill Mulvay, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds. The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016.

  10. 10

    The phrase “over in the world” does not appear in the version copied into the Relief Society Minute Book. (See Relief Society Minute Book, [88], in Derr et al., First Fifty Years of Relief Society, 99.)  

    Derr, Jill Mulvay, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds. The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016.

  11. 11

    The abbreviation is missing a “D” and an “S” at the end. It stands for President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter [Day Saints]. (See Relief Society Minute Book, [88], in Derr et al., First Fifty Years of Relief Society, 99.)  

    Derr, Jill Mulvay, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds. The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016.

  12. 12

    The version of the letter copied into the Relief Society Minute Book also includes (copied) signatures of church leaders Hyrum Smith, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, and Vinson Knight. (See Relief Society Minute Book, [88], in Derr et al., First Fifty Years of Relief Society, 99.)  

    Derr, Jill Mulvay, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds. The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016.

  13. 13

    The Relief Society Minute Book copy of the letter reads, “P.S. If the Lord be God, serve him; but if baal, then serve him.” (Relief Society Minute Book, [88], in Derr et al., First Fifty Years of Relief Society, 99, underlining in original; see also 1 Kings 18:22.)  

    Derr, Jill Mulvay, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds. The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016.