Letter to Moses Nickerson, 19 November 1833

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

, Geauga County, Ohio, Nov. 19, 1833.
, We on the 4th ult[imo] after a fateagueing journey, during which time we [p. 62] were blessed with health as usual. We parted with and mother Nickerson at , they were both in good health, and expressed a degree of satisfaction for the prosperity and blessings of their journey. Since our arrival here, has been afflicted with sore eyes, which is probably the reason why you have not previously heard from us, as he was calculating to write you immediately. But, though I expect that he will undoubtedly write you soon, as his eyes are considerably better, yet lest you should be impatient to learn something concerning us, I have thought that perhaps a few lines from me, though there may be a lack of fluency in address according to the literati of the age, may be received with a degree of satisfaction on your part, at least, when you call to mind the near relation with which we are united by the everlasting ties of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We found our families, and the in this place, well, generally: nothing of consequence transpires while we were abscent, except the death of one of our brethren, a young man of great worth as a private citizen among us, the loss of whom we justly mourn. We are favored with frequent intelligence from different sections of our country, respecting the progress of the gospel, and our prayers are daily to our Father, that it may greatly prevail <​spread​>, even till all nations shall hear the glorious news and come to a knowledge of the truth.
We have received letters from our breth[r]en in of late, but we cannot tell from their contents the probable extent that those persons who are desirous to expel them from that country, will carry their unlawful and unrighteous purposes. Our breth[r]en have applied to the of that State, who has promised them all the assistance that the civil law can give; and in all probability with us, a suit has been commenced ere this.
We are informed, however, that those persons are very violent, and threaten immediate excision upon all those who profess this faith doctrine. How far they will [p. 63] be suffered to execute their threats we know not, but we trust in the Lord, and leave the event with him to govern in his own wise providence.
I shall expect a communication from you on the reception of this, and hope you will give me information concerning the brethren, their health, faith, &c. Also inform me concerning our friends with whom we formed acquaintance.
You are aware, no doubt, dear brother, that anxieties inexpresible croud themselves continually upon my mind for the saints, when I consider the many temptations with which we are subject from the cunning and flattery of the great adversary of our souls. And I can truely say, that with much fervency I have called upon the Lord in behalf of our brethren in . And when I call to mind with what rediness they received the word of truth by the ministry of and myself, I am truely under great obligation to humble myself in thankfulness before him.
When I contemplate the rapidity with which the great and glorious day of the coming of the Son of Man advances, when he shall come to receive his saints unto himself where they shall dwell in his presence and be crowned with glory & immortality; when I consider that soon the heavens are to be shaken, and the earth tremble and reel to and fro; and <​that​> the heavens are to be unfolded as a scroll when it is folded <​rolled​> up, that every mountain and island are to flee away <​away​> I cry out in my heart, What manner of person ought I to be in all holy conversasion and godliness!
You remember the testimony which I bore in the name of the Lord Jesus, concerning the great work which he has brought forth in the last days. You know my manner of communication, how that in weakness and simpleness I declared to you what the Lord had brought forth by the ministering of his holy angels to me, for this generation. I pray that the Lord may enable you to treasure these things up in your mind; for I know that his Spirit will bear testimony to all who seek diligently after knowledge [p. 64] from him. I hope you will search the scriptures, to see whether these things are not also consistant with those things that the ancient prophets and apostles have written.
I remember and , Ranson also, and , and little Charles, with all the brethren and sisters. I intreat for an interest in all your prayers before the throne of mercy in the name of Jesus. I hope that the Lord will grant that I may see you all again, and above all that we may overcome and set down together in the Kingdom of our Father.
We contemplate with much pleasure a visit from you next spring, <​and before if consistant with your business,​> and hope we shall not be disappointed. So I close, by subscribing myself your brother in the bonds of the gospel,
(Signed) Joseph Smith Jr.
PS. I said that and mother Nickerson were well when we parted with them at , but you will recollect that ’s eyes <​were​> very sore while at your place: when we left him they were not well but considerably improved. J. [p. 65]


  1. 1

    JS appears to have mistakenly written “ult.” instead of “instant.” “Ultimo” would indicate that he arrived in Kirtland sometime the previous month. He and Rigdon, however, arrived in Kirtland on 4 November 1833. (See JS, Journal, 1–4 Nov. 1833.)  

  2. 2

    JS, Rigdon, Freeman Nickerson, and Freeman’s wife, Huldah Chapman Nickerson, left Mount Pleasant on 29 October 1833. JS and Rigdon arrived in Kirtland six days later, having traveled approximately 250 miles. (See JS, Journal, 29 Oct. and 1–4 Nov. 1833.)  

  3. 3

    At Buffalo, New York, on 1 November, JS and Rigdon separated from the Nickersons because the home of Freeman and Huldah Chapman Nickerson in Perrysburg, New York, lay inland to the south, while Kirtland, Ohio, where JS and Rigdon were traveling, was to the southwest and could be reached either by boat on Lake Erie or by a road that skirted the lake. One account reported that “it was decided that the Prophet and Elder Rigdon should return by crossing Lake Erie, Freeman giving them the money to do so.” (Gates, Lydia Knight’s History, 22.)  

    Gates, Susa Young [Homespun, pseud.]. Lydia Knight’s History. Noble Women’s Lives Series 1. Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1883.

  4. 4

    By 29 December 1833, Sidney Rigdon had not yet written to Moses Nickerson. (See Moses Nickerson, Wendhom, Canada, to [Sidney Rigdon], 29 Dec. 1833, in The Evening and the Morning Star, Feb. 1834, 134.)  

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

  5. 5

    JS often noted shortcomings in his writing ability. In a letter written two months earlier, for instance, he addressed “a few though imperfect lines” to his uncle Silas Smith. (Letter to Silas Smith, 26 Sept. 1833; see also Letter to Emma Smith, 6 June 1832; and Letter to Noah C. Saxton, 4 Jan. 1833.)  

  6. 6

    On 12 October 1833, a week into his and Sidney Rigdon’s mission to Canada, JS dictated a revelation that reassured them that their families were in the Lord’s hands. After returning to Kirtland, JS wrote in his journal that he found his “family all well according to the promise of the Lord.” (Revelation, 12 Oct. 1833 [D&C 100:1]; JS, Journal, 1–4 Nov. 1833.)  

  7. 7

    Frederick G. Williams wrote that temple construction had ceased in JS’s absence, an event that would have been of some importance to JS. (Frederick G. Williams, Kirtland, OH, to “Dear Brethren,” 10 Oct. 1833, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 56–60.)  

  8. 8

    The man who died was probably David Johnson. At age twenty-three, Johnson died on 31 October 1833 after being ill for five weeks. He had converted to the Church of Christ two years earlier. (Obituary for David Johnson, The Evening and the Morning Star, Dec. 1833, 117.)  

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

  9. 9

    In the December edition of The Evening and the Morning Star, editor Oliver Cowdery noted that church leaders in Kirtland had recently received “several communications from the elders abroad concerning the prosperity and spread of the gospel.” (Editorial, The Evening and the Morning Star, Dec. 1833, 120.)  

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

  10. 10

    See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 212–213, 290 [Mosiah 27:14; Alma 23:15].  

  11. 11

    The week before JS wrote the letter featured here, Oliver Cowdery expressed similar concerns, stating, “We have received some letters from our brethren in Missouri but it is hard to draw from them anything decisive as to the probable length that those depredators will go in their acts of wickedness and barbarity.” JS may have been referring to letters that are no longer extant. It is also possible that he was referring to the 30 October letter sent to church leaders in Kirtland from Missouri that described the increasing threats from the mob to expel the Mormons from Jackson County, Missouri. The first written indication JS received of intentions to expel the Mormons from Jackson County was in a letter sent to Kirtland by John Whitmer in July 1833. The threatened expulsion occurred just two weeks before JS wrote the 19 November letter featured here, but given the typical three to four weeks required for mail to travel between Independence, Missouri, and Kirtland, Ohio, JS was likely not aware of the expulsion or of the week of violence that led to it when he penned this letter. (See Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland Mills, OH, to Samuel Bent, [Michigan Territory], 12 Nov. 1833, Cowdery, Letterbook, 10; Letter, 30 Oct. 1833; and Letter from John Whitmer, 29 July 1833.)  

    Cowdery, Oliver. Letterbook, 1833–1838. Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

  12. 12

    On 28 September 1833, church members in Missouri, including Edward Partridge, William W. Phelps, Isaac Morley, John Corrill, Sidney Gilbert, and John Whitmer, wrote to Governor Daniel Dunklin detailing the July hostilities against the Mormons and asking him for help. They concluded their letter with an appeal to the governor, “asking him by express proclamation, or otherwise, to raise a sufficient number of troops, who, with us, may be empowered to defend our rights, that we may sue for damages in the loss of property.” The petitioners expressed hope “that the law of the land may not be defied, nor nulified, but peace restored to our country.” (“To His Excellency, Daniel Dunklin,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Dec. 1833, 115, italics in original.)  

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

  13. 13

    In a letter dated 19 October 1833, Governor Dunklin told church leaders in Missouri, “I should think myself unworthy the confidence with which I have been honored by my fellow citizens did I not promptly employ all the means which the Constitution & laws have placed at my disposal to avert the calamity with which you are threatened.” After consulting with the state’s attorney general, the governor advised to Mormons “to make a trial of the efficacy of the laws” by taking their cases before the local circuit judge. If such a course failed, Dunklin wrote, “my duty will require me to take such steps as will enforce a faithful execution” of the law. (Daniel Dunklin, Jefferson City, MO, to Edward Partridge et al., 19 Oct. 1833, William W. Phelps, Collection of Missouri Documents, CHL.)  

    Phelps, William W. Collection of Missouri Documents, 1833–1837. CHL. MS 657.

  14. 14

    See Historical Introduction to Letter, 30 Oct. 1833.  

  15. 15

    Six days after this letter was written, Orson Hyde and John Gould arrived in Kirtland from Jackson County and “brough[t] the melencholly intelegen [intelligence] of the riot in Zion” that drove the Mormons from Jackson County. (JS, Journal, 25 Nov. 1833.)  

  16. 16

    On 29 December 1833, Moses Nickerson wrote a letter to Sidney Rigdon giving an update on the church at Mount Pleasant. He told Rigdon that “your friends in Canada often speak of you and brother Joseph.” (Moses Nickerson, Wendhom, Canada, to [Sidney Rigdon], 29 Dec. 1833, in The Evening and the Morning Star, Feb. 1834, 134.)  

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

  17. 17

    See Acts 17:11. In his journal, JS described the people of the Mount Pleasant area as “very attentive” and “deeply impressed,” adding that “great excitement prevailes in every place where we have been.” A later history also noted that at one service presided over by JS and Rigdon in Mount Pleasant, “a large and attentive audience listened to all that was said, and at the close of the meeting several persons came forward and requested baptism.” (JS, Journal, 20–25 and 27–28 Oct. 1833; Gates, Lydia Knight’s History, 20.)  

    Gates, Susa Young [Homespun, pseud.]. Lydia Knight’s History. Noble Women’s Lives Series 1. Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1883.

  18. 18

    JS interpreted the recent and spectacular display of the Leonid meteor shower on 13 November 1833 as a confirmation of his millenarian expectations. He wrote that early that morning he “arrose and beheld to my great Joy the stars fall from heaven yea they fell like hail stones a litteral fullfillment of the word of God as recorded in the holy scriptures and a sure sign that the coming of Christ is clost at hand.” (JS, Journal, 5–13 Nov. 1833; see also Matthew 24:29; Revelation 6:12–13; and Revelation, Sept. 1830–A [D&C 29:14].)  

  19. 19

    See Revelation, 25 Jan. 1832–A [D&C 75:5].  

  20. 20

    See Isaiah 24:20; and Revelation, 7 May 1831 [D&C 49:23].  

  21. 21

    See Revelation 6:14; and Isaiah 34:4; see also Revelation, 27–28 Dec. 1832 [D&C 88:95].  

  22. 22

    See 2 Peter 3:11.  

  23. 23

    A later account of JS’s preaching in Upper Canada stated that JS “told how the angel visited him, of his finding the plates, the translation of them, and gave a short account of the matter contained in the Book of Mormon. . . . The Prophet bore a faithful testimony that the Priesthood was again restored to the earth, and that God and His Son had conferred upon him the keys.” (Gates, Lydia Knight’s History, 18.)  

    Gates, Susa Young [Homespun, pseud.]. Lydia Knight’s History. Noble Women’s Lives Series 1. Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1883.

  24. 24

    Some of the people listed here were baptized into the Church of Christ during JS and Sidney Rigdon’s proselytizing travels in Upper Canada. Fourteen people whom JS baptized in October 1833 are listed in JS’s journal, which helps identify “brother Freeman and Wife,” mentioned in the letter featured here, as Eleazer Freeman Nickerson and Eliza McAlister Nickerson; “Ranson” as possibly Richard Ransom Strobridge; and “sister Lydia” as Lydia Goldthwaite Bailey. “Little Charles” is unidentifiable. (See Retrospective Note regarding Baptisms, in JS, Journal, 1832–1834.)  

  25. 25

    Although he planned to go, it is not known if Moses Nickerson visited Kirtland in spring 1834. JS left Ohio that spring at the head of the Camp of Israel, traveling to Missouri to aid church members there. (Moses Nickerson, Wendhom, Canada, to [Sidney Rigdon], 29 Dec. 1833, in The Evening and the Morning Star, Feb. 1834, 134.)  

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

  26. 26

    This is the second mention of sore eyes in this letter. It appears that both Freeman Nickerson and Sidney Rigdon suffered from an eye ailment, but no documents indicate the particular affliction. Some nineteenth-century United States newspapers ran advertisements and testimonials for curing sore eyes. These ads often pitched a product called “Eye Water,” which was to remedy “weak, sore, or inflamed eyes.” These advertisements and physicians’ manuals of the early nineteenth century suggest that “sore eyes” was a general term for “acute and chronic inflammation” and for eye ailments “of almost every description.” (See, for example, “A Word to the Afflicted,” Huron Reflector [Norwalk, OH], 6 May 1834, [4]; “Dr. Thompson’s Celebrated Eye Water,” Daily National Intelligencer [Washington DC], 14 June 1828, [2].)  

    Huron Reflector. Norwalk, OH. 1830–1852.

    Daily National Intelligencer. Washington DC. 1800–1869.