Motto, circa 16 or 17 March 1838

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Motto of the .
The Constitution of our country formed by the Fathers of Liberty.
Peace and good order in society Love to God and good will to man.
All good and wholesome Law’s; And virtue and truth above all things
And Aristarchy live forever!!!
But Wo to tyrants, Mobs, Aristocracy, Anarchy and Toryism: And all those who invent or seek out unrighteous and vexatious lawsuits under the pretext or color of law or office, either religious or political.
Exalt the standard of Democracy! Down [p. 16] with that of , and let all the people say Amen! that the blood of our Fathers may not cry from the ground against us.
Sacred is the Memory of that Blood which baught for us our liberty.
Signed Joseph Smith Jr.
[p. 17]


  1. 1

    See Luke 2:14.  

  2. 2

    Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines aristarchy as “a body of good men in power, or government by excellent men.” (“Aristarchy,” in American Dictionary.)  

    An American Dictionary of the English Language: Intended to Exhibit, I. the Origin, Affinities and Primary Signification of English Words, as far as They Have Been Ascertained. . . . Edited by Noah Webster. New York: S. Converse, 1828.

  3. 3

    JS’s sentiments are best understood in light of the brutal expulsion of the Latter-day Saints from Jackson County, Missouri, in 1833 and the internal and external conflicts at Kirtland. After JS and Sidney Rigdon were attacked by a mob in Hiram, Ohio, in 1832, they and other Saints in northeastern Ohio were confronted with numerous threats and some instances of mobbing and other violence.a Wording in the motto was echoed in JS’s letter of 29 March 1838, identifying JS’s former scribe Warren Parrish and other Kirtland dissenters, many of whom had been excommunicated, as “Aristocrats or Anarchys.”b Parrish’s group had held meetings to renounce JS and his teachings, and for months they had attempted to control meetings in the House of the Lord in Kirtland, even resorting to violence.c Use of Tory or Toryism in this context refers to what might be called “resident enemy sympathizers.”d Sampson Avard later testified that in October 1838, during the Mormon conflict in Missouri, JS stated that Saints in Caldwell County who “did not take arms in defence of the Mormons of Davi[es]s should be considered as tories, and should take their exit from the county.”e  

    Parkin, Max H. “Conflict at Kirtland: A Study of the Nature and Causes of External and Internal Conflict of the Mormons in Ohio between 1830 and 1838.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1966.

    Adams, Dale W. “Grandison Newell’s Obsession.” Journal of Mormon History 30 (Spring 2004): 159–188.

    An American Dictionary of the English Language: Intended to Exhibit, I. the Origin, Affinities and Primary Signification of English Words, as far as They Have Been Ascertained. . . . Edited by Noah Webster. New York: S. Converse, 1828.

    (aParkin, “Conflict at Kirtland,” 248–263; Adams, “Grandison Newell’s Obsession,” 170–172, 177–180.bSee Letter to the Presidency in Kirtland, 29 Mar. 1838.cParkin, “Conflict at Kirtland,” 314–317.d“Tory,” and “Toryism,” in American Dictionary.eSampson Avard, Testimony, Richmond, MO, Nov. 1838, p. [5], State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Treason and Other Crimes [Mo. 5th Jud. Cir. 1838], in State of Missouri, “Evidence.”)
  4. 4

    Eber D. Howe, editor of the Painesville (OH) Telegraph, later recounted, “Many of our citizens thought it advisable to take all the legal means within their reach to counteract the progress of so dangerous an enemy in their midst, and many law suits ensued.” A campaign of legal harassment against JS had been waged under the direction of Grandison Newell, a Mentor, Ohio, businessman. Ohio had a law intended “to prevent frivolous and vexatious suits,” which applied in cases such as “malicious prosecutions” for which the damages were judged to be less than five dollars. (Howe, Autobiography and Recollections, 45; Petition to Arial Hanson, 7 Nov. 1836; Walker, “Kirtland Safety Society,” 32–148; Backman, Heavens Resound, 321–323; An Act to Prevent Frivolous and Vexatious Suits [19 Dec. 1821], Acts of a General Nature [1821–1822], chap. 2; for the impact of Newell’s actions on JS, see Letter to the Presidency in Kirtland, 29 Mar. 1838.)  

    Howe, Eber D. Autobiography and Recollections of a Pioneer Printer: Together with Sketches of the War of 1812 on the Niagara Frontier. Painesville, OH: Telegraph Steam Printing House, 1878.

    Walker, Jeffrey N. “The Kirtland Safety Society and the Fraud of Grandison Newell: A Legal Examination.” BYU Studies 54, no. 3 (2015): 33–147.

    Backman, Milton V., Jr. The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830–1838. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983.

    Acts of a General Nature, Passed at the First Session of the Twentieth General Assembly of the State of Ohio, Begun and Held in the Town of Columbus, December 3, 1821; and in the Twentieth Year of Said State. Columbus: P. H. Olmsted, 1822.

  5. 5

    See Genesis 4:10–11; and Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 113, 473 [2 Nephi 28:10; 3 Nephi 9:11].  

  6. 6

    Robinson was appointed general church recorder and clerk in Kirtland in September 1837 and again in Missouri on 6 April 1838. (Minutes, 17 Sept. 1837–A; Minutes, 6 Apr. 1838.)  

  7. 7

    Marsh, Patten, and Young were the three most senior members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. After the Zion presidency was deposed in February 1838, Marsh and Patten were appointed presidents pro tempore. Young, who arrived in Missouri at or about the same time as JS, was appointed to the new Zion presidency on 6 April 1838. JS’s brother Samuel Smith, who had been a member of the Kirtland high council, was with JS when JS conceived the motto. Hinkle and Corrill were Missouri church officials. (Letter from Thomas B. Marsh, 15 Feb. 1838; Minutes, 6 Apr. 1838.)