Letter from William W. Phelps, with Appended Letter from Orson Hyde and John E. Page, 29 June 1840
, Letter, , Montgomery Co., OH, to JS, [, Hancock Co., IL], 29 June 1840, with appended letter from and , [, Montgomery Co., OH], to JS, , and , [, Hancock Co., IL], 29 June 1840. Featured version copied [ca. 22 July 1840] in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 155–157; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 2.
On 29 June 1840, wrote a letter to JS asking to be forgiven for past transgressions and to have his membership restored. Phelps had been one of the church’s leading figures for several years, serving as a printer and as a member of the church in . In 1837 and 1838, however, he clashed with other church leaders, mainly over issues with church finances and the sale and control of land in and counties, Missouri. In March 1838, he was excommunicated. Sometime thereafter his membership was restored, and a July 1838 revelation stated that if he was to be saved he should be an and sent out to preach. But Phelps evidently continued to have difficulties with the church. In November 1838, during hearings held in , Missouri, for JS and other church leaders charged with treason, Phelps testified against the men, stating, among other things, that they intended to kill any sheriff trying to serve writs on them and that they wanted to declare the church independent from earthly governments. Phelps was again excommunicated in March 1839.
’s testimony and excommunication created hard feelings on both sides. In December 1838, JS called Phelps and other dissenters from the church “so very ignorant that they cannot appear respectable in any decent and civilized society” and accused the dissenters of having eyes “full of adultery.” Phelps wrote disparagingly of church leaders in a May 1839 letter to his wife, , stating the were unable to see “the saw log in their own eyes while they are endeavoring to pull the slab out of the neighboring nations.” Despite the contention, in spring 1839, Phelps offered to sell a mill in on behalf of JS told Phelps to mind his “own affairs” because JS had “already experienced much over officiousness at your [Phelps’s] hand.”
By summer 1840, ’s views toward the church had softened. Having relocated to , Ohio, Phelps followed the counsel of apostles and , who were preaching in the area, and wrote this 29 June 1840 letter, expressing contrition for his past actions and seeking forgiveness. Hyde and Page appended a note to Phelps’s letter, explaining to JS and his counselors in the that they believed Phelps’s repentance to be genuine. The original letter has not been located, but JS received it and wrote a reply to Phelps on 22 July 1840, accepting Phelps’s apology. At some point around 22 July 1840, copied both letters into JS Letterbook 2.
William W. Phelps, Testimony, Richmond, MO, Nov. 1838, State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Treason and Other Crimes (Mo. 5th Jud. Cir. 1838), in State of Missouri, “Evidence.”
Missouri, State of. “Evidence.” Hearing Record, Richmond, MO, 12–29 Nov. 1838, State of Missouri v. Joseph Smith et al. for Treason and Other Crimes (Mo. 5th Cir. Ct. 1838). Eugene Morrow Violette Collection, 1806–1921, Western Historical Manuscript Collection. University of Missouri and State Historical Society of Missouri, Ellis Library, University of Missouri, Columbia.
whenever the Lord brings us together again, IwillmakealltheSatisfaction, oneverypointthatsaintsorGod can require. Amen.
Prst Joseph Smith. )
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]
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.
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.
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.)