JS, Letter, , Chester Co., PA, to the editor of [Register and Examiner, West Chester, Chester Co., PA], 22 Jan. 1840; handwriting of ; signature of JS; four pages; private possession; photocopy in James C. Hayward, Collection, CHL.
The photocopy indicates that the original document has tears and breaks that have been mended by what appears to be clear cellophane tape. By 1977 the original document was held by James C. Hayward of Logan, Utah, but it is not clear how he obtained it. The photocopy was acquired by the Church Historical Department in 1983 from a document dealer and collector.
See the full bibliographic entry for James C. Hayward, Collection, ca. 1836–1889, in the CHL catalog; JS, Brandywine, PA, Letter to Editor, 22 Jan. 1840, photocopy, not after 1982, copy in editors’ possession; Jessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 493; and JS, Brandywine, PA, Letter to Editor, 22 Jan. 1840, photocopy, ca. 1983, copy in editors’ possession.
Smith, Joseph. Letter to the Editor of Register and Examiner, Brandywine, PA, 22 Jan. 1840. Photocopy, not after 1982. Copy in editors’ possession.
Jessee, Dean C., ed. and comp. The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith. Rev. ed. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book; Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 2002.
Smith, Joseph. Letter to the Editor of Register and Examiner, Brandywine, PA, 22 Jan. 1840. Photocopy, ca. 1983. Copy in editors’ possession.
On 22 January 1840, JS composed a letter to the editor of an unnamed newspaper. Although it did not specify to which newspaper or editor it was directed, the letter appeared in the Register and Examiner, a newspaper published in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and edited by Joseph Painter, who was described as “an able writer and first-class business man.” The letter copied almost verbatim a statement of the ’ beliefs regarding government and laws that was first published in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. In this letter, JS changed the statement’s point of view from “we” to “I” and at the end added some information not present in the original statement. At the time he composed the letter, JS was in , Pennsylvania; three days after the date of the letter, he attended an ’ for the Brandywine .
JS stated he was sending the letter to counteract “many false rumors” about him and the church. By the time JS visited the area, church missionaries had been preaching in , Pennsylvania, for approximately a year. Although they over fifty people in a relatively short period of time, they also encountered opposition. Local resident later stated that church members were called “a terable” and “dangerous people” by Chester County citizens in 1839. In spring 1840, a “Philanthropist of Chester County” published a pamphlet that attempted to refute the Book of Mormon and the church’s interpretation of the Bible. According to one source, the pamphlet contained “falsehoods, misrepresentations, foul insinuations, wholesale abuse and slander of the doctrines and characters of the Latter Day Saints.”
Because he expressed in this 22 January letter his belief that governments were obliged to protect citizens in their exercise of religion, JS may have wanted the letter published to try to influence the public to take up the Saints’ cause of obtaining redress for their expulsion from in 1838 and 1839. JS may have directed others to send similar statements to additional newspapers. In April 1840, the Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer published a letter “received several weeks since” from a “B. D.” of Tazewell County, Illinois. This letter also reproduced the statement on government from the Doctrine and Covenants.
JS’s letter was published in the 11 February 1840 issue of the Register and Examiner. The text featured here is the manuscript version of the letter; because JS signed it, this letter may have been the same version that was sent to the Register and Examiner. However, the published letter contains some minor differences from the manuscript version, including a different date, suggesting that the featured version might be a draft of what was eventually sent. Editorial changes in the text were apparently incorporated into the printed letter, although there are some instances (noted herein) where the published letter follows the text of the statement on government in the Doctrine and Covenants rather than the text of the manuscript letter. The Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper in Boston, reprinted the letter in its 21 February 1840 issue without any commentary.
Futhey and Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania, 331, 671–672. As editor of the Register and Examiner, Painter “took advanced ground in favor of the cause of temperance, and was strongly anti-slavery.” He served as an agent for the Underground Railroad.
Futhey, J. Smith, and Gilbert Cope. History of Chester County, Pennsylvania, with Genealogical and Biographical Sketches. Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881.
Lorenzo Barnes, Philadelphia, PA, 29 Jan. 1840, Letter to the Editor, Times and Seasons, Mar. 1840, 1:79. JS may have been at the home of Edward Hunter, a prosperous resident of Chester County who joined the church later in 1840 and who remembered JS coming to his house when JS visited the area. (Hunter, Edward Hunter, 316–317.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
Hunter, William E. Edward Hunter: Faithful Steward. [Salt Lake City]: Mrs. William E. Hunter, 1970.
Benjamin Winchester, Payson, IL, 18 June 1839, Letter to the Editor, Times and Seasons, Nov. 1839, 1:11; Lorenzo Barnes, Philadelphia, PA, 29 Jan. 1840, Letter to the Editor, Times and Seasons, Mar. 1840, 1:79; Lorenzo Barnes, Wilmington, DE, 8 Sept. 1839, Letter to the Editor, Times and Seasons, Dec. 1839, 1:27–28; see also Orson Pratt to Sarah Marinda Bates Pratt, 6 Jan. 1840, in Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, 1:61.
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
Snow, E. Snow’s Reply to the Self-Styled Philanthropist of Chester County, 1. This anonymously authored pamphlet was published as Mormonism Unmasked, Showed to Be an Impious Imposture, and Mr. Bennett’s Reply Answered and Refuted. By a Philanthropist of Chester County (Philadelphia: T. K. and P. G. Collins, 1840).
Snow, Erastus. E. Snow’s Reply to the Self-Styled Philanthropist, of Chester County. No publisher, 1840.
“The Mormons,” Peoria (IL) Register and North-Western Gazetteer, 24 Apr. 1840, . “B. D.” was likely Benjamin Dobson, listed in the 1840 census as a resident of Tazewell County. Dobson was baptized in 1836. (“The Mormons for Harrison,” Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer, 17 Apr. 1840, ; 1840 U.S. Census, Tazewell Co., IL, 16; “Mormonism,” Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer, 29 June 1839, ; “Obituary,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Jan. 1877, 15.)
Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer. Peoria, IL. 1837–1843.
Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.
“The Latter Day Saints,” Liberator (Boston), 21 Feb. 1840, 32.
Liberator. Boston. 1831–1865.
Chester Co Pa Jan. 22d 1840
Faith of the on Governments and Laws in general
Mr Editor Sir
For as much as many false rumors are a broad in the world concerning my self and the faith which I profess and that my belief with regard to Earthly governments and laws in general may not be miss interpreted nor miss understood I have thought proper to present for your consideration and for the consideration of the public (if you will do me the favour.) through your valuable and interesting paper my opinions concerning the same
First I believe that goverments were instituted of God for the benefit of man and that he holds men accountable for their their acts in relation to them Either in making laws or administering them for the good and Safety of Society
<Secondly> I believe that no goverment can exist in peace except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscince the right and controll of property and the protection of life
<Third> <I> We believe that all governments necessarily require civel officers and magistrates to inforce the Laws of the Same and that such as will administer the Law <of the Same> in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people (if a republick) or the will of the Sovreign
<Fourth> I believe that a religion is instiuted instituted of God and that men are ameniable to him <and to him onley> onley for the exercise of it unless their religious opinion prompts them to infringe upon the rights and <libertey> privalegs<privaleges> of others But I do not believe that human Law has a right to interfear in prescribing rules of worship to bind the conciences of men nor dictate forms for public or private devotion That the civel magistrate should restrane crime but never controll conscience should punish guilt but never supress the freedom of the <soul> [p. ]
The published version of the letter replaces “for your consideration and for the consideration of the public (if you will do me the favour.) through your valuable and interesting paper” with “at the close of this volume,” matching the language in the introductory paragraph to “Of Governments and Laws in General” in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. (“The Latter Day Saints,” Register and Examiner [Chester Co., PA], 11 Feb. 1840, ; Declaration on Government and Law, ca. Aug. 1835 [D&C 134].)
Register and Examiner. West Chester, PA. 1836–1851.