JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to the Quorum of the Twelve, , 15 Dec. 1840; handwriting of ; signature of JS; eight pages; JS Collection, CHL. Includes dockets and notations.
Bifolium measuring 12¼ × 7¾ inches (31 × 20 cm) when folded. The text was cross-written: wrote horizontally on the first three pages and then returned to the first page and began writing up the page at a right angle, continuing this cross-writing through the recto of the second leaf. In other words, six pages of text were inscribed on one and a half leaves of the document. The document was then trifolded in letter style, with the blank fourth page on the outside, thereby creating an address panel in the middle of the fourth page, with flaps above and beneath the panel. Thompson inscribed text on those two flaps (which together constitute page  of the document), then added a postscript and addressing at a right angle over the initial writing (page ). Thompson wrote “To the ‘Twelve’” on the address panel. The document was trifolded again in letter style. Folding and wear indicate this was the sent copy. The letter was refolded for filing twice, and each time a docket was added. The earliest docket was written by ; the second docket was written in an unknown hand. Andrew Jenson inscribed two notations.
The dockets and the inclusion of the document in a later inventory suggest this letter was in the custody of the Church Historian’s Office by the mid-nineteenth century. In 1973 the document was included as part of the JS Collection.
“Index to Papers in the Historian’s Office,” ca. 1904, draft, 5; “Index to Papers in the Historian’s Office,” ca. 1904, 5, Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL. The circa 1904 Historian’s Office inventories listed this item as “President Joseph Smith to the Twelve (published under date of Oct. 19, 1840),” reflecting that the letter had been misdated when transcribed into the multivolume manuscript history of the church and subsequently published under that date in the Deseret News. (See JS History, vol. C-1, 1115–1119; and “History of Joseph Smith,” Deseret News [Salt Lake City], 26 Oct. 1854, .)
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.
Johnson, Register to the Joseph Smith Collection, 8; see also the full bibliographic entry for the JS Collection in the CHL catalog.
Johnson, Jeffery O. Register of the Joseph Smith Collection in the Church Archives, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1973.
On 15 December 1840, JS wrote a letter to the members of the then serving a mission in . At the time of this letter, eight of the eleven apostles then making up the were in Great Britain. Seven—, , , , , , and —departed , Illinois, in 1839, and one——was an apostle in April 1840 while in England. and were expected to pass through Great Britain in the coming months on their mission to the Jews in Europe and Palestine, and considered himself too poor to make the journey.
By the time of this letter, membership in had increased to over thirty-five hundred. Under the apostles’ direction, missionaries had been sent to Scotland, Ireland, Australia, and the East Indies. The apostles had also published a hymnal and several issues of a new monthly periodical, the Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star. They additionally had made significant progress toward republishing the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon. Since leaving , the apostles had written several letters to JS and received one known letter from him in return, dated 19 July 1840.
While JS acknowledged the multiple unanswered letters he had received from the Twelve, he seems to have written this 15 December letter in response to a series of questions and posed in a 5 September 1840 letter. JS responded to what he considered the most pertinent questions, particularly those that asked about the timing of the Twelve’s return to , Illinois; the publication of the scriptures in Great Britain; and the migration of British Saints to Nauvoo. Additionally, JS shared local news, reporting on the plans for the Nauvoo , efforts to get the legislature to pass the Nauvoo city charter, the death of , and recent conversions. He also briefly instructed the apostles on for the dead, a practice instituted the previous August and September in Nauvoo, making this the earliest firsthand source from JS to explain this teaching.
The letter is in the handwriting of . The lack of postage markings suggests that it was hand carried rather than mailed to Great Britain. The apostles received the letter by 30 March 1841. A significant excerpt was published in the 1 January 1841 issue of the Times and Seasons and then was reprinted in the Millennial Star in March 1841.
JS first spoke on baptism for the dead on 15 August 1840. The first baptisms for the dead occurred in the Mississippi River as early as 13 September 1840. (Jane Harper Neyman and Vienna Jaques, Statement, 29 Nov. 1854, Historian’s Office, JS History Documents, ca. 1839–1860, CHL; Simon Baker, “15 Aug. 1840 Minutes of Recollection of Joseph Smith’s Sermon,” JS Collection, CHL.)
Historian’s Office. Joseph Smith History Documents, 1839–1860. CHL. CR 100 396.
Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL. MS 155.
If should wish to remain in , for some time longer than the rest of the , he will feel himself at liberty to do so; as he his family are with him Consequently his circumstances are somewhat different to the rest, and likewise it is necessary that some one should remain who is conversant with the rules, regulations &c & of the And continue the paper which is published; consequently taking all these things into consideration I would not press upon to return in the spring.
I am happy to inform you that we are prospering in this place, and that the saints are more healthy than formerly, and from the decrease of sickness this season, when compared with the last, I am led to the conclusion that this, must eventually become a healthy place.
There are at present about 3000 inhabitants in , and numbers are flocking in daily; severeal have been set off in different parts of the country , which are in prospering circumstances. Provisions are much lower than when you left. Flour is worth about four dollars per barrel, corn 25 20 cents per bushel; Pottatoes about 20 cents. and other things in about the same proportion. There has been a very plentiful harvest indeed, throughout the .
You will observe by the “Times & Season” that we are about building a for the worship of our God in this place; preparations are now making, every tenth day is devoted by the brethren here, for quarrying rock &c &. we have secured one of the most lovely sites for it that there is in this region of Country. It is expected to be considerably larger and on <a> more magnificent scale than the in and which will undoubtedly attract the attentio[n] of the great men of the <earth> We have a bill before the Legislature for the incorporation of the City of Nauvoo for the establishment of a Seminary and other purposes, which I expect will pass in a short time.
You will also have received intelligence of the death of my , which event altho painful to the family and to the church generally, yet the sealing testimony of the truth of the work of the Lord was indeed satisfactory; the particulars of his death &c you will find in the Sepr. number of the “Times and seasons” succeeds him as of the Church, according to his last directions and benedictions.
Several persons of emminece [eminence] and distinction in society, have joined the Church, and [p. ]
Realizing he would need to stay in England significantly longer than the rest of the Twelve in order to manage the church’s publishing efforts, Pratt requested shortly after his arrival in England on 6 April 1840 that his family join him. After learning that members of his family had contracted scarlet fever, Pratt traveled to New York and escorted them to England, arriving in October 1840. Pratt’s family consisted of his wife, Mary Ann Frost Pratt; his sister-in-law, Olive Frost; his stepdaughter, Mary Ann Stearns, age seven; and his two sons, Parley Parker Pratt Jr. and Nathan Pratt, ages three and two. (Parley P. Pratt, Liverpool, England, to Mary Ann Frost Pratt, New York City, NY, 6 Apr. 1840, Parley P. Pratt, Papers, CHL; Pratt, Autobiography, 342–343; “Records of Early Church Families,” Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 27 [July 1936]: 106, 109; Woodruff, Journal, 7 July 1840.)
Pratt, Parley P. Papers, 1837–1844. CHL.
Pratt, Parley P. The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, One of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Embracing His Life, Ministry and Travels, with Extracts, in Prose and Verse, from His Miscellaneous Writings. Edited by Parley P. Pratt Jr. New York: Russell Brothers, 1874.
“Records of Early Church Families.” Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 27 (July 1936): 102–116.
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
The mortality rate in Nauvoo in 1840 had decreased since the previous year. While the community had increased by an estimated seven hundred since 1839, there were only two additional deaths recorded in 1840. (Ivie and Heiner, “Deaths in Early Nauvoo,” 165, 171.)
Ivie, Evan L., and Douglas C. Heiner. “Deaths in Early Nauvoo, 1839–46, and Winter Quarters, 1846–48.” Religious Educator 10, no. 3 (2009): 163–173.
The temple was “situated on the brow of the most prominant part of the bluff, which extends a short distance in the advance of the bluff, either to the right or to the left so that it commands a complete view of the majestic river for several miles, both north and south; and completely overlooks the flat which constitutes the western part of the city, and is so curiously formed by the extraordinary bend of the river.” (Benjamin Winchester, Nauvoo, IL, to Lorenzo Snow, 12 Nov. 1841, in Times and Seasons, 15 Nov. 1841, 3:605.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
An August 1833 revelation provided the dimensions for the House of the Lord in Kirtland, Ohio: “It shall be fifty five by sixty five in the width thereof and in the length therof— in the inne[r] court.” On 6 October 1840, Phebe Carter Woodruff reported the proposed dimensions of the Nauvootemple were “100 feet by 120.” (Revelation, 2 Aug. 1833–B [D&C 94:4]; Phebe Carter Woodruff, Lee Co., Iowa Territory, to Wilford Woodruff, 6–19 Oct. 1840, digital scan, Wilford Woodruff, Collection, CHL; see also Discourse, ca. 19 July 1840.)
Woodruff, Wilford. Collection, 1831–1905. CHL. MS 19509.
“A Seminary” refers to the planned “University of the City of Nauvoo.” Webster’s 1841 dictionary defined a seminary as “a place of education; any school, academy, college or university, in which young persons are instructed in the several branches of learning.” (Act to Incorporate the City of Nauvoo, 16 Dec. 1840; “Seminary,” in American Dictionary , 739–740.)
An American Dictionary of the English Language; Exhibiting the Origin, Orthography, Pronunciation, and Definitions of Words. Edited by Noah Webster. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1845.
A funeral sermon given for Joseph Smith Sr., who died 14 September 1840, was included in the September 1840 issue of the Times and Seasons. (Robert B. Thompson, “An Address Delivered at the Funeral of Joseph Smith Sen.,” Times and Seasons, Sept. 1840, 1:170–173.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.