Letter to the Elders of the Church, 16 November 1835
JS, Letter, , Geauga Co., OH, to “the elders of the church of the Latter Day Saints,” 16 Nov. 1835. Featured version published in “To the Elders of the Church of the Latter Day Saints,” Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, Nov. 1835, 2:209–212. For more complete source information, see the source note for Letter to Oliver Cowdery, Dec. 1834.
This letter to the of the is the second in a three-part series of open letters published in the September, November, and December 1835 issues of the church’s newspaper, the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. According to his journal, JS dictated a “letter for the Advocate” at his home on 16 November 1835, almost certainly referring to the installment featured here.
In this letter, JS again discussed the concept of , as he had in the letter published in the September issue. Building on the doctrinal foundation of repentance and outlined in the earlier letter and drawing heavily on biblical scripture, he asserted that the Latter-day Saints had begun fulfilling the commission to gather Israel to , a New Jerusalem, in preparation for the second coming of Jesus Christ. By this time, the Saints had been driven out of , Missouri, the revealed location for Zion, but JS explained that it would still be established by and for the “elect” of God.
This second letter also instructed the traveling elders to obtain permission from the head of household before preaching to children or wives so as not to engender conflict between husband and wife or parents and children. The letter advised the same caution in preaching to slaves and servants. JS also provided practical instruction to the elders based on his understanding of the Bible and on past problems encountered by Latter-day Saint missionaries. Finally, JS’s message encouraged the elders to provide a “warning voice” to all but to do so tactfully.
JS dictated this letter, probably to his scribe, . The original is no longer extant. After JS dictated this letter, printed it in the November issue of the Messenger and Advocate. In the last installment of his three-part instruction, written on 30 November and 1 December, JS continued to highlight the importance of gathering and further advised the traveling elders on contending against religious misrepresentation.
At the close of my letter in the September No. of the “Messenger and Advocate,” I promised to continue the subject there commenced: I do so with a hope that it may be a benefit and a means of assistance to the elders in their labors, while they are combatting the prejudices of a crooked and perverse generation, by having in their possession, the facts of my religious principles, which are misrepresented by almost all those whose crafts are in danger by the same; and also to aid those who are anxiously inquiring, and have been excited to do so from rumor, in accertaining correctly, what my principles are.
I have been drawn into this course of proceeding, by persecution, that is brought upon us from false rumor, and misrepresentations concerning my sentiments.
But to proceed, in the letter alluded to. The principles of repentance and for the remission of sins, are not only set forth, but many passages of scripture, were quoted, clearly illucidating the subject; let me add, that I do positively rely upon the truth and veracity of those principles inculcated in the new testament; and then pass from the above named items, on to the item or subject of the , and show my views upon this point: which is an item which I esteem to be of the greatest importance to those who are looking for salvation in this generation, or in these what may be called “the latter times,” as all the prophets that have written, from the days of righteous Abel down to the last man, that has left any testimony on record, for our consideration, in speaking of the salvation of Israel in the last days, goes directly to show, that it consists in the work of the gathering.
Firstly, I shall begin by quoting from the prophecy of Enoch, speaking of the last days: “Righteousness will I send down out of heaven, and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten, his resurrection from the dead, -[this resurrection I understand to be the corporeal body]- yea, and also the resurrection of all men, righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine own elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare; a holy city, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming: for there shall be my tabernacle; and it shall be called , a .”
Now I understand by this quotation, that God clearly manifested to Enoch, the redemption which he prepared, by offering the Messiah as a Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world: by virtue of the same, the glorious resurrection of the Savior, and the resurrection of all the human family,—even a resurrection of their corporeal bodies: and also righteousness and truth to sweep the earth as with a flood. Now I ask how righteousness and truth are agoing to sweep the earth as with a flood? I will answer:—Men and angels are to be co-workers in bringing to pass this great work: and a Zion is to be prepared; even a New Jerusalem, for the elect that are to be gathered from the four quarters of the earth, and to be established an holy city: for the tabernacle of the Lord shall be with them.
Now Enoch was in good company in his views upon this subject. See Revelations, 23:3.—“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” I discover by this quotation, that John upon the isle of Patmos, saw the same things concerning the last days, which Enoch saw. But before the tabernacle can be with men, the elect must be gathered from the four quarters of the earth.
And to show further upon this subject of the gathering: Moses, after having pronounced the blessing and the cursing upon the children of Israel, for their obedience or disobedience, says thus:—“And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse which I have set before thee; and thou shalt [p. ]
In his 2 October 1835 letter to the church, JS wrote, “We shall here show our faith, and thereby, as we humbly trust, put an end to these faults, and wicked misrepresentations.” Church leaders published the Doctrine and Covenants earlier in 1835 in part to help clarify the beliefs of church members and thereby combat misrepresentations about the church. Over the previous year, the Messenger and Advocate published several letters from missionaries, some of which depicted the prejudices they encountered from the “enemies to the cause of truth.” (Letter to the Elders of the Church, 2 Oct. 1835; Preface to Doctrine and Covenants, 17 Feb. 1835; “A Summary,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Dec. 1834, 43; see also Oliver Cowdery, “The Closing Year,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Dec. 1834, 47; “A Summary,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Feb. 1835, 75; and Lectures, LDS Messenger and Advocate, May 1835, 122.)
Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.
This editorial insertion in the Messenger and Advocate is not found in other contemporary copies of JS’s inspired revision of the Bible, from which the quotation is taken. (See Old Testament Revision 1, p. 19 [Moses 7:62]; “Extract from the Prophecy of Enoch,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Aug. 1832, 18; and “Extract from the Prophecy of Enoch,” Evening and Morning Star, Aug. 1832 [Mar. 1835], 47.)
The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.
Evening and Morning Star. Edited reprint of The Evening and the Morning Star. Kirtland, OH. Jan. 1835–Oct. 1836.