JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to “the Saints Abroad,” 24 May 1841. Featured version published in Times and Seasons, 1 June 1841, vol. 2, no. 15, 434. For more complete source information, see the source note for Letter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.
On 24 May 1841, JS wrote an open letter addressed to all members residing outside , Illinois, and , Iowa Territory, encouraging them to relocate and gather primarily in , Illinois. The concept of church members together to build temples and unified societies can be found in the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Revelations as early as 1830 called church members to gather to one place. At the October 1839 general , the church unanimously agreed that Nauvoo “should be appointed a and a place of gathering for the saints.” Though JS affirmed in 1840 that the Saints from the eastern could still congregate in , Ohio, by early 1841 he and his counselors in the began to encourage Latter-day Saints everywhere to move to the Nauvoo area. At the April 1841 general conference of the church in Nauvoo, church leaders again spoke strongly about the need for the Saints to assemble there.
This 24 May letter appears to have been written in accordance with a March 1841 revelation that called for the Saints to “gather themselves together unto the places which I shall appoint unto them by my servant Joseph, and build up cities unto my name.” That revelation specifically named and locations in , Iowa Territory, as places for the Saints to settle. The Times and Seasons and other sources indicate that, at the time JS wrote the letter featured here, there were at least eleven church organizations called in , , and . JS’s letter disbanded all stake organizations except for those in and Lee County, though not all stakes immediately ceased their activities.
JS’s original letter is apparently not extant. The letter was published in the Times and Seasons.
The stakes of the church at this time included the Lee County, Iowa Territory, stake, which was also called a branch until this 24 May 1841 letter was circulated, and the following stakes in Illinois: Nauvoo, Springfield, Lima, Quincy (sometimes called Adams County stake), Ramus (sometimes called Crooked Creek stake), Bear Creek (located in Knowlton), Freedom (located in Payson), Pleasant Vale (located in New Canton), and Mount Hope. The Kirtland stake in Ohio remained a functioning church unit at this time as well. One Vermont newspaper placed the number of stakes at twelve, “corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel,” though the newspaper did not name the locations of the stakes. (Iowa Stake, Record, CHL; Letter to Crooked Creek, IL, Branch, ca. 7 or 8 July 1840; Certificate for Foutz Family, 10 Jan. 1841, in Times and Seasons, 1 Feb. 1841, 2:309; “Notice,” Times and Seasons, 15 Mar. 1841, 2:358; Minutes, Freedom, IL, 20 Feb. 1841, in Times and Seasons, 1 Apr. 1841, 2:372; Minutes, Kirtland, OH, 22–23 May 1841, in Times and Seasons, 1 July 1841, 2:458–460; “Mormonism,” Vermont Chronicle [Windsor], 14 July 1841, 109.)
Almon Babbitt, the president of the Kirtlandstake, considered the instruction to disband the stakes to be contradictory to other instructions JS had given to him. Consequently, Babbitt did not immediately instruct the Kirtland Saints to gather to the Nauvoo area. The number of church members in the Kirtland stake continued to grow by at least one hundred between late May and mid-October 1841. (Minutes, Kirtland, OH, 22–23 May 1841, in Times and Seasons, 1 July 1841, 2:458–460; Letter from Almon Babbitt, 19 Oct. 1841.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
The of the , anxious to promote the prosperity of said church, feel it their duty to call upon the saints who reside out of this , to make preparations to come in, without delay. This is important, and should be attended to by all who feel an interest in the prosperity of this the corner stone of . Here the must be raised, the University be built, and other edifices erected which are necessary for the great work of the last days; and which can only be done by a concentration of energy, and enterprise. Let it therefore be understood, that all the , excepting those in this , and in , Iowa, are discontinued, and the saints instructed to settle in this as soon as circumstances will permit.