on behalf of JS, Letter, , Caldwell Co., MO, to , Vinalhaven, Fox Islands, Waldo Co., ME, [ca. 18 June 1838]. Written on a copy of “Prospectus for the Elder’s Journal, of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints”; handwriting of ; four pages; Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, CHL. Includes address in the handwriting of , a stamped postmark and manuscript postage in red ink, a docket in ink in the handwriting of , and an archival call number in graphite.
Bifolium measuring 16 × 10¼ inches (41 × 26 cm). The letter was written on a published prospectus for the issues of the Elders’ Journal. The document was trifolded twice in letter style and then postmarked in red ink. The letter was later refolded for archival filing and then docketed. The folds are weakened and partially separated. Adhesive wafers that sealed the letter created holes in the paper when the letter was opened, resulting in some loss of inscription. The document has undergone some conservation.
In addition to the signatures of , the letter includes a docket in ’s handwriting: “Thomas B Marsh | April 30. 1838”. Woodruff apparently donated the letter to the LDS church as part of his collected papers, possibly during his tenure as assistant church historian (1856–1883) or church historian (1883–1889).
“Contents of the Historian and Recorder’s Office. G. S. L. City July 1858,” 6, Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL; Turley, “Assistant Church Historians,” 20–21; see also Park, “Developing a Historical Conscience,” 115–134.
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.
Turley, Richard E., Jr. “Assistant Church Historians and the Publishing of Church History.” In Preserving the History of the Latter-Day Saints, edited by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Steven C. Harper, 19–47. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010.
Park, Benjamin E. “Developing a Historical Conscience: Wilford Woodruff and the Preservation of Church History.” In Preserving the History of the Latter-day Saints, edited by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Steven C. Harper, 115–134. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010.
Sometime in mid- or late spring 1838, JS assigned to write a letter to , who was proselytizing in the northeastern . In the letter, Marsh responded to a 9 March 1838 missive that Woodruff and two fellow missionaries addressed to , JS and his counselors in the , and the Saints in . Woodruff, the primary author of the letter, reported on his proselytizing efforts, challenges, and successes in the , located off the coast of . He also requested that publication of the Elders’ Journal be recommenced in Missouri because missionaries desperately needed church literature to counter false information being circulated about the church. Woodruff concluded by expressing loyalty to JS and the church and by admonishing the Saints in Missouri to avoid making the mistakes church members in had made. It is unclear when Woodruff’s letter arrived in , Missouri, but later in the year, correspondence between Marsh and Woodruff traveled through the mail in less than four weeks, suggesting that this letter arrived sometime in early or mid-April.
JS apparently read the letter or heard it read and assigned to reply. Marsh was of the and therefore held ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the apostles, , and all traveling —including —which made Marsh an appropriate person to respond to Woodruff. Marsh acknowledged that the letter had arrived “some day’s since” and explained that the bishop and First Presidency had been busy with church affairs.
wrote to on a copy of the prospectus for the issues of the Elders’ Journal. The prospectus, which requested that traveling elders such as Woodruff enlist subscribers for the newspaper, was printed at the top of the recto of the first leaf of a bifolium, with Marsh’s letter beginning below the prospectus. Marsh ended his letter on the top half of the verso of the second leaf, slightly compressing his last few lines to leave room for the address, which he added after folding the letter as an envelope. As with the copy of the prospectus Marsh used, other copies of the prospectus may have been printed on bifolia, inscribed with personal notes, and then folded and mailed to Mormon missionaries who were proselytizing outside of Missouri. Marsh wrote the letter sometime between 30 April, which was the publication date of the prospectus, and 18 June, the date of the postmark stamped on the letter. The postscript Marsh added suggests he may have written the letter over more than one day, apparently completing it on or shortly before 18 June. Marsh may have written the letter at his home in .
The letter to has two parts. The first part of the letter explains the disaffection of and other Latter-day Saints in . The second part of the letter explains church members’ dissatisfaction with and , as well as the excommunication of Phelps, John Whitmer, , , and . Marsh concluded his letter by noting that with the excommunications, internal opposition had been removed from the church in , that JS and had moved to Zion, and that the Elders’ Journal would soon be published again. Marsh’s postscript describes the April revelation designating as a holy place of in which to build a city of Zion and a .
Because knew the church newspaper would soon be reestablished, he may have written the letter with the intention of responding to personally and of publishing the letter in the newspaper to explain to a broader audience the recent developments in and . Or, Marsh may have determined after writing the letter that it could be published as a report on recent events. A revised version of the letter, apparently based on a retained copy, appeared in the July issue of the Elders’ Journal. Before mailing the letter, Marsh made some revisions that softened the antagonism he originally expressed toward the Kirtland dissenters, perhaps to make the letter more suitable for publication. Some of the substantive changes Marsh made in the version he sent to Woodruff do not appear in the Elders’ Journal version, suggesting that Marsh further revised the letter to Woodruff after making the retained copy. Marsh also revised the retained copy before publishing it.
The letter, mailed on 18 June, probably reached the post office in Vinalhaven, Maine, in mid- or late July. The letter was apparently received by one of ’s converts on the , as Woodruff had been on the mainland since late April. When he returned to the islands on 7 August 1838, he visited fellow Latter-day Saints Ephraim Luce, Stephen Luce, and a “Brother Sterretts,” and one of them apparently gave Woodruff the letter.
Woodruff left the Fox Islands on 28 April 1838. Regarding his return on 7 August, Woodruff wrote, “I received a letter from ElderThomas B. Marsh from Zion in answer to the one I wrot to the Bishop & Presidency & Saints in Zion.” The following day, Woodruff visited the post office to obtain further mail, which indicates that he received Marsh’s letter from one of the members he visited before he went to the post office. (Woodruff, Journal, 28 Apr. and 7–8 Aug. 1838.)
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
Sir, your Letter of the 9th. of March, directed to , Joseph Smith Jr., , <and> , and the in , came safely <to> them, some day’s since. And on account of the press of business now on their hands, <and the request of J Smi◊th Jr.,> I have taken it upon me to answer it. You say, that you have heard of the deplorable state of things in ; and it gave me much Joy to learn by your letter, that you viewed those things in their true light. Great has been the afflictions of the saints in that place, particularly our beloved Brotheren Joseph Smith Jr., and .
During In the past summer; I Journeyed from this place in company with , and , to , for the purpose of meeting in Conference thare with the 12 <.>. On our arrival, we soon learned the dificulties that then existed thare: these however ware all appearantly settled, preveiously to my leaving : And , who has since become sonotoriouslywicked <an unbeliever in the book of Mormon, reveiled religion,>, affected to repent and become sattisfied, with Br. Joseph and the Church: Others also did the same: But this settlement was not of long duration. Soon after this, President and I, left for the upper : and President Joseph Smith, President , and <Prest.> , soon followed us to : and during their absence, it seemes that , , , , and some others, plotted <united> togeather in fortheoverthrow <refuting the procedings> of the Church. President Smith and his company returned on or about the 10th. of December; soon after which this gadianton <decenting [dissenting]> band, openly, and publickly, renounced the , and claimed, themselves to be the old standard, called themslves the Church of Christ, excluding excluded that of saints, and set at naught Br. Joseph and the whole Church, denounceing them as Heriticks [p. ]
After hearing reports of “much evil” regarding fellow apostles Luke Johnson, John F. Boynton, and Lyman Johnson, Marsh called for the apostles to meet in Kirtland on 24 July 1837 so he could help resolve problems and give counsel regarding the quorum’s proselytizing plans. Marsh, William Smith, and Patten—who were members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—departed Far West sometime in late May or June and arrived by 8 July 1837. (Thomas B. Marsh and David W. Patten, Far West, MO, to Parley P. Pratt, Toronto, Upper Canada, 10 May 1837, in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 62–63; “T. B. Marsh,” , Historian’s Office, Histories of the Twelve, 1856–1858, 1861, CHL; Mary Fielding, Kirtland, OH, to Mercy Fielding Thompson, Upper Canada, 8 July 1837, Mary Fielding Smith, Collection, CHL.)
Historian’s Office. Histories of the Twelve, 1856–1858, 1861. CHL. CR 100 93.
Smith, Mary Fielding. Collection, ca. 1832–1848. CHL. MS 2779.
It is uncertain why Marsh inserted “Pres[iden]t” before William Smith’s name. Smith was called “Pres[ident]” in two instances in JS’s journal in 1836, but extant documents do not mention Smith, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, being appointed president of any church council or quorum. It is possible that, like his brother Hyrum; his father, Joseph; and his uncle John, he was at some point included in the general church presidency, although there is no other evidence of him belonging to the presidency. The designation of Smith as “Pres[iden]t” was omitted in the version of the letter published in the July issue of the church newspaper. (JS, Journal, 28 Jan. and 6 Feb. 1836; Minutes, 3 Sept. 1837; Thomas B. Marsh, [Far West, MO], to Wilford Woodruff, [Vinalhaven, ME], [ca. 18 June 1838], in Elders’ Journal, July 1838, 36.)
Both John Smith and Vilate Kimball identified Parrish, Boynton, Johnson, Coe, and Martin Harris as “the Leaders” of the dissenting party. Smith also named Cyrus Smalling as a leader. (John Smith and Clarissa Lyman Smith, Kirtland, OH, to George A. Smith, Shinnston, VA, 1 Jan. 1838, George Albert Smith, Papers, CHL; Vilate Murray Kimball, Kirtland, OH, to Heber C. Kimball, Preston, England, 19–29 Jan. 1838, Heber C. Kimball, Collection, CHL.)
Smith, George Albert. Papers, 1834–1877. CHL. MS 1322.
Kimball, Heber C. Collection, 1837–1898. CHL. MS 12476.
TEXT: Marsh apparently inserted “Prest.” before “Wm. Smith”, inserted “Mr.” before “Parish”, and changed “for the overthrow” to “refuting the procedings” after the retained copy was made. Most of the other substantive revisions to the letter are reflected in the version of the letter published in the Elders’ Journal.
Marsh apparently meant that this group intended to overturn the results of the September 1837 reorganization conference in which JS and members loyal to him were retained in their church offices. (See Minutes, 3 Sept. 1837.)
In the Book of Mormon, Gadianton was the founder of the “Gadianton robbers”—a secret society of political and religious dissenters who sought to obtain wealth and power through intrigue, murder, and war. (See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 411, 423, 427–428 [Helaman 2:8; 6:17–19; 7:21].)