Letter to Quorum of the Twelve, 4 August 1835

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

, Ohio, August 4, 1835.
This day a high , the of the , consisting of Presidents, Joseph Smith, Jr. , , , , , and and others met, to take into consideration certain items contained in letters from abroad: one from , presiding of the conference, and one from Elder : the first reads as follows:
, July 29, 1835.”
“Dear ,— Elder called on this church last Thursday, on his way east, solisciting donations and subscriptions for finishing the in your place. Although the subject of such a mission, in connection with his name had been mentioned in the Messenger and Advocate, still, as no other method had been taken to impress the subject on our minds, it had measurably passed out, or ceased to make any impression. Therefore, we were in some degree taken on surprise. The , the , nor any others, clothed with authority have ever mentioned this subject to us, except incidently, to the recollection of any of us. the church. It sur[e]ly was never made a subject of public instruction, as had Just reason to expect it had been, felt an embarrassment peculiar to such a situation. He undertook to preach to us yesterday, but from the aforesaid embarrassment, or the deadness, or the covetousness of the church, he could get none of the Spirit of the Lord to assist him. I am free [to say] that I attributed more to the latter cause than the former, yet, notwithstanding, we made out in donations and subscriptions, that I trust will be eventually realised $341,87½. May the Lord bless and prosper him, and all his faithful servants, and may, they find favor in the sight of God and man, is the prayer of your unworthy brother.”
(signed) .
. [p. 90]
From this short letter we discover— that [the ] failed in out set, to fill their great and important mission, as they know that God has commanded us to build a in which to receive an , previous to to the red[e]mption of , and that Zion could not be redeemed until this takes place: knowing that the committee were to journey for the express purpose of soliciting donations, they have failed to hold them up, and set forth this first important thing, and in consequence God has not blessed them as he otherwise would. We remind you of these things, in the name of the Lord, and refer you to the book of covenants, 2nd. Section, 2nd. part, and 12, paragraph, and ask, did we not instruct you to remember first the , secondly the cause of Zion, and then the publishing the word of [illegible] to the Nations? The other is an extract from Elder ’s letter to his wife, as follows:
“You say, that it will not be in your power to go to school this summer— I am glad that it is not, since has returned and given, me a description of the manner in which it is conducted. though we do not wish to cast any reflections.”
This, the consider to be a libel upon the face of it: says, “We do not wish to cast any reflections.” When the highest insult and reflections are cast by it upon the , the , and those who are held in much higher estimation in the sight of God and this church than themselves. It is necessary to add further the vote of the counsel— We hereby inform and that we withdraw our fellowship from them until they return and make satisfaction face to face.
We further inform the , that as far as we can learn from the churches through which you have traveled, that you have set yourselves up as an independant counsel subject to no authority of the church— a kind of out laws. This impression is wrong, and [p. 91] will if presisted in, bring down the wrath and indignation upon your heads. The other ten are directed to procceed on and finish the , and the two may act their own Judgment, whether to proceed or return.
J. Smith Jr. read to th[e] a letter from , which was approved, and filled our hearts with Joy.
A letter from Elder was presented— The council refer him to the which requires non[e] to leave or bring their families without revelation, or decision of the Were they to come, they would not be with him as much as they will to tarry. ’ family is not coming.
We discover an error in ’s letter— He says, “To the able preaching of Elders & .” We conclude that if it had been the preaching of the Lord, as it should have been, he would have had the honor, and not these men.
To close, we add, that unless this epistle is heeded, in all its parts, in its full forcce, those who rebell against it shall be dealt with by the Lord accordingly, for we ask, being agreed as touching this thing.
We wish you to understand, that your duty requires you to seek first the kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness, that is— attend to the first things first, and then all things will be added, and that complaint about your families will be less frequent— Dont preach yourselves crucified for your wives sake, but remembr that Christ was crucified, and you are sent out to be special witnesses of this thing. Men do not wish to hear these little things, for there is no salvation in them, but there is in the other.
Let the hands of the ten be strengthened, and let them go forth in the name of the Lord, in the power of their mission, giving diligent heed to the direction [p. 92] of the Holy Spirit— we say, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, for great things await you, and great blessings are in store for you. Let the power of the two be upon the until the two make full satisfaction; for the seventy shall be blessed and are blessed. That man who presumes to speak evil of the dignities which God has set in his church, to his family, or to any body else, shall be cursed in his generation. Remember the 109 Psalm His bishopric shall be taken from him unless he speedily repents. Be it known that God is God and when he speaks let all the congregation say: Amen.
We have evil insinuations enough in to grapple with, that are suggested by the father of lies, without having them from those who are sent out to put down insinuations. May God help you to be more wise for the future: Amen.
— Clerk (signed)Joseph Smith Jr.— Moderator
P.S. To— : Your house is nearly finished, except plastering, a few days will complete it except this: Whether it will entirely finished by his return, or not, we cannot say; but he will be permitted to attend the this winter: his family with all your families here, are well. ’s, is soon to move in with ’s . A word further we admonish to be very humble and prayerful, and to remember further, that he that humbleth himself shall be exalted— he that would be greatest in the Kingdom of God, must be least of all, and servant of all. The admonition we give to one, we give to all
(Signed)Joseph Smith Jr.
[p. 93]


  1. 1

    This does not appear to be a meeting of the Kirtland high council. Instead, “a high council” seems to refer to the presidency of the high priesthood, or First Presidency, and the presidency of the Missouri high council meeting together.  

  2. 2

    JS, Cowdery, Rigdon, and Hyrum Smith were members of the presidency of the church. David Whitmer, John Whitmer, and Phelps constituted the presidency of the Missouri high council. (Account of Meetings, Revelation, and Blessing, 5–6 Dec. 1834; Minutes, 3 July 1834.)  

  3. 3

    Warren Cowdery was writing to his brother Oliver Cowdery.  

  4. 4

    23 July 1835.  

  5. 5

    The April 1835 issue of the Messenger and Advocate included a note to “the eastern churches” stating that Jared Carter and Hyrum Smith—who along with Reynolds Cahoon constituted the committee responsible for raising funds for and constructing the House of the Lord—would be visiting the churches “this season, for the purpose of soliciting donations to finish the stone meeting house now erected in this place.” Carter and Smith, the note continued, were planning on leaving around 1 May 1835. “We cheerfully recommend them as men capable of giving every necessary information concerning their mission.” (Editorial, LDS Messenger and Advocate, Apr. 1835, 1:107–108; Minutes, 4 May 1833; Minutes, 6 June 1833.)  

    Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.

  6. 6

    Edward Partridge, bishop in Missouri, was traveling with Isaac Morley in the eastern United States to “obtain donations for the poor saints, and also to counsel the br[ethren].” They reached Freedom, New York, on 20 June 1835 and preached to the congregation there on 21 June. (Partridge, Diary, 1 and 20–21 June 1835.)  

    Partridge, Edward. Diaries, 1818 and 1835–1836. Edward Partridge, Papers, 1818–1839. CHL. MS 892, box 1, fds. 1–2.

  7. 7

    A copy of this letter in a later JS history inserts “to say” here. (JS History, vol. B-1, 597.)  

    JS History / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1838–1856. Vols. A-1–F-1 (original), A-2–E-2 (fair copy). Historian’s Office, History of the Church, 1839–ca. 1882. CHL. CR 100 102, boxes 1–7. The history for the period after 5 Aug. 1838 was composed after the death of Joseph Smith.

  8. 8

    A copy of this letter in a later JS history inserts “the elders” here. (JS History, vol. B-1, 598.)  

    JS History / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1838–1856. Vols. A-1–F-1 (original), A-2–E-2 (fair copy). Historian’s Office, History of the Church, 1839–ca. 1882. CHL. CR 100 102, boxes 1–7. The history for the period after 5 Aug. 1838 was composed after the death of Joseph Smith.

  9. 9

    See Revelation, 22 June 1834 [D&C 105:9–11]; and Revelation, 1 June 1833 [D&C 95:8].  

  10. 10

    Other records suggest that the Twelve were not as amiss in outlining the need for contributions as the letter indicates. In nearly every conference they had held up to this point, the Twelve counseled church members to gather up money and send “wise men” to Missouri to purchase land there, thereby aiding the redemption of Zion. Orson Hyde also indicated in December 1835 that he, along with the Twelve, had “traveled thro the Middle and Eastern states” soliciting donations for the House of the Lord. (Record of the Twelve, 10–11 and 22–23 May 1835; 19–22 June 1835; 17–19 July 1835; JS, Journal, 17 Dec. 1835.)  

  11. 11

    The second section in the second part of the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants contains the church’s “Articles and Covenants,” in which the twelfth paragraph discusses the ordination of elders, priests, teachers, and deacons. It is likely that this letter meant to say the third section of the Doctrine and Covenants, which was the “Instruction on Priesthood” and outlined the various responsibilities of priesthood offices. The twelfth paragraph of this section states, “The twelve are a travelling, presiding high council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the presidency of the church, agreeably to the institution of heaven.” Since this letter is referencing the published version of the Doctrine and Covenants, it appears the Twelve had an advance copy of that publication, or at least of the first six signatures, which was possibly obtained by William Smith, Orson Hyde, or Brigham Young when they were in Kirtland at the end of June. (Instruction on Priesthood, between ca. 1 Mar. and ca. 4 May 1835 [D&C 107:33]; Record of the Twelve, 5 June 1835.)  

  12. 12

    Extant sources do not contain such specific instructions. The minutes for a 26 April 1835 meeting, for example, state that the Twelve met “to receive our charge and instructions from President Joseph Smith Jun relative to our mission and duties,” but the minutes do not delineate those instructions. Likewise, minutes of a 2 May 1835 council where JS spoke on the Twelve’s duties give no specific direction as to what they were to address on their missions. (Minutes, 26 Apr. 1835; Minutes and Discourse, 2 May 1835.)  

  13. 13

    The letter to Emeline Miller McLellin has not been located. It is not clear how the council obtained a copy of what appears to be a private letter. McLellin noted in his journal that on 4 July 1835 he wrote “letters to my wife and to the office” and sent them to Kirtland by an “Elder Wood.” (McLellin, Journal, 4 July 1835.)  

    McLellin, William E. Journal, July 1834–Apr. 1835. William E. McLellin, Papers, 1831–1836, 1877–1878. CHL. MS 13538, box 1, fd. 4. Also available as Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836 (Provo, UT: BYU Studies; Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).

  14. 14

    The meaning of this is unclear. Before the Twelve left on their mission in May 1835, JS specifically told them that it was “their duty to go abroad and regulate all matters relative to the different branches of the Church” and that when they were acting as a quorum, they had “authority to act independently and make decisions.” (Minutes and Discourse, 2 May 1835; see also Instruction on Priesthood, between ca. 1 Mar. and ca. 4 May 1835 [D&C 107:23–24, 27–29].)  

  15. 15

    A copy of the letter in a later JS history inserts “of heaven” here. (JS History, vol. B-1, 598.)  

    JS History / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1838–1856. Vols. A-1–F-1 (original), A-2–E-2 (fair copy). Historian’s Office, History of the Church, 1839–ca. 1882. CHL. CR 100 102, boxes 1–7. The history for the period after 5 Aug. 1838 was composed after the death of Joseph Smith.

  16. 16

    The Twelve held the last of their conferences in Farmington, Maine, on 28 August 1835, with all the apostles except Orson Pratt in attendance. They then traveled to Buffalo, New York, where they took a steamer to Fairport, Ohio, and from there traveled by wagon to Kirtland. JS reported in his journal that the Twelve reached Kirtland on the morning of 26 September 1835. (Record of the Twelve, 28 Aug. 1835; Esplin and Nielsen, “Record of the Twelve,” 49–50; JS, Journal, 26 Sept. 1835.)  

    Esplin, Ronald K., and Sharon E. Nielsen. “The Record of the Twelve, 1835: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles’ Call and 1835 Mission.” BYU Studies 51, no. 1 (2012): 4–52.

  17. 17

    This letter has not been located.  

  18. 18

    This letter has not been located.  

  19. 19

    It is unclear what revelation or revelations the council was referring to.  

  20. 20

    In a June 1834 council, Marsh was designated to travel to Kirtland, Ohio, to receive an endowment of power. A July 1834 meeting of the Missouri high council, of which Marsh was a member, instructed William W. Phelps to leave his family in Missouri when he went to Kirtland to help in the printing establishment. That same council also directed David Whitmer to travel “to the East” to “assist in the great work of the gathering” and “be his own Judge, as to leaving his family or taking them with him.” Marsh, who had left Missouri in January 1835 and was appointed as one of the Twelve Apostles in February 1835, was apparently wondering whether or not to bring his family to Kirtland. (Minutes, 23 June 1834; Minutes and Discourse, ca. 7 July 1834; Partridge, Diary, 28 Jan. 1835; Minutes, Discourse, and Blessings, 14–15 Feb. 1835.)  

    Partridge, Edward. Diaries, 1818 and 1835–1836. Edward Partridge, Papers, 1818–1839. CHL. MS 892, box 1, fds. 1–2.

  21. 21

    See Matthew 6:33; and Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 483 [3 Nephi 13:33].  

  22. 22

    Orson Hyde explained in a later letter that he and other members of the Twelve “straind every nerve to obtain a little something for [their] familys” while on their missions. (JS, Journal, 17 Dec. 1835.)  

  23. 23

    See Ephesians 6:10.  

  24. 24

    See Revelation, ca. 7 Mar. 1831 [D&C 45:62].  

  25. 25

    That is, Orson Hyde and William E. McLellin.  

  26. 26

    “When they need[ed] assistance,” the Twelve were “to call upon the seventy . . . to fill the several calls for preaching and administering the gospel.” (Instruction on Priesthood, between ca. 1 Mar. and ca. 4 May 1835 [D&C 107:38].)  

  27. 27

    See Acts 1:20; and Psalm 109:8.  

  28. 28

    See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 79 [2 Nephi 9:9].  

  29. 29

    The house referred to was probably directly north of JS’s home along Chillicothe Road. Later records show the house as being owned by Joseph Smith Sr. As this letter states, and as later entries in JS’s journal confirm, Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith lived with their son William and his wife, Caroline Amanda Grant, for a brief period in 1835; records in 1835 ascribe ownership of the house to both William and his father. (Staker, Hearken, O Ye People, 557n24; Staker, “Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith’s Kirtland Home,” 3–4, copy in editors’ possession; JS, Journal, 16 Dec. 1835; Letter to William Smith, ca. 18 Dec. 1835.)  

    Staker, Mark L. Hearken, O Ye People: The Historical Setting of Joseph Smith’s Ohio Revelations. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2009.

    Staker, Mark L. “Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith’s Kirtland Home.” Unpublished paper. Salt Lake City, Apr. 2012. Copy in editors’ possession.

  30. 30

    A notice in the September 1835 issue of the Messenger and Advocate declared that a school for the church’s elders was to begin on 2 November 1835. “Those wishing to attend will do well to arrange their business so as to commence with the commencement of the school.” (“The Elders Abroad,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Sept. 1835, 1:191.)  

    Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.

  31. 31

    Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith had been living on Frederick G. Williams’s farm since 1831. William Smith married Caroline Amanda Grant on 14 February 1833. (Historical Introduction to Revelation, 15 May 1831; Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 32; Smith, William Smith on Mormonism, 22.)  

    Smith, William. William Smith on Mormonism. This Book Contains a True Account of the Origin of the Book of Mormon. A Sketch of the History, Experience, and Ministry of Elder William Smith. . . . Lamoni, IA: Herald Steam Book and Job Office, 1883.

  32. 32

    See Matthew 23:12; and Luke 14:11; 18:14.  

  33. 33

    See Mark 9:35; and Revelation, 9 May 1831 [D&C 50:26].