Part 1: 15 February–28 June 1838

During the period from February to June 1838, JS moved to , Missouri, and helped reorganize church leadership there; some of the principal dissenters in were excommunicated and driven out; and the new settlement of , Daviess County, was surveyed, populated, and organized as a of . JS had been planning to move to Far West for some time, and as tensions worsened at the end of 1837, he intended to move as soon as possible. In early January 1838, dissenters, excommunicated church members, and others threatened the lives of JS and his counselors in the . In addition, JS and faced litigation that was initiated by excommunicated members and other adversaries. On 12 January, JS dictated a revelation directing him and his counselors in the First Presidency to halt their work in “as soon as it is praticable” and move to ; faithful Saints were to follow. That night, JS and Rigdon fled Kirtland on horseback, escaping the threat of violence. JS’s wife and their three children soon joined him on his journey to Far West, the central gathering place for Saints in Missouri. and other church leaders departed for Missouri during the ensuing weeks and months. Among those remaining in were , the newly appointed president of the Kirtland stake of Zion; and , who were appointed as assistant presidents to Marks; and , the Kirtland . Marks endeavored to settle the debts of JS and Rigdon and to help the faithful members of the church migrate to Missouri, and Whitney oversaw other temporal operations of the church in Ohio. While these men conducted JS’s business and produced documents on his behalf, JS understandably wrote little if at all as he traveled west for two months. JS, Rigdon, and their families encountered several difficulties during this move in the middle of the winter. Rigdon stopped traveling for several days because of family illness, while JS and his family pushed on toward Far West.
Situated on , the principal waterway in , was already a sizable town. By summer 1837, Far West had reached a population of approximately fifteen hundred Saints. Because the town was now the center of the Latter-day Saint gathering in and a revelation had identified that state as the “land of Zion,” the church in Far West was usually referred to in contemporary documents as “Zion.” However, church members in Missouri were far from living the ideal of social harmony meant to exist in Zion. Internal dissent was a problem there as it was in , in part because , , and other dissenters had moved from to Missouri and were holding meetings with the Zion church presidency—, , and —in which they vented their frustrations toward other church leaders. Additionally, several church authorities in Caldwell County were concerned because members of the Zion had recently sold land in , which many church leaders still hoped to reoccupy, and had disregarded the “,” the church’s divinely revealed dietary code. Therefore, in early February 1838, senior apostles and , the Zion , and the Zion conducted meetings in which the Zion presidency members were removed from office and replaced with a pro tempore presidency consisting of Marsh and Patten. Marsh indicated that the proceedings were carried out according to JS’s instructions. On 10 March, Phelps and John Whitmer were excommunicated from the church. Thus, reassertion of the authority of JS and those loyal to him was well underway when JS and his family arrived in Far West on 14 March.
The day after arriving in , JS met with the Zion high council and bishopric. He reviewed the minutes of previous council meetings and apparently approved of the decisions to remove the former Zion presidency and to excommunicate and . The minutes of this meeting, as well as various other council meetings that JS attended, were copied into Minute Book 2, a volume containing minutes of church meetings primarily held in . Within a few days of arriving, JS composed a motto declaring the church’s devotion to the revolutionary legacy of the , loyalty to the Constitution, and consent to obey all laws that were “good and wholesome”—while at the same time condemning tyranny, mob violence, and “vexatious lawsuits.” The motto signaled JS’s determination to vigorously assert the civil rights of the Latter-day Saints, including their right to settle in Missouri and to pursue their goals without being legally or illegally harassed. JS was deeply concerned about his personal liberty, as well as the freedom and safety of the Saints, especially after he faced lawsuits, threats of violence, and the possibility of arrest in .
Two weeks after JS’s arrival, church clerk and recorder arrived in and was immediately engaged in clerical duties. Within a day or two, he began keeping a “Scriptory Book”—a record of “scripts,” or transcripts, of various letters, revelations, and other documents. Toward the end of April, the content recorded in the book began to transition from document transcripts to journal entries of JS’s activities. Accordingly, the Scriptory Book is also referred to herein as JS’s journal for March to September 1838. This important volume is the source of the church motto and several other documents in part 1. With JS and Robinson both in Far West, the number of JS documents produced in March and April considerably increased. On 29 March, JS wrote to the presidency with news of his safe arrival in Far West, the illness delaying ’s family, and recent adjustments to leadership in the church in . This and other correspondence between JS and church members in Kirtland, as well as in other places, form an important part of the corpus of JS documents created during the period covered in part 1. JS’s mid-March letters and other documents may have been produced in the home of and , where JS initially took up residence. Within a few weeks of arriving in Far West, JS apparently moved into the tavern on the central block of the town.
JS and , who arrived in on 4 April, spent much of that month further reorganizing church leadership in and dealing with dissenters. On 6 April, the Latter-day Saints in Missouri assembled in Far West to commemorate the anniversary of the church’s organization, sustain the pro tempore presidency, and appoint new officers. was appointed to join and in the pro tempore presidency. Partly to fill the vacancies resulting from the excommunication of , who had served as the church’s clerk, record keeper, and historian, and were appointed as historians, and was named general church recorder and clerk, as well as scribe for the First Presidency. was appointed clerk and recorder for the church in and for the Zion high council. The reorganization of church officers on 6 April prepared the way for the conference held over the next two days. The conference meetings were apparently held indoors, perhaps in the town’s , which was the setting of several other meetings held during this period. The Far West schoolhouse was originally in the southwest quarter of town but was moved to the center of town and used for various civic purposes and church meetings. The meetings during the April conference were the first of several held in Far West that JS presided at and Ebenezer Robinson kept minutes for. The minutes of several of these church meetings are included in part 1.
Following the quarterly conference, JS and other church leaders dealt with matters related to prominent dissenters. On 9 April, JS and wrote to , requesting the writings he had in his possession as the former church historian. That day, other church leaders sent letters to , , and , informing them that councils would be held on 12 and 13 April to consider the men’s church membership. JS testified in the trials of Cowdery and Johnson, and all three dissenters were excommunicated.
With the church reorganized and major dissenters removed, JS and the high council turned their attention to developing as the central gathering place for the church. On 21 April, they passed resolutions to improve the in which they were meeting, build one or more storehouses for provisioning poor Saints, and reestablish the church press. They resolved to recommence the Elders’ Journal, with as the publisher; to solicit new subscriptions; and to publish minutes of some council meetings in the periodical. Over the next few weeks, a prospectus for the Elders’ Journal was printed and JS prepared material to include in the periodical. Ultimately, two issues of the recommenced Elders’ Journal were published; these issues, dated July and August 1838, included minutes of meetings JS participated in and documents written by JS and others during spring and summer 1838.
JS and the Saints also developed the church in by following the direction given in revelations he dictated in spring 1838. In mid-April, he dictated brief revelations for and . A revelation on 26 April stated that Far West was “most holy” and a place in “the land of zion” in which to build up a city. The revelation directed the Saints to continue gathering in Far West, to construct a there, and to establish new settlements in the area. Migration to Far West and its vicinity was accelerating because was no longer an authorized gathering place; hundreds from Kirtland were expected to arrive in Far West within the next few months. Many more were expected to migrate from the various branches of the church in the and . The gathering of the Saints would require settlement beyond the bounds of Far West, and church leaders had been searching for several months to locate other places to settle.
Entries in JS’s journal for late April and early May document a brief interlude of relative tranquility in , with JS and collaborating on a new church history, studying grammar, and attending meetings. In late May, after arrived in Far West, the First Presidency left for to select and survey lands for settlement. The previous year, non-Mormon residents of Daviess County had warned the small number of Latter-day Saints who had settled there to leave or be driven out. However, the Saints in Daviess County had remained, and the First Presidency now planned to expand church settlement there. During this time, JS identified Spring Hill, where church member had settled, as . Latter-day Saint stated that when JS applied the name Adam-ondi-Ahman to Spring Hill, he explained that Adam-ondi-Ahman was “the valley of God, in which Adam blessed his children.” According to JS’s journal, the location was “the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of days shall sit as spoken of by Daniel the Prophet.” Therefore, the central Mormon settlement in Daviess County took on both primordial and millenarian significance. JS’s labors in Daviess County were punctuated by brief visits home. During one of these visits, his wife gave birth to their son . JS soon returned to Daviess County, and according to his journal, he and others working with him “continued surveying and building houses &c for some time day after day.” The selection and surveying of Daviess County land culminated in the completion of a city plat and provided the basis for an orderly and relatively compact settlement coordinated by church officials. While JS was busy with these activities, his involvement in producing documents was greatly diminished.
At this time in , tensions continued to increase between the church and prominent excommunicants who remained in . For example, continued his emerging law practice by encouraging lawsuits among and against the Latter-day Saints for debts they owed. JS and came to believe that peace and harmony—which they viewed as essential to establishing Zion in —were impossible to achieve among the Latter-day Saints as long as dissenters remained in the area. On 17 June, Rigdon railed against the excommunicants in a public sermon. According to , who recounted the sermon after leaving the church several months later, Rigdon accused the dissenters of various crimes and of seeking to undermine the First Presidency. He also called upon the Latter-day Saints to rid the community of their antagonists. Peck also stated that JS spoke afterward and approved of Rigdon’s remarks. Around the same time, a letter was signed by eighty-three Latter-day Saint men, warning former Latter-day Saints Oliver Cowdery, , , , and that they had three days to leave Caldwell County peacefully. The authorship of the letter is neither stated nor implied, but one of the signatories, , recalled decades later that according to common belief, the letter “was gotten up in the office of the First Presidency.” While Phelps, one of the dissenters named in the letter, reconciled with church leaders and was permitted to remain, the other dissenters fled the county on 19 June. approvingly noted the flight of the dissenters in the journal he was keeping for JS.
By the end of June, the population in was sufficient for JS to organize a stake, including a presidency, a high council, and a pro tempore bishop. Some of these positions were filled by those who had served in the presidency and bishopric of the stake. Around this time, the church also sent a group of Saints to settle in the small town of in Carroll County, downriver from Adam-ondi-Ahman where the emptied into the . Church leaders purchased land at this strategic site to benefit from Grand River commerce. The rapidly growing number of church members in the area further angered Missourians who objected to Latter-day Saint settlement outside of . These tensions eventually led to the trouble that unfolds in the documents included in part 2 of this volume.
  1. 1

    See Introduction to Part 7: 17 Sept. 1837–21 Jan. 1838.  

  2. 2

    Revelation, 12 Jan. 1838–C; Adams, “Grandison Newell’s Obsession,” 175, 178–180; “History of Luke Johnson,” 6, Historian’s Office, Histories of the Twelve, 1856–1858, 1861, CHL; JS History, vol. B-1, 780; see also JS, Journal, 29 Dec. 1842.  

    Adams, Dale W. “Grandison Newell’s Obsession.” Journal of Mormon History 30 (Spring 2004): 159–188.

    Historian’s Office. Histories of the Twelve, 1856–1858, 1861. CHL. CR 100 93.

  3. 3

    See Hyrum Smith, Commerce, IL, to “the Saints Scattered Abroad,” Dec. 1839, in Times and Seasons, Dec. 1839, 1:21; and Kirtland Camp, Journal, 17 Mar. 1838.  

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

    Kirtland Camp. Journal, Mar.–Oct. 1838. CHL. MS 4952.

  4. 4

    John Smith and Clarissa Lyman Smith, Kirtland, OH, to George A. Smith, Shinnston, VA, 1 Jan. 1838, George Albert Smith, Papers, CHL; Hepzibah Richards, Kirtland, OH, to Willard Richards, Bedford, England, 18–19 Jan. 1838, Willard Richards, Papers, CHL.  

    Smith, George Albert. Papers, 1834–1877. CHL. MS 1322.

    Richards, Willard. Journals and Papers, 1821–1854. CHL.

  5. 5

    See, for example, Pay Order to Edward Partridge for William Smith, 21 Feb. 1838.  

  6. 6

    Letter to the Presidency in Kirtland, 29 Mar. 1838; JS History, vol. B-1, 780; Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon, 203–204, 211–212.  

    Van Wagoner, Richard S. Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994.

  7. 7

    Letter from William W. Phelps, 7 July 1837.  

  8. 8

    Revelation, 20 July 1831 [D&C 57:14].  

  9. 9

    Minute Book 2, 26 Jan. 1838; see also Minutes, 12 Apr. 1838.  

  10. 10

    Letter from Thomas B. Marsh, 15 Feb. 1838; Minute Book 2, 10 Mar. 1838.  

  11. 11

    JS, Journal, Mar.–Sept. 1838, p. 16.  

  12. 12

    Minutes, 15 Mar. 1838.  

  13. 13

    Motto, ca. 16 or 17 Mar. 1838.  

  14. 14

    See JS, Journal, Mar.–Sept. 1838.  

  15. 15

    Letter to the Presidency in Kirtland, 29 Mar. 1838.  

  16. 16

    JS, Journal, Mar.–Sept. 1838, p. 16.  

  17. 17

    Receipt from Samuel Musick, 14 July 1838; Kimball, “History,” 105–106; Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 15, [6].  

    Kimball, Heber C. “History of Heber Chase Kimball by His Own Dictation,” ca. 1842–1856. Heber C. Kimball, Papers, 1837–1866. CHL. MS 627, box 2.

  18. 18

    JS History, vol. B-1, 786.  

  19. 19

    Minutes, 6 Apr. 1838.  

  20. 20

    The minutes of the meeting state that Robinson was officially appointed “general Church Recorder and Clerk for the first Presidency.” When recording his own version of the minutes in JS’s Scriptory Book, Robinson wrote that he was appointed “as general Church Clerk & Recorder to keep a record of the whole Church also as Scribe for the first Presidency.” (Minutes, 6 Apr. 1838; Minutes, 6 Apr. 1838, in JS, Journal, Mar.–Sept. 1838, p. 29.)  

  21. 21

    The minutes of the meeting state that Robinson was officially appointed “Church Clerk and Recorder for this stake of Zion and Clerk for the high Council.” When recording a version of the minutes in JS’s Scriptory Book, George W. Robinson wrote that Ebenezer Robinson was appointed “Clerk & Recorder for the Church in Mo. also for the High Council,” indicating that Ebenezer Robinson was also appointed as a recorder for the Zion high council. At this time, Ebenezer Robinson began recording past minutes of the Zion high council in Minute Book 2. (Minutes, 6 Apr. 1838; Minutes, 6 Apr. 1838, in JS, Journal, Mar.–Sept. 1838, p. 29; Minute Book 2, title page, 1–93.)  

  22. 22

    Minutes, 7–8 Apr. 1838.  

  23. 23

    According to an early history of Caldwell County, “The school-house in Far West was used as a church, as a town hall and as a court-house, as well as for a school-house.” (History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri, 121.)  

    History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri, Written and Compiled from the Most Authentic Official and Private Sources. . . . St. Louis: National Historical Co., 1886.

  24. 24

    Letter to John Whitmer, 9 Apr. 1838.  

  25. 25

    Minutes, 12 Apr. 1838; Minutes, 13 Apr. 1838.  

  26. 26

    Minutes, 21 Apr. 1838.  

  27. 27

    See Prospectus for Elders’ Journal, 30 Apr. 1838.  

  28. 28

    Revelation, 11 Apr. 1838 [D&C 114]; Revelation, 17 Apr. 1838.  

  29. 29

    Revelation, 26 Apr. 1838 [D&C 115:6–7].  

  30. 30

    Backman, Heavens Resound, 354–355.  

    Backman, Milton V., Jr. The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830–1838. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983.

  31. 31

    See Minutes, 10 Nov. 1837; and Minute Book 2, 6–7 Dec. 1837.  

  32. 32

    Hyrum Smith, Commerce, IL, to “the Saints Scattered Abroad,” Dec. 1839, in Times and Seasons, Dec. 1839, 1:21; JS, Journal, 28 May 1838; O’Driscoll, Hyrum Smith, 167–170.  

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

    O'Driscoll, Jeffrey S. Hyrum Smith: A Life of Integrity. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003.

  33. 33

    JS, Journal, 7–9 Aug. 1838; Baugh, “Call to Arms,” 106.  

    Baugh, Alexander L. “A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri.” PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1996. Also available as A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri, Dissertations in Latter-day Saint History (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History; BYU Studies, 2000).

  34. 34

    Corrill, Brief History, 28; see also Letter to Stephen Post, 17 Sept. 1838.  

  35. 35

    JS, Journal, 18 May–1 June 1838.  

  36. 36

    JS, Journal, 4–5 June 1838.  

  37. 37

    JS, Journal, 4–5 June 1838; see also “Record Book A,” in Sherwood, Record Book, CHL; and Walker, “Mormon Land Rights,” 30–31.  

    Sherwood, Henry G. Record Book, ca. 1838–1844. CHL.

    Walker, Jeffrey N. “Mormon Land Rights in Caldwell and Daviess Counties and the Mormon Conflict of 1838: New Findings and New Understandings.” BYU Studies 47, no. 1 (2008): 4–55.

  38. 38

    See Minutes, 12 Apr. 1838; see also Oliver Cowdery, Far West, MO, to Warren Cowdery and Lyman Cowdery, Kirtland, OH, [10] Mar. 1838, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 92.  

    Cowdery, Oliver. Letterbook, 1833–1838. Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

  39. 39

    Reed Peck, Quincy, IL, to “Dear Friends,” 18 Sept. 1839, pp. 23–26, Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. The journal of JS’s uncle John Smith confirms that JS, as well as his brother and counselor Hyrum Smith, attended the church services in Far West on 17 June. (John Smith, Journal, 17 June 1838.)  

    Peck, Reed. Letter, Quincy, IL, to “Dear Friends,” 18 Sept. 1839. Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

    Smith, John (1781-1854). Journal, 1833–1841. John Smith, Papers, 1833-1854. CHL. MS 1326, box 1, fd. 1.

  40. 40

    See Letter to Oliver Cowdery et al., ca. 17 June 1838.  

  41. 41

    Ebenezer Robinson, “‘Saints’ Herald,’ Again,” Return, Feb. 1890, 218–219.  

    The Return. Davis City, IA, 1889–1891; Richmond, MO, 1892–1893; Davis City, 1895–1896; Denver, 1898; Independence, MO, 1899–1900.

  42. 42

    William W. Phelps, Testimony, Richmond, MO, Nov. 1838, p. [85]; Reed Peck, Testimony, Richmond, MO, Nov. 1838, p. [55], State of Missouri v. JS et al. for Treason and Other Crimes (Mo. 5th Jud. Cir. 1838), in State of Missouri, “Evidence”; Whitmer, Daybook, 19 June 1838; R. Peck to “Dear Friends,” 18 Sept. 1839, pp. 25–27; see also Corrill, Brief History, 30.  

    Missouri, State of. “Evidence.” Hearing Record, Richmond, MO, 12–29 Nov. 1838, State of Missouri v. Joseph Smith et al. for Treason and Other Crimes (Mo. 5th Cir. Ct. 1838). Eugene Morrow Violette Collection, 1806–1921, Western Historical Manuscript Collection. University of Missouri and State Historical Society of Missouri, Ellis Library, University of Missouri, Columbia.

    Whitmer, John. Daybook, 1832–1878. CHL. MS 1159.

    Peck, Reed. Letter, Quincy, IL, to “Dear Friends,” 18 Sept. 1839. Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

  43. 43

    JS, Journal, 4 July 1838.  

  44. 44

    Minutes, 28 June 1838.  

  45. 45

    Murdock, Journal, 23 June 1838, 95; John Murdock, Affidavit, Adams Co., IL, 10 Jan. 1840, photocopy, Material relating to Mormon Expulsion from Missouri, 1839–1843, CHL; Sidney Rigdon, Testimony, Nauvoo, IL, 1 July 1843, pp. [2]–[3], Nauvoo, IL, Records, CHL; [Rigdon], Appeal to the American People, 36–37; see also Perkins, “Prelude to Expulsion,” 264–268.  

    Murdock, John. Journal, ca. 1830–1859. John Murdock, Journal and Autobiography, ca. 1830–1867. CHL. MS 1194, fd. 2.

    Material Relating to Mormon Expulsion from Missouri, 1839–1843. Photocopy. CHL. MS 2145.

    Nauvoo, IL. Records, 1841–1845. CHL. MS 16800.

    Perkins, Keith W. “De Witt—Prelude to Expulsion.” In Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History: Missouri, edited by Arnold K. Garr and Clark V. Johnson, 261–280. Provo, UT: Department of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University, 1994.

  46. 46

    LeSueur, “Missouri’s Failed Compromise,” 140–144.  

    LeSueur, Stephen C. “Missouri’s Failed Compromise: The Creation of Caldwell County for the Mormons.” Journal of Mormon History 31, no. 3 (Fall 2005): 113–144.