Part 4: 24 April–12 August 1839

Part 4 of this volume, spanning from mid-April to mid-August 1839, covers the period of organization and growth that followed the ’ relocation from to and . After nearly six months of imprisonment in Missouri, JS and his fellow prisoners escaped from state custody. They arrived in , Illinois, on 22 April 1839, where JS was reunited with his and children, who had moved to Quincy in February. The town had become a central refuge for Latter-day Saints forced to leave Missouri. Several church leaders who settled there, including and , had overseen the relocation of church members and corresponded with church leaders still in , Missouri, in early 1839. The residents of Quincy offered assistance to the impoverished Saints, generously donating money and goods when church leaders requested help, providing shelter for the Latter-day Saint refugees, and offering to sell them land on favorable terms.
and others in had corresponded with JS during his incarceration, keeping him apprised of church matters and seeking his counsel. In a March letter addressed to Partridge, JS advised the church leaders in Quincy to purchase land from , a land speculator with acreage in and . Around the same time, JS wrote to Galland with a request to hold the land until JS and the other prisoners were released from . Two days after arriving in Quincy, JS attended a council meeting at which he, , and were appointed to a committee to visit land in Iowa Territory, apparently to identify locations for Latter-day Saint communities. The committee members left Quincy the next day, 25 April, and traveled to the area around , Illinois, and parts of , Iowa Territory.
On 30 April, members of the land committee and other individuals acting for the church made the church’s first land transactions in . Since the church was not yet an incorporated and legally recognized institution in the state, church leaders and church arranged to purchase the land in their own names. In the first land transaction on 30 April, arranged to buy approximately 130 acres on the peninsula from , an early landowner in the Commerce area, for $5,000. This purchase included White’s house, which JS and his family would move to in May. In the second land purchase on 30 April, , who was acting on behalf of the , agreed to pay $9,000 to for 47 acres of land on the Commerce peninsula as well as the rights to operate a ferry across the between Commerce and , Iowa Territory, southwest of Commerce. Establishing a ferry allowed the Saints residing in Illinois and to control transportation between their settlements. Although Robinson made arrangements to purchase the land in his own name, an agreement he made the same day with JS, , and identified the three members of the First Presidency as the sureties guaranteeing payment to Galland. These transactions may have taken place in the Commerce area, where both White and Galland were living at the time.
In addition to helping secure land for the Saints, JS oversaw other church business. On 4–5 May, he presided at a general for all church members, and on 6 May he presided at a conference meeting for church leaders. During the general conference, the assembled church members considered various issues facing the church. One of the most pressing concerns was how to address the Saints’ expulsion from . The congregation approved ’s proposal to travel to and appeal to the federal government for intervention on the Saints’ behalf. To document what the Saints in Missouri had suffered, , , and were appointed as a committee to collect libelous reports about the church. Those at the conference also endorsed the mission of the to Europe, as directed in a revelation JS had dictated the previous year, and sustained new church leaders. was directed to go to ; along the way, he was to solicit funds from church members to aid those impoverished by the Missouri expulsion. was instructed to oversee the maintenance of and mortgage payments for the in , Ohio; preside over church affairs there; and continue in his previous assignment to resolve church debts. In conjunction with the appointments made during the conference, authorizations were prepared for Greene, Granger, Babbitt, Snow, and Thompson. Also during the conference, the members passed a resolution to encourage converts in the eastern United States to move to Kirtland.
On 10 May, JS and his family moved from to the southern portion of the peninsula. In several letters, JS encouraged his friends and fellow Saints to likewise move to the area, and he even selected lots for some to purchase. As the month progressed, JS and other church leaders continued their efforts to secure land for the church. Because church leaders needed additional funds for their previous and ongoing land acquisition, was appointed to “gather up And receive such means in money or otherwise” to help the church. Before returned to , he spent time discussing business matters with JS and completing various tasks as a church agent. For example, in late May he arranged to purchase over two thousand acres of land in from . Although many Saints moved to Commerce and , some Saints, including , remained in Quincy. As a church leader charged with helping the poor, Partridge corresponded with JS regarding the needs of the Saints living in Quincy.
As JS and other church leaders worked to establish communities for the Saints in and , they also confronted the aftermath of their forced expulsion from , such as by approving ’s proposal to request federal intervention in Missouri. Although Rigdon’s plan originally included soliciting support from governors to “impeach the State of Missouri,” it is not clear what he, JS, or other church leaders hoped to achieve through federal intervention. They may have hoped to obtain redress through regaining possession of their confiscated lands in Missouri or receiving monetary reparations. As part of their efforts to document such losses, church members were asked to produce affidavits or redress petitions that identified personal damages resulting from the expulsion. In June, JS produced a petition describing his experiences in Missouri, enumerating his personal losses, and requesting redress. In contrast to the majority of the Saints’ redress petitions, which are brief, JS’s petition is an eight-page narrative. This document provides the most detail of any account regarding JS’s experiences while imprisoned in , Missouri.
Additional issues related to arose when published two letters in the Quincy Whig in May 1839. The letters, which Wight had written while imprisoned with JS, condemned the Democratic leadership in Missouri for not aiding the Saints during the Missouri conflict and for not helping them afterward. Concerned that Wight’s accusations would offend Democrats in or politicians in , Latter-day Saint wrote to JS about Wight’s letters. The First Presidency responded to Wight’s letters by writing to the editors of the Quincy Whig, explaining that the church intended to remain politically neutral and did not blame a specific party for the Saints’ treatment in Missouri. JS also wrote a letter to Wight in late May, acknowledging Wight’s right to publish his opinion but asking him to be cautious and to clarify that he was not speaking for the church.
During this time JS also corresponded with individuals still in . In late May, JS dictated a letter to , who had been excommunicated from the church and remained in , informing him that his assistance was no longer needed in settling Missouri business. In June, JS wrote to Missouri merchant , explaining that JS was unable to locate the merchant’s stolen property, which was taken during the 1838 conflict.
JS spent part of June instructing and counseling the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and selected members of the Quorums of the as they prepared for their mission to Europe. In 1837 and 1838, apostles and completed a dramatically successful mission to , and in July 1838 JS dictated a revelation directing the apostles to commence a mission “over the great waters.” At the 6 May conference meeting, church leaders appointed thirteen members of the Quorums of the Seventy and five to accompany the apostles on their mission. In preparation for the mission, the First Presidency signed recommendations for the apostles. The Quorums of the Seventy resolved to create similar recommendations for the seventies who would be proselytizing with the apostles.
From 15 to 26 June, JS traveled with his family to visit his brothers who were living in other areas of Illinois. JS, his , and their children stayed first with in , Hancock County, Illinois, and then traveled to , where and were living with their families. This visit was JS’s first opportunity to see Samuel “since [JS’s] deliverance from prison.” During these travels, JS preached to several large congregations, addressing in particular the “coming forth of the Book of Mormon.”
JS and his immediate family returned to on 26 June, and on 27 June he presided at the third day of council meetings that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was holding in and Commerce. At this and subsequent meetings in late June and early July, JS instructed the departing missionaries on topics such as discernment of spirits, the doctrine of election, the importance of unity and humility, and the . Intending to depart in early July, several of the apostles gave farewell addresses on 7 July. However, their departures were delayed by malaria, which struck several of the apostles, their families, and many other Saints in Commerce and Montrose. In the midst of this crisis, JS and helped care for the sick, bringing some into the Smith home and traveling to others throughout Commerce. JS also fell ill in mid-July but recovered on 22 July, and he and other elders gave blessings of healing to ailing Saints, many of whom quickly recovered.
During the summer, JS was also occupied with land acquisition. On 2 July, JS and others visited sections of the approximately sixteen thousand acres around that church agent had recently purchased from . In August, JS and his counselors in the First Presidency arranged to buy additional land for the Saints. In one of the two transactions that month, JS, , and signed a bond to purchase around four hundred acres in the peninsula from land speculator and his partners, and . The same day, the First Presidency arranged to purchase ninety acres that Hotchkiss had agreed to purchase from . These transactions provided the church leaders with a substantial amount of land in and around Commerce, which the church could then sell to Saints moving to the area.
  1. 1

    JS, Journal, 22–23 Apr. 1839; see also Historical Introduction to Promissory Note to John Brassfield, 16 Apr. 1839; and Letter from Emma Smith, 7 Mar. 1839.  

  2. 2

    See “Proceedings in the Town of Quincy,” Quincy (IL) Argus, 16 Mar. 1839, [1]; Letter from Edward Partridge, 5 Mar. 1839; George Miller, St. James, MI, to “Dear Brother,” 22 June 1855, in Northern Islander (St. James, MI), 9 Aug. 1855, [1]; and Tillson, History of the City of Quincy, Illinois, 68.  

    Quincy Argus. Quincy, IL. 1836–1841.

    Northern Islander. St. James, MI. 1850–1856.

    Tillson, John. History of the City of Quincy, Illinois. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing, 1900.

  3. 3

    Historical Introduction to Letter from Edward Partridge, 5 Mar. 1839; Letter to Edward Partridge and the Church, ca. 22 Mar. 1839.  

  4. 4

    Letter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.  

  5. 5

    Minutes, 24 Apr. 1839.  

  6. 6

    Hancock Co., IL, Bonds and Mortgages, 1840–1904, vol. 1, pp. 31–32, 30 Apr. 1839, microfilm 954,776, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.  

    U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.

  7. 7

    See Agreement with George W. Robinson, 30 Apr. 1839; Hancock Co., IL, Deed Records, 1817–1917, vol. 12 G, p. 247, 30 Apr. 1839, microfilm 954,195, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.  

    U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.

  8. 8

    See Agreement with George W. Robinson, 30 Apr. 1839.  

  9. 9

    These transactions may also have occurred around the same time of day on 30 April. Galland and Vinson Knight, the third member of the land committee, acted as witnesses to White’s bond for Ripley; Knight also signed Robinson’s agreement with the First Presidency as a witness. (See Hancock Co., IL, Bonds and Mortgages, 1840–1904, vol. 1, pp. 31–32, 30 Apr. 1839, microfilm 954,776, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL; and Agreement with George W. Robinson, 30 Apr. 1839.)  

    U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.

  10. 10

    Minutes, 4–5 May 1839; see also Revelation, 8 July 1838–A [D&C 118].  

  11. 11

    See Minutes, 6 May 1839.  

  12. 12

    JS, Journal, 10 May 1839.  

  13. 13

    Authorization for Stephen Markham, 27 May 1839; see also Letter to Father Bigler, 27 May 1839.  

  14. 14

    JS, Journal, 13–14 May 1839.  

  15. 15

    Lee Co., IA, Land Records, 1836–1961, vol. 1, pp. 507–510, 29 May 1839, microfilm 959,238, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.  

    U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.

  16. 16

    See Letter from Edward Partridge, 27 May 1839; Letter to Edward Partridge, 29 May 1839; and Letter from Edward Partridge, 13–15 June 1839.  

  17. 17

    Letter from Sidney Rigdon, 10 Apr. 1839.  

  18. 18

    By the time JS, Rigdon, and others left for Washington DC in October 1839, their focus was primarily on obtaining monetary compensation for the Latter-day Saints’ collective losses. (JS et al., Petition, Washington DC, to United States Congress, Washington DC, ca. 29 Nov. 1839, JS Collection, CHL.)  

  19. 19

    See Bill of Damages, 4 June 1839.  

  20. 20

    See Lyman Wight, Quincy, IL, 1 May 1839, Letter to the Editors, Quincy (IL) Whig, 4 May 1839, [2]; and Lyman Wight, Quincy, IL, 7 May 1839, Letter to the Editors, Quincy Whig, 11 May 1839, [2]. The letters were originally addressed to the editors of the Louisville (KY) Journal and to Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton, respectively.  

    Quincy Whig. Quincy, IL. 1838–1856.

  21. 21

    See Letter from Robert B. Thompson, 13 May 1839; Letter to the Editors, 17 May 1839; and Letter to Lyman Wight, 27 May 1839.  

  22. 22

    See Letter to William W. Phelps, 22 May 1839.  

  23. 23

    Letter to Jacob Stollings, 27–28 June 1839; see also Agreement with Jacob Stollings, 12 Apr. 1839.  

  24. 24

    See Recommendation for Brigham Young, 3 June 1839.  

  25. 25

    See Revelation, 8 July 1838–A [D&C 118:4].  

  26. 26

    See Recommendation for Brigham Young, 3 June 1839.  

  27. 27

    Quorums of the Seventy, “Book of Records,” 12 May 1839, 71–72.  

    Record of Seventies / First Council of the Seventy. “Book of Records,” 1837–1843. Bk. A. In First Council of the Seventy, Records, 1837–1885. CHL. CR 3 51, box 1, fd. 1.

  28. 28

    JS, Journal, 15–26 June 1839.  

  29. 29

    See Discourse, 27 June 1839; Discourse, 2 July 1839; Discourse, between ca. 26 June and ca. 2 July 1839; and Discourse, between ca. 26 June and ca. 4 Aug. 1839–A.  

  30. 30

    See Discourse, 7 July 1839.  

  31. 31

    Historian’s Office, Brigham Young History Drafts, 25–26.  

    Historian’s Office. Brigham Young History Drafts, 1856–1858. CHL. CR 100 475, box 1, fd. 5.

  32. 32

    See Historical Introduction to Discourse, 28 July 1839.  

  33. 33

    See JS, Journal, 2 July 1839; and Historical Introduction to Discourse, 2 July 1839.  

  34. 34

    See Bond from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–A; and Promissory Note to John Gillet and Smith Tuttle, 12 Aug. 1839.  

  35. 35

    See Bond from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–B; and Promissory Note to Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839.