Appendix 2: Letter to the Saints Scattered Abroad, June 1835
JS, , , and , Letter, [, Geauga Co., OH], to “the Saints scattered abroad,” June 1835. Featured version published in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, June 1835, pp. 137–138. For more complete source information on the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, see the source note for Letter to Oliver Cowdery, Dec. 1834.
On 1 June 1835, JS, , , and wrote a letter to , the president of the in , Missouri, chastising Burk for conducting a disciplinary council in the absence of the and . The letter featured here is an edited version of that letter and was published in the June 1835 issue of the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, attributed to “P.” “P” referred to Phelps, who made several additions and changes to the letter before its publication. Some of these changes clarified the meanings of certain phrases; other changes made the published version more polished than the original letter. Phelps also made substantial additions, including an introductory paragraph admonishing the Saints to show love toward each other. It is unclear from extant records whether JS directed Phelps to make the changes or whether Phelps acted on his own, though a later JS history states that JS “caused” the letter to be published. Shading in gray in the featured text indicates the parts of the published letter that are the same as the original.
The original letter was addressed “to the Elders , , and members of the ” A notation on the letter directed that it be copied and given to “each grade of officers” in . The published version is addressed more broadly “to the Saints scattered abroad,” which phrase generally referred to church members living outside of Missouri or , Ohio. Since the letter included general instructions on the roles of elders, priests, teachers, and deacons, church leaders evidently wanted it to receive a wider circulation.
The June 1835 issue of the Messenger and Advocate—the first one published after Phelps arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, from Missouri—is the first issue that has text attributed to “P.” Several issues thereafter have the same designation. It is evident that “P” is Phelps because a hymn authored by Phelps and published in the October 1835 Messenger and Advocate was also signed “P.” (“Hymns,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1835, 2:208; see also Cornwall, Stories of our Mormon Hymns, 136–137.)
Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.
Cornwall, J. Spencer. Stories of Our Mormon Hymns. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1971.
Phelps likely composed the original letter as well, although it was signed by JS, Cowdery, Whitmer, and Phelps. Phelps later referred to a letter that “had checked the Elders in their crusade for exaltation”—apparently this letter—calling it “my letter.” (William W. Phelps, Kirtland, OH, to Sally Waterman Phelps, Liberty, MO, 20 July 1835, in Historical Department, Journal History of the Church, 20 July 1835.)
Historical Department. Journal History of the Church, 1896–. CHL. CR 100 137.
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.
temporal matters: so that the ’ acts are null and void. Now the Lord wants the tares and wheat to grow together: for must be redeemed with judgments, and her converts with righteousness.
Every that can, after providing for his family (if he has any) and paying his debts, must go forth and clear his skirts from the blood of this generation. While they are in that region instead of trying members for transgressions, or offenses, let every one labor to prepare himself for the vineyard, sparing a little time to comfort the mourners; to bind up the brokenhearted; to reclaim the backslider; to bring back the wanderer; to re-invite into the kingdom such as have been cut off, by encouraging them to lay to while the day lasts, and work righteousness, and, with one heart and one mind, prepare to help redeem Zion, that goodly land of promise, where the willing and the obedient shall be blessed. Souls are as precious in the sight of God, as they ever were; and the elders were never called to drive any down to hell, but to persuade and invite all men every where to repent, that they may become the heirs of salvation. It is the acceptable year of the Lord: liberate the captives that they may sing hosanna.
The , too, should not be idle: their duties are plain, and unless they do them diligently, they cannot expect to be approved. Righteousness must be the aim of the saints in all things, and when the covenants are published, they will learn that great things must be expected from them. Do good and work righteousness with an eye single to the glory of God, and you shall reap your reward when the Lord recompenses every one according to his work.
The and are the standing ministers of the , and in the absence of other officers, great things, and a holy walk, are required of them. They must strengthen the members’ faith; persuade such as are out of the way to repent, and turn to God and live; meekly persuade and urge every one to forgive one another all their trespasses, offences and sins, that they may work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Brethren, bear and forbear one with another, for so the Lord does with us: Pray for your enemies in the church, and curs[e] not your foes without: for vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, and I will repay.
To every member and to all we say, be merciful and you shall find mercy. Seek to help save souls, not to destroy them: for verily you know, that “there is more joy in heaven, over one sinner that repents, than there is over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance.” Strive not about the mysteries of the kingdom; cast not your pearls before swine, give not the bread of the children to dogs, lest you and the children should suffer, and you thereby offend your righteous Judge.
Your brethren, who leave their families, with whom they have enjoyed an earthly measure of peace and joy, to carry glad tidings round the world, expect great things of you, while you are privileged to enjoy the blessings of the saints’ society. They pray our heavenly Father, that you may be very prayerful, very humble, and very charitable; working diligently, spiritually and temporally for the redemption of Zion, that the pure in heart may return with songs of everlasting joy to build up her waste places, and meet the Lord when he comes in his glory. Brethren, in the name of Jesus, we entreat you to live worthy of the blessings that shall follow, after much tribulation, to satiate the souls of them that hold out faithful to the end.
At the time, church leaders in Ohio were preparing the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants for publication. (William W. Phelps, Kirtland, OH, to Sally Waterman Phelps, Liberty, MO, 26 May 1835, William W. Phelps, Papers, BYU.)