, Letter, , Lake Co., OH, to JS, , and , , Hancock Co., IL, 19 Oct. 1841; handwriting of ; seven pages; JS Collection, CHL. Includes address, endorsement, docket, and notations.
Two bifolia, each measuring 9⅞ × 7⅞ inches (25 × 20 cm). The letter was trifolded twice in letter style and then sealed with a red adhesive wafer, remnants of which remain on the first page of the second bifolium. The letter was later refolded for filing. There is some significant tearing near the bottom of the first bifolium and along the folds of the second bifolium, which obscures some of the text.
The letter was endorsed and docketed by , who served as JS’s scribe from December 1841 until JS’s death in June 1844 and served as church historian from December 1842 until his own death in March 1854. A graphite notation was later added, apparently by a clerk or secretary for Andrew Jenson, who served as assistant church historian from 1897 to 1941. Another graphite notation by the same unidentified scribe is indicative of manuscript indexing methods occurring in the Church Historian’s Office during the same time frame. The letter is listed in a Church Historian’s Office inventory from circa 1904. By 1973 the document had been included in the JS Collection at the Church Historical Department (now CHL). The docket, notations, inventory, and inclusion in the JS Collection indicate continuous institutional custody of the letter since its receipt.
“Letters to and from the Prophet,” ca. 1904, 1, Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL. This inventory omits William Law from the recipients, but the featured letter is the only letter from Babbitt written in 1841.
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.
See the full bibliographic entry for JS Collection, 1827–1844, in the CHL catalog.
On 19 October 1841, , the presiding authority in , Ohio, wrote a letter to JS, , and in , Illinois. In his letter, featured here, Babbitt gave the church leaders an update about the church in Kirtland and sought clarification about conflicting instruction he had received. When Babbitt was appointed to preside over the church in Kirtland in October 1840, JS “gave it as his opinion, that the brethren from the east might gather” to Kirtland. JS later amended that statement in January 1841, when he wrote to , his in Kirtland, stating that he preferred that those coming from the East gather to Nauvoo instead of Kirtland. JS further clarified his stance in May 1841, when he advised all the Saints to gather to the Nauvoo area.
Though was appointed to preside over the church in , he had a history of problems with church leaders. In the summer of 1840, for example, reported that Babbitt made disparaging remarks about JS and others, accusing them of misusing funds, and was calculating “to destroy the confidence of the brethren in the or any of the Authorities of the church.” Babbitt also held a “secret Council” in the Kirtland , locking the doors and prohibiting “certain brethren, in good standing” from entering. The church withdrew fellowship from Babbitt until he appeared before a in in early September 1840 to answer the charges. After hearing the evidence on both sides, JS eventually withdrew the charges and reconciled with Babbitt for a time.
Despite JS’s instructions to do otherwise, also encouraged Latter-day Saints to move to or remain in instead of to . Babbitt’s efforts to entice members to relocate to Kirtland were unsurprising because he had made similar efforts in the past. As early as April 1840—before JS’s directive to gather to the Nauvoo area—church members reported that Babbitt was attempting to convince those living in the eastern to gather to Kirtland. In August 1841 several church members from , Illinois, wrote to the church’s high council in Nauvoo that Babbitt was teaching that “Kirtland must be built up and would be and that too immediately, therefore Kirtland was the place for him.” Babbitt did not explicitly encourage the Springfield Saints to move to Kirtland instead of Nauvoo, but he declared his belief that a scourge from “two states against Nauvoo” would occur and that the Saints would be driven from Nauvoo “within one year.” By making such declarations, he sought to dissuade them from gathering to Nauvoo. In a 30 August 1841 letter to , however, JS stated that there should be no confusion on the matter—despite apparently conflicting instruction in 1840 regarding gathering to Kirtland—because the Saints had been directed to gather to Nauvoo in his 24 May proclamation and in other commandments and revelations. Babbitt, however, apparently remained unsure about whether he should maintain the in Kirtland or disband it and follow the instruction to gather to Nauvoo, and he continued to encourage the growth of Kirtland. On 3 October 1841, Babbitt delivered a “discourse on the subject of the gathering” at a regional church in Kirtland.
Because of ’s conduct—particularly his insistence on encouraging the Saints to develop at the expense of gathering to —at the early October 1841 general church conference, “made remarks disapprobatory” about Babbitt’s actions. The conference ultimately voted to disfellowship Babbitt until the time when he would “make satisfaction.” It is possible that Babbitt knew of the general conference vote when he wrote the letter featured here. Nevertheless, Babbitt explained in his letter his misunderstandings and confusion and reiterated his faith in the church and its leaders. In a letter printed in the 1 November 1841 issue of the Times and Seasons, Hyrum Smith again addressed Babbitt’s insistence that Kirtland be further settled and developed, noting that “the designs of the leading members of that . . . are not according to the will of God.”
stated that he wrote the following letter because he had an opportunity to send it to by way of . The letter bears no signs of postal delivery. It is likely that Whitney included Babbitt’s letter in another letter Whitney sent to JS twelve days later. A later JS history indicates that JS received Whitney’s letter on 9 November 1841.
arived in the city of they then advised me to do the buisness in their names which I did advised me to continue in and to organizing the Church with 2 Counslers and and council which I did I also made a purchase of goods before I left the came home set them up and waited for my pardon◊nrs family but to my astonishment br Rank came without his family when I made inquiry he informd me that orderd of a letter to be writen to him from ohio to inform him that he must not come to this place I feelt greived about this for knew at that time that I was igno[ran]t of the change that had taken place and when in the city of if he had told me he had advised Br Rank not to come to this place I should not have purchesed the goods that I did predicated on his assistance but howevr I thought I would do the best I could I councild with on the Subject he advised me to get up the [illegible] gaainst [against] the church about here that t[h]ey might be out of the way [p. 3]