, Letter with postscript by , , Jackson Co., MO, to and JS, , Kirtland Township, Geauga Co., OH, 29 July 1833. Retained copy, [ca. summer 1839], in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 52–56; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 2.
In this 29 July 1833 letter, and provided details about events unfolding in , Missouri, to church leaders in , Ohio. In the July 1833 issue of The Evening and the Morning Star, William W. Phelps published an editorial titled “Free People of Color,” which warned free black members of the about the state laws that prohibited free blacks from coming to or settling in the state “under any pretext whatever.” Phelps further stated, “So long as we have no special rule in the church, as to people of color, let prudence guide; and while they, as well as we, are in the hands of a merciful God, we say: Shun every appearance of evil.” In the same issue of the Star, a letter to all of the of the Church of Christ reiterated the need to shun the appearance of evil and added, “As to slaves we have nothing to say. In connection with the wonderful events of this age, much is doing towards abolishing slavery, and colonizing the blacks, in Africa.” These articles angered many Jackson County citizens who saw Phelps’s words as an invitation for free blacks to come surreptitiously and settle in Missouri, even though Phelps later claimed to have said the opposite. On 16 July 1833, Phelps issued an extra of the Star in which he attempted to mitigate the misunderstanding of his earlier article. He wrote:
We often lament the situation of our sister states in the south, and we fear, lest, as has been the case, the blacks should rise and spill innocent blood: for they are ignorant, and a little may lead them to disturb the peace of society. To be short, we are opposed to have free people of color admitted into the state; and we say, that none will be admitted into the church, for we are determined to obey the laws and constitutions of our country, that we may have that protection which the sons of liberty inherit from the legacy of Washington, through the favorable auspices of a Jefferson, and Jackson.
The extra apparently did nothing to calm the church’s opponents.
By 18 July 1833, non-Mormon residents of circulated a document enumerating their grievances against members of the Church of Christ and stating their determination to eliminate them from the county by purchasing their properties or by “such means as may be sufficient to remove them.” Signed by some three hundred residents of Jackson County, the document, known later among members of the church as the “manifesto,” also called for a meeting to be held on 20 July to further discuss the perceived problems with the Mormons and how to remove the church members from the county. At the meeting, the assembled Missourians adopted resolutions listing specific actions to be taken against the Mormons and appointed a committee to present their agreed-upon demands to a group of church leaders. The committee presented their ultimatum that same day and gave church leaders only fifteen minutes to reply. The Mormons refused to comply, after which the committee returned to the , where those who had gathered voted to demolish the Mormons’ . After destroying the shop, they tarred and feathered and and gave notice that they would return on 23 July.
and other church leaders reported that on 23 July, “the mob again assembled to the number of about 500 . . . [and] proceeded to take some of the leading elders by force declaring it to be their intention to whip them from fifty to five hundred lashes apiece.” , , , , , and “offered themselves as a ransom [to the mob] for the church, willing to be scourged or die, if that will appease their anger toward the church,” but the mob declared that all church members must leave or die. The confrontation on 23 July 1833 led to the creation of another document, known as the “memorandum of the agreement.” In the agreement Mormon leaders pledged that most of the leaders of the church and half of the members would leave the county by the first of January 1834 and the remainder would leave by the first of April 1834.
Probably in the day or two after the 23 July agreement, left to inform JS and other church leaders in of these developments. After arriving at Walnut Farm in , probably a two-day journey, Cowdery wrote back to , Missouri, requesting an update on events there and copies of the manifesto and memorandum of agreement. When Cowdery mailed the letter from Walnut Farm is unknown, but given normal mail conveyance time in that era, at least two days would have been required to transport the letter to Independence. The Missouri church leaders therefore probably received Cowdery’s letter no earlier than 27 July 1833.
The letter featured here, which includes copies of the manifesto and of the Mormons’ agreement to leave the county, indicates that the church leaders in had received ’s letter and was written in response to his request. In the 29 July letter, , the principal author, provided an update on recent developments in while added a note on both the anxiety and faithfulness of the Missouri church members. Phelps also included the text of two hymns that had recently been sung in Missouri. Though the body of the letter was largely directed to Cowdery, the postscript from Phelps appears to have been directed to JS. It is not known how or when this letter reached . copied it into JS’s letterbook in late 1839. JS’s 18 August letter to Whitmer, Phelps, and the other church leaders in Jackson County demonstrates familiarity with the contents of this letter, although JS’s letter also references information that Cowdery reported to JS in person.
Cowdery likely left Independence after the creation of the memorandum of agreement on 23 July but before 25 July. He likely did not leave before 23 July because had he been any appreciable distance from Independence on or shortly after 23 July, he probably would not have known of the memorandum’s creation. Further, a reminiscent account by William E. McLellin places Cowdery in Jackson County on 22 July. Cowdery likely left before 25 July because in the letter featured here, John Whitmer told Cowdery that on 25 July many “at the school received the gift of tongues”—something Cowdery would already have known about if he had been present at or near the school of the prophets at the time. (Memorandum of Agreement, 23 July 1833, CHL; Schaefer, William E. McLellin’s Lost Manuscript, 166.)
Memorandum of Agreement, 23 July 1833. CHL.
Schaefer, Mitchell K., ed. William E. McLellin’s Lost Manuscript. Salt Lake City: Eborn Books, 2012.
With respect I address a few lines to you in this time of confusion among us, although the enemy has accomplished his design of in demolishing the they cannot demolist [demolish] the design of our God, for his decrees will stand & his purposes must be accomplished notwithstanding the great rage of Satan, which we can behold in his followers, for it is visible to the natural eye, but enough on this subject, for you will be able to tell more than I can write.
Marvellous to tell in the midst of all the rage of all the rage of persecution God is pouring out his Spirit upon his people so that most all on last thursday at the school received the gift of tongues & spake & prophesied; The next day called his together and most of them received the gift of tongues many old things are coming to light that had it not been for this gift would have remained in the dark & brought the wrath of God, upon the inhabitants of . There are but very few that have denied the faith in consequence of this transaction, but my daily prayer is that the Lord will cleanse Zion of all the remaining wickedness that is on this HolyLand, for is their cup not already full. I greatly fear for some of they who call themselves disciples; but they are in the hands of a merciful God & he will do them no injustice. The Mail brings intelligence from Lexington which says that there have been two deaths of the Asiatic Cholera & are ten or fifteen cases
We suppose that there was one or two cases last week in this Neighborhood but none in town. Our daily cry to God is deliver thy people from the hand of our enemies send thy destroying angels, O God in the behalf of thy people that Zion may be built up according to the plan of our Lord through his servants to us, received this mail.
According to your request we give you the copy of the article of our enemies and also the bond or Covenant which we have signed.
“We the undersigned citizens of believing that an important crisis is at hand as regards our civil society, in consequence of a pretended religious sect of people that have settled, and are still settling in our County, styling themselves Mormons and intending as we do to rid our society “peacably if we can, forcibly if we must,” and believing as we do that the arm of the civil law does not afford us a guarantee or at least a sufficient one against the evils which are now inflicted upon us, and seem to be increasing by the said religious sect, deem it expedient & of the highest importance to form ourselves into a company for the better and easier accomplishment of our purpose, a purpose which we [p. 52]
Pratt, Parley P. The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, One of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Embracing His Life, Ministry and Travels, with Extracts, in Prose and Verse, from His Miscellaneous Writings. Edited by Parley P. Pratt Jr. New York: Russell Brothers, 1874.
TEXT: “Holy” and “Land” are double underlined. This sentence possibly refers to an earlier revelation that discussed “a scorge and a Judgment” that would be “poured out upon the children of Zion” if church members polluted the Lord’s “holy land.” (Revelation, 22–23 Sept. 1832 [D&C 84:58–59].)
According to a Jackson County resident writing in December 1833, “The cholera was brought into our neighborhood the past summer” on a steamboat named “Yellow Stone.” (Isaac McCoy, “The Disturbances in Jackson County,” Missouri Republican [St. Louis], 20 Dec. 1833, .)
The original text of what Whitmer calls “the article of our enemies” is not extant; however, Edward Partridge made a copy of it, and it was also published in The Evening and the Morning Star as part of a letter to Missouri governor Daniel Dunklin. (“We the Undersigned Citizens of Jackson County,” [July 1833], Edward Partridge, Papers, CHL; “To His Excellency, Daniel Dunklin,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Dec. 1833, 114–115.)
Partridge, Edward. Papers, 1818–1839. CHL. MS 892.
The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.
This quote likely refers to Henry Clay’s speech before the United States Congress in January 1813. (Henry Clay, Speech to House of Representatives, 8 Jan. 1813, Annals of Congress, 12th Cong., 2nd Sess., vol. 25, p. 665 .)
Annals of the Congress of the United States. Twelfth Congress.—Second Session: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States . . . Comprising the Period from November 2, 1812, to March 3, 1813, Inclusive. Vol. 25. Washington DC: Gales and Seaton, 1853.