, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to JS, [, Hancock Co., IL], 31 Oct. 1842; handwriting of ; two pages; Oliver H. Olney, Papers, Western Americana Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT.
Single leaf, measuring 12⅛ × 7¼ inches (31 × 18 cm). The pages are ruled with thirty-three printed lines. The upper right corner of the recto was folded down, apparently after the first leaf had been inscribed.
The featured version is either a draft or a copy of the letter that was retained by . Upon Olney’s death in 1845, the letter may have been passed down among his descendants along with his other papers. In 1949 Olney’s papers were acquired by Eberstadt & Sons Auction House. Sometime in the next three years, the document was purchased by William Robertson Coe. By 1952 Coe had donated the letter to Yale University as part of the William Robertson Coe Collection.
Withington, Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Collection of Western Americana, 200.
Withington, Mary C., comp. A Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Collection of Western Americana Founded by William Robertson Coe, Yale University Library. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1952.
On 31 October 1842, wrote a letter in , Illinois, to JS to convey his feelings regarding JS and the . Olney had been a member of the church since at least 1836, when he was designated president of the in , Ohio. During March 1842, brought charges against Olney before the Nauvoo accusing him of “improper conduct” and “setting himself up as a prophet & revelator in the Church.” In personal writings from this period, Olney recounted visions and visitations from individuals he considered to be divine messengers, including a council of twelve men he called the “Antient of Days.” Despite Olney’s denial of guilt, the high council unanimously sustained the charges and determined “that the hand of fellowship be withdrawn from him.” The succeeding issue of the Times and Seasons explained that Olney was disfellowshipped because he professed to have revelations and “would not have his writings tested by the word of God.”
After being disfellowshipped, remained in and was determined to correct the errors that he saw in the Latter-day Saint community, such as dishonesty and a lack of care for the poor, and to build a new kingdom of God. In a 1 July letter to church leadership, Olney vowed to “publish against” JS and the church. Writing on JS’s behalf, invited Olney to meet with JS and the Nauvoo high council on 17 July 1842. JS was unable to attend the meeting, but Olney recorded that he met with the rest of the the , and the high council. Olney left the meeting convinced that the leaders were “determined in their ways.”
After the 17 July meeting, decided to leave , but he remained in the city for several weeks, recording his observations of events in the city, including attempts by lawmen to arrest and extradite JS. He remained in Nauvoo until August, when he traveled intermittently throughout Illinois, always returning to Nauvoo to observe community events. On 7 October, the Sangamo Journal published a mid-September letter from Olney affirming the veracity of 's letters and denouncing the Latter-day Saints.
On 31 October, the day he wrote this letter to JS, noted that he was in “to meet in Council With the Antient of Days,” at which time he seems to have planned to establish his own church. Four days later, he convert as a and leader within his new sect. Olney, therefore, seems to have written this letter in connection with his efforts to establish his own church. In the letter, which addressed JS as church president, Olney defended his actions of the previous months and his refusal to follow the Latter-day Saint leadership. He accused the leaders of having abused him and vowed to defend himself through the press, making vague threats to publish articles regarding the lascivious behavior of church members.
It is unclear whether JS actually received a copy of this letter from . The featured version is apparently either a draft or a copy that was retained by Olney. It is possible that Olney wrote and retained copies of letters that were never actually forwarded to JS. If, however, Olney did send copies of these letters to JS, they are likely now not extant. If Olney did send the letter, JS presumably received it on or shortly after 31 October 1842. There is no known reply.
It is with no ordinary feelings that I address you at this time in writing
But as I have a leisure moment I improve it in writing you a few lines That you may know my mind at this time
I will say that I am differantly situated from what I was one year or Eighteen months ago I was then in trouble because of many things my mind was unsetled In doings As I se[e] much adoings I often felt to mourn lest I should make mismoves I look at my self and at the Also the order of God And I se[e] their must be a Union amongst those that covenant to do his will
I looked at my own weakness and unworthine[ss] That we must say is the common lot of all That has from choise taken a probation I looked to my superiors for Instructions and was entirely willing to be governed by them Untill I found them to be against me that I se[e] no sympathy of feeling to wards me But a feeling to tred me underfoot
That never was my name it I never bore neither is it required of any man But many submit to it
My wrights is what I claim and must have Without takeing the wrights of others I look at your wrights and the work you have don[e] and say its of great worth to bring a bout the purposes of God
I look at many as well as your self that must in the due time of the Lord have something to do That no one can say all rests on me [p. ]
Oliver Olney’s wife, Alice Johnson Olney, died in July 1841 while he was on a mission in the eastern United States. He did not return to Nauvoo until September 1841, stating that he “arived with feelings of no ordinary kind because of the Loss and sickness of friends.” (Obituary for Alice Olney, Times and Seasons, 2 Aug. 1841, 2:501; Woodruff, Journal, 22 Aug. 1841; Oliver Olney, Notes, July–Sept. 1842, entry for 4 Sept. 1842, Oliver H. Olney, Papers, microfilm, CHL.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
Olney, Oliver. Papers, 1842–1843. Microfilm. CHL. Original at Western Americana Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT.