On 16 August 1842, JS—who was hiding just outside of , Illinois—had proposed leaving for to avoid possible extradition to and had written a letter to in Nauvoo asking his opinion. Later that day, Law wrote back and agreed that it might be necessary for JS to temporarily leave.
By the next day, had given the question further reflection and had changed his mind. On 17 August, he wrote the letter featured here to JS, recommending that JS not leave for . In his letter, Law suggested that it would be easier to protect JS if they moved him from place to place within the city; also, if JS remained in the area, the would be able to rescue him if his enemies were to capture him. might have carried Law’s letter with her when she visited JS on the night of 17 August. After she informed JS of rumors that some knew where he was hiding, the Smiths, in accordance with Law’s advice, left ’s house outside of and relocated to ’s house in “the North East part of the city.”
copied the contents of the original letter, which is not extant, into JS’s journal, which was being kept in the Book of the Law of the Lord, soon after it was written. This copy was probably made between 21 and 23 August, as suggested by changes in the ink Clayton used in the Book of the Law of the Lord.
JS, Journal, 17 Aug. 1842. Granger lived in a house in section 31, which was outside the platted areas of Nauvoo but within the city limits. (Book of Assessment, 1842, Second Ward, copy, 6, Nauvoo, IL, Records, CHL.)
Dear Friend— Every thing is moving along in the in the usual tranquil & industrious manner, there is no change in the appearance of things that a common observer could see, although to one who knows & is acquaint with the countenances of the thinking few, it is evident that their minds are troubled more than common, and I know by myself that they can not help it, and why should it be otherwise when the Lords anointed is hunted like a Lion of forest by the most wicked & oppressive generation that has ever been since the days of the saviour of the world, indeed every movement of this generation reminds me of the history of the people who crucified Christ, it was nothing but mob law, mob rule and mob violence all the time, the only difference is that the Governors then were more just than the Governors now, they were willing to acquit innocent men, but our Governors now despise justice, garble and prevent the law, and join in with the mob in pursuit of innocentblood. I have been meditating on your communication of yesterday & will just add a thought or so on the subject, respecting particularly your going to the . I think I would not go there for some time if at all. I do not believe that an armed force will come upon us at all unless they get hold of you first & that we rescue you which we would do under any circumstances with the help of God, but I would rather do it within the limits of the under the laws of the , therefore I would think it better to Quarter in the & not long in one place at once. I see no reason why you might not stay in safety within the for months without any knowing it only those who ought & that as few as is necessary.
I must close for the present remaining as ever your affectionate friend and obedient servant
The phrase “the thinking few” was used in contemporary texts, appearing, for example, in the poetry of Jane Taylor, who wrote, “How few think justly of the thinking few!” (Taylor, Essays in Rhyme, 36.)
Taylor, Jane. Essays in Rhyme, on Morals and Manners. 5th ed. London: Taylor and Hessey, 1825.
See Book of Mormon, 1840 ed., 83 [2 Nephi 10:3]. Other Christian thinkers had proposed that the generation that crucified Christ was the most wicked generation. In a letter that was republished in the nineteenth century, John Knox, a leading Scottish minister during the Reformation, wrote that after Christ’s death his “church . . . was compelled to flee from city to city, from realm to realm, and from one nation to another . . . till God’s vengeance was poured forth upon that most wicked generation.” Tropes depicting the wickedness of first-century Jews in rejecting and crucifying Christ were commonplace throughout the history of Christianity. (Writings of the Rev. John Knox, 444; see also Cohen, Christ Killers, 3–7; and Boyarin, Unconverted Self, 92–93.)
Writings of the Rev. John Knox, Minister of God’s Work in Scotland. 1st American ed. Phila- delphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1842.
Cohen, Jeremy. Christ Killers: The Jews and the Passion from the Bible to the Big Screen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Boyarin, Jonathan. The Unconverted Self: Jews, Indians, and the Identity of Christian Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.
When American reformers, ministers, and commentators lamented contemporary developments or called their fellow citizens to repentance, they often made historical comparisons with past periods and peoples to highlight the unprecedented corruptions of the present. In the slavery debate, for example, antislavery writers often drew historical parallels between the American present and the past, including the biblical past, to indicate just how degraded the institution of slavery had become in the United States. At times, these writers positioned the past as superior to the present, even though the past was often viewed as crude and benighted. (See, for example, Birney, Letter to Ministers and Elders, 6; Channing, Slavery, 109; [Weld], The Bible against Slavery, 20; and Parker, Speeches, Addresses, and Occasional Sermons, 3:43.)
Birney, James G. Letter to Ministers and Elders, on the Sin of Holding Slaves, and the Duty of Immediate Emancipation. New York: S. W. Benedict, 1834.
Channing, William E. Slavery. Boston: James Munroe, 1835.
[Weld, Theodore]. The Bible against Slavery. An Inquiry into the Patriarchal and Mosaic Systems on the Subject of Human Rights. 4th ed. New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1838.
Parker, Theodore. Speeches, Addresses, and Occasional Sermons. 3 vols. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1861.