Letter to Edward Partridge and Others, 30 March 1834
JS, Letter with postscript by , , Geauga Co., OH, to , , and other members of the , [, MO], 30 Mar. 1834. Featured version copied [ca. 30 Mar. 1834] in Oliver Cowdery, Letterbook, 30–38; handwriting of ; Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. Transcription from digital color image obtained from the Huntington Library in 2011. For more complete source information on Oliver Cowdery, Letterbook, see the source note for Letter to J. G. Fosdick, 3 Feb. 1834.
From the end of February to the end of March 1834, JS traveled to recruit individuals for the expedition to . On 28 March, he returned to , Ohio, and found that he had received several letters from Missouri church leaders, some of which were from members of the . Those letters, though no longer extant, seem to have discussed, among other things, the business of the firm, including its losses. The letters from Missouri must have also criticized JS and other Kirtland church leaders; according to JS, the letters contained “sharp, piercing, & cutting reproofs,” partly because of misspellings and grammatical errors that appeared in a published broadside of a December 1833 revelation and partly because of the lack of financial support from Kirtland for Missouri church members. Earlier missives from Missouri were similarly critical of Kirtland church leaders, and Missouri members had been consequently rebuked for being contentious. A December 1833 revelation even declared that church members had been driven from , Missouri, in part because of the “jar[r]ings and contentions envyings and strifes and lustful and covetous desires among them.” Although acknowledged that “it was right that we should be driven out of the land of ,” the letters that JS received in March 1834 apparently exhibited at least a measure of the same critical spirit found in earlier correspondence.
After spending the preceding day with his family and in the midst of attending to ecclesiastical affairs, JS penned a reply to the leaders on 30 March 1834. The letter, featured here, offers a glimpse into how the hardships of late 1833 and early 1834 affected JS and how he handled criticism. This letter exhibited JS’s frustration over their complaints but also evinced his desire to forgive past transgressions for the sake of unity. In the letter, JS also offered more information on the matters with which and others had found fault, bemoaned the persecution the church was experiencing in both Missouri and , and reported on the expected expedition of “able brethren” to Missouri. Specifically, he noted church members’ lack of support (in terms of both financial donations and individual volunteers) for the contemplated expedition to . JS also suggested that though he intended to be part of the expedition, he had other matters to resolve before departing. In fact, it was not until 9 April 1834, after the legal proceedings against (who had been charged with threatening to kill JS) had successfully concluded, that JS finally determined to “go to Zion.”
The letter further provided information on the advantage of employing attorney general Robert W. Wells in the Mormons’ legal suits, on debts and finances in , on the recent purchase of a printing press by in , and on the selling of property. Though some church leaders in Missouri wrote letters to Kirtland in the months following this letter, they did not specifically address this letter or its contents. Therefore, it is not clear if the men of the in Missouri received this letter.
See, for example, “The Outrage in Jackson County, Missouri,” The Evening and the Morning Star, May 1834, 160; and “The Outrage in Jackson County, Missouri,” The Evening and the Morning Star, June 1834, 168.
The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.
as we did of the subject matter; as the word of God means what it says; & it is the word of God, as much as Christ was God, although he was born in a stable, & was rejected by the manner of his birth, notwithstanding he was God. What a mistake! the manner of his birth, & the source from which he sprang caused him to be rejected & cast out, & to be taken & put to death.
Whereas <had> he pleased the great men, the high priests, the lawyers, & the learned, he might have escaped. But supposing we should happen to make as great a mistake as the Lord did, & come under the censure of big men & fall in the same way, what would be the consequence? The fact was, there was no room in the Inn; & when man cannot do as they would, they must do as they can; for God set the example before them. For there was no room in the Inn! but there was room found “in the stable; & here was utterly a fault in the eyes of the laughing philosophers;” but it is not given to us to understand that he altered his course to please any man. And who was it that triumphed? was it the “laughing philosophers,” or him who never deviated from the will of him who sent him? Now the fact is, if we have made any mistakes in punctuation, or spelling, it has been done in consequence of , having come from in great afflictions, through much fatigue and anxiety, and being sent contrary to his expectations to , and obtain[in]g press and Types, and hauling them up in the midst of mobs, when he and I, and all the in had to lie every night for a long time upon our arms to keep off mobs, of forties, of eighties, & of hundreds to save our lives and the press, and that we might not be scattered & driven to the four winds! And all this in the midst of every kind of confusion & calamity & in the sorrowful tale of , for the sake of Zion, that the word of God might be printed & sent forth by confidential brethren to the different churches; for the churches are just like you— they will not receive anything but by [p. 32]
According to the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, published in the latter half of the nineteenth century, Democritus, a Greek philosopher who lived from 460–357 BC, was known as the “laughing philosopher” because he “viewed with supreme contempt the feeble powers of man.” A more contemporary periodical article likewise called Democritus the “laughing philosopher.” The phrase “laughing philosophers” was also used more generally to connote jest, sarcasm, or humor. (Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 733; “Humble Station No Obstacle to the Acquisition of Knowledge,” Friend, 28 Aug. 1830, 361; see also, for example, The Galaxy of Wit: or Laughing Philosopher Being a Collection of Choice Anecdotes . . . , 2 vols. [Boston: J. Reed, 1830].)
Brewer, E. Cobham. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Giving the Derivation, Source, or Origin of Common Phrases, Allusions, and Words That Have a Tale to Tell. Rev. ed. 2 vols. London: Cassell, 1895.
Friend: A Religious and Literary Journal. Philadelphia. 1827–1955.
Oliver Cowdery traveled to New York in October 1833 to purchase new printing equipment. He informed Ambrose Palmer on 30 October that “I purchased a Press & Types, all of which had arrived at Buffalo when I left that place: when they will arrive here is uncertain to us, as that depends upon the providences of our Heavenly Father. If however his providences are favorable, they will arrive in a few days undoubtedly.” Cowdery paid $190.60 for the printing press and $360.21 for type. (Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland Mills, OH, to Ambrose Palmer, New Portage, OH, 30 Oct. 1833, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 8; F. G. Williams and Company, Account Book, 1.)
Cowdery, Oliver. Letterbook, 1833–1838. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.
F. G. Williams & Co. Account Book, 1833–1835. CHL. In Patience Cowdery, Diary, 1849–1851. CHL. MS 3493.
By mid-January 1834, the printing office in Kirtland had printed the 16–17 December 1833 revelation, which explained why the Mormons had been expelled from Jackson County and relayed a parable indicating how Zion was to be redeemed. The church intended to send copies of the revelation to the governor of Missouri and to the president of the United States. The church also distributed copies among its branches, presumably to help recruit people and raise money for the expedition to Missouri. The Painesville Telegraph stated that the revelation was “privately circulated among the deluded followers of the impostor, Smith,” while Mormonism Unvailed declared that it “was taken up by all their priests and carried to all their congregations.” (“A Scrap of Mormonism,” Painesville [OH] Telegraph, 24 Jan. 1834, ; Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 155.)
Howe, Eber D. Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, from Its Rise to the Present Time. With Sketches of the Characters of Its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible Was Brought before the World. To Which Are Added, Inquiries into the Probability That the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written by One Solomon Spalding, More Than Twenty Years Ago, and by Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance. Painesville, OH: By the author, 1834.