See the full bibliographic entry for JS Collection, 1827–1844, in the CHL catalog.
On the morning of 8 September 1842, JS dictated to his scribe a letter from , Illinois, to in , New York, updating him on the state of affairs in the wake of ’s public criticisms of JS and the Latter-day Saints. JS wrote the letter in response to James Arlington Bennet’s 16 August 1842 letter, which JS received by 7 September. Although Bennet had started corresponding with John C. Bennett earlier that year, Bennet’s 16 August letter was the first that JS received from him, and the two men had never met in person.
In his 16 August letter, praised the character of several church members whom he had recently met, including , , and . He also gave JS his assessment of and noted that Bennett had approached him about publishing an exposé of JS and the church, a proposition he refused. In his reply, JS added his praise for Richards, Foster, and Bernhisel and asserted that the church was filled with thousands of men of similarly high character. JS also expressed his opinion of John C. Bennett and recounted the persecution he and several other church members experienced because of Bennett’s charges. JS described his and the Saints’ circumstances as inconsistent with the liberties and values celebrated throughout the country. He also conveyed his belief that the persecution would spread to other groups and eventually engulf the world in violence if other Americans did not rise up to protect the Saints’ citizenship rights. Finally, JS explained the difficulty he and others were having with the post office.
JS was hiding at ’s home in when he dictated this letter. Because it lacks addressing and postal markings, the version featured here appears to be a draft of the letter. Around the same time the letter was sent, and copied the text of the letter into JS’s journal. The Sangamo Journal published an excerpt of the letter in its 4 November 1842 issue, stating that the letter had been printed in the 22 October 1842 issue of the New York Herald. According to church member , the letter was read publicly to a congregation in Nauvoo on 11 September 1842. likely received the letter by late September or early October. On 24 October, he wrote a letter to in which he continued his discussion of JS’s challenges in the wake of ’s accusations.
Differences between the draft of the letter that JS dictated to and the version in JS’s journal are noted.
Church leaders had contacted Bennet by mid-April 1842, at which time he was commissioned as an officer in the Nauvoo Legion. (Moses K. Anderson to James Arlington Bennet, Certificate, Springfield, IL, 30 Apr. 1842, Thomas Carlin, Correspondence, Illinois State Archives, Springfield.)
Carlin, Thomas. Correspondence, 1838–1842. In Office of the Governor, Records, 1818–1989. Illinois State Archives, Springfield.
As noted above, JS received Bennet’s 16 August letter in Nauvoo on 7 September. This and other correspondence between the two indicate that mail took about three weeks to travel between Nauvoo and New Utrecht.
all the churches. I must be excused therefore for any wrongs that may have taken place, in relation to this matter. And so far as I obtain a knowledge of that which is right, shall meet with my hearty approval. I feel to tender you my most hearty & sincere thanks for every expression of kindness you have tendered toward me or my brethren, and would beg the privilege of obtruding myself a little while upon your patience in offering a short relation of my circumstances. I am at this time persecuted the worst of any man on the earth; as well as this people, here in this place; and all our sacred rights, are trampled under the feet of the mob. I am now hunted as an hart by the mob, under the pretense, or shadow of law, to cover their abominable deeds. An unhallowed demand has been made from the of on oath of , that I made an attempt to assassinate him, on the night of the sixth of May, when on that day <and on the seventh> it is well known <that I was attending the officers drill and answered to my name when the roll was called> by the thousands that assembled here in , that I was at my post in reviewing the in the presence of twelve thousand people; and the of the State of <notwithstanding his being> knowing to all these facts, <yet he> immediately granted a writ, and by an unhallowed usurption, has taken away our chartered rights, and denied the right of ; and <I am informed> has now about thirty of the most blood-thirsty kind of men <from now on their way to> in this place in search for me, threatening death, and destruction, and extermination upon all the Mormons; and searching my house almost continually from day to day, menacing, and threatening, [p. 4]