On 3 September 1837, after months of determined and outspoken opposition against him, JS convened a of the in , Ohio, at which he was sustained as of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Many other church leaders were also supported by the congregation, including , who was unanimously sustained as one of four assistant counselors to JS despite having “been in transgression.” Other church leaders were rejected, including three dissenting and others deemed to be guilty of misbehavior.
The day after the conference, JS sent to and the Saints in the letter featured here, which included a copy of the conference minutes. In directing his letter to Corrill, who had been a member of the Missouri and was the church’s in the West, and to Missouri church members generally, JS bypassed the Missouri , some of whom were in at the time. In sending an open letter to church members in Missouri, JS may have been seeking to encourage them to push for regulation of the church there, much like the reorganization he had overseen in Kirtland the previous day. Following the minutes, JS added a note regarding the wrongdoings of various individuals, including and Missouri president . Though Cowdery had retained his church position, JS advised the church members in Missouri that unless he changed his attitude and more diligently fulfilled his obligations in the presidency, he should be removed from office. JS also warned about Whitmer, , and others who he said “have been in transgression.” JS may have wanted the Missouri church members to have this information prior to the arrival of Whitmer and Cowdery, who soon left Kirtland for .
JS sent the letter to with , who departed for in company with shortly after 4 September 1837. The two men arrived at their destination in October. JS himself arrived in Missouri by early November and presided over meetings to further reorganize church leadership, settle differences within the church, and organize new of in Missouri. At a 7 November 1837 conference held in for the purpose of sustaining church leaders, served as clerk but was not sustained to his former office as JS’s counselor, perhaps because of the unnamed offenses alluded to in this letter.
copied the letter into JS’s journal sometime in mid-March 1838, at the time he copied in a series of document transcripts and summaries pertaining to JS’s efforts to set church leadership in order and replace dissenting leaders.
Esplin, Ronald K. “The Emergence of Brigham Young and the Twelve to Mormon Leadership, 1830–1841.” PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1981. Also available as The Emergence of Brigham Young and the Twelve to Mormon Leadership, 1830–1841, Dissertations in Latter-day Saint History (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History; BYU Studies, 2006).
& should retain his <their> office as Prests of the was objected. The Pres then arose and made some remarks concerning the formers Prests of the Seventies, the callings and authorities of their &c. &c. Voted that the old Presidents of the seventies be refered to the of , And also that of if any of the members of the quorum of the seventies should be dissattisfied & would not submit to the Present order, and receive these last Presidents that they Should have power to demand their & they should no longer be concidered members of the
Closed by Prayer by the President
Joseph Smith Jr Prest
Joseph Smith Jr Prest
has been in transgression, but as he is now chosen as one of the I trust that he will yet humble himself & magnify his calling but if he should not, the will soon be under the necessaty of raising their hands against him Therefore pray for him, & others have been in transgression but we hope that they may be humble & ere long make sattisfaction to the Church otherwise they cannot retain their standing, Therefore we say unto you beware of all disaffected Characters for they come not to build up but to destroy & scatter abroad, Though we or an Angel from Heaven preach any other Gospel or introduce [any other?] order of things <than> those things which ye have received and are authorized to received from the first Presidency let him be accursed, May God Almighty Bless you all & keep you unto the coming & kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Yours in the Bonds of the new <covenent>— J. Smith, Jr.
It is not clear what specific misdeed this refers to. In April 1838 Cowdery was brought before the Missourihigh council on a variety of charges and was excommunicated from the church. It is likely that there is a connection between this mention of transgression and at least one of those charges. (See Oliver Cowdery, Far West, MO, to Warren A. Cowdery, 21 Jan. 1838; Oliver Cowdery, Far West, MO, to Warren A. Cowdery and Lyman Cowdery, [Kirtland, OH], 4 Feb. 1838, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 80–86; Fullmer, Autobiography, ; and Synopsis of Oliver Cowdery Trial, 12 Apr. 1838.)
Cowdery, Oliver. Letterbook, 1833–1838. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.
Fullmer, Desdemona Wadsworth. Autobiography, 7 June 1868. Desdemona Wadsworth Fullmer, Papers, 1868. CHL. MS 734.
Leonard Rich was among the church dissenters who signed Warren Parrish’s inflammatory 5 February 1838 letter to the editor of the Painesville Republican. (Warren Parrish, Kirtland, OH, 5 Feb. 1838, Letter to the Editor, Painesville [OH] Republican, 15 Feb. 1838, ; see also “Mormonism,” Zion’s Watchman, 24 Mar. 1838, 46.)