Letter to Parley P. Pratt and Others, 12 June 1842
and JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to and others, , Lancashire, England, 12 June 1842; handwriting of ; four pages; CHL. Includes address.
Bifolium measuring 12¼ × 7½ inches (31 × 19 cm). The document was trifolded twice in letter style and sealed with red wax. Remnants of the wafer are visible on the last page of the letter. There is extensive tearing along the folds, and the document has undergone conservation.
The provenance of this document is unknown. The letter bears no dockets or notations and does not appear to have been part of the early Historian’s Office holdings. Around 1912, Joseph F. Smith presented a photomechanical copy of part of the letter’s first postscript on page four to his son Hyrum M. Smith, and other copies were in the possession of the extended Smith family. During the late twentieth century, the letter was evidently among some uncataloged JS documents in the Church Historical Department. The document was cataloged in 2003.
In 2001, Dean Jessee’s research files contained a photocopy of the letter with Jessee’s notes, presumably inscribed in the 1970s, stating the original letter was in uncataloged JS material at the Church Historical Department.
See the full bibliographic entry for this letter in the CHL catalog.
On 12 June 1842, , acting on behalf of JS, wrote a letter in , Illinois, to and the other Latter-day Saints in . While most of the had completed their missions and returned to the by the summer of 1841, Pratt had remained in England. As the senior leader there, he oversaw the church’s proselytizing, publication, and emigration efforts. However, by December 1841 Pratt had wanted to return to Nauvoo and wrote to JS for advice regarding his “wish to come home in the spring and stay till, the is done.”
This June 1842 letter appears to be a belated reply to ’s letter, and it primarily addressed a question Pratt had asked about the of the British Saints to . In the letter, advised the Saints in against separating from their spouses over differences in religious belief. He further counseled Latter-day Saint fathers to remain in England with their families until they could afford passage for their entire family, rather than traveling to the alone with the intent to send for their families after they earned enough money. Hyrum repeatedly referenced the immoral and unchristian behavior that sometimes resulted when British Saints left their spouses behind to emigrate, and he maintained that some Saints who had left their spouses in England had committed adultery by taking a new spouse in Nauvoo. These moral admonitions may also have stemmed from the recent seductions perpetrated by and other men in Nauvoo.
further cautioned the British Saints that was not as prosperous as they may have been led to believe. Many English Saints had apparently immigrated to Nauvoo with hopes of prosperity and financial assistance from the church, only to have those hopes dashed. It was likely this disappointment that led Hyrum to warn the Saints still in about Nauvoo’s struggling economy and the church’s inability to financially support everyone who wished to immigrate. He specifically emphasized that fathers immigrating to Nauvoo would not be able to earn the money necessary for their family’s passage to .
The version of the letter featured here is the copy that was sent to . It appears to be a copy made of ’s original draft. The letter includes three postscripts, which may have been added after Clayton copied the letter. The first postscript identified the families of three British immigrants who were working on the ; in exchange for their labor, the church had agreed to help the families immigrate to Nauvoo. Clayton signed both JS’s and Hyrum Smith’s names to this postscript, suggesting that JS was involved in the request. The second postscript was appended to the first and specified that the aforementioned families should be sent to Nauvoo by fall 1842. The final postscript addressed concerns Pratt had raised in his December 1841 letter to JS and offered Pratt reassurance. The last two postscripts include Hyrum’s and JS’s initials.
, who was expected to depart soon from , was appointed to carry the letter to ; as a result, the letter bears no postal markings. Fielding arrived in by September 1842. An extract of this letter was published in the November 1842 issue of the British periodical Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star.
Unlike most of the other apostles and missionaries, Pratt had relocated his family to England in fall 1840 and thus did not experience years of separation from his family. (See Givens and Grow, Parley P. Pratt, 177, 184–185.)
Givens, Terryl L., and Matthew J. Grow. Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Messors Bashale & Boardmans Mill. Also Elizabeth Clayton care of Mr , Shopkeeper Messrs Bashale & Boardmans Mill, Farrington, near , Lancashire. Brother will understand the particulars. This is a precedent, that we cannot establish, therefore you will be particular and keep this to yourself.
<Trustee in Trust>
<We wish to have these families sent, this fall if possible, or they must, suffer.—
We assure you that you have our best feelings, and our prayers, and have no fault to find. Believing every man has done the best he could, that is— the , such as have remained in . And we desire your prayers, even all the Saints— &c. &c.
This third postscript appears to have been written in response to Pratt’s plea in his December 1841 letter for JS to “not be angry with your old friend for earnestly seeking this knowledge, or some information on the subject of these times.” In his letter, Pratt had posed six questions to JS, asking for general advice about his return to Nauvoo, directions for the church in England, and guidance on spreading the gospel to nations beyond England. He also asked more specifically about the redemption of Jackson County, Missouri, and the opportunity to shift the focus of the church’s proselytizing efforts from the gentiles to the Jews. (Letter from Parley P. Pratt, 4 Dec. 1841.)