, JS, and , Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to the editors of the Quincy Whig, , Adams Co., IL, 17 May 1839. Featured version copied [between 27 May and 30 Oct. 1839] in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 14–15; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 2.
On 17 May 1839, the wrote a letter to the editors of the Quincy Whig, responding to ’s letters recently published in that newspaper. Wight’s letters described the violence the experienced in and expressed disappointment that Missouri senator and other Democratic officials had not helped the Saints. After the letters were published, wrote to the First Presidency, warning of the dangers Wight’s letters posed, particularly to the relationship between church members and Democrats in . In response, the First Presidency wrote to the Whig, stating that Wight did not speak with authority for the church, affirming the church’s political neutrality, and explaining that no single political party in Missouri was to blame for the Saints’ suffering there. , the first signatory, may have composed this 17 May letter on behalf of the First Presidency. Alternatively, Rigdon or another individual may have inscribed the letter as JS dictated it.
In the days that followed, JS dictated letters to and , expressing sentiments similar to those found in the letter to the editors. When the 17 May letter from the First Presidency was printed in the Whig on 25 May, an editorial preceded the letter. Titled “Difference of Opinion,” the editorial acknowledged that Wight did not speak for the church, questioned the First Presidency’s conclusion that all political parties were equally responsible for the Saints’ persecution, and defended Wight’s sentiments, arguing that Democrats shouldered most of the blame for events in . Soon thereafter, on 1 June, the Democratic Quincy Argus republished the First Presidency’s letter along with a letter from , , and , who indicated their agreement with the sentiments in the First Presidency’s letter. In response to the First Presidency’s letter, Wight wrote a letter that was printed in the 1 June issue of the Quincy Whig. Wight stated in the letter, “Having discovered a note in your last number, signed Smith and , which stated that our difficulties originated by all Parties, and that they did not wish to make a political question of it, neither do I, but duty prompts me to tell the truth.” He then continued to publish articles criticizing Missouri’s Democratic leaders.
The original letter from the First Presidency is apparently not extant. copied the text, likely from a retained copy of the letter, into JS Letterbook 2 between 27 May and 30 October 1839. Mulholland’s copy is featured here. The versions of the letter published in the Quincy Whig on 25 May 1839 and in the Quincy Argus on 1 June 1839 are similar to Mulholland’s version. The editors of the Whig made a few changes to the text before publishing it, standardizing capitalization and punctuation. Significant differences between the versions are noted in annotation.
See Letter from Robert B. Thompson, 13 May 1839. Thompson was concerned that Wight’s letters would incite political rivalries and jeopardize the warm reception and much-needed aid being provided to church members in Quincy, Illinois. At least one other politically based paper, the Daily Missouri Republican, took note of Wight’s letter in the Whig and contested some of his claims about leaders in Missouri. (See Editorial, Daily Missouri Republican [St. Louis], 4 June 1839, .)
Lyman Wight, Quincy, IL, 30 May 1839, Letter to the Editors, Quincy (IL) Whig, 1 June 1839, . The letter published 1 June was not the first in which Wight expressed remorse for the results of his letters. A week before the First Presidency’s letter appeared in the Whig, the editors published a note from Wight in which he expressed regret that members of the church had been “assailed in round language” because of the personal opinions he presented in his letters. (Lyman Wight, Letter to the Editors, Quincy Whig, 18 May 1839, .)
Gentlemen— Some letters in your paper have appeared over the signature of in relation to our affairs with .
We consider it is ’s privilege to express his opinion in relation to political or religious matters, and we profess no authority in the case whatever; but we have thought, and do still think, that it is not doing our cause justice to make a political question of it in any manner whatever. We have not at any time thought that there was any political party as such chargeable with the [p. 14]