JS, Letter, , Hancock Co., IL, to , [, Caldwell Co., MO], 22 May 1839. Featured version copied [between 22 May and 30 Oct. 1839], in JS Letterbook 2, p. 7; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 2.
On 22 May 1839, JS wrote a letter that reflects the distance that had developed between the men during the previous two years. In September 1837, JS sent members in a revelation declaring that Phelps and had “done those things which are not pleasing in my sight” and that unless they repented “they shall be removed out of their places.” In early February 1838, Phelps and the other members of the Missouri church were removed from office following accusations that they misused funds and acted contrary to JS’s revelations. Phelps refused to repent and was excommunicated on 10 March 1838. When he and other dissenters were ordered to leave , Missouri, Phelps desired to stay, so he agreed to provide restitution to any he had wronged and “to conform to the rules of the church in all things, knowing [he] had a good deal of property in the .” Soon thereafter, Phelps was , and on 8 July JS dictated a revelation signaling that Phelps should be an .
On 31 October 1838, and others negotiated the surrender of . As with others who dissented, Phelps did not approve of church members’ raids in , which he considered illegal, and threats against nonconformists. At a court of inquiry in November 1838, he testified against JS and sixty-three other Mormon defendants. He was excommunicated again on 17 March 1839 during a church in , Illinois.
It is unclear how much communication had with church leaders after this excommunication. In addition to a letter he wrote to JS on 14 April 1839, which is no longer extant, Phelps also wrote to in on 23 April 1839. In that letter, Phelps expressed interest in helping sell his lands in —something Phelps had apparently promised he would assist with. In JS’s reply to the 23 April letter, he asked that Phelps not conduct any business on behalf of JS or his family; he also stated that he wished to cut off all further contact with Phelps. The original letter is apparently not extant; the featured version is a copy that inscribed into JS Letterbook 2 between 22 May and 30 October 1839.
Mulholland copied the 14 April 1839 letter from Phelps on a loose leaf of paper and attached the page in JS Letterbook 2 using adhesive wafers. Mulholland included the added leaf in his pagination of the letterbook, numbering the pages “8” and “9.” At some point, the loose leaf was removed from the letterbook and is apparently no longer extant. (See JS Letterbook 2, p. 384.)
In answer to yours of 23rd April to we have to say that we shall feel obliged by your not making yourself officious concerning any part of our business in future. We shall be glad if you can make off a living by minding your own affairs, and we desire (so far as you are concerned) to be left to manage yours as well as you we can. We would much rather loose our properties, than be molested by such interference, and as we consider that we have already experienced much over officiousness at your hand, Concerning men and things pertaining to our concerns, we now request once for all, that you will avoid all interference in our business or affairs, from this time henceforth And for ever. Amen.
Phelps’s letter to Greene explained that a recent flood damaged a dam and that further flooding would decrease the value of land owned by Joseph Smith Sr. and others. Therefore, Phelps requested power of attorney in order to sell the property “before it is all lost.” (William W. Phelps, Far West, MO, to John P. Greene, Quincy, IL, 23 Apr. 1839, in JS Letterbook 2, p. 7.)