Recommendation for George A. Smith, 21 September 1839
JS, Recommendation, for , , Hancock Co., IL, 21 Sept. 1839; handwriting of ; signature of JS; one page; JS Collection, CHL. Includes dockets and archival marking.
One leaf, measuring 7¾ × 7⅜ inches (20 × 19 cm). The right side and the bottom of the recto have the square cut of manufactured paper, whereas the left side and the top are unevenly cut. The document was originally folded in half. Later, the document was refolded for filing and then docketed.
A docket in the handwriting of , an employee in the Church Historian’s Office in the 1850s, indicates the document was in church possession at that time, though a docket in the handwriting of suggests that the document may have been in institutional possession as early as 1843. The document is listed in an 1858 Historian’s Office inventory. By 1973 the document was included in the JS Collection.
“Contents of the Historian and Recorder’s Office. G. S. L. City July 1858,” 6, Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL. Thomas Bullock started working as a scribe for JS in 1843. (Jessee, “Writing of Joseph Smith’s History,” 456–458.)
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.
Johnson, Register of the Joseph Smith Collection, 10.
Johnson, Jeffery O. Register of the Joseph Smith Collection in the Church Archives, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1973.
On 21 September 1839, JS wrote a letter of recommendation for , who was preparing to depart to serve a mission in with other members of the . JS appointed Smith to the quorum in January 1839 to fill the vacancy left by , who was excommunicated in absentia in March 1839. Shortly after Smith was designated, presented the appointment to a in , Illinois, and the conference sustained Smith in that position. Smith was to the office on 26 April in , Missouri, by the other members of the Quorum of the Twelve. They had gathered at the Far West because a revelation instructed them to symbolically recommence the construction of the temple by laying a new cornerstone. Another revelation had directed them to leave for their missions immediately after gathering at the temple site. However, because of sickness and other issues, many of the quorum members did not depart until August and September. Smith, one of those delayed by illness, left the day he received this recommendation.
In nineteenth-century , it was common practice for individuals traveling to distant places to carry letters of recommendation that introduced them to strangers and vouched for the traveler’s character. In addition to such letters, the church’s missionaries typically carried certifying their office and authority to preach. According to the church’s governing “Articles and Covenants,” when an left the of the church in which he resided to transact church business in another branch, he was expected to carry a license with him “from other elders, by vote of the church to which they belong, or from the .”
There is no record of the church issuing a to at the time he departed for . While the document featured here was ostensibly a letter of recommendation that introduced him as a member of the to “all to whom this may come,” it simultaneously may have functioned as a license issued and signed by a member of the because it identified Smith’s office and authorized him to preach “to the nations of the earth.”
George A. Smith, Autobiography, 1839, 81. The date on which Brigham Young presented Smith’s appointment for a sustaining vote is unclear. Young recorded the meeting as having occurred on 18 March 1839, but Smith himself said it was on 17 April 1839. Smith’s appointment was also presented to the general conference of the church in May 1839, even though he had already been ordained. (Historian’s Office, Brigham Young History Drafts, 21; Minutes, 4–5 May 1839.)
Smith, George A. Autobiography, ca. 1860–1882. George Albert Smith, Papers, 1834–1877. CHL. MS 1322, box 1, fd. 2.
Willis, Etiquette, and the Usages of Society, 9–11.
Willis, Henry P. Etiquette, and the Usages of Society: Containing the Most Approved Rules for Correct Deportment in Fashionable Life, together with Hints to Gentlemen and Ladies on Irregular and Vulgar Habits. Also, the Etiquette of Love and Courtship, Marriage Etiquette, &c. New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1860.
Historian’s Office. Histories of the Twelve, 1856–1858, 1861. CHL. CR 100 93.
Smith, George Albert. Papers, 1834–1877. CHL. MS 1322.
To the Greeting— and to all to whom this may come—
This is to recommend unto the fellowship and good will of all the faithful and to the confidence of all men, our beloved brother in Christ, one of the of our Lord Jesus Christ, called and sent forth by revelation in these last days to preach “the gospel” to the nations of the earth. And we thus reccomend him because we have proved and known him for a length of time, and always found him faithful in all things——
Joseph Smith Jr
Hancock Co Illinois, 21rst September 1839 [p. ]