First Presidency (including JS), “Report from the Presidency,” [, Hancock Co., IL], to the Church, 4 Oct. 1840. Featured version published in “Report from the Presidency,” Times and Seasons, Oct. 1840, 187–188. For more complete source information, see the source note for Letter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.
On the morning of 4 October 1840, read this report from the as part of the 3–5 October general held in , Illinois. The statement was likely written for the First Presidency by Thompson, as evidenced by wording similar to language in an editorial he wrote in July 1840. At least the opening portion of this report was apparently written (or rewritten) after the conference began because it comments on the “unpropitious” weather and strong attendance at the conference.
The report described the ’s circumstances at the time, emphasizing positive developments in . In the report, the First Presidency mainly sought assistance in paying off the church’s debts from land purchases in , Illinois, and , Iowa Territory. Highlighting this purpose, the minutes of the general conference refer to the document as “the report of the presidency, in relation to the city plot.” This document echoed an earlier April 1840 report that dealt with church leaders’ “proceedings in purchasing lands and securing a place of gathering for the saints.”
In addition to addressing land purchases in , the October report relayed news about the church’s missionary efforts. According to the report, members of the continued to many people in Great Britain. As of October 1840, church membership there totaled well over three thousand, and the first stream of convert immigration to the and Nauvoo was under way, with the first company of Saints departing in June 1840. The apostles had also turned their attention to publishing, having printed a monthly periodical, the Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, since May 1840 and a hymnbook in July 1840. In addition to the apostles’ efforts in Great Britain, missionaries were also making strides in the southern United States. With more people joining the church, the First Presidency announced that a new edition of the Book of Mormon had been printed in , which would resolve the shortage of copies in Nauvoo and elsewhere.
The original report is not extant, but a copy was published in the October 1840 issue of the Times and Seasons. It was republished in the Millennial Star in January 1841.
Bonds from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–A and B; Hancock Co., IL, Deed Records, 1817–1917, vol. 12-G, p. 274, 30 Apr. 1839, microfilm 954,195; Lee Co., IA, Land Records, 1836–1961, Deeds (South, Keokuk), vol. 1, pp. 507–509, microfilm 959,238; vol. 2, pp. 3–6, 13–16, microfilm 959,239, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL; Cook, “Isaac Galland,” 270–275.
The Presidency of the , would respectfully report; that they feel rejoicing to meet the saints at another general and under circumstances as favorable as the present. Since our settlement in , we have for the most part been treated with courtesy and respect, and a feeling of kindness and of sympathy, has generally been manifested by all cfasses [classes] of the community, who with us, deprecate the conduct of those men, whose dark and blackning deeds, are stamped with everlasting infamy and disgrace.
The contrast between our past and present situation is great. Two years ago, mobs were threatening, plundering, driving and murdering the saints. Our burning houses enlightened the canopy of heaven. Our women and children houseless and destitute, had to wander from place to place, to seek a shelter from the rage of persecuting foes.— Now we enjoy peace, and can worship the God of heaven and earth without molestation. And expect to be able to go forward and accomplish the great and glorious work to which we have been called. Under these circumstances we feel to congratulate the saints of the Most High, on the happy and pleasing change in our circumstances, condition and prospects, and which those who shared in the perils and distresses, undoubtedly appreciate. While prayers and thanksgivings daily ascend to that God, who looked upon our distresses and delivered us from danger and death, and whose hand is over us for good. From the unpropitious nature of the weather, we hardly expected to behold so many of our friends on this occasion, in this however, we are agreeably disappointed, which gives us strong assurance that the saints are as zealous, untireing and energetic as ever in the great work of the last days; and gives us joy and consolation, and greatly encourages us, while contending with the difficulties which necessarily lie in our way.
Let the brethren ever manifest such a spirit, and hold up our hands, and we must, we will go forward, the work of the Lord shall roll forth, the of the Lord be reared, the of Israel be encouraged; be built up. And become the praise, the joy, and the glory of the whole earth; and the song of praise, glory, honor and majesty to him that setteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever, shall reverberate from hill to hill, from mountain to mountain, from Island to Island and from continent to continent, and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.
We are glad indeed to know that there is such a spirit of union existing throughout the churches, and at home and abroad; on this continent, as well as on the Islands of the sea, for by this principle and by a concentration of action shall we be able to carry into effect the purposes of our God.
From the Elders abroad we receive the most cheering accounts; wherever the faithful laborer has gone forth reaping, sowing the seed of truth, he has returned with joy, bringing his sheaves with him; and the information we receive from all quarters is, that the laborers are few and that the harvest is great. Many wealthy and influential characters have embraced the gospel, so that not only will the poor rejoice in that they are [p. 187]
This passage depicts the aftermath of the “Mormon War” following the arrests of several prominent church leaders on 31 October and 1 November 1838. In a letter published in August 1840, Thompson used similar language to describe this moment, discussing the “scenes which occured and our situation in the State of Missouri, when mobs were combining against us, when our wives and little ones, had to wander on the bleak prairies, when the flames of our houses enlightened the canopy of heaven.” (Robert B. Thompson, Nauvoo, IL, 10 July 1840, Editorial, Times and Seasons, Aug. 1840, 1:154.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
The conference was scheduled to begin on 2 October 1840, but rain delayed it until 3 October. An estimated four to five thousand attended the conference. (Benjamin Dobson, “The Mormons,” Peoria [IL] Register and North-Western Gazetteer, 30 Oct. 1840, ; Vilate Murray Kimball, Nauvoo, IL, to Heber C. Kimball, 11 Oct. 1840, photocopy, Vilate Murray Kimball, Letters, 1840, CHL.)
Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer. Peoria, IL. 1837–1843.
Young, Brigham. Letter, to Vilate Murray Young, 11 Aug. 1844, photocopy. CHL.
JS had contemplated the construction of a temple in Nauvoo as early as April 1840. In July JS preached on the importance of the Saints’ participation in this endeavor. (“A Glance at the Mormons,” Alexandria [VA] Gazette, 11 July 1840, ; Discourse, ca. 19 July 1840.)
See Matthew 9:37; and Luke 10:2. In a 7 May 1840 letter to JS, Brigham Young wrote, “We need help very much in this Country. . . . If we could go four ways at a time we could not fill all the calls we have for preaching.” (Letter from Brigham Young, 7 May 1840.)