JS, Travel Account and Questions, , Geauga Co., OH, Nov. 1837. Featured version published in Elders’ Journal of the Church of Latter Day Saints,Nov. 1837, 27–29. For more complete source information, see the source note for Elders’ Journal, Oct. 1837.
In late September 1837, JS and several other leaders traveled to , Missouri, to reorganize church leadership and to establish “places of for the Saints.” After returning to on 10 December, JS published an account of his travels from , through , and to , as well as a summary of various meetings held in Far West, in the church’s recently inaugurated periodical, Elders’ Journal. In addition, JS included a list of twenty questions concerning his history and the church’s beliefs and practices. The questions and travel account were published in the November issue of the Elders’ Journal, which was likely printed shortly after JS’s return to Kirtland.
JS, , , and set out for on 27 September 1837. Traveling southwest from to , Ohio, the men proceeded west along the National Road through central and before arriving at , Indiana, on 12 October; the party later proceeded west through and Carrollton, Missouri, reaching sometime before 6 November. Shortly after his arrival in Far West, JS participated in a series of meetings at which those assembled sustained—or in the case of , did not sustain—church leaders and discussed the gathering of church members to that place. At the meetings, it was determined that there were sufficient resources in the area to support additional members of the church, and they appointed , , , and to find locations for other of in the surrounding region. In the article featured here, JS encouraged church members to “make all possible exertions to gather themselves together” in Missouri; he also informed readers that he and other church leaders would be relocating their families there “as soon as our circumstances will admit.”
In addition to summarizing his journey to and the administrative decisions made there, JS enumerated a series of questions that he said were “daily and hourly asked by all classes of people whilst we are traveling.” Though the specific circumstances that prompted such questions are unclear, many of the queries were related to longstanding misconceptions about church doctrine and JS’s past. Avowedly anti-Mormon publications had long influenced how the public viewed JS and the church. ’s Mormonism Unvailed, which had been published three years prior in , Ohio, had shaped some of the public discourse surrounding JS and the church. Although JS stated his intention to answer the questions in the next issue of the Elders’ Journal, JS’s departure from and the seizure and burning of the in January 1838 delayed the publication of these answers until the paper resumed printing in Far West, Missouri, in July 1838.
Vilate Murray Kimball, Kirtland, OH, to Heber C. Kimball, Preston, England, 19–24 Jan. 1838, Heber C. Kimball, Collection, CHL; Thomas B. Marsh, Far West, MO, to Wilford Woodruff, [ca. Apr. 1838], in Elders’ Journal,July 1838, 36–38.
Kimball, Heber C. Collection, 1837–1898. CHL. MS 12476.
Though JS’s report names the members of the committee and indicates when they began their work, the composition of the committee subsequently changed. In minutes of a 7 December 1837 meeting held in Far West, Cowdery, Wight, and David W. Patten are noted as being members of the committee, while Whitmer and Corrill are not mentioned. Frederick G. Williams was added to the committee on that day. (Minute Book 2, 7 Dec. 1837.)
Written to convince the public that JS was an imposter and to warn “those who are yet liable . . . to be enclosed within its [Mormonism’s] fetters,” Howe’s book featured a series of affidavits collected by Doctor Philastus Hurlbut from individuals who claimed to have been acquainted with JS and his family when they lived in New York. Following its publication, JS defended his and his family’s reputations, stating that he had never “been guilty of wronging or injuring any man or society of men” and that he was only guilty of having, in his youth, “a light, and too often, vain mind.” Howe’s book received a favorable review in Alexander Campbell’s Millennial Harbinger and was available for purchase throughout Ohio, western New York, and Pennsylvania. (Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, ix; JS to Oliver Cowdery, LDS Messenger and Advocate, Dec. 1834, 1:40; “Mormonism Unveiled,” Millennial Harbinger, Jan. 1835, 44–45; “Mormonism Unveiled,” Fredonia [NY] Censor, 25 Mar. 1835, ; News Item, Naked Truths about Mormonism [Oakland, CA], Apr. 1888, 4.)
Howe, Eber D. Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, from Its Rise to the Present Time. With Sketches of the Characters of Its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible Was Brought before the World. To Which Are Added, Inquiries into the Probability That the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written by One Solomon Spalding, More Than Twenty Years Ago, and by Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance. Painesville, OH: By the author, 1834.
See Questions and Answers, Elders’ Journal,July 1838, 42–44. In late December 1837 or early January 1838, the Geauga County sheriff seized the printing office, along with its contents, in response to a legal judgment rendered against JS. The office was destroyed by fire on 16 January 1838. (“Sheriff Sale,” Painesville [OH] Telegraph, 5 Jan. 1838, ; Hepzibah Richards, Kirtland, OH, to Willard Richards, Bedford, England, 18–19 Jan. 1838, Willard Richards, Journals and Papers, CHL; John Smith, Kirtland, OH, to George A. Smith, Shinnston, VA, 15–17 Jan. 1838, George Albert Smith, Papers, CHL.)
Be it known unto the Saints scattered abroad greeting:
That myself together with my beloved brother , having been appointed by a general of held in in the on the 18th of Sept. for the purpose of establishing places of for the Saints &c. we therefore would inform our readers that we started from in company with and on the 27th of Sept. last, for the purpose of vislting [visiting] the , and also to discover situations suitable for the location of the Saints who are gathering for a refuge and safety, in the day of the wrath of God which is soon to burst upon the head of this generation, according to the testimony of the prophets; who speak expressly concerning the last days: We had a prosperous and a speedy journey; we held one meeting in Ohio, and three in Doublin, Ia. [Dublin, Indiana] one between Doublin and , Ia. two in , one in Palmyra, Mo. 2 in , one in Carlton; all of which were tended with good success and generally allayed the prejudice and feeling of the people, as we judge from the treatment we received, being kindly and hospitably entertained. On our arrival at the city of , we [p. 27]