Discourse, 1 March 1840

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

After engaging in prayer to the Most High, and reading a chapter of sacred writ, he commenced his discourse. He told his people he was their servant; that they had a right to know all the incidents of his journey; he would therefore endeavor to give them a minute account. He did not like to preach politics on the Sabbath; but he must free his mind,—must tell the whole story.
The object of his visit at , you well know, was to make application to Congress for relief, touching their troubles in . But to the discourse. He said, on his arrival in , he, with two of his , ( and ,) called on at the “White House” with a letter of introduction, and after making known to him the object of their visit, and soliciting him to help them, replied; “Help you! how can I help you? All would turn against me.” But they demanded of a hearing, and he, after listening a few moments to their tale of injured innocence, abruptly left the room. After waiting some time for his return, they were under the necessity of departing, disappointed, and chagrined.
He thought treated them with great disrespect and neglect. He said while they were with , a member of Congress waited upon him, and in conversation, among other things, told the that he (the ) was getting fat. The replied that he was aware of the fact; that he had to go every few days to the tailor’s to get his clothes let out, or purchase a new coat. The “Prophet” here added, at the top of his voice,— he hoped he would continue to grow fat, and swell, and, before the next election, burst!
He felt at home in the White House, and, while there, thought he began to swell a little himself. He felt that he had a perfect right there, as much right as , because it belonged to the people, and he was one of the people.
He spoke of the success attending his preaching in the Eastern cities; that the people en masse in many places were converted to the Mormon faith. That the striplings which they had sent from this wilderness to preach to the wise men and priests of the great cities, were accomplishing mighty things for the , by confounding the learned priests.
On one occasion, he said, six ministers attended a meeting where a little Mormon fellow was preaching, and undertook to put him down by ridicule: but he stood his ground, and whipped them all out, by fair argument; and the congergation acknowledged en masse that he whipped them all.
Here this spiritual discourse was brought to a close, by a violent shower of rain. After making an appointment to deliver the conclusion, the Prophet dismissed the meeting. [p. [2]]


  1. 1

    See Memorial to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, ca. 30 Oct. 1839–27 Jan. 1840.  

  2. 2

    Rigdon was not present when JS and Higbee met with President Van Buren. In a letter they wrote a week after the meeting, JS and Higbee commented that Rigdon, Robert D. Foster, and Orrin Porter Rockwell were still making their way to the capital. (Letter to Hyrum Smith and Nauvoo High Council, 5 Dec. 1839.)  

  3. 3

    The president’s residence in Washington DC was officially called the “Executive Mansion” until Theodore Roosevelt used the “White House” as its formal name in 1901. Prior to that date, however, it was unofficially referred to as the “White House,” the “Presidential Mansion,” the “President’s Palace,” or the “President’s House.” (Seale, President’s House, 24, 160, 626; “Signs of the Times,” Times and Seasons, 15 Mar. 1841, 2:352.)  

    Seale, William. The President’s House: A History. Vol. 1. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

  4. 4

    JS carried at least four letters of recommendation or introduction with him to Washington. (Recommendation from Quincy, IL, Branch, between 20 Oct. and 1 Nov. 1839; Recommendation from Nauvoo High Council, 27 Oct. 1839; Letter of Introduction from James Adams, 9 Nov. 1839; Letter of Introduction from Sidney Rigdon, 9 Nov. 1839.)  

  5. 5

    In the account JS and Higbee gave to Hyrum Smith and the Nauvoo high council, the men reported that Van Buren rejected their request for his support but that before their discussion ended he stated he would reconsider their case. (Letter to Hyrum Smith and Nauvoo High Council, 5 Dec. 1839.)  

  6. 6

    The meeting with Van Buren took place in the president’s parlor, where several other visitors sought his attention. (Letter to Hyrum Smith and Nauvoo High Council, 5 Dec. 1839; Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 17, [12].)  

  7. 7

    JS and other church leaders had recently reported on the membership growth in various branches of the church in the eastern United States. For instance, Parley P. Pratt stated that the membership of the church in New York City and Brooklyn had grown to nearly three hundred, with several people joining the church each week. Similarly, JS informed Robert D. Foster that the church in Philadelphia then consisted of forty-five members and was experiencing steady growth. (Letter from Parley P. Pratt, 22 Nov. 1839; Letter to Robert D. Foster, 30 Dec. 1839.)  

  8. 8

    See 1 Corinthians 1:27.  

  9. 9

    It is unclear what specific event JS was referring to here. Robert D. Foster used similar language to describe his general desire to debate clergymen in the capital as well as a particular debate he had with Methodist clergyman George G. Cookman. (Letter from Robert D. Foster, 24 Dec. 1839.)  

  10. 10

    If JS finished his discourse on a later date, there is no extant account of it.