Letter from Brigham Young, 7 May 1840

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Herefordshire England
May 7th. 1840
Brother Joseph Smith
Through the mercy of our heavenly Father I am alive and in pretty good health; better then I should have been had I remaind in I trust that you and family are well and I ask my heavenly Father that we may live for ever; but not to be chased about by mobs, but live to enjoy each others society in peace. I long to see the faces of my friends again in that once more. It is better for me to be here. because the Lord has called me to this great work but it is hard for me to be parted from my old friends who I have proved to be willing to lay down their lives for each other. I feel as though the Lord would grant me the priviledge of sometimes seeing my old friends in , give my best wishes to your . I remember her in my prayers and also and . I remember the time when I first saw and the trials [she] had when the work of the Lord first commenced in her family. I beg to be remember[ed] to and family also to and family and to all the faithful in Christ. the
The brethren that have come from are all well and doing well
I want to ask some questions. Shall we print the Book of Mormon in this immediately, they are calling for them for every quarter. The duties are so high on books, we need not think of bringing them from ; another question is the book of Doctrine and Covenants to be printed just as it is now to go to the nations of the earth, and shall we give it to them as quick as we can or what shall we do. Will the have to be together to do business as a , or shall they do business in the name of the . Why I ask this is for my own satisfaction, if the Lord has a word for us, for one I am willing to receive it. I wish you to write as soon as you receive this and let me know about the book of Mormon [p. 151] whether we shall proceed to publish it immediately or not or whether we shall do according to our feelings. If I should act according to my feelings I should hand the Book of Mormon to this people as quick as I can could. The people ar[e] very different in this country to what the Americans are; they say it cannot be possible that men should leave their homes and come so far, unless they were truly the servants of the Lord; they do not seem to understand argument, simple testimony is enough for them, they beg and plead for the book of mormon and were it not for the priests of the the people would follow after the servants of the Lord and enquire what they should do to be saved: The priests feel just as they did in the days of the Saviour. If they let “this sect alone all men will believe on them and the Romans will come and take away our place and Nation. I wish you would tell me how gets along with his business and all the boys on the —and the whole breed. I think a great deal about our friends, families and possessions. I look for the time when the Lord will speak so that the hearts of the rebellious will be pierced, you will remember the words of the Saviour to his desciples, he says to you is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven, but to them that are without all things in parables. The brethren here are very anxous to emigrate to that , some want to come this fall, where shall they go. their customs are different to ours and it would be more pleasant for them to settle by themselves.
Almost without exception it is the poor that receive the gospel: I think there will be some over this fall, my counsel to such as intend to come is, that they go to the western states where you can live among the farmers and wait for orders from the Authorities of the , and all will be well. You must excuse my bad writing, I have only catched at ideas. I want to know about the Brethren’s coming over this fall I think some of us will come we shall send our papers to you and to a number of the rest of the brethren
I wish you would have the goodness to give me a pretey general knowledge of the Church for I feel for them and pray for them continually
We need help very much in this , one American do more here than a number of the who are raized up here by the preaching of the Gospel, we have sent for some to come. I wish you would encourage them to come as quick as they can [p. 152]
If we could go four ways at a time we could not fill all the calls we have for preaching. I shall expect such council from you about the comming as you shall think necessary for us and them to have. I wish to know what the prospect is about the goverment’s doing any thing for us. When we left I thought there was but a poor chance for us: concerning being called to the and sent to other countries I should like to know whether it would be propper to them to that office or not while here Had any of us better come back this fall, I suppose that some that came over with us will return Brothers and — and if he gets at liberty. I suppose you have heard that he is in prison. he has been there ever since my arrival in in and how long he will remain there the Lord only knows, he was put there through the influence of a priest as nigh as I can learn, for some old pretended claim but no one can find out what that claim is. I have just met with he tells me that the in this region of country numbers between three and four hundred, it is only about three months since commenced to labor here I have just received a letter from which stated he expected to leave his place the next day. sends his respects. I am as ever:
To Joseph Smith [p. 153]


  1. 1

    Compilers of JS’s history later wrote that when Young departed his home in Montrose, Iowa Territory, on 14 September 1839 to begin his journey to England, “his health was very poor, he was unable to go thirty rods to the River without assistance.” In a 17 July 1870 discourse given in Salt Lake City, Young recollected, “I was determined to go to England or to die trying.” (JS History, vol. C-1, 967; Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 17 July 1870, 13:211; see also Allen et al., Men with a Mission, 70–71.)  

    Journal of Discourses. 26 vols. Liverpool: F. D. Richards, 1855–1886.

    Allen, James B., Ronald K. Esplin, and David J. Whittaker. Men with a Mission, 1837–1841: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992.

  2. 2

    Young similarly expressed a desire to see his friends in his letter eight days earlier. (See Letter from Brigham Young, 29 Apr. 1840.)  

  3. 3

    When she began compiling a history of her family in fall 1844, Lucy Mack Smith chronicled the Smiths’ trials, describing at length the challenges occasioned by the death of her oldest son, Alvin, less than two months after an angel visited JS and informed him of the gold plates from which he was to translate the Book of Mormon. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 3, [10]–[12]; bk. 4, [1]–[5].)  

  4. 4

    Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, George A. Smith, and Reuben Hedlock arrived in England on 6 April 1840. Willard Richards, John Taylor, Joseph Fielding, Wilford Woodruff, Theodore Turley, Hiram Clark, and others had already been serving in England—some since 1837. (George A. Smith, Autobiography, 6 Apr. 1840, 92; see also Allen et al., Men with a Mission, 4–10, 23–29, 106, 108.)  

    Smith, George A. Autobiography, ca. 1860–1882. George Albert Smith, Papers, 1834–1877. CHL. MS 1322, box 1, fd. 2.

    Allen, James B., Ronald K. Esplin, and David J. Whittaker. Men with a Mission, 1837–1841: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992.

  5. 5

    When the Quorum of the Twelve met on 16 April 1840 for their second meeting in connection with the general conference of the church in Preston, they appointed Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Parley P. Pratt as a committee to secure British copyrights for the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants as quickly as possible. The conference report Young sent on 29 April notified the First Presidency of this decision. Young also requested that the Twelve be advised of any decisions they or the conference had made that did not meet with First Presidency approval. (“From England,” Times and Seasons, June 1840, 1:121; Letter from Brigham Young, 29 Apr. 1840.)  

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

  6. 6

    Before the Twelve departed for their first mission to the eastern United States in 1835, JS instructed them, “When the twelve are all together or a quorum of them in any church, they have authority to act independently of the church and form decisions and those decisions will be valid; but where there is not a quorum of them together, they must transact business by the common consent of the church.” (Minutes and Discourse, 2 May 1835.)  

  7. 7

    See John 11:48.  

  8. 8

    “Cousin Lemuel” refers to the American Indians. Laman and Lemuel, brothers in the Book of Mormon, were considered by early Latter-day Saints to be the ancestors of the American Indians.  

  9. 9

    The Half-Breed Tract comprised approximately 119,000 acres of Lee County, Iowa Territory, between the Mississippi and Des Moines rivers that the federal government had set aside in 1824 for children of American Indians who had intermarried with white settlers. (Roberts and Moorhead, History of Lee County, Iowa, 1:55–56.)  

    Roberts, Nelson C., and S. W. Moorhead, eds. Story of Lee County, Iowa. 2 vols. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing, 1914.

  10. 10

    See Mark 4:11.  

  11. 11

    The first company of English Saints to immigrate to the Nauvoo area comprised 41 individuals who departed Liverpool on 6 June 1840. The second company, numbering 201, left Liverpool on 8 September 1840. (Historian’s Office, Brigham Young History Drafts, 40; William Clayton, Penwortham, England, to Brigham Young and Willard Richards, Manchester, England, 19 Aug. 1840, Brigham Young Office Files, CHL; Historical Introduction to Letter from Heber C. Kimball and Others, 25 May 1840; Clayton, Diary, 8 Sept. 1840.)  

    Historian’s Office. Brigham Young History Drafts, 1856–1858. CHL. CR 100 475, box 1, fd. 5.

    Brigham Young Office Files, 1832–1878. CHL. CR 1234 1.

    Clayton, William. Diary, Jan.–Nov. 1846. CHL.

  12. 12

    Possibly a reference to the Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, a newspaper edited by Parley P. Pratt and published in Manchester, the first issue of which appeared the same month Young wrote this letter to JS. ([Parley P. Pratt], “Prospectus,” LDS Millennial Star, May 1840, 1:1–2.)  

    Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star. Manchester, England, 1840–1842; Liverpool, 1842–1932; London, 1932–1970.

  13. 13

    At a 14 April 1840 meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve in Preston, those present requested that “twenty of the Seventies be sent for, and that it be left discretionary with the president of the Twelve, to send for more if he think proper.” (“From England,” Times and Seasons, June 1840, 1:119.)  

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

  14. 14

    On 4 March 1840, less than a week before Young and his companions left New York for England, the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary returned to Congress their recommendation that the federal government no longer consider the Mormons’ request for redress and reparations for losses incurred in Missouri. (George A. Smith, Autobiography, 9 Mar. 1840, 92; Memorial to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, ca. 30 Oct. 1839–27 Jan. 1840; Report of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 4 Mar. 1840.)  

    Smith, George A. Autobiography, ca. 1860–1882. George Albert Smith, Papers, 1834–1877. CHL. MS 1322, box 1, fd. 2.

  15. 15

    Turley led the second company of Saints to emigrate from England to the Nauvoo area (and the first company to arrive in Illinois), departing Liverpool on 8 September 1840. Clark led a company of Saints that departed Liverpool for the United States on 7 February 1841, and Hedlock departed Liverpool on 20 April 1841. (Clayton, Diary, 8 and 9 Sept. 1840; 24 Nov. 1840; Neibaur, Journal, 6–7 Feb. 1841; Woodruff, Journal, 20 Apr. 1841.)  

    Clayton, William. Diary, Vol. 1, 1840–1842. BYU.

    Neibaur, Alexander. Journal, 1841–1862. CHL. MS 1674.

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

  16. 16

    Turley had left unpaid debts in England when he immigrated to Canada seventeen years earlier. He was imprisoned in Staffordshire on 16 March 1840 and was released on 8 May 1840. (Turley, Journal, 8 May 1840; Allen et al., Men with a Mission, 129–130.)  

    Turley, Theodore. Reminiscences and Journal, Sept. 1839–July 1840. Photocopy. CHL. MS 1950.

    Allen, James B., Ronald K. Esplin, and David J. Whittaker. Men with a Mission, 1837–1841: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992.

  17. 17

    Woodruff had actually been in Herefordshire for only two months, having arrived at the farm of John and Jane Holmes Benbow near Ledbury on 4 March 1840. At the 15 April 1840 conference in Preston, Woodruff reported 158 converts in Herefordshire, with “nearly 200 souls ready to be baptized,” 30 of whom were baptized prior to Woodruff’s return from the conference. (Woodruff, Journal, 4 Mar. and 14–16 Apr. 1840.)  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.