Letter from Harvey Whitlock, 28 September 1835

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Dear sir having a few leisure moment I have at last concluded to do what my own Judgment has long dictated would be right but the allurements of many vices has long retarded the hand, that would wield the pen to make intelligent the communication that I wish to send to you: And even now that ambition which is a prevaling and predominent principles among the great mass of natural men even now forbids that plainness of sentiment with which I wish to unbosom my feelings write. For know assuredly sir to you I wish to unbosom my feelings, and unravil the secrets of my heart: as before the omnicient Judge of all the earth.
Be not surprised when I declare unto you, as the spirit will bear record that my faith is firm and unshaken in the things of the everlasting gospel as it is proclaimed by the servants of the latter-day saint.
Dear brother Joseph (If I may be allowed the expression) when I considder the happy times and peaseful moments, and pleasant seasons I have enjoyed with you, and and this people; contrasted with my now degraded state; together with the high, and important station I have held before [p. 38] God: and the abyss into which I have fallen, is a subject that swells, my heart to[o] big for utterance, and language is overwhelmed with feeling, and looses its power of description.
and as I desire to know the will of God concerning me; Believing it is my duty to make known unto you my real situation.
I shall therefore, dispasionately procede to give a true and untarnished relation; I need not tell you that in former times, I have preached the word; and endeavored to be instant in season out of season, to reprove rebuke exhort and faithfully to discharge that trust reposed in me. But Oh! with what grief & lamentable sorrow and anguish do I have to relate that I have fallen, from that princely station where unto our God, has called me. Reasons why are unnecessary. May the fact suffice; and believe me when I tell you, that I have sunk myself, (since my last separation from this boddy) in crimes of the deepest dye, and that I may the better enable you to understand what my real sins are, I will mention (although pride forbids it) some that I am not guilty of, my <​hands​> have not been stained with inocent blood; neither have I lain couched around the cottages of my fellow men to seize and carry off the booty; nor have I slandered my neighbor, nor bourn fals testimony, nor taken unlawful hire, nor oppressed the widdow nor fatherless, neither have I persecuted the Saints. But my hands are swift to do iniquity, and my feet are fast running in the paths of vice and folly; and my heart [p. 39] quick to devise wicked imaginations: nevertheless I am impressed with the sure thought that I am fast hast[e]ning into a whole world of disembodied beings, without God & with but one hope in the world; which is to know that to er[r] is human, but to forgive is divine: much I might say in relation to myself and the original difficulties with the , which I will forbear, and in asmuch as I have been charged with things that <​I​> was not guilty of I am now more than doubly guilty. and am now willing to forgive and forget only let me know that I am within the reach of mercy; If I am not I have no reflections to cast, but say that I have sealed my own doom and pronounced my own sentence. If the day is passed by with me may I here beg leave to entreat of those who are still toiling up the rug[g]ed assent to make their way to the realms of endless felicity, and delight, to stop not for anchors here below, follow not the <​my​> example. but steer your course onward inspite of all the combined powers of earth and hell, for know that one miss step here is only retrievable by a thousand groans and tears before God. Dear Brother Joseph, let me entreat you on the reception of this letter, as you regard the salvation of my soul, to enquire at the hand of the Lord in my behalf; for I this day in the presence of God, do covenant to abide the word that may be given, for I am willing to receive any [p. 40] chastisement that the Lord sees I deserve.
Now hear my prayer and suffer me to break forth in the agony of my soul. O ye Angels! that surround the throne <​of God,​> Princes of heaven, that excell in strength, ye who are clothed with transcendant brightness, plead O plead for one of the most wretched of the sons of men. O ye heavens! whose azure arches rise immensely high and strech immeasurably wide, grand ampitheater of nature, throne of the eternal God bow to hear the prayer of a poor wretched bewildered way wanderer to eternity, O thou great Omnicient & omnipresent Jehovah, thou who siteth upon the throne before whom all things are present, thou maker moulder & fashioner of all things visible and invisable breath[e] o breath[e] into the ears of thy servant the Prophet, words sutably adapted, to my case, and situation, speak once more, make known thy will concerning me, which favours I ask in the name of the Son of God Amen
N.B I hope you will not let any buisiness prevent you from answering this letter in hast[e]
Yours Respectfully
to Joseph Smith [p. 41]


  1. new scribe logo

    Frederick G. Williams handwriting begins.  

  2. 1

    In December 1834, the presidency of the high priesthood decided that it was not proper for members to refer to church leaders in familiar terms such as “brother Joseph.” Instead, leaders were to be referred to by “the office or ordinance to which they had been called,” such as “President Smith.” (Account of Meetings, Revelation, and Blessing, 5–6 Dec. 1834.)  

  3. new scribe logo

    Frederick G. Williams handwriting ends; Warren Parrish begins.  

  4. 2

    A June 1831 revelation assigned Whitlock and David Whitmer to travel to Missouri, preaching along the way. In the course of their journey, they preached in Paris, Illinois, to a group that included William E. McLellin. Referring to Whitlock’s three-hour sermon, McLellin declared, “I never heard such preaching in all my life. The glory of God seemed to encircle the man and the wisdom of God to be displayed in his discourse.” Whitlock also preached with Zebedee Coltrin in 1832 in “the north part of Illinois & Indiana Michigan. into Ohio.” (Revelation, 6 June 1831 [D&C 52:25]; McLellin, Journal, 24 July 1831; Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 28 Jan. 1832; Coltrin, Diary and Notebook, 26 Jan. 1832, [1].)  

    McLellin, William E. Journal, 18 July–20 Nov. 1831. William E. McLellin, Papers, 1831–1836, 1877–1878. CHL. MS 13538, box 1, fd. 1. Also available as Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836 (Provo, UT: BYU Studies; Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).

    Coltrin, Zebedee. Diary and Notebook, 1832–1833. Zebedee Coltrin, Diaries, 1832–1834. CHL. MS 1443, fd. 2.

  5. 3

    See Zechariah 7:10; and Jeremiah 7:6.  

  6. 4

    See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 46 [1 Nephi 17:45].  

  7. 5

    See Proverbs 6:18.  

  8. 6

    James Hervey, an Anglican clergyman from England, used the phrase “the sure prospect of entering into a whole world of disembodied beings” in his 1747 work Contemplations on the Night. (Hervey, Meditations and Contemplations, 1:7–8, 10, 2:42, italics in original.)  

    Hervey, James. Meditations and Contemplations, by the Rev. James Hervey, A. M., Late Rector of Weston-Favell, Northamptonshire; Containing His Meditations among the Tombs, Reflections on a Flower Garden, &c. 2 vols. New York: Richard Scott, 1824.

  9. 7

    See Boynton, Complete Poetical Works of Alexander Pope, 74.  

    Boynton, Henry W., ed. The Complete Poetical Works of Alexander Pope. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mi in, 1902.

  10. 8

    See Revelation, 2 Jan. 1831 [D&C 38:1–2].