Letter from William Appleby, circa March 1842

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Dear Brother:—It is with feelings of no ordinary kind, that I take my pen in hand, (aside from the bustle and cares of life) to communicate to you, thou servant and prophet of the most high, the pleasing and no doubt cheering intelligence of what the Lord of glory is doing in this part of the vineyard. When I take a retrospective view of the rise of the “ in these last days, and reflect what scenes of persecutions, trials, distress, and bloodshed, the saints of God have been called upon to undergo, for the testimony of Jesus and his holy word; and especially when I think of you, (the trials you have endured, the tribulations you have waded through, the cold damp prisons you have lain in, the galling chains you have been loaded with, the fetters, and bands of iron that have encompassed your limbs, and all for the sake of eternal truth,) I am ready to exclaim, how long Oh! just, righteous, and eternal Father wilt thou suffer thy prophet and seer, to be persecuted, his life sought after, his name and character villified, traduced, calumniated, falsified and slandered, by wicked and designing men; the emmisaries of Satan, but a soft still sweet voice whispers, “my grace is all sufficient for him;” he is under my protecting care, and no power of hell and earth combined shall ever be able to overcome him if he is faithful. (“They that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”) And I pray my Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus, that you may be kept faithful unto the end, and may the saints by their faith and prayers always hold you up before our heavenly King, that you may never fall, though your path should be continually beset with the “fowler’s snare;” though you should be called upon to undergo more trials, perplexities, griefs, sorrows, disappointments, tribulations and afflictions; and at last seal your testimony with the effusions of your own blood; for the glorious, triumphant and eternal truth that God has made you an instrument in revealing to the children of men. May you never falter, but meet it all with a triumphant smile, obtain the victory over all your enemies; death, hell, and the grave;—fall asleep in the arms of Jesus;—and receive the crown, which thus far you have so nobly and gallantly contended and fought for like a true soldier of the cross, and follower of the Lamb; even when death (with all its appalling forms) stared you in the face, it found you true, and immovable to the glorious—inspiring—heaven born truths that have been revealed to you; and which I your humble servant and brother in the bonds of the am rejoicing in. May Israel’s God protect you, and his church, [p. 777] and people from all harm, and danger; and speed on his triumphant and glorious gospel. The ship of eternal truth is plowing with dignity and majesty through the yielding waves of sophism, infidelity and delusion; the waves of persecution are rolling high and dash vehemently against its triumphant bows, but they cannot impede its progress: base fabrications, slander, scorn, obloquy, vituperation, scurrillity, and in fact all manner of the most glaring and unblushing falsehoods are heralded forth by priests and people; and reiterated and reechoed in every breeze, from one end of God’s footstool, (if it were possible) to the other; but what does all their evanid declamating amount to? the answer is definite and positive, NOTHING.—It goes ahead with a steady pace, every day gives it a new impetus, and every moment accelerates its speed, and why? the God of heaven is at the helm, and he will steer the ship and the kingdoms of this world will become the kin[g]doms of our Lord and his Christ; yes, the mighty kingdoms of China, Austria, Russia, Prussia, [,] and not excepted, with all the sectarian denominations of the present day will be utterly overthrown;—and Christ will come with all his Saints, and establish his kingdom upon their ruins.
But I said I was going to inform you what the Lord of glory was doing here, this I will endeavor to do. There is a here containing 22 members, including 1 , and 1 , and more believing. It is but a few weeks ago since I a gentleman and his lady here at 9 o’clock at night, and broke the ice to do it, but they never minded ice nor weather when truth was to be obtained; the gentleman was of the persuasion of Friends, the lady was formerly a member of the Church of England, from , they both are now rejoicing in the truth, and thankful that they have eradicated the mark of the Beast.
I have been home but a few days from a tour of nearly two weeks along the sea shore (i.e.) and Forked River &c. There were six baptized at while I was there and more believing; there are something near two hundred members here and in Cream Ridge, and exclusive of those who have gone west. I was informed by Br. Winner that Elder [James Gibson] Divine baptized 18 in one day a few weeks ago at Long Branch, and that there had been 60 baptized there within a short time. There are calls here for preaching on the right and left, we would like to see or some other efficient elder, here as soon as you have an opportunity of sending one, I have understood you purposed coming east in the spring if you are I wish you to inform me as soon as you receive this and at what time you expect to be in , as Br. Isaac R. Robbins is coming to this spring, and wishes to see you, but if you are coming here perhaps he may wait until you arrive. Brs. John R. Robbins, and Lafetras, with their families expect to leave here for sometime in April; but I must bring my letter to a close as the bright luminary of day has long since sunk behind the western hills, and another day has rolled into (to us) the ocean of eternity, to help fill up the vacuum of years yet wanting to commence the sabbath of rest;—the sable shades of night are hovering over the earth, her dark mantle is spread upon the hills and vallies; while bright Phæbus the queen of night is riding in glorious majesty, with all her attendant train of satellites, twinkling in ether blue, and all nature is nearly hushed in slumbering silence, and enjoying that heavenly repose which the great Author ordained for the creatures of his care; therefore with the sublimest emotions of praise and gratitude to my God do I close by saying may God bless you and yours, , and all the Saints throughout the world: and may prosper and become the joy of the whole earth.
With sentiments of profound respect do I subscribe myself your well wisher and brother in the Lord,
. [p. 778]


  1. 1

    This was the name given to the church at its organization in April 1830. In 1834 church leaders changed the name to the Church of the Latter Day Saints. An 1838 revelation designated the church as “the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” (Revelation, 6 Apr. 1830 [D&C 21:11]; Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830 [D&C 20:1]; Minutes, 3 May 1834; Revelation, 26 Apr. 1838 [D&C 115:4].)  

  2. 2

    JS was imprisoned in Ray County and Clay County, Missouri, from November 1838 to April 1839. JS described the deplorable conditions on multiple occasions. (See “Part 3: 4 November 1838–16 April 1839”; see also, for example, Letter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839; and Bill of Damages, 4 June 1839.)  

  3. 3

    The phrase “wicked and designing men,” and similar phrases, appeared in contemporaneous documents, including some authored by Latter-day Saints. (See, for example, JS History, vol. A-1, 1; JS, “History of Joseph Smith,” Times and Seasons, 15 Mar. 1842, 3:726; Miller, Evidence from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ, 255–256; and Abraham Lincoln, Speech at a Republican Banquet, Chicago, IL, 10 Dec. 1856, in Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 2:384.)  

    Miller, William. Evidence from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ, about the Year 1843; Exhibited in a Course of Lectures. Troy, NY: Kemble and Hooper, 1836.

    The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Edited by Roy P. Basler, Marion Dolores Pratt, and Lloyd A. Dunlap. 8 vols. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953.

  4. 4

    See 2 Corinthians 12:9; Book of Mormon, 1840 ed., 548–549 [Ether 12:27]; Revelation, June 1829–B [D&C 18:31]; and Revelation, June 1829–E [D&C 17:8].  

  5. 5

    See Revelation, Apr. 1829–A [D&C 6:34].  

  6. 6

    See 2 Timothy 3:12.  

  7. 7

    See Book of Mormon, 1840 ed., 154 [Mosiah 2:19].  

  8. 8

    See Psalm 91:3.  

  9. 9

    See Isaiah 66:1; Matthew 5:35; and Acts 7:49.  

  10. 10

    The emphasis on progress despite persecution resembles passages in “Church History,” which was published in the 1 March 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons. (“Church History,” 1 Mar. 1842.)  

  11. 11

    See Revelation 11:15.  

  12. 12

    Several of JS’s early revelations and teachings indicated that the Lord’s people would reign with Christ during the Millennium. By 1838 the Saints were applying Daniel’s prophecies concerning the kingdom of God, which would consume all other kingdoms, to the church. Parley P. Pratt further outlined this teaching in the 1840s. In some cases, he named contemporary nations as those that would dissolve. (See, for example, Revelation, Feb. 1831–A [D&C 43:29]; Revelation, 22–23 Sept. 1832 [D&C 84:119]; Daniel chaps. 2 and 7; Letter to Wilford Woodruff, ca. 18 June 1838; Discourse, between ca. 26 June and ca. 4 Aug. 1839–A; [Parley P. Pratt], “The Millennium,” Millennial Star, May 1840, 1:5–6; and Pratt, Letter to the Queen of England, 3–6.)  

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

    Pratt, Parley P. A Letter to the Queen of England, Touching the Signs of the Times, and the Political Destiny of the World. Manchester, England: By the author, 1841.

  13. 13

    The Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as the Quakers, had been prominent in and around Burlington, New Jersey, from the time William Penn arrived in the late seventeenth century. Abolitionist Quaker John Woolman was born in Burlington County and preached in the area, which became a hub of Quaker abolitionism during the eighteenth century. While Quakers lost ground to other religious denominations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Quakerism remained a cultural force in New Jersey, and many Latter-day Saint converts from the area had Quaker roots. (See Slaughter, Beautiful Soul of John Woolman; and Fleming, “Delaware Valley and the Success of Early Mormonism,” 144–151.)  

    Slaughter, Thomas P. The Beautiful Soul of John Woolman, Apostle of Abolition. New York: Hill and Wang, 2008.

    Fleming, Stephen J. “‘Congenial to Almost Every Shade of Radicalism’: The Delaware Valley and the Success of Early Mormonism.” Religion and American Culture 17, no. 2 (Summer 2007): 129–164.

  14. 14

    See Revelation 16:2; 19:20.  

  15. 15

    Toms River, Monmouth County (now in Ocean County), New Jersey, was a township on the coast approximately twenty-seven miles southeast of Recklesstown. Multiple missionaries preached in Toms River at different points between 1840 and 1842. Forked River, Monmouth County (now in Ocean County), was on the coast approximately thirty-three miles southeast of Recklesstown. (Erastus Snow, Journal, July 1840, 86–87; Mar. 1841, 102; 15–30 Apr. 1841, 104–105; 25 June 1841, 1; 18 July 1841, 6.)  

    Snow, Erastus. Journals, 1835–1851; 1856–1857. CHL. MS 1329, box 1, fds. 1–3.

  16. 16

    Cream Ridge, Monmouth County, New Jersey, was approximately seven miles east of Recklesstown. Appleby was baptized in Cream Ridge. (Appleby, Autobiography and Journal, 14, 23, 27, 39; Erastus Snow, Journal, Sept. 1840, 91.)  

    Appleby, William I. Autobiography and Journal, 1848–1856. CHL. MS 1401.

    Snow, Erastus. Journals, 1835–1851; 1856–1857. CHL. MS 1329, box 1, fds. 1–3.

  17. 17

    That is, westward to Nauvoo, Illinois, where the Saints were instructed to gather. (Minutes and Discourses, 5–7 Oct. 1839; Proclamation, 15 Jan. 1841; Letter to the Saints Abroad, 24 May 1841.)  

  18. 18

    Likely George King Winner, who was listed as living in Monmouth County, New Jersey, in the 1840 census. In either 1840 or 1842, Winner’s wife, Hanna, gave birth to a boy, whom they gave the Book of Mormon name Moroni, indicating members of the Winner family had joined with the Latter-day Saints before then. (1840 U.S. Census, Dover Township, Monmouth Co., NJ, 157; 1852 California State Census, Los Angeles Co., 19; 1870 U.S. Census, Township 4, San Mateo Co., CA, 386.)  

    Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.

  19. 19

    Divine established and presided over several branches in Monmouth County, New Jersey, in 1840. Although some members moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, the church seems to have experienced some growth in this part of New Jersey during the next few years. At an 18 May 1842 conference in New York, Divine represented branches in Toms River, Granville, Shirk River, and Shrewsbury. (“Minutes of a Conference of Elders and Members,” Times and Seasons, 15 Nov. 1840, 2:215–216; “A Meeting of the New York General Conference,” Times and Seasons, 1 July 1842, 3:844–845.)  

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

  20. 20

    Long Branch, Monmouth County, New Jersey, was approximately thirty-seven miles northeast of Recklesstown. In an 18 May 1842 meeting in New York, Divine reported that he “had baptized six at Long Branch.” (“A Meeting of the New York General Conference,” Times and Seasons, 1 July 1842, 3:845.)  

  21. 21

    Page preached in and around Recklesstown, New Jersey, in summer 1841 and in Pittsburgh in late 1841 and early 1842, and he was in Nauvoo, Illinois, by 1 March 1842. (Erastus Snow, Journal, 22–24 June 1841, 1; Aug. 1841, 9; see also Letter from Richard Savary, 2 Feb. 1842; and Petition from Richard Savary et al., ca. 2 Feb. 1842.)  

    Snow, Erastus. Journals, 1835–1851; 1856–1857. CHL. MS 1329, box 1, fds. 1–3.

  22. 22

    A number of church leaders, including JS, journeyed to or through central New Jersey during the late 1830s and early 1840s. Since then, the stream of church leaders had slowed and some of the local leaders, including Charles and James Ivins, had apparently relocated to Nauvoo, Illinois. (“Joseph Smith Documents from September 1839 through January 1841”; Letter from Sidney Rigdon, 3 Apr. 1840; JS History, vol. C-1, 1205; Letter from William Smith, 5 Aug. 1841; JS History, vol. C-1 Addenda, 50; Hancock Co., IL, Deed Records, 1817–1917, vol. K, pp. 433–434, 27 Apr. 1842, microfilm 954,599; vol. M, pp. 344–345, 30 Apr. 1842, microfilm 954,600, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.)  

    U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.

  23. 23

    Robbins lived near Appleby in New Jersey and was baptized probably around the same time as him. (Appleby, Autobiography and Journal, 36–37, 56.)  

    Appleby, William I. Autobiography and Journal, 1848–1856. CHL. MS 1401.

  24. 24

    John R. Robbins, brother of Isaac Robbins, lived near Appleby in New Jersey and was baptized within a few weeks of his brother. In August 1840 Alfred Wilson, a local church member who married Appleby’s niece, began preaching in the region. According to Appleby, within a few weeks Wilson baptized a “Mr. John R Robbins and his lady.” (Appleby, Autobiography and Journal, 35–36.)  

    Appleby, William I. Autobiography and Journal, 1848–1856. CHL. MS 1401.

  25. 25

    Possibly Asher Lafetra or Lafatra. (See Appleby, Autobiography and Journal, 14; 1840 U.S. Census, Chesterfield Township, Burlington Co., NJ, 364.)  

    Appleby, William I. Autobiography and Journal, 1848–1856. CHL. MS 1401.

    Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.

  26. 26

    According to JS’s journal as well as the tithing records in the Book of the Law of the Lord, John R. Robbins donated cloth and other goods to accounts in Nauvoo, Illinois, in late June 1842, which means that he might have been in Nauvoo by that date. It is also possible that he shipped the goods from New Jersey, as it appears the Robbins family was delayed in its move. Appleby recorded that in late 1843 “a Brother, John R Robbins” was preparing to move his family to Nauvoo. (JS, Journal, 28 June 1842; Book of the Law of the Lord, 147; Appleby, Autobiography and Journal, 107.)  

    Appleby, William I. Autobiography and Journal, 1848–1856. CHL. MS 1401.

  27. 27

    A literary allusion to the moon. In Greek and Roman mythology, “Phoebus” (meaning “bright”) was a common epithet or byname of Apollo, the sun god. The goddess of the moon, his twin sister, Artemis (also known as Diana), had the byname of “Phoebe.” (Morford and Lenardon, Classical Mythology, 43.)  

    Morford, Mark P. O., and Robert J. Lenardon. Classical Mythology. 6th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

  28. 28

    See Psalm 48:2; and Lamentations 2:15.  

  29. 29

    A copyist or typesetter likely misread Appleby’s “I”—his middle initial—as a “J.” (See, for example, Appleby, Autobiography and Journal, 2–3; and Moses, Autograph Book, [1].)  

    Appleby, William I. Autobiography and Journal, 1848–1856. CHL. MS 1401.

    Moses, Barbara Matilda Neff. Autograph Book, ca. 1843–1919. CHL.