Letter to John S. Carter, 13 April 1833

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

13th April 1833
Dear your Letter to is just put into my hand and I have carefully purrused its contents and imbrace this oppertunity to answer it, we proceed to answer your questions first concerning your labour in the region where you live we acquiesce in your feelings on this subject until the the mouth of the Lord shall name and as it respects the vision you speak of we do not consider ourselves bound [p. 29] to receive any revelation forom [from] any one man or woman without being legally constituted and to that authority and given sufficien[t] proof of it, I will inform you that it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the or any <​one​> any one to receive instruction for those in authority hig[h]er than themselves, therefore you will see the impropriety of giving <​heed​> to them, but if any <​have a vision​> heavenly or a visitation from an hevenaly [heavenly] messenger it must be for their own benefit and instruction, for the fundimental principals, government and doctrine of the church is invested in the of the kingdom as it respects an apostate or one who has been cut off from the Church and wishes to come in again the law of our church expresly says that such shall repent, and be and be admited the same as at the first, the duty of a is to administer spriitual and holy things and to hold Communeion <​with​> God but not to exorcise [exercise] monarchy monarchal government or to appoint meetings for the without their concent and again it is the high priests duty to be bet[t]er qualifide to teach principles and doctrines than the Elder for the office of Elders is an appendege to the and it <​centers &​> concentrates in one, and again the proper <​process​> way of Labouring with a member we are to deal with them percisely as the scripturs direct if thy brother trespass against the[e] take him betwen him and thee alone and if he maketh the satisfaction thou hast saved thy brother and if not proce[e]d to take another with the[e] & [illegible] when there is no they are to be tried by the voice of the Church and if an Elder or an high priest be presant they are to take the lead in managing the business if not by such that have the highest authority, with respect to preparing to go to first it would be pleasing to the lord that that the Church or Churches going to Zion should be organised, and appointed a suitable person who is well acquainted with the Conditions of the Church & and be sent to to inform the and procure from him agreeable to the revelation so doing you will prevent confusion and disorder and escape many difficulties that [p. 30] attend an unorganised band in Journey[ing] to in the last days and again those in debt should in all cases pay their debts and the rich in are in no wise to cast out the poor or leave them behind for it is said that the poor shall inherit the earth you quoted a pass[a]ge in Jeremiah with regard to Journey to the word of God stands sure so let it be done
There are two paragraphs in your letter which I do not commend as they are writen blind speaking of the being sent like lightning from the bow of Judah the second, no secret in the councils of Zion you mention this as if fear rested upon your mind otherwise we cannot understand it and again we never enquire of at the hand of the Lord God for special revelation only in case of ther being no previous revelation to suit the case and that in a court of for further information on the subject you have writen I will refer you to the Elders who have recently left here for the east by some of whom you will probably see soon you may depend on any information you receive from them that are faithful you may expect to see & for whom we have great fellowship, it <​is​> a great thing to enquire at the hand of God or to come into his presence and we feel fearful to appro[a]ch him upon subject[s] that are of little or no consequen[ce] to satisfy the enqueries of individuals especially <​about​> things the knowledge of which men aught to obtain in all cencerity before God for themselves in humility by the prayer of faith, and more especially a or a high Priest in the I speak these things not by way of reproach [p. 31] but by way of instruction and I speak as being acquainted whereas we are strangers to each other in the flesh I love your soul and the souls of the Children of men and pray and do all I can for the salvation of all I now close by sending you a salutation of peace in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ Amen the blessings of our Lord Jesus Christ be and abide with you all Amen——
Joseph Smith Jr
NB if it is inconvenient to send a deleget to to procure for the brethren to go to it can be done by two or more we have received two letters from stating the order and condition of the and respecting the vision of his wife but on account of a multitude of business they have not been answered by us you will please to read this letter to and for further information appeal to the Elders you will please to inform them at the east who write to us to pay the postage as we are receiving letters from all parts and have to pay a great sum of money otherwise we shall be under the necessity of letting them remain in the office as we are not able to pay so much
[p. 32]


  1. new scribe logo

    JS handwriting begins.  

  2. 1

    TEXT: Almost every comma in the portion of this document inscribed by JS is upside down. Though these pieces of punctuation resemble open parentheses, in the context of the letter, they seem to function as commas.  

  3. 2

    This vision likely refers to one Jane Sherwood said she had experienced. John S. Carter wrote in his journal that Sherwood claimed to have visions of angels and “visions of God concerning that which must come hereafter perporting indeed that the powr of God’s Judgment has come, & astonishing things soon are to take place.” Carter’s journal entry for 10 March 1833 further reads, “Sister Sherwood appears to have visions of the Lord. Oh. God, let us not be deceived! She has seen greate things, but does not as yet tell all.” In the postscript to this letter, JS mentioned that he had also received two letters from Jane’s husband, Henry G. Sherwood, concerning this vision. (John S. Carter, Journal, 10 Mar. and 5 Apr. 1833.)  

    Carter, John S. Journal, 1831–1833. CHL. MS 1440.

  4. 3

    A September 1830 revelation implied what JS makes explicit here—that God would not give instructions to someone through another of lesser authority and with lesser responsibility. After JS denounced Oliver Cowdery for supporting Hiram Page’s claim of receiving revelations through a seer stone, this revelation instructed Cowdery, the church’s second elder, “Thou shalt not command him which is at thy head.” (Revelation, Sept. 1830–B [D&C 28:6]; for more information on the requirement for proof of authority, see Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:11].)  

  5. 4

    See Revelation, 8 Mar. 1833 [D&C 90:2–5].  

  6. 5

    This sentence possibly refers to an April 1830 revelation that expressed the necessity of rebaptism for converts who had been previously baptized into other faiths. This sentence might also refer to a February 1831 revelation that was known at the time as “the Law.” (Revelation, 16 Apr. 1830 [D&C 22]; Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:1–72].)  

  7. 6

    See Revelation, 22–23 Sept. 1832 [D&C 84:29].  

  8. 7

    See Matthew 18:15–17. A February 1831 revelation outlined procedures for church discipline, directing that a bishop was to be involved if possible. (Revelation, 23 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:74–93].)  

  9. 8

    The church’s foundational “Articles and Covenants” delineated the hierarchy of priesthood offices and identified, based on level of authority, which priesthood office should “take the lead of all meetings” as well as which offices should preside in the absence of higher authorities. (Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830 [D&C 20:44–56].)  

  10. new scribe logo

    JS handwriting ends; Frederick G. Williams begins.  

  11. 9

    A December 1831 revelation instructed that “a certificate from the judge or Bishop in this part of the vinyard [Kirtland] unto the Bishop in Zion rendereth every man acceptable and answereth all things for an inheritence and to be received as a wise steward and as a faithfull labourer otherwise shall not be accepted of the Bishop in Zion.” Nothing in John S. Carter’s journal indicates that anyone from the Benson area was sent to Kirtland to procure the recommended certificate or license. At some point, possibly based on counsel given in an earlier revelation, Carter himself apparently received authority or permission to issue such certificates; in August 1833 he noted in his journal that he wrote “the covenant, and certifficates for the brethren who go to Zion.” (Revelation, 4 Dec. 1831–B [D&C 72:17–18]; Revelation, 4 Dec. 1831–C [D&C 72:25]; John S. Carter, Journal, 21 Aug. 1833.)  

    Carter, John S. Journal, 1831–1833. CHL. MS 1440.

  12. 10

    An editorial in The Evening and the Morning Star in January 1833 made this point clear: “Every soul that comes up to Zion for an inheritance, for the present, must prepare temporally and spiritually. He should settle all his concerns with the world, and owe no man. . . . Let every one that quits the world for the sake of eternal life, act consistent in every thing: by obeying the commandments; by paying his just debts; by taking care of his property.” (“Let Every Man Learn His Duty,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Jan. 1833, [5].)  

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

  13. 11

    See Matthew 5:5; Revelation, 2 Jan. 1831 [D&C 38:35]; and Revelation, 27–28 Dec. 1832 [D&C 88:17].  

  14. 12

    Without the original letter written by Carter, it is not possible to be certain which passage in Jeremiah he quoted, but of the few verses in Jeremiah that mention going to Zion, the one most likely referred to here is Jeremiah 3:14: “I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion.” (See also Jeremiah 31:6; 50:5.)  

  15. 13

    See Zechariah 9:13–14; Psalms 18:14; 144:6; and 2 Samuel 22:15.  

  16. 14

    TEXT: Possibly “this Zion”.  

  17. 15

    Pratt and Johnson previously served a mission to New England from 3 February 1832 to 17 February 1833. Shortly after returning to Kirtland, the men were again asked to preach in the eastern states and especially to “go to the Churches that they have raised up.” They subsequently left on 26 March 1833. Under the dates of 3–7 June 1833, John S. Carter wrote in his journal that he attended several meetings with Pratt and Johnson in Benson, Vermont, as well as a conference in Bath, New Hampshire. The church members in Benson were “in good degree ingaged,” according to Carter’s journal entry. (“History of Orson Pratt,” 12, 16–17, Historian’s Office, Histories of the Twelve, 1856–1858, 1861, CHL; Minutes, 23 Mar. 1833–B; John S. Carter, Journal, 3–7 June 1833.)  

    Historian’s Office. Histories of the Twelve, 1856–1858, 1861. CHL. CR 100 93.

    Carter, John S. Journal, 1831–1833. CHL. MS 1440.

  18. 16

    See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 324 [Alma 36:14].  

  19. 17

    See James 5:15.  

  20. 18

    See Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830 [D&C 20:53–56, 81, 84]; and Revelation, 22–23 Sept. 1832 [D&C 84:111].  

  21. 19

    JS had never met John S. Carter, though he was familiar with John’s three brothers, Jared, Simeon, and Gideon Carter.  

  22. 20

    See Revelation, 4 Dec. 1831–C [D&C 72:25].  

  23. 21

    Henry G. Sherwood, a resident of Benson, had been ordained an elder by Jared and Simeon Carter the previous August. His letters to JS have not been located. John S. Carter spent much time in early 1833 with Sherwood, proselytizing and holding church meetings at Sherwood’s house. (Jared Carter, Journal, 115; John S. Carter, Journal, 7 and 22 Jan. 1833; 10 Mar. 1833; 5 Apr. 1833.)  

    Carter, Jared. Journal, 1831–1833. CHL. MS 1441.

    Carter, John S. Journal, 1831–1833. CHL. MS 1440.

  24. 22

    Having to pay postage for incoming letters continued to be a problem for JS. Two years later, he felt compelled to publish a similar request in the church’s newspaper: “I wish to inform my friends and all others, abroad, that whenever they wish to address me thro’ the Post Office, they will be kind enough to pay the postage on the same.” (JS, “To the Editor of the Messenger and Advocate,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Dec. 1835, 2:240; see also Hyrum Smith, “Notice,” Times and Seasons, 1 June 1844, 5:559.)  

    Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.

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