Letter to John Whitmer, 9 April 1838
JS and , Letter, , Caldwell Co., MO, to , [, Caldwell Co., MO], 9 Apr. 1838; attested by . Featured version copied [ca. mid- or late Apr. 1838] in JS, Journal, Mar.–Sept. 1838, p. 28; handwriting of ; CHL. Includes use marks. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS, Journal, Mar.–Sept. 1838.
On 9 April 1838, JS and wrote to former church historian , requesting that he give them the writings he had been preparing since 1831 for a church history. When asked in 1831 to serve as the church’s historian, Whitmer initially declined. However, after JS dictated a revelation appointing Whitmer to “keep the Church Record & History continually,” Whitmer accepted a formal appointment to perform these duties. Within a few months of his appointment, Whitmer began writing the history of the church. In late 1832, JS referred to Whitmer in his role of church historian as “the lord[’s] clerk.” Nevertheless, Whitmer remained somewhat uncertain about his roles, and JS had some concerns about Whitmer fulfilling his responsibilities. By the time of his excommunication on 10 March 1838, Whitmer had apparently written eighty-five manuscript pages recounting the history of the church up to that time. These writings placed several revelation texts and other important documents in context and provided firsthand information regarding significant episodes in the church’s history. However, as the 9 April letter suggests, Whitmer’s writings may not have met JS’s expectations.Following ’s excommunication, the church needed to fill his roles as church clerk, record keeper, and historian. In a meeting held 6 April 1838, the in appointed two new historians as well as two clerks. This and other business conducted in the meeting organizationally prepared the church for the quarterly conference held over the next two days. Perhaps in response to business conducted at the 7–8 April conference, church leaders wrote letters on 9 April to address administrative matters. sent a letter notifying of his upcoming trial on 12 April, and sent letters to and , notifying them of their upcoming trials on 13 April. JS and wrote the featured letter to Whitmer, criticizing his capabilities and performance as a church historian and requesting that he turn over his historical writing to the church. Whitmer evidently refused to relinquish his writings. By the end of April 1838, JS, Rigdon, and their clerk, , began writing a new history, which included much more detail than Whitmer’s effort did.
|Attest||Joseph Smith Jr|
|Clerk||of the whole|
|Church of Latterday Saints|