Letter to Martin Harris, 22 February 1831

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Febr. 22nd 1831
I send you this to inform you that it is nec[e]ssary for you to come here as soon as you can in order to choose a place which may be best adapted to the circumstances of yourself and breatheren in the east to settle on as you may choose any place which may best suit yourselves any where in this part of the country so as to be as compact as possable and as you will be better capable of able to make a choice choice than we it is better for you to come before the rest of the breathren that when they come they may have places to go to you will also bring or cause to <​be​> brought all the books, as the work is here breaking forth on the east west north and south, you will also inform the which are there that all of them who can be spared will come here without delay if possable this by of the Lord as he has a great work for them all in this our inheritence.
We have received the laws of the Kingdom since we came here and the Disciples in these parts have received them gladly. You will see that old s family are taken care of and sent on You will send to and have either or to come immediatly or both if they can be spared.
You will not sell the books for less than 10 Shillings
Joseph Smith Jr [p. [1]]
 
O)18¾
23 Feby)
Wayne Co
N.Y.
Mail [p. [2]]

Footnotes

  1. 1

    A 9 February 1831 revelation mentioned the importance of emigrating church members “obtaining places that they may be together as much as can be” and directed that “every Church Shall be organized in as close bodies as they can be.” JS may have intended that members from both the Palmyra/Manchester and Colesville areas in New York maintain their existing communities by settling in separate compact groups once they arrived in Ohio. The members from Colesville, who arrived in Ohio in May 1831, settled together in Thompson on land offered by Leman Copley for that purpose. (Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:1–72]; see also Porter, “Study of the Origins,” 296–311; and Historical Introduction to Revelation, 20 May 1831 [D&C 51].)  

    Porter, Larry C. “A Study of the Origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the States of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816–1831.” PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1971. Also available as A Study of the Origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the States of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816–1831, Dissertations in Latter-day Saint History (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History; BYU Studies, 2000).

  2. 2

    After traveling to Ohio, Martin Harris returned to New York for a brief period. In May 1831, according to a New York newspaper account, he was among “several families, numbering about fifty souls” who had left “for the ‘promised land.’” (“Mormon Emigration,” Wayne Sentinel [Palmyra, NY], 27 May 1831, [3].)  

    Wayne Sentinel. Palmyra, NY. 1823–1852, 1860–1861.

  3. 3

    That is, copies of the Book of Mormon in Harris’s possession.  

  4. 4

    Although a September 1830 revelation declared that the promised city of Zion would be built “among the Lamanites,” a 2 January 1831 revelation promised the New York members a “land of promise” for their “inheritance” and commanded them to “go to the Ohio.” Sidney Rigdon wrote from New York to his associates back in Ohio: “The Lord has made known unto us, some of his great things which he has laid up for them that love him, among which the fact (a glory of wonders it is) that you are living on the land of promise, and that there is the place of gathering . . . and [God] has given it to us and our children, not only while time lasts, but we shall have it again in eternity, as you will see by one of the commandments, received day before yesterday.” In contrast, an April 1831 letter from Thomas B. Marsh to his sister and her husband conveyed a belief that the movement from New York to Ohio was a temporary one and that the location of the New Jerusalem was yet to be revealed. Marsh wrote: “The Lord caleth for all to repent & take upon them the name of Ch[rist] & assemble at Ohio speedely & thare our Hevenly Father will tell us what we shall next do, perhaps it will be to take our march to the Grand preraras [prairies] in the Missouri teretori [territory] or to the shining mountains which is 1500 or 2000 miles west from us how soon this will be we do not know in fact we know nothing of what we are to do save it be reveild [revealed] to us but this we know a City will be built in the promised Land.” (Revelation, Sept. 1830–B [D&C 28:9]; Revelation, 2 Jan. 1831 [D&C 38:18–20, 32]; Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 111, italics in original; Thomas B. Marsh and Elizabeth Godkin Marsh to Lewis Abbott and Ann Marsh Abbott, [ca. 11 Apr. 1831], Abbott Family Collection, CHL.)  

    Howe, Eber D. Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, from Its Rise to the Present Time. With Sketches of the Characters of Its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible Was Brought before the World. To Which Are Added, Inquiries into the Probability That the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written by One Solomon Spalding, More Than Twenty Years Ago, and by Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance. Painesville, OH: By the author, 1834.

    Abbott Family Collection, 1831–2000. CHL. MS 23457.

  5. 5

    Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:1–72].)  

  6. 6

    Just over a week later, JS wrote to Hyrum Smith, urging him to come to Ohio and, if possible, to bring their father with him. (Letter to Hyrum Smith, 3–4 Mar. 1831.)  

  7. 7

    A shilling was a New York state regionalism meaning twelve and one-half cents. Thus, Martin Harris was being told not to sell copies of the Book of Mormon for less than $1.25, which was approximately twice as much as an entire day’s wage for a common laborer at the time. Harris, who in 1829 mortgaged his farm to pay for the printing of the Book of Mormon, had made a legal agreement with JS to receive proceeds from the sales of the books equal to his investment. According to a later account by Henry Harris, the original price for the Book of Mormon, fourteen shillings or $1.75, was set by revelation. Martin Harris later told Henry Harris that another revelation later reduced the price to ten shillings. JS’s final remark in this letter to Martin Harris may have been the basis of Martin’s conversation with Henry. Pomeroy Tucker, in his later criticism of Martin Harris’s pecuniary interest in the Book of Mormon, also claimed that Harris had been told through revelation that “the new Bible should in no instance be sold at a less price than ‘ten shillings.’” (“Shilling,” in American Dictionary; Margo, Wages and Labor Markets in the United States, 67, table 3A.5; Wright, Industrial Evolution of the United States, 217; Agreement with Martin Harris, 16 Jan. 1830; Henry Harris, Affidavit, Cuyahoga Co., OH, [ca. Nov. 1833], in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 251–252; Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 55.)  

    An American Dictionary of the English Language: Intended to Exhibit, I. the Origin, Affinities and Primary Signification of English Words, as far as They Have Been Ascertained. . . . Edited by Noah Webster. New York: S. Converse, 1828.

    Margo, Robert A. Wages and Labor Markets in the United States,1820–1860. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

    Wright, Carroll D. The Industrial Evolution of the United States. Meadville, PA: Flood and Vincent, Chautauqua-Century Press, 1895.

    Howe, Eber D. Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, from Its Rise to the Present Time. With Sketches of the Characters of Its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible Was Brought before the World. To Which Are Added, Inquiries into the Probability That the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written by One Solomon Spalding, More Than Twenty Years Ago, and by Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance. Painesville, OH: By the author, 1834.

    Tucker, Pomeroy. Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism: Biography of Its Founders and History of Its Church. New York: D. Appleton, 1867.

  8. new scribe logo

    Signature of JS.  

  9. new scribe logo

    Postal markings in handwriting of Newel K. Whitney.  

  10. 8

    This notation is the cost of the postage on the letter. At the time, single letters that traveled between 150 and 400 miles were charged 18¾ cents in postage. (Force, National Calendar, 227.)  

    Force, Peter. The National Calendar for MDCCCXXIX. Vol. VII. Washington DC: By the author, 1829.Force, Peter. The National Calendar for MDCCCXXX. Vol. VIII. Washington DC: By the author, 1830.

  11. new scribe logo

    Address in handwriting of Sidney Rigdon.