Letter to Robert D. Foster, 30 December 1839

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Jersey Church,
Near Warrenton [Warrington Township],
December 30th, 1839.
Dear Brother: I received a letter from you and one from which gave me much satisfaction. I have had a very good visit in this place and enjoyed myself very agreeably. I have preached and bore testimony several times in this city. The church in number about forty-five members, and there were four or five more candidates this this morning when I left the city. We came away this morning before the postoffice was open and probably missed of hearing further from you. I was glad to hear that is gaining further in health, and trust that it will please God to restore him again speedily to health, so that he may be able to attend to the duties which necessarily devolve on him in that place, and also that his voice may be once more heard among the congregations of the saints, and also among those that are not yet saints. He would be a very welcome visitor in and the rest of the churches in this region. I think a great work will yet be done in . Our meeting house is very much crowded with attentive hearers and there are no doubt many believers from the favorable expressions, friendly treatment and good feelings which they manifest towards myself and the brethren. I have many invitations to visit private families in almost every part of the city, many more than I can possibly attend to. I am at this time surrounded by a good circle of brethren, sisters and friends. I hope you will by the help of God be able to succeed in to the utmost of your expectations in bringing many from darkness to light, and that the deaf may hear the words of the book, that they who erred in judgment may come to understanding, and they that murmured may learn doctrine, and that the fear of God may not be taught by the precepts of men but accorded to the will of God. I expect you will write to us as usual. I have been laboring here so constant that I have not been able to write to you, and has been here but a short time. He has been engaged in writing the affidavit that has called for. We have our wagon and horses in . We found no sale for them in , hence we have brought them here. has arrived in this city. He has brought some books here. He has got a new work published of some poems, with a treatise on the eternity of matter. etc., etc. Brother is also here, and is on his way to . says that he is glad you have remembered him and is obliged for the advice you gave, and that you have such compassionate feelings toward him. is here in with us. He has stemmed the torrent like a good soldier for the cause. In there are about 160 members. We expect to hold ourselves in readiness to go before the committee. Also . You will therefore write concerning the time when you expect the business will be before the committee. We have just received an account going the rounds of the newspapers concerning my person, etc., which perhaps you have seen. They have a good opinion of my sincerity, and upon the whole the piece is not so bad as might be expected. Some of the twelve are on their way to , and . You may send me letters to , and we will take them out in masses, and when we get it I am in hopes the blockade will be raised in the west, so that we may get a shower of letters. It seems the trouble still continues between the and . The priests in are very mute. We understand they have advised the people to search the scriptures, which, if they do, will be to our advantage. I pray God that you may have wisdom given you to conduct wisely in all things pertaining to your operations in the ministry. We are going to hold a couple of meetings here, and then expect to return to Saturday or Monday. Mr. Bangor, a clergyman in the city, has manifested great friendship towards and has invited me to make his house my home while I remain in the city, and he [p. [4]] thinks he will get the Universalist church, a large building, for me to preach in. Be assured of our love to yourself and , as ever.—Seattle (W. T.) Chronicle. [p. [5]]

Footnotes

  1. 1

    JS apparently used the term “Jersey Church” to refer to the several branches of the church that were located in the Delaware River Valley. (See Fleming, “Delaware Valley and the Success of Early Mormonism,” 129–164.)  

    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.

  2. 2

    Warrington Township is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which borders New Jersey. The township was formed in 1734 with land “above and adjoining to Warminster township.” In 1840 Warrington had a population of 637. (Davis, History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, 431, 439.)  

    Davis, W. W. H. The History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, from the Discovery of the Delaware to the Present Time. Doylestown, PA: Democrat Book and Job Office, 1876.

  3. 3

    Letter from Robert D. Foster, 24 Dec. 1839.  

  4. 4

    This letter from Rigdon has not been located.  

  5. 5

    In his 24 December letter to JS, Foster had reported that Rigdon was “upon the whole better— he is as well where he is as any where, at present.” (Letter from Robert D. Foster, 24 Dec. 1839.)  

  6. 6

    The “duties” JS mentioned apparently refer to Rigdon’s responsibilities as a member of the church delegation to the federal government. (Minutes, 4–5 May 1839; Letter from Sidney Rigdon, 10 Apr. 1839.)  

  7. 7

    In January 1840, there were at least six branches of the church in the Delaware River Valley, with a combined membership of more than 250 people. (Orson Pratt to Sarah Marinda Bates Pratt, 6 Jan. 1840, in Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, 1:61; “Minutes of a Conference . . . Held in the City of Philadelphia,” Times and Seasons, 15 Nov. 1840, 2:215–216; “Minutes of a General Conference Held in Philadelphia, April 6th 1841,” Times and Seasons, 15 May 1841, 2:412–413.)  

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

  8. 8

    The meetinghouse in Philadelphia was a building located at the northeast corner of Seventh and Callowhill streets. The Saints met on the second floor. (Smith, “History of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Branch,” 362–364.)  

    Smith, Walter W. “The History of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Branch.” Journal of History 11, no. 3 (July 1918): 358–373.

  9. 9

    See Isaiah 29:18.  

  10. 10

    See Isaiah 29:24.  

  11. 11

    See Isaiah 29:13.  

  12. 12

    Higbee arrived in Philadelphia with Orrin Porter Rockwell about 23 December 1839. (See Historian’s Office, JS History, Draft Notes, 23 Dec. 1839, 70.)  

  13. 13

    This possibly refers to Affidavit, 20 Jan. 1840.  

  14. 14

    In a 6 January 1840 letter, Orson Pratt wrote that shortly after meeting JS in Philadelphia on 21 December 1839, he “wrote to P. P. Pratt to come and see Pres’t. Smith.” (Orson Pratt to Sarah Marinda Bates Pratt, 6 Jan. 1840, in Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, 1:61.)  

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

  15. 15

    Letter from Parley P. Pratt, 22 Nov. 1839; Letter from Hyrum Smith, 2 Jan. 1840. Pratt’s “new work” had been published as The Millennium and Other Poems: To Which Is Annexed, a Treatise on the Regeneration and Eternal Duration of Matter (New York: W. Molineux, 1840).  

    Parley P. Pratt, The Millennium, and Other Poems: To Which Is Annexed, a Treatise on the Regeneration and Eternal Duration of Matter (New York: W. Molineux, 1840)

  16. 16

    Parley P. Pratt had reported on his and his brother Orson’s travels in the eastern United States in a letter to JS the previous month. (Letter from Parley P. Pratt, 22 Nov. 1839; see also Orson Pratt to Sarah Marinda Bates Pratt, 6 Jan. 1840, in Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, 1:61.)  

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

  17. 17

    In his letter to JS, Foster had written, “Dont whip poor Judge [Elias Higbee] too hard, for he is a faithful Soul.” (Letter from Robert D. Foster, 24 Dec. 1839.)  

  18. 18

    Winchester had been serving as a missionary in the eastern United States since at least June 1839 and had helped spur the church’s growth in the Delaware River Valley, an area where the church had been present since 1837. (Benjamin Winchester, Philadelphia, PA, 10 Feb. 1840, Letter to the Editor, Times and Seasons, May 1840, 1:104; Sharp, “Latter-day Saints or ‘Mormons’ in New Jersey,” 1; Fleming, “Delaware Valley and the Success of Early Mormonism,” 129.)  

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

    Sharp, William. “The Latter-day Saints or ‘Mormons’ in New Jersey.” Typescript of unpublished paper. 1897. CHL.

    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.

  19. 19

    Parley P. Pratt wrote to JS on 22 November 1839 that there were “from 150 to 300 members” in New York. (Letter from Parley P. Pratt, 22 Nov. 1839.)  

  20. 20

    This refers to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, to which the Senate forwarded the delegation’s memorial. The committee heard testimony regarding the contents of the memorial beginning on 20 February 1840. (Letter from Elias Higbee, 20 Feb. 1840–A.)  

  21. 21

    This possibly refers to an article circulating in various newspapers in the northeastern United States that briefly recounted the Saints’ expulsion from Missouri, described JS’s physical appearance, predicted bleak prospects for the church’s delegation to the federal government, and speculated that the Saints might return to Missouri armed and ready to take back their lands by force, if necessary. (See, for example, “Correspondence of the U.S. Gazette,” Adams Sentinel [Gettysburg, PA], 30 Dec. 1839, [3].)  

    Adams Sentinel. Gettysburg, PA. 1800–1867.

  22. 22

    JS and Higbee were traveling in Pennsylvania and New Jersey at the time JS wrote this letter. By stating that he and Higbee would take their letters out of the Philadelphia post office “in masses,” JS may have meant that correspondents should send letters to that post office rather than try to guess JS and Higbee’s location and that they would collect all their mail at one time when they returned to Philadelphia.  

  23. 23

    According to a Washington DC newspaper, heavy snow had closed railroad lines from the nation’s capital to New England, resulting in a “complete interruption of the mails.” (News Item, Madisonian [Washington DC], 25 Dec. 1839, [3].)  

    The Madisonian. Washington DC. 1837–1841.

  24. 24

    This sentence refers to the “Honey War,” a border dispute between Missouri and Iowa Territory that resulted in a prolonged standoff between militiamen on both sides of the bloodless conflict. (Letter from Emma Smith, 6 Dec. 1839.)  

  25. 25

    Saturday, 4 January 1840, or Monday, 6 January 1840.  

  26. 26

    Timothy Banger was a Universalist preacher living in Philadelphia. Though he did not have a pastorate, he frequently preached to the various groups of Universalists then meeting in the city. (Thomas, Century of Universalism in Philadelphia and New-York, 55–57.)  

    Thomas, Abel C. A Century of Universalism in Philadelphia and New-York, with Sketches of Its History in Reading, Hightstown, Brooklyn, and Elsewhere. Philadelphia: Collins, 1872.

  27. 27

    In 1839 there were several Universalist groups in Philadelphia meeting in different buildings. It is unknown to which Universalist church building JS was referring, but it may have been the Universalist church on Fourth and Lombard streets, which opened in the 1790s with a policy that the building would be open to the use of any Christian sect three days per week. (Eddy, Universalism in America, 400–401, 439.)  

    Eddy, Richard. Universalism in America: A History. Vol. 1, 1636–1800. Boston: Universalist Publishing House, 1884.

  28. 28

    Foster had similarly closed with expressions of love in his letter to JS. (Letter from Robert D. Foster, 24 Dec. 1839.)