Letter to William Smith, circa 18 December 1835

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Friday Dec 17th <​18th​> 1835
Answer to the foregoing Letter from Br. a Copy
having received your letter I now procede to answer it, and shall first procede, to give a brief naration of my feelings and motives, since the night I first came to the knowledge, of your having a debating school, which was at the time I happened, in with, his and Mother &c— which was the first that I knew any thing about it, and from that time I took an interest in them, and was delighted with it, and formed a determination, to attend the school for the purpose of obtaining information, and with the idea of imparting the same, through the assistance of the spirit of the Lord, if by any means I should have faith to do so; and with this intent, I went to the school on <​last​> Wedensday night, not with the idea of braking up the school, neither did it enter into my heart, that there was any wrangling or jealousy’s in your heart, against me;
Notwithstanding previous to my leaving home there were feelings of solemnity, rolling across my breast, which were unaccountable to me, and also these feelings continued by spells to depress my feelings <​spirit​> and seemed to manifest that all was not right, even after the debate school commenced, and during the debate, yet I strove to believe that all would work together for good; I was pleased with the power of the arguments, that were aduced, and did [p. 80] not feel to cast any reflections, upon any one that had spoken; but I felt that it was my <​the​> duty of old men that set as to be as grave, at least as young men, and that it was our duty to smile at solid arguments, and sound reasoning, and be impreesed, with solemnity, which should be manifest in our countanance, when folly and that which militates against truth and righteousness, rears its head
Therefore in the spirit of my calling and in view of the authority of the that has been confered upon me, it would be my duty to reprove whatever I esteemed to be wrong fondly hoping in my heart that all parties, would concider it right, and therefore humble themselves, that satan might not take the advantage of us, and hinder the progress of our .
Now I want you should bear with me, notwithstanding my plainness—
I would say to you that my feelings, were grieved at the interuption you made upon , I thought, you should have concidered your relation, with him, in your , and not manifest any division of sentiment, between you, and him, for a surrounding multitude to take the advantage of you:— Therefore by way of entreaty, on the account of the anxiety I had for your influence and wellfare, I said, unto you, do not have any feelings, or something to that amount, why I am thus particular, is that if You, have misconstrued, my feelings, toward you, you may be corrected.— [p. 81]
But to procede— after the school was closed , requested, the privilege, of speaking, you objected, however you said if he would not abuse the school, he might speak, and that you would not allow any man to abuse the school in your house,—
Now you had no reason to suspect that , would abuse the school, therefore my feelings were mortifyed, at those unnecessa[r]y observations, I undertook to reason, with you but you manifisted, an inconciderate and stubourn spirit, I then dispared, of benefiting you, on the account of the spirit you manifested, which drew from, me the expression that you was as ugly as the Devil.
then commanded silence and I formed a determination, to obey his mandate, and was about to leave the house, with the impression, that You was under the influence of a wicked spirit, you replyed that you, would say what you pleased in your own house, replyed, say what you please, but let the rest hold their, toungs, then a reflection, rushed through my mind, of the, anxiety, and care I had <​hav​> had for you and your family, in doing what I did, in finishing your house and providin flour for your family &c and also had possession in the house, as well, as your self; and when at any time have I transgressed, the commandments of my father? or sold my birthright, that I should not have the privilege of speaking in my fathers house, or in other words in my fathers family, or in your house, [p. 82] (for so we will call it, and so it shall be,) that I should not have the privilege, of reproving a younger brother, therefore I said I will speak, for I built the house, and it is as much mine as yours, or something, to that effect, (I should have said that. I helped finish the house,) I said it merely to show that it could not be, the right spirit, that would rise up for trifling matters, and undertake to put me to silence, I saw that your indignation was kindled against me, and you made towards me, I was not then to be moved, and I thought, to pull off my loose coat, least it should tangle me, and you be left to hurt me, but not with the intention, of hurting You, but you was to[o] soon for me, and having once fallen into the hands of a mob, and now been wounded in my side, and now into the hands of a brother, my side gave way, and after having been rescued, from your grasp, I left your house, with, feelings that were indiscribale [indescribable], the scenery had changed, and all those expectations, that I had cherished, when going to your house, of brotherly kindness, charity forbearance and natural, affection, that in duty binds us not to make eachothers offenders for a word. but
But alass! abuse, anger, malice, hatred, and rage <​with a lame side​> with marks, of violence <​heaped​> upon my body me by a brother, were the reflections of my disapointment, and with these I returned home, not able to sit down, or rise up, without help, but through the blessings of God I am now better.— [p. 83]
I have received your letter and purused it with care, I have not entertained a feeling of malice, against you, I am, older than your and have endured, more suffering, having been mar[r]ed by mobs, the labours of my calling, a series of persecution, and inguries, continually heaped upon me, all serve to debilitate, my body, and it may <​be​> that I cannot boast of being stronger, than you, if I could, or could not, would this be an honor, or dishonor to me,— if I could boast like David of slaying a Goliath, who defied the armies of the living God, or like Paul, of contending with Peter face to face, with sound arguments, it might be an honor, But to mangle the flesh or seek revenge upon one who never done you any wrong, can not be a source of sweet reflection, to you, nor to me, neither to an honorable father & mother, brothers, and sisters, and when we reflect, with what care our parents and with what unremiting diligence our parents, have strove to watch over us, and how many hours, of sorrow, and anxiety, they have spent over our cradles and bedsides, in times of sickness, how careful we ought to be of their feelings in their old age, it cannot be a source of sweet reflection to us to say or do any thing that will bring their grey hairs down with sorrow to the grave,
In your letter you asked my forgivness, which I readily grant, but it seems to me, that you still retain an idea, that I have given you reasons to be angry or disaffected with me,
Grant me the privilege of saying then, [p. 84] that however hasty, or harsh, I may have spoken, at any time to you, it has been done for the express purpose of endeavouring, to warn exhort, admonish, and rescue you, from falling into difficulties, and sorrows which I foresaw you plunging into, by giving way to that wicked spirit, which you call your passions, which you should curbe and break down, and put under your feet, which if you do not you, never can be saved, in my view, in the kingdom of God.
God requires the will of his creatures, to be swallowed up in his will.
You desire to remain in the , but forsake your , this is a stratigem of the evil one, when he has gained one advantage, your he lays a plan for another, by <​but​> by maintaining your apostleship in rising up, and making one tremendeous effort, you may overcome your passions, and please God and by forsaking your apostleship, is not to be willing, to make that sacrafice that God requires at your hands and is to incur his displeasure, and without pleasing God do not think, that it will be any better for you, when a man falls one step he must regain that step again, or fall another, he has still more to gain, or eventually all is lost.
I desire that you will humble yourself, I freely forgive you and you know, my unshaken and unshaken unchangable disposition I think know in whom I trust, I stand upon [p. 85] the rock, the floods cannot, no they shall not overthrow me, you know the doctrine I teach is true, and you know that God has blessed me, I brought salvation to my fathers house, as an instrument in the hand of God, when they were in a miserable situation, You know that it is my duty to admonish you when you do wrong this liberty I shall always take, and you shall have the same privelege, I take the privelege, to admonish you because of my birthright, and I grant you the privilege because it is my duty, to be humble and to receive rebuke, and instruction, from a brother or a friend.
As it regards, what course you shall persue hereafter, I do not pretend to say, I leave you in the hands of God and his . Make your own desision, I will do you good altho you mar me, or slay me, by so doing my garments, shall be clear of your sins, and if at any time you should concider me to be an imposter, for heavens sake leave me in the hands of God, and not think to take vengance on me your self.
Tyrany ursurpation, and to take mens rights ever has and ever shall be banished from my heart.
David sought not to kill Saul, although he was guilty of crimes that never entered my heart.
And now may God have mercy upon my fathers house, may God take [p. 86] away enmity, from betwe[e]n me and thee, and may all blessings be restored, and the past be forgotten forever, may humble repentance bring us both to thee <​O God​> and to thy power and protection, and a crown, to enjoy the society of the Saints and all the sanctif[ie]d in peace forever<​, is the prayer of​>
This from Your brother
Joseph Smith Jun
To [p. 87]


  1. 1

    On 18 November, JS, Newel K. and Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney, and Newel’s parents, Samuel and Susanna Kimball Whitney, visited William Smith’s home, where they were first introduced to the debating school. (JS, Journal, 18 Nov. 1835.)  

  2. 2

    Despite JS’s participation in the debating school, he had previously expressed reservations about it. After attending the 18 November session, he noted in his journal, “I discovered in this debate, much warmth displayed, to[o] much zeal for mastery, to[o] much of that enthusiasm that characterises a lawyer at the bar, who is determined to defend his cause right or wrong.” On that occasion, JS felt compelled to “drop a few words upon this subject by way of advise.” He told the participating elders that they should “improve their minds and cultivate their powers of intellect in a proper manner” and “handle sacred things verry sacredly, and with a due deference to the opinions of others and with an eye single to the glory of God.” (JS, Journal, 18 Nov. 1835.)  

  3. 3

    The 16 December debate focused on whether “it was necessary for God to reveal himself to man, in order for their happiness.” The journal noted that JS argued in favor of the question. (JS, Journal, 12 and 16 Dec. 1835.)  

  4. 4

    The version copied into JS’s 1834–1836 history has “when you interrupted Eldr Mc Lellen in his speech.” (JS History, 1834–1836, 158.)  

  5. 5

    For the past several months, JS had been troubled by what he perceived as jealousies between and disunity exhibited by the newly called members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (JS, Journal, 3 Nov. and 15 Dec. 1835; see also Esplin, “Emergence of Brigham Young,” 166–175.)  

    Esplin, Ronald K. “The Emergence of Brigham Young and the Twelve to Mormon Leadership, 1830–1841.” PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1981. Also available as The Emergence of Brigham Young and the Twelve to Mormon Leadership, 1830–1841, Dissertations in Latter-day Saint History (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History; BYU Studies, 2006).

  6. 6

    JS’s 1834–1836 history records the statement as “the anxiety I had for you, & your influence & welfare in society.” (JS History, 1834–1836, 158.)  

  7. 7

    The version in JS’s 1834–1836 history states, “Why I am thus particular, is that if you have misunderstood my feelings or motives toward you.” (JS History, 1834–1836, 158.)  

  8. 8

    In a 4 August 1835 letter written to certain members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles serving missions in the East, William was advised, “Your house is nearly finished, except plastering, a few days will complete it except this: Whether it will [be] entirely finished by his return, or not, we cannot say. . . . Wm’s, Father is soon to move in with Wm’s wife.” (Letter to Quorum of the Twelve, 4 Aug. 1835.)  

  9. 9

    JS was dragged from his bed, beaten by a mob, and tarred and feathered in Hiram, Ohio, on 24–25 March 1832, leaving him with a long-term side injury. In a June 1834 letter to Emma, he mentioned his “side complaint.” (JS History, vol. A-1, 205–207; Letter to Emma Smith, 4 June 1834.)  

  10. 10

    The 16 December 1835 entry in JS’s 1834–1836 history indicates that William had “Cain like . . . sought to kill him, and had conciderably wounded him, nothwithstanding the exertions of his brothren to prevent it.” (JS History, 1834–1836, 150.)  

  11. 11

    See Isaiah 29:20–21.  

  12. 12

    In the version of the letter copied into JS’s 1834–1836 history, the sentence reads, “But alas! abuse, anger, malice, hatred, and rage, are heaped upon me, by a brother; and with marks of violence upon my body, with a lame side, I left your habitation bruised and wounded; and not only oppressed with these, but more severely so in mind being born down under the reflection of my disappointment.” (JS History, 1834–1836, 159.)  

  13. 13

    Instead of “and by forsaking your apostleship, is not to be willing, to make that sacrafice that God requires at your hands,” JS’s 1834–1836 history is worded thus: “And by forsakeing your apostleship, you say that you are not willing to make that sacrifice that God requires at your hand.” (JS History, 1834–1836, 161.)  

  14. 14

    JS’s 1834–1836 history renders this passage as “I feel for you, and freely forgive you all.” (JS History, 1834–1836, 161.)  

  15. 15

    See 1 Samuel 24. Willard Richards copied this sentence into volume B-1 of JS’s multivolume history, but Warren Parrish did not copy it into JS’s 1834–1836 history. (JS History, vol. B-1, 671; JS History, 1834–1836, 161.)  

  16. 16

    The siblings of JS and William Smith, in order of age.