Letter to William Smith, circa 18 December 1835
- Source Note
Shortly after his dramatic confrontation with his younger brother on 16 December, JS responded to a contrite letter he had received from William. According to his journal, JS had spent the day after the fight at home feeling “quite unwell.” On the following morning, 18 December, visited JS’s , Ohio, home. Hyrum had also received an apologetic letter from William, which he read aloud to JS. Hyrum and JS apparently spent the remainder of the morning discussing their younger brother’s troubling behavior and his future welfare.The fight deeply wounded the Smith family. When and called on JS the evening of 17 December, they were “sorely afflicted in mind on the account of that occurrence.” felt that JS was justified in rebuking their younger brother, and he felt “wounded to the verry soul, with the conduct of .” Despite the physical injuries that William had inflicted on him, JS expressed concern for his brother’s spiritual welfare and optimism about his capacity to change. After writing to his brother, JS recorded in his journal: “I have had many solemn feelings this day Concerning my Brothe[r] William and have prayed in my heart to fervently that the Lord will not cast him off but he may return to the God of Jacob and magnify his apostleship and calling.”The following letter to offers the most detailed account of the 16 December fight and provides a glimpse of JS’s feelings, personality, and demeanor. The letter also articulates some of JS’s nascent ideas about the duty of leaders to reprove and counsel those under their stewardship, a teaching he would develop more fully in succeeding years.The dating of JS’s letter to is unclear. The letter, as it was copied in JS’s journal by , was originally inscribed with an incorrect date of 17 December; Parrish later changed the “7” to an “8” so the date read “Friday Dec. 18th 1835.” The first line of the 19 December journal entry, in Parrish’s handwriting, indicates that JS spent that day at home, where he “wrote the above letter to Br. Wm. Smith.” The corresponding 19 December entry in JS’s history, also penned by Parrish, is slightly different. It reads, “He was at home and wrote the above letter, or rather indited it, to his brother William.” In another, later JS history, copied William’s 18 December letter and JS’s response. Before recording the latter, Richards wrote that JS “gave the following answer the same day” he received William’s letter of 18 December. Given the aforementioned cancellation, insertion, and subsequent recording in JS’s journal and histories, the letter is dated here as circa 18 December to reflect both the ambiguity of the dating and the date given by Parrish when he inscribed the letter into the journal.JS’s letter to is no longer extant, but JS’s scribes recorded three versions of the letter in various church records. Significant differences between the featured text and the copy in JS’s 1834–1836 history are noted; the copy in JS’s later history has no significant differences.
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).