Report of the First Presidency to the Church, circa 7 April 1841

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

The of the , feel great pleasure in assembling with the Saints at another general , under circumstances so auspicious and cheering; and with grateful hearts to Almighty God for his providential regard, they cordially unite with the Saints, on this occasion, in ascribing honor, and glory, and blessing to his holy name.
It is with unfeigned pleasure that they have to make known, the steady and rapid increase of the church in this , the , and in Europe. The anxiety to become acquainted with the principles of the gospel, on every hand, is intense, and the cry of, “come over and help us,” is reaching the on the wings of every wind, while thousands who have heard the gospel, have become obedient thereto, and are rejoicing in its gifts and blessings.— Prejudice with its attendant train of evils, is giving way before the force of truth, whose benign rays are penetrating the nations afar off.
The reports from the in Europe are very satisfactory, and state that the work continues to progress with unparalleled rapidity and that the harvest is truly great.
In the eastern states, the faithful laborers are successful, and many are flocking to the standard of truth. Nor is the south keeping back—churches have been raised up in the southern and western states, and a very pressing invitation has been received from for some of the elders to visit that city, which has been complied with.
In our own and immediate neighborhood, many are avowing their attachment to the principles of our holy religion, and have become obedient to the faith.
Peace and prosperity attend us; and we have favor in the sight of God and virtuous men.
The time was, when we were looked upon as deceivers, and that Mormonism would soon pass away, come to nought, and be forgotten. But the time has gone by when it was looked upon as a trancient matter, or a bubble on the wave, and it is now taking a deep hold in the hearts and affections of all those who are noble minded enough to lay aside the prejudice of education, and investigate the subject with candor and honesty.
The truth, like the sturdy oak, has stood unhurt amid the contending elements, which have beat upon it with tremendous force. The floods have rolled, wave after wave, in quick succession; and have not swallowed it up. “They have lifted up their voice, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; but the Lord of Hosts is migh [p. 384]tier than the mighty waves of the sea.” Nor, have the flames of persecution, with all the influence of mobs, been able to destroy it; but like Moses’ bush it has stood unconsumed, and now at this moment presents an important spectacle both to men and angels.— Where can we turn our eyes to behold such another? We contemplate a people who have embraced a system of religion unpopular, and the adherence to which has brought upon them repeated persecutions—a people who for their love to God and attachment to his cause, have suffered hunger, nakedness, perils, and almost every privation—a people, who, for the sake of their religion, have had to mour[n] the premature deaths of parents, husbands, wives, and children—a people who have prefered death to slavery and hypocracy, and have honorably maintained their characters, and stood firm and immovable, in times that have tried men’s souls.
Stand fast, ye Saints of God, hold on a little while longer, and the storms of life will be past, and you will be rewarded by that God whose servants you are, and who will duly appreciate all your toils and afflictions for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s. Your names will be handed down to posterity as saints of God, and virtuous men.
But we hope that those scenes of blood and gore will never more occur, but that many, very many such scenes as the present will be witnessed by the saints, and that in the , the foundation of which has been so happily laid, will the saints of the Most High continue to congregate from year to year, in peace and safety.
From the kind and generous feelings manifest, by the citizens of this , since our sojourn among them, we may continue to expect the enjoyment of all the blessings of civil and religious liberty, guaranteed by the constitution. The citizens of have done themselves honor in throwing the mantle of the constitution over a persecuted and afflicted people; and have given evident proof, that they are not only in the enjoyment of the privileges of freemen themselves, but, that they willingly and cheerfully extend that invaluable blessing to others, and that they freely award to faithfulness and virtue their due.
The proceedings of the Legislature in regard to the citizens of this place have been marked with philanthropy and benevolence; and they have laid us under great and lasting obligations, in granting us the several liberal charters we now enjoy, and by which we hope to prosper, until our becomes the most splendid, our University the most learned, and our the most effective, of any in the . In the language of one of our own poets, we would say,
In we’ve found a safe retreat,
A home, a shelter from oppressions dire;
Where we can worship God as we think right,
And mobbers come not to disturb our peace;
Where we can live and hope for better days,
Enjoy again our liberty, our rights:
That social intercourse which freedom grants,
And charity requires of man to man.
And long may charity pervade each breast,
And long may remain the scene
Of rich prosperity by peace secured!
In consequence of the impoverished condition of the saints, the buildings which are in progress of erection do not progress as fast as could be desired; but from the interest which is generally manifested by the saints at large, we hope to accomplish much by a combination of effort, and a concentration of action, and erect the and other buildings, which we so much need for our mutual instruction and the education of our children.
From the reports which have been received, we may expect a large emigration this season. The proclamation which was sent some time ago to the churches abroad, has been responded to, and great numbers are making preparations to come and locate themselves in this and vicinity.
From what we now witness, we are led to look forward with pleasing anticipation to the future, and soon expect to see the thousands of Israel flocking to this region, in obedience to the [p. 385] heavenly command; numerous habitations of the saints thickly studding the flowery and wide spread prairies of ; temples for the worship of our God erecting in various parts; and great peace resting upon Israel.
We would call the attention of the saints more particularly to the erection of the , for on its speedy erection great blessings depend. The zeal which is manifested by the saints in this is indeed praise worthy, and we hope will be imitated by the saints in the various and of the church, and that those who cannot contribute labor, will bring their gold and their silver, their brass, and their iron, with the pine tree and box tree, to beautify the same.
We are glad to hear of the organization of the different in this , and hope that the organization will be attended to in every stake and branch of the church, for the Almighty is a lover of order and good government.
From the faith and enterprise of the saints generally, we feel greatly encouraged, and cheerfully attend to the important duties devolving upon us, knowing that we not only have the approval of Heaven, but that our efforts for the establishing of and the spread of truth, are cheerfully seconded by the thousands of Israel.
In conclusion we would say, brethren, be faithful; let your love and moderation be known unto all men; be patient; be mindful to observe all the commandments of your heavenly Father; and the God of all grace shall blesss you, even so, Amen.
, Clerk. [p. 386]

Footnotes

  1. 1

    A report in the Western World noted the rapid growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “Hundreds left their homes in Europe, and thousands are now preparing to leave and take up their residence in a far distant land. And in our own country, from the east, and from the north, and from the south, converts are continually flocking to this new city. . . . But a few years ago the Mormons were regarded as a set of fanatics, deserving only the pity or contempt of mankind; but now that their numbers are concentrating they begin to assume, at least in this state, a political and moral importance possessed by no other denomination.” Thomas Wentworth Storrow, a prominent Bostonian, visited Nauvoo in July 1841 and noted that Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo and the surrounding county numbered about five thousand. (Report, Western World [Warsaw, IL], 20 Jan. 1841, [2]; Storrow, “Journey to the West,” 3 July 1841; see also Historical Introduction to Letter to Vilate Murray Kimball, 2 Mar. 1841.)  

    Western World. Warsaw, IL. 1840–1841.

    Storrow, Thomas Wentworth. “Journey to the West,” no date. Storrow Family Papers, 1762–1999. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.

  2. 2

    See Acts 16:9.  

  3. 3

    Several reports from the Twelve were printed in the Times and Seasons during the previous six months. Some two hundred British converts had already traveled to the United States, more than one hundred of whom arrived in Nauvoo in late 1840. (See, for example, George A. Smith, Lane End, Staffordshire, England, to Don Carlos Smith, Nauvoo, IL, 18 Nov. 1840, in Times and Seasons, 1 Feb. 1841, 2:307–308; Wilford Woodruff, Manchester, England, to Ebenezer Robinson and Don Carlos Smith, Nauvoo, IL, 7 Oct. 1840, in Times and Seasons, 15 Feb. 1841, 2:311–314; 1 Mar. 1841, 2:327–331; and Parley P. Pratt, Manchester, England, to Sidney Rigdon, Nauvoo, IL, 8 Jan. 1841, in Times and Seasons, 1 Apr. 1841, 2:364–365; see also Historical Introduction to Letter to Vilate Murray Kimball, 2 Mar. 1841.)  

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

  4. 4

    Reports from missionaries proselytizing in the eastern and southern United States had recently been published in the church newspaper. Elam Luddington and Eli G. Terrill sent a letter to JS from New Orleans on 4 January, informing the church president about the branch in that city and requesting another elder be sent to New Orleans to assist them in their proselytizing efforts. They further urged, “For God’s sake send help to this city before the people perish, for it is a time of great excitement here, send us a Peter, or an apostle to preach unto us Jesus.” Harrison Sagers was sent to New Orleans soon thereafter and “commenced to proclaim the fullness of the everlasting gospel to the inhabitants thereof.” (“Communications,” Times and Seasons, 15 Mar. 1841, 2:347–350; “Summary,” Times and Seasons, 1 Mar. 1841, 2:339; “Summary of News from the Elders Abroad,” Times and Seasons, 15 May 1841, 2:415; see also Letter from Harrison Sagers, ca. April 1841.)  

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

  5. 5

    In Walnut Grove, Illinois, for example, the church saw an increase of sixty-six members in the six months following 4 July 1840 and an increase of nearly one hundred since October 1839. (“Conference Minutes,” Times and Seasons, 1 Mar. 1841, 2:338; see also “Truth Prevailing,” Times and Seasons, 15 Mar. 1841, 2:350; and Report, Western World [Warsaw, IL], 20 Jan. 1841, [2].)  

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

    Western World. Warsaw, IL. 1840–1841.

  6. 6

    See Luke 2:52.  

  7. 7

    See Psalm 93:3–4.  

  8. 8

    See Exodus 3:2.  

  9. 9

    See 1 Corinthians 4:9.  

  10. 10

    Amanda Barnes Smith, whose husband and son were killed at Hawn’s Mill, Missouri, in 1838, wrote an affidavit that encapsulates the experiences of many Latter-day Saints who suffered because of their faith. She wrote, “I thought to myself is this our boasted land of liberty, for Some Said that we must deny our faith or they would kill us.” (Amanda Barnes Smith, Affidavit, Quincy, IL, 18 Apr. 1839, Historian’s Office, JS History Documents, ca. 1839–1860, CHL; see also Introduction to Part 3: 4 Nov. 1838–16 Apr. 1839.)  

    Historian’s Office. Joseph Smith History Documents, 1839–1860. CHL. CR 100 396.

  11. 11

    This sentence is an apparent allusion to Thomas Paine’s famous opening line in the 1776 pamphlet American Crisis No. 1: “These are the times that try men’s souls.”  

  12. 12

    For more on the temple, its foundation, and the progress of its construction at this time, see Benediction, 6 Apr. 1841.  

  13. 13

    The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In 1833 the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Bill of Rights did not apply to individual states. In 1845 the court reiterated this decision, particularly where the right to religious expression was concerned. By submitting a memorial petitioning the federal government for redress for their losses incurred in Missouri in early 1840, JS, Sidney Rigdon, and Elias Higbee added their voices to others at that time who were arguing against such a limited reading of the Constitution. (Barron v. Baltimore, 7 Peters 243 [1833]; Permoli v. Municipality No. 1, 3 Howard 589 [1845]; Memorial to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, ca. 30 Oct. 1839–27 Jan. 1840; see also McBride, “When Joseph Smith Met Martin Van Buren,” 157.)  

    Peters / Peters, Richard. Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Supreme Court of the United States. 17 vols. Various publishers, 1828–1843.

    Howard / Howard, Benjamin C. Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Supreme Court of the United States. 25 vols. Various publishers. 1843–1860.

    McBride, Spencer W. Pulpit and Nation: Clergymen and the Politics of Revolutionary America. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2017.

  14. 14

    For more on the generosity of the citizens of Illinois and the mutual goodwill between Latter-day Saints and other residents of Illinois, see Minutes, 3 Feb. 1841; and Minutes, 1 Mar. 1841.  

  15. 15

    For more on the Nauvoo charter, the legion, and the university, see Minutes, 3 Feb. 1841.  

  16. 16

    This stanza was part of a much larger poem written by James Mulholland. (Mulholland, Address to Americans, 10.)  

    Mulholland, James. An Address to Americans: A Poem in Blank Verse. Nauvoo, IL: E. Robinson, 1841.

  17. 17

    A report from the Upper Mississippian describing Nauvoo and the city’s growth was reprinted in the 15 February issue of the Times and Seasons and in another area newspaper, the Sangamo Journal. The report stated that since the Saints arrived in Hancock County, they had “added from 75 to 100 buildings, mostly neat and painted, spread over a large extent of ground, and covering the plain to the bluffs in the rear.— These numerous new, bright looking buildings, scattered about amongst the trees and shrubbery which abound here, present, in warm weather, a delightful appearance.” The report also noted that the city had “some 300 buildings, several small Traders, Tavern keepers, Physicians, and various kinds of mechanics and laborers; and some water craft, among which is a small steam boat called Nauvoo. The landing, soil and timber about the town, are favorable to the future growth of this interesting and growing town. It has a fine country in its rear, and if too many drones and rogues do not creep in among these generally quiet, industrious and economical people, we may expect to see a very considerable city built up here—particularly as many of this sect in Europe, are now known to be about removing to this country—and indeed some two hundred have already arrived at Nauvoo, and the vicinity. Mr. Smith is reported to have said that it is destined to be the largest city in the world!” On 6 May 1841, Edward Hunter estimated there to be “something like 400 houses” in Nauvoo, almost all of which had “been created in the short space of two years.” (“Letters about the West,” Times and Seasons, 15 Feb. 1841, 2:322–323; “Nauvoo,” Sangamo Journal [Springfield, IL], 9 Feb. 1841, [2]; Edward Hunter, Nauvoo, IL, to Edward Hunter [Uncle], 6 May 1841, typescript, Edward Hunter Correspondence, BYU.)  

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

    Sangamo Journal. Springfield, IL. 1831–1847.

    Hunter, Edward. Collection, ca. 1798–1965. Photocopy and typescript. CHL.

  18. 18

    The other major public building the church was constructing at this time was the Nauvoo House, a boardinghouse for visitors to Nauvoo. (See Agreement with William Law, 26 Apr. 1841.)  

  19. 19

    See Proclamation, 15 Jan. 1841.  

  20. 20

    The First Presidency anticipated the arrival of numerous Saints from England, some who had remained in Kirtland after traveling to the United States the previous fall and others coming with the return of the Twelve later in the year. New converts in the United States were also preparing to gather with the Saints in Nauvoo. A letter from Rufus Beach in Michigan in early March indicated that “the saints in this section of country are making the necessary arrangements to move up to the west the coming summer.” (Historical Introduction to Letter to Vilate Murray Kimball, 2 Mar. 1841; Rufus Beach, Livonia, MI, to Don Carlos Smith, 2 Mar. 1841, in Times and Seasons, 1 Apr. 1841, 2:366.)  

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

  21. 21

    In their 15 January 1841 proclamation, JS and the First Presidency encouraged the Saints to gather in Nauvoo. They quoted from Psalm 50, which notes that God called for the Saints to gather “together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” (Proclamation, 15 Jan. 1841; Psalm 50:5.)  

  22. 22

    Efforts to acquire land in the region continued into summer 1841. (See, for example, Letter to John M. Bernhisel, 13 Apr. 1841; and Historical Introduction to Letter from Calvin A. Warren, 31 Aug. 1841.)  

  23. 23

    See Revelation, 19 Jan. 1841 [D&C 124:33–55]. For more on temples in Latter-day Saint history and theology, see Revelation, 27–28 Dec. 1832, and Revelation, 3 Jan. 1833 [D&C 88]; and Minutes and Prayer of Dedication, 27 Mar. 1836 [D&C 109].  

  24. 24

    See Isaiah 60:13, 17. This scriptural allusion from the First Presidency emphasized the church’s need for tithing to complete important building projects in Nauvoo. On 1 February 1841 the Times and Seasons printed Elias Higbee’s letter about the importance of building the temple and the necessity of sacrifice and tithing to do so. Higbee encouraged the Saints to be generous and not to love money or possessions above God; he called for “those who live at a distance, who cannot put in work” on the building, to instead “send in their tithing speedily, so that the work may be accomplished speedily.” (Elias Higbee, “Ecclesiastical,” Times and Seasons, 1 Feb. 1841, 2:296; see also Phebe Carter Woodruff, Lee Co., Iowa Territory, to Wilford Woodruff, Manchester, England, 6–19 Oct. 1840, Wilford Woodruff, Collection, CHL.)  

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

    Woodruff, Wilford. Collection, 1831–1905. Digital scans. CHL. Originals in private possession.

  25. 25

    Priesthood quorums were organized in accordance with a JS revelation dated 19 January 1841. The revelation established most of the quorum presidencies but left some vacant, particularly the presidencies for quorums in the Aaronic Priesthood. By 21 March 1841, Samuel Rolfe had been chosen as president of the priests, with Stephen Markham and Hezekiah Peck as counselors; Elisha Averett became president of the teachers, with James W. Huntsman and James Hendricks as counselors; and Phineas R. Bird was named president of the deacons, with David Wood and William W. Lane as counselors. (Revelation, 19 Jan. 1841 [D&C 124:123–145]; “Record of the Quorum of the Lesser Priesthood,” 10; Teachers Quorum Minutes, 2 May 1841.)  

    Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Record of Members Collection, 1836–1970. CHL. CR 375 8.

    Teachers Quorum. Minutes, 1834–1845. CHL. MS 3428.

  26. 26

    See Philippians 4:5.