Letter to William W. Phelps, 27 November 1832

<Letter 1>

Frederick G. Williams handwriting begins.  

Kirtland Nov 27th 1832—
Brother Wm <W> Phelps I say brother because I feel so from  the heart and altho it is not long since I wrote a  letter unto you1

It is unclear to what letter JS refers, but the most recent extant JS letter to Phelps is dated 31 July 1832. (Letter to William W. Phelps, 31 July 1832.)  

yet I feel as tho<ugh> you would excuse  me for writing this as I have many things which  I wish to communicate some things which I will  mention in this letter which are laying <great> with weight  upon my mind I inform you I am well and family  God grant that you may enjoy the same and  yours and all the brethren and sisters who remember  to enquire afte[r] the commandments of the Lord  and the welfare of Zion and such a being as me  and while I dictate this letter I fancy to myself  that you are saying or thinking something simmiler  to these words my God great and mighty art thou  therefore shew unto thy servant what shall becom of all  these who are assaying to come up unto Zion in order  to keep this the commandments of God and yet receive  not there inhertance by consecration by order or deed  from the bishop the man that God has appointed  in a legal way agreeable to the law given to organiz[e]  and regulate the church and all the affairs of th[e]  same;2

See Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:30–38]; Revelation, 20 July 1831 [D&C 57:7]; Revelation, 1 Aug. 1831 [D&C 58:17, 35–36]; and Revelation, 11 Nov. 1831–B [D&C 107:68, 71].  

Bro Wm in the love of God having the  most implicit confidence in you as a man of  God having obtained this confidence by a vision  of heavn3

This “vision of heaven” probably occurred sometime after JS wrote his letter of 31 July 1832 to Phelps. (See Letter to William W. Phelps, 31 July 1832.)  

therefore I will procede to unfold to you some  of the feelings of my heart and procede to answer  the question[.] firstly, it is the duty of the lord[’s]  clerk whom he has appointed to keep a hystory  and a general church reccord of all things that  transpire in Zion4

This reiterated a charge given to John Whitmer in a March 1831 revelation: “it shall be appointed unto you to Keep the Church Record & History continually.” (Revelation, ca. 8 Mar. 1831–B [D&C 47:3].)  

and of all those who consecrate  properties and receive inhertances legally from the  bishop and also there manner of life and the faith  and works and also of all the apostates who apostatize  after receiving ther inhertances 5

At this point, Frederick G. Williams apparently began copying a later portion of the letter. JS then took over the copying, still in the wrong part of the letter, and copied several lines. Williams transcribed the rest of the section before realizing the mistake and crossing out the section. The entire canceled portion appears later in the letter.  

in that day shall  not find an inheritanc[e] among the saints of the [p. 1]
After returning to Kirtland, Ohio, on 6 November 1832 from his trip with Newel K. Whitney to New York and New England, JS answered letters he had received from “the brethren” in Missouri.1 The present letter, which was written by JS to William W. Phelps on 27 November 1832, may have been written in response to an earlier letter from Phelps, but no such communication has been located. The letter presented here reflects the continuing difficulties between JS and leaders in Missouri. Although JS expressed consternation about some of the leaders, he also conveyed satisfaction about Phelps’s devotion. Such praise was in stark contrast to a 31 July letter that chastised Phelps for his “cold and indifferent manner.”2
JS began the letter anticipating a question on the part of Phelps. JS could imagine Phelps wondering what was to be the fate of those church members who came to Zion but did not “receive an inheritance by consecration” from the bishop.3

Saints were expected to “consecrate” their property to the Church of Christ and then receive property—called an “inheritance” or “stewardship”—back from the bishop. (Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:30–36]; Revelation, 1 Aug. 1831 [D&C 58:35–36].)  

Why such individuals may not have received an inheritance is unclear from JS’s letter, but Phelps discussed this subject in the November 1832 issue of The Evening and the Morning Star. After noting that a total of 810 individuals had migrated to Zion “since the gathering commenced” in 1831,4

“The Gathering,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Nov. 1832, [5].
Comprehensive Works Cited



The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

Phelps posed several questions, including, “Have you all fulfilled the law of the church, which saith: Behold thou shalt consecrate all thy properties, that which thou hast, unto me, with a covenant and deed that cannot be broken?”5

“To the Saints,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Nov. 1832, [6]. Phelps was quoting “the Laws of the Church of Christ,” a February 1831 revelation. John Whitmer brought a copy of the revelation to Missouri in late 1831. (Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831, in Revelation Book 1, p. 64, in JSP, MRB:99 [D&C 42:30].)
Comprehensive Works Cited



The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

Apparently, at least some individuals had not followed the commandment to consecrate their properties and had consequently not received an inheritance.
In writing to Phelps, JS highlighted the need for the church to maintain the system of consecration in Zion that previous revelations had established.6

See Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:30–38]; and Revelation, 1 Aug. 1831 [D&C 58:35–36].  

He explained to Phelps that the Lord’s clerk, John Whitmer, was to keep a “Book of the Law of God” to record the names of those who consecrated their property and received their inheritance. Individuals who did not comply with the consecration commandment were not to be listed. In this way, the church could keep an orderly record of consecration and of inheritance distributions.
Record keeping was of great concern to JS at this time. After sending Oliver Cowdery and Whitmer to Missouri in November 1831 with a record book containing copies of his revelations, JS purchased another record book in February or March 1832, into which he and Frederick G. Williams began copying revelations that had been dictated since November 1831.7

See Historical Introduction to Revelation Book 2, in JSP, MRB:408; and Whitmer, History, 38, in JSP, H2:49.  

Probably only a few months before writing this November letter to Phelps, JS composed his first history, “A History of the life of Joseph Smith Jr. an account of his marvilous experience . . . and also an account of the rise of the church of Christ in the eve of time.”8 In his July 1832 letter to the Missouri Saints, JS instructed Phelps to remind Whitmer of the need “to keep a history of the church & the gathering.”9 Moreover, the same day that JS composed the November letter to Phelps, JS purchased a record book and began his first journal “for the purpose to keep a minute acount of all things that come under my obsevation &c.”10

JS, Journal, 1832–1834, front cover, in JSP, J1:9.  

Instructing Phelps and Whitmer about keeping a “Book of the Law of God” fits with this general pattern of maintaining records. However, if Phelps or Whitmer kept such a record at this time, it is not extant.
The original letter JS sent to Missouri has not been located. JS and Williams copied it as the first letter in JS’s first letterbook, likely before sending it to Phelps. The letter appears in the letterbook immediately after JS’s 1832 history, which is the first item in the book. After Phelps received the letter, he published a portion of it in the January 1833 issue of The Evening and the Morning Star, prefacing it by saying, “In relation to consecrating, and continuing worthy, and faithful to the end, we make the following extract of a letter.” The extract commenced with the words, “It is the duty of the Lord’s clerk” and ended after quoting from Ezra 2:61–62.11

JS’s letter referenced Ezra 2:61–62 without quoting the verses, but Phelps reproduced the referenced verses in the publication. This extract was later published in the 1876 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants as section 85. (“Let Every Man Learn His Duty,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Jan. 1833, [5]; JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 1–4 [D&C 85].)
Comprehensive Works Cited



The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.