Letter to William W. Phelps, 27 November 1832

most high

Frederick G. Williams handwriting ends; JS begins.  

therefore it shall be done unto them  as unto the children of the priest as you will find  recorded in the second chapter and sixty first and  second verses of Ezra now Brother william if what  I have said is true how careful then had men  aught to be what they do in the last days lest they  think they stand should fall because they keep not  the <Lod [Lord’s]> commandments while<st> you who obey who do the  will of the lord and keep his commandments have  need to rejoice with unspeakabl Joy for such  shall be exalted very high and shall be lifted up in  

JS handwriting ends; Frederick G. Williams begins.  

triumph above all the kingdoms of the world but I must  drop this subject at the begining, O Lord when6

TEXT: “when” written over “time” and then canceled with the rest of the passage.  

 will the time come when Bro Wm thy servant  and myself behold the day that we may stand  together and gaze upon eternal wisdom engraven  upon the heavens while the magesty of our God  holdeth up the dark curtain until we may  read the reccord of eternity to the fulness of  our immortal souls, O Lord God deliver us  in thy due time from the little narrow  prison almost as it were total darkness of  paper pen and Ink and a crooked broken scattered  and imperfect Language, I would inform
 seccondly it is conterary to the will and  commandment of God that those who receive  not the inherttenc [inheritance] by consecration agree[a]ble  to his law which he has given that he may tithe  his people to prepare them against the day of  vengence and burning7

A revelation dated 11 September 1831 stated that it was “a day of Sacrifice & a day for the tithing of my People for he that is tithed shall not be burned.” (Revelation, 11 Sept. 1831 [D&C 64:23].)  

should have there names  enrolled with the people of God, neithe[r] is the  geneology to be kept or to be had where it may  be found on any of the reccords or hystory of the  church there names shall not be found neithe[r]  the names of ther fathers or the names of the chil dren writen in the book of the Law of God8

After conversing with JS about this passage in January 1834, Oliver Cowdery told John Whitmer, “The names of the saints are to be kept in a book that contains the law of God; this is what is meant in bro. Joseph’s letter.” Two February 1831 revelations contained the “Laws of the Church of Christ.” (Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland, OH, to John Whitmer, [Liberty, MO], 1 Jan. 1834, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 14–15; Revelation, 9 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:1–73]; Revelation, 23 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:74–93].)
Comprehensive Works Cited



Cowdery, Oliver. Letterbook, 1833–1838. Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

saith [p. 2]
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.