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Letter to William W. Phelps, 27 November 1832

the Lord of hosts

Frederick G. Williams handwriting ends; JS begins.  

 
yea thus saith the still small voice9

See 1 Kings 19:12.  

 
which  whispereth through and pierceth all things and often times it  maketh my heart bones to quake while it maketh manifest saying  and it shall come to pass that I the Lord God will send on[e]10

TEXT: Word runs off the page.  

 
 mighty and strong11

See Isaiah 28:2.  

 
holding the scepter of power in his hand  clothed with light for a covering whose mouth shall  utter words Eternal words while his bowels shall be a fou ntain of truth to set in order the house of God and to ar ange by lot the inheritance of the saints12

According to the Bible, the Lord told Moses to divide the land of Canaan among the children of Israel by lot. (Numbers 26:52–56; 34:13.)  

 
whose names  are found and the names of their fathers and of their chi ldren enroled in the Book of the Law of God13

No such record kept by Whitmer or Phelps during this period is extant. In the early 1840s, however, JS directed the keeping of “the Book of the Law of the Lord,” which recorded both his journal entries and tithing donations for the construction of the Nauvoo, Illinois, temple. (JS, Journal, Dec. 1841–Dec. 1842, in JSP, J2:5–8; Smith, “Book of the Law of the Lord,” 131–163.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

JSP, J2 / Hedges, Andrew H., Alex D. Smith, and Richard Lloyd Anderson, eds. Journals, Volume 2: December 1841–April 1843. Vol. 2 of the Journals series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011.

Smith, Alex D. “The Book of the Law of the Lord,” Journal of Mormon History 38 (Fall 2012): 131–163.

while tha t man who was called of God and appointed that puteth  forth his hand to steady the ark of God shall fall by  the shaft of death like as a tree that is smitten by the vived  shaft of lightning14

Writing about this passage in January 1834, Oliver Cowdery explained, “Brother Joseph says, that the item in his letter that says, that the man that is called &c. and puts forth his hand to steady the ark of God, does not mean that any one had at the time, but it was given for a caution to those in high standing to beware, lest they should fall by the shaft of death as the Lord had said.” (Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland, OH, to John Whitmer, [Liberty, MO], 1 Jan. 1834, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 15.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

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

and all they who are not found write [written]  in the book of remmemberance15

See Malachi 3:16. JS’s revisions to Genesis that became known as the Book of Moses discussed a book of remembrance written “in the Language of Adam.” (Old Testament Revision 1, pp. 11–13 [Moses chap. 6].)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Old Testament Revision 1 / “A Revelation Given to Joseph the Revelator June 1830,” 1830–1831. CCLA. Also available in Scott H. Faulring, Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004), 75–152.

shall find none inheritence  in that day but they shall be cut assunder and their por tion shall be appointed them among unbelievers where  is wailing and gnashing of teeth these things I say not  of myself therefore as the Lord speaketh he will also fu lfill and they who are of the high Priesthood whose names  are not found writen in the book of the Law or that ar[e]16

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 found to have appostitized or to have been cut off out  of the church as well as the lesser Priesthood or the mem bers in that day shall not find an inheritence among th[e]17

TEXT: Word runs off the page.  

 
 saints of the most high therefore it shall be done unto  them as unto the children of the Priest as you will find  recorded in the second Book chapter and sixty first and  second verses of Ezra now Broth— William if what I say  have said is true how careful then had men aught  to be what they do in the last days lest they are cut as sunder short of their expecttations and they that think [they] stand  should fall18

JS used similar language in his 31 July 1832 letter to Phelps, stating, “Now this is a warning to all to whom this knowledge may come, and he that thinks he stands, let him take heed least he fall.” (Letter to William W. Phelps, 31 July 1832.)  

 
because they keep not the Lords commandments  whilst you who do the will of the Lord and keep his comman dments have need to rejoice with unspeakable Joy19

See 1 Peter 1:8.  

 
for such  shall be exalted very high and shall be lifted up in [p. 3]
PreviousNext
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.

Facts