Letterbook 1

is going directly to your country but knowing that if a few  lines from you under my hand is as gladly rec[e]ived by you as one  from you would at all times be by me I cannot in duty to my fee lings let this oppertunity <pass> u[n]improved Your great anxiety  will probably be to know of the progress of the work in  the which we are <So deeply> engaged and possibly our Souls wellfare al[l]  of which Father can make known unto you it may  look rather Strange to you to find that I have So Soon  become a printer and you may cast in your mind what I  Shall become next but be asured my cahngeing [changing] business has  not in any degree I trust taken my mind from meditateing  upon my mission which I have been called to fulfill nor  of changing Slacking my diligence in prayr and fasting but  but Some times I feel almost as though I could quit time and  fly away and be at rest in the Bosom of my Redeemer for  the many deep feelings of Sorrow and the many long Struglings  in prayr of Sorrow for the Sins of my fellow beings and  also for those whose pretend to be of my faith almost as it  were Seperateth my spirit from my mortal body do not thin k by this my Brother that I am would find give you to und erstand that I am freed from Sin and temptations no not  by any means that is what I would that you Should unders stand is my anxiety at some times to be at rest in King  in the Paradice of my God is to be freed from sin tem ptation &c.. You have our prayrs and our best wishes
Yours in Christ Amen
Joseph Smith Jr
P S we Send our respects to Emma &c——

Oliver Cowdery to Hyrum Smith • 14 June 1829

<Let 3> Fayette June the 14 1829
These few lines I write unto you feeling anxious  for your Steadfastness in the great cause of which you hav[e]  been called to advocate and also feeling it a duty to wr ite to you at every opportunity remember the worth of  Souls is great in the Sight of God behold the Lord [p. 5]
On 27 November 1832, while residing at Kirtland, Ohio, JS wrote a lengthy letter to William W. Phelps, who earlier that year had settled at Independence, Missouri. JS’s missive included a reminder stressing the importance of record keeping and history writing to the young church. Portions were later added to the Doctrine and Covenants, the church’s official collection of commandments and revelations. JS began by noting that he wished “to communicate some things which . . . are laying great with weight upon my mind.” He then went on to observe, “Firstly, it is the duty of the lord’[s] clerk whom he has appointed to keep a hystory and a general church record of all things that transpire in Zion . . . and also the[ir] manner of life and the[ir] faith and works.” (JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, Independence, MO, 27 Nov. 1832, JS Letterbook 1, pp. 1–4 [D&C 85:1–2].)
JS’s dispatch to Phelps reminding those in Missouri of the importance of record keeping coincided with a new record-keeping initiative in Ohio. This letter became the first entry, identified as “Letter first” and “Letter 1,” recorded in what was subsequently designated Letter Book A or Letterbook 1. This record of ninety-three manuscript pages, now published in the Administrative Records series on the Joseph Smith Papers website, preserves copies of early church-related communications dated 14 June 1829 through 4 August 1835. The transcribed text is in the handwriting of JS, Frederick G. Williams, Orson Hyde, and Oliver Cowdery.
Correspondence captured in Letterbook 1 includes six early letters composed or received by Oliver Cowdery, four from 1829 and two from 1831. Other letters reflect ongoing communications between the two centers of the early church located in Kirtland and Independence. Two entries describe the plat of the proposed “City of Zion” to be built at Independence and the dimensions of the “house of the Lord” to be erected there. The concluding item in the collection is a letter that incorporates a set of minutes from a council held in Kirtland on 4 August 1835 censuring the Twelve Apostles for failing to fully comply with their fund-raising responsibilities as they conducted a mission among the branches of the church in the East. Note that letters from Letterbook 1 written to or from JS will also appear with individual introductions in the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers.
Letterbook 1 was initiated during a remarkable surge in record keeping, beginning with the calling of Oliver Cowdery and later John Whitmer as church historians in 1830 and 1831. Revelations and commandments recorded in Revelation Book 1 were sent to Missouri in late 1831 to be published on the church’s first press, and Revelation Book 2 was in use in Kirtland by February 1832. Sometime in 1832, probably between July and September, JS and Frederick G. Williams worked together on a brief history of JS’s early visionary experiences. JS purchased the small volume that contains his first journal in November 1832 and began penning entries that same month. That fall another record, containing the minutes of early church conference and council meetings and now designated Minute Book 1, was commenced. In January of the following year, in another epistle recorded in Letterbook 1, JS again wrote to Phelps encouraging him as editor of the church’s first periodical, The Evening and the Morning Star, then printed in Independence, to set “forth the rise and progress and faith of the church,” that is, to begin publishing items on the history of the church.
This upwelling in record keeping was unusual for the time. As scholar Dean C. Jessee has observed, “So primitive were some aspects of record keeping in nineteenth-century America that much of the early Latter-day Saint experience was a pioneering effort. . . . Although Mormon record keeping was inaugurated by [an] 1830 revelation, details for carrying out that commandment were largely hammered out on the anvil of experience in the years that followed.” (Dean C. Jessee, “The Reliability of Joseph Smith’s History,” Journal of Mormon History 3 [1976]: 27.) Thus, during a brief span in the early 1830s, JS, along with those working under his direction, commenced the systematic collection and recording of critical documents pertaining to church governance and administration. Throughout the remainder of JS’s lifetime, correspondence-copying, revelation-recording, minute-taking, journal-keeping, and history-writing activities would remain imperative commitments.