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Letterbook 1

searching for truth and if cincerely I pr[a]y they  may find that precious treasure for it seems  to be wholly fallen in the streets that equity  cannot enter in the letter we received of <from> you we  were informed that the opposition was great against  you now our beloved brethren we verily believe that  we can also rejoice that we can are counted worthy  to suffer shame for his name for almost the  whole country which consists of Universalists Athists  Deists Presbyterians Methodists <Baptists> & professed Christians  Priests & people with all the Devils from the  infernal pit are united and foaming out ther  own shame God forbid that I should bring a railing  accusation against them for Vengence belongeth  unto him who is able to repay & herein brethren  we confide. I am informed of an other Tribe  of Lamanites lately who have abundence of flocks  of the best kind of sheep & cattle and manufacture  blankets of superior quality the tribe is very  numerous they live three hundred miles west  of Santafee and are called navahoes why I men tion this tribe is because I feel under obligation  to communicate <my breth[r]en evry informati[o]n respecting th[e] Lamanites & ab[out].> to you all my Labours and travels  believeing as I do that much is expected from me  in the cause of our Lord and not doubuting but I daily  am remembered before the throne of the most high  by all of my brethren as well those who have not  seen my face in the flesh as those who have
We have begin to expect our brother Parley [P. Pratt] soon we have  heard from him only when he was at St Louis we are  all well (bless the Lord) and preach the gospel we will if  earth and hell oppose our way and we dwell in the midst  of Scortions for in Jesus <we> trust grace be with you all Amen  
PS I beseach you Brother [Newel K.] Whitney to remember & write & direct  to me Indipendence Jackson County Missouri
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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.

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