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Letterbook 1

in these last days as we are not willing to Idle any time away which can be spent to useful purposes doors are opening continually for proclaiming the Spirit of bitterness among the people is fast subsiding, and a Spirit of enquiry is taking its place I proclaimed last Sunday at Chardon

Located eight miles south of Lake Erie and immediately east of Kirtland Township. Settled by 1812. Included village of Chardon. Population of township in 1820 about 430; in 1830 about 880; and in 1840 about 1,100. Two of JS’s sisters resided in township. ...

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our county seat [I] had the court house, there was a general turn out, good attention and a pressing invitation for more meetings which will be granted if the Lord will when we return from this tower [tour], Bro Joseph is going to take a tower [tour] with Brother George James

28 Oct. 1796–30 Oct. 1864. Farmer. Born in Stockbridge, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of Stephen James and Hannah Schofield. Moved to Brownhelm, Huron Co., Ohio, July 1817. Married Caroline Weed, 28 June 1822, in Huron Co. Baptized into LDS church, June...

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, of Brownhelm as soon as he (George

28 Oct. 1796–30 Oct. 1864. Farmer. Born in Stockbridge, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of Stephen James and Hannah Schofield. Moved to Brownhelm, Huron Co., Ohio, July 1817. Married Caroline Weed, 28 June 1822, in Huron Co. Baptized into LDS church, June...

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) comes to this place, we hope our brethren that the greatest freedom and frankness will exist between you and the Bishop

An ecclesiastical and priesthood office. JS appointed Edward Partridge as the first bishop in February 1831. Following this appointment, he functioned as the local leader of the church in Missouri. Later revelations described a bishop’s duties as receiving...

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27 Aug. 1793–27 May 1840. Hatter. Born at Pittsfield, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of William Partridge and Jemima Bidwell. Moved to Painesville, Geauga Co., Ohio. Married Lydia Clisbee, 22 Aug. 1819, at Painesville. Initially a Universal Restorationist...

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not withholding from each other, any information from us but communicate with the greatest freedom lest you should produce evils of a serious character and the Lord becomes offended: for know assuredly if we by our wickedness bring evil on our own heads the Lord will let us bear it till we get weary and hate iniquity Bro Frederick

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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wants you to say to Bro John Burk

4 Feb. 1793–8 June 1853. Innkeeper, farmer. Born in Fairfield, Herkimer Co., New York. Son of Charles Burke and Esther Robinson Bohannon. Married first Abigail Fellows, 13 Mar. 1821, in Fairfield. Moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, by 1823. Baptized into...

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that the man from whom he expected to get the mill stones has run off so he will not be able to get them but Brother Burk

4 Feb. 1793–8 June 1853. Innkeeper, farmer. Born in Fairfield, Herkimer Co., New York. Son of Charles Burke and Esther Robinson Bohannon. Married first Abigail Fellows, 13 Mar. 1821, in Fairfield. Moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, by 1823. Baptized into...

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can get them at St Louis

Located on west side of Mississippi River about fifteen miles south of confluence with Missouri River. Founded as fur-trading post by French settlers, 1764. Incorporated as town, 1809. First Mississippi steamboat docked by town, 1817. Incorporated as fourth...

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of the same mans make
We conclude by giving our heartiest approbation to evry measure calculated for the spread of the truth in these last days and our strongest desires and sincerest prayers for the prosperity [p. 53]
in these last days as we are not willing to Idle  any time away which can be spent to useful purposes  doors are opening continually for proclaiming  the Spirit of bitterness among the people is  fast subsiding, and a Spirit of enquiry  is taking its place I proclaimed last  Sunday at Chardon

Located eight miles south of Lake Erie and immediately east of Kirtland Township. Settled by 1812. Included village of Chardon. Population of township in 1820 about 430; in 1830 about 880; and in 1840 about 1,100. Two of JS’s sisters resided in township. ...

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our county seat [I]  had the court house, there was a general  turn out, good attention and a pressing  invitation for more meetings which will be  granted if the Lord will when we return  from this tower [tour], Bro Joseph is going to  take a tower [tour] with Brother George James

28 Oct. 1796–30 Oct. 1864. Farmer. Born in Stockbridge, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of Stephen James and Hannah Schofield. Moved to Brownhelm, Huron Co., Ohio, July 1817. Married Caroline Weed, 28 June 1822, in Huron Co. Baptized into LDS church, June...

View Full Bio
, of  Brownhelm as soon as he (George

28 Oct. 1796–30 Oct. 1864. Farmer. Born in Stockbridge, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of Stephen James and Hannah Schofield. Moved to Brownhelm, Huron Co., Ohio, July 1817. Married Caroline Weed, 28 June 1822, in Huron Co. Baptized into LDS church, June...

View Full Bio
) comes  to this place, we hope our brethren  that the greatest freedom and frankness  will exist between you and the Bishop

An ecclesiastical and priesthood office. JS appointed Edward Partridge as the first bishop in February 1831. Following this appointment, he functioned as the local leader of the church in Missouri. Later revelations described a bishop’s duties as receiving...

View Glossary

27 Aug. 1793–27 May 1840. Hatter. Born at Pittsfield, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of William Partridge and Jemima Bidwell. Moved to Painesville, Geauga Co., Ohio. Married Lydia Clisbee, 22 Aug. 1819, at Painesville. Initially a Universal Restorationist...

View Full Bio
 not withholding from each other, any information  from us but communicate with the greatest  freedom lest you should produce evils  of a serious nature character and the  Lord becomes offended: for know assured ly if we by our wickedness bring evil  on our own heads the Lord will let us  bear it till we get weary and hate iniquity  Bro Frederick

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

View Full Bio
wants you to say to Bro  [John] Burk

4 Feb. 1793–8 June 1853. Innkeeper, farmer. Born in Fairfield, Herkimer Co., New York. Son of Charles Burke and Esther Robinson Bohannon. Married first Abigail Fellows, 13 Mar. 1821, in Fairfield. Moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, by 1823. Baptized into...

View Full Bio
that the man from whom he exp ected to get the mill stones has run  off so he will not be able to get them  but Brother Burk

4 Feb. 1793–8 June 1853. Innkeeper, farmer. Born in Fairfield, Herkimer Co., New York. Son of Charles Burke and Esther Robinson Bohannon. Married first Abigail Fellows, 13 Mar. 1821, in Fairfield. Moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, by 1823. Baptized into...

View Full Bio
can get them at  St Louis

Located on west side of Mississippi River about fifteen miles south of confluence with Missouri River. Founded as fur-trading post by French settlers, 1764. Incorporated as town, 1809. First Mississippi steamboat docked by town, 1817. Incorporated as fourth...

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of the same mans make
We conclude by giving  our heartiest approbation to evry measure  calculated for the spread of <the> truth in  these last days and our strongest desires  and sincerest prayers for the prosperity [p. 53]
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On 27 November 1832, while residing at Kirtland

Located ten miles south of Lake Erie. Settled by 1811. Organized by 1818. Population in 1830 about 55 Latter-day Saints and 1,000 others; in 1838 about 2,000 Saints and 1,200 others; in 1839 about 100 Saints and 1,500 others. Mormon missionaries visited township...

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, Ohio, JS wrote a lengthy letter to William W. Phelps

17 Feb. 1792–7 Mar. 1872. Writer, teacher, printer, newspaper editor, publisher, postmaster, lawyer. Born at Hanover, Morris Co., New Jersey. Son of Enon Phelps and Mehitabel Goldsmith. Moved to Homer, Cortland Co., New York, 1800. Married Sally Waterman,...

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, who earlier that year had settled at Independence

Located twelve miles from western Missouri border. Permanently settled, platted, and designated county seat, 1827. Hub for steamboat travel on Missouri River. Point of departure for Santa Fe Trail. Population in 1831 about 300. Mormon population by summer...

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, 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

17 Feb. 1792–7 Mar. 1872. Writer, teacher, printer, newspaper editor, publisher, postmaster, lawyer. Born at Hanover, Morris Co., New Jersey. Son of Enon Phelps and Mehitabel Goldsmith. Moved to Homer, Cortland Co., New York, 1800. Married Sally Waterman,...

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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

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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, Orson Hyde

8 Jan. 1805–28 Nov. 1878. Laborer, clerk, storekeeper, teacher, editor, businessman, lawyer, judge. Born at Oxford, New Haven Co., Connecticut. Son of Nathan Hyde and Sally Thorpe. Moved to Derby, New Haven Co., 1812. Moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, ...

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, and Oliver Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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.
Correspondence captured in Letterbook 1 includes six early letters composed or received by Oliver Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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, four from 1829 and two from 1831. Other letters reflect ongoing communications between the two centers of the early church located in Kirtland

Located ten miles south of Lake Erie. Settled by 1811. Organized by 1818. Population in 1830 about 55 Latter-day Saints and 1,000 others; in 1838 about 2,000 Saints and 1,200 others; in 1839 about 100 Saints and 1,500 others. Mormon missionaries visited township...

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and Independence

Located twelve miles from western Missouri border. Permanently settled, platted, and designated county seat, 1827. Hub for steamboat travel on Missouri River. Point of departure for Santa Fe Trail. Population in 1831 about 300. Mormon population by summer...

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. 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

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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and later John Whitmer

27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...

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as church historians in 1830 and 1831. Revelations and commandments recorded in Revelation Book 1 were sent to Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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in late 1831 to be published on the church’s first press, and Revelation Book 2 was in use in Kirtland

Located ten miles south of Lake Erie. Settled by 1811. Organized by 1818. Population in 1830 about 55 Latter-day Saints and 1,000 others; in 1838 about 2,000 Saints and 1,200 others; in 1839 about 100 Saints and 1,500 others. Mormon missionaries visited township...

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by February 1832. Sometime in 1832, probably between July and September, JS and Frederick G. Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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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

17 Feb. 1792–7 Mar. 1872. Writer, teacher, printer, newspaper editor, publisher, postmaster, lawyer. Born at Hanover, Morris Co., New Jersey. Son of Enon Phelps and Mehitabel Goldsmith. Moved to Homer, Cortland Co., New York, 1800. Married Sally Waterman,...

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encouraging him as editor of the church’s first periodical, The Evening and the Morning Star, then printed in Independence

Located twelve miles from western Missouri border. Permanently settled, platted, and designated county seat, 1827. Hub for steamboat travel on Missouri River. Point of departure for Santa Fe Trail. Population in 1831 about 300. Mormon population by summer...

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, 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.

Facts