43991218

Letterbook 1

JS to William W. Phelps • 27 November 1832

Letter 1 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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Nov 27th 1832
Brother Wm 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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I say brother because I feel so from the heart and altho it is not long since I wrote a letter unto you yet I feel as though you would excuse me for writing this as I have many things which I wish to communicate some things which I will mention in this letter which are laying great with weight upon my mind I inform you I am well and family God grant that you may enjoy the same and yours and all the brethren and sisters who remember to enquire after the commandments

Generally, a divine mandate that church members were expected to obey; more specifically, a text dictated by JS in the first-person voice of Deity that served to communicate knowledge and instruction to JS and his followers. Occasionally, other inspired texts...

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of the Lord and the welfare of Zion and such a being as me and while I dictate this letter I fancy to myself that you are saying or thinking something simmiler to these words my God great and mighty art thou therefore shew unto thy servant what shall become of all these who are assaying to come up unto Zion in order to keep the commandments of God and yet receive not there inheritance

Generally referred to land promised by or received from God for the church and its members. A January 1831 revelation promised church members a land of inheritance. In March and May 1831, JS dictated revelations commanding members “to purchase lands for an...

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by consecration

The dedicating of money, lands, goods, or one’s own life for sacred purposes. Both the New Testament and Book of Mormon referred to some groups having “all things common” economically; the Book of Mormon also referred to individuals who consecrated or dedicated...

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by order or deed from the bishop

An ecclesiastical and priesthood office. JS appointed Edward Partridge as the first bishop in February 1831. Following this appointment, Partridge 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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the man that God has appointed in a legal way agreeable to the law given to organize and regulate the church

The Book of Mormon related that when Christ set up his church in the Americas, “they which were baptized in the name of Jesus, were called the church of Christ.” The first name used to denote the church JS organized on 6 April 1830 was “the Church of Christ...

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and all the affairs of the same; Bro Wm

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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in the love of God having the most implicit confidence in you as a man of God having obtained this confidence by a vision of heaven therefore I will procede to unfold to you some of the feelings of my heart and procede to answer the questions. firstly, it is the duty of the lords clerk

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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whom he has appointed to keep a hystory and a general church receord of all things that transpire in Zion and of all those who consecrate properties and receive inhertances legally from the bishop and also there manner of life and the faith and works and also of all the apostates who apostatize after receiving ther inheritances [p. 1a]

JS to William W. Phelps • 27 November 1832

<Letter 1> 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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Nov 27th 1832
Brother Wm <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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I say brother because I feel so from  the heart and altho it is not long since I wrote a  letter unto you yet I feel as tho<ugh> you would excuse  me for writing this as I have many things which  I wish to communicate some things which I will  mention in this letter which are laying <great> with weight  upon my mind I inform you I am well and family  God grant that you may enjoy the same and  yours and all the brethren and sisters who remember  to enquire afte[r] the commandments

Generally, a divine mandate that church members were expected to obey; more specifically, a text dictated by JS in the first-person voice of Deity that served to communicate knowledge and instruction to JS and his followers. Occasionally, other inspired texts...

View Glossary
of the Lord  and the welfare of Zion and such a being as me  and while I dictate this letter I fancy to myself  that you are saying or thinking something simmiler  to these words my God great and mighty art thou  therefore shew unto thy servant what shall becom[e] of all  these who are assaying to come up unto Zion in order  to keep the commandments of God and yet receive  not there inher[i]tance

Generally referred to land promised by or received from God for the church and its members. A January 1831 revelation promised church members a land of inheritance. In March and May 1831, JS dictated revelations commanding members “to purchase lands for an...

View Glossary
by consecration

The dedicating of money, lands, goods, or one’s own life for sacred purposes. Both the New Testament and Book of Mormon referred to some groups having “all things common” economically; the Book of Mormon also referred to individuals who consecrated or dedicated...

View Glossary
by order or deed  from the bishop

An ecclesiastical and priesthood office. JS appointed Edward Partridge as the first bishop in February 1831. Following this appointment, Partridge 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
the man that God has appointed  in a legal way agreeable to the law given to organize  and regulate the church

The Book of Mormon related that when Christ set up his church in the Americas, “they which were baptized in the name of Jesus, were called the church of Christ.” The first name used to denote the church JS organized on 6 April 1830 was “the Church of Christ...

View Glossary
and all the affairs of the  same; Bro Wm

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,...

View Full Bio
in the love of God having the  most implicit confidence in you as a man of  God having obtained this confidence by a vision  of heaven therefore I will procede to unfold to you some  of the feelings of my heart and procede to answer  the questions[.] firstly, it is the duty of the lord[s]  clerk

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...

View Full Bio
whom he has appointed to keep a hystory  and a general church receord of all things that  transpire in Zion and of all those who consecrate  properties and receive inhertances legally from the  bishop and also there manner of life and the faith  and works and also of all the apostates who apostatize  after receiving ther inher[i]tances in that day shall  not find an inheritance among the saints of the [p. 1a]
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“Letter Book A,” JS Letterbook 1, [ca. 27 Nov. 1832–ca. 4 Aug. 1835]; handwriting of 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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, JS, 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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; ninety-three pages, including one inserted leaf of an incomplete index (table of contents); JS Collection, CHL. Includes redactions, use marks, and archival marking.
This letterbook was inscribed in a medium-size, commercially produced blank book. The book’s ledger paper is horizontally ruled with thirty-six (now faint) blue lines and vertically ruled with four red lines; the paper in the final gathering, however, is missing the horizontal lines. The original book apparently contained nine gatherings of twelve leaves each, but eight leaves were cut from the final gathering.1

The remnants of five of the leaves are visible. The eight excised leaves are no longer extant.  


The text block was likely sewn all along over recessed cords, but the book underwent conservation efforts in the late twentieth century and was rebound. The leaves measure 12⅝ × 7¾ inches (32 × 20 cm). The pastedowns and flyleaves were blank white paper. The volume was constructed with front and back covers of pasteboard and a tight-back case binding with a brown calfskin quarter-leather binding. The bound volume measures 12⅞ × 8 × ⅞ inches (33 × 20 × 2 cm). The outside covers are adorned in shell marbled paper, with brown body and veins of blue and red. The front pastedown bears the inscriptions “c=c/i” and “/i=”, possibly original merchandising notes.
The first three leaves of the volume contain JS’s earliest extant attempt to write a history of his life.2

These three leaves were later cut from the volume but have since been reattached. For further information about these leaves and the history inscribed on them, see JS History, ca. Summer 1832.  


Later, the book was turned over so the back cover became the front and the last page became the first. One or more texts were inscribed in this side (the back) of the book on the eight leaves that were later cut out, as is evident from inscriptions visible on the remaining stubs of the excised leaves.
The volume was also repurposed as a letterbook. The letterbook begins on the recto of the fourth leaf in the front of the book (immediately following the history). The letters occupy ninety-three pages. The book’s pagination also began anew with the copied letters. The first page of letters bore the inscription “1a”, which is only partially extant on the now-trimmed page but is complete in photocopy and microfilm copies at the Church History Library.3

The photocopy may have been made from the microfilm. The letterbook was filmed on 12 November 1968. (Microfilming Report, entry no. JP 1068, Historical Department, Microfilm Reports, 1949–1975, CHL.)  


Page 78 is blank. The front flyleaf is now missing—possibly because it bore a title related to the history and was removed when the volume was converted to a letterbook. The letters were copied with quill pens in ink that is now brown. The pagination appears to have been added at different times and possibly in different hands. There are 101 blank pages between the end of the letter transcripts and the excised pages in the back of the book. There is illegible ink transfer on page [130] from a loose leaf document that was placed between pages [130] and [131] before its ink had dried. There are also smudges of ink on some of the succeeding pages.
At some point, 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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began an index or table of contents that identifies the letters copied into pages 1–25 of the letterbook. This incomplete index is inscribed on paper that does not match the original ledger paper. It was apparently a loose leaf inserted in the volume—as is Williams’s index to the contents of Revelation Book 24

At some point, Williams’s index for Revelation Book 2 was attached with adhesive wafers to the inside front cover of the revelation book. (See JSP, MRB:412–413.)  


—although it is currently bound in the front of the volume as a result of the late twentieth-century conservation. The index is horizontally ruled with forty-three manually inscribed graphite lines.5

This index does not list the history.  


The front cover of the book is labeled “Letter Book | A”, in black ink. The “A” is written in a formal style that matches the covers of other manuscript volumes in the holdings of the Church History Library. On the spine, a paper label with the hand-lettered title “KIRTLAND LETTER BOOK” was pasted over an earlier, now only partially visible title, “L[tr?] | B[k?]”, written in black ink. These inscriptions are in unidentified handwriting. A small “3” is stamped in dark brown ink at the bottom of the spine. Graphite use marks and copy notes on some pages were apparently made in connection with work on JS’s 1838–1856 history.
A reconstruction of the physical history of the artifact helps explain the current material context of the document. Photocopy and microfilm images of the book, as well as an inspection of the conservation work now present in the volume, indicate that the text block separated from the binding at some point. The entire volume was rebound, apparently in the 1990s, including the formerly loose leaf containing a partial index of letters. The back flyleaf was replaced with a leaf of laid paper.
Letterbook 1 was used in Nauvoo

Principal gathering place for Saints following expulsion from Missouri. Beginning in 1839, LDS church purchased lands in earlier settlement of Commerce and planned settlement of Commerce City, as well as surrounding areas. Served as church headquarters, 1839...

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, Illinois, during the compilation of JS’s 1838–1856 history6

See, for example, JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 1–4; compare JS History, vol. A-1, 240–243.  


 and is listed in the inventory of church records made in connection with the exodus from Nauvoo.7

“Schedule of Church Records. Nauvoo 1846,” [1].  


The volume is likely accounted for in subsequent Historian’s Office inventories, which list multiple letterbooks.8

“Inventory. Historian’s Office. 4th April 1855,” [1]; “Historian’s Office Inventory G. S. L. March 19. 1858,” [1], Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL.  


It is also listed in the 1973 register of the JS Collection.9

Johnson, Register of the Joseph Smith Collection, 7.  


These archival records indicate continuous institutional custody.
JS evidently wrote his history on the first three leaves of the book in summer 1832.10

See Frederick G. Williams, Statement, no date, Frederick G. Williams, Papers, CHL; JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 1–4. For more information on the dating of the history, see Historical Introduction to JS History, ca. Summer 1832.  


The excised pages in the back of the book were apparently inscribed sometime after the history and before the letterbook. 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 emphasizing the importance of record keeping and history writing to the young church.11

JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 1–4.  


JS’s dispatch to Phelps coincided with a new record-keeping initiative in Ohio and became the first entry recorded in what was subsequently designated “Letter Book A.” Beginning on the recto of the fourth leaf in the front of the book (immediately following the history) are ninety-three pages of copied outgoing letters, dated 14 June 1829 through 4 August 1835. The copy of JS’s 27 November 1832 letter to Phelps was apparently copied into the book from the original letter before the original was sent.12

It is possible that a fair copy of the letter was made on loose leaves before it was sent, and that this fair copy was later used to make the copy of record in JS Letterbook 1. There is no evidence, however, of an intermediate copy.  


In the next nine pages, Frederick G. Williams and JS copied six items of Oliver Cowdery correspondence from 1829 and 1831. The remainder of the book appears to be a register of outgoing correspondence that was continually updated as letters were written (and before they were sent). Williams made most of the copies, with Orson Hyde, Cowdery, and JS occasionally helping. There are copies of thirty-four letters. The letters reflect ongoing communications within the church, especially from the church members in Ohio to the church members in Missouri. Pages 38–44 contain explanations of a plat for the city of Zion (in Jackson County, Missouri) and plans for a temple to be built there. These explanations were also sent from Ohio to Missouri. The volume appears to have been used as an active register of letters throughout 1833 and 1834. A final item copied into the volume was a letter written on or soon after 4 August 1835, the date of a council whose resolutions were transmitted in the letter.13

JS, Letter, Kirtland, OH, ca. 4 Aug. 1835, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 90–93.  


The first seven letters in the letterbook are numbered, possibly in an early attempt to create a registry of documents. The entire record was apparently created in Kirtland.

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