43991218

Letterbook 1

will if presisted in, bring down the wrath and indignation upon your heads. The other ten

A title indicating one sent forth to preach; later designated as a specific ecclesiastical and priesthood office. By 1830, JS and Oliver Cowdery were designated as apostles. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church explained that an “apostle is an elder...

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are directed to procceed on and finish the conferences

A meeting where ecclesiastical officers and other church members could conduct church business. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church directed the elders to hold conferences to perform “Church business.” The first of these conferences was held on 9 June...

View Glossary
, and the two may act their own Judgment, whether to proceed or return.
President

The presiding body of the church. From the day of the church’s organization on 6 April 1830, JS and Oliver Cowdery led the church in their capacity as elders. An 11 November 1831 revelation directed that “the duty of the president of the office of the high...

View Glossary
J. Smith Jr. read to the counsel

A gathering of church leaders assembled “for consultation, deliberation and advice”; also a body responsible for governance or administration. As early as 9 February 1831, a revelation instructed that “the Elders & Bishop shall Council together & they shall...

View Glossary
a letter from Elder

A male leader in the church generally; an ecclesiastical and priesthood office or one holding that office; a proselytizing missionary. The Book of Mormon explained that elders ordained priests and teachers and administered “the flesh and blood of Christ unto...

View Glossary
Wm. Smith

13 Mar. 1811–13 Nov. 1893. Farmer, newspaper editor. Born at Royalton, Windsor Co., Vermont. Son of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack. Moved to Lebanon, Grafton Co., New Hampshire, 1811; to Norwich, Windsor Co., 1813; and to Palmyra, Ontario Co., New York, 1816...

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, which was approved, and filled our hearts with Joy.
A letter from Elder Thomas B. Marsh

1 Nov. 1800–Jan. 1866. Farmer, hotel worker, waiter, horse groom, grocer, type foundry worker, teacher. Born at Acton, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. Son of James Marsh and Molly Law. Married first Elizabeth Godkin, 1 Nov. 1820, at New York City. Moved to ...

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was presented— The council refer him to the commandment which requires men to have or bring their families without revelation, or decisian of the high counsel

A governing body of twelve high priests. The first high council was organized in Kirtland, Ohio, on 17 February 1834 “for the purpose of settling important difficulties which might arise in the church, which could not be settled by the Church, or the bishop...

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— Were they to come, they would not be with him as much as they will to tarry. President 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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’ family is not coming.
We discover an error in Elder Marsh

1 Nov. 1800–Jan. 1866. Farmer, hotel worker, waiter, horse groom, grocer, type foundry worker, teacher. Born at Acton, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. Son of James Marsh and Molly Law. Married first Elizabeth Godkin, 1 Nov. 1820, at New York City. Moved to ...

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’es letter— He says, “To the able preaching of Elders W. E. M.c.Lellin

18 Jan. 1806–14 Mar. 1883. Schoolteacher, physician, publisher. Born at Smith Co., Tennessee. Son of Charles McLellin and Sarah (a Cherokee Indian). Married first Cynthia Ann, 30 July 1829. Wife died, by summer 1831. Baptized into LDS church by Hyrum Smith...

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& P. P. Pratt

12 Apr. 1807–13 May 1857. Farmer, editor, publisher, teacher, school administrator, legislator, explorer, author. Born at Burlington, Otsego Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Traveled west with brother William to acquire land, 1823....

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.” We conclude that if it had been the preaching of the Lord, as it should have been, he would have had the honor, and not these men.
To close, we add, that unless this epestle is heeded, in all its parts, in its full forcce, those who rebell against it shall be dealt with by the Lord accordingly, for we ask, being agreed as touching this thing.
We wish you to understand, that your duty requires you to seek first the kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness, that is— attend to the first things first, and then all things will be added, and that complaint about your families will be less frequent— Dont preach yourselves crucified for your wives sake, but remembr that Christ was crucified, and you are sent out to be special witnesses of this thing. Men do not wish to hear these little things, for there is no salvation in them, but there is in the other.
Let the hands of the ten be strengthened, and let them go forth in the name of the Lord, in the power of their mission, giving diligent heed to the direction [p. 92]
will if presisted in, bring down the wrath and indig nation upon your heads. The other ten

A title indicating one sent forth to preach; later designated as a specific ecclesiastical and priesthood office. By 1830, JS and Oliver Cowdery were designated as apostles. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church explained that an “apostle is an elder...

View Glossary
are directed to  procceed on and finish the conferences

A meeting where ecclesiastical officers and other church members could conduct church business. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church directed the elders to hold conferences to perform “Church business.” The first of these conferences was held on 9 June...

View Glossary
, and the two  may act their own Judgment, whether to proceed or  return.
President

The presiding body of the church. From the day of the church’s organization on 6 April 1830, JS and Oliver Cowdery led the church in their capacity as elders. An 11 November 1831 revelation directed that “the duty of the president of the office of the high...

View Glossary
J. Smith Jr. read to the counsel

A gathering of church leaders assembled “for consultation, deliberation and advice”; also a body responsible for governance or administration. As early as 9 February 1831, a revelation instructed that “the Elders & Bishop shall Council together & they shall...

View Glossary
a letter from  Elder

A male leader in the church generally; an ecclesiastical and priesthood office or one holding that office; a proselytizing missionary. The Book of Mormon explained that elders ordained priests and teachers and administered “the flesh and blood of Christ unto...

View Glossary
Wm. Smith

13 Mar. 1811–13 Nov. 1893. Farmer, newspaper editor. Born at Royalton, Windsor Co., Vermont. Son of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack. Moved to Lebanon, Grafton Co., New Hampshire, 1811; to Norwich, Windsor Co., 1813; and to Palmyra, Ontario Co., New York, 1816...

View Full Bio
, which was approved, and filled our  hearts with Joy.
A letter from Elder T[homas] B. Marsh

1 Nov. 1800–Jan. 1866. Farmer, hotel worker, waiter, horse groom, grocer, type foundry worker, teacher. Born at Acton, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. Son of James Marsh and Molly Law. Married first Elizabeth Godkin, 1 Nov. 1820, at New York City. Moved to ...

View Full Bio
was presented— The  council refer him to the commandment which requires men  to have or bring their families without revelation, or de cisian of the high counsel

A governing body of twelve high priests. The first high council was organized in Kirtland, Ohio, on 17 February 1834 “for the purpose of settling important difficulties which might arise in the church, which could not be settled by the Church, or the bishop...

View Glossary
— Were they to come, they would  not be with him as much as they will to tarry. Pres ident 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,...

View Full Bio
’ family is not coming.
We discover an error in Elder Marsh

1 Nov. 1800–Jan. 1866. Farmer, hotel worker, waiter, horse groom, grocer, type foundry worker, teacher. Born at Acton, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. Son of James Marsh and Molly Law. Married first Elizabeth Godkin, 1 Nov. 1820, at New York City. Moved to ...

View Full Bio
’es letter— He says,  “To the able preaching of Elders W. E. M.c.Lellin

18 Jan. 1806–14 Mar. 1883. Schoolteacher, physician, publisher. Born at Smith Co., Tennessee. Son of Charles McLellin and Sarah (a Cherokee Indian). Married first Cynthia Ann, 30 July 1829. Wife died, by summer 1831. Baptized into LDS church by Hyrum Smith...

View Full Bio
& P. P. Pratt

12 Apr. 1807–13 May 1857. Farmer, editor, publisher, teacher, school administrator, legislator, explorer, author. Born at Burlington, Otsego Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Traveled west with brother William to acquire land, 1823....

View Full Bio
.”  We conclude that if it had been the preaching of the Lord, as  it should have been, he would have had the honor, and  not these men.
To close, we add, that unless this epestle is heeded, in  all its parts, in its full forcce, those who rebell against  it shall be dealt with by the Lord accordingly, for we  ask, being agreed as touching this thing.
We wish you to understand, that your duty requires  you to seek first the kingdom of Heaven and its  righteousness, that is— attend to the first things first, and  then all things will be added, and that complaint abo[u]t  your families will be less frequent— Dont preach  yourselves crucified for your wives sake, but remembr  that Christ was crucified, and you are sent out to be spe cial witnesses of this thing. Men do not wish to hear  these little things, for there is no salvation in them,  but there is in the other.
Let the hands of the ten be strengthened, and let  them go forth in the name of the Lord, in the power  of their mission, giving diligent heed to the direction [p. 92]
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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...

More Info
. 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