53991682

Letterbook 2

Benjamin Benson to JS • 12 November 1837

Dear Brother in the Lord, Having reflected on the short interview we had last evening respecting the dream (or vision as you may think proper to term it) and as you stated several times that you should like to have it wrote so that you could take it home with you to 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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, I therefore consent to give a statement in as short a manner as I can, without going into every minute circumstance. To wit.—
In the year 1795, I then being in the Town of Pompey, County of Onondagua and State of New York; I then being 22 years old; seeing and viewing the ancient Indian Forts and trates thereof through that part of the Country; my mind was anxiously led to contemplate and reflect on where those Indians came from, or from what race of People they sprang from, and oftentimes heard it stated that these Indians were natives of this Continent, and that they were created and placed here at the creation of the world. Then said I the Bible cannot be true, for it (The Bible) says that all the human family sprang from Adam &c, and that at the time of the flood, the whole earth was covered with water, and that all flesh died, except what were in the ark with Noah, then with things taking place, and I firmly believing that the Bible was true, my heart’s desire was to God in solemn prayer to know where and what race of people these Indians sprang from, It was made known (whether by dream or vision I will leave that for you, to judge) An angel as I thought came to me and said, Come along with me and I was immediately on a beast like a horse, and the angel at my left hand with his feet about the same height that my feet were as I sat on the horse, and in this position was conveyed to near the place where the record was deposited and he said stop here, and the angel went about 4 or 5 Rods and took in his hand a book, and on his return to where I stood, as I thought there were many stood with me; One said, what book is that? And the answer was, it is a bible, a bible, the word of God, a record of a people that came from Jerusalem, the fore fathers of these Indians, And it also contains a record of a people that came from the Tower of Babel at the time the Lord confounded the language and scattered the people into all the world, and it the Book Ether; and then with great anxiety of heart I asked if I might have the book, and answer was that it was not the Lords time then, but it should come, “and you shall see it,” and then said look, and as I looked, I beheld a man standing as I thought at a distance of two hundred yards, and the angel said “there is the Man that the Lord hath appointed &c, and he is not yet born.” I have related it in short, as I have not time now to give a full detail of all that I had a view of. Yours with respect.
Benjamin Benson
November 12th 1837
Joseph Smith Jr Far West

Originally called Shoal Creek. Located fifty-five miles northeast of Independence. Surveyed 1823; first settled by whites, 1831. Site purchased, 8 Aug. 1836, before Caldwell Co. was organized for Latter-day Saints in Missouri. William W. Phelps and John Whitmer...

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N, B At some further time if the Lord will I will be more full if you should wish it. I shall direct this to you as a letter and you can act your Judgement in either keeping it to yourself or publishing it by making use of my name. [p. 51]

Benjamin Benson to JS • 12 November 1837

Dear Brother in the Lord, Having reflected on the short  interview we had last evening respecting the dream (or vision as you may  think proper to term it) and as you stated several times that you should like  to have it wrote so that you could take it home with you to 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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, I  therefore consent to give a statement in as short <a> manner as I can, without  going into every minute circumstance. To wit.—
In the year 1795, I then being in the Town of Pompey,  County of Onondagua and State of New York; I then being 22 years old; seeing  and viewing the ancient Indian Forts and trates thereof through that part of  the Country; my mind was anxiously led to contemplate and reflect on where  those Indians came from, or from what race of People they sprang from, and often times heard it stated that these Indians were natives of this Continent, and  that they were created and placed here at the creation of the world. Then said  I the Bible cannot be true, part of for it (The Bible) says that all the human  family sprang from Adam &c, and that at the time of the flood, the whole  earth was covered with water, and that all flesh died, except what were in  the ark with Noah, then with things taking place, and I firmly believing  that the Bible was true, my heart’s desire was to God in solemn prayer to  know where and what race of people these Indians sprang from, It was  made known (whether by dream or vision I will leave that for you, to  judge) An angel as I thought came to me and said, Come along with me  and I was immediately on a beast like a horse, and the angel at my left hand  with his feet about the same height that my feet were as I sat on the horse, and  in this position was conveyed to near the place where the record was deposited  and he said stop here, and the angel went about 4 or 5 Rods and took in his  hand a book, and on his return to where I stood, as I thought there were many  stood with me; One said, what book is that? And the answer was, it is a bible,  a bible, the word of God, a record of a people that came from Jerusalem, the fore  fathers of these Indians, And it also contains a record of a people that came from  the Tower of Babel at the time the Lord confounded the language and scattered  the people into all the world, and it the Book Ether; and then with great anx iety of heart I asked if I might have the book, and answer was that it was  not the Lords time then, but it should come, “and you shall see it,” and then  said look, and as I looked, I beheld a man standing as I thought at a distance  of two hundred yards, and the angel said “there is the Man that the Lord hath ap pointed &c, and he is not yet born.[”] I have related it in short, as I have not  time now to give a full detail of all that I had a view of. Yours with respect.
Benjamin Benson
November 12th 1837
Joseph Smith Jr Far West

Originally called Shoal Creek. Located fifty-five miles northeast of Independence. Surveyed 1823; first settled by whites, 1831. Site purchased, 8 Aug. 1836, before Caldwell Co. was organized for Latter-day Saints in Missouri. William W. Phelps and John Whitmer...

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.
N, B At some further time if the Lord will I will be more full if you should  wish it. I shall direct this to you as a letter and you cannot act your Judgement in either  keeping it to yourself or publishing it by making use of my name. [p. 51]
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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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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 emphasized the importance of record keeping and history writing in the young church. JS began by noting that he wished “to communicate some things which . . . are laying great with weight upon my mind.” He then observed, “Firstly, it is the duty of the lord[’s] clerk whom he has appointed to keep a hystory and a general church reccord of all things that transpire in Zion . . . and also there manner of life and the faith and works.” (Letter to William W. Phelps, 27 Nov. 1832.)
This emphasis on record keeping was not widespread at the time. 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.) During a brief span in the early 1830s, JS and those working under his direction commenced the systematic collecting and recording of critical documents pertaining to church governance and administration. From that time to the end of JS’s life, correspondence-copying, revelation-recording, minute-taking, journal-keeping, and history-writing activities remained imperative commitments.
Items of correspondence were first recorded in what was subsequently designated Letterbook 1. Created from circa November 1832 to circa August 1835, it consisted of ninety-three pages preserving a record of early church-related communications dated 14 June 1829 through 4 August 1835. A second letterbook, featured here, was apparently begun in 1839 and continued to circa summer 1843. It became a repository primarily for letters, but also other items dated from 17 June 1829 through 9 February 1843. Items were copied into that volume, later designated Letterbook 2, by JS-appointed scribes including James Mulholland

1804–3 Nov. 1839. Born in Ireland. Baptized into LDS church. Married Sarah Scott, 8 Feb. 1838, at Far West, Caldwell Co., Missouri. Engaged in clerical work for JS, 1838, at Far West. Ordained a seventy, 28 Dec. 1838. After expulsion from Missouri, lived ...

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, Robert B. Thompson

1 Oct. 1811–27 Aug. 1841. Clerk, editor. Born in Great Driffield, Yorkshire, England. Member of Methodist church. Immigrated to Upper Canada, 1834. Baptized into LDS church by Parley P. Pratt, May 1836, in Upper Canada. Ordained an elder by John Taylor, 22...

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, Howard Coray

6 May 1817–16 Jan. 1908. Bookkeeper, clerk, teacher, farmer. Born in Dansville, Steuben Co., New York. Son of Silas Coray and Mary Stephens. Moved to Providence, Luzerne Co., Pennsylvania, ca. 1827; to Williams, Northampton Co., Pennsylvania, by 1830; and...

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, Willard Richards

24 June 1804–11 Mar. 1854. Teacher, lecturer, doctor, clerk, printer, editor, postmaster. Born at Hopkinton, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. Son of Joseph Richards and Rhoda Howe. Moved to Richmond, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts, 1813. Moved to Chatham, Columbia...

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, William Clayton

17 July 1814–4 Dec. 1879. Bookkeeper, clerk. Born at Charock Moss, Penwortham, Lancashire, England. Son of Thomas Clayton and Ann Critchley. Married Ruth Moon, 9 Oct. 1836, at Penwortham. Baptized into LDS church by Heber C. Kimball, 21 Oct. 1837, in River...

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, John Fullmer

21 July 1807–8 Oct. 1883. Farmer, newsman, postmaster, teacher, merchant. Born at Huntington, Luzerne Co., Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Fullmer and Susannah Zerfass. Moved to Nashville, Davidson Co., Tennessee, spring 1832. Married Mary Ann Price, 24 May 1837...

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, and George Walker. Letterbook 2 contains over 150 items of correspondence and other documents, arranged primarily in chronological order. An index created at the time outlines the contents of the 246 pages of letters and other documents. Previously, the volume had been used as a business ledger for the Rigdon, Smith and Company store in Chester

Surveyed 1796 and 1801. Area settled, 1801–1802. Initially called Wooster. Name changed to Chester and officially incorporated as township, 1816. Population in 1830 about 550. Population in 1840 about 960. JS purchased land for store in Chester, 1836–1837...

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, Ohio.
A title page designates the volume as “Copies of Letters, &c. &c. 1839, AD.” The first entry in the letterbook, labeled “Speech of General Clarke, To the Saints at Far West. 6th. Novr 1838,” contains the text of General John B. Clark

17 Apr. 1802–29 Oct. 1885. Lawyer, politician. Born at Madison Co., Kentucky. Moved to Howard Co., Missouri, 1818. Practiced law in Fayette, Howard Co., beginning 1824. Clerk of Howard Co. courts, 1824–1834. Appointed brigadier general in Missouri militia...

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’s oration on that occasion. Among its varied contents, the volume includes copies of a letter from JS to Emma Smith

10 July 1804–30 Apr. 1879. Scribe, editor, boardinghouse operator, clothier. Born at Willingborough Township (later in Harmony), Susquehanna Co., Pennsylvania. Daughter of Isaac Hale and Elizabeth Lewis. Member of Methodist church at Harmony (later in Oakland...

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in June 1834; four letters written by Emma to JS from 1837 and 1839; three letters from Edward Partridge

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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, Sidney Rigdon

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

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, and Elias Higbee

23 Oct. 1795–8 June 1843. Clerk, judge, surveyor. Born at Galloway, Gloucester Co., New Jersey. Son of Isaac Higbee and Sophia Somers. Moved to Clermont Co., Ohio, 1803. Married Sarah Elizabeth Ward, 10 Sept. 1818, in Tate Township, Clermont Co. Lived at ...

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, respectively, written in March and April 1839 to JS and other prisoners confined in the jail in Liberty

Located in western Missouri, thirteen miles north of Independence. Settled 1820. Clay Co. seat, 1822. Incorporated as town, May 1829. Following expulsion from Jackson Co., 1833, many Latter-day Saints found refuge in Clay Co., with church leaders and other...

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, Missouri; two letters sent by JS and Elias Higbee while in Washington DC

Created as district for seat of U.S. federal government by act of Congress, 1790, and named Washington DC, 1791. Named in honor of George Washington. Headquarters of executive, legislative, and judicial branches of U.S. government relocated to Washington ...

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in December 1839 to Hyrum Smith

9 Feb. 1800–27 June 1844. Farmer, cooper. Born at Tunbridge, Orange Co., Vermont. Son of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack. Moved to Randolph, Orange Co., 1802; to Tunbridge, before May 1803; to Royalton, Windsor Co., Vermont, 1804; to Sharon, Windsor Co., by...

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and others 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; a letter sent from England by Brigham Young

1 June 1801–29 Aug. 1877. Carpenter, painter, glazier, colonizer. Born at Whitingham, Windham Co., Vermont. Son of John Young and Abigail (Nabby) Howe. Brought up in Methodist household; later joined Methodist church. Moved to Sherburne, Chenango Co., New...

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in May 1840 to JS in Nauvoo; a poignant exchange of letters between 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 had been cut off from the church, and JS in summer 1840; and an exchange in June and July 1842 between JS and Illinois

Became part of Northwest Territory of U.S., 1787. Admitted as state, 1818. Population in 1840 about 480,000. Population in 1845 about 660,000. Plentiful, inexpensive land attracted settlers from northern and southern states. Following expulsion from Missouri...

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governor Thomas Carlin

18 July 1789–14 Feb. 1852. Ferry owner, farmer, sheriff, politician. Born in Fayette Co., Kentucky. Son of Thomas Carlin and Elizabeth Evans. Baptist. Moved to Missouri, by 1803. Moved to Illinois, by 1812. Served in War of 1812. Married Rebecca Hewitt, 13...

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. The ledger also preserves nine sets of minutes from various meetings, five petitions concerning the Saints’ treatment in 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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, an 1840 memorial ascribed to JS, and an 1841 inventory of the contents of the Nauvoo House

JS revelation, dated 19 Jan. 1841, instructed Saints to build boarding house for travelers and immigrants. Construction of planned three-story building to be funded by fifty-dollar shares. Cornerstone laid, 2 Oct. 1841, but building never completed beyond...

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cornerstone, among other miscellaneous documents.
The last document copied into Letterbook 2 appears on manuscript pages 244–245, a letter from JS to Richard M. Young

20 Feb. 1798–28 Nov. 1861. Attorney, judge, politician. Born in Fayette Co., Kentucky. Moved to Jonesboro, Union Co., Illinois. Admitted to Illinois bar, 1817, in Jonesboro. Served as state representative from Union Co., 1820–1822. Married Matilda M. James...

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, U.S. senator from Illinois

Became part of Northwest Territory of U.S., 1787. Admitted as state, 1818. Population in 1840 about 480,000. Population in 1845 about 660,000. Plentiful, inexpensive land attracted settlers from northern and southern states. Following expulsion from Missouri...

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, dated 9 February 1843. Though there are a substantial number of blank pages preceding the index beginning on manuscript page 369, it is not known why the copying of documents into Letterbook 2 ceased. However, the following circumstances regarding JS’s clerks may have been factors: James Mulholland

1804–3 Nov. 1839. Born in Ireland. Baptized into LDS church. Married Sarah Scott, 8 Feb. 1838, at Far West, Caldwell Co., Missouri. Engaged in clerical work for JS, 1838, at Far West. Ordained a seventy, 28 Dec. 1838. After expulsion from Missouri, lived ...

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died in December 1839, Robert B. Thompson

1 Oct. 1811–27 Aug. 1841. Clerk, editor. Born in Great Driffield, Yorkshire, England. Member of Methodist church. Immigrated to Upper Canada, 1834. Baptized into LDS church by Parley P. Pratt, May 1836, in Upper Canada. Ordained an elder by John Taylor, 22...

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died in August 1841, and Howard Coray

6 May 1817–16 Jan. 1908. Bookkeeper, clerk, teacher, farmer. Born in Dansville, Steuben Co., New York. Son of Silas Coray and Mary Stephens. Moved to Providence, Luzerne Co., Pennsylvania, ca. 1827; to Williams, Northampton Co., Pennsylvania, by 1830; and...

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served a mission to Pennsylvania

Area first settled by Swedish immigrants, 1628. William Penn received grant for territory from King Charles II, 1681, and established British settlement, 1682. Philadelphia was center of government for original thirteen U.S. colonies from time of Revolutionary...

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during 1842–1843. Willard Richards

24 June 1804–11 Mar. 1854. Teacher, lecturer, doctor, clerk, printer, editor, postmaster. Born at Hopkinton, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. Son of Joseph Richards and Rhoda Howe. Moved to Richmond, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts, 1813. Moved to Chatham, Columbia...

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and William Clayton

17 July 1814–4 Dec. 1879. Bookkeeper, clerk. Born at Charock Moss, Penwortham, Lancashire, England. Son of Thomas Clayton and Ann Critchley. Married Ruth Moon, 9 Oct. 1836, at Penwortham. Baptized into LDS church by Heber C. Kimball, 21 Oct. 1837, in River...

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began extensive work on Joseph Smith’s history in early 1843 while continuing to perform other clerical and secretarial duties. Documents dated after 9 February 1843 that might have been expected to be copied into the letterbook were, in many instances, recorded in JS’s history. In any event, the record closed with the 9 February 1843 letter, and there is no evidence that a third letterbook was either contemplated or begun.

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