Letterbook 2

JS to Edward Hunter • 21 December 1841

John Fullmer handwriting ends; Willard Richards begins.  

Copy of a letter To Edward Hunter. Nauvoo Dec. 21st. 1841
Beloved Brother,
Yours of the 27[th] of Oct. came to hand at a  late date, but <&> I am now able to say to you that the power  of attorney is executed and sent up to the clerk’s office for the seal  of State, & will be forwarded direct from thence; it is now on the way most probably.
Your letter did not arrive till after Mr <Ephraim> Potter returned with the goods  which I received in safety, and Bro Potter has started on a mission to the  inhabitants of Jamaica, one of the West India Isle—
I will accept the goods as you propose on your debt, so far as it  goes, and answer the remainder on the payments which you  mentioned, as they become due.
I have purchased 90 acres of Timber land in the vicinity of Nauvoo  a little up the river, & have made proposals to [Hugh] McFall, but  as yet am waiting for him to receive answers from his correspondent  in the East. I shall be able to purchase all the woodland you will  want in a little time.—
As it respects steam engines & mills My opinion is, we  cannot have too many of them. This place has suffered exceedingly  for <want of> such Mills in our midst, and neither one nor two can do the  business of this place another Season. We have no good grain  or board mill in this place, and most of our flour & lumber has  to be brought 20 miles which subjects us to great inconvenience.
The city is rapidly advancing & many new buildings  have been erected since you left us, and many more would have  arisen, if brick and lumber could have been obtained. There is  scarce any limits which can be imagined to the mills. & machinery  & manufacturing of all kinds which might be put into profitable  operation in this city, & even if others should raise a mill  before you get here, it need be no discouragement either to you  or to Bro [Henry] Buckwalter, for it will be difficult for the mills to  keep pace with the growth of the place. & you will do  well to bring the engine, If you can persuade any of the  brethren who are manufacturers of woollens or cottons to come  and establish their business, do so.—
I have not ascertained deffinitely as yet, how far the  goods will go towards liquidating Dr [Robert D.] Foster’s note, or finishing  your house, but this I can say, I will make the most of it.  and benefit you every way possible way.
Carried over— [p. 218]
On 27 November 1832, while residing at Kirtland, Ohio, JS wrote a lengthy letter to William W. Phelps at Independence, 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 the volume, later designated Letterbook 2, by JS-appointed scribes including James Mulholland, Robert B. Thompson, Howard Coray, Willard Richards, William Clayton, John Fullmer, 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, 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’s oration on that occasion. Among its varied contents, the volume includes copies of a letter from JS to Emma Smith in June 1834; four letters written by Emma to JS from 1837 and 1839; three letters from Edward Partridge, Sidney Rigdon, and Elias Higbee, respectively, written in March and April 1839 to JS and other prisoners confined in the jail in Liberty, Missouri; two letters sent by JS and Elias Higbee while in Washington DC in December 1839 to Hyrum Smith and others in Nauvoo, Illinois; a letter sent from England by Brigham Young in May 1840 to JS in Nauvoo; a poignant exchange of letters between William W. Phelps, 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 governor Thomas Carlin. The ledger also preserves nine sets of minutes from various meetings, five petitions concerning the Saints’ treatment in Missouri, an 1840 memorial ascribed to JS, and an 1841 inventory of the contents of the Nauvoo House cornerstone, among other miscellaneous documents.
The last document copied into Letterbook 2 appears on manuscript page 245, a letter from JS to Richard M. Young, U.S. senator from Illinois, 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 died in December 1839, Robert B. Thompson died in August 1841, and Howard Coray served a mission to Pennsylvania during 1842–1843. Willard Richards and William Clayton 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.