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Letterbook 2

Don Carlos Smith and William Smith to JS and Hyrum Smith • 6 March 1839

Quincy Illinois March 6th 1839
Brethren Hyrum [Smith] and Joseph,
Having an opportunity to send a line  to you, I do not feel disposed to let it slip unnoticed. Father’s family have all  arrived in this state, except you two, And could I but see your faces, this side  of the Mississippi, and know and realize that you had been delivered from  your enemies, it would certainly light up a new gleam of hope in our bosoms;  nothing could be more satisfactory, nothing could give us more joy.
Emma and Children are well, they live three miles from here, and  have a tolerable good place. Hyrum’s children and mother Grinolds are  living at present with father; they are all well, Mary [Fielding Smith] has not got her health  yet, but I think it increases slowly. She lives in the house with old Father  Dixon, likewise Br [Robert B.] Thompson and family; they are probably a half mile  from Father’s; we are trying to get a house, and to get the family together,  we shall do the best we can for them, and that which we consider to be most  in concordance with Hyram’s feelings. One thing I would say (not however  to the disrespect of Sister [Mercy Fielding] Thompson) which is that this, the family would do better  without her than with her; which I am confident you will regulate when  you come. One reason for so saying, is that I do not think that she is  a suitable person to govern the family. Father and Mother stood their jour ney remarkably, they are in tolerable health, Samuel [Smith]’s wife has been sick  ever since they arrived, Wm [Smith] has removed 40 miles from here, but is here  now, and says he is anxious to have you liberated, and see you enjoy  liberty once more. My family is well, my health has not been good  for about two weeks, and for 2 or 3 days the toothache has been my tormentor.  It all originated from a severe cold.
Dear Brethren, we just heard that the Governor  says that he is a going to set you all at liberty; I hope it’s true, other  letters that you will probably recieve, will give you information concerning  the warm feeling of the people here towards us, After writing these hurried lines  in misery I close by leaving the Blessings of God with you—, and praying  for your health, prosperity and restitution to liberty. This from a true  friend and brother.
J, Smith Jr, H Smith.
Bro Hyrum & Joseph,— I should have called down to Liberty  to have seen you, had it not have been for the multiplicity of business  that was on my hands & again I thought perhaps that the people might think [p. 38]
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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.

Facts