Letterbook 2

JS to Justin Butterfield • 16 January 1843

Nauvoo Jany 16th. 1843
Dr Sir/ I now sit down to inform you of our safe arrival  home on tuesday last after a cold and troublesome journey of four days. We found our families  well and cheerful. the news of our arrival was soon generally known, and when it was understood  that justice had once more triumphed over oppression, and the innocent been rescued from  the power of Mobocracy gladness filled the hearts of the citizens of Nauvoo, and gratitude to those  who had so nobly and manfully defended the cause of justice and innocence was universally  manifest, and of course I rejoiced with them and felt like a free man at home.
Yesterday a letter was recieved by Sidney Rigdon Esqr from John C. Bennett which was  handed to me this A.M. From that letter it appears that Bennett was at Springfield a  few days after we left there and that he is determined if possible to keep up the perse cution against me. I herewith transmit a copy of his letter and shall rely upon  your council in the event of any further attempt to oppress me and deprive me of  liberty; but I am in hopes that Govr. [Thomas] Ford will not gratify the spirit of oppression and  mobocracy so glaringly manifest in the conduct of John C. Bennett.
The following is a copy of his letter
Springfield. Ill. Jan 10— 1843”
“Dear Friends”
“It is a long time since I have written you, and I should  now much desire to see you, but I leave to night for Missouri to meet the Messenger  charged with the arrest of Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight, and  others; for murder, burglary, treason &c &c who will be demanded in a few days on  new indictments found by the grand jury of a called court on the original evidence,  and in relation to which a nolle prosequi was entered by the district Attorney. New proceedings  have been gotten up on the old charges— and no Habeas Corpus can then save them. We  shall try Smith on the [Lilburn W.] Boggs case when we get him into Missouri.
The war goes bravely on, and altho’ Smith thinks he is now safe the enemy is near,  even at the door. He has awoke the wrong passenger. The Governor will relinquish  Joe up at once on the new requisition there is but one opinion on the case, and that  is nothing can save Joe on a new requisition and demand predicated on the old  charges, on the institution of a new writs. He must go to Missouri, but he shall not  be harmed if he is not guilty, but he is a murderer and must suffer the penalty  of the law. Enough on that subject.”
“I hope that both of your kind and amiable families are well, and you  will please give them all my best respects. I hope to see you all soon.  When the officer arrives I shall be near at hand— I shall see you all again. [p. 243]
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.