Letterbook 2

P.S. If you do not intend to be in Quincy this week would you favor us with your opinions  on this subject &c &c.
Quincy Monday Morning
13th May 1839.

First Presidency to Robert B. Thompson • 25 May 1839

Commerce, Hancock Co Ill 25,th May 1839
Dear Sir
In answer to your’s of the 13th Inst. to us concerning  the writings of Col, Lyman Wight on the subject of our late sufferings in the State of  Missouri; we wish to say that as to a statement of our persecutions being brought  before the world as a political question, we entirely disapprove of it.
Having however great confidence in Col, Wight’s good intentions  and considering it to be the indefeisible right of every free man to hold his own opinion  in politics as well as to religion, we will only say that we consider it to be unwise as  it is unfair to charge any one party in politics, or any one sect of religionists with  having been our oppressors, since we do well know that our persecutors in the State of  Missouri were of every sect, and of all parties both religious and political: and as  Brother Wight disclaims having spoken evil of any administration save that of  Missouri, we presume that it need not be feared that men of sense will now suppose  him wishful to implicate any other.— We consider that in making these remarks  we express the sentiments of the Church in general as well as our own individually, and  also when we say in conclusion that we feel the fullest confidence, that when the subject  of our wrongs has been fully investigated by the authorities of the United States, we  shall receive the most perfect justice at their hands; whilst our unfeeling oppressors  shall be brought to condign punishment with the approbation of a free and an enlight ened people without respect to sect or party.
We desire that you may make whatever use you may  think proper of this letter, and remain Your Sincere friends and Brethren.
Joseph Smith Jr
Elder R[obert] B. Thompson.

JS to George W. Harris • 24 May 1839

Commerce Ill, May 24th 1839
Dear Sir
I write you to say that I have selected a Town lot for you  just across the street from my own, and immediately beside yours one for Mr [John] Cleveland [p. 11]
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.