Letter to “All the Saints in Nauvoo,” 1 September 1842 [D&C 127]
JS, Letter, [, Hancock Co., IL], to “all the saints in Nauvoo,” , Hancock Co., IL, 1 Sept. 1842; handwriting of ; three pages; Revelations Collection, CHL. Includes address, docket, and notation.
Bifolium measuring 12⅜ × 7⅝ inches (31 × 19 cm) when folded. The bifolium is lined with thirty-five horizontal printed lines. The letter was inscribed on the recto and verso of the first leaf and the recto of the second leaf. It was trifolded twice in letter style, addressed, and sealed with a red adhesive wafer. It was then folded again for filing and docketed.
The document was docketed by , who served as JS’s scribe from 1843 to 1844 and as clerk to the church historian and recorder from 1845 to 1865. It also includes a notation in the handwriting of Andrew Jenson, who began working in the Church Historian’s Office (later Church Historical Department) in 1891 and served as assistant church historian from 1897 to 1941. By 1983 the letter was included in the Revelations Collection of the Church Historical Department (now CHL). The early docket, notation, and later inclusion in the Revelations Collection suggest continuous institutional custody.
Best, “Register of the Revelations Collection,” 20.
Best, Christy. “Register of the Revelations Collection in the Church Archives, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” July 1983. CHL.
On 1 September 1842, JS dictated to a letter addressed to members in , Illinois, informing them that he was planning to leave the city in order to evade arrest and extradition to . JS had been eluding officers seeking his arrest for most of August, primarily by concealing himself in private residences of friends in and near Nauvoo and just across the in . On 24 August, governor wrote to indicating that he would not relent in his efforts to have JS arrested in order to resolve the extradition matter. Emma received that letter by 27 August, which may have been one reason for JS’s departure from Nauvoo.
In this 1 September letter, JS urged church members in to remain faithful during periods of tribulation, assured them that his business affairs would be attended to by authorized representatives, and advised them that he would return when the attempts to arrest him had ended. JS also included in the letter the text of a revelation on for the dead. He had first taught the doctrine of baptizing individuals on behalf of their deceased relatives in August 1840. Latter-day Saints performed the first of such baptisms in the until the font in the basement of the unfinished Nauvoo was dedicated on 8 November 1841, after which the was performed almost exclusively in the font. The Saints recorded many, but not all, of these early baptisms for deceased individuals. In this letter, JS emphasized the importance of having a recorder witness each baptism. JS also informed the Saints that a number of additional revelations concerning the ordinance and other topics were forthcoming and promised that he would send additional instruction in future correspondence.
Although JS discussed his plans to leave in the letter, he did not depart immediately. On 2 September, he heard that the sheriff of , Illinois, was coming to Nauvoo to arrest him. The next day, a and two other men arrived at JS’s home, forcing JS to flee through the back door to the home of . Later that night, JS moved to the home of , accompanied by . On 4 September, Derby apparently gave the letter to , and it was subsequently read at a church meeting held in the of trees west of the temple construction site.
The circumstances of this letter’s creation and the letter’s whereabouts in the days immediately after are not entirely clear. JS may have retained the original letter after helped him draft it on 1 September, bringing it with him into hiding until sending it to Clayton on 4 September. Alternately, just prior to the meeting at which the letter was read, JS may have sent to retrieve it from a different location and deliver it to Clayton. In either scenario, it is unclear why the addressing to Clayton is in Clayton’s own handwriting. JS likely thought that the public reading of this letter would lead officers of the law still in the city to discontinue their search for JS in .
noted in JS’s journal that when the letter “was read before the brethren it cheered their hearts and evidently had the effect of stimulating them and inspiring them with courage, and faithfulness.” and Clayton copied the letter into JS’s journal. The letter was printed in the 15 September 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons and was later included with minor alterations in the 1844 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, which was prepared under JS’s direction.
While there is no evidence in the letter’s text that the letter was written on a date other than 1 September 1842, JS may have written it and then predated it sometime after hiding from the authorities seeking his arrest on 3 September.
Forasmuch as the Lord has revealed unto me that my enemies both of & this were again on the pursuit of me, and inasmuch as they pursue me without cause and have not the least shadow or coloring of justice or right on their side in the getting up of their prosecutions against me; and inasmuch as their pretensions are all founded in falsehood of the blackest die. I have thought it expedient and wisdom in me to leave the place for a short season for my own safety and the safety of this people. I would say to all those with whom I have business that I have left my affairs with agents and clerks who will transact all business in a prompt and proper manner and will see that all my debts are cancelled in due time, by turning out property or otherwise as the case may require, or as the circumstances may admit of. When I learn that the storm is fully blown over then I will return to you again. And as for the perils which I am called to pass through they seem but a small thing to me, as the envy and wrath of man has been my common lot all the days of my life and for what cause it seems mysterious, unless I was ordained from before the foundation of the world for some good end, or bad as you may choose to call it. Judge ye for yourselves, God knoweth all these things wether it be good or bad, but nevertheless deep water is what I am wont to swim in, it all has become a second nature to me and I feel like Paul to glory in tribulation for unto this day has the God of my fathers [p. ]
In a 16 August 1842 letter to Wilson Law, JS wrote, “If I [k]new that they would oppress me alone, and let the rest of you dwell peaceably and quietly, I think It would be the wisest plan to absent myself for a little season if by that means we can prevent the profusion of blood.” (Letter to Wilson Law, 16 Aug. 1842.)