1840

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Joseph Smith-Epistle to the Twelve

October 1840

AN EPISTLE of the Prophet to the Twelve. To the Traveling High Council and Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Great Britain:

BELOVED BRETHREN:-May grace, mercy, and peace rest upon you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Having several communications lying before me from my brethren the Twelve, some of which ere this have merited a reply, but from the multiplicity of business which necessarily engages my attention, I have delayed communicating with you to the present time.

Be assured, beloved brethren, that I am no disinterested observer of the things which are transpiring on the face of the whole earth; and amidst the general movements which are in progress, none is of more importance than the glorious work in which you are now engaged; consequently I feel some anxiety on your account, that you may by your virtue, faith, diligence and charity commend yourselves to one another, to the Church of Christ, and to your Father who is in heaven; by whose grace you have been called to so holy a calling; and be enabled to perform the great and responsible duties which rest upon you. And I can assure you, that from the information I have received, I feel satisfied that you have not been remiss in your duty; but that your diligence and faithfulness have been such as must secure you the smiles of that God whose servant you are, and also the good will of the Saints throughout the world.

The spread of the Gospel throughout England is certainly pleasing; the contemplation of which cannot but afford feelings of no ordinary kind, in the bosom of those who have borne the heat and burden of the day; and who were its firm supporters and strenuous advocates in infancy, while surrounded with circumstances the most unpropitious, and its destruction threatened on all hands; like the gallant bark that has braved the storm unhurt, spread her canvas to the breeze, and nobly cuts her way through the yielding wave, more conscious than ever or the strength of her timbers, and the experience and capability of her captain, pilot, and crew.

It is likewise very satisfactory to my mind, that there has been such a good understanding between you, and that the Saints have so cheerfully hearkened to council, and vied with each other in this labor of love, and in the promotion of truth and righteousness. This is as it should be in the Church of Jesus Christ; unity is strength. "How pleasing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" Let the Saints of the Most High ever cultivate this principle, and the most glorious blessings must result, not only to them individually, but to the whole Church-the order of the kingdom will be maintained, its officers respected, and its requirements readily and cheerfully obeyed.

Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race. This has been your feeling, and caused you to forego the pleasures of home, that you might be a blessing to others, who are candidates for immortality, but strangers to truth; and for so doing, I pray that heaven's choicest blessings may rest upon you.

Being requested to give my advice respecting the propriety of your returning in the spring, I will do so willingly. I have reflected on the subject some time, and am of the opinion that it would be wisdom in you to make preparations to leave the scene of your labors in the spring. Having carried the testimony to that land, and numbers having received it, the leaven can now spread without your being obliged to stay.

Another thing-there have been whisperings of the Spirit that there will be some agitations, excitements, and trouble in the land in which you are now laboring. I would therefore say, in the meantime be diligent: organize the churches, and let everyone stand in his proper place, so that those who cannot come with you in the spring, may not be left as sheep without a shepherd.

I would likewise observe, that inasmuch as this place has been appointed for the gathering of the Saints, it is necessary that it should be attended to in the order that the Lord intends it should. To this end I would say, that as there are great numbers of the Saints in England who are extremely poor, and not accustomed to the farming business, who must have certain preparations made for them before they can support themselves in this country, therefore to prevent confusion and disappointment when they arrive here, let those men who are accustomed to make machinery, and those who can command capital, though it be small, come here as soon as convenient, and put up machinery, and make such other preparations as may be necessary, so that when the poor come on, they may have employment to come to. This place has advantages for manufacturing and commercial purposes, which but very few can boast of; and the establishing of cotton, factories, foundries, potteries, &c., would be the means of bringing in wealth, and raising it to a very important elevation.

I need not occupy more space on this subject, as its reasonableness must be obvious to every mind.

In my former epistle I told you my mind respecting the printing of the Book of Mormon, hymn-book, &c. I have been favored by receiving a hymn-book from you, and as far as I have examined it, I highly approve of it, and think it to be a very valuable collection. I am informed that the Book of Mormon is likewise printed, which I am glad to hear, and should be pleased to hear that it was printed in all the different languages of the earth. You can use your own pleasure respecting the printing of the Doctrine and Covenants. If there is a great demand for it, I have no objections, but would rather encourage it.

I can say, that as far as I have been made acquainted with your movements, I am perfectly satisfied that they have been in wisdom; and I have no doubt, but that the Spirit of the Lord has directed you; and this proves to my mind that you have been humble, and your desires have been for the salvation of your fellow man, and not for your own aggrandizement, and selfish interests. As long as the Saints manifest such a disposition, their counsels will be approved of, and their exertions crowned with success.

There are many things of much importance, on which you ask counsel, but which I think you will be perfectly able to decide upon, as you are more conversant with the peculiar circumstances than I am; and I feel great confidence in your united wisdom; therefore you will excuse me for not entering into detail. If I should see anything that is wrong, I would take the privilege of making known my mind to you, and pointing out the evil.

If Elder Parley P. Pratt should wish to remain in England some time longer than the rest of the Twelve, he will feel himself at liberty to do so, as his family are with him, consequently his circumstances are somewhat different from the rest; and likewise it is necessary that someone should remain who is conversant with the rules and regulations of the Church, and continue the paper which is published. Consequently, taking all these things into consideration, I would not press it upon Brother Pratt to return in the spring.

I am happy to inform you that we are prospering in this place, and that the Saints are more healthy than formerly; and from the decrease of sickness this season, when compared with the last, I am led to the conclusion that this must eventually become a healthy place. There are at present about 3,000 inhabitants in Nauvoo, and numbers are flocking in daily. Several stakes have been set off in different parts of the country, which are in prosperous circumstances.

Provisions are much lower than when you left. Flour is about $4 per barrel. Corn and potatoes about 25 cents per bushel; and other things in proportion. There has been a very plentiful harvest throughout the Union.

You will observe, by the Times and Seasons, that we are about building a temple for the worship of our God in this place. Preparations are now making; every tenth day is devoted by the brethren for quarrying rock, &c. We have secured one of the most lovely situations for it in this region of country. It is expected to be considerably larger than the one in Kirtland, and on a more magnificent scale, and which will undoubtedly attract the attention of the great men of the earth.

We have a bill before the legislature for the incorporation of the city of Nauvoo, and for the establishment of a seminary of learning, and other purposes-which I expect will pass in a short time.

You will also receive intelligence of the death of my father; which event, although painful to the family and to the Church generally, yet the sealing testimony of the truth of the work of the Lord was indeed satisfactory. Brother Hyrum succeeds him as Patriarch of the Church, according to his last directions and benedictions.

Several persons of eminence and distinction in society have joined the Church and become obedient to the faith; and I am happy to inform you that the work is spreading very fast upon this continent. Some of the brethren are now in New Orleans, and we expect a large gathering from the south. I have had the pleasure of welcoming about one hundred brethren who came with Brother Turley; the remainder I am informed stayed in Kirtland, not having means to get any further. I think that those who came here this fall, did not take the best possible route, or the least expensive. Most of the brethren have obtained employment of one kind or another, and appear tolerably well contented, and seem disposed to hearken to counsel.

Brothers Robinson and Smith lately had a letter from Elders Kimball, Smith and Woodruff, which gave us information of the commencement of the work of the Lord in the city of London, which I was glad to hear. I am likewise informed that Elders have gone to Australia and to the East Indies. I feel desirous that every providential opening of the kind should be filled, and that you should, prior to your leaving England, send the Gospel into as many parts as you possibly can.

Beloved brethren, you must be aware in some measure of my feelings, when I contemplate the great work which is now rolling on, and the relationship which I sustain to it, while it is extending to distant lands, and thousands are embracing it. I realize in some measure my responsibility, and the need I have of support from above, and wisdom from on high, that I may be able to teach this people, which have now become a great people, the principles of righteousness, and lead them agreeably to the will of Heaven; so that they may be perfected, and prepared to meet the Lord Jesus Christ when He shall appear in great glory. Can I rely on your prayers to our heavenly Father on my behalf, and on all the prayers of all my brethren and sisters in England, (whom having not seen, yet I love), that I may be enabled to escape every stratagem of Satan, surmount every difficulty, and bring this people to the enjoyment of those blessings which are reserved for the righteous? I ask this at your hands in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let the Saints remember that great things depend on their individual exertion, and that they are called to be co-workers with us and the Holy Spirit in accomplishing the great work of the last days; and in consideration of the extent, the blessings and glories of the same, let every selfish feeling be not only buried, but annihilated; and let love to God and man predominate, and reign triumphant in every mind, that their hearts may become like unto Enoch's of old, and comprehend all things, present, past and future, and come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The work in which we are unitedly engaged is one of no ordinary kind. The enemies we have to contend against are subtle and well skilled in manuvering; it behooves us to be on the alert to concentrate our energies, and that the best feelings should exist in our midst; and then, by the help of the Almighty, we shall go on from victory to victory, and from conquest to conquest; our evil passions will be subdued, our prejudices depart; we shall find no room in our bosoms for hatred; vice will hide its deformed head, and we shall stand approved in the sight of heaven, and be acknowledged the sons of God.

Let us realize that we are not to live to ourselves, but to God; by so doing the greatest blessings will rest upon us both in time and in eternity.

I presume the doctrine of "baptism for the dead" has ere this reached your ears, and may have raised some inquiries in your minds respecting the same. I cannot in this letter give you all the information you may desire on the subject; but aside from knowledge independent of the Bible, I would say that it was certainly practiced by the ancient churches; and St. Paul endeavors to prove the doctrine of the resurrection from the same, and says, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?"

I first mentioned the doctrine in public when preaching the funeral sermon of Brother Seymour Brunson; and have since then given general instructions in the Church on the subject. The Saints have the privilege of being baptized for those of their relatives who are dead, whom they believe would have embraced the Gospel, if they had been privileged with hearing it, and who have received the Gospel in the spirit, through the instrumentality of those who have been commissioned to preach to them while in prison.

Without enlarging on the subject, you will undoubtedly see its consistency and reasonableness; and it presents the Gospel of Christ in probably a more enlarged scale than some have imagined it. But as the performance of this rite is more particularly confined to this place, it will not be necessary to enter into particulars; at the same time I always feel glad to give all the information in my power, but my space will not allow me to do it.

We had a letter from Elder Hyde, a few days ago, who is in New Jersey, and is expecting to leave for England as soon as Elder Page reaches him. He requested to know if converted Jews are to go to Jerusalem or to come to Zion. I therefore wish you to inform him that converted Jews must come here.

Give my kind love to all the brethren and sisters, and tell them I should have been pleased to come over to England to see them, but I am afraid that I shall be under the necessity of remaining here for some time; therefore I give them a pressing invitation to come and see me. I remain, dear brethren, yours affectionately, JOSEPH SMITH.

1840-October-DHC 4:226-232