1840

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Joseph Smith-Personal Writings

 

Although LDS missionary work in England began in 1837 through the efforts of Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde, two members of the Quorum of the Twelve, an 1838 revelation directed the entire quorum to "go over the great waters" to promulgate the gospel the following year. 1 The 1840-41 mission of the Twelve to England proved to be an important training ground for them, and it brought new life to the Church because of the immigration of English converts. The Twelve found England a field ripe for the harvest. By the time they returned to Nauvoo in 1841, approximately eight thousand people had been baptized, an extensive publication program had been launched, and a shipping agency had been established that had already sent one thousand converts to America.

Their distance from Nauvoo and the slow means of communication forced the Twelve in England to make administrative decisions that had been previously reserved to the First Presidency. On September 5, 1840, Brigham Young and Willard Richards wrote the First Presidency that they had made use of their "own credit" to assist the poor to emigrate: "Brethren, our hearts are pained with the poverty & misery of this people, & we have done all we could to help as many off as possible to a land where they may get a morsel of bread, & serve God according to his appointment; & we have done it cheerfully as unto the Lord, & we desire to ask you have we done right?" Other questions followed: "Shall we send all we can to America & stay here ourselves?" "Have we done right in printing a hymn book?" "Are we doing right in Printing the book of Mormon?" "Are we doing right in staying here & leaving our families to be a burden to the Church?" "We have heard . . . that Brothers Joseph & Hyrum are coming to England next season. Is this good news true ?"

On December 15, Joseph Smith responded to these and other questions.

Nauvoo Hancock Co, Ills. Decr. 15.1840

Beloved Brethren.

May Grace, Mercy, and Peace rest upon you, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Having several communications laying before me, from my Brethren the "Twelve" some of which have ere this merited a reply, but from the multiplicity of business which necessarily engages my attention I have delayed communicating to them, to the present time. Be assured my 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, and 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 which 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 servants you are, and the good will of the saints throughout the world.

The spread of truth throughout England is certainly pleasing; the contemplation of which, cannot but afford feelings of no ordinary kind in the bosoms of those who have had to bear the heat and burthen 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. But like the gallant Bark, that has braved the storm unhurt, spreads her canvass to the breese, and nobly cuts her way through the yielding wave, more conscious than ever of the strength of her timbers and the experience and capabilities of her Captain, Pilate and crew.

It is likewise very satisfactory to my mind, that there has been such a good understanding existing between you, and that the saints have so cheerfully, hearkened to council and vied with each other in their labors 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 pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in Unity &c" 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 leading characteristics of Deity, and ou[gh]t 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 world, anxious to bless the whole of the human family. This has been your feelings and caused you to forego the pleasures of home, that you might be a blessing to others, who are candidates for immortality but who were strangers to the principals of truth and for so doing I pray that Heavens' 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, consequently the leaven can now spread, without your being obliged to stay. Another thing, there has been some whisperings of the spirit; that there will be some agitation, some excitement, and some trouble in the land in which you are now laboring. I would therefore say in the mean time be diligent, organize the churches and let every one stand in his proper place, so that those who cannot come with you in the spring may not be left as sheep without shepherds.

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 which the Lord intends it should; to this end I would say that as there are great numbers of the saints in England, who are extreemly 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 making machinery and those who can command a capital even if it be but 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 by establishing Cotton Factories, Founderies, Potteries &c &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 &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 printing the Book of Doctrine & Covenants, if there is a great demand for them, I have not any objections, but would rather encourage it.

I am happy to say, that as far as I have been made aquainted with your movements, I have been perfectly satisfied that they have been in wisdom, and I have no doubt but 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 your own agrandizement and selfish interest. As long as the saints manifest such a disposition their council will be approved of, and their exertions crowned with success. There are many things of minor importance, on which you ask council, but which I think you will be perfectly able to decide upon as I 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 any thing that was wrong I should take the priviledge of making known my mind to you and pointing out the evil.

If Elder Parley Pratt should wish to remain in England for some time longer than the rest of the Twelve, he will feel himself at liberty to do so; as he his family are with him consequently his circumstances are somewhat different to the rest, and likewise it is necessary that some one should remain who is conversant with the rules, regulations &c & of the church and continue the paper which is published; consequently taking all these things into consideration I would not press 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 3000 inhabitants in Nauvoo, and numbers are flocking in daily; severeal stakes have been set off in different parts of the country, which are in prospering circumstances. Provisions are much lower than when you left. Flour is worth about four dollars per barrel, corn 25 cents per bushel: pottatoes about 20 cents and other things in abou[t] the same proportion. There has been a very plentiful harvest indeed, throughout the Union.

You will observe by the "Times & Season" 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 here for quarrying rock &c & we have secured one of the most lovely sites for it that there is in this region of country. It is expected to be considerably larger and on a more magnificent scale than the one in Kirtland 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 for the establishment of a Seminary and other purposes, which I expect will pass in a short time.

You will also have received intelligence of the death of my Father, 4 which event altho 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; the particulars of his death &c you will find in the Sep. number of the "Times and Seasons" Brother Hyrum succeeds him as patriarch of the Church, according to his last directions and benedictions.

Several persons of emmine[n]ce 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 on this continent, Some of the Brethren are now in New Orleans, and we expect to have a gathering from the South.

I have had the pleasure of welcoming about one hundred of the Brethren from England who came with Elder Turley, the remainder I am informed stoped in Kirtland, not having means to get any further. I think those that came here did not take the best possible rout 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 council. Brothers Robinson & Smith lately had a letter from Elders Kimball, Smith & Woodruff in London which gave us information of the commencement of the work of the Lord in that City, which I was glad to hear. I am likewise informed that Elders have gone to Austrailia & to the East Indies I feel desireous that every providential opening of that 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 islands, 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 your heavenly Father in my behalf? and on the prayers of all my brethren & sisters in England? (whom having not seen yet I love) that I may be enabled to escape every stra[ta]gem 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 and their hands in the name of 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 with the holy spirit in accomplishing the great works of the last days, and in consideration of the extent, the blessings, and the glories of the same let every selfish feeling be not only buried, but anihalated, 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 so that they may 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 in, is one of no ordinary kind, the enemies we have to contend against are subtle and well skilled in manuvering, it behoves us then 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 unto conquest, our evil passions will be subdued, our predjudices 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 mind respecting the same. I cannot in this letter give you all the information you may desire on the subject, but aside from my knowledge independant of the Bible, I would say, that this was certainly practised by the antient Churches and St Paul endeavours to prove the doctrine of the ressurrection from the same, and says "else what shall they do who are baptised for the dead["] &c &c. I first mentioned the doctrine in public while preaching the funeral sermon of Bro Brunson, 8 and have since then given general instructions to the Church on the subject. The saints have the priviledge of being baptised for those of their relatives who are dead, who they feel to believe would have embraced the gospel if they had been priviledged with hearing it, and who have received the gospel in the spirit through the instrumentality of those who may have been commissioned to preach to them while in prison. Without enlarging on the subject you will undoubtedly see its consistancy, and reasonableness, and [it] presents the the gospel of Christ in probably a more enlarged scale than some have viewed it. But as the performance of this right is more particularly confined to this place it will not be necessary to enter into particulars, at the same time I allways 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 in his letter 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. If Elder Hydes & Pages testimony to the Jews at Jerusalem should be received then they may know "that the set time hath come": I will write more particular instructions to them afterwards. your

Your families are well and generally in good spirits, and bear their privations with christian fortitude and patience.

Brother Richards' question respecting coming in the spring is answered. I shall be very happy to see him & his family & likewise Brother Fielding. Tell him that Bro Thompson is making preparations for his coming.

With respect to the rout best to be taken I think you will be better able to give advise than myself. But I would not advise coming round by the lakes. And it would not be prudent to come via New Orleans in the sickly season but in the spring or fall or winter it might do. Give my kind love to all the brethren, and sisters, and tell them I should have been pleased to have come over to England to see them, but 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 am Dr Brethren yours, affectionately

Joseph Smith

Personal Writings of Joseph Smith by Dean C. Jessee pp. 479-487