AFTER the departure of Joseph from Clay County, Missouri, on June 9, 1834, the church in Missouri continued its exertions to obtain a recognition of its rights.
On July 12,1834, and also on the 31st, the High Council in Zion held meetings. 1
By these minutes it appears that the church was desirous for peace, and to preserve it they were willing even to sacrifice for the time rights sacred and dear to every American citizen. The council advised refraining from holding public meetings, and counseled members of the church not to vote at the approaching election. What more could have been required of them? Could this have been required of them in any degree of propriety? Reader, if disposed to censure, ask yourself, '"Would I have yielded this right for the sake of peace?"
On August 6, 1834, the High Council met to investigate the case of strange spiritual manifestations in the Hulet branch. This was a case that caused much local agitation, but it is of no historical consequence. It was satisfactorily adjusted by the council.
Thus matters passed along without much friction between the opposing elements for a few months.
During the time W. W. Phelps wrote a series of letters from Missouri to Kirtland. By reference to an extract from one of them the reader may obtain
an idea of the condition of the country and the situation of the people in Missouri. 2
November 25, 1834, Hon. J. T. V. Thompson, a Missouri State Senator, wrote W. W Phelps as follows:-
"Dear Sir:-I will say to you, that your case with the Jackson people has been mentioned to the highest officer of the State, the Governor. He speaks of it in his message and so much of his message will be referred to a committee. I am not able to say what will be their report, but I will write you again.
"I have the honor, etc.
"J. T. V. Thompson."
-Millennial Star, vol. 15, p. 185.
The extract from Governor Dunklin's message referred to in the above letter is as follows:-
"In July, 1833, a large portion of the citizens of Jackson County organized themselves and entered into resolutions to expel from that county a religious sect called Mormons, who had become obnoxious to them. In November following they effected their object, not however without the loss of several lives. In the judicial inquiry into these outrages, the civil authorities who had cognizance of them deemed it proper to have a military guard for the
purpose of giving protection during the progress of the trials. This was ordered, and the Attorney General was requested to give his attention during the investigation, both of which were performed, but all to no purpose. As yet none have been punished for these outrages, and it is believed that under our present laws conviction for any violence committed upon a Mormon cannot be had in Jackson County. These unfortunate people are now forbidden to take possession of their homes; and the principal part of them, I am informed, are at this time living in an adjoining county, in a great measure, upon the charity of its citizens. It is for you to determine what amendments the laws may require so as to guard against such acts of violence for the future."-Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1, p. 41.
On December 11, W. W. Phelps wrote Hon. J. T. V. Thompson in answer to his of November 25, and received answer from Messrs. Thompson and Atchison. Of this and the closing scenes of the year Joseph writes:-
"On the 11th Elder Phelps wrote from Liberty, Clay County, to J. T. V. Thompson, Jefferson City-in reply to his letter of the 25th November-expressive of thankfulness to His Excellency for introducing the sufferings of the saints in his message; also asking counsel 'whether it would avail anything for the society to petition his honorable body (the Legislature) for an act to reinstate them in their rights,' etc.; and requesting him to confer with his friends and His Excellency on the subject, and give an early answer.
"About the middle of the month the message of Governor Dunklin, of Missouri, to the Legislature, arrived at Kirtland, was read with great interest, and revived the hopes of the church for the scattered brethren of Jackson County.
"Elder Phelps wrote again to Esquire Thompson, on the 18th, as follows:-
"'Dear Sir:-By this mail I have forwarded to Captain Atchison, of the Lower House, a petition and documents, on the subject of our rights in Jackson County. He will hand them to you for the Senate, when through in the House. I shall be greatly obliged if you will lay them before your
honorable body; and any information you may require, or even personal attendance, write, and you shall have it if in my power. As a people, all we ask, is our rights.
"'With esteem, etc.,
"'W. W. Phelps.'
"On the 20th Messrs. Thompson and Atchison wrote Elder Phelps from the 'Senate Chamber,' acknowledging the receipt of his letter, stating that the committee on the Governor's message had not reported, and recommending the saints to get up a petition to the legislature, with as many signatures as possible, promising their assistance and influence to obtain redress of grievance. A petition was accordingly forwarded; but, without bringing anything to pass for the relief of the saints in Missouri, the year closed." -Millenial Star, vol. 15, p. 204.
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On the 12th, the High Council of Zion assembled in Clay County, and appointed Edward Partridge, Orson Pratt, Isaac Morley, and Zebedee Coltrin to visit the scattered and afflicted brethren in that region, and teach them the ways of truth and holiness, and set them in order according as the Lord should direct; but, that it was not wisdom for the elders generally to hold public meetings in that region. It was decided that Amasa Lyman assist Lyman Wight in his mission, of gathering the strength of the Lord's house, as I had appointed him.
July 31. The High Council of Zion assembled, and heard the report of Edward Partridge, Orson Pratt, Zebedee Coltrin, and Isaac Morley concerning the mission appointed them at the previous council. President David Whitmer gave the council some good instructions; that it was their duty to transact all business in order, and when any case is brought forward for investigation, every member should be attentive and patient to what is passing, in all cases, and avoid confusion and contention, which is offensive in the sight of the Lord. He also addressed the elders, and said it was not pleasing in the sight of the Lord for any man to go forth to preach the gospel of peace unless he is qualified to set forth its principles in plainness to those he endeavors to instruct; and also the rules and regulations of the Church of Latter Day Saints; for just as a man is, and as he teaches and acts, so will his followers be, let them be ever so full of notions and whims. He also addressed the congregation, and told them that it was not wisdom for the brethren to vote at the approaching election, and the council acquiesced in the instructions of the President.
William W. Phelps proposed to the council to appoint a certain number of elders to hold public meetings in that section of country, as often as should be deemed necessary, to teach the disciples how to escape the indignation of their enemies, and keep in favor with those who were friendly disposed; and Simeon Carter, John Corrill, Parley P. Pratt, and Orson Pratt were appointed by the unanimous voice of the council and congregation to fill the mission.
The council gave the following letter to the elders appointed to visit the churches in Clay County, etc.:-
"To the Latter Day Saints who have been driven from the land of
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their inheritance, and also those who are gathering in the regions round about, in the western boundaries of Missouri: The High Council established according to the pattern given by our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, sends greeting:-
-We have appointed our beloved brother and companion in tribulation, John Corrill, to meet you in the name of the Lord Jesus. He, in connection with others duly appointed also, will visit you alternately, for the purpose of instructing you in the necessary qualifications of the Latter Day Saints; that they may be perfected, that the officers and members of the body of Christ may become very prayerful and very faithful, strictly keeping the commandments and walking in holiness before the Lord continually; that those that mean to have the 'destroyer pass over them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them,' may live according to the 'Word of Wisdom;' that the saints by industry, diligence, faithfulness, and the prayer of faith, may become purified, and enter upon their inheritance to build up Zion according to the word of the Lord.
"We are sure, if the saints are very humble, very watchful, and very prayerful, that few will be deceived by those who have not authority to teach, or who have not the spirit to teach according to the power of the Holy Ghost, in the Scriptures. Lest any man's blood be required at your hands, we beseech you, as you value the salvation of souls, and are within, to set an example worthy to be followed by those without the kingdom of our God and his Christ, that peace by grace, and blessings by righteousness, may attend you, till you are sanctified and redeemed.
"Dated, Clay County, Aug. 1, 1834."
-Times and Seasons, vol. 6, pp. 1123,1124.
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But lest I become irksome on too many things at once, let me turn to some of the advantages and disadvantages which are natural to the land as it is. It is a great advantage to have land already cleared to your hands, as the prairies are; and there is no small disadvantage to lack timber for fencing, fuel, and buildings. Notwithstanding there are many good springs of water, yet there is a want upon the prairies in some places; and, generally, water privileges for grist and saw mills, and carding machines and clothiers' works are scarce. That patriotism, which results in good roads and bridges, labor-saving machines, and excellent mills, is yet dormant. I do not know of a clothier's works in the upper or lower country. It costs one fourth or one fifth of our grain to grind it. Run-round horse mills, or those on the inclined plane order, for horses and oxen, are all the dependence at present. There is a small steam saw and grist mill, of about ten horse power engine, in Clay; a steam saw mill at Lexington, and a flouring mill nearly finished, on the Little Blue, in Jackson. It may be supposed, in those States where negroes do the work, that they can saw boards with a whip saw, and drive team to grind in an animal power mill.
Let it be remembered that the most of the land is free from stones even too much so, for, excepting limestone, in some places, there are very few if any for use. But suffice it to be that with all the lacks and inconveniences now extant, grain is raised so easy that a man may live as well on three days' work in a week here as on six in some other distant places. It is not uncommon for wheat, when ripe, to be let to cut and thresh at the half. Corn at twenty cents per bushel, and wheat at forty, are, however, the lowest selling prices latterly; and I conclude that from the great quantity of corn and wheat, or flour, necessary to supply the garrison, it will never be lower. So much on things as they naturally are.
Now with all the country has, and all it has not, without witty inventions, let us reflect that God has made and prepared it for the use of his people, like all the rest of the world, with good and bad to try them. Here are wanting many things to expedite ease and opulence. Here sickness comes, and where does it not? The ague and fever; the chill fever, a kind of cold plague, and other diseases, prey upon emigrants till they are thoroughly seasoned to the climate. Here death puts an end to life, and so it does all over the globe. Here the poor have to labor to procure a living, and so they do anywhere else. Here the saints suffer trials and tribulations, while the wicked enjoy the world and rejoice, and so it has been since Cain built a city for the ungodly to revel in.
But it is all right, and I thank God that it is so. The wicked enjoy this world and the saints the next. They exercise their agency, and the saints theirs, are left to choose for themselves; and blessed be God that it is so, for it saves heaven from torment and righteousness from blemishes.
The lacks that seem most prominent will soon sink with the fading glories of perishable things; and then the banks of long continuance will be thrown down, and the rough places made smooth; yea, the glory of Lebanon will come upon the land of the Lord, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together to beautify the place of his sanctuary, and make the place of his feet glorious. Then there will be a river of pure water to gladden the soul of the saint. Then every man will speak in the name of God. Then the righteous will feed themselves on the finest of wheat. Then the enmity of man and the enmity of beasts will cease. Then the vail spread over all nations, will be taken off and the pure in heart see
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God in his glory. Then for brass the Lord will bring gold, and for iron silver, and for wood brass. Then the saints' officers will be peace, and their exactors righteousness: and then the land will be worth possessing and the world fit to live in.
With all these glories ahead, who would fail to seek them? Who would idle or revel away a few years of fleshly gratification, and lose a thousand years' happiness, and an eternity of glory? Who would serve the Devil to be a demon in darkness, when by pleasing the Savior and keeping his commandments he may be a son of God in the celestial world, where praise, and glory, and power, and dominion have an eternal now for space and duration, and the best from worlds to expand and beautify their sublimity? O that the whole empire of God might shout, None! But it will not be so, for Satan spreads himself and copes with thousands that must welter in woe unutterable, where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. Alas, alas, alas, for their fate! Who knows it?
Men of God, from this let us learn to take oil in our lamps from the great Spirit-fountain above, and light them in the blaze of that noble fire, where a Hancock, a Jefferson, and a Washington lit their tapers that while there is a hope in heaven, or a gleam on earth, we may not covet this world, nor fear death, but, as Peter, as Paul, as James, die for the sake of righteousness, having fought the good fight, and overcome through grace: Amen.
W. W. Phelps.
To Oliver Cowdery, Esq.