« PreviousContinue »
proved conditions, the members could pay their debts to the store and all would be well. To Sidney Gilbert things seemed, during the summer and fall of 1832, to be going from bad to worse, and the remedy was to call a halt by selling for cash only—a noxious medicine for those who have nothing, but possessing withal good healing power. Joseph Smith's generous attitude towards the poor calls for admiration, but the business policy which resulted was such as to bring the church into grave financial trouble a little later on at Kirtland.i
Letters breathing an antagonistic spirit were sent by Sidney Gilbert, John Corrill, W. W. Phelps and others during the fall and winter of 1832-33. Even kindly, patient Bishop Partridge found himself taxed to maintain peaceable relations. This steadyminded, just man must have been a tower of strength to the church at this time. So pronounced was the tone of these letters and so out of harmony with the effort to build a new Jerusalem, that the church leaders of Kirtland became thoroughly aroused. A special conference of twelve High Priests assembled on January 14, 1833 and appointed Orson Hyde and Hyrum Smith to formulate a letter of rebuke and admonition. The following extracts from this letter indicate the gravity of the situation:
Let the Bishop read this to the elders, that they may warn the members of the scourge what is coming, except they repent. Tell them to read the Book of Mormon and obey it; read the commandments that are printed, and obey them; yea, humblė yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that preadventure He may turn away His anger from you. Tell them that they have not come up to Zion to sit down in idleness, neglecting the things of God, but that they are to be diligent and faithful in obeying the new covenant.
Brother Phelp's letter is also received of December 15, and carefully read, and it betrays a lightness of spirit that ill becomes a man so placed in the important and responsible station that he is placed in. If you have fat beef and potatoes, eat them in singleness of heart, and boast not yourselves in these things. Think not, brethren, that we make a man an offender for a word; this is not the case; but we want to see a spirit in Zion, by which the Lord will build it up; that is the plain, solemn and pure spirit of Christ. Brother Phelps requested in his last letter that Brother Joseph should come to Zion; but we say that Brother Joseph will not settle in Zion until she repent and purify herself, and abide by the new covenant, and remember the commandments that have been given her, to do them as well as say them.
At the time Joseph, Sidney and Newel left Zion, all matters of hardness and misundersanding were settled and buried (as they supposed) and you gave them the hand of fellowship; but, afterwards, you brought up all these things again, in a censorious spirit, accusing Brother Joseph in a rather indirect way of seeking after monarchial power and authority. This came to us in Brother Corrill's letter of June 2nd.
1 D. L. Leonard, “The Mormon Sojourn in Ohio"-Ohio Church History Society Papers, vol. 1, p. 57. Also John Corrill's Brief History of the Church of Ciirist of Latter Day Saints, pp. 26-27.
2 Published in Times and Seasons, vol. 5, No. 22, p. 751.
Brother Gilbert's letter of December 10th, has been received and read attentively, and the low, dark and blind insinuations which were in it were not received by us as from the fountain of light, though his claims and pretentions of holiness were great. We are not unwilling to be chastened or rebuked or our faults, but we want to receive it in language that we can understand, as Nathan said to David, “Thou art the man.” aware that Brother Gilbert is doing much, and a multitude of business on hand; but let him purge out all the old leven, and do his business in the the Spirit of the Lord, and then the Lord will bless him, otherwise the frown of the Lord will remain upon him. There is manifestly an uneasiness in Brother Gilbert, and a fearfulness that the Lord will not provide for His saints in these last days, and these fears lead him on to coveteousness. This ought not so to be; but let him do just as the Lord has commanded him, and then the Lord will open His coffers, and his wants will be liberally supplied. But if this uneasy, coveteous disposition be cherished by him, the Lord will bring him poverty, shame and disgrace.
Joseph Smith, in a letter to W. W. Phelps, under date of January 11, 1833, also sharply reprimands:
For if Zion will not purify herself, so as to be approved of in all things, in His sight, He will seek another people; for His work will go on until Israel is gathered, and they who will not hear His voice, must expect to feel His wrath.
Our hearts are greatly grieved at the spirit which is breathed, both in your letter and in that of Brother Gilbert's, the very spirit of which is wasting the strength of Zion like a pestilence; and if it is not detected and driven from you, will ripen Zion for the threatened judgements of God.1
A little later on, March 21, 1833, in answer to a letter from Sidney Gilbert, Joseph Smith writes in a more kindly tone as follows:
And now I say to Brother Gilbert, that I do not write this by way of chastisement, but to show him the absolute necessity of having all his communications written plain, and understandingly. We are well aware of the great care upon his mind, in consequence of much business; but he must put his trust in God and he may rest assured that he has our prayers day and night, that he may have strength to overcome every difficulty. We have learned of the Lord that it is his duty to assist all the poor brethren that are pure in heart, and that he has done wrong in withholding credit from them, as they must have assistance; and the Lord established him in Zion for that express purpose.
We rejoice to hear that the Seminary lands are reduced in price, and are coming into the market; and be assured that we shall use our influence to send brethren to Zion who are able to help you in the purchase of lands.
Along with the letter from the twelve High Priests and the one to W. W. Phelps from Joseph Smith, a “revelation" called “The Olive Leaf” was also sent to Independence. This revelatio: constitutes a very important contribution to Mormon literature and is further evidence of the breadth of conception so common to Joseph Smith. On receipt of these papers at Independence. an assembly, called a solemn assembly, met on February 26, 1833, and a sincere spirit of repentance, it is said, was manifested among the leaders. Perhaps due to chagrin, some of the above mentioned papers were withheld for a time from Bishop Partridge by those leaders to whom they had been immediately addressed. But the small misunderstanding involved here was soon overcome.
1 Published in Joseph Smith's History of the Church, Period I, vol. 1, p. 316.
Published in Times and Seasons, vol. 5, No. 24, p. 754.
A letter was dispatched to Kirtland which was satisfactory to the church leaders there and gave general satisfaction. On March 26, 1833, a council of High Priests, twenty-one in number, convened at Independence for the purpose of furthering the "general welfare of the church.” At this meeting it was decided to recognize as the leaders of the church in Zion the seven menOliver Cowdery, W. W. Phelps, John Whitmer, Sidney Gilbert, Bishop Edward Partridge, Isaac Morley and John Corrill—who had been sent from Kirtland to "build up Zion.” Traveling elders who were working in any of the branches in Zion should be subject to these men. It appears that traveling elders, not clearly understanding their duties, had attempted to regulate and set in order the rapidly growing branches in Zion, and had caused much confusion thereby. On April 6, 1833, some eighty people, mainly church officials, met at the Ferry on the Big Blue River and held the first celebration in honor of the founding of the church. Services were held, instructions given, and a very agreeable day spent. These events serve to suggest that following the February meeting and continuing until the trouble from without impended in July, there was a mellowed, chastened and harmonious atmosphere about Independence.
There has been, in the opinion of the present writer, a disposition to make more out of these internal differences than the conditions justify. A great deal was expected of those who were attempting to “establish Zion" and small backslidings were viewed with grave concern.
It should be remembered that no difficulty approached a proportion sufficient to hinder operations. Everything that was being attempted was prosecuted with vigor. There were no strikes, lockouts or refusals to obey authority. Most of the ill will, such as it was, that was engendered, can be accounted for as a result of the labored, halting, ill-fitting movement of the various parts of a new economic system which was encountering the worst kind of conditions. Sidney Gilbert's letters appear to have been the most caustic, and yet, as we have elsewhere seen in this volume, this man was one of the ablest of the period, sound in judgment, conservative in action and not lacking in true allegiance to his beliefs. His correspondence with Governor Dunklin reveals him to be a man of sound Americanism and one of whom Mormonism may well be proud. The kind of difficulties he stirred up were mainly the kind that make for progress. And so indeed, were most of these difficulties. They were in the main simply the groanings of a new economic order whose birth pangs must needs be unduly severe, due to the lack of capital and the congregating together of the poor. It is a matter for surprise, not that there was ill-will, but that there was so little of it under the conditions which existed. Loyalty was in no sense lacking, as was shortly to be abundantly proved, and industry was manifested on every hand. Indeed, in spite of almost insurmountable obstacles, the plan gave fair promise of ultimate success at the time of the exodus in 1833. Such a prospect had become possible only as a result of a relatively high quality of spirit, coupled with unusual industry.
1 Parts of the Olive Leaf revelation will come, in due time, to be recognized as a genuine contribution to sacred writings. In extent of conception, in sweep of thought, in moving power, it has about it the swing of the centuries, and belongs to that class of literature which rises above locality and pays allegiance to neither place nor time.
2 Joseph Smith, op.cit., vol. 1, p. 327, also pp. 335-36.
PART II-RELATIONS WITH NEIGHBORS
THE OLD CITIZENS' VIEWPOINT_CHARGES,
EXAMINATION OF CHARGES
There were a number of public questions that attracted considerable attention in Missouri, as well as in other nearby states, during the early thirties. One of these was the Indian question. Immediately on the west and south was the Indian territory, into which various tribes were gradually being moved by the national and state governments. It was a place where naturally there was dissatisfaction on the part of the Indians. In 1832, Black Hawk and Keokuk, leading the Sacs, Foxes and Winnebagoes, were at war in Illinois, and it was expected that they would cross into Missouri, where considerable preparation was made to meet them.”
1 The exodus of the Mormons from Jackson County in 1833-34, has been covered by a number of writers and it appears that the available material has been pretty well brought to the surface. What has not been attempted, however, so far as the present writer is aware, is to incorporate in one volume, the real point of view, which actuated both the Mormons and the Old Citizens in the controversy which finally assumed the lamentable proportions involved in the driving out of the Mormons. It is only by an approach to the question from this angle that the newer generations, in Missouri and in Utah alike, can brush aside a heritage of misunderstanding and can promote, with more kindly feelings, better relations in time to come. For let it be emphasized, it is a poor argument that does not have two sides and it is a commonplace of experience in labor disputes and in wars as well as in the ordinary differences of peaceable life that each side thinks it is right. When radical differences in viewpoint bring severe ruptures it is only at a later time, after the heat of the conflict has passed, and after ugly wounds have healed, that a calmer view can add the missing considerations, which both sides have failed to take into account and which are necessary to that full understanding which harmony and right human relationships require.
2 Birdsali and Dean in The History of Davies County, Mo., p. 47, give the following account of these preparations:
THE INDIAN SITUATION IN MISSOURI “On the 14th day of May, 1832, a bloody engagement took place between the regular forces of the United States and a part of the Sacs, Foxes, and Winnebagoes Indians, commanded by Black Hawk and Keokuk, near Dixon's Ferry in Iilinois.
“The Governor (John Miller) of Missouri, fearing these savages would invade the soil of his state, ordered Major General Richard Gentry to raise one thousand volunteers for the defense of the frontier. Five companies were
raised in Boone County, and in Callaway, Montgomery, St. Charles, Lincoln, Pike, Marion, Ralls, Clay, and Monroe other companies were raised.
"Two of these companies, commanded respectively by Captain John Jaimison, of Callaway, and Captain David M. Hickman, of Boone County, were mustered into service in July for thirty days,and put under command of Major Thomas W. Conyers.
“This detachment, accompanied by General Gentry, arrived at Fort Pike on the 15th of July, 1832. Finding that the Indians had not crossed the Mississippi into Missouri, General Gentry returned to Columbia, leaving the fort in charge of Major Conyers. Thirty days having expired, the command under Major Conyers was relieved by two ther companies under Captain Sinclair Kirtley, of Boone, and Patrick Ewing of Callaway. This detachment was marched to Fort Pike by Col. Austin A. King, who conducted the two companies to Major Conyers' home. Major Conyers was left in charge of the fort, where he remained till September following, at which time the Indian troubles, so far as Missouri was concerned, having all subsided, the frontier forces were mustered out of service.
“Black Hawk continued the war in Iowa and Illinois, and was finally defeated and captured in 1833