On March 20, 1842, ten members of the Twelve Apostles composed a long epistle to the Saints in Europe providing directives for immigration. The document reveals the way the Twelve planned to move converts from Europe to the Nauvoo area and the way resources would be provided for the Nauvoo Temple and Nauvoo House. The document also provides a window into the broader contours of Church governance during this formative time and the larger responsibilities of the Twelve after their return from their mission to the British Isles.
The epistle was signed by the members of the Twelve then in Nauvoo: Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, William Smith, Orson Pratt, John E. Page, Lyman Wight, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, George A. Smith, and Willard Richards. Parley P. Pratt was in England, and Orson Hyde was in Jerusalem at the time. Willard Richards and William Clayton both created handwritten drafts of the epistle, which are now kept in the Church History Library in Salt Lake City. Richards’s copy may have been used when the epistle was transcribed into Joseph Smith’s journal contained in the Book of the Law of the Lord, while Clayton’s may have been used when the epistle was printed in the Times and Seasons on April 1. The epistle was printed with slight variations as a broadside to be taken by John Snider to Parley P. Pratt in Liverpool, England, where the epistle was published in the Millennial Star.1 The broadside measures 47.5 × 30.5 cm and presents the letter in four columns. The broadside is exceedingly rare, as only one is known to exist. It is also housed in the Church History Library. The text appearing on pages 125–31 is that of the broadside.
Contents of the Epistle
After an opening salutation, the Twelve discussed the relation of temporal salvation to spiritual salvation, seeing the two as interrelated. The gathering was a temporal process that required physical resources and planning, and it would bring spiritual blessings as converts learned to be united. The Twelve instructed those who had production skills to come to Nauvoo and build factories and workshops, which would in turn provide more jobs for more immigrants, who would in turn bring more skills, and the cycle would continue. As cash was short, the Twelve urged the Saints to use goods to facilitate a transatlantic trade system whose flow of goods would raise money to cover immigration costs. The Twelve also counseled the Saints in Europe to send whatever material goods they could to the United States with John Snider or another elder to aid with the construction of the Nauvoo Temple and Nauvoo House. The Twelve included the revelation to John Snider from Joseph Smith and assured the Saints in Europe that the construction of these two buildings was urgent and that Nauvoo was the center place for the gathering. There the European Saints would hear the Prophet’s teachings firsthand.
The following five themes emerge from the text: First, one senses the boundless confidence of the Twelve. They cast their errand in cosmic scope. Second, the epistle echoes the concern for the poor often expressed in early Latter-day Saint scriptures and sermons. Third, the epistle reveals a theology of suffering in that the Twelve established a positive correlation between suffering and exaltation and included the Saints of the 1840s in the group who endure “the great tribulation,” seen in vision by John the Revelator.2 Fourth, the letter reveals the importance of the physical in the spiritual quest of Latter-day Saints. The Twelve, like Joseph Smith, rejected asceticism. The body was to be attended to at the same time as, if not before, spiritual things. Fifth, the letter reveals that Nauvoo had become the central place of Mormon settlement—it had become the “cornerstone of Zion” (D&C 124:2).3
At the time the epistle was written, Joseph Smith was relying on the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles more than ever before. After the Twelve earned the Prophet’s trust through their unified work in the British Isles from 1839 to 1841, Smith raised their authority in the ecclesiastical structure of the Church, giving them administrative authority inside the stakes of the Church—power they previously held only outside of the organized stakes.4
Furthermore, many of the temporal affairs of the Church were transferred to the Twelve. The August 16, 1841, conference minutes report “that the twelve should be authorized to assist in managing the affairs of the Kingdom in this place.” Willard Richards’s diary is rich in its brevity: “Conference: business of the Church given to the Twelve.”5
Overseeing immigration was specifically mentioned in the directives to the Twelve—a formidable assignment. Conversion and immigration were exciting in the abstract.6 But the actual enactment of the gathering faced huge, real-world obstacles. Leaders had to charter ships, secure food and clothing, and arrange transportation in the United States, all with scarce funds. And once emigrants were with the main body of the Church, leaders helped them find housing and employment, all while fulfilling other Church obligations. Because of the vastness of the project, how to move people from one continent to another and what to do with them when they got there were perpetual concerns of Church leaders for the majority of the nineteenth century.
The most significant challenge Brigham Young and the other Apostles faced in overseeing immigration was the poverty of European converts. The majority of these converts were working-class poor in the British Isles, where poverty had become rampant. Beginning in 1837, the nation encountered a severe depression, and “industry came almost to a standstill.”7 And with another financial crisis in 1839, bullion specie was scarce, and the reserves in England’s banks were only beginning to replenish by 1842.8 Conditions were so severe that starvation was not uncommon.9 George A. Smith wrote of this situation, including its effect on the Saints living in the Staffordshire Potteries:
Of the more than 450 Saints in this District not more than one third of them have full Employment. Many of the Rest Not more than two or three Days per Week and Many have no work at all. Times are growing harder Every Week. Some are turned out of Employ because they have been baptised by the Latter Day Saints.10
Heber C. Kimball, who had been in England in 1837, recorded the dramatic change that he saw upon his return in 1840.
I was asking some of the brethren what made the peopl look so bad. They said becaus they ware famished for the wont of food. Say they to me thare are hundreds that are starving for the wont of food and other things. I thought thare was misery a nough in Preston. It is nothing to compare with manchester. I asked them if they thought the brethren went hungry. Yes manny of them have not to eat. Times are so hard they cant quit work. Therefore they have to go hungry. Thare has been such a change here in two years as never was known by the oldest men in this land.11
The financial condition of the Church and its members in the United States was not good either. The depression from 1837 to 1843—called “the only depression on record comparable in severity and scope to the Great Depression of the 1930s”—greatly affected the Saints living in the United States.12 In addition to being without homes or jobs after the expulsion from Far West, many Latter-day Saints had lost money with the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society and the Panic of 1837.
Four months after sending the epistle to Parley P. Pratt in Liverpool, a number of the Saints declared bankruptcy, including the Prophet himself.13 Joseph Smith thus understood the difficulty of the situation not just administratively, but also personally. His journal for December 24, 1841, kept by Willard Richards, reveals his involvement in the Twelve’s plan. It reads, “While conversing with Brigham Young and N. K. Whitney about sending an Agent to England. to establish a cheap & expeditious conveyance for the saints & merchandize to this place. President Joseph said in the name of the Lord we will prosper if we go forward in this thing.”14 A few days later, Joseph met with members of the Twelve in respect to “the mission of John Snider. & the European conferences.”15
John Snider16 had been appointed as a member of the Nauvoo House Association and was called by revelation to assist in the construction of both the Nauvoo Temple and the Nauvoo House (D&C 124:22–23). After being called to work generally on the Nauvoo House, Snider received a specific call to go to England that paraphrased portions of section 124. He was familiar with England, as he had accompanied Heber C. Kimball and others there in 1837. The revelation calling Snider to England is cited below in the epistle. Snider waited until the spring to leave, hoping for financing to come from Church sources. On March 26, 1842, after receiving “final instructions from the President” and a blessing from Brigham Young, Snider left for England.17
The plan for a transatlantic flow of goods was never realized, although the model likely contributed to the later formation of the British and American Commercial Joint Stock Company, founded three years later.18 The Perpetual Emigrating Fund, formed in 1849, can be seen as a more refined, actionable outgrowth of this plan. Nevertheless, as stated, the epistle is valuable in that it reveals the ways that the Twelve were already directing the affairs of the Church soon after Joseph Smith had given them authority to do so. These included bringing immigrants to the United States, providing for the poor, providing materials for the construction of the Nauvoo Temple and Nauvoo House, and providing goods for the Mormon settlements altogether. The document is valuable in that it reveals these specifics and provides insights into the broader thinking of Church leaders at the time.
An Epistle of the Twelve,
To the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,
in its various Branches and Conferences in Europe, Greeting:
BELOVED BRETHREN, We feel it our privilege, and a duty we owe to the great and glorious cause in which we have enlisted, to communicate to you, at this time some principles, which, if carried into effect, will greatly facilitate the gathering of the Saints, and tend to ameliorate the condition of those who are struggling with poverty, and distress, in this day when the usual means of support seem to be cut short, to the laboring classes, through the depression that every where prevails in the general business mart of the civilized world.
Our situation is such in these last days; our salvation, spiritually, is so connected with our salvation, temporally, that if one fail, the other necessarily must be seriously affected, if not wholly destroyed. God has made us social beings: he has endowed us with capacities for enjoying each others society and it is our duty to bring those powers and privileges into exercise, so far as we can obtain, and for this, it is our duty to strive by all lawful and expedient measures within our reach. While we remain in this state of existance, we need food and raiment; habitations and society; and without these, our enjoyments must be greatly limited, and the real object of our existence diminished, if not wholly destroyed. Though the saints should possess all the common gifts of the spirit of God, and yet remain destitute of these comforts so much needed for the sustenance of their bodies, they would be comparatively miserable; but when they arrive at that state of perfection, and are clothed upon with the more special gifts and power of increasing the widow’s oil and meal, or of receiving their food from the Ravens, like Elijah,19 they will not need to bestow so much attention on every trifle of the passing moment, as they now do: and until that period arrives, they will recollect that to be in the exercise of the fulness of spiritual blessings, they must be watchful and careful to provide things honest in the sight of all men, for the sustenance and comfort of these frail perishable bodies.
That we may be instruments in the hands of God of thus promoting your present and future, temporal and spiritual welfare, we write you at the present time. Many of you are desirous of emigrating to this country, and many have not the means to accomplish their wishes, and if we can assist you by our prayers and our councils to accomplish the desires of your hearts in this thing, so far we will rejoice and be satisfied. You not only want to emigrate to this section of the earth, but you desire also to have some laudable means of comfortable subsistence, after you arrive here, and this also is important. How then shall these things be accomplished, and your souls be satisfied? We answer, by united understanding, and concert of action. You all, or most of you, have trades of different kinds of business to which you have long been familiarized, and in which you would like to continue for the purpose of procuring a subsistence; and a great proportion of your occupation is such, that no employment can be had in this city, or vicinity; for instance, there are no cotton manufactories established here, and many of you know no other business. You want to come here, and when here want to continue your labors, in your accustomed branches of business; but you have no means to get here, and when here there are no factories; and yet factories are needed here, and there would be ready market for all the fabrics which could be manufactured.
Now comes the concert of action; if the church will arise unitedly; if the brethren will individually feel that the great work of the Lord is depending on themselves as instruments, to assist in carrying it forward; and will unite all their means, faith and energy, in one grand mass, all that you desire can speedily be accomplished. A short time only will elapse before you yourselves will be astonished at the result, and you will feel that your desires are more than realized. While the saints are united, no power on the earth, or under the earth can prevail against them; but while each one acts for himself, many, very many, are in danger of being overthrown.
God has promised all things, to those who love him and keep his commandments; then why be afraid that one should get a little more than another, or that one should gain, for a little moment, what another might lose; when Jesus has promised that the faithful shall be one with him, as he is one with the Father, and shall possess all things in the due time of the Lord; not by stealth, not by force, not by the sword, but by the gift of the Father, through faithfulness to his commands; and the more they shall suffer, while they work righteousness on the earth, the greater will be their reward, the more glorious their kingdom, the more extended their power, when they shall arrive in celestial paradise.
Knowing and feeling these things as we do, and having respect unto the recompence of reward to be revealed hereafter, regardless of all necessary privation and labor to accomplish what our master has given us to do; and desiring not to possess the kingdom alone, but that all the honest in heart should be united with us in the great and glorious work of building up Zion and her stakes, we call upon you, dear brethren, to unite with us, all with one accord, to do, what? To do the very things you desire should be done; to convey you to the place where we are, and then put you in possession of all the means you may need for your support; so that you may enjoy the fulness of the blessings belonging to the sons and daughters of Zion’s King.
Had we means, we would not ask your aid: we would gladly send the ship of Tarshish20 to bear you across the great waters; we would bring you to our homes, to our fire sides; we would provide you habitations, lands and food, when you arrive among us: our hearts are large enough to do all this, and a great deal more. But we have not the means; we have to labor for our own subsistance, as well as attend to those things which are laid upon us of the Lord, and which concern the whole church as much as ourselves. It is not the will of heaven that any one should be put in possession of all things, without striving for them. Where much is given, much is required; and he who has but one talent must be as diligent in the use thereof, as he that has ten, or he will loose [sic] his talent and his blessing; and it becometh him who hath but one, five, or ten, to appropriate it in the most economical manner possible, or he will not have enough to bring him hither: and that he who hath but five pounds may have enough and to spare to him who hath but one, or in other words, to help the brethren to accomplish with a little, what otherwise would require much more than they can command, is the object of this Epistle.
Had we the means, we would send vessels of our own, laden with flour, meat, fruit, and all sea stores necessary for the comfort of the brethren on the water, so that they would have nothing more to do than go on shipboard and land at New Orleans; from thence we would take them on our Steamers, and bring them to this place, for this is the best place for the saints to stop at, at the present. There may be other places where individuals might have the prospect of adding at once more rapidly to their pecuniary interest, than they could here; but we can only say it is the will of the Lord that the saints build Nauvoo, and settle therein or in the vicinity; and we know assuredly, that those who give heed to every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord, will be richer, eventually, and not far distant, than those who may seem to prosper more by following their own inclinations.
Brethren we wish not to control you or your means, it is not for our peace or interest; nay, rather, it is a source of labor, trouble and anxiety to have ought to do with the pecuniary business of the church, which we would gladly avoid, could we do it, and do our duty; could we do it and the things desired be accomplished, and we stand guiltless where God placed us; and for this reason we desire to make such arrangements as will most tend to leave the business in your own hands, or in the hands of those whom you shall select: men of your own acquaintance, in whom you can repose confidence that they will execute their trust in righteousness: and that our plans may be understood by you, and carried into execution, we have sent unto you our beloved brother, Elder John Snider, the bearer of this Epistle, and other Epistles also previously written by us to you; and we beseech you, brethren, to receive him as a servant of the Most High, authorized according to the order of the kingdom of heaven, and assist him by all lawful means in your power to execute the mission entrusted to him; for great events depend on his success; but to none will they be greater than to yourselves.
Our authority for thus sending brother Snider to you is found in the Law of the Lord, page 36, as follows: “Nauvoo, December 22nd 1841.” “The word of the Lord came unto Joseph the Seer, verily thus saith the Lord, Let my servant John Snider take a mission to the Eastern Continent, unto all the conferences now sitting in that region; and let him carry a package of Epistles that shall be written by my servants, the Twelve, making known unto them their duties concerning the building of my houses, which I have appointed unto you saith the Lord, that they may bring their Gold, and their Silver, and their precious Stones, and the Box Tree, and the Fir Tree, and all fine wood to beautify the place of my sanctuary saith the Lord; and let him return speedily with all means which shall be put into his hands, even so, Amen.”21
In this Revelation, the brethren will discover their duty, in relation to the building of the Temple of the Lord in Nauvoo, and the Nauvoo House: and we call upon them with united cry to give heed unto the things written and help to build the houses which God hath commanded, so that Brother Snider may speedily return with means to strengthen the hands of the laborers, and adorn and beautify the Tabernacle of Jehovah.
Brethren while you are thus preparing to send up your offerings to this place, if you will act in concert with our well beloved Brother, Elder Parley P. Pratt, and the regularly constituted authorities of the church in England; and collect as great an amount of Cotton, Linnen, and woollen Goods; Silks, Cutlery, Hardware, &c. &c. &c., even all the varieties of Goods which might be useful in this country, and which can be obtained by the brethren in this time of moneyed scarcity, and forward the same, to us by Brother Snider, or your own agent in company with him, or otherwise, and at other times, we will pay you for those Goods in lands, in or out of the city; in houses, cattle, and such kind of property as you may need; and with the goods we will purchase lands &c., flour, meat and all things necessary for a sea voyage, which can be had cheaper here than in England, and charter ships, and forward the same to England, or such places as emigration may require, and bring back in return a ship load of emigrants, at a cheaper rate, than they can now emigrate; while at the same time, those, who remain, can continue to collect and forward merchandize as before, which will give us the means of continuing our purchases here, of keeping ships passing and repassing, and of building manufacturing establishments, ready for the brethren when they arrive in our midst.
While the great depression of the moneyed institutions continues as it now is, the people are compelled to resort to all laudable measures to effect those exchanges of property which are necessary to accomplish their designs in removing from one place to another, and from one kingdom to another; and by a faithful execution of the plans proposed above, much, very much, may be effected in emigration without the aid of cash, or with very little, at the most; and goods may be obtained to advantage for houses and lands which the brethren may have to dispose of, and in payment of debts due them: when it would be impossible for them to sell for cash at any price; or get their pay for debts due them even at a great discount; and thus thousands and tens of thousands may be made to rejoice in this land of plenty, while, were it not for a concert of action, they might remain where they are for years, or never have the opportunity of appearing among us, on this side the great waters, until the morning of the first Resurrection.
But brethren we want to see you here! we long to see all here who want to be here and none others, for we desire the increase of those who love God and work righteousness, that Zion’s cords may be lengthened,22 and her stakes strengthened; though the country is free to all who will abide her laws, and we have no disposition to cast out any from our midst who will submit thereto. For many particulars in relation to the times and course of emigration, and many other important items connected with the general and particular interest of the church, we would refer you to our former Epistles: and to enter into a particular and minute detail of all items referred to in this Epistle, would be impossible. Brother Snider will enter into the subject more minutely, and with the assistance of the Presidency among you, will unfold the subject so that no one need misunderstand.
The brethren need not suppose that this thing is of our own imagination, simply; or that the result th[e]reof, if fully carried into execution, will be of doubtful character. We have been guided by the spirit of the Lord in our deliberations concerning the matter; and have been in structed, by the Prophet of the Most High, even Joseph, the Seer and Revelator for the church, whose instructions to us, are as the voice of the Lord, and whose admonitions we ever regard as true and faithful, and worthy the confidence of all who profess the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been with him in prosperity and adversity, in sickness and health, in public and private, in all situations where man may reasonably associate with each other, and know that his words are true, his teachings sacred, his character unsullied among men of truth; and that he is what the church acknowledge him to be, a man of God, and the spokesman of the Most High unto his people: and we bear this testimony unto the world, calling on all the honest in heart to uphold him by their faith and prayers, that he may live long, enjoy much, and accomplish great things for the kingdom which he has been the honoured instrument of establishing on the earth in these last days, even that he may lead a great multitude into the celestial kingdom.
That the saints may enjoy the teachings of the Prophet; those teachings which can be had only at this place so that they may go on from knowledge to knowledge even to perfection, they want to come up hither: and that the plans before suggested may be facilitated, let some individuals of capital come immediately and build Factories, individuals who have the means, understand the business, and are capable of superintending the concern thereof. There is every natural advantage at this place for facilitating such an order of things; water, wood and coal in abundance; and it only wants the hand of the laborer to bring them forth in form suited to their several uses, and while the gold and the silver is secreted by the hands of unprincipled speculators, let us go forward and accomplish without gold or silver, that which might be more easily and expeditiously done with.
Let the brethren ever remember the admonitions we have so often given, that Zion is not to be built up without labor, fatigue and trial of the faith of many; that when John saw the great company on Mount Zion, he saw those, who had come up through great tribulation; he also saw those who had endured great tribulation after they had arrived, and before the kingdom was completed.23 The saints of this day are of the number John saw, and those, and those only who are willing to endure tribulation, as good soldiers, without murmuring, will eventually find their names enrolled in the Lamb’s book of life, and obtain an inheritance in the Holy city. To all those, who are desirous of sharing in the poverty and sufferings incident to new countries, and the children of the kingdom, we would say, come up hither, and help us to bear the burden and you shall share in the riches glory and honors of the kingdom. And those who, are not willing to suffer afflictions, losses, crosses and disappointments with the people of God, may as well stay away and be destroyed, as to come here and perish; for perish they must who can not abide a celestial Law, and endure to the end in all meekness, patience and faithfulness.
Inasmuch as Elder Levi Richards24 has asked for council, we would recommend him to return to Nauvoo, as soon as circumstances shall render it convenient.
Praying that you may be blessed with wisdom, intelligence, and perseverance in every good word and work, so that you may accomplish your desires, and help to roll on the great work in which you have enlisted, we subscribe ourselves your brethren and fellow-laborers in the kingdom of patience, Amen.
Brigham Young, Pres’t.
Heber C. Kimball,
John E. Page,
George A. Smith,
W. Richards, Clerk.25
To Elder Parley P. Pratt, or the Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in England.
City of Nauvoo, Hancock county Illinois,
March 20, 1842.