Writing to Zion: The William W. Phelps Kirtland Letters (1835–1836)
This daily feature is an introduction to a full article by Bruce A. Van Orden. Each Wednesday we focus on an aspect of church history, beginning in New York in the early 19th century and progressing throughout the year to Utah in the 20th century. To read the full text of this article, follow the link below.
These letters give important details about the lives and teachings of Latter-day Saints as the Church flourished in Kirtland, Ohio.
William Wines Phelps (1792–1872) was the LDS Church's first editor and hymnist and was perhaps the best educated member of the Prophet Joseph Smith's nearest associates during the 1830s. He significantly affected the articulation of LDS doctrine from 1832 to 1836. Because of his closeness to Joseph Smith, we take interest in his holographic writings, which reveal many details about the Prophet's activities and teachings. Phelps rarely kept a journal, and when he did, it was brief. But while he served as Joseph Smith's scribe and as a member of one of the groups of presidents in Kirtland, Ohio, from May 1835 to April 1836, Phelps wrote numerous letters to Saints in Missouri that he decided to designate as his journal. Most letters were addressed to his wife Sally. "I have told you once or twice to take all my letters that I have written to you and lock them up," he wrote. "You can perceive that my letters are my private Journal" (January 1836).