The Essential Joseph Smith
Foreword by Marvin S. Hill
“Br[other] William [Smith], Having Received Your Letter I Now Proce[e]de to Answer It,”
Joseph Smith to William Smith, 18 December 1835, and Excerpts from Joseph Smith’s Diary,
18-22 December 1835 from Scott H. Faulring, ed., An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith [Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1987], pp. 85-91)
[p.79]Kirtland, Friday, Dec[ember] 18th 1835
Br[other] William [Smith],
Having received your letter I now proce[e]de to answer it. [I] shall first proce[e]de to give a brief nar[r]ation of my feelings and motives since the night I first came to the knowledge of your having a debating School, which was at the time I happened in with Bishop Whitney, his Father, and Mother &c. which was the first that I knew any thing about it. From that time I took an interest in them and was delighted with it and formed a determination to attend the School for the purpose of obtaining information with the idea of imparting the same through the assistance of the spirit of the Lord, if by any means I should have faith to do so. With this intent I went to the school on last Wednesday night. Not with the idea of braking up the school, neither did it enter into my heart that there was any wrangling or jealousy’s in your heart against me.
Notwithstanding previous to my leaving home there were feelings of solemnity rolling across my breast which were unaccountable to me. Also these feelings continued by spells to depress my spirit and seemed to manifest that all was not right even after the school commenced and during the debate, yet I strove to believe that all would work together for good.
I was pleased with the power of the arguments that were ad[d]uced and did not feel to cast any reflections upon any one that [p.80]had spoken. But I felt that it was the duty of old men that set as presidents to be as grave at least as young men. That it was our duty to smile at solid arguments and sound reasoning and be impressed with solemnity which should be manifest in our countanance when folly and that which militates against truth and righteousness rears its head.
Therefore in the spirit of my calling and in view of the authority of the priesthood that has been confer[r]ed upon me, it would be my duty to reprove whatever I esteemed to be wrong. Fondly hoping in my heart that all parties would concider it right and therefore humble themselves that Satan might not take the advantage of us and hinder the progress of our School.
Now Br[other] William, I want you should bear with me notwithstanding my plainness. I would say to you that my feelings were grieved at the inter[r]uption you made upon Elder McLellen. I thought you should have concidered your relation with him in your apostle ship and not manifest any division of sentiment between you and him for a surrounding multitude to take the advantage of you. Therefore by way of entreaty on the account of the anxiety I had for your influence and wellfare, I said unto you, do not have any feeling, or something to that amount. Why I am thus particular is that if you have misconstrued my feelings toward you, you may be corrected.
But to proce[e]de. After the school was closed, Br[other] Hyrum requested the privilege of speaking, you objected. However, you said if he would not abuse the school he might speak, that you would not allow any man to abuse the school in your house. Now you had no reason to suspect that Hyrum would abuse the school. Therefore my feelings were mortifyed at those unnecessary observations. I undertook to reason with you, but you manifested an inconciderate and stub[b]ourn spirit. I then dispared [despaired] of benefiting you on the account of the spirit you manifested which drew from me the expression that you was as ugly as the Devil.
Father then commanded silence. I formed a determination to obey his mandate and was about to leave the house with the impression that you was under the influence of a wicked spirit [when] you replyed that you would say what you pleased in your own house. Father replyed, “Say what you please, but let the rest hold their toungs [tongues].”
Then a reflection rushed through my mind of the anxiety and care I had had for you and your family in doing what I did in finishing your house and providin[g] flour for your family &c. Also father had [p.81]possession in the house as well as your self. When at any time have I transgressed the commandments of my father? Or sold my birthright that I should not have the privilege of speaking in my father’s house, or in other words, in my father’s family, or in your house (for so we will call it and so it shall be) that I should not have the privilege of reproving a younger brother.
Therefore I said “I will speak, for I built the house, and it is as much mine as yours,” or something to that effect (I should have said that I helped finish the house). I said it merely to show that it could not be the right spirit that would rise up for trifling matters, and undertake to put me to silence. I saw that your indignation was kindled against me, and you made [movement] towards me. I was not then to be moved and I thought to pull off my loose coat least it should tangle me, and you be left to hurt me, but not with the intention of hurting You. But you was to[o] soon for me, and having once fallen into the hands of a mob, and been wounded in my side and now into the hands of a brother my side gave way.
After having been rescued from your grasp, I left your house with feelings that were indescriba[b]le. The scenery had changed and all those expectations that I had cherished when going to your house of brotherly kindness, charity, forbearance and natural affection, that in duty binds us not to make each others offenders for a word.
But alass! Abuse, anger, malice, hatred, and rage with a lame side with marks of violence heaped upon me by a brother, were the reflections of my disap[p]ointment, and with these I returned home not able to sit down, or rise up, without help, but through the blessings of God I am now better.
I have received your letter and purused it with care. I have not entertained a feeling of malice against you. I am older than you and have endured more suffering. [I] have been mar[r]ed by mobs, the labours of my calling, a series of persecution, and injuries, continually heaped upon me, all serve to debilitate my body, and it may be that I cannot boast of being stronger than you. If I could, or could not, would this be an honor or dishonor to me. If I could boast like David of slaying Goliath, who defied the armies of the living God, or like Paul of contending with Peter face to face, with sound arguments, it might be an honor. But to mangle the flesh or seek revenge upon one who never done you any wrong, can not be a source of sweet reflection to you, nor to me, neither to an honorable father and [p.82]mother, brothers and sisters. When we reflect with what care and with what unremit[t]ing diligence our parents have strove to watch over us, and how many hours of sorrow and anxiety they have spent over our cradles and bedsides in times of sickness, how careful we ought to be of their feelings in their old age. It cannot be a source of swe[e]t reflection to us to say or do any thing that will bring their grey hairs down with sorrow to the grave.
In your letter you asked my forgiv[e]ness, which I readily grant, but it seems to me that you still retain an idea that I have given you reasons to be angry or disaffected with me. Grant me the privilege of saying then that however hasty or harsh I may have spoken at any time to you, it has been done for the express purpose of endeavouring to warn, exhort, admonish, and rescue you from falling into difficulties, and sorrows which I foresaw you plunging into by giving way to that wicked spirit, which you call your passions, which you should curbe and break down and put under your feet. Which if you do not you never can be saved, in my view, in the Kingdom of God. God requires the will of his creatures to be swallowed up in his will.
You desire to remain in the Church, but forsake your apostleship. This is a stratigem of the evil one. When he has gained one advantage he lays a plan for another, but by maintaining your apostleship in rising up and making one tremendious effort, you may overcome your passions and please God. By forsaking your apostleship is not to be willing to make that sacrifice that God requires at your hands and is to incur his displeasure. And without pleasing God do not think that it will be any better for you. When a man falls one step he must regain that step again, or fall another. He has still more to gain or eventually all is lost.
I desire Brother William that you will humble yourself. I freely forgive you and you know my unshaken and unchang[e]able disposition. I know in whom I trust. I stand upon the rock. The floods cannot, no they shall not overthrow me. You know the doctrine I teach is true and you know that God has blessed me. I brought salvation to my father’s house, as an instrument in the hand of God, when they were in a miserable situation. You know that it is my duty to admonish you when you do wrong. This liberty I shall always take and you shall have the same privilege. I take the privilege to admonish you because of my birthright. I grant you the privilege because it is my duty to be humble and to receive rebuke and instruction from a brother or a friend.
[p.83]As it regards what course you shall persue hereafter, I do not pretend to say. I leave you in the hands of God and his Church. Make your own desision, I will do you good altho[ugh] you mar me, or slay me, by so doing my garments shall be clear of your sins. If at any time you should concider me to be an imposter, for heaven’s sake leave me in the hands of God and not think to take veng[e]ance on me your self.
Tyran[n]y, usurpation, and to take men’s rights ever has and ever shall be banished from my heart. David sought not to kill Saul, although he was guilty of crimes that never entered my heart.
And now may God have mercy upon my father’s house. May God take away enmity from betwe[e]n me and thee. And may all blessings be restored and the past be forgotten forever. May humble repentance bring us both to thee O God and to thy power and protection and a crown to enjoy the society of Father, Mother, Alvin, Hyrum, Sophron[i]a, Samuel, Catharine, Carloss, Lucy, the Saints and all the sanctified in peace forever, is the prayer of
Joseph Smith, Jun[ior]
To William Smith
* * *
Saturday morning the 19th [December 1835] At home. Wrote the above letter to Br[other] William Smith. I have had many solemn feelings this day Concerning my Brothe[r] William and have prayed in my heart to[o] fervently that the Lord will not cast him off, but he may return to the God of Jacob and magnify his apostleship and calling. May this be his happy lot for the Lord of Glory’s Sake. Amen.
Sunday the 20th At home all day. Took solled [solid] Comfort with my Family [and] had many serious reflections. Also Brothers Palmer and Tailor Came to see me. I showed them the sacred record [the Egyptian\Book of Abraham papyri] to their Joy and sati[s]faction. O may God have mercy upon these men and keep them in the way of Everlasting life in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Monday morni[n]g, 21st At home. Spent this [day] in indeavering to treasure up know[l]edge for the be[n]ifit of my Calling. The day pas[s]ed of[f] very pleasantly for which I thank the Lord for his blessings to my soul [and] his great mercy over my Family in sparing our lives. O Continue thy Care over me and mine for Christ[‘s] sake.
Tu[e]sday, 22d At home. Continued my studys. O may God give [p.84]me learning even Language and indo[w] me with qualifycations to magnify his name while I live. I also deliv[er]ed an address to the Church this Evening. The Lord blessed my Soul.
My scribe also is unwell. O m[a]y God heal him and for his kindness to me[.] O my soul be thou greatful to him and bless him and he shall be blessed of God forever. I believe him to be a faithful friend to me therefore my soul delighteth in him. Amen.