From Historian to Dissident
Bruce N. Westergren, editor
Mummies and Murmurings
[p.165]In June 1835 a man by the name of Hewet came from England, and presented to a counsel the following Letter [from Thomas Shaw of the Barnsley Independent Church] as follows.
Dear brethren in the Lord.
At a counsel of the Pastors of our church, held March 28, 1835, upon the propriety of the Reverend John Hewet visiting you—It was resolved and approved, that as he had an anxious desire to go to America, to see the things spoken of in one of your papers, brought here by a Merchant from New York, he should have as he desired, the sanction of the counsel and if it pleased the Lord his approval.
The Lord has seen our joy and gladness to hear that he was raising up a people, for himself in that part of the New World as well as here—O may our faith increase, that he may have Evangelists, apostles and Prophets, filled with the power of the Spirit, and performing his will in destroying the work of darkness.
[p.166]The Rev. Mr. Hewet was professer of Mathematics in Rotherdam Independent [p. 75] Seminary, and four years Pastor in Barnsley Independent Church, the[n] commenced preaching the doctrine we taught, about two years sinc, and was excommunicated, many of his flock followed him, so that eventually he was installed in the same church, and the Lord[‘s] work prospered. As he is a living Epistle, you will have. if all be well, a full explanation, Ma[n]y will follow should he approve of the country &c. who will helps the cause because the Lord the Lord has favored them with this worlds goods
We had an utterance during our meeting which caused us to sing for Joy. The Lord was pleased with our brothers holy determination to see you, and we understand that persecution had been great among you or would be—But we were commanded not to fear for he would be with us,—Praise the Lord. The time is at hand when distance shall be no barrier between us, but when on the wings of love—Jehovahs messengers shall be communicated by his Saints.
The Lord bless our brother. And may he prove a blessing to you—be not afraid of our enemies, they shall unless they repent, be cast down by the Lord of hosts,—The workers of iniquity have been used by the prince of darkness, to play the counterfeit, but dicernment has been given, that they were immediately put to shame by being detected, so that the flock never suffered, as yet by them. Grace mercy and Peace, be with you from God our Father, and from the Spirit Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.
in the gospel,
Barnsley England April 21, 1835. Thomas Shaw
[p.167]This Mr. Hewet did not obey the gospel. neither would he investigate the matter. Thus ended the mission of Mr. Hewet.1
About the first of July 1838 there came a man having four Egyptian Mummies exhibiting them for curiosities, which was a wonder indeed having also some records connected with them which were found deposited with the Mummies, but there being no one skilled in the Egyptian language therefore [he] could not translate the record, after this exhibition Joseph the Seer saw these Record[s] and by the revelation of Jesus Christ could translate these records, which gave an account of our forefathers,
even abraham Much of which was written by Joseph of Egypt who was sold by his brethren Which when all translated will be a pleasing history and of great value to the saints.2
And it came to pass while we were yet in the East, there came some letters to the Presidency respecting the Presidency of the Elders of Zion, there being some difficulty concerning the matter among them.
Therefore the following letter was written to Zion.
Kirtland August 31, 1835.
The Presiden[c]y of Kirtland and Zion say that the Lord has manifested by revelation of his spirit: that the high preeist, teachers, Priests and deacons, or in other words all the officers in the land of Clay Co. Mo. belonging to the church are more or less in transgression, because they have not enjoyed the Spirit of God sufficiently to be able to comprehend their duties respecting themselves, and the welfare of Zion. Thereby having been left to act, in a manner that is detrimental to the interest, and also a hindrance, to the redemption of Zion.
Now if they will be wise, they will humble themselves in a peculiar manner that God may open the eyes of their under-[p.168]standing. It will be clearly manifest that the design and purposes of the Almighty; are with regard to them and the children of Zion; that they should let the high counsel which is appointed of God, and ordained for that purpose, <make and> regulate all the affairs of Zion: and that it is the will of God, that her children should stand still, and see the salvation of her redemption; and the officers of the church should go forth, inasmuch as they can leave their families in comfortable circumstances; and gather up the saints, even the strength of the Lords house. And those who cannot go forth consistently with the will of God their circumstances preventing them; remain in deep humility: and in as much, [as] they do anything [p. 78] [they should] confine themselves to teaching the first principles of the Gospel: not endeavoring to institute regulations or laws for Zion, without having been appointed of God.
Now we see there is no need of ordaining in Zion, or appointing any more officers: but let all those that are ordained magnify themselves before the Lord: by going into the vineyard and cleansing their garments from the blood of this generation. It is one thing to be ordained to preach the gospel, and to push the people together to Zion, and it is another thing to be annointed to lay the foundation and build up the City of Zion, and execute her laws. Therefore it is certain that many of the Elders have come under great condemnation, in endeavoring to steady the ark of God. in a place when they have not been sent.
The high counsel and bishops court have been established to do the business of Zion, and her children are not bound to acknowledge any of those who feel disposed to run to Zion and set themselves to be their rulers. Let not her children be duped in this way, but let them prove those who say they are apostles and are not.
The Elders have no right to regulate Zion, but they have a [p.169]right to preach the gospel. They will all do well to repent and humble themselves, and all the church, and also we ourselves receive the admonition and so now endeavor and pray to this end. When the children of Zion are strangers in a strange land their harps must be hung upon the willows: and they cannot sing the songs of Zion: but should mourn and not dance. Therefore brethren, it remains for all such to be exercised with prayer, and continual supplication, until Zion is redeemed. We realize the situation that all the brethren and sisters must be in, being deprived of their spiritual privileges, which are enjoyed by those who sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; where there are no mobs to rise up and bind their consciences. Nevertheless, it is wisdom that the church should make but little or no stir in that region, and cause as little excitement as possible and endure their afflictions patiently until the time appointed—and the Governor of Mo. fulfils his promise in setting the church over upon their own lands. We would suggest an idea that it would be wisdom for all the members of the church on the return of the Bishop [Edward Partridge], to make known to him their names places of residence, &c. that it may be known where they all are when the Governor shall give directions for you to be set over on your lands[.]
Again it is the will of the Lord, that the church should attend to their communion on the sabbath day, and let them remember the commandment which says, “Talk not of Judgment” we are commanded not to give the childrens bread unto the dogs: neither cast our pearls before swine, least they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. Therefore—let us be wise in all things, and keep all the commandments of God, that our salvation may be sure: having our armour ready and prepared against the time appointed; and [p.170]having on the whole armour of righteousness, we may be able to stand in that trying day. We say also that if there are any doors open for the Elders to preach the first principles of the gospel: let them not keep silence: rail not against the sects, neither talk against their tenets. But preach Christ and him crucified. love to God, and love to man, observing always to make mention of our republican principles, thereby if possible, we may allay the prejudice of the people, be meek and lowly of heart, and the Lord God of our fathers shall be with you for evermore.
Sanctioned and signed by the Presidents
Joseph Smith Jr.
F. G. Williams
W. W. Phelps
P.S. Br Hezekiah Peck
We remember your family, with all the first families of the church, who first embraced the truth, we remember your losses and sorrows, our first ties are not broken, we participate with you in the evil as well as the good, in the sorrows as well as the Joys, our union we trust is stronger than death, and shall never be severed. Remember us unto all who believe in the fulness of the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We hereby authorize you Hezekiah Peck, our beloved brother to read this epistle and communicate it unto all the brotherhood in all that region of country. Dictated by me your unworthy brother, and fellow laborer in [p.171]the testimony of the book of Mormon. Signed by my own hand in the token of the everlasting covenant.
Joseph Smith Jr.
1. See HC, 2:230-34. Here it is recorded that upon his failure to return and upon discovery that Hewitt and his wife had moved on to Fairport, Ohio, Oliver Cowdery was sent by the First Presidency to the Reverend Hewitt, inviting him to continue his investigations. According to the history:
Elder Cowdery immediately repaired to Fairport, and on the day following reported to the Council that Mr. Hewitt was not in the place: that he left their letter with Mrs. Hewitt, who informed him that her “husband had frequently spoken of his wish to become further acquainted with the people whom he had come out from Europe to see.” But the next we heared of the Reverend John Hewitt was that he had opened a school in Painsville, Ohio (HC, 2:233).
2. The subject of the mummies, the existence of the scrolls, and the accuracy of Joseph Smith’s translation which now appears in the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price have been the subject of controversy for many years. Among the most helpful studies are H. Donl Peterson, The Pearl of Great Price: A History and Commentary (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987), 3-24, 36-55; The Story of the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995); and “Antonio Lebolo: Excavator of the Book of Abraham,” Brigham Young University Studies 31 (Summer 1991): 5-29; and Jay Todd, The Saga of the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1969); Michael Dennis Rhodes, “A Translation and Commentary of the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus,” Brigham Young University Studies 17 (Spring 1977): 259-74; Christopher C. Lund, “A Letter Regarding the Acquisition of the Book of Abraham,” Brigham Young University Studies 20 (Summer 1980): 402-403; and James R. Clark, The Story of [p.172]the Pearl of Great Price (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955), 56-186. Somewhat polemical, but still useful, are Hyrum L. Andrus, Doctrinal Commentary on the Pearl of Great Price (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1967), 11-28; George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Pearl of Great Price (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1965), 238-85; and Milton R. Hunter, Pearl of Great Price Commentary (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1951), 6-40. See also Edward H. Ashment, “The Book of Abraham Facsimiles: A Reappraisal,” Sunstone 4 (Dec. 1979): 33-48; and Karl C. Sandberg, “Knowing Brother Joseph Again: The Book of Abraham and Joseph Smith as Translator,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 22 (Winter 1989): 17-37.