Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Joseph's Letter to the Relief Society


In my studies of the history of Joseph Smith and the religion he restored, I will from time to time come across source documents important enough that I feel I ought to reproduce them here. This particular letter is addressed to Emma and the Relief Society, dated 31 March 1842.  You can read the original in the Joseph Smith Papers here; my version has had the strike-throughs cleared out, a few words de-abbreviated, and the spelling and grammar modernized.

The letter does not mention polygamy by name, due to the stronger taboos which prevailed in those days against calling licentious things by name in public. Nonetheless, when the Prophet declared that "we don’t want anybody to believe anything as coming from us contrary to the old established morals and virtues and scriptural laws regulating the habits customs and conduct of Society," everyone knew what was meant.  

To the President of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, Greeting:

Can the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo be trusted with some important matters that ought actually to belong to them to see to which men have been under the necessity of seeing to their chagrin and mortification in order to prevent iniquitous characters from carrying their iniquity into effect? Such as, for instance, a man who may be aspiring after power and authority and yet without principle, regardless of God, man or the Devil, or the interest or welfare of men, or the virtue or innocence of women? Shall the credulity, good faith, and steadfast feelings of our Sisters for the cause of God or truth be imposed upon by believing such men because they say they have authority from Joseph or the first Presidency, or any other Presidency of the church, and thus with a lie in their mouth deceive and debauch the innocent under the assumption that they are authorized from these sources?! May God forbid!

A knowledge of some such thing having come to our ears we improve this favorable opportunity, wherein so goodly number of you may be informed that no such authority ever has, ever can, or ever will be given to any man, and if any man has been guilty of any such thing, let him be treated with utter contempt, and let the curse of God fall on his head, and let him be turned out of Society as unworthy of a place among men, and denounced as the blackest and the most unprincipled wretch, and finally let him be damned.

We have been informed that some unprincipled men, whose names we will not mention at present, have been guilty of such crimes: we do not mention their names, not knowing but what there may be some among you who are not sufficiently skilled in Masonry as to keep a secret; therefore suffice it to say there are those, and we therefore warn you and forewarn you in the name of the Lord to check and destroy any faith that any innocent person may have in any such character, for we don’t want anybody to believe anything as coming from us contrary to the old established morals and virtues and scriptural laws regulating the habits customs and conduct of Society, unless it be by message delivered to you by our own mouth, by actual revelation and commandment.

And all persons pretending to be authorized by us, or having any permit or sanction from us, are and will be liars and base impostors and you are authorized on the very first intimation of the kind to denounce them as such shun them as the fiery flying serpents, whether they are Prophets, Seers, or Revelators, Patriarchs, Twelve Apostles, Elders, Priests, Mayors, Generals, City Council, Alderman, Marshall, Police, Lord Mayor or the Devil, are alike culpable. and shall be damned for such evil practices; and if you yourselves adhere to any thing of the kind, you also shall be damned.

Now beloved Sisters, do not believe for a moment that we wish to impose upon you; we actually do know that such things have existed in the church, and are sorry that we are obliged to make mention of any such thing, and we want a stop put to them. And we want you to do your part, and we will do ours, for we wish to keep the commandments of God in all things as given directly from heaven to us, living by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord.

May God add his blessings upon your head and lead you in all the paths of virtue, piety, and peace, that you may be an ornament unto those to whom you belong, and arise up and crown them with power and by so doing you shall be crowned with honor in heaven & shall sit upon thrones, judging them whom you are placed in authority  over in the world, and shall be judged of God for all the responsibilities that are conferred upon you.

At a more convenient and appropriate season we will give you further information upon this subject.

We are your humble servants in the bonds of the New and Everlasting Covenant. Let that epistle be had as a private matter in your society, and then we shall learn whether you are good Masons.

Joseph Smith, P. C. J. C. L.
B. Young, Prest. Twelve

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