Mormon history speaks to the substance of Freedom of Religion in America. Mormons were heavily persecuted for their beliefs and soon congregated in places such as Utah seeking reprieve. We’re pleased to offer this historic letter with superb content, written by JOSEPH SMITH III (1832-1914), the eldest son of JOSEPH SMITH JR., (1805-1844), the charismatic Vermont-born mystic who founded the Church of Latter Day Saints in 1830. Smith Jr. chose Smith III as his successor, but after Smith Jr.’s murder, Brigham Young assumed the presidency and the Church divided among Young’s followers, called Brighamites, and the Smith family.
In the 4 pp, 5 ½ x 8 ¾ ALS, Dec. 29, 1883, Smith III makes reference to incidents occurring during a tumultuous period in the Church’s history. He writes that the Brigamites are disgusted and speaks with concern about the anti-polygamic political raid and the Kelley-Braden debate.
Writing to Bro. E.L., possibly E.L. Kelley, a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ Ladder Day Saints, Smith III, writes on modified "Office of Board of Publication of the Church of Jesus Christ, Publishers, Booksellers, and Stationers" letterhead, signed "Yours in Bonds, J. Smith" at bottom right of last page. Stationery letterhead subtitles, originally printed "Plano, Ill." at center and "H.A. Stebbins, Business Manager" at extreme left, but both have been crossed out and replaced with "Lamoni, Iowa" and "Joseph Smith, Business Manager" respectively.
“Yours of 25 & 26th came in last
night. I believe you appreciate the dispute with [Clark] Braden. He is quite
well known by our brethren N.M. Reeder and J.W. Sherwood of this place. I send
you a statement by the latter. I do it that you may know something of the man’s
antecedents and views. For, if the
Church he represents is the Church of Christ,
possessing authority to act for Christ whence is it and by what rule is Clark Braden, an accredited servant of Christ. You will know what to do with it, if you need it; which you may not. If not, no harm is done. [Clark Braden debated many religions and challenged the authority of Joseph Smith, stating that the Book of Mormon was an illiterate work.] Bro. Blair [a Mormon missionary who served on the Council of the Twelve Apostles and then first counselor to Smith III] left yesterday for the Western Borders of Joseph’s land, via Colorado, where he goes by a letter from a number of dissatisfied Brigamites who have gone in there under Utah teaching but are disgusted and wished me to send someone to them, about a hundred of them, so stated the letter. We consulted together; and as a result, he left yesterday for the point. We hope largely from the effort. We talked about the discussion; but concluded that the matter was safe in your hands, the Lord being with you; without Him, no one could succeed, whoever he might be.
“You may be right in your estimate of the Utah situation at all events. Br Blair and I agreed that it was better for our cause if he nor I became identified or compromised in this present anti-polygamic, political raid. [The government was enacting laws against polygamy in 1883.] It was on this account he got away from Salt Lake at the time he did, a valid excuse being afforded him in the necessity of his…business…Some efforts were made to get him into the Liberal ring; but he evaded, first on one pretext and then another; but in order to keep out, he got away for the time till the rush of blood to the political head shall have subsided. In order that he might be away for a few weeks, we decided that the visit to the Colorado call, thence on to California to attend to some Church affairs there was opportune.
“Like you, I will not endorse the spirit of persecution so plainly cropping out in the political capital seedless. Our position is a better one and we cannot afford to compromise.
“I was in favor of the paper in Utah when first broached to me. The only thing I feared and now fear is the financial loss possible in it. Of that I am not in a position to say actively as I am not ‘in funds.’ Moral support is a good thing in its place…Robert Morris did once coin his moral support of the American cause into money; but mine can not be relied on to pan out in the market. But that is all foreign to the question. I am ready to give such a measure a hearty endorsement.
“Yours in Bonds
Letter has folds, light toning, as expected, but is in overall excellent condition.
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