Doctrine and Covenants Study
Joseph Smith’s Revelations, Doctrine and Covenants 127

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“Doctrine and Covenants 127,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (2020)

“Doctrine and Covenants 127,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers

Doctrine and Covenants 127

Letter to “All the Saints in Nauvoo,” 1 September 1842

Source Note

JS, Letter, [Nauvoo, Hancock Co., IL], to “all the saints in Nauvoo,” Nauvoo, Hancock Co., IL, 1 Sept. 1842; handwriting of William Clayton; three pages; Revelations Collection, CHL. Includes address, docket, and notation. For more information, see the source note in JSP, D11:5.

Historical Introduction

On 1 September 1842, JS dictated to William Clayton a letter addressed to church members in Nauvoo, Illinois, informing them that he was planning to leave the city in order to evade arrest and extradition to Missouri. JS had been eluding officers seeking his arrest for most of August, primarily by concealing himself in private residences of friends in and near Nauvoo and just across the Mississippi River in Iowa Territory.1 On 24 August, Illinois governor Thomas Carlin wrote to Emma Smith indicating that he would not relent in his efforts to have JS arrested in order to resolve the extradition matter.2 Emma received that letter by 27 August, which may have been one reason for JS’s departure from Nauvoo.3

In this 1 September letter, JS urged church members in Nauvoo to remain faithful during periods of tribulation, assured them that his business affairs would be attended to by authorized representatives, and advised them that he would return when the attempts to arrest him had ended. JS also included in the letter the text of a revelation on baptisms for the dead. He had first taught the doctrine of baptizing individuals on behalf of their deceased relatives in August 1840.4 Latter-day Saints performed the first of such baptisms in the Mississippi River until the font in the basement of the unfinished Nauvoo temple was dedicated on 8 November 1841, after which the ordinance was performed almost exclusively in the font.5 The Saints recorded many, but not all, of these early baptisms for deceased individuals. In this letter, JS emphasized the importance of having a recorder witness each baptism.6 JS also informed the Saints that a number of additional revelations concerning the ordinance and other topics were forthcoming and promised that he would send additional instruction in future correspondence.7

Although JS discussed his plans to leave Nauvoo in the letter, he did not depart immediately. On 2 September, he heard that the sheriff of Adams County, Illinois, was coming to Nauvoo to arrest him. The next day, a deputy sheriff and two other men arrived at JS’s home, forcing JS to flee through the back door to the home of Newel K. Whitney. Later that night, JS moved to the home of Edward Hunter, accompanied by Erastus Derby.8 On 4 September, Derby apparently gave the letter to William Clayton, and it was subsequently read at a church meeting held in the grove of trees west of the temple construction site.9

The circumstances of this letter’s creation and the letter’s whereabouts in the days immediately after are not entirely clear. JS may have retained the original letter after Clayton helped him draft it on 1 September, bringing it with him into hiding until sending it to Clayton on 4 September. Alternately, just prior to the meeting at which the letter was read, JS may have sent Derby to retrieve it from a different location and deliver it to Clayton. In either scenario, it is unclear why the addressing to Clayton is in Clayton’s own handwriting. JS likely thought that the public reading of this letter would lead officers of the law still in the city to discontinue their search for JS in Nauvoo.10

Clayton noted in JS’s journal that when the letter “was read before the brethren it cheered their hearts and evidently had the effect of stimulating them and inspiring them with courage, and faithfulness.”11 Eliza R. Snow and Clayton copied the letter into JS’s journal.12 The letter was printed in the 15 September 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons and was later included with minor alterations in the 1844 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, which was prepared under JS’s direction.13

September 1st. 1842

To all the saints in Nauvoo

[1]Forasmuch as the Lord has revealed unto me that my enemies both of Mo [Missouri] & this State were again on the pursuit of me, and inasmuch as they pursue me without cause and have not the least shadow or coloring of justice or right on their side in the getting up of their prosecutions against me; and inasmuch as their pretensions are all founded in falsehood of the blackest die.14 I have thought it expedient and wisdom in me to leave the place for a short season for my own safety and the safety of this people.15 I would say to all those with whom I have business that I have left my affairs with agents and clerks who will transact all business in a prompt and proper manner and will see that all my debts are cancelled in due time, by turning out property or otherwise as the case may require, or as the circumstances may admit of.16 When I learn that the storm is fully blown over then I will return to you again. [2]And as for the perils which I am called to pass through17 they seem but a small thing to me, as the envy and wrath of man has been my common lot all the days of my life and for what cause it seems mysterious, unless I was ordained from before the foundation of the world for some good end, or bad as you may choose to call it. Judge ye for yourselves, God knoweth all these things wether it be good or bad, but nevertheless deep water is what I am wont to swim in, it all has become a second nature to me and I feel like Paul to glory in tribulation18 for unto this day has the God of my fathers [p. [1]] delivered me out of them all and will deliver me from henceforth for behold and lo I shall triumph over all my enemies for the Lord God hath spoken it.19

[3]Let all the saints rejoice therefore and be exceeding glad for Israels God is their God and he will meet [mete] out a just recompense of reward upon the heads of all your oppressors. [4]And again verily thus saith the Lord let the work of my Temple and all the works which I have appointed unto you be continued on and not cease;20 and let your diligence and your perseverance and patience and your works be redoubled, and you shall in no wise lose your reward21 saith the Lord of Hosts. And if they persecute you so persecuted they the prophets and righteous men that were before you; for all this there is a reward in heaven.22

[5]And again I give unto you a word in relation to the Baptism for your dead. [6]Verily thus saith the Lord unto you concerning your dead when any of you are baptised for your dead let there be a recorder, and let him be eyewitness of your baptisms; let him hear with his ears that he may testify of a truth, saith the Lord; [7]that in all your recordings it may be recorded in Heaven, that whatsoever you bind on earth may be bound in heaven; whatsoever you loose on earth may be loosed in heaven;23 [8]for I am about to restore many things to the Earth, pertaining to the Priesthood24 saith the Lord of Hosts. [9]And again let all the Records be had in order, that they may be put in the archives of my Holy Temple to be held in remembrance from generation to generation saith the Lord of Hosts [p. [2]]

[10]I will say to all the saints that I desired with exceeding great desire to have addressed them from the stand on the subject of Baptism for the dead on the following sabbath but inasmuch as it is out of my power to do so I will write the word of the Lord from time to time on that subject and send it you by mail as well as many other things.—

[11]I now close my letter for the present for the want of more time, for the enemy is on the alert and as the saviour said the prince of this world cometh but he hath nothing in me.25 [12]Behold my prayer to God is that you all may be saved and I subscribe myself your servant in the Lord, prophet and seer of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Joseph Smith [1/2 page blank] [p. [3]]


Mr W[illiam] Clayton


Hancock Co


In Favor [p. [4]]