“Church Receives Copies of Historical Documents,” Ensign, Apr. 1983, 79
Church Receives Copies of Historical Documents
Copies of five historical documents whose whereabouts were previously unknown have been given to the Church. These documents, dating from 1845 to 1847, originated in the period of Church history when the Saints were driven from Nauvoo, Illinois, and journeyed westward across the Great Plains. Copies were made available by collector Brent F. Ashworth. The copies are:
1. A document described in a marginal note as an “Agreement to leave Nauvoo” is in the handwriting of Parley P. Pratt. Dated “the evening of the twenty fourth day of Sept. 1845,” it is a notice to the citizens of the surrounding counties that the Saints intend to leave Nauvoo and move westward the following spring, “as soon as property can be disposed of.” It also appeals for an end to mob violence, so that the Saints might not be hindered in their preparations.
2. In mid-1845, a Major Warren, who had been commissioned by Governor Ford to enforce the peace, came to Nauvoo and rebuked President Brigham Young and Elder John Taylor for an alleged determination to resist the law. In this document, the major is reminded by Elder Taylor that he had been “shot nearly to pieces” under the so-called protection of the “law.”
3. The original of an important two-page letter from Parley P. Pratt to the westward-bound Saints, dated July 9, 1846, announces the need for 500 men to volunteer for the Mormon Battalion. It points to this call from the U.S. Army as a great blessing to the beleaguered Saints—an opportunity to obtain the means to go west beyond the reach of mob persecution and “lay a foundation for a territorial or state government, under the Constitution of the United States.” A facsimile of this letter was published in the Comprehensive History of the Church, 3:94–95.
4. A letter from Orson Hyde to John Taylor, also dated July 9, 1846, also appeals for Mormon Battalion volunteers and urges them to “give in their names to Capt. Allen” immediately.
5. Four pages written by John Taylor, dated “Antlantic Ocean on board the ship America for New Orleans, Feb 22, 1847,” are part of Elder Taylor’s first attempt to put in writing “an account of the circumstances that transpired a little time previous to the massacre of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage jail.” This record reaffirms that mob activity was rampant in the Nauvoo area just prior to the martyrdom: “men being whipped and shot at & … some being killed,” “upwards of one hundred & fifty housed were burned,” etc. A much expanded account was eventually published in the History of the Church, 3:54–127.
These documents add to the fund of source materials that help us understand this important era in Church history.