Letter to Church Leaders in Eugene, Indiana, 2 July 1833
JS, , and , Letter with postscript by , , Geauga Co., OH, to “Dear Brethren,” [, IN], 2 July 1833. Retained copy, [ca. 2 July 1833], in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 54–56; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 1.
Like the preceding letter of the same date, the 2 July 1833 letter featured here pertains to disciplinary action taken against John Smith and his son in , Indiana. The Eugene of the was established in May 1832 in Vermillion County and consisted of approximately ninety members. In Eugene, a council, typically consisting of four to six , routinely held to instruct one another and, when necessary, to deliver disciplinary measures to those in their congregation. John Smith arrived in Eugene no later than 15 December 1832, joining his son Eden, who had been a member of the branch since at least 3 November 1832. John and Eden Smith took on positions of authority within the branch and soon encountered criticism for making unfounded accusations against church leaders. The letter featured below instructed the elders in Eugene concerning disciplinary measures against the Smiths.
Church leaders in both and , Ohio, apparently felt that John and needed to repent together “in all humility” before they could be held “in fellowship.” In a letter that has not been located, reported to the elders in Vermillion County that he and his counselors in Kirtland had stripped John Smith of his authority. On 3 June 1833, the elders of the Eugene branch wrote to regarding John Smith’s status in the church and apparently reported alleged infractions committed by Eden Smith. Five days later, John Smith wrote to JS regarding his own situation. JS and wrote to John on 2 July, the same day the letter featured here was written, requiring him and Eden to repent or be disciplined. They declared that John had no priesthood authority and that Eden was “confederate” with John in committing the transgressions.
In the 2 July letter featured here, JS and his counselors in the sanctioned the prior disciplinary action of the . They again emphasized that John Smith had transgressed and that he had no priesthood authority, and they also authorized the elders to convene a disciplinary hearing for . In a postscript to the letter, called for the elders to hold disciplinary councils for both Smiths, perhaps reiterating the counsel he had given in his earlier letter to them.
The presidency’s letter featured here, as well as their letter to John Smith, was apparently received before 13 July 1833, when the elders held a council regarding the membership of the Smiths, and it is probable that the council was held in response to this letter. At the meeting, the president of the council read aloud a letter from concerning John and , which may have been either Whitney’s postscript to the letter featured here or his earlier letter to Eugene regarding the Smiths. After the church voted to “cut off” John Smith, Eden appealed “to the Court Conserning his trial.” Branch records suggest, however, there were an insufficient number of high priests to hold a court in Eugene. The Eugene elders apparently forwent the appeal to the “high priest Court” and voted to cut off Eden as well. Eden was rebaptized on 27 August 1834 in Eugene by . It is unknown if John Smith ever reconciled with the church.
McLellin, William E. Journal, Apr.–June 1836. William E. McLellin, Papers, 1831–1836, 1877–1878. CHL. MS 13538, box 1, fd. 6. Also available as Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836 (Provo, UT: BYU Studies; Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).
Dear Brethren it is truly painful to be under the painful necessity of writing on a subject which engages our attention at this time viz the case of John Smith and his son. we have Just received a letter from you concerning their standing in the , we do not hold them in fellowship we would inform you that John Smith has been dealt with and his authority taken from him and you are required not to receive his teachings but to treat him as a transgressor until he repents and humbles himself before the Lord to the entire satisfaction of the Church and also you have authority to call a and sit in Judgment on s case and deal with him as the law directs we feel to rebuke the of that < of the> church of Christ for not magnifying their office and letting the transgressor go unpunished we therefore enjoin upon [p. 54]
According to branch records, the church leaders in Eugene dealt with a range of alleged misdeeds, which included intoxication, lying, cursing, and swearing. Examples of cases considered by the Eugene church leaders include the following: a man disguising his voice, taking a horse, and riding it to Springfield, Illinois, without permission; individuals arguing over ownership of a pig; and a woman “speaking aginst the Elders for she was in a bad spirit.” (Vermillion Branch, Conference Minutes, 10 and 17 Nov. 1832; 1 Jan. 1833; 14, 20, 23, and 27 Feb. 1833; 15 May 1833.)