Letter to the Church in Thompson, Ohio, 6 February 1833
JS, , and , Letter, , Geauga Co., OH, to “the Church of Christ in Thompson,” , Geauga Co., OH, 6 Feb. 1833. Retained copy, [ca. 6 Feb. 1833], in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 25–26; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 1.
As membership of the church increased in , JS and his counselors assigned to lead congregations established in areas outside of , including the township of . Approximately sixteen miles northeast of Kirtland, Thompson was one of the first areas where church members settled after moving from to Ohio. In the letter featured here, JS and his counselors in the announced that had been appointed to preside over the church in Thompson. They also gave general directions to the church members living there.
When JS arrived in in February 1831, , a converted Shaker and owner of a large parcel of property in , offered to let church members live on his land and to build houses for them. JS declined, but in May a group of members from the vicinity of , New York, accepted Copley’s offer and settled on his farm. That same month, after a failed mission to convert his former associates among the Shaker community in North Union, Ohio, Copley rescinded his offer and demanded that church members leave his land. The group from Colesville, following the directions given in a revelation to JS, moved to , Missouri. Since Copley had become estranged from the church, this exodus in 1831 removed any known presence of the from Thompson. It is unclear when a congregation of the church was again established in Thompson, but by 3 August 1832, missionary was again referring to Leman Copley as “brother Copley” and holding church meetings at Copley’s home. Several people were in Thompson in late 1832. Coltrin, for instance, noted in his journal several preaching engagements and multiple baptisms in Thompson that fall, and on 24 December 1832, wrote to members of the church in that had “returned from Thompson, Ohio, where he has baptized twenty-three.”
The growth of the church in apparently prompted JS and his counselors to an and appoint him to preside over the local branch. Gee had already been holding church meetings at his home in Madison, Ohio, a few miles north of Thompson, as early as October 1832. At a held in on 4 February 1833, he was ordained an elder by and appointed to lead the congregation in Thompson. The 6 February letter featured here was carried by Gee to his new congregants and served as his official introduction to them.
According to the letter, part of ’s new responsibility was to keep members away from “evil spirits,” likely referring to the ongoing difficulty in that involved members exhibiting spiritual manifestations that JS deemed inappropriate. Though multiple revelations outlined the differences between proper and improper spiritual manifestations, the new converts in continued to exhibit these unacceptable manifestations. Only days after JS and his counselors sent this letter, , a who had baptized many in Thompson, wrote a letter concerning “evil spirits” to Gee and his congregation. In his letter, Murdock used his own experiences with what he deemed legitimate spiritual gifts to contrast the unacceptable actions of some Thompson members, especially those of , who apparently opposed Gee’s appointment as the new local leader.
The letter featured here may also reflect JS’s recent work revising the New Testament. Four days before this letter was written, wrote in Minute Book 1, “This day completed the translation and the reviewing of the New testament and sealed up no more to be brokin till it goes to Zion.” While many of JS’s letters incorporate phrases found in the New Testament, this letter relies particularly heavily on New Testament language, suggesting it was influenced by JS’s recent revision of the .
Murdock explained that he had been able “to speak the praises of God and the mysteries of the kingdom in other tonges according to promise and this without throwing me down or wallowing me on the ground or any thing unbecoming or immoral . . . so that I know that those odd actions and strange noises is not caused by the spirit of the Lord as is represented by brothe[r] King therefore in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by the spirit of the Living God, according to the authority of the holy Priesthood commited to me I command Brother Thomas King (as though I were present) to cease from your diabolical acts of in thusiasm and also from acting as an Elder . . . [and] to submit and let brother Gee be upheld by the prayer of faith of every brother & sister and if there be this union of spirit & prayer of faith, evry false spirit shall be bound and cast out from among you.” (John Murdock, Kirtland, OH, to Salmon Gee, Thompson, OH, 11 Feb. 1833, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 26–27.)
JS Letterbook 1 / Smith, Joseph. “Letter Book A,” 1832–1835. Joseph Smith Collection. CHL. MS 155, box 2, fd. 1.
We salute you by this our Epistle in the bonds of Love rejoicing in your steadfastness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus our Lord and we desire your prosperity in the ways of truth and righteousness in the bowels of Jesus Christ praying for you continually that your faith fail not and that you may overcome all the evils with which you are surrounded and become pure and holy before God even our father to whom be glory for and ever and ever Amen
It has seemed good unto the holy spirit and unto us to send this our epistle to you by the hand of our beloved broth[e]r your messinger who has been by us in obedience to the of God to the office of to preside over the Church in taking the oversight thereof to Lead you & to teach the thing[s] which are according to Godliness in whom we have great confidence as we presume also you we therefore say to you yea not us only but the Lord also receive you him as such knowing that the lord has appointed him to this office for your good holding him up by your prayers [p. 25]