Mormon History, April 1849

First Epistle from Salt Lake City-- For the date tentatively assigned to this First General Epistle of the First Presidency . . . to the Saints scattered throughout the earth . . . see the notes for the previous two documents. The numbering of this Epistle as the First General Epistle began a practice of the First Presidency of Brigham Young which continued for a number of years. The Second General Epistle was dated October 12, 1849; the Third General Epistle, April 12, 1850; the Fourth General Epistle, September 29, 1850, and so on at irregular intervals until by December 10, 1856, fourteen such General Epistles of the First Presidency had been issued.
The First General Epistle is a review of L.D.S. Church history from the General Epistle of the Twelve Apostles of December 23 1847, to the date of the present Epistle.
FIRST GENERAL EPISTLE of The First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from the Great Salt Lake Valley, to the Saints scattered throughout the Earth-Greeting:-
Beloved Brethren-Since the General Epistle of the Twelve Apostles, from Winter Quarters, December 23, 1847, many events have transpired, interesting in their nature as pertaining to the advancement of the church preparatory to the coming of the Son of Man; and we cheerfully improve this, the earliest opportunity, to communicate to you a brief history of these events, together with such counsel as the Holy Spirit shall indite.
The winter and spring of 1848 were diligently improved by many of the apostles and elders, in visiting the churches and brethren in different parts of the States counselling and setting in order the things of the kingdom, and in endeavouring to procure means for the removal of the church at Winter Quarters to the Great Salt Lake City; but, although some of the Saints were liberal according to their ability, yet there was not sufficient collected to defray the expenses which the presidency had previously incurred in searching out a new location and other similar operations for the benefit of the church, without rendering them any assistance for their contemplated journey, which was finally facilitated by the loan of team, &c., by the brethren on Pottowatamie lands, and friends in and about camp.
The general conference, on the 6th of April, 1848, held at the Log Tabernacle, in Iowa, unanimously acknowledged brother Brigham Young to be the president and Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards his counsellors; the three constituting a quorum of the first presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Brothers Young and Kimball left Winter Quarters in May, and brother Richards in July, with large emigrating companies for this place, where they arrived in September and October, and found the Saints enjoying almost universal health. Elder Amasa Lyman also accompanied this camp, and about the same time Elder Orson Pratt left Winter Quarters for England, Elder Woodruff took his departure for Canada, and Elders Hyde, George A. Smith, and Ezra T. Benson, located with the Saints on Pottowatamie lands. Brother Richards left Winter Quarters entirely vacated; many of our cattle having been destroyed by the Indians, and many horses stolen on both sides of the river. A portion of brother Kimball's camp was fired upon at the Elk Horn river by a band of the Ottoes and Omahas, and three of the brethren were wounded, two of whom are maimed for life.
On the 30th of November we received a Mail from Kanesville, Iowa, by the hand of Capt. Allen Compton and three other brethren, giving us the cheering intelligence that many of the Saints who were unable to proceed further on their journey, had settled in various parts of Pottowatamie country, and had been exceedingly blest in raising grain, esculent roots, vegetables, flocks and herds, and in preparation generally for future emigration, and that union and brotherly love prevailed.
By the same Mail we also learned that the unparalleled prosperity of the work had increased the church in England, and the British dominions adjacent, more than 7,000 souls during the previous year; while the power of God, with the power of the devil opposing, had been made manifest, as in days of old, to the great joy of the Saints.
Lyman Wight's manifesto was received at the same time, which clearly demonstrated to the Saints that he was not one with us, consequently the Church dis-fellowshipped him, and all who shall continue to follow him.
On our arrival in this valley, we found the brethren had erected four forts, composed mostly of houses, including an area of about forty-seven acres, and numbering about 5,000 souls, including our camp. The brethren had succeeded in sowing and planting an extensive variety of seeds, at all seasons, from January to July, on a farm about twelve miles in length, and from one to six in width, including the city plot. Most of their early crops were destroyed, in the month of May, by crickets and frost, which continued occasionally until June; while the latter harvest was injured by drought and frost, which commenced its injuries about the 10th of October, and by the out-breaking of herds of cattle. The brethren were not sufficiently numerous to fight the crickets, irrigate the crops, and fence the farm of their extensive planting, consequently they suffered heavy losses; though the experiment of last year is sufficient to prove that valuable crops may be raised in this valley by an attentive and judicious management.
The winter of 1847-8 was very mild, grass abundant, flocks and herds thriving thereon, and the earth tillable most of the time during each month; but the winter of 1848-9 has been very different, more like a severe New England winter. Excessive cold commenced on the 1st of December, and continued till the latter part of February. Snow storms were frequent, and though there were several thaws, the earth was not without snow during that period, varying from one to three feet in depth, both in time and places. The coldest day of the past winter was the 5th of February, the mercury falling 33 degrees below freezing point, and the warmest day was Sunday, the 25th of February, mercury rising to 21 degrees above freezing point, Fahrenheit. Violent and contrary winds have been frequent. The snow on the surrounding mountains has been much deeper, which has made the wood very difficult of access; while the cattle have become so poor, through fasting and scanty fare, that it has been difficult to draw the necessary fuel, and many have had to suffer more or less from the want thereof. The winter commenced at an unusual and unexpected moment, and found many of the brethren without houses or fuel, and although there has been considerable suffering, there has been no death by the frost. Three attempts have been made by the brethren with pack animals or snow shoes to visit Fort Bridger, since the snow fell, but have failed; yet it is expected that Compton will be able to take the Mail east soon after April Conference.
In the former part of February, the Bishops took an inventory of the breadstuff in the valley, when it was reported that there was little more than three-fourths of a pound per day for each soul, until the fifth of July; and considerable was known to exist which was not reported. As a natural consequence, some were nearly destitute while others had abundance. The common price of corn since harvest has been two dollars; some have sold for three; at present there is none in the market at any price. Wheat has ranged from four to five dollars, and potatoes from six to twenty dollars per bushel; and though not to be bought at present, it is expected that there will be a good supply for seed by another year.
Our public works are prosperous, consisting of a council house, 45 feet square, two stories, building by tithing; also a bridge across the Western Jordan, at an expense of 700 dollars, and six or seven bridges across minor streams, to be paid by a one per cent property tax; also, a bath-house at the warm spring.
A field of about 8000 acres has been surveyed south of and bordering on the city, and plotted in five and ten acre lots, and a church f
arm of about 800 acres. The five and ten-acre lots were distributed to the brethren, by casting lots, and every man is to help to build a pole, ditch, or a stone fence as shall be most convenient around the whole field, in proportion to the land he draws; also, a canal on the east side, for the purpose of irrigation. There are three grist mills, and five or six saw mills in operation, and several more in contemplation. Mill stone, equal, to French burr, is found here.
The location of a tanner and foundry are contemplated as soon as the snows leave the mountains.
The forts are rapidly breaking up, by the removal of the houses on to the city lots; and the city is already assuming the appearance of years, for any ordinary country; such is the industry and perseverance of the Saints.
A winter's hunt, by rival parties of one hundred men each, has destroyed about 700 wolves and foxes, 2 wolverines, 20 minx and pole cats, 500 hawks, owls, and magpies, and 1000 ravens, in this valley and vicinity.
On the return of a portion of the "Mormon Battalion" through the northern part of Western California, they discovered an extensive gold mine, which enabled them by a few days delay to bring a sufficient of the dust to make money plentiful in this place for all ordinary purposes of public convenience; in the exchange the brethren deposited the gold dust with the presidency, who issued bills or a paper currency; and the "Kirtland Safety Fund re-signed, is on par with gold.
Elder Addison Pratt arrived in company with a part of the battalion on the 28th of September, 1848, and found his family in health, from whom he had been absent about five years, on a mission to the Society Islands where have been baptized about 1200 souls; Elder Grouard, who still remains at the islands, having baptized about 620 at Aua. The confidence of these native Saints is very great in the work of the Lord, and they seek for counsel in all their ways, insomuch that Elder Grouard's labors became insupportable, and caused him to risk a voyage of 300 miles in an open boat, to bring brother Pratt to his assistance; and although he was shipwrecked on this voyage, yet he was prospered, was taken up by a passing vessel, accomplished his mission and returned to Aua with brother Pratt; thus by the labors of Elder Rogers, who returned and died some two years since, and Elders Pratt and Gronard, the gospel has been planted on some twelve or fifteen of the Western Islands.
On the 1st of January, John Smith, uncle to the prophet, Joseph Smith, was ordained patriarch to the church, holding the keys and powers thereof, the same as Father Joseph Smith and Hyrum.
On the 12th of February, Charles C. Rich, Lorenzo Snow, Erastus Snow, and Franklin D. Richards were ordained members of the quorum of the twelve apostles to fill the vacancies occasioned by the removal of three to the first Presidency, and Lyman Wight, disfellowshipped. The names of the members of the Twelve Apostles, now are, in their order, as follows:-
Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, George A. Smith, Amasa Lyman, Ezra T. Benson, Charles C. Rich, Lorenzo Snow, Erastus Snow, and Franklin D. Richards.
Of the Presidency of the Seventies, Zera Pulsifer, Levi W. Hanccok, Jedediah M. Grant, and Henry Herriman are in this valley. Joseph Young and Benjamin L. Clapp are in Pottawatomie country and Albert C. Rockwood is on a mission to the Eastern States. Joseph Young is the presiding officer of the Seventies.
Immediately after filling the quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the first presidency assisted by the twelve present in the valley, proceeded to organize a stake of Zion at the Great Salt Lake City; Daniel Spencer, president, and David Fulmer and Willard Snow, counsellors.
The High Council consists of Isaac Morley, Phineas Richards, Shadrach Roundy, Henry G. Sherwood, Titus Sittings, Eleazer Miller, John Vance, Levi Jackman, Ira Eldridge, Elisha H. Groves, William W. Major, and Edwin D. Woolley.
John Young is president of the high priests' quorum, with Counsellors Reynolds and George B. Wallace.
John Nebeker is president of the elders' quorum, with counsellors James H. Smith and Aaron Savey.
The valley is settled for twenty miles south and forty miles north of the city. The city is divided into nineteen wards; the country south into three wards, and north three wards, and over each is ordained a bishop, with his counsellors, with Newell K. Whitney, president of the bishops' quorum, presiding who has been instructed to set in order all the lesser officers.
About thirty of the brethren have recently gone to the Utah Valley, about sixty miles south, to establish a small colony for agricultural purposes, and fishing, hoping thereby to lessen the call for beef, which at the present time is rather scarce, at an average of seven and eight cents per pound, but will improve with the vegetation.
The wards of the city, generally, consist of nine blocks, each three squares, and each ward will be fenced by itself this season, on the plan of a big field, for the purpose of saving time for cultivation.
In consequence of Indian depradations on our horses, cattle, and other property, and the wicked conduct of a few base fellows who came among the Saints, the inhabitants of this valley, as is common in new countries generally, have organized a temporary government, to exist during its necessity, or until we can obtain a charter for a territorial government, a petition for which is already in progress.
There have been a large number of schools the past winter, in which the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, German, Tahitian, and English languages have been taught successfully.
Last fall the brethren had liberty to cut all the timber within thirty miles of the city, provided they would haul it into the city in the course of the winter. They have been diligent and done the best they could, but have made but a small beginning towards securing what there is within fifteen miles.
The month of March and April, to the 4th, was very mild and pleasant, and many small crickets have made their appearance, but large flocks of plover have already come among them, and are making heavy inroads in their ranks.
For the future it is not wisdom for the Saints to leave the States or California for this place, unless they have team and means sufficient to come through without any assistance from the valley; and that they should bring breadstuffs sufficient to last them a few months after their arrival; for the harvest will not be gathered, or the grain ready for gathering. The inhabitants of the valley will be altogether dependent on the crop of this season for their support, and will have no time to leave their tillage with their teams to bring in emigrating camps as they have hitherto done. Beside, quite a number of men, professors and unprofessors, whose God shines best in gold, have left, and are about leaving, for the gold mines, to spend the season: the natural consequence of which will be a decrease of labor here in raising grain, while, many of their families remaining, the number of consumers will not decrease in proportion to the laborers. There are an abundance of nutritious roots in this valley, so that we have no fears of starvation; yet all the time that is expended in digging for roots will diminish the agricultural labour, and be a loss to the next harvest.
The scarcity of grain since the settling of this valley has caused the slaughter of a multitude of cattle, which leaves room for a fresh supply as fast as opportunity shall present; and the emigrating brethren will do well to remember that they are liable to lose many on their journey; also their cattle are good property after their arrival, and there is no fear to their bringing too many cows, young cattle, sheep, oxen, or the choicest breed of stock of any kind, to this place; for any of these articles are better here than gold, for they will purchase what is to be purchased here when gold will not do it; as will also geese, ducks, turkeys, pea-fowls, guinea-hens, domestics, dry goods, groceries, window-glass, nails, (mostly 6, 8, 10, shingle, and a fe
w four-penny,) cotton yarn, a variety of dye stuffs, particularly dye setts, paints, gum myrrh, copal and shellac, spirits of turpentine, paper, books, saws, files, screws and sheet tin of the best quality, hardware, cutlery, iron suitable for mills and all kinds of farming utensils, sligo sheet iron, steel of various kinds, copper and brass sheeting, crockery, glasses, looking-glasses, shoe leather, harnesses, harness trimming, mill saws, mechanics' tools, wire of various sizes, door locks and trimmings, cupboard and padlocks, all of which are better than cash in this city. Crockery and glass of any description had better be packed in cotton for safe conveyance, and the cotton will be very useful here. A variety of shoe lather is particularly wanted this season, and a large amount.
There are an extensive variety of grain and seeds already in the valley, but that should not prevent the Saints from bringing choice seeds from any part of the earth, for every thing good that can grow here is wanted; and a large amount of the Osage orange, Cherokee rose tree, and English hawthorn seeds are needed this year for hedges, and the potato, or hill onion, for eating; also lobelia, mulberry, and black locust seed. Any amount of unadulterated silesia, or French beet seed, would be useful here this season.
The brethren in Pottowatamie, who cannot fit themselves out this season as we have suggested, will do well to continue where they are, striving for the same object the next year; and the Saints in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Africa, will continue to gather on the Pottowatamie lands, and prepare for their future journey agreeable to our previous instruction. Notwithstanding, if there are young or single men, or men of families, (who can leave them comfortably provided for to come on next season,) who can be spared from Pottowatamie, to come on here this season, and raise grain, build houses, &c., it would be well for them to come; for one such man here can do more, in providing for the future arrival and wants of the Saints, than three can in tarrying in Iowa; but if they have a golden god in their hearts, they had better stay where they are. Let all these things be decided in wisdom by the council which is among you.
The Twelve at Pottowatamie will see that copies of this epistle are forwarded to the Saints in all the Eastern nations.
Elder Amasa Lyman is delegated to carry this epistle to the Saints in Western California, and cause it to be circulated among the brethren in the western hemisphere as far as possible; not forgetting the Society Islands, whither Elder Addison Pratt, with his family, and other elders, are expecting to repair the present season.
We would remind the Saints in Western California, who are not coming hither this season, that they have it in their power to do much good, by forwarding to this place their tithing and donations, to the extent of their ability; and the more liberal they are in this thing, this season, the more they will have to bring with them when they come; for their offerings are now needed by the poor Saints, and the Lord has put it in your power to help them, and your stewardship will be required at your hands; and as you give, so it will be given unto you.
Several elders have already received their appointment on foreign missions, to the Western Islands, England, and various nations, but wisdom dictates that their labors be retained here, at least until after the approaching harvest.
Brother Parley P. Pratt and John Taylor, as well as Amasa Lyman and those of the Twelve recently ordained, are in this place, and are labouring night and day to do good to the church and locate their families comfortably, so that they can again have the privilege of going forth to the nations and preaching the gospel. If the Saints abroad want to see the elders from this place, let them send us their means according to their ability, that the hands of the faithful may be let loose; that the cords with which they are bound may be severed, and that the elders of Israel may feel themselves free as air, and with joyful hearts leave their families and kindred and all that is dear to them here, and soar away as on eagles' wings to the nations, proclaim the gospel of salvation, the day of deliverance to the oppressed; gather the outcasts of Judah and the remnants of Ephraim from the four winds to the place of their inheritance; that Zion may be built up, Jerusalem reestablished, and the glory of the latter day fill the earth.
We have often told the Saints that those who come to this place should be fully determined to keep the commandments of God and work righteousness, otherwise they could not expect the blessing of heaven to rest upon them; for there is nothing here which need to hinder any man from doing right; and knowing as we do the temptations and designs of the enemy of all good in endeavouring to lead men astray from the path of duty, we are constrained to say to the Saints, that those whose hearts are not fully set in them to work righteousness and follow the counsel of those whom God has appointed to lead His people in these last days, but those who love a little shining dust, or filthy lucre, and care more to gratify their own covetous propensities, by running hither and thither after they have arrived at this place, like the wind upon the mountains, they had better keep away; such Saints are not wanted here: God has no use for them, neither have his servants; for the kingdom of heaven can easier be built up without them than with them.
The Saints need not suppose that, because they cannot all gather to this stake of Zion at the present time, there is nothing for them to do. Let the elders preach the gospel everywhere, as they have the opportunity, and let all Saints everywhere watch and pray without ceasing, lest they be found sleeping, as at midnight, and the bridegroom should make his appearance and close the door against them; for there never has been a time, since the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, when there has been a wider field opened for the exercise of faith and good works, with a prospect of success therein, than at the present.
The public buildings and other public works necessary for establishing a stake of Zion at this place, will require a great amount of means, besides labor and many materials, such as window-glass, nails, door trimmings and fixtures, fastenings, and trimmings of various descriptions will be wanted before they can be manufactured here; all of which will require means to purchase and transport. We have therefore appointed Elder Orson Hyde our agent in the United States generally, to receive and gather tithing and donations. We have also appointed Elder Wilford Woodruff our agent to receive and gather tithing and donations in Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and adjacent islands, as he shall have opportunity. We have also appointed Elder Orson Pratt, of Liverpool, our agent to receive and gather tithing and donations in England and the British Islands, and from all the Saints adjacent; and we invite all the Saints in the east to be faithful and diligent in making their remittances to these our agents, that we may speedily have means to procure such materials as are necessary to prosecute the work the Lord has given us to do; and our agents will keep an accurate and detailed account of all such tithing and donations, and appropriate the same only to our order.
On the 4th of April there was a heavy snow-storm in the valley, but the earth was clear again by mid-day of the 5th. Some rain on the 6th caused an adjournment of the annual conference of the church till the 7th, and the day was spent in preaching and teaching, and conference closed on Sabbath, P. M., having been attended by a large assembly of the Saints, who unanimously acknowledged the several officers mentioned in this epistle.
To Elder Parley P. Pratt has been assigned a mission to the Western Islands, whither he is expecting to go before another winter. It is also expected during the same period that Elder Charles C. Rich will enter on the mission assigned him, by locating himself and fa
mily somewhere in Western California.
That the Saints may be faithful in every good word and work, and be diligent in all things, and yet not by haste and waste, which bringeth destruction; and, inasmuch as they cannot be prepared to come to this place this season, let them be persevering in making preparation, and wait their time in patience, and it shall be well with them; for the Holy Spirit will dwell with them, which will cause gladness of heart and cheerfulness of countenance, so that every burden will be light and every yoke easy, which is the prayer of your brethren in the new and everlasting covenant, and your servants continually for Christ's sake. Amen. BRIGHAM YOUNG, HEBER C. KIMBALL WILLARD RICHARDS. {1849-April-MS 11:227-232 (August 1, 1849)(From the New York Herald, June 22, 1849.)}

[source: Clark, James R., Messages of the First Presidency (6 volumes)]

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