Annotated JS letter to OC

Joseph Smith wrote this letter to Oliver Cowdery in October 1829. It is the oldest extant sample of Joseph's writing.

The letter demonstrates that Joseph was not only literate and articulate, but that he naturally incorporated terms and phrases from the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and other sources. The annotated version below shows that the biblical terms, non-biblical Book of Mormon terms, and non-scriptural terms all are found in the works of Jonathan Edwards, suggesting that Edwards could have been the source for all three categories of Joseph's lexicon.

Annotation of JS letter to OC Oct 1829

Joseph wrote the letter a few months after translating the Book of Mormon. The letter includes non-scriptural, sophisticated terms that he could not have learned from the translation process, suggesting Joseph’s lexicon was greater than would be expected of an ignorant, illiterate farm hand.

All of these terms, and most of the phrases, are found in Edwards.

Biblical terms in blue.

Non-biblical Book of Mormon/D&C terms in red.

Biblical Book of Mormon terms in purple.

Non-scriptural Edwardsian terms in green.

Respected[1] sir I would in form you[2] that I arrived at home on sunday morning the 4th. after having a prosperous journy,[3] and found all well the people are all friendly to <​us​> except a few who are in opposition[4] to evry thing unless it is something that is axactly like[5] themselves and two of our most formadable[6] persacutors[7] are now under censure[8] and are cited to a trial in the church for crimes which if true[9] are worse than all the Gold Book business. we do not rejoice[10] in the affliction of[11] our enimies[12] but we shall be glad to have truth prevail[13][.] there begins to be a great call[14] for our books in this country the minds of the people[15] are very much excited[16] when they find that there is a copy right obtained and that there is really books about to be printed I have bought a horse of Mr. [Josiah] Stowell and want some one to come after it as soon as convenient[17] Mr Stowell has a prospect[18] of[19] getting five or six hundred dollars he does not know certain that he can get it but he is a going[20] to try and if he can get the money he wants to pay it in immediately for books we want to hear from you and know how you prosper in the good work,[21] give our best respects to Father & Mother and all our brothers and Sisters to Mr. [Martin] Harris and all the company concerned tell them that our prayers are put up[22] daily for them that they may be prospered[23] in evry, good word and work[24] and that they may be preserved from sin[25] here and and from the consequen[c]e of sin[26] here after and now dear brother be faithful[27] in the discharge[28] of evry duty[29] looking for the reward of the righteous[30] and now may God of his infinite mercy[31] keep an<​d​> preserve[32] us spotless[33] untill his coming and receive us all to rest with him[34] in eternal repose[35] through the attonement[36] of Christ[37] our Lord Amen

Joseph Smith Jr

[1] “respected” OT (1) [Lamen. 4:16] JE (132)

[2] “I would inform you” JE (9)

[3] “prosperous journey” NT (1) [Rom 1:10] JE (1)

[4] “in opposition” BM (2) JE (480)

[5] “exactly like” JE (10) “one thing's being exactly like another”

[6] “formidable” JE (35 “Formidable enemies”

[7] “persecutors” OT (8) JE (162)

[8] “under censure” JE 1808, censure 52x; e.g., “should not be under censure

[9] “which if true” JE (2)

[10] “do not rejoice” JE (1)

[11] “affliction of” OT (7) NT (1) JE (31); “afflictions of” OT (1) NT (2) BM (7) JE (44) “delivered from persecutors and all the enemies and afflictions of this world”

[12] “our enemies” OT (16) NT (2) BM (17) DC (1) JE (177)

[13] “truth prevail” JE (1)

[14] “great call” BM (1) [Alma 28:14 “we see the great call of diligence”] JE (2) [“Christ in that great call and invitation”]

[15] “minds of the people” BM (3) DC (1) PGP (1) JE (17)

[16] “much excited” JE (2) [Brainerd]

[17] “convenient” OT (3) NT (6) PGP (1) [JS-H] JE (265)

[18] “prospect” OT (6) JE (416)

[19] “prospect of” JE (237) “when there is a fair Prospect of Getting or avoiding a Loss”

[20] “a going” BM (1) “as I was a going thither” JE (27) “They are a - going a journey to heaven” “a man that is a going a Journey”

[21] “good work” OT (1) NT (12) JE (129)

[22] [Prayers put up] BM (2) JE (12) Mos. 4:22 “ye put up no petition” 3 Ne 3:25 “they did put up their prayers” Morm. 5:18 “the prayers of the righteous, which have been put up

JE: “at the same time to put up a prayer to God” “It is best to be careful in prayer, not to put up those petitions” “God should hear any of the prayers which you put up to him” “heard and would answer the prayer that was put up” “A prayer that is put up after this manner” “God's people to put up prayers”” a prayer that he put up as our high priest”

[23] “be prospered” JE (4) “they are in the way to be prospered in their outward affairs”

[24] “good word and work” NT (1) JE (2) [quoting 2 Thes. 2:17]

[25] “preserved from sin” JE (2)

[26] “consequence of sin” JE (9)

[27] See note below.

[28] “discharge” OT (1) DC (2) JE (67)

[29] Discharge of duty (all forms) DC (1) JE (8). DC 103:1 (1834) “act in the discharge of your duties” JE: “we discharge the duty of good Christians” “God… exites us to the discharge of our duty” “a faithful discharge of any part of his duty”” engage them to a faithful Discharge of their Duty” “enable you to discharge your duty towards them more faithfully” “in order faithfully to Discharge his Duty”

[30] “reward of the righteous” JE (1) “How great, then, is the reward of the righteous , if they have such a great reward in the life to come, and so great a reward in this life into the bargain”

[31] “infinite mercy” BM (1) JE (96) Mos. 28:2 “the Lord saw fit in his infinite mercy to spare them” JE “seal of his Infinite mercy”” I feel some faint hopes that God will, of his infinite mercy, return again”

[32] “keep and preserve” JE (1) “may have God to keep and Preserve You”

[33] “spotless” BM (12) DC (2) JE (29)

[34] “rest with him” BM (1) Moro. 7:3 “rest with him in heaven” JE “welcomed by him to rest and to partake of glory with him

[35] “repose” JE (50) “the state of the blessed souls in heaven is not merely a state of repose”

[36] “through the atonement” BM (7) DC (1) PGP (1) JE: “through the atoning work” “through the incarnation and atonement of the Son” “through Christ’s redemption”

[37] “atonement of Christ” BM (4) PGP (1) JE (9)