Letter from Joseph Smith to his Uncle Silas Smith
(Silas Smith is our Great Great Great Grandfather)
Kirtland Mills , Ohio , September 26, 1833.
Respected Uncle Silas: — It is with feelings of deep interest for the welfare of mankind, which fill my mind on the reflection that all were formed by the hand of Him who will call the same to give an impartial account of all their works on that great day to which you and myself, in common with them, are bound, that I take up my pen and seat myself in an attitude to address a few, though imperfect, lines to you for your perusal.
I have no doubt but that you will agree with me, that men will be held accountable for the things they have done, and not for the things they have not done. Or that all the light and intelligence communicated to them from their beneficent Creator, whether it is much or little, by the same they, in justice, will be judged. And that they are required to yield obedience, and improve upon that, and that only, which is given, for man is not to live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.
Seeing that the Lord has never given the world to understand, by anything heretofore revealed, that he had ceased forever to speak to his creatures, when sought unto in a proper manner, why should it be thought a thing incredible that he should be pleased to speak again in these last days for their salvation? Perhaps you may be surprised at this assertion, that I should say for the salvation of his creatures in these last days, since we have already in our possession a vast volume of his word, which he has previously given. But you will admit that the word spoken to Noah was not sufficient for Abraham, or it was not required of Abraham to leave the land of his nativity, and seek an inheritance in a strange country upon the word spoken to Noah, but for himself he obtained promises at the hand of the Lord, and walked in that perfection, that he was called the friend of God. Isaac, the promised seed, was not required to rest his hope alone upon the promises made to his father Abraham, but was privileged with the assurance of his approbation, in the sight of Heaven, by the direct voice of the Lord to him. If one man can live upon the revelations given to another, might I not with propriety ask, why the necessity, then, of the Lord's speaking to Isaac as he did, as is recorded in the twenty-sixth chapter of Genesis? For the Lord there repeats, or rather, promises again to perform the oath which he had previously sworn to Abraham; and why this repetition to Isaac? Why was not the first promise as sure for Isaac as it was for Abraham? Was not Isaac Abraham's son? And could he not place implicit confidence in the veracity of his father as being a man of God? Perhaps you may say that he was a very peculiar man, and different from men in these last days, consequently, the Lord favored him with blessings, peculiar and different, as he was different from men of this age. I admit that he was a peculiar man, and was not only peculiarly blessed, but greatly blessed. But all the peculiarity that I can discover in the man, or all the difference between him and men in this age, is, that he was more holy and more perfect before God, and came to him with a purer heart, and more faith than men in this day.
This same might be said on the subject of Jacob's history. Why was it that the Lord spake to him concerning the same promise, after he had made it once to Abraham, and renewed it to Isaac? Why could not Jacob rest contented upon the word spoken to his fathers? When the time of the promise drew nigh for the deliverance of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt , why was it necessary that the Lord should begin to speak to them? The promise or word to Abraham, was, that his seed should serve in bondage, and be afflicted, four hundred years, and after that they should come out with great substance. Why did they not rely upon this promise, and when they had remained in Egypt , in bondage, four hundred years, come out, without waiting for further revelations, but act entirely upon the promise given to Abraham, that they should come out?
Paul said to his Hebrew brethren, that God being more abundantly willing to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, he confirmed it by an oath. He also exhorts them, who, through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Notwithstanding, we (said Paul) have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us, which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast and which entereth into that within the veil, yet he was careful to press upon them the necessity of continuing on until they, as well as those who then inherited the promises, might have the assurance of their salvation confirmed to them by an oath from the mouth of him who could not lie; for that seemed to be the example anciently, and Paul holds it out to his Hebrew brethren as an object attainable in his day. And why not? I admit that by reading the Scriptures of truth, the saints, in the days of Paul, could learn, beyond the power of contradiction, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had the promise of eternal life confirmed to them by an oath of the Lord, but that promise or oath was no assurance to them of their salvation; but they could, by walking in the footsteps, continuing in the faith of their fathers, obtain, for themselves, an oath for confirmation that they were meet to be partakers of the inheritance with the saints in light.
If the saints, in the days of the apostles, were privileged to take the saints for example, and lay hold of the same promises, and attain to the same exalted privileges of knowing that their names were written in the Lamb's Book of Life, and that they were sealed there as a perpetual memorial before the face of the Most High, will not the same faithfulness, the same purity of heart, and the faith, bring the same assurance of eternal life, and that in the same manner to the children of men now, in this age of the world? I have no doubt, but that the holy prophets, and apostles, and saints in ancient days were saved in the kingdom of God; neither do I doubt but that they held converse and communion with him while they were in the flesh, as Paul said to his Corinthian brethren, that the Lord Jesus showed himself to above five hundred saints at one time after his resurrection. Job said that he knew that his Redeemer lived, and that he should see him in the flesh in the latter days. I may believe that Enoch walked with God, and by faith was translated. I may believe that Noah was a perfect man in his generation, and also walked with God. I may believe that Abraham communed with God, and conversed with angels. I may believe that Isaac obtained a renewal of the covenant made to Abraham by the direct voice of the Lord. I may believe that Jacob conversed with holy angels, and heard the word of his Maker, that he wrestled with the angel until he prevailed, and obtained a blessing. I may believe that Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire with fiery horses. I may believe that the saints saw the Lord, and conversed with him face to face after his resurrection. I may believe that the Hebrew church came to Mount Zion , and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem , and to an innumerable company of angels. I may believe that they looked into eternity, and saw the Judge of all, and Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant. But will all this purchase an assurance for me, and waft me to the regions of eternal day, with my garments spotless, pure and white? Or, must I not rather obtain for myself, by my own faith and diligence in keeping the commandments of the Lord, an assurance of salvation for myself? And have I not an equal privilege with the ancient saints? And will not the Lord hear my prayers, and listen to my cries as soon as he ever did theirs, if I come to him in the manner they did? Or, is he a respecter of persons?
I must now close this subject for the want of time; and, I may say, with propriety, at the beginning. We would be pleased to see you in Kirtland; and more pleased to have you embrace the New Covenant.
I remain, yours affectionately,
Joseph Smith, Jun.
Post note: Lucy Smith recorded in her Early Notebook that sometime in 1836 (after this letter from Joseph to Silas) “the Lord gave Hyrum Smith a revelation commanding him to visit his Uncle Silas, for he was ready to be baptized... When he found him he said, ‘Uncle Silas... the Lord has sent me to baptize you, for the Lord has seen the integrity of your heart but knows your fears with regard to your family, but you need not suffer any anxiety about them, for if you embrace the gospel it will be the means of saving them.' He answered that he had no doubt of the truth of the work and the only thing that hindered him from embracing it was that he was afraid that his family would be so much opposed to it that it would ruin his peace. However, upon receiving this message he was baptized, but through much tribulation, being much opposed by his neighbors as well as his own family.” (Early Notebook, pp. 41-42.)