First news about BAPTISM FOR THE DEAD

Wilford Woodruff learned of the doctrine of baptism for the dead from his wife Phebe when he received the following letter in December 1840:

Lee County Iowa Territory, Sept. 6 1840
Oct. 6th
My Dear Companion
Today I came down to the Hardy settlement and there I received a letter from you which I have long looked for, it afforded the pleasing if your healthintelligence of your health and prosperity in the gospel and many kind words to the children & the former I was much pleased to hear but the latter even those to Sarah Emma were like daggers to my heart thinking She was torn from my embrace and laid in the silent grave when she could not receive a kiss for her pa or a fathers blessing but just previous to the departure of her spirit from her body, she left a kiss with me for her pa/ pa, whome ^she^ called many times in day the little dear was not permitted to see you after you left her in her little carriage at brother hardy’s door. I often think of her traveling from Maine with us through that toilsome journey and of her suffering with me in my cold house in Lovely street when we were both sick, and suffered much for want of wood & fire I could not sit up all day and was very feeble and alone she was sick & had to crawl about on the cold floor alone these things grieve me, but she has gone, her deposition was to lovely to long remaine long on the earth her spirit to pure to mingle with the spirits of the earth a more affectionate kind and lovely disposition never inhabited a human brest that she possessed & I was anxious for the time to come that I could teach her the things of the Kingdom of God.

[On the right hand side of the letter] On the 15th I received another letter dated July 8, which also gave pleasing inteligence of your health and prosperity and also of the brethren you are with. The friends flock around to hear your letters and seam much interested in them. I send them to Joseph to read, as he wants to see them. Perhaps you may think that I have forgotten to tell you anything about our little Willford Owen, O no, for he is now in my lap pulling & scratching round so that I can hardly write. He has just torn up the almanac before I saw what he was doing, he grows finely considering the sickness he has had, has been sick much of the time since he was born, he has the chills & fever now. He is now reaching and trying to get my pen I will give it him and see what he will write. [In Wilford Jr.’s handwriting] Dear pa pa do come home and see me I want to see you Dear wants to you to, she after cries about it. W. O. Woodruff. Thus he has written some to his pa pa himself theythe it is said that fools and children tell the truth – enough of this  – I have thought of not writing to you any more for two reasons one is I fear that you will not get them and another is I heard that our letters were opened before you get them by a set of men, but I trust your good sense will cause you not to have my weak letters exposed for they are designed for no eye but yours. I have received all the letters you mentioned haveing written and they have afforded me much satisfaction, & some times I get quite lonely and disconsolate then this reception of a letter cheers me up and I live hopeing that the time will come that you may be returned home once more, this is the 8th letter I have sent you since you have been in Eng paid the postage on them to N.Y. I regret verry much that you do not get more of them. My health is comfortably good – I was verry glad yours was so good; We hear that brother P. P. Pratt has taken his family to Eng. But brother Joseph does not approve of it, I hear.  When I commenced this letter I thought I would keep a little kind of a journal until after the conference on the 2nd of Oct. I attended the conference though from the beginning I will give you some items of it as my memory serves me and in my next letter will coppy the minutes as you do not get the papers should have done so now but Brother R. J. Thompson had not got them made out yet – The (---) conference commence was appointed the 2nd of Oct but in consequence of bad weather they did not meet 3rd to-day there was a large assembly many brethren

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Ah! Sarah’s gone – Dear Babe – Her Journey’s one!
She breathed –she wept- but she shall weep no more
How short her time by providence assigned!
About 2 years she was on earth confined!
Angelic hands her spirit did convey,
To happier realms in the everlasting day.
Our lovely child has first arrived at home,
to see the splendor of the eternal throne.
And shout us welcome to the Promised Land.
Our Sarah-Lovely Babe – Her infant frame,
no more shall feel the smart of mortal pains.
She only sleeps! Though motionless she lies,
Her sacred dust, refined, again shall rise,
to shine in bliss most exquisitely bright,
Surpassing far the sun’s refulgent light.
And is she dead? O no! She entered life
the moment she escaped this world of strife:
She’s now from earth removed, her soul expands,
And by the throne in holy rapture stands;
Expanding still she drinks the blissful streames,
And basks unusually delighted, in unsully’d beames;
Now hears with wonder the melodious strain,
And joins to celebrate Messiah’s name;
Her mind illumined now with glad surprise,
Sees happier worlds, unseen by mortal eyes
She now perhaps from Zion’s hight sublime
Looks down and views the simple things of time;
Or if permited, to the earth descends,
And gladly mingles with her earthly friends;
Although unsee her happy spirit near
May hear the sigh, and see the falling tear,
May with concern behold maternal grief,
And fondly wish to sooth and give relief.

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Came from a distance we had an address from our prophet after which it was voted that  Kirtland should be built up and Three ^one^ man was appointed to preside over it I think they it was brother Almon Babbitt father Grange and brother Higby --- then it was motioned that  a committee be appointed and commissioned to appoint & lay up stakes for the gathering _^from Commerce to Kirtland^ – Hiram Smith and Lyman Wight and Judge Higby were chosen – Then they proposed building the Lords House by tytheing [tithing] the people they commence to collect materials this fall and begin build next spring - the people meet together and work every tenth day br. R. Cayhoon H. Smith & one more were appointed for the committee – the House is to 100 feet by 120 and much other busines was done the meeting closed by address from Dr. Bennet (a quarter master general who has lately been baptised) upon the subject of war. and by this talk you would conclude they that the brethren expected war with Missouri sometime – he is a great orator. 4 (Oct) Sun. meeting commenced to day at 9’ o’clock and it was judged that there was 5000 people on the ground. I shall not particularise the business of this day on the morrow for my babe was quite troublesome which took my attention much, 5th brother Joseph was expected to preach today on the Priesthood but his health would not admit of it so A. Babbitt took the stand and delivered an interesting discourse upon the same subject –   yesterday brother Joseph spake a short time from 29th verse of the 15 chap of first Corr. Of which I will here after speak & this afternoon brother L White spoke on the same subject, which was very interesting. Today we hear that brother Turley and his company are within 2 or three days journey of here, and I stopped a week, to see them expecting to hear from you by them spent most of the time with sister Kimbal she sends her respects to you -  she and family are well likewise sister Pratt & child. I went to see sister Young she was not very well but was getting better, Elizabeth and Vilate have been sick, but are better – Sister Taylor & family are comfortably well – Likewise sister Clark & Turleys family’s also sister Woodruff is comfortably as to health, but her babe is not well. It has got now to be the 15th of the month and brother Turley has not yet arrived here – I see my subjects and sentences are verry broken but if you know how I have to write you would not think it strange for I often have to leave my pen every minute and take the babe and but have to write with him in my lap so that I make but poor headway about this business – although my sentences are more broken & disconnected than they otherwise would by reason of my little son, I do not consider it any task to take care of him and presume you will excuse me for these reasons and to ask the Lord to spare him for future usefulness and for a comfort to his parents. – I feel that without my babe I should be miserable indeed – yes much more lonely than now. You cannot think how much I miss my little Sarah Emma her death has disarmed me of all courage faith and fortitude. I have had almost one scene of trouble since you left me by sickness &c but I ^feel^ as though they were all light afflictions when compared with that – O pray for me Willford that I may have grace and strength equal to my day for I feel like a lonely child on the earth now but I endure it as for Christ sake knowing that nothing but a sense of duty to our heavenly ^father^ would cause us to part with the enjoyment of each of each others society. But I will try to be patient and take as good care of our little lad as I can untill you return, which I pray God may be soon, for it seames that you have been gone an age, only think most 15 months, do tell me something about when you think of Comeing HOME- Well I have wandered far from m subject the conference it held 3 days and closed on the 5th (Monday) and I returned home after spending a week in Commerce. We had a verry interesting conference and after did I wish that the you and your quorum could have the privilege of being there. 16th today. I hear that the brethren have commenced to draw stone for the meetinghouse. Now a few words from Brother Joseph sermon on the living’s being baptized for the dead that they may be judged according to men in the flesh; he has learned by revelation that those in this church may be baptised for any of their relatives who are dead and had not a privalge  privaledge of hearing ofit? this Gospel even for their children, parents, b[r]others, sisters, grandparents, uncles & aunts, – but not for acquaintances unless they send a ministering spirit to their friends on earth – as soon as they are baptized for their – friends they are released from prison and they can claim them in the resurrection and bring them into the celestial kingdom – this doctrin is accordingly received by the Church and they are going forward in multitudes, some are going to be baptized as many as 16 times they have to be baptized and confirmed separately for every friend – once in one day – How many can a spirit be baptized put– why not deputize a friend on earth  to do it for them -  John Wesly can receive this work but how can his spirit be baptize in water – It is privilege of the oldest one in the family to be baptizs?ed for their friends if they desire it but they can give it to another if they choose Brother Joseph makes this doctrin look very plain and consisten – he has been bringing strange things forward to the church this season – strong meat – he has delivered? a course of lectures this season which were very interesting – I could not attend only a part of the time but often wished you could be present -  he says that the throne of God stands on the earth like this earth only it tis cleansed etc etc & says that this earth is the wickedest planate that ever God made and that its inhabitants wilt have the greatest glory if they overcome eveil and that it was the largest when made but at different times there has been parts taken from it, for instance when the ten tribes were lost and says they will

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all be restored again. – Paul says I die daily [see 1 Corinthians 15:31] brother Joseph says that he actually died and was revived to live again – says the beasts that he fought with at Epesus often killed him and he came to life again – if so Willford why may not our little Sarah be raised to life again.  – He brother Joseph has brought forth many new things this season – There has been quite a number of deaths in Commerce the past season.  I believe that I mentioned some of them in my last letter to you Seymour Brunson, he was buried under armes – Bishop he said that brother D. Patten was calling him and desired brother Joseph to let him go for he needed him – likewise Bishop Partridge is dead and his wife is married again to father Huntingdon who lost his wife last fall – mother Beaman – father John Joseph Smith the patriarch a little previous to his death he called all his children around him and blessed them and appointed Hiram Patriarch in his stead – There are many things I have mentioned in my other letters to you which would be interesting to you which I could mention if you have not received them. such as some of the brethren’s going among the Indians, I saw two of them on the 2nd of this month and they said the prospects never good - last April there was an Indian his wife and daughter baptised in Commerce. I have not heard from Main or Connecticut since I wrote you last. Did you know that brother Ilus in N. Y. was married Brother Dwite Webster came here in june and went to the south with brother Smoot & expects to spend the winter in Ten. Brother Smoot has ordained him an elder and given him charge over the churches there, he makes great proficiency in the ministry – brother Smoot has got home and with his wife sends his respects to you Sister Smoot says to tell brother Woodruff not to forget my hymn book and while you are thinking of hers remember that I have no hymn book or bible.

Brother John Hennett has been walking in your steps even on the fox islands with some other elders and there has been quite a stir among the people there again and there has about as many come into the Church lately us when you was there – Sister Hennett say give my respects to br. Woodruff I have lately had a letter from her – I have lately seen sister Bently she that was sister Pattin she says give my love to brother Woodruff and tell him he knows that I love him with all my hart, her health is poor and she desires the prayers of all that quorum that it may not turn with her as it did with brother Pratt’s first wife in her last day but that she may be spared through it and do good on the writt__?  [this part of the letter has damage due to a broken seal] she wants that little portrait of brother Pattin's which you have as she has n[one?] I hope you to get your portrait painted if you can conveniently and if you can get me a wrought black lace veil I should like it much and an eapie and collar I should be much pleased as they come much cheaper there than here. The families of the 12 have rather snug times to get along here – brother Kimball was a wise man to build his house and get his family into it before he left them. I have seen sister moon sister Sutton and another sister from Eng I have forgotten her name they were from Preston they have seen you all. I was glad to see them. I read some of your letters to them they were much pleased with them. Please give my respects to brother Kimball and all the quorum that are there likewise all the saints around you.

19th Yesterday, Sunday, we had an interesting sermon we had an interesting subject upon the living being baptized for the dead it was made so plain that none could dispute it reasonably and I should be glad to be baptized for my grandparents and some others but want to wait for you to do it would it not be best, I had rather you would do it than any person living. – Sister Swasey one of my good neighbors sends her respects to you and says tell brother Woodruff that she wants him to come home for my sake - I am now at father Clarks and think I shall stay here until you come home. I am comfortable here and if I want anything can call on brother William Clark who wrote to you in my other letter making a covenant with you that he would supply my needs and wants until you come home, He is a fine young man – belongs to the 70’s and is father Clarks oldest son at home he knows you and says he is some acquainted with you – Therefore give yourself no uneasiness about my temporal wants but give me and our babe an interest in your prayers. I fell anxious to see my presents you spoke of in your last letter – Ah! what shall I do when those little shoes come for Sarah I don’t know sometimes how to bear her loss it seams as though I cannot endure it, but I must stop for it seems line a never-ending subject for me to speak or write on. Sister Young and Kimball received some very pretty presents I saw them when I was there they (like me) thought much of them, more on account of this coming from their husbands – If you could get some articles of clothing for your family it would be quite acceptable – the sister who gave you the bed in N. Y. apostatized in about 2 weeks after so sister Stone told me from N. Y, Sarah Milliken is not married yet but expects to be to a man out of the Church she is in Commerce – Aphica Woodman has sent a letter to Sarah Milliken asking her advice and mine about coming west with Milton she is about 60 miles east of father Carter with her brother Milton has lately sent here to know who of the brethren are going to Eng. this fall and when they will be in N.Y. so it appears there he is thinking of going but there are none who are thinking of going from here this fall, I learned that brother Joseph don’t think it is best for them to go. Brother Jonathan

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Homes has lost his wife, and babe about 3 months old, The Church have bought a steamboat and have got it running on the river  they gave 4000 dolls. for it. Brother Vanosdel has been appointed chief magistrate this season – Brother Rigdon’s health is very poor. I am weighting for you to come home before Sarah Emma’s funeral sermon is preached or Willford W is blessed.  Please tell Brother G. A. Smith that his mother and sister have been sick but are now quite smart likewise his father and brother. Brother Hanley sends his respects to you likewise Brother A. Smith. Brother Joseph has received a letter from you and brother G. A. Smith. May the Lord bless preserve and keep you from all harm is the desire and prayer of your companion
                                                                                                Phebe W. Woodruff,
Willford Woodruff

[Note on the reverse side of page] If you could get me a good brass kettle when you come through N. Y. I should like it if is not convenient let It go I suppose they are much cheaper there than here – I should like to have it hold 8 or ten gall. I can get it boiled and hooped but don’t deprive your self of the comforts of life for any of these things for I had rather do without them – I have not got the paper you spoke of now any one here has received any one of them. The elders Journal is sent to you.