Monday, March 30, 2015

John Solomon Fullmer's Letter to Mr Howell

In the December 1st 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons, was published a letter written by John S. Fullmer. John was introduced to Mormonism when his parents in Ohio and some other family members joined the Church and were planning to move to Missouri. Since timing is everything they delayed so long that they ended up moving to Nauvoo instead. At first John, who was living in Nashville, Tennessee, objected to his parents' plan but was ultimately persuaded enough to come visit them after their move to Nauvoo. While in Nauvoo, he was converted and - according to family records - was baptized on 29 July 1839 by Joseph Smith Jr.[1] Afterwards he returned to Nashville and prepared to moved his wife and two daughters to Nauvoo.

The letter published in the Times and Seasons, was written in March 1840 while he was still living in Nashville. It was sent to Mr Howell, a pastor and friend of Fullmer's. I do not have the inclination to reproduce the letter here, since it is long, entirely doctrinal in nature and its historic value to me is only in its existence, not its content. But if you desire to read it, you can find it here.  Fullmer had hoped Howell would publish the letter; in fact he claimed that Howell expresses an interest in doing so. After two years, however, he still had not, so Fullmer had it printed in an LDS publication.

The evidence indicates that this was Robert Boyte Crawford Howell (1801-1868), a baptist minister living in Nashville.  In 1834, Reverend Howell went to Nashville where he built up the congregation of the First Baptist Church. There he stayed until 1850 when he took a position in Richmond, Virginia. After seven years he returned to Nashville, continuing where he left off. He was President of the Southern Baptist Convention for many years as well as the editor of The Baptist.

Howell represented one side of the Landmark controversy (culminating in the James Robinson Graves—Robert Boyte Crawford Howell controversy in 1858–60) in which Graves supported the idea of the "exclusive validity of Baptist churches and invalidity of non-Baptist churchly acts." Howell and the majority of Southern Baptist Convention rejected this notion.

Note 1: Using Nauvoo as the place for his baptism is anachronistic. Although the saints had begun to settle there, and catch malaria, it would not be named Nauvoo until the following year.

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