Ecclesiastical Organizational Charts

In spring 1830, JS organized the Church of Christ with elders, priests, and teachers. Over the next five years, he developed and adapted church organization to a growing membership, adding the offices of high priest, deacon, bishop, patriarch, apostle, and seventy and organizing quorums, councils, presidencies, and bishoprics. The first chart that appears below, titled “Church Structure, 1835–1839,” outlines the ecclesiastical structure that emerged by 1836. The three subsequent charts supply the names of church officers in , Ohio; ; and the (later Nauvoo), Illinois, area. They also track major changes in personnel. Because of the constant change in church organization between 1832 and 1834—the period covered in JS’s first journal—a chart showing officers for that period is not supplied. During 1835–1836, the period covered in JS’s second journal, JS worked to refine organizational structure and fully staff church positions in preparation for the solemn assembly to be held in the in . The chart dated March 1836 presents the resulting organization. The next chart, dated spring–summer 1838, approximates church organization and officers named in JS’s two 1838 journals. The final chart, dated October 1839, reflects the early reorganization efforts that followed the Mormon exodus from to . It presents church organization and leadership as it existed by the conclusion of JS’s first journal in 1839.
Church Presidencies and Councils
At the church’s organization in April 1830, JS was recognized as first elder and as second elder. On 8 March 1832, JS was “president of the high priesthood,” and and were his “councellers of the ministry of the presidency of th[e] high Pristhood.” The term “counsellor” was still used in a revelation of 8 March 1833 designating these officers—by now and —as being equal with JS in holding the keys of the kingdom.
Beginning in June 1830, JS used gatherings or “conferences” of church officers as deliberative bodies in which to conduct the business of the church, including disciplinary proceedings. In time, “general conferences” involving a substantial proportion of church officers were supplemented by more frequent ad hoc, or “special,” conferences. Beginning in 1832, the term “council” was used interchangeably with “conference” for these smaller, ad hoc meetings. JS and his counselors played leading roles in the proceedings.
JS formalized the practice by organizing in February 1834 at “the high council of the Church of Christ,” a standing body consisting entirely of high priests. Thereafter, the term “assistant president” was generally applied to those who had earlier been called counselors to JS, and members of the high council were called the presidency’s counselors, thus avoiding confusion in the use of the term counselor. JS and his assistant presidents served as the presidency of the high council as well as the presidency of the high priesthood and therefore the presidency of the church. In July 1834, a similar high council was organized in , Missouri, which was designated the high council for , and JS ordained president of the high council, with and as ’s “assistants,” after which JS ordained “their twelve Counsellors”—the members of the high council. was recognized as “President, head and leader in (in the absence of br. Joseph Smith jr.).”
In December 1834, JS reorganized the church presidency, adding as an assistant president, ranking before the existing assistants, and . JS also ordained and as assistant presidents.
During late 1835 and early 1836, while members of the presidency and most of their high council were temporarily residing in preparing to receive the promised endowment of power, the configuration of church councils held in varied. Frequently a “council of the Presidency” met, consisting of members of both the general church presidency based in and the presidency from . When the high council was convened, it might consist of any combination of twelve members taken from the high council from , the high council of the stake of , or the traveling high council—the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—with one to three members of the combined presidency serving as presidents of the high council for that particular meeting. Further complicating the scene, in addition to the presidencies of each high council, by 21 January 1836 one of the twelve regular members of each high council was designated its president. On that date, was recognized as “the president of the counsellors in Kirtland” and as “the president, of the counsellors of Zion.”
In late 1835 and early 1836, JS anticipated that he and his assistant presidents would move to by the following spring. Regulations for the approval of ordinations adopted in early 1836 seem to anticipate a level of interaction between and church authorities that could take place only if they remained in close proximity—and it was anticipated that this would be in , not . However, the logistics of migration to and financial entanglements in precluded JS’s relocation that year, and the presidency and high council of eventually returned to without him and other leaders who continued to be based in . The close working relationships, and indeed the interrelationships of 1835–1836, therefore never materialized again.
In 1837, contending with dissent in and a perceived weakening of support among some church leaders in , JS reiterated his authority over the entire church. His 4 September letter to Saints in was headed “Joseph Smith Jr. Prest of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints in all the world.” It also applied the term “first Presidency” to the presidency of the church who were then located at . This was not a new position or assertion of authority for JS but clarified arrangements that may have seemed ambiguous. Some may have misinterpreted the earlier configuration of presidencies as a decentralized leadership with one presidency responsible for each of the church’s two main divisions, and . JS’s reassertion of churchwide leadership caused Hepzibah Richards to write from in January 1838 that “the presidents, Joseph & Sidney & Hiram returned from Missouri a few weeks since. They are elected to the first presidency, or to preside over all the churches instead of this place only.” The term “first presidency,” first used officially in 1834, came into more general use during 1838 and eventually supplanted other nomenclature.
The September 1837 conference documents a transition in terminology and organization. In in September, JS as president and and as his counselors constituted “the three first presidnts of the Church.” , , , and were now “assistant Councillors,” and the seven were “to be concidered the heads of the Church.” After this conference, use of the titles “assistant president” and “assistant counselor” diminished. The last known use of “assistant” in connection with the First Presidency during JS’s lifetime was the temporary appointment of as assistant president in , 1841.
Church Structure, 1835–1839
March 1836
During the period covered in his 1835–1836 journal, JS worked to fully organize the priesthood units in preparation for the solemn assembly that was held in the in , Ohio, on 30 March 1836. This organizational effort included staffing each quorum, council, or presidency; organizing each quorum with a presidency; and clarifying relations among groups.
General Church Officers
Presidency Patriarch
Joseph Smith Jr., president
, assistant president
, assistant president
, assistant president
, assistant president
, assistant president
During the period in which officers were in awaiting the solemn assembly, the general church presidency (based in ) and the church presidency often functioned as a general presiding council, to which JS referred as “my council of the presidency” or, more commonly, as simply “the presidency” or “the presidents.” This council of nine men or an available subset functioned in as a presiding council until the presidency returned to its local jurisdiction.
Other Officers
(Clay County, Missouri) Officers
The Latter-day Saints, having been driven from their homes in , were living primarily in in March 1836.
Presidency Bishopric
, president , bishop
, assistant president , counselor
, assistant president , counselor
High Council President of Quorum of Teachers
The high council apparently retained its original order, based on the 7 July 1834 casting of lots, with replacement members taking the number of their predecessors. Although was the president of the council in March 1836, he was still listed among the other members with his original number. George Johnson
No evidence has been found of additonal quorums functioning in at this time.
, president
Stake Officers
Presidency Presidency of Quorum of High Priests
The presidency of the church presided over the stake and its high council. , president
High Council Unidentified counselors
, president Presidency of Quorum of Elders
, president
, counselor
, counselor
Presidency of Quorum of Priests
, president
Unidentified counselors
Presidency of Quorum of Teachers
, president
Unidentified counselors
Presidency of Quorum of Deacons
, president
Bishopric Unidentified counselors
, bishop
, counselor
, counselor
Traveling Officers
Quorum of the Twelve Quorum of the Seventy, Presidents
Listed in order of seniority—that is, age at time of appointment of the original Twelve. The presidents of the Seventy presided over the Quorum of the Seventy. The presidents were apparently ordered by seniority of age.
, president
Spring–Summer 1838
In the two years between spring 1836 and summer 1838, there were substantial changes in church leadership, the result of two principal factors. First, in response to dissent among church leaders in late 1837 and early 1838, JS oversaw or approved the removal and replacement of several officers. Second, other officers in , Ohio, followed JS in migrating to in 1838. Some but not all officers were replaced. A few leaders stayed behind to oversee stake matters, while most loyal Latter-day Saints prepared to move to . As , Missouri, filled with Latter-day Saints, immigration was steered northward to , Daviess County, Missouri, where a stake was organized on 28 June 1838.
General Church Officers
First Presidency Patriarch
Joseph Smith Jr., president
, counselor
, counselor
, assistant counselor
, assistant counselor
During a church conference held in in September 1837, JS presented , , and himself as “the three first presidnts of the Church.” He then presented , , , and as “assistant Councillors.” In a conference held in two months later, was removed and replaced by . The assistant counselors were not presented for sustaining at this conference, and they were not again presented as such.
Other Officers
(Far West, Missouri) Officers
Presidency (Pro Tempore) Patriarch
, president
, counselor Bishopric
, counselor , bishop
High Council , counselor
, counselor
President of Quorum of High Priests
President of Quorum of Elders
Harvey Green
President of Quorum of Priests
As bishop, presided over the quorum of priests.
President of Quorum of Teachers
President of Quorum of Deacons
Unidentified
, president
Stake Officers
After JS’s departure from on 12 January 1838, a few leaders stayed behind to oversee stake matters while loyal Latter-day Saints prepared to move to .
Presidency President of Quorum of High Priests
, president Hiram Kellogg
, counselor Presidency of Quorum of Elders
, counselor , president
Bishop Hezekiah Fisk, counselor
Lahasa Hollister, counselor
Stake Officers
Presidency High Council
, president Listed in the order given at the time of the council’s initial organization. It is unclear whether there was an established order of counselors in the high council.
, counselor John Lemon
, counselor
Bishop (Pro Tempore)
Daniel Carter
Isaac Perry
Alanson Brown
Harvey Olmstead
Traveling Officers
Quorum of the Twelve Quorum of the Seventy, Presidents
Quorum members held seniority according to age. The presidents of the Quorum of the Seventy were reorganized in April 1837 amid confusion over the relationship between high priests and seventies. Presidents of the Seventy who had been previously ordained high priests were reassigned to the high priests quorum, and new presidents of the Seventy were appointed to replace the outgoing high priests. At its initial organization, the presidents of the Quorum of Seventy held seniority according to age; when the presidency was reorganized, new presidents assumed the level of seniority of the outgoing high priests. The presidents presided over three quorums of Seventy.
, president
Zera Pulsipher
Quorum members , , , and had been excommunicated. An 8 July 1838 revelation appointed , , , and to replace the former quorum members, but none were ordained to office before December 1838.
October 1839
Following their forced expulsion from in spring 1839, the Latter-day Saints regrouped in . After JS’s escape from incarceration in April 1839, he began to reorganize the Latter-day Saints at (later Nauvoo), Illinois, and across the river in . Banished from the land they considered , the Latter-day Saints denominated , now the central church unit, a “stake” like other major church units.
General Church Officers
First Presidency Patriarch
Joseph Smith Jr., president
, counselor
, counselor
Other Officers
Stake Officers
President Bishops
, Middle Ward
High Council , Upper Ward
Listed in order of seniority as noted in the minutes of the high council. , Lower Ward
, president President of Quorum of High Priests
William Huntington
Stake Officers
Presidency Stephen Chase
, president
, counselor Richard Howard
, counselor
High Council
Listed in the order established by drawing lots at the council’s initial organization.
Bishop
John Patten
Edmond Fisher
Abraham Smoot
Traveling Officers
Quorum of the Twelve Presidents of the Seventy
The original members continued in their age-based seniority; newer members followed, ordered by age amongst themselves. On 16 January 1839, the First Presidency instructed and to appoint the oldest of the original members to be president of the quorum. was sustained as president on 14 April 1840. The presidents of the Seventy presided over three quorums of Seventy and a number of seventy not assigned to a specific quorum. It is unclear whether there was an established order of seniority among the presidents.
, president
Zera Pulsipher
A July 1838 revelation appointed , , , and to replace excommunicated quorum members , , , and . and were ordained 19 December 1838. was ordained 26 April 1839, as was , the latter filling the vacancy left by the apostasy of . , still proselytizing in , was not ordained until 14 April 1840. By this time, had been killed in the conflicts and had apostatized, as noted above, with , who soon returned to the church. A conference held near , Illinois, on 4 May 1839 resolved that the apostolic privileges of and be “suspended” until the next church conference, at which time they would be allowed to give an account of their conduct. Both were “restored” to their offices at a conference held in October 1839. The quorum reached a full contingent of twelve men with the appointment of in 1841.