Minutes, , OH, 21 Oct. 1831. Featured version, titled “Minutes of a special conference held in Hiram Portage co Ohio Oct 21, 1831,” copied [between ca. 6 Apr. and 19 June 1838] in Minute Book 2, p. 9; handwriting of ; CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Minute Book 2.
JS and other met in , Ohio, on 21 October 1831 to review the case of , the seventeen-year-old son of and , and Peter Devolve, about whom little is known. Cahoon and Devolve were charged with “offering abuse” to and ’s daughter, six-year-old . Since the return of JS and others from in late August 1831, several had functioned as disciplinary bodies. The minutes of this conference differ from those of the earlier meetings by specifying the charges against the individuals who were to be disciplined; this conference specifically dealt with a case of church members allegedly committing an impropriety against another member.
A February 1831 revelation explained how a church member should proceed if offended by another member: First, the two parties were to meet in private and seek reconciliation. If the offending party did not confess to the grievance, he or she was to be brought before “the Church not to the members but to the Elders and it shall be done in a meeting and that not before the world.” At that point, the offender faced chastisement based on the nature of the offense. “If thy Brother offend many he shall be chastened before many,” the revelation declared, “and if any one offend openly he shall be rebuked openly that he may be ashamed.” One who offended someone “in secret” would be “rebuked in Secret that he may have oportunity to confess in Secret.” A September 1831 revelation reiterated these instructions, but it also declared that those who did not repent and confess their sins should be brought “before the church” to be dealt with “as the Saith unto you.” In this instance, and Devolve had apparently confessed their actions to the Whitneys, but not to the Whitneys’ satisfaction. The special conference was therefore held to determine whether the elders should take any further action. Neither the Whitneys nor Cahoon and Devolve were present at the conference. After hearing relevant testimony, the conference determined to send JS and to , Ohio, where the offenders were living, to resolve the matter, but extant records do not reveal what action JS and Rigdon took.
, clerk of the conference, took the minutes. In 1838, copied the minutes into Minute Book 2.
The minutes of the meeting do not name the child, but they refer to the Whitneys as “her” parents. The Whitneys’ two other children at this time—Horace and Orson—were both boys. What the abuse entailed is unknown. According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, “abuse” could mean simply “rude speech; reproachful language” or “reviling words.” (See Salt Lake City Cemetery, Salt Lake City, UT, Cemetery Records, 1847–1976, vol. B, p. 113, microfilm 1,299,167, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL; Staker, Hearken, O Ye People, 226; and “Abuse” in American Dictionary .)
U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.
Staker, Mark L. Hearken, O Ye People: The Historical Setting of Joseph Smith’s Ohio Revelations. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2009.
An American Dictionary of the English Language: Intended to Exhibit, I. the Origin, Affinities and Primary Signification of English Words, as far as They Have Been Ascertained. . . . Edited by Noah Webster. New York: S. Converse, 1828.
Minutes of a special held in Portage co Ohio Oct 21, 1831
Joseph Smith Jr
Prayer by who called in question <the case> of two brs and Peter Devolve who were accused by some of our brethren of offering abuse to br. ’s little child. Br. arose and said that he was at a meeting with the brethren, when br. was present who spoke at considerable length by the Spirit of the Lord as he supposed, and also br. Peter Devolve declared that he was filled with the Spirit of God, but had confessed previous that he did offer abuse to the child, but not to the satisfaction of her parents.
Therefore voted by this conference that it is their undoubted opinion taking into consideration the testimony before them. It is therefore voted that this conference send our beloved brethren Joseph Smith jr. and unto the church in to lay before them the descision of this Conference, call before them these two brethren cause them to make sufficient acknowledgement of their sins, or be dealt with according to the law of this Church.