On 30 March 1836, men in the attended the long-anticipated in the in , Ohio. At the dedication of the House of the Lord three days earlier, church members had experienced spiritual outpourings, which continued in the hours and days leading up to the solemn assembly. For the men in attendance, the 30 March meeting was the pinnacle of a progression of , , and blessings in preparation for the promised of “power from on high.” At the solemn assembly, JS and the church’s participated in a ritual , prophesied, and received blessings that empowered them to go forth and preach the gospel.
In the unfinished on 12 November 1835, JS informed the that he wanted to make “the foundation of this church complete and permanent,” a process that included administering the of “washing of feet.” JS desired that “all the ” of the church, or men who held office, participate in this ordinance. Furthermore, he told the Twelve on that November day that the washing of feet was “necessary now as much as it was in the days of the Saviour.” JS instructed them, however, that “the house of the Lord must be prepared, and the solem assembly called” so that the ordinance could be administered there, “aside from the world.” He admonished that the ordained men needed a heavenly enrichment, an instruction or endowment of power at the solemn assembly to help them preach the gospel and “overcome all things” while on their future missions.
On Tuesday, 29 March 1836, two days after the dedication of the , JS and a select group of church leaders met in the House of the Lord to finalize preparations for the solemn assembly. Participants included the church —JS, , , , , and —the presidency of (), and the two of the church. At this, the first of two days and nights of meetings, the church leaders received instruction about their going to Zion, and they also ceremoniously washed one another’s feet in what described as “a solemn scene.” They then partook of the of bread and wine and spent the night in the House of the Lord “prophesying and giving glory to God.”
Early the following morning, the Twelve, the , and other priesthood gathered for the solemn assembly. They joined JS and the other church leaders in the and participated in the washing of feet, which one participant referred to as “the last ordinance of the endowment.” In the afternoon, the church leaders “commenced prophesying” and “the Spirit of prophecy was poured out upon the congregation,” including “shouts of hosanna, to God and the Lamb with amen and amen.”
During the meeting, JS stated that he “had now completed the organization of the church” and that the church leaders and official members “had passed through all the necessary ceremonies.” Soon after this 30 March session, JS declared that those ordained men, armed with new knowledge and divinely empowered, “now were at liberty . . . to go forth and build up the kingdom of God.” In the weeks following the meeting featured here, most of the ordained men left to proselytize and to “raise Money to purchase land” for the church in .
The proceedings of the solemn assembly as featured here were recorded in JS’s journal. The scribe is not known, and no other version of the minutes is known to exist.
This declaration on 30 March fulfilled the instruction JS gave on 12 November 1835 that after ordained men were endowed with power they would be prepared to go forth to “preach the gospel to all nations kindred and toungs in there own languages.” (Discourse, 12 Nov. 1835.)
Wedensday morning 8 o clock March 30th 1836 According to appointment the , the , the , the , the , the , and all the in this of amounting to about 300 met in the to attend to the of , I ascended the pulpit and remarked to the congregation that we had passed through many trials and afflictions since the organization of this and that this is a year of Jubilee to us and a time of rejoicing, and that it was expedient for us to sufficient to make our hearts glad, as we should not probably leave this house until morning; to this end we should call on the brethren to make a contribution, the stewards passed round and took up a liberal contribution and messengers were dispatched for bread and wine; tubs water and towels were prepared <and> I called the house to order, and the presidency proceeded to wash the feet of the 12 pronouncing many prophecy’s and blessings upon them in the name of the Lord Jesus, the brethren began to prophesy [p. 187]
An allusion to the Israelite year of Jubilee, a sabbatical year of liberty and hope occurring every fifty years. The sabbatical year followed the seventh cycle of seven years. The Mormon jubilee paralleled in some respects the Israelite Jubilee, which was begun at the temple on the Day of Atonement—a day of fasting on which the high priest of Israel performed ritual purifications in the temple for the redemption of Israel and its priests. The church celebrated the jubilee for the seven days preceding the beginning of the church’s seventh year since organization. (Leviticus 16; 25:4–5, 8–17; W. Phelps to S. Phelps, Apr. 1836.)
Stephen Post, a participant at this solemn assembly, reported, “The washing was commenced by the presidents who first washed the 12 & 7 presidents of the seventies the 12 & 7 then commenced washing until the whole were washed.” (Post, Journal, 30 Mar. 1836; see also W. Phelps to S. Phelps, Apr. 1836.)
Post, Stephen. Journals, 1835–1879. Stephen Post, Papers, 1835–1921. CHL. MS 1304, box 6.