Minutes, 13 April 1838

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

The of met in on Friday April 13th 1838
, and Presiding. The Council was organized as follows:
no. 1 no 2
" 3. " 4
" 5 " 6
" 7 " 8
" 9 " 10
" 11 " 12
The Council was opened by singing and prayer by after which several charges were prefered, against [p. 126] which are as follows:
“To the Council of the in .
I prefer the following charges before your honorable body against .
1st, For persecuting brethren by stiring up people to prosecute them, and urging on vexatious lawsuits against them and thereby bringing distress upon the inocent.
2nd For virtually denying the faith of the Church of Christ of Latter Day saints, by vindicating the cause of the enemies of this Church, who are dissenters from us, now in , and speaking reproachfully of the Church and , by saying their proceedings were illegal and that he never would acknowledge them to be legal, these assertions were without foundation and truth, also, treating the Church with contempt by absenting himself from meetings on the sabbath, by not observing his prayers in the season thereof and by not observing the .
3.rd For seeking to injure the character of Joseph Smith jr by reporting that he had a demand against him of One thousand dollars, when it was without foundation in truth
4th For laying voilent hands on our Brother , and by kicking and beating him, thereby throwing contempt on the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints in
5th And by saying that he would appeal the suit between him & Brother and take it out of the , saying that he could not get justice done him, thereby speaking reproachfully of the authority, of .
6th For telling a falshood.
7th For taking whiskey and making Weldon drink & then cheating him out of his property
” [p. 127]
After which at a letter was read from the by as follows:
Mo April 12th 1838
Sir yours of the 9th inst, containing a copy of six charges, prefered, before the by , against me has been received, and it appears to me to be a novel document, assuming a right to compel me under pain of religious sencure [censure] and excommunication not to appeal a lawsuit or change the venue of the same in which I am deeply interested, without the consent of a religious body.
This assumpsion of power being manifest in the fifth Charge, I should not condescend to put my constitutional rights at issue upon so disrespectful a point: as to answer any other of those charges until that is withdrawn & untill then shall withdraw myself from your society and fellowship.
Yours
Mr
The case was not considered difficult, therefore, two spake on the case; viz , on the part of the and on the part of the .
testifies he knew has been active in urging on lawsuits, also, that told him he had a note against him () which he procured in , which was not sa the case, as he had no note of the description, therefore, he had lied.
testifies that Mr Gilbert had a claim upon a piece of land, after which entered it from under him, after being told that Mr Gilbert had a claim upon it.
testifies, that had been told that there was a claim upon the piece of land which was refered to above, also he heard say he had a note against J. Smith jr.
testifies, that inquired of him if there was any land to be entered, when he told [p. 128] him he thought there was none except it was some which poor brethren had a claim on, and that it he must not enter that, as it was contrary to the decision of the ; afterwards he did enter a forty upon which one of the brethren had made some improvement.
testifies that it was the understanding that acted as an Atterney for Mr. Bennor in commencing a suit against , & took a very active part in the case.
testifies, that had told him in conversation at different times, that while God sat upon his throne or his face the color it now was, he never would sanction the proceedings of the High Council in this place, because he said they were ittegal illegal and as for coming to this Council he would not, also he used tea and coffee while living at ’s and did not tend family prayers while living at his house, also had used his influence against certain brethren especially against the Smith family, also he had a correspondence with the dissenters at and vindicated their cause and spoke against the of the , also made light of the , also reported he had a thousand dollar note against Joseph Smith jr
Joseph Smith jr testifies that he, vindicated the cause of the dissenters, both in publick and private and spoke against the saints while in , also heard Say that while God sat upon his throne and his face was the color it now was he never would sanction the proceedings of the Church and Council, in this place also told him he had a thousand dollar note against him (J. Smith) which was not the case, but the note which he pretended to have was one given to Joseph Smith jr while acting as [p. 129] cashier in the
Absolon [Absalom] Scritchfield testifies, that he has seen come to ’s (tavern) and drink liquor, say brandy.
testifies that he has neglected to attend meeting on the Sabbath days.
concurs with the above testimony.
The adjourned for one hour.
The Council convened agreeable to adjournement.
Opened in prayer by President .
, testifies that came to ’s a few mornings since, with his head cut the blood running out of his ears, also his stomach was injured, & said had fought him; which was proved in court afterwards.
concurs with the above testimony.
, testifies that told him that he had given a pounding, because he had given him the lie, and if any other man should give me the lie, he would not promise that he would not get the same sauce.
Also testifies that told him, previous, to a decision, being had by civil authority, that he would not begrudge paying five dollars for whipping a man as he did , but if the judgement was any wise high, he would change the venue and take it out of the .
, testifies that told him that he would change the venue and take the suit out of the , previous to the time that the warrant was issued.
, testifies that, previous to decision being given on the case of , told him he intended to get bail and take a change of venue and take it out of the .
testifies that told him, that he had learned the [k]nack of [p. 130] travelling on Steam Boats without paying his fare, by slipping from place to place in the Boat when they were calling for the fare, and when they would ask him for his pay, he would tell them he had paid it, when he had not.
, testifies that in purchasing a lot for , he turned out a note against , which he rather declined paying at the first presentation, but afterwards said, he had paid it taken it up when he had, therefore, told a falshood.
testifies that told him, after he returned from the North, when he purchased his farm of Weldon, the history is as follows: “Before we got there, as we understood, he was fond of liquor, so we got some, lumbórum, (as Bump called it) and went to Mr Weldon’s and got him tolerably well shaved, before we introduced the trade, when we purchased a large farm with great improvements together with five hundred head of hogs, a good stock of horses and cattle, also, a flock of sheep, the ploughs belonging to the farm &c. for twenty-two hundred dollars and fifty dollars.”
concurs with the above testimony, and also .
After some few appropriate remarks, by the Councellors, it was decided by the President that be no longer considered a member of the , nor a member of the of the Lamb and also be given over to the buffetings of Satan untill he learns to blaspheme no more against the authorities of God.
Clerk
A charge was then prefered against , by , as follows:
“To the of the Church of Latter day Saints in . [p. 131]
I prefer the following charges before your Honorable body against .
Charge First, For not observing the , for unchristian-like conduct in neglecting to attend to meetings, in uniting with, and possessing the same spirit with the Dissenters, in writing letters to the Dissenters in unfavorable to the cause and to Br Joseph Smith jr.
2nd 3nd For neglecting <​the​> his duties of his calling.
4th, For seperating himself from the cause and the Church while he has a name among us.
5 For signing himself of the in an insulting letter to the .
.”
After which a letter was read from in words as follows:
Mo April 13th 1838.
Sir I received a line from you bearing date the 9th inst, requesting me as a to appear before the High Council and answer to five several charges on this day at 12 o’clock.
You sir with a majority of this Church have decided that certain Councils were legal by which it is said I have been deprived of my office as one of the Presidents of this Church I have thought and still think they were not agreeable to the revelations of God, which I believe and by my now attending this Council, and a[n]swering to charges as a High Priest, should be acknowledgeing the correctness and legality of those former assumed Councils, which I shall not do.
Believing as I verily do, that you and the leaders of the Councils have a determination to persue your unlawful course at all hazards, and bring others to your standard in violating of the revelations, to spare you any further trouble I hereby withdraw from your fellowship and communion— choosing to seek a place among the meek and humble, where the revelations of Heaven will be observed and the [p. 132]
rights of men regarded.
.”
After the reading of the above letter it was not considered necessary to investigate the case, as he had offered contempt to the by writing the above letter; but let the Councellors speak what they had to say and upon the case and pass decision
The councellors then made a few remarks in which they spoke warmly of the contempt offered to the Council in the above letter, therefore, thought he was not worthy a membership in the .
When made a few remarks and decided that be no longer considered a member of the Church of Christ of Latter day Saints.
Voted by the high Council that be no longer a Committee-man to search out locations for the geathering of the saints.
Council adjourned untill tomorrow morning 9 o’clock. Closed in Benediction by President Joseph Smith jr
Clerk [p. 133]

Footnotes

  1. 1

    The council met as planned in the 12 April 1838 high council meeting. (Minutes, 12 Apr. 1838.)  

  2. 2

    Drawing on passages in the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and JS’s revelations, several church leaders frequently expressed a belief that it was immoral to sue other church members in a court of law.  

  3. 3

    Many of the dissenters in Missouri rejected the actions of the high council, especially the removal of the former Zion presidency and the subsequent excommunications of John Whitmer and Phelps. (Oliver Cowdery, Far West, MO, to Warren Cowdery and Lyman Cowdery, Kirtland, OH, [10] Mar. 1838, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 91.)  

    Cowdery, Oliver. Letterbook, 1833–1838. Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

  4. 4

    The last church meeting Johnson was recorded as attending was on 6 November 1837. Similar charges were made against Cowdery and David Whitmer. (Minutes, 6 Nov. 1837; Minutes, 12 Apr. 1838.)  

  5. 5

    A February 1833 revelation known as the “Word of Wisdom” contained a dietary code that counseled against using tobacco, alcohol, and “hot drinks”—widely interpreted as coffee and tea. John Whitmer noted in his daybook that Johnson and other dissenters purchased several pounds of coffee and tea during the later 1830s. (Revelation, 27 Feb. 1833 [D&C 89:7–9]; Whitmer, Daybook, [138].)  

    Whitmer, John. Daybook, 1832–1878. CHL. MS 1159.

  6. 6

    According to George M. Hinkle’s testimony in these minutes, Johnson traveled north, probably to Daviess County, Missouri, to purchase a farm from a member of the Weldon family. Johnson offered Mr. Weldon liquor and waited until he was drunk before introducing the potential purchase, hoping to obtain the land for a considerably lower price. Several members of the Weldon family were among the earliest white settlers in what eventually became Daviess County; it is unclear which individual Johnson allegedly defrauded. (See History of Daviess County, Missouri, 146–147, 179, 188–189, 811.)  

    The History of Daviess County, Missouri. An Encyclopedia of Useful Information, and a Compendium of Actual Facts. . . . Kansas City, MO: Birdsall and Dean, 1882.

  7. 7

    The previous day, the high council voted “that John Murdock be a President of the High Council, whose duty it shall be to receive charges and give notice to the defendant, also, to call the Council together and organize them &c.” Murdock was apparently already filling this role, at least in giving notice to defendants. (Minutes, 12 Apr. 1838.)  

  8. 8

    That is, Murdock.  

  9. 9

    Johnson’s letter echoes many of the themes of constitutional rights and liberties that Cowdery expressed in his letter to the high council on 12 April 1838. Cowdery also asked to withdraw from the church. (Minutes, 12 Apr. 1838.)  

  10. 10

    Possibly William Gilbert. (Johnson and Romig, Index to Early Caldwell County, Missouri, Land Records, 5, 75.)  

    Johnson, Clark V., and Ronald E. Romig. An Index to Early Caldwell County, Missouri, Land Records. Rev. ed. Independence, MO: Missouri Mormon Frontier Foundation, 2002.

  11. 11

    According to federal law, settlers could apply for and secure a preemptive land claim from the federal government’s land office, allowing the settlers to occupy and make improvements on government-owned land in areas where the land had not come up for sale. When a public sale was held, the person with the land claim had first rights to purchase the property. According to Carter’s testimony, Johnson apparently usurped a poor Saint’s preemption claim to a forty-acre piece of land. (Walker, “Mormon Land Rights,” 14–17; Rohrbough, Land Office Business, 200–220.)  

    Walker, Jeffrey N. “Mormon Land Rights in Caldwell and Daviess Counties and the Mormon Conflict of 1838: New Findings and New Understandings.” BYU Studies 47, no. 1 (2008): 4–55.

    Rohrbough, Malcolm J. The Land Office Business: The Settlement and Administration of American Public Lands, 1789–1837. New York: Ocford University Press, 1968.

  12. 12

    Morrison, a Latter-day Saint, was elected as a Caldwell County, Missouri, justice in August 1838, suggesting he had some association with the county court. (Arthur Morrison, Affidavit, Adams Co., IL, 1 Nov. 1839, Mormon Redress Petitions, 1839–1845, CHL; “Copy of the Record of Election of Justices,” in Complainant’s Abstract of Pleading and Evidence, 283.)  

    Mormon Redress Petitions, 1839–1845. CHL. MS 2703.

    Complainant’s Abstract of Pleading and Evidence. Lamoni, IA: Herald Publishing House and Bindery, 1893.

  13. 13

    Possibly Elias or Henry Benner; both men were Latter-day Saint mill owners in Caldwell County. (Henry Benner, Affidavit, Adams Co., IL, 25 May 1839, Mormon Redress Petitions, 1839–1845, CHL; History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri, 588.)  

    Mormon Redress Petitions, 1839–1845. CHL. MS 2703.

    History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri, Written and Compiled from the Most Authentic Official and Private Sources. . . . St. Louis: National Historical Co., 1886.

  14. 14

    Johnson claimed he had a promissory note from JS for $1,000, but JS claimed the note was actually the record of a loan Johnson received from the Kirtland Safety Society in 1837. According to an April 1838 letter to Johnson from disgruntled church member Stephen Burnett, JS claimed that Johnson obtained a $2,000 loan from the Safety Society in 1837 and used the money to purchase land in Missouri. Existing financial records for the Safety Society show that Johnson secured smaller loans from the institution in January 1837; there is no evidence of a $1,000 or $2,000 loan in the records, which are incomplete. Records do indicate Johnson purchased a significant amount of land in Missouri during the time frame Burnett specified in his letter, suggesting that a loan of $1,000 or $2,000 may have existed. (Stephen Burnett, Orange Township, OH, to Lyman Johnson, 15 Apr. 1838, in JS Letterbook 2, p. 65; Kirtland Safety Society Accounts and Discounted Notes, Jan. 1837, JS Office Papers, CHL; Vilate Murray Kimball, Kirtland, OH, to Heber C. Kimball, Preston, England, ca. 10–12 Sept. 1837, Heber C. Kimball, Collection, CHL.)  

    JS Letterbook 2 / Smith, Joseph. “Copies of Letters, &c. &c.,” 1839–1843. Joseph Smith Collection, 1827–1846. CHL. MS 155, box 2, fd. 2.

    Kimball, Heber C. Collection, 1837–1898. CHL. MS 12476.

  15. 15

    See Minute Book 2, 6 Aug. 1834.  

  16. 16

    John P. Greene was the brother-in-law of Brigham and Phineas Young. (Greene, “Biographical Sketch of the Life and Travels of John Portenus Greene,” 1.)  

    Greene, Evan Melbourne. “A Biographical Sketch of the Life and Travels of John Portenus Greene,” 1857. CHL. MS 15390.

  17. 17

    TEXT: “lumbórum”—Latin for “of the loins”—is written in much larger and more deliberate characters, suggesting that Hosea Stout struggled to transcribe the word. Given the context, the number of characters, and the placement of the minims and ascenders, the original word he was trying to transcribe was likely laudanum—a mixture of liquor or wine and opium. (“Laudanum,” in American Dictionary.)  

    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.

  18. 18

    Probably Jacob Bump, a Kirtland dissenter. (Historian’s Office, Brigham Young History Drafts, 14.)  

    Historian’s Office. Brigham Young History Drafts, 1856–1858. CHL. CR 100 475, box 1, fd. 5.

  19. 19

    See Revelation, 1 Mar. 1832 [D&C 78:12]; Revelation, 26 Apr. 1832 [D&C 82:21]; and Revelation, 23 Apr. 1834 [D&C 104:9–10].  

  20. 20

    In January 1838, the Zion presidency was charged with, among other things, failing to adhere to the revealed dietary code known as the Word of Wisdom. According to the report of the committee assigned to discuss the charges with the presidency, Phelps denied breaking the Word of Wisdom, while Cowdery and the Whitmers admitted to drinking tea or coffee, as “they did not consider them to come under the head of hot drinks.” In February, Hinkle criticized David Whitmer for “persisting in the use of tea, coffee, and tobacco.” Decades later, Whitmer identified the Word of Wisdom as one of the principal causes of dispute between himself and other church leaders in Far West. (Minute Book 2, 26 Jan. 1838; Letter from Thomas B. Marsh, 15 Feb. 1838; Gurley, “Questions Asked of David Whitmer,” 1.)  

    Gurley, Zenos. “Questions Asked of David Whitmer at His Home in Richmond Ray County Mo,” 14–21 Jan. 1885. CHL. MS 4633.

  21. 21

    The last church meeting Whitmer was recorded as attending was on 6 December 1837. Similar charges were made against Cowdery and Johnson. (Minute Book 2, 6–7 Dec. 1837; see also Minutes, 12 Apr. 1838.)  

  22. 22

    In June 1838, a letter directing David Whitmer, Cowdery, and other dissenters to leave Far West also accused the men of having “kept up continual correspondance with your gang of Marauders in Kirtland.” No correspondence from Whitmer to Kirtland has been located; however, during this period Cowdery and Johnson appear to have maintained regular correspondence with Kirtland dissenters, which suggests that Whitmer may have as well. An August 1837 letter from John Whitmer in Missouri to David Whitmer and Cowdery in Kirtland implies that correspondence was encouraged, if not already occurring: “Communicate to us any thing that you in your wisdom may think expedient.” John Whitmer assured his brother and Cowdery that because Phelps was the postmaster of Far West, “a letter can be addressed to him on any subject and no one know it.” (Letter to Oliver Cowdery et al., ca. 17 June 1838; John Whitmer, Far West, MO, to Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, Kirtland Mills, OH, 29 Aug. 1837, Western Americana Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT; see also Oliver Cowdery, Far West, MO, to Warren Cowdery and Lyman Cowdery, [Kirtland, OH], 4 Feb. 1838, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 87; Oliver Cowdery, Far West, MO, to Warren Cowdery and Lyman Cowdery, Kirtland, OH, 24 Feb. 1838, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 87; Stephen Burnett, Orange Township, OH, to Lyman Johnson, 15 Apr. 1838, in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 64–66; and Oliver Cowdery, Far West, MO, to Warren Cowdery and Lyman Cowdery, Kirtland Mills, OH, 2 June 1838, Lyman Cowdery, Papers, CHL.)  

    Whitmer, John. Letter, Far West, MO, to Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, Kirtland Mills, OH, 29 Aug. 1837. Western Americana Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

    Cowdery, Oliver. Letterbook, 1833–1838. Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

    JS Letterbook 2 / Smith, Joseph. “Copies of Letters, &c. &c.,” 1839–1843. Joseph Smith Collection, 1827–1846. CHL. MS 155, box 2, fd. 2.

    Cowdery, Lyman. Papers, 1834–1858. CHL.

  23. 23

    On 10 March 1838, the Whitmer brothers and Phelps wrote a letter to Marsh, complaining about the treatment they received from Marsh and the high council and signing the letter as presidents of the church in Zion. A similar charge was made against Cowdery, who attested to the three men’s complaints and signed the letter as the clerk of the high council. (Minute Book 2, 10 Mar. 1838; Minutes, 12 Apr. 1838.)  

  24. 24

    During the February 1838 proceedings in which Whitmer was removed from the Zion presidency, Murdock addressed criticism that the high council’s treatment of the presidency aberrated from the rules of the church. According to Murdock, the council’s actions were “perfectly legal, according to the instructions of President Joseph Smith jr.” (Letter from Thomas B. Marsh, 15 Feb. 1838.)