Minutes, 17 February 1834

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

This day, Feb. 17 1834, a of assembled at in at the House of bro. Joseph Smith Jur. They proceeded to organize the , Consisting of twelve high priests, and this according to the law of God. The names of those who were chosen as Counsellors, were Joseph Smith Junr. and Presidents. , , , , , , , , , , , and , Counsellors. Bro. Joseph opened the Council by solem prayer. He then arose and called upon the high priests, , , and that were present who had not been nominated as Counsellors to pass their vote whether they were satisfied with the appointment or nomination of the twelve to Compose the Church Council. It was the unanimous voice of all present that those who had been nominated, as above, should compose a standing Council in . It was also voted that when any one <​or more​> of the standing Counsellors was were absent, their vacancy should be filled by any high priests whom the majority of the Council should nominate or choose,
Provideing that no Council shall be held unless seven of the above named Counsellors are present, or their successors. The above named Counsellors all manifested a willingness to act according to their appointment, the Lord being their helper. Bro acted in the place of . There were nine high priests present and acted in the appointment of the above named Counsellors, also seventeen Elders, and four priests with thirteen private members. Bro Joseph then said he would show the order of Councils in ancient days (see 27 & 28 pages) as shown to [p. 29] him by vision. The law and by which to govern the Council in the . Jerusalem was the seat of the Church Council in ancient days. The apostle, Peter, was the president of the in ancient days and held the of the Kingdom of God, <​on the Earth​> was appointed to this office by the voice of the Saviour and confirmed <​acknowledgement acknowledged​> in it by the voice of the Church. He had two men appointed as Counsellors with him, and in case Peter was absent, his Counsellors Could transact business. <​or either one of them. The President could also transact business alone.​> It was not the order of heaven in ancient Councils to plead for and against the guilty as in our judicial Courts (so called) but that if every Counsellor when he arose to speak, should speak precisely according to evidence and according to the teaching of the spirit of the Lord, that no Counsellor should attempt to screen the guilty when his guilt was manifest That the person acused before the high council had a right to one half the memb[e]rs of the council to plead his cause, that is six, in order that his case might be fairly presented before the President that a descission might be rendered according to truth and righteousness. If the case was not a very difficult one to investigate, two of the Counsellors only, spoke, one for the accused and one against <​on one side and one on the other​> according to evidence. If the case was more difficult, according to the judgment of the Council, two were to speak on each side, and if more difficult, three might speak on each side, and three only. Those who spoke in Council were chosen by the council and that too by casting lots. Those who were thus chosen to speak, took their regular turn, in speaking. Bro Joseph said that this organization was an ensample to the in their Councils abroad, and a copy of their proceedings be transmitted to the seat of the goverment of the Church to be recorded on the general record. In all cases, the accuser and the acused have a perfect right to speak for themselves before the Council. The Councils abroad, have a right and it is their duty to appoint a president for the time being for themselves. If in case the parties are not satisfied with the decission of the Council abroad, they have a right to an appeal to the , and from thence to the which is and end of all strife [p. 30]
The remaining six Counsellors who do not speak in , are to hear patiently the reasoning of the other and correct all errors which they may discover, and after decission is rendered by the president, if these remaining counsellors can throw any farther light upon the subject, so as to correct the decissin [decision] of the president, they have the liberty so to do, otherwise it stands and the majority of the Council must rule. It was then voted by all present that they desired to come under the present order of things which they all considered to be the will of God. Many questions have been asked during the time of the organization of this Council and doubtless some errors have been committed, it was, therefore, voted by all present that Bro Joseph should make all necessary corrections by the spirit of inspiration hereafter drew no. one by lot. drew No 2. drew No 3. drew No 4. drew No 5. drew No 6. , and speak for and on the part of the accuser. , and , speak for and on the part of the accused. The remaining six counsellors are to sit and hear patiently and correct errors if they discover them. The Council drew No 7. drew No 8, drew No 9, drew No 10, drew No 11, drew No 12, The Council adjourned then, until wednesday at 10 oclk A.M.——
Clk [p. 31]


  1. 1

    The “law of God” probably refers to the 11 November 1831 revelation describing the court of the president of the high priesthood. (Revelation, 11 Nov. 1831–B [D&C 107:78–79].)  

  2. 2

    The word “Presidents” here refers to JS, Rigdon, and Williams, who together constituted the presidency of the high priesthood. The names that follow were the twelve members appointed to the high council.  

  3. 3

    According to the revised minutes, twenty-four high priests attended the meeting. Since fifteen of those were appointed to the high council, nine were left to ratify the council’s formation. (Revised Minutes, 18–19 Feb. 1834 [D&C 102:1].)  

  4. 4

    These pages of the minute book contain the minutes of the 12 February 1834 meeting of high priests and elders at which JS spoke about the conduct and personal worthiness expected of council members in ancient and modern times. (Minutes, 12 Feb. 1834.)  

  5. 5

    When JS revised these minutes over the following two days, he omitted this specific explanation of an appeals process. An earlier revelation provided for a “Court of the high priesthood,” composed of the president of the high priesthood and twelve other high priests, whose “desision upon controvers[i]es” was final. Subsequent records indicate that by the end of April 1843, individuals dissatisfied with the decision of a high council with appellate authority were still able to appeal their case to the First Presidency. (Revelation, 11 Nov. 1831–B [D&C 107:79–80]; JS, Journal, 30 Apr. 1843; “Trial before the First Presidency,” 30 Apr. 1843, JS Collection, CHL.)  

    Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL. MS 155.

  6. 6

    For JS’s revisions and corrections to the minutes featured here, see Revised Minutes, 18–19 Feb. 1834 [D&C 102].  

  7. 7

    That the members of the council drew lots may indicate that they originally intended to hold a disciplinary hearing that day; at disciplinary hearings, council members drew lots to determine who would speak on behalf of the accused and who would speak on behalf of the accuser. The revised minutes of this meeting, however, said that casting “lots by numbers” was the duty of the counselors whenever a high council was “regularly organized.” Thus, the casting of lots at this meeting may have simply indicated that the council considered itself officially organized at this point. In any event, the order in which counselors were to speak, as determined by lots at this meeting, was honored in the next two meetings of the council. (Revised Minutes, 18–19 Feb. 1834 [D&C 102:12]; Minutes, 19 Feb. 1834; Minutes, 20 Feb. 1834.)