Minutes, 25–26 October 1831

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Minutes of a held at the dwelling of br. Serenes Burnet[t] in the Town of , Cuyahoga County, Ohio, October 25, 1831.
Names of those ordained to the
Joseph Smith jr. (Died.)
(cut off.)
John Smith ( taken) Edward Johnson (denied the faith)
Benjamine Carpenter (not felloshiped
(cut off) Hiram Griffith
Silvester Parker, (left the church)
Serenes Burnett and
Prayer by br , Glorious things, were then sung Br arose & said that he wished to make a few observations connected with the object of our assembling our selves together, When God works all may know it, for he always answers the prayers of the Savior for he makes his children one, for he by his Holy Spirit binds their hearts from Earth to Heaven; And in this thing God had taught his children to sing a new song even about which David Spoke of, &c, God always bears testimony by his presence in counsil to his Elders when they assemble themselves in perfect faith and humble themselves before the Lord and their wills being swallowed up in the will of God [p. 10]
Br Joseph Smith Jr said we have assembled together to do the business of the Lord and it is through the great mercy of our God that we are spared to assemble together, many of us have went at the command of the Lord in defience of every thing evil, and obtained blessings unspeakable in consequence of which, our names are in the Lambs’ Book of life, for the Lord has spoken it. It is the privilege of every to speak of the things of God &c, And could we all come together with one heart and one mind in perfect faith the vail might as well be rent to day as next week or any other time and if we will but cleanse ourselves and covenant before God, to serve him, it is our privilege to have an assurence that God will protect us at all times
Br. said that a certain clause in the Church Covenants was too much neglected he feared by the brethren, read accordingly.
Br. enquired if it was the business of this to take into consideration the situation of the families of the absent Elders.
Br. said that he supposed that it was, saying, I bear testimony that God will have a pure people who will give up all for Christ’s sake and when this is done they will be sealed up unto eternal life.
Br. Joseph Smith jr. said that the order of the is that they have power given them to seal up the Saints unto eternal life. And said it was the privilege of every Elder present to be to the Highpriesthood.
Br. said that he was determined to be for God & none else & with his assistance to do his will
Br. said that he covenanted to give all to the Lord and be for his glory and as to all his works his heart responded a hearty. Amen.
Br. said that all he had was the Lord’s and he was ready to do his will continually
Br. said that he renewed again the covenant before the Lord to give all to him.
Br. said that he had the greatest reason to rejoice of any present and that he also would be subject to the will of God even unto death.
Br. said that he had the testimony that it was the will of the Lord to seal his Saints, and also covenanted to give all to the Lord.
Br. said that he could not obtain to express his heart, but said that he gave all to God. Also reminded the brethren of the constant care of the Savior for them. [p. 11]
Br. said, ever since I my beloved brethren, ever since I have had an acquaintance with the writing of God I have [blank] eternity with perfect confidence
Br. said that ever since he had set out to serve the Lord, not to regard the favor of man but the favor of Heaven.
Br. said that he was anxious that all should be saved &c. also read two verses in the book of Revelations, also covenanted to give all for Christ’s sake.
Br. John Smith said that he felt through grace to do the will of the Lord notwithstanding his extreme old age, also felt to covenant to give all to the Lord.
Br. said that he had a long time since covenanted to do the will of God in all things, and also said that it was his desire to be with the Holy Spirit of promise.
Br. said that he felt to declare to this that he had all that was his to the Lord, and also was desirous to do all for the glory of God.
Br. said that he was thankful that he had been spared & preserved to go to the land of according to the of the Lord, for he received it as from his mouth & also thanked the Lord that his feet had troden upon the consecrated ground which was the of the Saints. Testified that the book of Mormon was true, Mourned because of the falling away since he took his journey to the Land of .
Br. said that he blessed the name of the Lord that he could bear testimony of the truth of the book of Mormon, and also consecrated all to God before he was , he was also determined to go on to the end of his life
Br. said he gave all his ability to do the work of the Lord.
Br. said that it was by the help of the Lord that he had been preserved, yet his greatest fear was for those who were weak in the faith.
Br. said that he rejoiced while he heard those give their testimony who had been up to the land of , said he had many times been directed by the Spirit of God, also felt to do the will of the Lord in all things, &c.
Br. said that he had professed religion for a number of years, also felt to bear testimony of the goodness of God, and to consecrate all to the Lord. [p. 12]
Br. said that he had professed religion for a number of years yet now felt to bear testimony of the goodness of God, & also to all to the Lord.
Br. said that he had nothing to consecrate to the Lord of the things of the Earth, yet he felt to consecrate himself to and family. Was thankful that God had given him a place among his Saints, felt willing to labor for their good.
Br. said that he was determined to be for God and none else come life or death, also remembered his covenant that he would consecrate all that he had to the Lord.
Br. said that he thought best that the information of the coming forth of the book of Mormon be related by Joseph himself to the present that all might know for themselves.
Br. Joseph Smith jr. said that it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the book of Mormon, & also said that it was not expedient for him to relate these things &c.
Br. laid before the Conference the case of Sister Marsh & family who were somewhat destitute.
Br. said that he was surprised that the case of Sister Marsh should be brought to this Conference, as she and her family were provided for as well as her brethren around her.
Br Joseph Smith Jr said that he intended to do his duty before the Lord and hoped that the brethren would be patient, as they had a considerable distance. also said that the promise of God was that the greatest blessings which God had to bestow should be given to those who contributed to the support of his family while the fulness of the Scriptures; also said until we have perfect love we are liable to fall and when we have a testimony that our names are sealed in the Lamb’s Book of life we have perfect love & then it is impossible for false Christ’s to decieve us. also said that the Lord held the bound to provide for the families of the absent while proclaiming the Gospel: further said that the God had often sealed up the heavens because of covetousness in the Church. Said that the Lord would cut his work short in righteousness and except the church recieve the fulness of the Scriptures that they would yet fall. [p. 13]
Adjournment moved for by the moderator until evening.
The begged the privilege of laying before the in the evening the necessity of sending certain to visit the and obtain means for the support of br. Joseph Smith jr. & those appointed to assist him in writing & copying the fulness of the Scriptures, as was concluded upon in a conference held in , Oct. 11. 1831. Conference adjourned, Prayer by br. .
Clerk of Conference.
Conference commenced according to adjournment opened by singing, prayer by br. , singing again.
Brs. , & were appointed & , agreeably to a motion of the , to visit the churches agreeably to the Conference of Oct. 11. 1831.
Br. said it was the privilege of those Elders present to be ordained to the , telling them that if they then should doubt God would withdraw his Spirit from them.
The following Elders were then called seated & ordained by the , Viz: , , , , , , , , several brethren were then called by the who were desirous to preach the gospel.
Br Joseph Smith Jr, was appointed to examine these brethren, presenting themselves for ordination, after prayer said that he had a testimony that each had one tallent and if after being ordained they should hide it God would take it from them; exhorted them to pray continually in meekness. Said that those who had been previously ordained would be ordained Elders, & the others would be ordained Priests; the then by appointment ordained br and brs , , William Scobey, , , Albert Jackman, Stephen Strong, Calves Willson, , Eleazer Willis Priests.
Conference adjourned until 8 o’clock A.M. on 26th.
Ck. of Con.
Conference Convened according to adjournment opened by singing “go on ye pilgrims,” prayer by br. [p. 14]
Br. then made certain remarks on the privileges of the Saints in these last days. Remarks to those who were to the last evening, saying that the Lord was not well pleased with some of them because of their indifference to be ordained to that office, exhortation to faith and obedience setting forth the power of that office.
Br. said that he received the rebuke in meekness. The same by brs. , , & .
The said that the directions which himself & his br. had recieved this morning respecting the choice of the , was that they would be ordained & sent forth from the Land of .
Voted that this appoint another General Conference in Lorain County on the 25th. January 1832.
Voted that brs. & speak this day to the congregation which shall assemble.
Closed, Prayer by br. .
Cuyahoga County Ohio, Oct. 26. 1831. [p. 15]


  1. 1

    Of the twelve individuals listed here, ten were ordained to the high priesthood at the June 1831 conference. Oliver Cowdery was ordained on 28 August 1831, immediately following his return from Missouri. There is no extant record of John Smith’s ordination. (Minutes, ca. 3–4 June 1831; see also Minutes, 4 Aug. 1831.)  

  2. 2

    The “Articles and Covenants” mention “deacon” as an office in the church, but no extant record documents a deacon’s presence at a meeting prior to this conference. (Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830 [D&C 20:57–58].)  

  3. 3

    Probably the traditional hymn “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.” The conference held in Missouri on 4 August 1831 also opened by singing this hymn.  

  4. 4

    See John 17:20–23.  

  5. 5

    Psalm 149:1–2 describes Israel and Zion singing a new song and rejoicing in God. Several other psalms refer either to singing a new song or to Zion. (See, for example, Psalms 40:3; 137:3; 146:10.)  

  6. 6

    Speaking about JS’s journey to Missouri in the summer of 1831, a later JS history recounts that, “notwithstanding the corruptions and abominations of the times, and the evil spirits manifested towards us on account of our belief in the Book of Mormon, at many places, and among various persons, yet the Lord continued his watchful care and loving-kindness to us day by day.” (JS History, vol. A-1, 126–127.)  

  7. 7

    See Revelation 21:27; and Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 237 [Alma 5:58].  

  8. 8

    When JS revised the book of Genesis, he added that Enoch established a Zion community among his followers “because they were of one heart and of one mind and dwelt in righteousness.” (Old Testament Revision 1, p. 16 [Moses 7:18].)  

  9. 9

    See Revelation, 2 Jan. 1831 [D&C 38:8]. Just a few days after this meeting, another revelation further explained that it was the “privilege” of those “ordained unto the ministry” to have the veil rent and to see Christ, if they would rid themselves “from Jealesies & fears & humble [them]selves.” (Revelation, ca. 2 Nov. 1831 [D&C 67:10].)  

  10. 10

    See Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830 [D&C 20].  

  11. 11

    Several individuals were proselytizing elsewhere at this time, including Ezra Thayer and Joseph Coe. (See Joseph Coe, Report, 7 Mar. 1832, Missionary Reports, 1831–1900, CHL.)  

    Missionary Reports, 1831–1900. CHL. MS 6104.

  12. 12

    In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Benjamin told his people that if they would be “steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works,” Christ would “seal you his.” This meant, Benjamin continued, that they would have “everlasting salvation and eternal life.” (Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 167 [Mosiah 5:15].)  

  13. 13

    John Smith (no relation to JS), who was from Northampton, Ohio, wrote that he came to the conference with his sons Eden, Micah, and Yeats, as well as with JS’s brothers Samuel and William Smith. (John Smith, Journal, 25–26 Oct. 1831.)  

    Smith, John (1781-1854). Journal, 1833–1841. John Smith, Papers, 1833-1854. CHL. MS 1326, box 1, fd. 1.

  14. 14

    See Ephesians 1:13–14.  

  15. 15

    Revelation, 6 June 1831 [D&C 52:27].  

  16. 16

    An April 1830 revelation instructed church members to receive the “words & commandments” given to them by JS “as if from mine [the Lord’s] own mouth.” (Revelation, 6 Apr. 1830 [D&C 21:4–5].)  

  17. 17

    When JS and other elders returned from Missouri in August 1831, they discovered that in their absence, “many” in Ohio had “apostitized.” Conferences in September and October 1831 took disciplinary action against several members of the church in Ohio. (Whitmer, History, 33; see, for example, Minutes, 1 Sept. 1831; Minutes, 12 Sept. 1831; and Minutes, 21 Oct. 1831.)  

  18. 18

    Johnson had been baptized a Free Will Baptist in 1825 before converting to Mormonism in June 1831. (Johnson, Reminiscences and Journals, vol. 1, pp. 6, 10.)  

    Johnson, Joel Hills. Reminiscences and Journals, 1835–1882. 3 vols. Joel Hills Johnson, Papers, 1835–1882. CHL. MS 1546, fds. 1–3.

  19. 19

    Durfee’s repetition of Joel Johnson’s remarks may be an error in transcription. In Minute Book 2, the Joel Johnson comment is at the bottom of page 12, while the Edmund Durfee comment is at the top of page 13. Ebenezer Robinson may have mistakenly transcribed the same statement for Durfee after beginning a new page.  

  20. 20

    At this time, Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith were living on Frederick G. Williams’s farm. According to Lucy, “My family were all established with this arrangement that we were to cultivate the farm and the products were to support our several families . . . and sustain strange[r]s who were traveling that being either Members of the church or others in search of the truth or on a visit to the place.” Minutes from a 10 October 1831 conference record the decision that Joseph Smith Sr. was to “see to the management of the farm & to the distribution of its productions as the Lord’s agent.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 12, [6]–[7]; Minute Book 2, 10 Oct. 1831.)  

  21. 21

    To this point, JS apparently had not written a history of the production of the Book of Mormon. In April 1834, he provided “a relation of obtaining and translating the Book of Mormon” to a conference in Norton, Ohio, though the conference minutes do not provide any other information about what he said. An account was finally published in 1842, but it gave few details. (Minute Book 1, 21 Apr. 1834; JS, “Church History,” Times and Seasons, 1 Mar. 1842, 3:707; see also “The Histories of Joseph Smith, 1832–1844.”)  

    Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

  22. 22

    “Sister Marsh” is likely Elizabeth Godkin Marsh. If so, Marsh’s dire financial situation may have resulted in part from her husband’s absence: Thomas B. Marsh was directed in a 6 June 1831 revelation to travel to Missouri and did not return to Ohio until January 1832. “While near the end of our journey” to Missouri, he later recalled, “I was attacked with chills and fever and arrived there very sick. I stayed at the house of Br. Benj. Slade till I got well.” (Revelation, 6 June 1831 [D&C 52:22] ; “T B Marsh,” [3], Historian’s Office, Histories of the Twelve, ca. 1858–1880, CHL ; see also Cahoon, Diary, 9 Aug. 1831.)  

    Historian’s Office. Histories of the Twelve, 1856–1858, 1861. CHL. CR 100 93.

    Cahoon, Reynolds. Diaries, 1831–1832. CHL. MS 1115.

  23. 23

    That is, JS’s Bible revision.  

  24. 24

    See Revelation, 6 June 1831 [D&C 52:11].  

  25. 25

    As clerk of the conference, Cowdery apparently issued letters of recommendation to those appointed to travel to the different churches. According to Harris’s letter, those so appointed were “to go two by two to visit the churches, set them in order, explain the mysteries of the Kingdom unto them, and also obtain whatever they should feel free to give for the support of the families of Bro. Joseph and his scribes, while they are employed in translating, writing and copying the fulness of the Sacred Scriptures.” (Letter of Recommendation for Emer Harris, in Historical Department, Journal History of the Church, 26 Oct. 1831.)  

    Historical Department. Journal History of the Church, 1896–. CHL. CR 100 137.

  26. 26

    These fifteen individuals are listed in the same order here as in the elders’ roster at the beginning of the minutes. Only two men from that roster, Joel Johnson and Sylvester Parker, are not listed as having been ordained to the high priesthood on this occasion. Since the minutes say that “it was the privilege of those Elders present to be ordained to the High Priesthood,” Johnson and Parker may not have been in attendance at the evening’s reconvening of the conference. The minutes also explain, however, that several were “indifferen[t]” to being ordained, raising the possibility that Johnson and Parker may have declined to be ordained. McLellin recorded in his journal his thoughts about being “ordained to the High-Priesthood of the Holy order of God”: “Though I felt unworthy, I was ordained and took upon me the high responsibility of that office.” (McLellin, Journal, 25–26 Oct. 1831.)  

    McLellin, William E. Journal, 18 July–20 Nov. 1831. William E. McLellin, Papers, 1831–1836, 1877–1878. CHL. MS 13538, box 1, fd. 1. Also available as Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836 (Provo, UT: BYU Studies; Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).

  27. 27

    Nearly four decades later, McLellin recounted that JS “asked if we were willing to take upon us the office? I arose and said that I was willing to do anything that was the will of God, but I did not understand the duties of the office, and asked an explanation. Br. Joseph said we were to take upon us the office, and it would explain its duties.” (William E. McLellin, Independence, MO, to D. H. Bays, Lafayette, KS, 24 May 1870, Saints’ Herald, 15 Sept. 1870, 553.)  

    Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.

  28. 28

    See Matthew 25:14–30; and Revelation, 8 Aug. 1831 [D&C 60:2, 13].  

  29. 29

    McLellin wrote in his journal that “a number of others present were ordained to the lesser Priest-Hood,” using “lesser Priest-Hood” to refer to the office of priest. (McLellin, Journal, 25–26 Oct. 1831.)  

    McLellin, William E. Journal, 18 July–20 Nov. 1831. William E. McLellin, Papers, 1831–1836, 1877–1878. CHL. MS 13538, box 1, fd. 1. Also available as Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836 (Provo, UT: BYU Studies; Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).

  30. 30

    This hymn, also known as “A Crumb for the Pilgrims,” was written by Benjamin Cleaveland (1733–1811), a Baptist deacon. (Hicks, Mormonism and Music, 11; “Reviews of Recent Theological Literature,” 164.)  

    Hicks, Michael. Mormonism and Music: A History. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989.

    Morris, Larry E. “The Conversion of Oliver Cowdery.” In Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 16, no. 1 (2007): 4–17.“Reviews of Recent Theological Literature.” Presbyterian Review 10, no. 37 (Jan. 1889): 125–176.

  31. 31

    Because these instructions do not appear in the minutes, and because Cowdery felt the need to report them to the conference, they may have been given to Cowdery and David Whitmer earlier in the morning, prior to the reconvening of the conference. Cowdery and Whitmer were directed in June 1829 to “search out the twelve” who would “be my [the Lord’s] disciples, and they shall take upon them my name.” These twelve were to be those who “desire[d] to take upon them my name, with full purpose of heart.” They were to “go into all the world to preach my gospel unto every creature.” (Revelation, June 1829–B [D&C 18:27–28, 37].)