Part 1: March–June 1844

The minutes in this section begin with a 10 March 1844 meeting called by JS to discuss letters just arrived from the in , where men supplying timber for construction of the and the neared the end of their assignment. Discussion of the proposals contained in the letters provided the context for organizing the Council of Fifty the following day. The final minutes in this section record a brief session on 31 May 1844 convened to hear ’s report of his council-assigned mission to American Indians in Wisconsin Territory. That meeting adjourned sine die—that is, without another meeting being scheduled—and the council never again met under the direction of JS, who with his brother was murdered less than a month later.
JS convened the Council of Fifty or Kingdom of God on eighteen days for a total of at least twenty-nine council meetings, twenty-five of which are captured in ’s official record. With only a few exceptions, the initial minutes for these meetings were created first by Clayton, the clerk of the council, who wrote notes on loose paper during the meetings, and all were later inscribed by him into the small bound book he procured to constitute a permanent record. The first four entries of the record book (10, 11, 13, and 14 March) bear the marks of having been later reconstructed from Clayton’s memory and diary. After 14 March 1844, the minutes that Clayton copied into the small bound book appear to be a fair copy of rough notes or minutes taken at the time of the meetings.
Several measures that occupied the council from March through May 1844 had their genesis outside the council; although they had been discussed and to some degree set in motion earlier in other venues, the newly formed council became the primary forum for managing them. These included overseeing JS’s 1844 presidential campaign, uniting American Indians and seeking to make allies of them, and finding a new home beyond the boundaries of the where Mormons could create a government of their own. From the perspective of council members, these initiatives and related discussions in the council were part of a broader strategy to obtain safety and refuge for the church and its members. These minutes preserve discussions about the meaning of the kingdom of God, about theocracy (or what Latter-day Saints sometimes termed “theodemocracy”), and about JS’s perspectives on government and the U.S. Constitution.
In addition to the minutes, inscribed into the record book copies of two April 1844 letters discussed in the council on 13 May and a list of the membership of the council as it stood on the final day of adjournment, arranged by age. He closed the 1844 record with a retrospective account of some of JS’s activities during June 1844, including increasing opposition, JS’s incarceration in , Illinois, and his mob murder on 27 June while awaiting trial.
Following the last meeting of the council with JS on 31 May 1844, the council did not assemble again until 4 February 1845, when it was reorganized under ’s direction.
  1. 1

    The meetings not captured in the record are a late afternoon session of 10 March (this record captures only the evening session that day), one meeting or possibly even two on 12 March (Clayton was likely absent for any meetings held that day), and a morning and evening session of 13 March (this record appears to capture only the afternoon session of that day). For further detail, see the editorial notes preceding the entries for 10 and 13 Mar. 1844.