Council of Fifty, “Record of the Council of Fifty or Kingdom of God,” Minutes and other records, 3 vols., Mar. 1844–Jan. 1846; handwriting of ; 880 pages; CHL. Includes redactions.
All three volumes of the Nauvoo-era Council of Fifty record are similar in structure and size, with volumes 2 and 3 being nearly identical. All the paper in the volumes is printed with horizontal blue lines except for the endpapers in volumes 2 and 3 (volume 1 has no endpapers). A few sheets used in the construction of volume 2 were probably cut crookedly before being sewn, which resulted in slanted lines. Volume 1 has twelve gatherings, most with 16 leaves, making a text block of 192 leaves. Volumes 2 and 3 have sixteen gatherings each, most with 12 leaves, making for each volume a text block of 190 leaves. The trimmed pages in volume 1 measure 6 × 3¾ inches (15 × 10 cm). The trimmed pages in volumes 2 and 3 measure 6 × 3⅞ inches (15 × 10 cm). After trimming, volumes 1 and 2 have about eighteen lines per page. Volume 3 has about sixteen lines per page, with header space. All three volumes have edges sprinkled with red ink. Several pages in volumes 2 and 3 bear the embossment “S. FINE”—a paper grade meaning “super fine.” All three volumes were sewn all along over tapes—probably vellum tapes—and have a hollow-back case binding with full leather covers. Volume 1 has brown-colored leather, whereas volumes 2 and 3 have red-colored leather. Volumes 2 and 3 each have a single stiff leaf in the front and in the back, with a single sheet of endpaper glued to the board and the first leaf of the text block. Volume 2 has bluish-green endpapers, while volume 3 has blue endpapers. The bound dimensions of volume 1 are 6¼ × 3¾ × 1⅛ inches (16 × 10 × 3 cm). The bound dimensions of volumes 2 and 3 are 6¼ × 4 × ⅞ inches (16 × 10 × 2 cm). All three volumes have the same pattern impressed on the front and back boards. Volume 2 also has blind tooling around the edges of the outsides of the boards, as well as five horizontal bars in gold tooling on the spine.
inscribed all three volumes in brown ink with quill pens. Clayton wrote in volume 3 upside down, with the extra header space at the foot of the page. Also, for volumes 2 and 3, the embossment “S. FINE” is upside down in relation to Clayton’s inscription. Clayton inscribed title pages for all three volumes. The last page of minutes in both volume 1 and volume 2 contains a note referring the reader to the next volume. Also, in the back of volume 2, on the verso of page , Clayton wrote a single index entry in graphite that refers to a list of council members found in the volume. Clayton wrote about sixteen or seventeen lines per page in volume 1 and about eighteen lines per page in volumes 2 and 3. For a few pages, where the preprinted lines were somewhat slanted instead of horizontal, Clayton drew his own lines in graphite before writing. The spines of the volumes are labeled “Record | K of G. | No 1”, “Record | K of G | No 2”, and “Record | K of G | No 3”, respectively. All three labels appear to be in the same somewhat stylized handwriting, but it is uncertain whether this is Clayton’s handwriting.
There are some redactions in the record. In volume 1, the pages numbered 1–294 (–) are paginated in red ink. The red ink pagination spans the entire JS period and then ends just three pages into the era of ’s chairmanship. The pagination appears to have been done all at the same time, which would have been after JS’s death and after had reached this point in his copy work. A table of contents of sorts was added later in graphite in the blank space on the title page of volume 1. This table of contents lists various key events through but not beyond the JS era and references them according to the page numbers inscribed in red ink. The table of contents, therefore, postdates the initial pagination. It appears that the red ink pagination and the graphite table of contents are in the same handwriting. They were evidently an effort to make significant information from the JS era of the council easily accessible. These inscriptions do not appear to be in Clayton’s handwriting, so they were probably made sometime later in Utah Territory.
Another collection of redactions appears to have been added even later. The pagination of volume 1 was continued in graphite, and volumes 2 and 3 were paginated in graphite. There are also several words and phrases underlined throughout the volumes, with a few redactive insertions. All of these are in graphite. Page  of volume 2 has two corrective insertions and a cross-reference added: “Coun. moved to amend the resolution of by adding two more to the committee and make the number three <five> instead of five <three>. <[See 68 for motion. [J-R-J-F-G-B-S]]>”. The shorthand “[J-R-J-F-G-B-S]” is apparently the signature of George F. Gibbs, who served the church in a clerical capacity under several church presidents. In April 1882 President invited Gibbs to attend meetings of the Council of Fifty as a reporter so that the deliberations of that body might be more fully recorded. In June, when Gibbs was made a full member of the council, his assignment was reconfirmed. As reporter, Gibbs kept the council records. Ten years later Gibbs became the private secretary of and continued to serve subsequent presidents of the church in this capacity until 1923. Several sets of loose minutes of the Council of Fifty under the chairmanship of have penciled strikethroughs and other markings that suggest that these minutes were emended before being copied into a record book. One set of minutes includes the explicit notation “Copied in Record: Geo. F. Gibbs.” On page  of volume 2 of the Nauvoo Council of Fifty record, another shorthand notation was added to a passage regarding the minutes: “The minutes of the last council was then read and accepted after which on motion of Er they were ordered to be destroyed after the clerk has done with them. <[TH-E-S R TH M-N-T-S. [These are the minutes.]]>”. As this redaction is only four pages from the first and is also in shorthand, it was probably added by Gibbs as well. Much of the passage preceding the related notation is also underlined in graphite. This suggests that all the graphite underlining in the three volumes was done by Gibbs. Following the final original inscriptions in volume 3, there is another graphite redaction marking the date of the final entry: “<Jan. 13, 1846.>”. The handwriting of this redaction resembles the handwriting of Gibbs in the redaction on page  of volume 2. Also, the numerals inscribed in these two redactions resemble the numerals of the graphite pagination. This suggests that the graphite pagination, underlining, and redactions were all added by Gibbs. His handwriting differs from that of the initial red ink pagination and the graphite table of contents. Both the red ink and graphite pagination include repeated numbers, skipped pages, and other problems.
The three volumes have undergone some wear. This is especially true of volume 1, which apparently was used later on one or more occasions to glean information about the operations of the council under JS.
The Nauvoo-era Council of Fifty record includes several of the clerk’s autograph signatures, inscribed as copied his own signature from the ends of original loose minutes he had taken (or at times possibly added his signature at the end of a copied entry). Aspects of the record accord with historical facts from other contemporaneous sources, especially Clayton’s own journal. Clayton’s journal notes his appointment as clerk of the council, his stewardship over the minutes, and the many days he spent copying minutes into the record. His journal entry for 5 October 1845 notes that he spent the day “recording minutes of the council of Fifty” and that he “recorded 43 pages of a small record like this”—indicating that the blank book he was using for the council record was small like his own journal. Clayton’s journal for that period is very close in size and shape to the volumes in which he recorded the council minutes.
apparently kept the council records with him until he left in 1846, as they do not appear in the inventory made when church records were packed up for the exodus to the valley of the Great Salt Lake. In April 1847 in Winter Quarters, Clayton gave the records to , who apparently transported them west. In 1857, in Great Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, church historians and obtained the council records from Young in order to use them in the writing of a biography of Young to be published in the church newspaper. In 1858, when the Army came to Utah to suppress an alleged rebellion, the Council of Fifty records and some temple records were placed in a “small box,” which was put in a chest that was buried for a few months on Woodruff’s property. Then, in 1862, the Council of Fifty records—which were being kept with temple records in a “red trunk”—were returned from the Church Historian’s Office to Young. As of 1866 the council records were still in Young’s custody.
At some point the Council of Fifty records were transferred from to George Q. Cannon, who was appointed the council’s recorder in 1867. , the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Young’s successor as senior apostle of the church, determined to reconvene the Council of Fifty in March 1880. To prepare for this, Taylor asked council member Franklin D. Richards “to hunt up [the] Records of [the] Council of Fifty.” It was discovered that the records were in Cannon’s custody. A letter was sent to Cannon, in , who mailed back the key to the box containing the records. L. John Nuttall, Taylor’s private secretary, obtained the records and brought them to Taylor’s house, where he, Taylor, Richards, and Joseph F. Smith read the first two hundred pages together. By the end of the month, the records were in Richards’s possession. In April 1880 the council was reconvened, and “portions of the early Record were read.” In 1882, after George F. Gibbs had joined the council as a reporter, he kept the records. The final meetings of the council were held in the mid-1880s. Thereafter the council’s records appear to have remained in the custody of the Office of the First Presidency. In 1922 church president Heber J. Grant reportedly entrusted Joseph Anderson, who served as secretary to Grant and the First Presidency, to safeguard the records. In 1932 Grant and Franklin S. Richards—the last two living members of the council—met together and read through some of the Council of Fifty records. The minutes were also accessed in the late twentieth century. In 2010 the First Presidency transferred the Nauvoo-era record to the Church History Library.
Volume 2 is nearly identical to the 1845 minute book of Nauvoo’s Mercantile and Mechanical Association, kept by Hosea Stout. They are the same shape and size, with the same red leather bindings and even the same tooling on the covers and spines. (Mercantile and Mechanical Association of Nauvoo Minute Book, Jan.–Mar. 1845, CHL.)
Mercantile and Mechanical Association of Nauvoo Minute Book, Jan.–Mar. 1845. CHL.
See “Schedule of Church Records. Nauvoo 1846,” Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL; see also “Inventory. Historian’s Office. 4th April 1855,” Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL.
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.
Woodruff, Journal, 26 Nov. 1857; see also Woodruff, Journal, 27 Nov. and 18 Dec. 1857; Historian’s Office, Brigham Young History Drafts, 1–100; and “History of Brigham Young,” published serially in the Salt Lake City Deseret News from 17 Jan. to 24 Mar. 1858.
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
“Historian’s Office Catalogue Book March 1858,” ; “Contents of the Historian and Recorder’s Office. G. S. L. City July 1858,” 5; “March 24, 1859 Books Deposited,” Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL.
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.
Woodruff, Journal, 26 Feb. 1862; “Historian’s Office Catalogue Book March 1858,” , Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL; Brigham Young, Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, to Thomas Bullock, 25 Feb. 1862, Brigham Young Office Files, CHL.
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.
Brigham Young Office Files, 1832–1878. CHL. CR 1234 1.
JS History / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1838–1856. Vols. A-1–F-1 (original), A-2–E-2 (fair copy). Historian’s Office, History of the Church, 1839–ca. 1882. CHL. CR 100 102, boxes 1–7. The history for the period after 5 Aug. 1838 was composed after the death of Joseph Smith.
L. John Nuttall, Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, to George Q. Cannon, Washington DC, 3 Mar. 1880, in Letterbook 1, p. 168, L. John Nuttall Papers, BYU; “Diary of L. John Nuttall,” 14 June 1879; Franklin D. Richards, Journal, 16 Mar. 1880.
L. John Nuttall. Papers, 1857–1904. BYU.
“Diary of L. John Nuttall, (1834–1905) Dec. 1876–Mar. 1884.” Typescript, 1948. CHL.
Richards, Franklin D. Journals, 1844–1899. Richards Family Collection, 1837–1961. CHL. MS 1215, boxes 1–5.
Grant, Journal, 3 Jan. 1932. Much of this custodial history is taken from Andrew F. Ehat to Bruce R. McConkie, “Verification of the ‘Last Charge’ by Reference to the Original Records of the ‘Kingdom of God,’” Appendix E: “A Chronology of the Records of the Kingdom of God”; and Ehat, “Joseph Smith’s Council of Fifty: Quest for Empire or Quest for Refuge?”
Grant, Heber J. Journal. Heber J. Grant, Collection, 1852–1945. CHL.
Ehat, Andrew F. “A Chronology of the Records of the Kingdom of God.” Unpublished paper. Copy in editors’ possession.
Ehat, Andrew F. “Joseph Smith’s Council of Fifty: Quest for Empire or Quest for Refuge?” Unpublished paper. 7 Apr. 1980. Copy in editors’ possession.
On 17 March 1981 the First Presidency met with Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and others to discuss the purported JS blessing to his son Joseph Smith III—which turned out to be a Mark Hofmann forgery. The First Presidency granted Elder Hinckley access to records in their vault that might shed light on the document. Later that day, the First Presidency’s secretary lent the Nauvoo Council of Fifty record to Elder Hinckley. (Turley, Victims, 52–53, 349; Francis M. Gibbons to Gordon B. Hinckley, 17 Mar. 1981, in Case File for Council of Fifty, Papers, 1844–1885, CHL; see also Arrington, Diary, 17 and 23 Mar. 1981.)
Turley, Richard E., Jr. Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992.
Council of Fifty. Papers, 1844–1885. CHL.
Arrington, Leonard J. Diary, Nov. 1980–Apr. 1981. Leonard J. Arrington, Papers, 1839–1999. Special Collections and Archives, Merrill-Cazier Library, Utah State University, Logan.
Letter of Transfer, Salt Lake City, UT, 15 Nov. 2010, CHL.
Letter of Transfer, Salt Lake City, UT, 15 Nov. 2010. CHL.
The Nauvoo-era minutes of the Council of Fifty were recorded in three small blank books kept by council clerk , who followed a well-established precedent set by earlier church and civic councils. The church’s high councils in and had each kept a minute book of their proceedings, as had the high council and the Nauvoo City Council. When the ad hoc council that would become the Council of Fifty met on the evening of 10 March 1844, they organized themselves according to common parliamentary procedures, with JS calling to the chair and Richards appointing Clayton to serve as clerk for the meeting. Within the next few days, as the council formally organized, JS became standing chairman, Richards received the new appointment of recorder, and Clayton was appointed the ongoing clerk for the council.
Both and had considerable clerical experience. Richards had served as the regular clerk of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since at least 1841, keeping minutes of meetings and writing correspondence on behalf of the quorum. In addition, he had served as the general church recorder, the city recorder, and the recorder of donations toward building the Nauvoo . Richards had also been appointed JS’s “private se[c]retary & historian,” and he signed some Council of Fifty documents as the council’s “secretary.” Clayton was working as a factory bookkeeper in 1837, when he joined the church, and after moving to Nauvoo he assisted Richards in keeping the record of donations for the temple and eventually replaced him as temple recorder. Clayton was also elected the Nauvoo city treasurer and the secretary of the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge. In addition, Clayton and Richards regularly took minutes of general church meetings. Either, then, might have served well as record keeper, but the records presented in this volume were almost all created originally by Clayton, and all were inscribed by him into the permanent record.
The terms “clerk” and “recorder” had earlier been used interchangeably by Latter-day Saints, and the distinction made in the council between the two offices was never explained in extant records. Many of the parliamentary duties that were assigned to the recorder in the context of city proceedings were, in the context of the Council of Fifty, handled by the clerk. For example, the Nauvoo city recorder was supposed to “keep a journal of the proceedings of the council,” read the minutes or journal of the previous meeting to the council, and “read whatever is laid before the council for the consideration of the members”—yet in the Council of Fifty, all these tasks were given to as clerk. Nevertheless, may have had some supervisory role over Clayton, as Richards frequently made motions in the council directing Clayton’s actions as clerk. On 11 April 1845 was appointed “to assist the clerk to keep minutes,” but it is unclear if Foster fulfilled this assignment or for how long.
’s appointments as clerk at both the preliminary 10 March 1844 meeting and the 11 March organizing session suggest that from the beginning of the council, records were considered important and he was charged with keeping them. However, on 14 March, after five consecutive days of council meetings, the council resolved “to burn the minutes in consequence of treachery and plots of designing men.” This probably explains why contemporary minutes for these early meetings did not survive. Nonetheless, Clayton continued to keep minutes of council meetings, which were read and accepted by the council. In March 1845 the council returned to the practice of burning the minutes—at least the copies that Clayton presented in its meetings—once they had been read and accepted by the council. Although Clayton appears to have been the primary recorder of the council minutes, on four occasions in 1844 he either left a council meeting early because of illness or was out of town. Because the minutes copied by Clayton into the bound volumes are the only surviving copies of the minutes for these four meetings, it is not known who took minutes in Clayton’s stead—though it seems likely that as recorder would have filled this role. In February 1845 Clayton missed an impromptu meeting held by several council members, for which took minutes. Clayton made a brief entry in the record for that date but apparently without consulting Bullock’s minutes.
The minutes of the Council of Fifty reflect the parliamentary nature of the council. To some extent, however, the strict parliamentary order portrayed in the minutes—especially in the 1845 minutes—was artificially imposed by . He and others occasionally complained of disorder in council meetings. On one occasion Clayton noted that the council discussed the “difficulty of keeping minutes correct when there is the least disturbance or confusion.” Furthermore, Clayton appears to have been primarily interested in capturing an administrative record of the Council of Fifty’s proceedings rather than a discursive one. His minutes focus on the motions made by council members, key discussion points, and statements by the chairman. This feature of Clayton’s minutes is especially evident in a comparison of his later (Utah-era) council minutes with those kept by , who also began taking minutes when he joined the council in December 1846. While Clayton’s later minutes are stylistically very similar to those in the Nauvoo-era record book, Bullock’s minutes reflect a different style of minute taking. Although neither scribe produced a complete transcript of discussions, Bullock’s more detailed minutes reveal that Clayton frequently summarized or excised tangential remarks or discussions, keeping the focus on the decisions made by the council and its chairman.
The survival of original rough copies and later fair copies of ’s minutes for early Utah meetings may provide a window into how Clayton produced the Nauvoo-era minutes. While it is evident in the record books that Clayton was copying additional council documents, such as letters, the later original and fair copies reveal just how extensively Clayton relied on such documents. For example, it appears that instead of noting who was present in his original minutes, Clayton relied on an attendance roll, which he later used to record the names of attendees when he produced the fair copy of the minutes. Additionally, Clayton appears to have relied on the written motions submitted to the chair to help formulate his minutes. In his rough minutes Clayton simply numbered the motion and named the council member who had offered it; in the fair copy he then transcribed or paraphrased the written motion. In addition to cleaning up the language and format of the original minutes as he prepared the fair copy, Clayton actively reworked his minutes to better conform to parliamentary order and to produce an administrative focus by summarizing or leaving out some of the remarks captured in his rough minutes. Only one set of original minutes that was used in the creation of the record book for the Nauvoo era has survived. Unfortunately, these minutes are for the last session of the Council of Fifty recorded in the record book—an unusual meeting that was attended by several captains of the emigrating companies who were preparing to leave Nauvoo. Because so many individuals were present “the meeting was not organized in order,” and furthermore Clayton spent much of the meeting collecting the reports from the captains, meaning the surviving minutes are not necessarily representative of Clayton’s typical record-keeping practices. Nevertheless, a comparison between these original minutes and the copy in the record book reveals that Clayton made a number of changes to the minutes, adding or deleting words and phrases in an attempt to clarify or polish the text. Without a larger sample size, however, it is unclear how many of his later practices Clayton had adopted prior to leaving Nauvoo, though the similar language and style of the later minutes suggest that at least some of them began in Nauvoo.
Although began keeping minutes for the council on 10 March 1844, he did not begin the council’s record book until the summer of 1844. At one o’clock in the morning on 23 June 1844, Clayton was summoned by council member to JS’s home. JS had received a letter from governor insisting that he and other men charged with the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor surrender to authorities. Fearing that they would not receive justice, JS determined to cross the during the night. Clayton stated that when he arrived at JS’s home, JS “whispered and told me either to put the r[ecords] of k[ingdom] into the hands of some faithful man and send them away, or burn them or bury them.” Clayton “returned home and immediately put the records in a small box and buried them” in his garden. Around five o’clock that morning Clayton returned to JS’s office and gathered “all the public & private records together and buried them.” received similar instructions from JS to “destroy the records ‘root and branch.’” JS apparently worried that the papers of the Council of Fifty would be confiscated and used against him. In February 1845 Richards told the council that, following these instructions, he had destroyed the council papers in his possession, which may explain why only one routine council paper for 1844—an apology for absence by on 5 May 1844—has survived.
apparently felt that the immediate danger of the council’s papers being confiscated passed after the murder of JS on 27 June. On 3 July, Clayton dug up the records that he had buried, noting that “water had got into the place where they were & they were damaged.” By mid-August the immediate issue of who would succeed JS as leader of the church in had been settled in favor of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Clayton had begun to meet with them and other church leaders as church affairs gradually resumed. On 15 August, after attending a meeting with the Twelve, the Nauvoo House Association, and the committee—the core group that had initially formed the Council of Fifty—Clayton noted that “a very good feeling prevails in the breasts of the brethren.” Around this time, Clayton began working on the first record book for the Council of Fifty.
On 18 August 1844 wrote in his journal that he spent the day at his office “copying the record of the Kingdom.” On 6 September he again noted spending the day copying the record. For the initial 10 March entry in the record book, Clayton must have had access to the original letters from and or a later copy because he began by copying the letters into the record book. Because the original minutes of the council meetings from 10 to 14 March had been burned, Clayton then reconstructed brief accounts of these meetings using his journal, memory, and possibly other documents. In the summaries of these early meetings, Clayton seems to have paid particular attention to recording the origins of standing rules and precedents that the later minutes referred back to, such as the oath of confidentiality and the name of the council.
Beginning with the entry in the record book for the 19 March 1844 meeting, was apparently working from original minutes or notes, as the minutes became longer and more detailed. Still, only a few 1844 entries approach the level of detail contained in the 1845 entries, a difference that is never explained in either the record or Clayton’s journal. Clayton or may not have kept as thorough minutes in 1844, or the original minutes or other council documents that Clayton used to flesh out the original minutes may have been partially unavailable or illegible, either because they were damaged when Clayton buried the records or because they were destroyed by Richards. After 20 September 1844, Clayton did not mention working on the record again in his journal until after the council reconvened on 4 February 1845, when he spent three days working on the record. Clayton may have copied up through the 4 February meeting during this time, because on 1 March—after Clayton’s minutes had been read and approved by the council—the council voted that the minutes be destroyed, after which Clayton “put them in the stove and burned them up.” From this example, as well as from the later Utah-era minutes, it appears that Clayton’s production of the minutes may have gone through three stages, at least some of the time. First, he took rough minutes during a meeting. Second, he prepared a loose copy to be read in the next meeting. Third, he made a fair copy of the minutes in the record books.
As the council met more regularly in March and April 1845, dedicated more time to copying the minutes. According to his journal, from 6 March to 28 April he spent twenty days copying minutes. Textual clues in his journal indicate that during this period he was typically copying minutes into the record books within a few days of the meeting. On 10 March 1845 Clayton quoted from the minutes of the previous session of the council, indicating that he was caught up by that point. On 17 April he copied into his journal the expanded lyrics from the song “The Upper California,” which had been sung at the 11 April council meeting, suggesting he had copied into the bound volumes that portion of the record on that day. Apparently Clayton stopped copying minutes after 28 April and did not resume until the council reconvened in September. For the three meetings in September and October, Clayton returned to his earlier pattern of copying minutes shortly after the meeting of the council, once on the very day of the meeting. By 5 October he appears to have caught up once again.
Although the council’s meetings in 1845 were of roughly the same duration as its meetings in 1844, the 1845 minutes are a much more complete record and better display the deliberative nature of the council. While only two 1844 entries give the names of those in attendance, all but two 1845–1846 entries begin by naming the attendees. One roll kept by , which begins with the meeting of 22 April 1845, survives. It may be that an earlier roll was kept until it was filled and its information copied into the record. At that point it may have been destroyed—as was the case with the rough minutes. These later minutes may be more detailed at least partly because Clayton had access to the types of documents or notes that may have been damaged or destroyed in 1844. Further, because Clayton was copying minutes so soon after a meeting had taken place, his memory of the meeting may have allowed him to better expand his initial notes.
may have begun making the permanent record based on instruction from JS or on his own accord. Enigmatic statements in the 1845 minutes, when the council reconvened, suggest that it is possible that neither the council chairman, , nor the council recorder, , was aware of Clayton’s record. When the council reorganized in February 1845 requested that the “minutes of the first councils” be read, to which Young responded that “all the minutes were burned up.” While Young’s statement may refer only to the 14 March 1844 decision to burn the minutes of the first few meetings, additional discussion suggests that many council members, including and Richards, interpreted the lack of records more broadly. Later in the meeting Miller appears to have questioned Young’s statement “in regard to the records,” as he “supposed they had been preserved but he had learned since that they were destroyed.” To this Richards responded that in accordance with JS’s instructions he had destroyed the records. Although Clayton spoke immediately after Richards, he did not correct these statements. On 4 March 1845 Richards proposed that the council allow Clayton “the priviledge of taking the minutes and retaining them to copy some names from them” before destroying them. Similar motions were made by Richards on 11 and 18 March, at which point he suggested making it a standing rule of the council that “the clerk be instructed hereafter to burn up all the minutes of these councils as fast as he has done with them untill otherwise instructed by the council.” It is unclear whether Richards knew at this point that Clayton was making a complete copy of the minutes or whether he was concerned with the loose minutes, which could be more easily lost or misappropriated.
made no record of any additional copying after 5 October 1845. At some point prior to 14 April 1847, when Clayton delivered the Council of Fifty records to , Clayton copied minutes of the first two of four January 1846 meetings (11 and 13 January) into the record book. That the record book does not contain entries for two additional January 1846 meetings (18 and 19 January) or for the meetings held in November and December 1846 suggests that Clayton stopped working on the record sometime in January. Clayton may have kept original minutes of the 18 January 1846 meeting, and his loose minutes of the 19 January meeting survive. However, in this period Clayton was busy keeping a record of ordinances performed in the , settling financial accounts in preparation for his removal west, and gathering reports from the company captains preparing to emigrate. Perhaps these tasks left Clayton no time to copy the remaining January minutes into the record before he departed Nauvoo in February 1846. At some point Clayton noted on his 19 January loose minutes that the 13 January minutes were the “last on the Record.”
Clayton, Journal, 13 Mar. 1844. According to Clayton’s journal, Richards’s appointment was not made until 13 March 1844; however, Clayton’s reconstructed minutes in the Council of Fifty record book date the appointment to 11 March, when the council was formally organized. (Council of Fifty, “Record,” 11 Mar. 1844.)
See, for example, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Minutes, 31 Aug. 1841; and the two 10 March 1844 letters from the Wisconsinpinery, which were addressed to Richards as “clerk” of the Quorum of the Twelve. (Council of Fifty, “Record,” 10 Mar. 1844.)
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Minutes, 1840–1844. CHL.
JS, Journal, 21 Dec. 1842. In the Council of Fifty, Richards was almost invariably chosen for the committees responsible for drafting documents on behalf of the council and regularly signed or countersigned letters from the council as “clerk” or “secretary.” (See, for example, Council of Fifty, “Record,” 13 May 1844 and 27 Feb. 1845.)
Clayton’s reconstructed record of council meetings for 10 to 14 March appears to be heavily dependent on his journal entries for those days. In some entries, text from his journal was copied verbatim or paraphrased, while meetings of the council that Clayton did not record in his journal were not captured in the record book. Clayton may have been referring to his composition of these entries when he wrote on 20 September that he spent part of the day “writing minutes of Council of fifty.” By contrast, his journal entries of 18 August and 6 September, which apparently corresponded with his transcribing of the letters from Miller and Wight, instead note that he was “copying” the record—as do so many later journal entries that correspond with his copying of minutes. (Clayton, Journal, 10–14 Mar. 1844; 18 Aug. 1844; 6 and 20 Sept. 1844, italics added; Council of Fifty, “Record,” 10–14 Mar. 1844.)
Although the rough and fair copies of Clayton’s Utah-era minutes survive, the fair copies are still not as polished as the Nauvoo-era record and contain clerical marks suggesting that they served as an intermediary copy between the rough minutes and a nonextant record book copy. (See, for example, Clayton’s rough and fair minutes for 3 March 1849 in Council of Fifty, Papers, 1844–1885, CHL.)
Clayton did not record spending any days copying minutes during this period. When he copied the 10 May 1845 minutes he listed George D. Grant as present, possibly anachronistically since Grant did not join the council until 8 September. The inclusion of Grant in the 10 May minutes suggests that the minutes may have been copied into the record book sometime after Grant joined the council. (Council of Fifty, “Record,” 10 May 1845.)
On 5 October, Clayton recorded filling “43 pages of a small record like this [his journal].” The 4 October minutes in the record book cover forty-three pages. (Clayton, Journal, 5 Oct. 1845; Council of Fifty, “Record,” 4 Oct. 1845.)
The two 1845–1846 exceptions are the impromptu 27 February 1845 meeting of the Twelve and other council members, which Clayton did not attend, and the 13 January 1846 meeting, which was attended by the council and the captains of the emigrating companies. (Council of Fifty, “Record,” 27 Feb. 1845 and 13 Jan. 1846.)
Letters to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve proposing a new gathering center for Mormon settlement in the provided the immediate impetus for the organization of the Council of Fifty in March 1844. The proposal may have grown out of earlier interest in the southern states as well as the Republic of Texas. JS’s journal notes that a few months earlier, on 27 October 1843, he conversed with and , who had “just retur[ne]d from the south.” Miller was the bishop for the settlement of Latter-day Saints who were logging and milling pine at Black River Falls in . Haws and other Mormon missionaries preaching in Alabama and Mississippi had recently converted scores of southerners. JS’s journal also notes that on 29 October, Miller and Haws met with , JS’s secretary, and ordained an elder in order to send him on a mission to Texas. These notes in JS’s journal suggest that he and Miller shared a new interest in the South and in Texas.
Three months later, interest in was expressed in the pamphlet on JS’s political views published in support of his campaign for the presidency of the . JS met with on 29 January 1844 and instructed him on what should be included in a public statement that would give his position on many political issues. They met again on 5 February to review what Phelps had written, and JS apparently approved of the document on 7 February, the date the published document bears. By 24 February fifteen hundred copies of General Smith’s Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States had been printed. Unlike most northerners, JS advocated the annexation of Texas as part of an ambitious yet peaceful agenda of American expansionism. He proposed that “if Texas petitions Congress to be adopted among the sons of liberty, give her the right hand of fellowship; and refuse not the same friendly grip to and .” Whenever “a neighboring realm peti[ti]oned to join the union,” JS’s position would be “come: yea come Texas: come Mexico; come Canada; and come all the world—let us be brethren: let us be one great family; and let there be universal peace.”
On 7 March 1844 JS explained his position on in an address to a congregation in . He warned that if the did not annex Texas, the republic would form an alliance with the British that would expose America’s western frontier to an attack. JS acknowledged that many opposed annexation because Texas would come into the union as a slave state, upsetting the balance of power between northern and southern states in Congress. He argued, however, that protecting America from British intrigue and invasion was more important. In JS’s view, the congressional balance of power could be restored by converting slave states into free states or by annexing . Anticipating the concern that many would have with such a large number of emancipated slaves, JS stated that the freedmen could be sent through Texas to —to live “where all colors are alike.”
The day after JS delivered this address, arrived in carrying two letters from , where church members had been logging pine since 1841 to supply lumber for the Nauvoo and the . The Wisconsin Saints had recently met to assess their situation. They estimated that by July 1844 they could supply more than enough lumber for both buildings, which would fulfill their original purpose in going to Wisconsin. However, over time they had taken on two new priorities. One was to continue logging in order to raise funds for the church, and the other was a growing interest in proselytizing the American Indians in the area. A delegation of local Indians had recently visited the Wisconsin Saints to inform them that they would have to pay federally regulated rates for further logging on the above the falls. While this development changed the prospects for using the lumber mills to raise money, the meeting helped solidify relations between the Mormons and the Indians. Noting the poor prospects for making money in Wisconsin and the recent proselytizing success in the South, the Wisconsin Saints proposed that they abandon the milling venture and establish a new gathering center in for southern Saints. In terms of raising money for the church, they expected they would do so more successfully by instituting a consecration program among gathered planters. As for the Indians, the Wisconsin Saints felt they could persuade them to move to Texas with them, and that the Saints there could then use Texas as a doorway to proselytize among Indians throughout the Americas.
The Wisconsin Saints appointed a committee—consisting of , , , , and —to write up their views and send them to church leaders in . As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Wight was the ranking ecclesiastical officer and served as the president of the branch at Black River Falls. He was also a trustee of the Nauvoo House Association, which oversaw the construction of the and the lumber operation. The lumber operation had begun at Miller’s suggestion. As president of the Nauvoo House Association and as a bishop, Miller procured and managed the supplies and provisions of the settlement. Hawley and Bird served as counselors to Bishop Miller and helped manage the implementation of a communal economic system among the Wisconsin Mormons. Young, a relatively recent convert, may have been selected to serve as a scribe, though the final versions of the letters are not in Young’s handwriting. The committee assigned Miller and Wight each to draft a letter to send to Nauvoo, which they did separately. After reviewing the two drafts, the committee resolved to send both letters. Each letter is dated 15 February 1844, addressed to JS and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and signed by the five members of the committee. The committee initially chose Young to carry the letters to Nauvoo, but it was later decided that Miller would bear them.
delivered the letters to JS in on the afternoon of Sunday, 10 March 1844. JS perused the letters and some discussion ensued. At 4:30 p.m. JS met in the with Miller, available members of the Quorum of the Twelve, and the temple committee. The men reacted favorably to the petition from the Saints. Though his journal entry for this day is somewhat ambiguous, JS apparently suggested the production of a revised version of the Constitution that would protect all men in their rights as well as the possibility of amending the Constitution. After breaking for supper, the group reconvened at “7 eve” in “the assembly room” over JS’s . JS organized the meeting by appointing as chairman, whereupon Richards appointed the clerk. According to the account below, the letters were further discussed, after which JS expressed satisfaction with the “union of feeling” that prevailed among the brethren with whom he was meeting and also between themselves and the Wisconsin Saints. The meeting continued until a “late hour” before being adjourned until the next morning.
’s account of the evening meeting, reproduced below, is evidently a reminiscent reconstruction. The wording of this initial entry for the 10 March meeting, which provides context for the formal organization of the council on 11 March, suggests that it was written sometime after 11 March—probably in July or August 1844. In his narration of the events of 10 March, Clayton does not recount the afternoon meeting that preceded the evening meeting, apparently because he was not in attendance. Clayton’s retelling of the events of the day in the council record mistakenly implies that the Twelve did not meet with JS before the evening meeting. Moreover, Clayton’s account of the evening meeting lacks important details regarding subjects of discussion that are reported for that day in JS’s journal. However, Clayton’s entry in the council record does include transcripts of the letters from and . Whereas Clayton apparently did not have raw contemporary minutes from which to draw, he did have these significant letters. While the lengthy letters from Miller and Wight constitute the bulk of the entry, Clayton framed the letters within a narrative of the council’s origins. Overall, Clayton composed the first entry of the “Record” as an introduction to the Council of the Kingdom.
This Council was organized on the strength of the contents of two letters from the brethren in the which president Joseph Smith received by the hands of and on Sunday the 10th. day of March A. D. 1844. The letters read as follows:—
Black River Falls.
February 15th. 1844
To the First Presidency and the quorum of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Dear Brethren, Through the goodness and mercy of God the EternalFather, and grace of our Lord and SaviorJesusChrist, we are permitted to write and send by a special messenger, a concise [p. ]
JS, Journal, 27 Oct. 1843. Haws was assigned with John Brown to proselytize in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in April 1843. There is no record of Miller receiving a similar assignment. He was in Nauvoo as late as 28 September 1843; if he went to the South, he was gone less than a month. (Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Minutes, 24 Apr. 1843; JS, Journal, 28 Sept. 1843.)
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Minutes, 1840–1844. CHL.
Historian’s Office, JS History, Draft Notes, 27 Oct. 1843; Brown, Reminiscences and Journal, bk. A, 9–27; W. Huitt and S. Gully, Nauvoo, IL, Mar. 1844, Letter to the Editor, Times and Seasons, 1 Apr. 1844, 5:484–485; McQuilkin, “Journey of Faith,” 25–30; Berrett, “History of the Southern States Mission,” 209–210.
Brown, John. Reminiscences and Journals, 1843–1896. CHL. MS 1636.
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
McQuilkin, Carol Ann. “Journey of Faith: Mid-Nineteenth Century Migration of Mississippi Mormons and Slaves.” Master’s thesis, California State University, Fullerton, 1995.
Berrett, LaMar C. “History of the Southern States Mission, 1831–1861.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1960.
JS, Journal, 24 Feb. 1844; “No 4 Joseph Smith’s a∕c Dr as pr Printing Office Books,” Newel K. Whitney, Papers, BYU; “Notice,” Nauvoo Neighbor, 28 Feb. 1844, . JS served as the lieutenant general of the Nauvoo Legion and often used his formal title in connection with his presidential campaign. (See Commission, Thomas Carlin to JS, 10 Mar. 1841, JS Collection, CHL.)
George Miller, St. James, MI, to “Dear Brother,” 26 June 1855, in Northern Islander, 16 Aug. 1855, –; George Miller, St. James, MI, to “Dear Brother,” 27 June 1855, in Northern Islander, 23 Aug. 1855, –; JS, Journal, 20 Feb. 1844.
In an earlier letter, Wight was listed as “Pres”—the president of the branch. (Lyman Wight et al., Black River Falls, Wisconsin Territory, to Brigham Young et al., Nauvoo, IL, 30 Jan. 1844, Brigham Young Office Files, CHL.)
Brigham Young Office Files, 1832–1878. CHL. CR 1234 1.
Laws of the State of Illinois, Passed by the Twelfth General Assembly, at Their Session, Began and Held at Springfield, on the Seventh of December, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Forty. Springfield, IL: William Walters, 1841.
Young, who was not related to Brigham Young, later served in a clerical capacity in Lyman Wight’s church in Texas. The wrapper for the letters bears the inscription “favored by John Young.” One of the letters also names Young as the intended courier. (Johnson, Polygamy on the Pedernales, 145.)
Johnson, Melvin C. Polygamy on the Pedernales: Lyman Wight’s Mormon Villages in Antebellum Texas, 1845–1858. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2006.
Badlam was likely living at Galena, Illinois, and Miller could have met him while on his way downriver from Black River Falls to Nauvoo. Following the 11 March meeting, during which Badlam became a member of the Council of Fifty, Badlam may have returned north with Miller, as he next appears in the council record in the 3 May 1844 meeting, when he and Miller again accepted the rules of the council. James Emmett reported to the council on 31 May 1844 that he traveled with Badlam from Galena circa late March during Emmett’s mission to the American Indians in Wisconsin, though it is unclear whether Badlam accompanied Emmett for the whole mission, or only to Prairie du Chien. Though unaffiliated with the Wisconsin pineries, Badlam may have accompanied Miller because of his interest in the Nauvoo House; he had served a mission with Lyman Wight in 1842 to raise funds for its construction. (Samuel Brannan, New York City, NY, to Brigham Young, Nauvoo, IL, 26 Apr. 1845, Brigham Young Office Files, CHL; Council of Fifty, “Record,” 11 Mar. 1844; 3 and 31 May 1844; “Conference Minutes,” Times and Seasons, 15 Nov. 1842, 4:13–15.)
Brigham Young Office Files, 1832–1878. CHL. CR 1234 1.
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
Lyman Wight later published the letter he wrote, which matches the second of the two letters transcribed here—indicating that Miller wrote the first. (Wight, Address by Way of an Abridged Account and Journal of My Life, 1–3.)
Wight, Lyman. An Address by Way of an Abridged Account and Journal of My Life from February 1844 up to April 1848, with an Appeal to the Latter Day Saints. [Austin, TX], [ca. 1848].