Kirtland high council, Minutes, , Geauga Co., OH, 16 June 1836. Featured version copied [ca. 16 June 1836] in Minute Book 1, pp. 212–218; handwriting of ; CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Minute Book 1.
On 16 June 1836, JS met with members of the of , Ohio, to consider accusations he had made against two members, and , for “a want of benevolence to the poor and charity to the church.” Since he himself had brought the charges, JS may have recused himself from presiding at this meeting, though he actively participated. The council first considered Harris’s case and then, after adjourning for an hour, returned and considered McWithy’s case.
The cases heard on 16 June highlight two concerns church leaders had at the time: providing for the destitute Saints in and supporting the church in —that is, . testified in both cases that the men had contributed very little to the poor, and he concluded that neither had borne an appropriate portion of the financial burden of caring for impoverished Kirtland church members. and were also tried for their reluctance to financially support church endeavors, including construction of the in Kirtland and purchasing land in Zion. In the trials, JS specifically mentioned Harris’s and McWithy’s refusals to send money or move to Zion; stated that such unwillingness had forced church leaders into debt. reminded those present of the need to consecrate all they had to building Zion, adding that if they refused, they were “unworthy of the fellowship of the Saints.”
During the meeting, the charges against were deemed fully sustained and he was disfellowshipped. defended himself against the accusations, claiming he had acted charitably, and asked the council for forgiveness. No verdict was recorded in the minutes for McWithy’s case. Harris appears to have been unwilling to change his conduct; he accepted the council’s decision and left the church. Although the extant minutes do not officially disfellowship McWithy, he also seems to have distanced himself from the church after this trial.
Throughout summer and fall 1836, JS and his fellow church leaders grappled with the competing priorities of providing for the poor Saints in while raising money and support for . Both concerns would again be addressed in December 1836, when a conference was held for the church leadership in Kirtland to consider the difficulties of additional impoverished church members moving there.
Unfortunately, the minutes featured here are the last entries in the Kirtlandhigh council records until May 1837. The handwriting of Warren A. Cowdery, who had acted as the scribe recording Minute Book 1 in 1836, ends with this entry, and Marcellus Cowdery’s handwriting begins with the next entry, dated 11 May 1837. The entry for the 16 June 1836 meeting featured here is followed by a blank half page, possibly indicating room was left to record additional information on the case. (Minute Book 1, 16 June 1836–29 May 1837.)
in getting wood. was never present, although a public call had been given out frequently; he thinks the poor have generally been the most forward to assist the needy, he once gave a half a dollar to assist . Many of the poor gave much more. says he is knowing to the giving about 35. some time since— in may, yet did not feel that he has been sufficiently liberal according to his circumstances and the wants of the brethren. says he is acquainted with brother Fisher’s poverty. he took it upon himself to call for a donation to get him a cow, did not call on nor receive any thing from him.
The counsellors proceeded to speak according to their impressions made by the testimony, 1 2d, said the charge of a want of charity to the church was not sustained. The accusor called to say whether the church was not poor, he answered yes, then says the accusor I have sustained the charge. 3d , 4th 5.th & 6th . When the counsellors appointed to speak were through, the accusor rose & spoke concerning the sin of a want of charity to the the poor and quoted several instances to prove the fact, &c. such as feed the hungry, clothe the naked administer to the wants of the widow and fatherless, &c. He also testified that himself in Co. with Pres. did once call on for a donation to assist the poor & gave him a plan which (to me said he) was the most noble, Which was to send up money to help build up , purchase land &c. He referred us to his wife, we could not reconcile her to the plan, which we laid before her. H said that he had promised her that [p. 213]