Kirtland high council, Minutes, , Geauga Co., OH, 2 Jan. 1836. Featured version copied [between ca. 4 Apr. and ca. 16 May 1836] in Minute Book 1, pp. 135–136; handwriting of ; CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Minute Book 1.
On 2 January 1836, a disciplinary council—consisting of two members of the , the president of the , six of the seven senior members of the , and several members of the high councils of , Ohio, and , Missouri—met to discuss charges filed by against on 29 December.
During the previous two months, JS and his brother had engaged in a series of heated disputes, including one that ended in William attacking and injuring JS. Though the brothers exchanged conciliatory letters in mid-December, JS’s journal entry for the morning of New Year’s Day indicates that conflict between the two of them continued to fester and had caused division within the Smith family. “My heart is pained within me because of the difficulty that exists in my fathers family,” JS dictated to his scribe. He added that “the Devil has made a violent attack” on William and , their brother-in-law, and concluded, “The powers of Earth & hell seem combined to overthrow us and the Church by causing a division in the family.”
Later in the day on 1 January, the two brothers finally met in person at JS’s home; according to an account of the meeting recorded in JS’s journal, , , , and were also present. Joseph Smith Sr. opened the meeting with a prayer, after which he “expressed his feelings on the occasion in a verry feeling and pathetic manner even with all the sympathy of a father whose feeling were wounded deeply on the account of the difficulty that was existing in the family.” The journal notes that as Joseph Smith Sr. spoke, “the spirit of God rested down upon us in mighty power, and our hearts were melted.” then “made an humble confession” and asked JS’s forgiveness for “the abuse he had offered.” For his part, JS asked William to forgive him “wherein [he] had been out of the way.” The two men agreed to “build each other up in righteousness, in all things and not listen to evil reports concerning eachother, but like brethren, indeed to go to eachother, with our grievances in the spirit of meekness, and be reconciled and thereby promote our own happiness and the happiness of the family.” , , and , who had apparently been waiting in another room, were then called in to witness the brothers repeat the covenant. The journal documents the relief that JS and others felt, noting that “tears flowed from our eys . . . , and it was truly a jubilee and time of rejoiceing.”
Although the brothers had reconciled, the disciplinary council still met to discuss ’s charges. JS apparently recused himself from the trial but did attend the meeting. Interspersed with more routine church business, the minutes featured here highlight ’s trial and confession before church leaders. The document also chronicles the confession of , who had appeared before the disciplinary council five days prior.
There is nothing in contemporary accounts to indicate who or what prompted the face-to-face meeting. Given that the disciplinary council was scheduled for the following morning, William may have felt compelled to privately reconcile with JS before appearing at the public council.
met in the Room agreeably to previous arrangement.
Names of Counsellors
arose and read the charge preferred against by bearing date Decr 29th 1835, and proceeded to make some very appropriate remarks touching the case now before them, after which the council was opened by prayer.
then arose and asked permission to speak. He then in the spirit of meekness and humility confessed the charges [p. 135]