Minutes, , OH, 22–23 Jan. 1833. Featured version copied [ca. 23 Jan. 1833] in Minute Book 1, pp. 6–8; handwriting of and ; CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Minute Book 1.
According to the index of Minute Book 1, a of met in , Ohio, on 22–23 January 1833 “to organize the .” A 27–28 December 1832 revelation had commanded the “first labourers” of the church to “assembl yourselves together, and organize yourselves, and prepare yourselves, and sanc[t]ify yourselves.” The revelation commanded these “labourers” to “clean your hands, and your feet, before me” so that they could be “clean, from the blood of this, wicked generation” and then to establish a school where they could be instructed in both secular and spiritual matters—a school that JS called a “school for the Prophets.” Schools of the prophets, which trained ministerial candidates prior to the assumption of their duties as clergymen, had been part of the colonial and early American religious landscape since the arrival of the Puritans in the 1630s. Institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth were generally understood to be “schools of the prophets” in that one of their primary functions was to train a qualified clergy. Private schools of the prophets emerged in the 1740s as part of the reform spirit associated with the First Great Awakening and continued into the early nineteenth century.
According to the 27–28 December 1832 revelation, the School of the Prophets was necessary for the men of the school to “be prepared, in all things when I shall send you again, to magnify the calling, whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which, I have commissioned you.” It was also essential so that the men could be better qualified “to go forth among the , for the last time.” In accordance with these instructions, twelve high priests, two , and other members of the church, including women, gathered on 22 January 1833 in an upstairs room of ’s , where JS was living. The conference continued the next day, though it is likely, given the “washing hands faces & feet” that took place on the second day, that only the men listed at the beginning of the minutes were present on that day.
Although the index to Minute Book 1 states that the purpose of the conference was to organize the school, the minutes do not provide details about any kind of formal establishment. Instead, the minutes indicate that the conference was mainly concerned with the sanctification required by the 27–28 December 1832 revelation—perhaps as a necessary precursor to any actual teaching or learning. The participants present on the first day experienced the gifts of speaking in and interpreting tongues. Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon refer to speaking in tongues as one of the manifestations of God’s Spirit. A March 1831 revelation also states that “it is given to some to speak with tongues & to another it is given the interpretation of tongues.” The practice, however, was not common in other religious denominations in the at the time, although it was sometimes exhibited at slave revivals in the early nineteenth century and was occasionally manifested in the Shaker community. Although church members had experienced this gift in 1830 and 1831 before JS’s arrival, it largely disappeared in after a June 1831 conference at which JS “identified some of the ecstatic manifestations” of church members as “ungodly.” However, at a meeting in November 1832, as a later history of JS explains, “Brother , and spoke in Tongues, which was the first time I had heard this Gift among the brethren, others also spoke, and I received the Gift myself.” Just two months later, the gift resurfaced in this 22–23 January 1833 meeting. According to the later history, JS “rejoiced . . . at the return of these long absent blessings to the assembly of the Saints.”
On the second day of the conference, after another episode of speaking in tongues, JS washed the hands, faces, and feet of those present, following the biblical precedent found in John 13:4–17. Such a ceremony was not unknown at the time. The practice came to colonial America with radical Reformation groups, such as Mennonites and the Church of the Brethren, in the 1600s and 1700s. Once in America, other groups, including some Baptists, adopted the practice, viewing the ritual as an act of humility. Reformed Baptists following also may have instituted something similar in meetings held in the vicinity of in the late 1820s. In 1832, as part of his Bible revision, JS revised the John 13 account of Jesus washing the apostles’ feet to state that the ceremony “was the costom of the Jews under their law: wherefore, Jesus done this that the law might be fulfilled.” , who was present at the January 1833 conference, explained that the ceremony served as “a testimony” that the “garments” of those so washed “were clean from the blood of this generation.” According to , another conference participant, the washing of the feet was the defining ceremony in the establishment of the School of the Prophets. “The school was organized,” he recorded in his journal, “by assembling together and the washing of the deciples feet.”
acted as clerk of the conference and recorded minutes of the meeting. He and later copied the minutes into Minute Book 1.
Esplin, Ronald K. “The Emergence of Brigham Young and the Twelve to Mormon Leadership, 1830–1841.” PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1981. Also available as The Emergence of Brigham Young and the Twelve to Mormon Leadership, 1830–1841, Dissertations in Latter-day Saint History (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History; BYU Studies, 2006).
Grow, Matthew J. “‘Clean from the Blood of This Generation’: The Washing of Feet and the Latter-day Saints.” In Archive of Restoration Culture Summer Fellows’ Papers, 2000– 2002, edited by Richard Lyman Bushman, 131–138. Provo, UT : Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History, 2005.
Reuben Harmon, a longtime resident of Kirtland, stated in 1884 that he had witnessed “the washing of feet” when “Mr. [Sidney] Rigdon was preaching in Mentor.” It is unclear from the statement whether the ceremony occurred in Rigdon’s Mentor church, or whether it happened in a reformed Baptist congregation on Isaac Morley’s farm in Kirtland. (Kelley and Braden, Public Discussion of the Issues, 393.)
Kelley, E. L., and Clark Braden. Public Discussion of the Issues between the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Church of Christ (Disciples), Held in Kirtland, Ohio. . . . St. Louis: Clark Braden, 1884.
New Testament Revision 2, p. 117 (second numbering) [Joseph Smith Translation, John 13:10]; see also Faulring et al., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 69.
Faulring, Scott H., Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds. Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004.
opened with prayer by the President, after prayer the President spake in an unknown Tongue he was followed by Br and he by Bro after this the gift was poured out in a miraculous manner until all the Elders obtained the gift together with several of the members of the both male & female Great and glorious were the divine manifestation of the Holy Spirit, Praises were sang to God & the Lamb besides much speaking & praying all in tongues. The conference adjourned at a late hour in the night to meet next morning at 9 oclock closed by with prayer by the President
Wednesday Janry 23d Meet agreeable to adjournment. Conference opened with Prayer by the President and after much speaking praying and singing, all done in Tongues proceded to in the name of the Lord as commanded by of God each one washing his own after which the president guirded himself with a towel and again washed the feet of all the Elders wiping them with the towel, his presenting himself the President asked of him a blessing before he would wash his feet which he obtained by the , pronouncing upon his head that he should continue in his Priests office untill Christ come——
at the close of which scene Br being moved upon by the Holy Ghost washed the feet of the President as a token of his [p. 7]
Coltrin’s journal entry for this meeting states that “much useful instruction was obtaind by the gift and power of the holy spirit and also the gift of tongues and the interpretation thereof.” (Coltrin, Diary and Notebook, 24 Jan. 1833.)
Coltrin, Zebedee. Diary and Notebook, 1832–1833. Zebedee Coltrin, Diaries, 1832–1834. CHL. MS 1443, fd. 2.
John 13 recounts that when Christ first attempted to wash Peter’s feet, Peter objected. After Christ told Peter, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me,” Peter responded, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus then replied, “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” As part of his Bible revision, JS changed that answer sometime in February or March 1832 to read, “He that has washed his hands and his head needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” (John 13:6–10; New Testament Revision 2, p. 117 [second numbering] [Joseph Smith Translation, John 13:10].)
The 27–28 December 1832 revelation instructed the “first labourers, in this last kingdom” to “purify your, hearts, and clean your hands, and your feet, before me, that I may make you clean, that I may testify unto your father, and your God, and my God, that you, are clean, from the blood of this, wicked generation.” (Revelation, 27–28 Dec. 1832 [D&C 88:74].)