Minutes, , Geauga Co., OH, 28–29 Aug. 1834. Featured version copied [not before 25 Feb. 1836] in Minute Book 1, pp. 58–72, 73; handwriting of ; CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Minute Book 1.
On 28 August 1834, , in , Ohio, convened the Kirtland to try for “violating the laws of the church of the latter day saints.” Smith, a participant, had accused JS of “criminal conduct” on the expedition, but the Kirtland council that investigated the charges on 11 August 1834 found JS innocent of any wrongdoing. The council required Sylvester Smith to recant his charges publicly, which he agreed to do, and appointed a committee to write an article clearing JS’s name, to be published in The Evening and the Morning Star. On 23 August 1834, another council approved the article for publication, but Sylvester Smith then “objected against abiding by the decision of the former council, and proceeded to Justify himself in his former conduct.” The council decided that Sylvester Smith was “guilty of a misdemeanor unbecoming a man in his high station” and “disqualified” him from acting in his church office until “a trial before the bishop assisted by twelve [could] be had.”
That same day, made formal charges against and requested to call the high council to investigate the charges. Whitney did so on 28 August, and the council met for the next two days, hearing testimony about what had transpired at the 11 August council and on the Camp of Israel expedition. The high council ultimately mandated that Sylvester Smith publish a confession in order to remain a member of the church, stating that he “willfully and maliciously lied” in making his accusations against JS. The confession was published in the October 1834 issue of the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, and Sylvester Smith retained his membership and his high priest office, though he was removed from the high council in September 1834. However, Smith may not have been satisfied with the decision of the council. Although he signed a statement acknowledging the justness of the council’s decisions, someone—likely Sylvester Smith himself, as the handwriting resembles his—later crossed out his name and wrote under it, “The above was signed for fear of punishment.” This may have occurred in 1836 when Smith was temporarily serving as JS’s scribe.
The high council, which tried , was established in February 1834 in part to adjudicate difficult issues in the church. According to the constitution of the high council, the president of the high council, JS, was supposed to preside, assisted by two other presidents—at the time, and . However, Bishop actually presided over the high council at this 28–29 August meeting. Since JS was the subject of Smith’s charges, he may have recused himself from the presiding role. If so, it is unclear why Rigdon or Williams did not then act as the presiding authority, especially since guidelines for the high council clearly state that in the absence of the president, “the other presidents have power to preside in his stead, both or either of them.” It may have been because Whitney had already presided over the 11 August council that originally investigated Smith’s charges. Or perhaps it was because the 23 August council specifically stated that Smith needed to be tried by “the bishop assisted by twelve high priests,” or a . However, the minutes themselves specifically refer to the body addressing these charges as the high council, not as a bishop’s court. A third possibility is that the council was functioning in accordance with instructions in a November 1831 revelation that stated if the was in transgression, the president (JS) should be tried before a court chaired by the bishop, or common judge, assisted by “twelve counsellors of the .” Even though JS was not on trial, the high council did address Smith’s charges against JS, which, as Rigdon stated in his complaint, meant that the case “affect[ed] the presidency” of the church. Whatever the reason, Whitney assumed the same roles that the president of the high council typically filled, serving as moderator throughout the trial, delivering the decision in the case, and calling on the high counselors for their sanction of the decision.
and served as clerks of the meeting and kept the minutes. The minutes featured here include ’s formal complaint against , ’s notification to Smith of the charges, and Smith’s statement acknowledging the decision of the council. later copied these documents and the minutes into Minute Book 1.
the teams were crossing, brother Joseph asked whether it was advisable to move into the prairie to camp. After consultation, it was first advised to move camp in the bushes near the edge of the prairie. While making preparations to encamp, they were informed that a mob intended to make an attack upon them that night. They further consulted upon their situation and himself and , were requested, by brother Joseph, to go on to the edge of the Prairie where they might encamp. They looked out a place but it was near the bushes, and brother Joseph gave an order to go forward into the prairie. Some complained of the order because they could not find fuel to cook their supper: They were told that it would be advisable to carry wood for that purpose. Some farther remarks were offered on the subject of a visit from a mob, and preparations were made with the guns &c. Some fears were entertained for the teams and families yet crossing the creek, and it was thought advisable to send back a company to guard & assist them over, among whom was brother . He then took the flag or standard (as he had previously carried it) and gave the word to move forward, and the teams, immediately began to follow. After the company had come up in the Prairie, himself with brother , received an order to call on upon brother , to place a strong guard around the camp that night, but he refused doing any thing further, because he supposed that he, () supposed he had ordered the camp into the prairie without an order from the commander of the company. He was then informed by brother Joseph’s order <that it was> by his (brother J’s) order) that the camp should move into the prairie. He was present when brother Joseph reproved brothers, & [p. 65]
George A. Smith later recalled that “Hyrum said he knew in the name of the Lord, that it was best to go onto the Prairie.” Because Hyrum was JS’s elder brother, George A. Smith continued, “Brother Joseph thought best to heed his counsel.” (George A. Smith, Autobiography, 34.)
Smith, George A. Autobiography, ca. 1860–1882. George Albert Smith, Papers, 1834–1877. CHL. MS 1322, box 1, fd. 2.
Levi Hancock stated that he made the flag for the camp while they were staying at the Allred settlement in Missouri earlier in June. The flag had a drawing of an eagle, as well as “the word peace in big letters.” (Hancock, Autobiography, 143–144.)
Hancock, Levi Ward. Autobiography, 1803–1836. New Mormon Studies CD-ROM: A Comprehensive Resource Library, 2009. CHL.