Minutes, 28 April 1838, as Reported by Ebenezer Robinson
Zion high council, Minutes, , Caldwell Co., MO, 28 Apr. 1838. Featured version copied [between 1 Oct. 1842 and 14 Sept. 1843] in Minute Book 2, pp. 137–140, 157–159; CHL; handwriting of . For more complete source information, see the source note for Minute Book 2.
On 28 April 1838, JS participated in the trial of , which the conducted in , Missouri. Information about the case was captured in the trial’s official minutes, which were kept by high council clerk , and in an account that included in JS’s “Scriptory Book.” Both documents are presented here.
was the presiding in the at the settlement at , about eight miles east of . One of the members living there was . She had moved from to in 1837 to settle with the Latter-day Saints, with the expectation that her husband would soon join her. When her husband did not arrive within a few months, she asked Lyon “to inquire of the Lord concerning my husband and what was the cause of his not coming.” Sometime later, the recently widowed Lyon told her he had received a revelation that her husband had died. On another occasion, Lyon told Jackson of a vision in which he saw her as his wife. Jackson initially expressed doubt about the validity of Lyon’s vision, but the influential, much-older man coerced her to agree to marry him. However, in November 1837, before the wedding occurred, Jackson’s husband arrived. Lyon attempted to excuse his actions by blaming the devil for giving him false revelations. Nevertheless, Jackson’s husband brought charges against Lyon in an “’s meeting.” The verdict of the elders council, which is not known, was appealed to the high council. JS may have heard of the case in March 1838 from , who was a member of the branch of the church at Guymon’s mill. As JS traveled from , Ohio, to Far West, Barnard joined him in central Missouri, and they completed the journey together, stopping one night at Barnard’s residence en route. On 21 April, JS attended a high council meeting, during which the council members scheduled a meeting for 28 April, probably with the intention to review the Lyon appeal. On 27 April, the day before the high council considered the appeal, Jackson wrote a testimony regarding her interactions with Lyon in a letter to the high council.
On the morning of 28 April, JS, , and were invited to attend the high council meeting during which the trial would be held. When the council was called to order and only ten of its members were present, JS and Rigdon were invited to participate. They joined the two counselors assigned to speak on behalf of the defendant and the plaintiff, respectively. After hearing testimony from Latter-day Saints in the branch at , Rigdon argued for justice and JS argued for mercy. The council determined to retain as a member of the church but revoked his office in the .
prepared the official minutes of the council meeting most likely during the meeting or based on notes that he took during the meeting. His minutes were recorded in Minute Book 2 in 1842 or 1843 by high council clerk . wrote an account of the trial in JS’s Scriptory Book. Robinson wrote the 28 April entry during the Scriptory Book’s transition from a record of “scripts”—transcripts of letters, revelations, and other documents—to a journal for JS. The account begins much like a journal entry, with a narrative of the invitation that JS, , and George W. Robinson received to attend the trial. The account then moves into a summary of the trial; this summary is somewhat similar to the content and format of meeting minutes. At the conclusion of the account, Robinson signed it explicitly as “scribe,” thus differentiating this entry from the ordinary journal entries that would follow and resembling more the discrete transcripts that he had previously inscribed in the Scriptory Book. Robinson’s identification of his role as a scribe suggests he wrote the document for the or for First Presidency members JS and Rigdon, who participated prominently in the trial. The format of the trial summary—comprising a narrative amalgamation of facts from witnesses’ testimonies, followed by a dramatic recounting of the arguments made on behalf of justice and mercy—suggests that Robinson did not write the account during the trial. Rather, he likely wrote the account later in the day or within a few days of the trial.
Riggs, Michael S., and John E. Thompson. “Joseph Smith, Jr., and ‘the Notorious Case of Aaron Lyon’: Evidence of Earlier Doctrinal Development of Salvation for the Dead and a Trigger for the Practice of Polyandry?” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 26 (2006): 101–119.
The recording of document transcripts continued up through the entry for 26 April 1838, which consisted of a copy of JS’s revelation on that date. The following entry, for 27 April, took the form of an ordinary journal entry. The entry for 28 April recounted the Lyon trial held that day. Daily entries for the next two weeks and sporadic entries over the next four months generally took the form of a journal. (JS, Journal, Mar.–Sept. 1838.)
deny that there is a God in Heaven. I said I doubt it. He then accused me of unbelief saying when a man of truth told me any thing I was hard to believe when it is of God.
Furthermore he said he was then in the same spirit that he was when he cursed that man and he died, and when he saw the death of his wife, and that he had proved it by living testimony and why should you not as well believe me now as to believe that, for I would not tell you any thing to injure you, for them that are to this high authority are ordained of God and you have as much right to believe me as to believe Paul; yes and more a better right for it is not handed down so far.
He said Br Joseph told him to be cautious who he cursed in the name of the Lord, for who he cursed was cursed, and who he blessed was blessed.
And at another time he told me the Lord had told him, that I did not care as much for him as he thought I did and that I need not try to hide any thing from him, for the Lord would reveal it to him.
And he led me to believe that the vengeance of God was about to be poured speedily upon me if I did not agree to his evil designs.
This is I sent send to the honorable of as testimony against as being true testimony.
Given under my hand, this 27th day of April 1838.”