, Minutes, “” [, Jackson Co., MO], 30 Apr. 1832. Featured version, titled “Minutes of a Council of the litterary Firm, Zion April 30. 1832,” copied [between ca. 6 Apr. and 19 June 1838] in Minute Book 2, pp. 25–26; handwriting of ; CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Minute Book 2.
On 30 April 1832, JS and others who were designated as “ over the revelations” gathered in , Jackson County, Missouri, for the first recorded meeting of the . The roots of this new firm reached back to late 1831 in . At a series of held in , Ohio, in November 1831, church leaders decided to publish JS’s revelations in a compilation titled the Book of Commandments and to have ten thousand copies of the book printed. They instructed and to take manuscript copies of the revelations to , where was establishing the church’s printing works. On 12 November 1831, a revelation instructed JS, Cowdery, Whitmer, Phelps, , and to be “stewards over the revelations & ” and “to manage them & the concerns thereof.” After JS and other Ohio leaders traveled to Missouri, a 26 April 1832 revelation instructed three groups of individuals to join themselves together in the management of these “stewartships.” The three groups included those responsible for publishing the church’s revelations; those responsible for maintaining the church stores in Independence and , Ohio; and the two in charge of the church’s temporal affairs.
After spending 28–29 April visiting church members in , Missouri, JS returned to , and on 30 April he presided over the first known meeting of the Literary Firm. The firm apparently had a broader scope than just supervising the production of the Book of Commandments; the minutes also discuss the possible publication of an almanac and the preparation of a hymnal. As clerk of the meeting, recorded the minutes. In 1838, copied the minutes into Minute Book 2.
The minutes of the Literary Firm meeting bear a 30 April date. A later JS history recounts, however, that the meeting was held 1 May. A United Firm meeting that followed the meeting of the Literary Firm may have been held on 1 May, and in his history JS may have confused the date of the United Firm meeting with the date of the Literary Firm meeting. (JS History, vol. A-1, 214.)
The minutes of 30 April 1832 are the first known instance in which the appointed stewards were referred to as the Literary Firm. Since Whitmer and Cowdery left for Independence soon after the November 1831 conferences ended, and since this April trip was the first time JS and Rigdon traveled to Missouri after those conferences, the firm likely did not meet before this meeting.
Secondly: Ordered by the that the printing of an Alminack for this season be left at the option of brs. & .
Thirdly: Ordered by the Council that all Revelations be limited to the parties concerned until printed.
Fourthly: Ordered by the Council that brs. , & be appointed to review the Book of Commandmants & select for printing such as shall be deemed by them proper, as dictated by the spirit & make all necessary verbal corrections
Fifthly Ordered by the Council that the Hymns selected by be corrected by br. Closed
Extremely popular in the United States, almanacs were—alongside the Bible—the major source of reading material for many Americans in the late 1700s and early 1800s. There is no record that the church printed an almanac at this time. (Stowell, Early American Almanacs, vii–viii.)
Stowell, Marion Barber. Early American Almanacs: The Colonial Weekday Bible. New York: Burt Franklin, 1977.
“The parties concerned” likely refers to the specific individuals to whom revelations were addressed, and church leaders evidently adhered to this resolution. Revelations began to be printed in the church periodical The Evening and the Morning Star just over a month after this conference, but revelations that were directed to a single, specific person were not printed therein. Many were, however, printed in the Book of Commandments, which is the printing referenced in these minutes.a Several earlier revelations commanded that the documents not be shared publicly. For example, an 1829 revelation declared, “Show not these things, neither speak these things unto the world.”b Church leaders were likely concerned about the proliferation or publication of unauthorized versions of the revelations in advance of an authorized church version—a concern amplified by the events of fall 1831, when the Painesville Telegraph published one of JS’s revelations and when Ezra Booth’s letters appeared in the Ohio Star.c In these letters, Booth, who was a member of the church for only a few months before renouncing his membership in September 1831, used his knowledge of the revelatory process and the content of the “commandments” to attempt to discredit JS and the church.
An 8 November 1831 conference authorized JS to “correct those errors or mistakes” that he found in the revelations “by the holy Spirit.” This may have included reviewing and revising them according to his developing understanding of church doctrine and ecclesiology. Decades later William E. McLellin remembered that around November 1831, JS, Cowdery, and Rigdon spent hours revising the revelations. A 1 December 1832 entry in JS’s journal also states that he “wrote and corrected revelations” that day. McLellin wrote that the April 1832 assignment to Cowdery, Phelps, and Whitmer was to “better the language” of the revelations. (Minutes, 8 Nov. 1831; JS, Journal, 1 Dec. 1832; William E. McLellin, “From a Letter Dated Dec. 14th, 1878,” in John L. Traughber Papers, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.)
McLellin, Wiliam E. “From a Letter Dated Dec. 14th, 1878.” John L. Traughber Papers. J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.
An 1830 revelation commanded Emma Smith to “make a selection of Sacred Hymns as it shall be given thee.” A later JS history recounts that the Literary Firm charged Phelps to both “correct and print the Hymns which had been selected by Emma Smith.” In June 1832, Phelps began publishing hymns in The Evening and the Morning Star, stating that they were “selected and prepared for the Church of Christ, in these last days.” (Revelation, July 1830–C [D&C 25:11]; JS History, vol. A-1, 214; “Hymns,” The Evening and the Morning Star, June 1832, .)
The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.