General Conference Minutes, , Adams Co., IL, 4–5 May 1839; handwriting of ; four pages; Historian’s Office, General Church Minutes, CHL. Includes docket.
Two leaves measuring 9¾ × 7¾ inches (25 × 20 cm). The top left corner of the first page bears an embossed seal with the profile of a man. Above and to the left of the seal, added a “3”, indicating these minutes were the third of four sets of minutes that Mulholland recorded and numbered in 1839. It appears that the document was folded and filed with the minutes of a meeting on 6 May 1839 in , Illinois. A docket written by reads: “May 4. 1839 | Minutes of Conference”. Bullock worked in the Church Historian’s Office between 1842 and 1856, and he likely filed the minutes during that period, suggesting the document has been in continuous institutional custody since at least 1856. The minutes were placed in the General Church Minutes collection with other loose church minutes created by the general church scribe and other clerks affiliated with the Church Historian’s Office.
Historian’s Office. General Church Minutes, 1839–1877. CHL
On 4–5 May 1839, JS presided over a general held near , Illinois. He had recently escaped from incarceration in , and this general conference was the first meeting he attended in which the full membership of the church in was present. The conference consisted of three sessions, held on Saturday midday, Sunday morning, and Sunday afternoon at the Presbyterian campground approximately two miles north of Quincy.
The first session began with an emotional address by JS. Following his remarks, important issues were brought before the body of the church regarding operations, leadership, and settlement. The minutes featured here record the resolutions adopted by the assembled Saints in the Saturday and Sunday morning sessions, approving the church’s recent purchase of land in and appointing new ecclesiastical leaders. The members also resolved that a committee should collect libelous reports and that a delegation should submit affidavits to the federal government in to seek redress for the persecution and losses church members experienced in . Additional resolutions included sanctioning the meeting that the held in , Missouri, on 26 April 1839 and the intended mission of the quorum to Europe. The congregation also decided to suspend and from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles but to allow them to speak at the next general conference of the church to address their conduct in Missouri in 1838.
Two additional resolutions concerned , Ohio. was directed to oversee the and manage church affairs there, and Saints in the eastern were instructed to migrate to Kirtland. The majority of church members had moved from Kirtland to by summer 1838, but some church members remained in Kirtland. At the start of that year, church leaders had expressed their intention to retain land in Kirtland for Saints moving from the eastern United States, and this intention was supported in the May 1839 general conference.
During the final session of the conference, on Sunday afternoon, the and apostles provided instruction that is not included in the extant minutes. Before the conference was adjourned, the congregation was reminded that the next general conference would be held in October 1839 in , Illinois, signaling the impending move of the church to newly purchased land in the vicinity. The minutes were recorded by , the appointed clerk for the conference.
Minutes of a General held by , at the Presbyterian Camp Ground Near , Adams County, Illinois, on Saturday the 4th of May 1839.
At a quarter past eleven oclock, the meeting was called to order And Joseph Smith Jr appointed Chairman, A hymn was then sung, When President Smith addressed a few observations on the state of his own peculiar feelings, after having been so long separated from his brethren &c &c and then proceeded to open the meeting by prayer, When after some pr[e]liminiary remarks by and , concerning a certain purchase of Land in the , made for the Church, by the Presidency
The following Resolutions were unanimously agreed to.
1rst. Resolved, that , , and be appointed a travelling committe to gather up and obtain all the libelous reports and publications which have been circulated against our Church, as well as other historical matter connected with said Church which they can possibly obtain.
2nd Resolved, That be appointed or received into the Church in full .
3rd Resolved that this Conference does entirely sanction [p. ]
According to a later reminiscence of Edward Stevenson, who was nineteen years old at the time of the meeting, JS stood in silence on an open wagon for an unusual amount of time before he began to speak. According to Stevenson, JS began his discourse by expressing his emotions upon being reunited with the Saints: “To look over this Congregation of Latter Day Saints who have been driven from their homes and still in good faith without homes as pilgrims in a strange land and to realize that my life has been spared to behold your faces again seemed to me so great a pleasure that the present scene was so great a sattisfaction that words seemed only a vague expression of my soul’s grattitude.” (Stevenson, Autobiography, 129–130.)
Stevenson, Edward. Autobiography, ca. 1891–1893. Edward Stevenson, Collection, 1849–1922. CHL. MS 4806, box 5, fd. 1.
At this time, the church was considering purchasing land from Isaac Galland in Iowa Territory. Although no deed records indicate purchases were completed before the conference, Vinson Knight, a land agent for the church, apparently purchased shares in a “Half Breed Land Company” from Galland on 1 May 1839. These shares entitled Knight to purchase land in the “Half-Breed Tract” in Lee County, Iowa Territory, when the land was sold at public auction. (Kilbourne, Strictures, on Dr. I. Galland’s Pamphlet, 9; see also Minutes, 24 Apr. 1839; Alanson Ripley, Statements, ca. Jan. 1845, Historian’s Office, JS History Documents, 1839–1860, CHL; and Woodruff, Journal, 21 May 1839.)
Kilbourne, David W. Strictures, on Dr. I. Galland’s Pamphlet, Entitled, “Villainy Exposed,” with Some Account of His Transactions in Lands of the Sac and Fox Reservation, etc., in Lee County, Iowa. Fort Madison, IA: Statesman Office, 1850.
Historian’s Office. Joseph Smith History Documents, 1839–1860. CHL. CR 100 396.
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.