General Conference Minutes, and JS, Discourse, , Hancock Co., IL, 6–8 Apr. 1840. Featured version published in “Conference Minutes,” Times and Seasons, Apr. 1840, 91–95. For more complete source information, see the source note for Letter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.
From 6 to 8 April 1840, JS presided over a general of the held in the , Illinois, area. According to one newspaper account, between two and three thousand church members were present. The exact location of the conference is not given in the minutes, but it may have been held in a grove near ’s home in the southwest part of the peninsula. At the time of this conference, JS had been in Commerce for just over a month after returning from his trip to . The conference considered the results of that trip, especially the report of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary that directed the Saints to look to the state of and its courts for redress. Because the wrongs against the Saints in Missouri were not “committed by any of the officers of the , or under the authority of its Government in any manner whatever,” the committee concluded that the federal government was not authorized to intervene. Believing that they had already sought restitution in Missouri unsuccessfully, the Saints at the conference appointed a committee to draft a response to the Senate report. The resolutions adopted by the committee were then presented to the conference and ordered to be published.
The conference also appointed and , two members of the , to fulfill a mission to the Jews in , Europe, Constantinople, and . Hyde’s appointment came after he explained that the Spirit had instructed him to undertake a mission to the tribe of Judah. Hyde later stated that in March 1840 he saw a vision of , , Constantinople, and Jerusalem and was instructed by the Spirit that these cities were “the field of your labors.” Having obtained recommendations from the conference, Hyde and Page left on their mission a week later.
In addition to this business, the conference considered disciplinary cases of several church members—in fact, so many that ultimately the conference resolved to no longer consider such cases in general conferences. Outcomes of these cases included resolving long-standing charges against and accepting back into fellowship , a former counselor to JS in the who had been excommunicated in March 1839.
JS spoke at least three different times during the conference. He exhorted attendees to be charitable to those who had transgressed and reported on the church’s finances and his mission to . In what appears to be a longer discourse given on 8 April, he explicated a passage from the book of John and instructed the Saints on the necessity of church members gathering to the area, to , or to wherever the Spirit directed.
As clerk of the conference, took the minutes, the original of which are no longer extant. The minutes were published in the April 1840 issue of the Times and Seasons.
Franklin D. Richards noted in a July 1840 letter that a “meeting ground” existed in “the Grove just above Elder Rigdons.” A May 1840 newspaper account of the meeting stated that the conference was “held in a grove” and that it had “the appearance of a Methodist Camp Meeting, with their tents, &c. &c.” (Franklin D. Richards, Walnut Grove, IL, to Levi Richards, West Stockbridge, MA, 21 July 1840, CHL; “The Mormons,” North American and Daily Advertiser [Philadelphia], 30 May 1840, .)
Richards, Franklin D. Letter, Walnut Grove, IL, to Levi Richards, East Stockbridge, MA, 21 July 1840. CHL.
North American and Daily Advertiser. Philadelphia. 1839–1845.
The meeting was then opened by an address to the Throne of Grace, by .
The president rose and made some observations on the business of the ; exhorted the brethren who had charges to bring against any individual to be charitable; and made some very appropriate remarks respecting “pulling out the beam in their own eyes, that they might see clearly the mote which was in their brothers eye.
A letter was read from of the , wishing for an explanation of the steps, which the had taken, in removing Elder , from the of the sev[en]ties, to that of the , without any other than he had when in the seventies, and wished to know, whither, those ordained into the seventies at the same time was, had a right to the High Priesthood, or not. After observations on the case by different individuals, the president gave a statement of the authority of the seventies, and stated that they were Elders and not High Priests, and consequently brother had no claim to that office. It was then unanimously resolved that Elder be placed back again into the Quorum of the seventies.
It was then resolved that the conference adjourn until two o’clock P. M.
The conference met pursuant to adjournment.
Prayer by Elder .
Elder presented charges against Bro. for compiling an Hymn Book, and selling it as the one selected and published by sister ; for writing a letter to having reflections in it on elder , and derogatory to his character, and likewise for administering medicine, which had a bad effect.
It was resolved, that as is not present, the case be laid over until to morrow.
Elder then came forward and stated, that in consequence of some difficulty existing in the of the where he resided, respecting the , the church had withdrawn their fellowship from him, & Bro. Thomas S. Edwards. After hearing the statements; it was resolved, that and Thomas S. Edwards be restored to fellowship.
Elder addressed the conference and stated that it had some years previous been prophesied of him, that he had a great work to perform among the Jews; and that he had recently been moved upon by the spirit of the Lord to visit that people, and gather up all the information he could from them respecting their movements, expectations &c. and communicate the same to this church and to this at large. Stated that he intended to visit the Jews in , , , and then visit Constantinople and the Holy Land.
It was then unanimously resolved that proceed in his mission, and that his letter of recommendation be signed by the President and of the conference.
Elder then rose, and spoke with much force on the object of ’s mission, the gathering together of the Jews, and the restoration of the house of Israel; proving in a short, but convincing manner from the Bible, book of Mormon, and the book of Doctrine and covenants. That these things must take place and that the time had now nearly arrived for their accomplishment.
It was then resolved that the conference adjourn until to morrow morning, at 9 o’clock.
Tuesday morning. Conference met pursuant to adjournment.
A. Hymn was sung by the choir and the meeting was opened by prayer by Elder .
Bro. ’ case was then called up.
Which after some observations and explanations of the different charges.
It was unanimously resolved, that Bro. be forgiven and that the hand of fellowship be continued.
The meeting was then adjourned for one hour.
Conference met pursuant to adjournment.
A Hymn was sung by the choir and prayer was made by Elder .
The President called upon the to read the report of the Presidency and High council, with regard to their [p. 92]
In 1839, Bishop, who had earlier been brought before the Kirtland, Ohio, high council for “advancing heretical doctrines which were derogatory to the character” of the church, was suspended by the Seventy from ecclesiastical duties for taking charge of a branch in North Carolina without authorization. Bishop appealed the suspension to the Nauvoo high council. On 2 February 1840, the high council ruled that the suspension was “null and void & considered illegal” because Bishop was a high priest and should be “placed immediately under the care of the High Priesthood.” There was no record, however, that Bishop was ordained a high priest, although Bishop claimed that an angel ordained him in 1832. (Minutes, 28–29 Sept. 1835; Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 2 Feb. 1840, 45; Saunders, “Francis Gladden Bishop,” 71–81.)
Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 1839–1845. CHL. LR 3102 22.
Saunders, Richard LaVell. “Francis Gladden Bishop and Gladdenism: A Study in the Culture of a Mormon Dissenter and His Movement.” Master’s thesis, Utah State University, 1989.
In 1837 JS made a similar statement during a dispute between some of the seventies and high priests as to who held a higher office. He explained that “the seventies are to be taken from the quorum of elders and are not to be high priests.” (Discourse, 6 Apr. 1837; see also “Diary of L. John Nuttall,” 31 May 1879.)
“Diary of L. John Nuttall, (1834–1905) Dec. 1876–Mar. 1884.” Typescript, 1948. CHL.
At the 5–7 October 1839 general conference, unspecified charges were levied against Rogers, and his case was referred to the high council. The high council did not act on the case until its 8 March 1840 meeting, when JS charged Rogers with unchristian conduct. George W. Harris, David Dort, and Thomas Grover were assigned to work with Rogers and then report to the high council. On 15 March 1840, the high council again took up the charges and designated 29 March 1840 as the date of a hearing. None of Rogers’s accusers attended the 29 March meeting, however, so Rogers was acquitted. In August 1840, the Nauvoo high council and First Presidency considered a dispute between John Patten and Elijah Fordham, which involved Patten’s claims that Fordham had helped promote “pill nostrums” that Rogers was peddling. (Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 8, 15, and 29 Mar. 1840, 49, 50, 53; Minutes, 17 Aug. 1840.)
Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 1839–1845. CHL. LR 3102 22.
Lawson and Edwards were members of a branch in Pittsfield, Illinois. The two had both been disfellowshipped and had appealed their cases to the Nauvoohigh council. The high council considered the cases on 1 March 1840, but because neither Lawson nor Edwards was present, the council did not conduct a hearing at that time. It is unknown exactly what issues the men had with the Word of Wisdom—an 1833 revelation that prescribed certain dietary restrictions on the Saints. In 1869 Lawson recalled that after reading the Word of Wisdom for the first time in about 1834, he “took hold of it as the word of God” and was “very strenuous to observe and teach it to this day.” (Journal of Jesse Nathaniel Smith, 6; Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 1 Mar. 1840, 48; Revelation, 27 Feb. 1833 [D&C 89]; John Lawson, New Harmony, Utah Territory, to George A. Smith, 18 July 1869, George Albert Smith, Papers, CHL.)
Journal of Jesse Nathaniel Smith: The Life History of a Mormon Pioneer, 1834–1906. Salt Lake City: Jesse N. Smith Family Association, 1953.
Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 1839–1845. CHL. LR 3102 22.
Smith, George Albert. Papers, 1834–1877. CHL. MS 1322.
According to Hyde, around 1832 or 1833, JS had given him a blessing, saying to him, “In due time, thou shalt go to Jerusalem, the land of thy fathers, and be a watchman unto the house of Israel; and by thy hands, shall the Most High do a good work, which shall prepare the way, and greatly facilitate the gathering together of that people.” (Orson Hyde, London, England, to Solomon Hirschell, in Times and Seasons, 1 Oct. 1841, 2:552–553; Hyde, Voice from Jerusalem, iii.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
Hyde, Orson. A Voice from Jerusalem, or a Sketch of the Travels and Ministry of Elder Orson Hyde, Missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, to Germany, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. Liverpool: P. P. Pratt, 1842.