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.
proceedings in purchasing lands and securing a place of for the saints. The report having been read, the President made some observations respecting the pecuniary affairs of the church, and requested the brethren to step forward and assist in liquidating the debts on the town plot, so that the poor might have .
He then gave some account of his mission to , in company with and , the treatment they received and the action of the Senate on the memorial which was presented to them.
The meeting then called for the reading of the memorial, and the report of the committee on Judiciary, to whom the same had been referred.— Which were read.
It was then resolved, that a committee of five be appointed to draught resolutions expressive of the sentiments of this in reference to the report.
Resolved, that , , , Joseph Wood and compose said committee, and report to this conference.
Resolved, That this meeting adjourn until to morrow morning at 9 o’clock.
A Hymn was then sung and the meeting was dismissed by .
Wednesday morning, conference met persuant to adjournment.
A number were , who had been the previous evening.
The meeting was then opened with prayer by .
The committee appointed to draft resolutions on the report which was read yesterday, were then called upon to make their report.
of the committee then read the resolutions, as follows.
Whereas, we learn with deep sorrow, regret and disappointment, that the committee on Judiciary, to whom was referred the memorial, of the members of the (commonly called Mormons) complaining of the grievances suffered by them in the State of , have reported unfavorable to our cause, to Justice and humanity.
Resolved 1st. That we consider the report of the committee on Judiciary, unconstitutional, and subversive of the rights of a free people; and justly calls for the disapprobation of all the supporters and lovers of good government and republican principles.
Resolved, 2nd. That the committee state in their report, that our memorial aggravate the case of our oppressors, and at the same time say; that they have not examined into the truth or falsehoods of the facts mentioned in said memorial.
Resolved, 3rd. That the memorial does not aggravate the conduct of our oppressors, as every statement set forth in said memorial, was substantiated by indubitable testimony, therefore, we consider the statement of the committee in regard to that part; as false and ungenerous.
Resolved, 4th. That, that part of the report, refering us to the Justice and magnanimity of the State of for redress; we deem it a great insult to our good sense, better judgment, and intelligence; when from numerous affidavits which were laid before the committee: Proved, that we could only go into the State of , contrary to the exterminating order of the , and consequently at the risk of our lives.
Resolved, 5th. That after repeated appeals to the constituted authorities of the State of for redress, which were in vain; we fondly hoped that in the Congress of the , ample justice would have been rendered us; and upon that consideration alone, we pledged ourselves to abide their decision.
Resolved, 6th. That the exterminating order of , is a direct infraction of the constitution of the , and of the State of ; and the committee in refusing to investigate the proceedings of executive and others of the State of , and turning a deaf ear, to the cries of widows, orphans, and innocent blood, we deem no less, than secondary the proceedings of that murderous mob, whose deeds are recorded in heaven, and justly calls down upon their heads, the righteous judgments of an offended God.
The report referred to here is apparently not extant. In June 1840, Alanson Ripley reported that approximately one thousand acres of land had been divided into town lots of eleven by twelve rods (35,937 square feet or nearly five-sixths of an acre) and that about 250 houses had been constructed in the area that would become Nauvoo. Ripley also stated that it was “the duty and the privilege of the saints in the east, to gather themselves together, to this place, even the place where God has appointed for them.” (Alanson Ripley, “Nauvoo,” Times and Seasons, June 1840, 1:123.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
Although church members apparently interpreted the committee’s report to mean that the Saints’ petition exaggerated the conduct of Missourians, the committee may have been using “aggravate” in the sense of making an action “more enormous, or less excusable.” (“Aggravate,” in American Dictionary , 39.)
An American Dictionary of the English Language; First Edition in Octavo, Containing the Whole Vocabulary of the Quarto, with Corrections, Improvements and Several Thousand Additional Words. . . . Edited by Noah Webster. 2nd ed. 2 vols. New Haven: By the author, 1841.
The report states: “Or, the petitioners may, if they see proper, apply to the justice and magnanimity of the State of Missouri—an appeal which the committee feel justified in believing will never be made in vain by the injured or oppressed. It can never be presumed that a State either wants the power, or lacks the disposition, to redress the wrongs of its own citizens committeed within her own territory, whether they proceed from the lawless acts of her officers, or any other persons.” (Report of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 4 Mar. 1840.)
Missouri governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued orders in late October 1838 that “the Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state [Missouri] if necessary.” (Lilburn W. Boggs, Jefferson City, MO, to John B. Clark, Fayette, MO, 27 Oct. 1838, copy, Mormon War Papers, Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.)