Revised Minutes, , Geauga Co., OH, 18–19 Feb. 1834. Featured version copied [ca. 19 Feb. 1834] in Minute Book 1, pp. 31–35; handwriting of ; CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Minute Book 1.
On 17 February 1834, at a meeting that included holders and other members of the church, JS oversaw the initial organization of a standing “Presidents Church Council” in , Ohio. , the clerk of the meeting, noted in the minutes of that meeting that “many questions have been asked during the time of the organization of this Council and doubtless some errors have been committed, it was, therefore, voted by all present that Bro Joseph should make all necessary corrections by the spirit of inspiration hereafter.” JS worked on amending the minutes the following day “with all the strength and wisdom that he had” and presented the revised minutes—featured here—to a council of sixty-two priesthood holders and church members on 19 February. JS’s revisions were significant and both added and deleted material from the original minutes. After hearing the revised minutes read three times and making at least one correction, the council unanimously voted to accept the revised minutes as “a form, and constitution of the of the hereafter,” with the proviso that “if the president should hereafter discover any lack in the same he should be privileged to fill it up.” At the 19 February meeting, after giving several blessings and items of instruction to members of the new council, JS reported that “the Council was organized according to the ancient order, and also according to the mind of the Lord.” Conducting itself according to procedures outlined in the minutes featured here, the council, later known as the Kirtland high council, then heard its first case.
These minutes also authorized at remote locations to, when necessary, organize similar, temporary disciplinary councils, the decisions of which could be appealed to the standing “high Council at the seat of the general government of the Church,” then in . In addition, though these minutes contained no provision for doing so, JS organized another standing high council following the same pattern outlined in the minutes featured here in , Missouri, the following July. After the main body of church members in moved from Clay County to in 1836–1837, this second standing high council conducted its meetings at , Caldwell County. Following JS’s move to Far West in March 1838, this Missouri council replaced the Kirtland high council as the “high Council at the seat of the general government of the Church” and, therefore, became the council to which appeals resulting from other church councils were made. Similar standing high councils were later organized in and , with the high council assuming appellate authority after its organization in October 1839. In the meantime, the revised minutes of the 17 February 1834 meeting were included as section 5 in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.
That the high council with appellate authority was identified as the “high Council at the seat of the general government of the Church” (rather than this newly organized Kirtland high council) suggests that JS anticipated a time when the seat of church government would not be at Kirtland.
This day a <general> of <24> assembled at the house of Joseph Smith Junr. <by revelation> and proceeded to organize the of the , which is <was> to consist of twelve high priests, and one, or three presidents, as the case may <might> require. This <high> council is <was> appointed by revelation, for the purpose of settleing important difficulties which may <might> arise in the church, which cannot <could not> be settled by the Church, or the to the satisfaction of the parties
Joseph Smith Junr.
were acknowledged presidents, by the voice of the council; and
high priests, were chosen to be a standing council for the Church, by the unanimous voice of the council.
The above named counsellors were then asked whether they accepted their appointments, and whether they would act in that office according to the law of Heaven: to which they all answered, that they accepted their several appointments, and would fill their offices according to the grace of God bestowed upon them.
The numbers composeing the council, who voted in the name, and for the church in appointing the above named counsellors, were forty three; As follows: Nine high priests, Seventeen , four , and thirteen members.
Voted, that this <the high> council cannot have power to act without seven of the above named counsellors, or their regularly appointed successors, are present; these seven shall have power to appoint other high priests whom they may consider worthy and capable to act in the place of absent counsellors. [p. 32]
This wording suggests that the duties of the high council would be limited to hearing appeals of decisions made by other councils on disciplinary matters. However, on several occasions—including the first case it heard—the high council appears to have functioned as the court of original jurisdiction.a In practice, the council’s duties extended well beyond “settleing important difficulties” between different parties and included determining church policy, assigning missionaries to their fields of labor, and making plans to help church members in Missouri who had been driven from their homes in Jackson County.b At the 19 February meeting in which these revised minutes were accepted, JS blessed the members of the high council with “wisdom and power to counsel in righteousness upon all subjects that might be laid before them,” suggesting that JS understood that the council’s responsibilities would include more than overseeing church discipline.c
These elders, priests, and other church members composed the larger council who voted “in the name, and for the church” in favor of organizing the standing council of twelve high priests and were separate from the council of twenty-four high priests from which the fifteen-man high council and its presidency were drawn.