Church Organizations, 1831–1833

The organizational structure of the developed dramatically in 1831 and 1832. New positions were created—apparently to provide the growing church with a more hierarchical and formal leadership configuration—and old positions were redefined. Other nonecclesiastical offices and organizations were added to meet the temporal needs of the church. The following charts map the development of the church’s ecclesiastical structures and its business or civic structures from 1831 to 1833.
Ecclesiastical Organization
A 22–23 September 1832 revelation delineated the existence of two priesthoods: a greater priesthood that contains to the mysteries of the kingdom and to the knowledge of God, and a lesser priesthood holding the keys of the ministering of angels and of the gospel of repentance and baptism. The revelation also explained how the different offices in the church are connected to the two priesthoods. The offices of and , it states, are “appendages” to the , or to the office of ; the offices of and , meanwhile, are appendages to the , or to the office of . High priests, elders, and priests, the revelation continued, have an obligation to travel to proclaim the gospel, while teachers and deacons are responsible for watching over the church in local congregations. In the chart below, offices are listed under the priesthood to which they pertain, and offices designated as “appendages” are labeled as such.
Greater Priesthood Lesser Priesthood
High priests Priests
Appendages to the Greater Priesthood Appendages to the Lesser Priesthood
Bishops Teachers
Elders Deacons
In an 11 November 1831 revelation, provisions were made to designate presidents over groups of men who held the offices of deacon, teacher, priest, and elder, and each group of officers was assigned a numerical capacity. The revelation further directed that a president be appointed to preside over those holding the office of high priest and stated that this would also “preside over the whole church & . . . be like unto Moses.” Furthermore, this president would serve as “a Seer a revelator a translator & a prophet having all the gifts of God which he bestoweth upon the head of the chu[r]ch.” JS, who was ordained as “first elder” when the church was organized, was ordained president of the high priesthood on 25 January 1832 in a conference held in , Ohio. On 8 March 1832, JS called two to “the ministry of the presidency of th[e] high Pristhood”— and . Gause was excommunicated in December 1832 but was replaced as a counselor by in January 1833. , who was designated the second elder in the church in 1829 and ordained as such in 1830, may have still held some kind of authority in that position, though it is unclear exactly what this entailed after the appointment of bishops and high priests. In 1834, JS ordained Cowdery an “assistant President of the High and Holy Priesthood.” Cowdery recorded that he had not previously been ordained to this office because he had been apart from JS in . He further recorded that he was then ranked as first assistant, ahead of previously appointed assistant presidents Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, and explained that this was because of his 1829 designation.
was appointed as a bishop in the church in February 1831. After Partridge moved from to in the summer of 1831, was designated as a second bishop in December 1831, with responsibility over Ohio. According to a November 1831 revelation, bishops were to serve as “Judge[s] in Israel” and to oversee “temporal things.” Counselors were appointed to assist both Partridge and Whitney— and were ordained as Partridge’s “assistants” in June 1831, while and became counselors to Whitney in February 1832. was designated an to the church to help Partridge with land purchases and to operate the church’s in , which he operated out of a he and Whitney owned. Whitney served as an agent to the church in —also operating a storehouse there out of his own . But after his appointment as bishop he was apparently not replaced in that position; he continued to supervise the Kirtland storehouse.
The elders were also organized during this period. received an assignment to preside over the elders in January 1832, though he was soon called to be a high priest. was designated president of the elders in September 1832. It is not known, however, whether presidents over priests, teachers, and deacons were appointed during this period. The chart that follows shows the ecclesiastical leadership structure as of the end of January 1833.
President of the High Priesthood
Joseph Smith Jr.
Bishop Counselors
Agent President over Elders
Bishop Counselors
United Firm and Literary Firm
In addition to these church officers, other governing organizations were formed during the period of this volume. As plans went forward in November 1831 to publish JS’s revelations, six men—JS, , , , , and —were appointed “stewards” over those revelations, meaning that they would oversee their publication “& the concerns thereof.” Any profits resulting from such publication were to be used for the needs of those men and their families; the surplus was to be placed in the church’s storehouse. In March 1832, a revelation directed JS and others to further organize the church’s “Literary and Merchantile establishments,” and in April 1832 JS proceeded to do so, creating what was called the . This firm consisted of nine men, all of whom had some form of , or responsibility, for temporal aspects of the church: and , the two ; , the and operator of the in ; and the six “stewards over the revelations.” Joining all of these “several Stewartships” into one firm allowed each of its members “to have equal claims on the properties for the benefit of managing the concerns” of their stewardship. The United Firm essentially had three corporate components: the stewards over the revelations, which became known thereafter as the ; , the mercantile branch of the firm in ; and , the mercantile branch in . The United Firm supervised these various components of the church with the goal of producing an abundance of “tallents” that they would then “cast into the Lords Storehouse to become the common property of the whole Churc[h].” The United Firm and Literary Firm members are listed here in the order in which they appear in the revelations organizing those respective groups.
United Firm Literary Firm
Joseph Smith Jr.
Joseph Smith Jr.
Other Church Appointees
In addition to the offices identified above, continued to serve as the church historian, a position to which he had been appointed in April 1831. A June 1831 revelation gave and responsibility for printing in the church, while a July 1831 revelation designated Phelps as the main “Printer unto the Church.” By June 1832, these three individuals apparently composed , the formal name of the printing establishment in , Jackson County, Missouri. Phelps, Cowdery, and Whitmer were assigned in a meeting of the “to review the Book of Commandmants & select for printing such as shall be deemed by them proper, as dictated by the spirit.” Phelps later recounted, “I was ordained and appointed to take the lead in printing, as printer to the church . . . with Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer as my assistants.”
Historian Printers
School of the Prophets
A 27–28 December 1832 revelation instructed a conference of to “teach one another” both secular and spiritual things. Accordingly, on 22–23 January 1833, JS organized what he called a “” in a two-day conference. The first day was attended by high priests, , and other church members, including women. On the second day, JS washed the feet of the high priests and elders present. According to , this ceremony was the defining event in the organization of the school. Although this school met only one time in the period covered by this volume, it continued for several months thereafter. Its membership, according to the revelation mandating its organization, consisted of “the first labourers, in this last kingdom.” The members are listed here in the order they are listed in the minutes.
Members of the School of the Prophets
Joseph Smith Jr.
  1. 1

    Revelation, 22–23 Sept. 1832 [D&C 84].  

  2. 2

    Revelation, 11 Nov. 1831–B [D&C 107 (partial)].  

  3. 3

    Revelation, 11 Nov. 1831–B [D&C 107:91–92].  

  4. 4

    JS History, vol. A-1, 180; Historian’s Office, “History of Orson Pratt,” 12, Histories of the Twelve, ca. 1858–1880, CHL; Minutes, 16 Apr. 1832. In a conference held in Missouri on 26 April 1832, the high priests acknowledged JS as president of the high priesthood. (Minutes, 26–27 Apr. 1832.)  

    Historian’s Office. Histories of the Twelve, 1856–1858, 1861. CHL. CR 100 93.

  5. 5

    Note, 8 Mar. 1832.  

  6. 6

    JS, Journal, 3 Dec. 1832; see also Jennings, “Consequential Counselor,” 214–215.  

    Jennings, Erin B. “The Consequential Counselor: Restoring the Root(s) of Jesse Gause.” Journal of Mormon History 34 (Spring 2008): 182–227.

  7. 7

    In minutes of a 22–23 January 1833 conference, Williams is listed as “assistant scribe and counceler.” (Minutes, 22–23 Jan. 1833.)  

  8. 8

    JS History, vol. A-1, 18. At the organizational meeting of the church those present voted to accept JS and Cowdery as their “teachers in the things of the Kingdom of God,” upon which the two ordained each other elders. (JS History, vol. A-1, 37.)  

  9. 9

    JS History, 1834–1836, 17.  

  10. 10

    Revelation, 4 Feb. 1831 [D&C 41].  

  11. 11

    Revelation, 4 Dec. 1831–A [D&C 72:2, 8].  

  12. 12

    Revelation, 11 Nov. 1831–B [D&C 107:68, 72].  

  13. 13

    Minutes, ca. 3–4 June 1831; Cahoon, Diary, 10 Feb. 1832.  

    Cahoon, Reynolds. Diaries, 1831–1832. CHL. MS 1115.

  14. 14

    Revelation, 8 June 1831 [D&C 53:4]; Revelation, 20 July 1831 [D&C 57:8].  

  15. 15

    Revelation, 30 Aug. 1831 [D&C 63:42, 45]; Revelation, 4 Dec. 1831–B [D&C 72:10].  

  16. 16

    Historian’s Office, “History of Orson Pratt,” 12, Histories of the Twelve, ca. 1858–1880, CHL; Minute Book 2, 15 and 27 Sept. 1832.  

    Historian’s Office. Histories of the Twelve, 1856–1858, 1861. CHL. CR 100 93.

  17. 17

    Revelation, 12 Nov. 1831 [D&C 70].  

  18. 18

    Revelation, 1 Mar. 1832 [D&C 78].  

  19. 19

    Revelation, 26 Apr. 1832 [D&C 82]; Minutes, 26–27 Apr. 1832.  

  20. 20

    Revelation, 26 Apr. 1832 [D&C 82:18]. For more information on the United Firm and Literary Firm, see Parkin, “Joseph Smith and the United Firm,” 4–66; and Cook, Joseph Smith and the Law of Consecration, 57–67.  

    Parkin, Max H. “Joseph Smith and the United Firm: The Growth and Decline of the Church’s First Master Plan of Business and Finance, Ohio and Missouri, 1832–1834.” BYU Studies 46, no. 3 (2007): 5–66.

    Cook, Lyndon W. Joseph Smith and the Law of Consecration. Provo, UT: Grandin Book, 1985.

  21. 21

    See Revelation, 26 Apr. 1832 [D&C 82]; Minutes, 30 Apr. 1832; and Revelation, 12 Nov. 1831 [D&C 70].  

  22. 22

    Minute Book 2, 9 Apr. 1831. This appointment followed the direction of a revelation received a month earlier. (Revelation, ca. 8 Mar. 1831–B [D&C 47].)  

  23. 23

    Revelation, 14 June 1831 [D&C 55:4]; see also Revelation, 20 July 1831 [D&C 57:11, 13].  

  24. 24

    See, for example, Notice, The Evening and the Morning Star, June 1832, [8]; and Upper Missouri Advertiser (Independence, MO), 11 July 1832, [1].  

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

    Upper Missouri Advertiser. Independence, MO. 1832–183?.

  25. 25

    Minutes, 30 Apr. 1832.  

  26. 26

    Phelps, “Short History,” [2]–[3].  

    Phelps, William W. “A Short History of W. W. Phelps’ Stay in Missouri,” 1864. Information concerning Persons Driven from Jackson County, Missouri in 1833, 1863–1868. CHL. MS 6019, fd. 7.

  27. 27

    Revelation, 27–28 Dec. 1832 [D&C 88:78–80, 118].  

  28. 28

    Letter to William W. Phelps, 11 Jan. 1833.  

  29. 29

    Minutes, 22–23 Jan. 1833; Coltrin, Diary, 24 Jan. 1833.  

    Coltrin, Zebedee. Diaries, 1832–1834. CHL. MS 1443.

  30. 30

    JS History, vol. A-1, 281; Backman, Heavens Resound, 264–268.  

    Backman, Milton V., Jr. The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830–1838. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983.

  31. 31

    Revelation, 27–28 Dec. 1832 [D&C 88:70, 74].  

  32. 32

    See Minutes, 22–23 Jan. 1833.