On 11 March 1845 the council convened in the upper room of the at 10:00 a.m. After an adjournment of an hour, council members met again in the afternoon beginning at 2:30. While the minutes do not indicate when the meeting concluded, and noted that they met with the council “all day.” After the admission of one new member, the council heard reports of committees assigned in the prior meeting on 4 March. The committee on foreign relations, appointed to outfit the western expedition, reported a list of items needed. advised that the committee and expedition members should raise the necessary funds, and all planned participants of the expedition joined the committee. Council members discussed possible sites that the expedition members should explore, either as a way station for the Saints or as a permanent settlement location. These included sites among the Comanche, who lived in northwestern and eastern portions of the Mexican territory of New Mexico; among the Cherokee, who lived west of Arkansas in Indian Territory; or in or . Deliberations about possible sites continued in the afternoon session, and a committee was appointed to investigate further.
During these discussions, and other council members displayed a hostile view toward “Gentiles” (persons other than Mormons or those believed to be of the house of Israel) generally and toward the national and state governments especially. Young argued that the “gentiles have rejected the gospel,” and he condemned those who had shed the “blood of the prophets”—a reference to the murders of JS and —or who had celebrated their deaths. While council members did not advocate immediate vengeance against their enemies, their anger and sense of loss led to intemperate remarks and threats, and they appear to have generally agreed that at some future point violence might be divinely condoned or required. In addition, Young said that the Latter-day Saints should no longer send missionaries to the Gentiles.
Rather than focus on converting the Gentiles, and other council members stated, the Latter-day Saints should join with the American Indians, whom they viewed as part of the house of Israel through descent from the Lamanites of the Book of Mormon. This understanding reflected statements in the Book of Mormon. In that book, Jesus Christ tells the Nephites that when the “Gentiles shall sin against my Gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my Gospel” and “shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations,” then God will “bring the fulness of my Gospel from among them.” At that point, Christ continues, “then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my Gospel unto them.” Council members believed that such prophecies would be soon fulfilled.
Statements by council members that envisioned a union among the American Indians as well as an alliance between the Mormons and the Indians against the Gentiles reflected Book of Mormon passages foretelling a gathering of the Lamanites and subsequent violence against the Gentiles, which Latter-day Saints viewed as necessary to the eventual establishment of the “New Jerusalem,” or Zion. The Book of Mormon states that the Lamanites, after being scattered by the Gentiles, will be gathered together and will wage battle against the Gentiles. In that book, Jesus Christ, quoting in part from the Old Testament book of Micah, states that “if the Gentiles do not repent,” the Lamanites, as a “remnant of the house of Jacob,” will “go forth among them; and ye [the Lamanites] shall be in the midst of them, which shall be many; and ye shall be among them, as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through, both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.” Regarding the Gentiles who repent, however, Christ states, “I will establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant, and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob,” and together they will “build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem.”
The afternoon session addressed other pressing matters, including the implications of the January 1845 revocation of the city charter, which deprived city officials of the rights to perform marriages and record deeds and left the city without an operating court system or police. The council appointed to investigate state laws on marriage, particularly the rights of religious groups to perform marriages. Notwithstanding these concerns, when the committee that was charged with responding to the loss of the charter was not ready to report, dismissed the committee, saying that “he cared nothing about the charter. Let it alone just where it is.” Young’s comment may be connected to the general hostility against governments as well as to the increasing focus on leaving Nauvoo for the West once the Nauvoo and were completed.
, on behalf of the committee appointed to write to the governors, presented a draft letter that asked for assistance in protecting the rights of the Saints and for the governors’ views “concerning what is called the GreatWesternMeasure, of colonizing the Latter Day Saints in , the North Western Territory, or some location, remote from the states.” The council unanimously accepted the letter and appointed to oversee the copying of a letter to each governor. indicated that he did not expect the governors to actually assist the Saints, and he declared at the next meeting of the council that “the only object of our writing to the governors is to give them the privilege of sealing their own damnation.” The implication was that the Mormons were obligated to communicate their plight to state governments as well as the national government in order to make those governments complicit, if they failed to act, in disregarding the rights of the Saints. The dismal expectation for these letters was reflected in the lack of urgency surrounding their creation and transmittal, as the copies were not finished until 11 April and not signed until 10 May. By that time it had been decided to send a modified copy of this letter to President James K. Polk as well.
Near the end of the meeting, the council discussed whether men who were targeted by judicial writs, which council members believed would be issued by the church’s enemies, should be sent on missions. The day before this meeting, a justice of the peace had attempted to arrest on a charge of perjury , a Latter-day Saint who had testified the previous fall before the grand jury investigating the men accused of murdering JS and . Although the minutes record no decision, noted in his journal that “it was considered best for those who are hunted with writs to go on missions so that we may if possible evade the blow until we can finish the and the .” Clayton’s journal entry also indicates that the completion of the temple and the Nauvoo House continued as priorities; indeed, both and commented to the council that the completion of these structures, as commanded by a JS revelation in 1841, was at least as important as the exploration of potential settlement sites in the West. As such, near the conclusion of the meeting, council members decided that construction of the walls of the temple, which had been delayed since December because of the winter weather, should begin the following day.
Tuesday March 11th. 1845 Council met pursuant to adjournment in the upper room of the and organized at 10 o clock. Present in the Chair. Present. , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , & Clerk.
The council was opened by prayer from .
The then stated to who has been invited to become a member of [p. ]
Council of Fifty, “Record,” 11 Apr. 1845; Brigham Young et al., Nauvoo, IL, to John H. Steele, Concord, NH, 24 Apr. 1845, photocopy, CHL; Brigham Young et al., Nauvoo, IL, to James McDowell, Richmond, VA, 31 Apr. 1845, photocopy, CHL; Richards, Journal, 10 May 1845.
Young, Brigham et al. Letter, Nauvoo, IL, to John H. Steele, Concord, NH, 24 Apr. 1845, photocopy. CHL.
Young, Brigham et al. Letter, Nauvoo, IL, to James McDowell, Richmond, VA, 31 Apr. 1845, photocopy. CHL.