Council of presidencies and others (including JS), Letter, , Geauga Co., OH, to , [, York Co., ME], 4 Aug. 1835. Retained copy, [ca. 4 Aug. 1835], in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 90–93; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 1.
On 4 August 1835, a council consisting of members of the , the presidency of the , “and others” composed a letter to the , who were holding in the eastern and . In the letter, the council chastised the Twelve for not discussing in their conferences the need for church members to donate funds for the construction of the in , Ohio; for the redemption of church members’ lands in , Missouri; and for the printing of the Doctrine and Covenants. The council also reprimanded and for making disparaging remarks about the Kirtland school that was conducting and then reproved the Twelve for complaining about the conditions of their families and for allegedly setting themselves up in the conferences as “an independant counsel subject to no authority of the church.”
By the time this letter was written, the Twelve, as they had planned in a March 1835 council, had conducted conferences in six locations: , , Lyonstown, and Pillar Point, New York; West Loughborough, Upper Canada; and St. Johnsbury, Vermont. The Twelve’s records of their conferences and other meetings shed little light on what they did to cause church leaders to issue such a strong reprimand. For instance, reports of four of their conferences were published in the May and July 1835 issues of the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, but none of these provide information to suggest how the Twelve Apostles might have been acting as “an independant counsel.” The minutes of the Twelve’s meetings also provide little basis for ascertaining whether or to what extent they had acted improperly.
According to this 4 August letter, at least three letters from the eastern prompted the reprimand. In the first letter, , the presiding authority of the , New York, , told church leaders that the Twelve had not instructed church members at a conference in Freedom about the need to donate funds for the construction of the . Leaders were also upset by a letter wrote to his wife, Emeline Miller McLellin, which implied that he and had no confidence in the way was conducting a school in . This school, described by as “a Grammar school,” opened in December 1834, with McLellin and as teachers. While he was teaching there, McLellin promoted the school as teaching “the sciences of penmanship, arithmetic, English grammar and geography” and as “a place where strict attention is paid to good morals as well as to the sciences.” When McLellin left Kirtland with the Twelve, Rigdon apparently began teaching in his place. In June 1835, Hyde made a brief trip to Kirtland and then gave a disparaging report to McLellin about the school, prompting McLellin to comment about it in the letter to his wife. His comment caused the members of the council to withdraw their fellowship from McLellin and Hyde. Finally, , one of the Twelve Apostles, sent a letter that to church leaders gave undue credit to McLellin and for their “able preaching.”
In late August 1835, the Twelve received this 4 August letter while conducting conferences in . The minutes for those meetings specify that the Twelve talked on “the redemption [of ], the Building of the in , and the printing of the word of God to the nations”—the three subjects that the 4 August letter chastised them for not discussing. In response to the letter, the Twelve agreed to finish their work in the eastern and meet in , New York, on 24 September 1835. From there, they planned to travel together to Kirtland. Immediately after reaching Kirtland on 26 September 1835, the Twelve met with JS, , , , , , and to discuss the charges in the letter. and “frankly confessed” their errors “and were forgiven,” and the Twelve convinced JS and others that the complaints against them “originated in the minds of persons whose minds were dark[e]ned in consequence of covetousness or some other cause other than the spirit of truth.”
The Twelve also “prefered a charge” against “for his unchristian conduct,” presumably in making accusations against them. On 5 March 1836, Warren Cowdery “confessed his mistake” in a meeting with the Twelve, JS, , and and stated his willingness to publish a statement that the Twelve had “delivered those instructions which he supposed they had not.” This statement appeared in the Messenger and Advocate, declaring that although Cowdery was “actuated by the purest motives at the time he wrote,” he had since become convinced that the Twelve had delivered the necessary instructions.
The original version of this 4 August 1835 letter is not extant. served as clerk of the council and presumably served as scribe for the letter; JS signed it as moderator and also added a postscript to his brother . copied the letter into JS’s letterbook, likely before the letter was sent.
Kimball, “Journal and Record,” 51; McLellin, Journal, 22 Dec. 1834.
Kimball, Heber C. “The Journal and Record of Heber Chase Kimball an Apostle of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” ca. 1842–1858. Heber C. Kimball, Papers, 1837–1866. CHL. MS 627, box 1.
McLellin, William E. Journal, July 1834–Apr. 1835. William E. McLellin, Papers, 1831–1836, 1877–1878. CHL. MS 13538, box 1, fd. 4. Also available as Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836 (Provo, UT: BYU Studies; Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).
of the Holy Spirit— we say, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, for great things await you, and great blessings are in store for you. Let the power of the two be upon the until the two make full satisfaction; for the seventy shall be blessed and are blessed. That man who presumes to speak evil of the dignities which God has set in his church, to his family, or to any body else, shall be cursed in his generation. Remember the 109 Psalm His bishopric shall be taken from him unless he speedily repents. Be it known that God is God and when he speaks let all the congregation say: Amen.
We have evil insinuations enough in to grapple with, that are suggested by the father of lies, without having them from those who are sent out to put down insinuations. May God help you to be more wise for the future: Amen.
— Clerk (signed)
Joseph Smith Jr.— Moderator
P.S. To— : Your house is nearly finished, except plastering, a few days will complete it except this: Whether it will entirely finished by his return, or not, we cannot say; but he will be permitted to attend the this winter: his family with all your families here, are well. ’s, is soon to move in with ’s . A word further we admonish to be very humble and prayerful, and to remember further, that he that humbleth himself shall be exalted— he that would be greatest in the Kingdom of God, must be least of all, and servant of all. The admonition we give to one, we give to all
The house referred to was probably directly north of JS’s home along Chillicothe Road. Later records show the house as being owned by Joseph Smith Sr. As this letter states, and as later entries in JS’s journal confirm, Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith lived with their son William and his wife, Caroline Amanda Grant, for a brief period in 1835; records in 1835 ascribe ownership of the house to both William and his father. (Staker, Hearken, O Ye People, 557n24; Staker, “Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith’s Kirtland Home,” 3–4, copy in editors’ possession; JS, Journal, 16 Dec. 1835; Letter to William Smith, ca. 18 Dec. 1835.)
Staker, Mark L. Hearken, O Ye People: The Historical Setting of Joseph Smith’s Ohio Revelations. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2009.
Staker, Mark L. “Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith’s Kirtland Home.” Unpublished paper. Salt Lake City, Apr. 2012. Copy in editors’ possession.
A notice in the September 1835 issue of the Messenger and Advocate declared that a school for the church’s elders was to begin on 2 November 1835. “Those wishing to attend will do well to arrange their business so as to commence with the commencement of the school.” (“The Elders Abroad,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Sept. 1835, 1:191.)
Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.
Smith, William. William Smith on Mormonism. This Book Contains a True Account of the Origin of the Book of Mormon. A Sketch of the History, Experience, and Ministry of Elder William Smith. . . . Lamoni, IA: Herald Steam Book and Job Office, 1883.