Minute Book 1, [ca. 3 Dec. 1832–30 Nov. 1837]; handwriting of , , , Marcellus F. Cowdery, , , and ; 259 pages; CHL. Includes dockets, redactions, copy notes, use marks, and archival stamping and marking.
Medium-size blank book. The paper, which is ruled with thirty-four blue-green horizontal lines (now faded), measures 12 × 7½ inches (30 × 19 cm). The book originally contained 149 leaves (now 143 leaves), consisting of twelve gatherings of twelve leaves each, two front flyleaves, and three back flyleaves. The text block is sewn all along over recessed cords. The front and back covers of the volume are pasteboard. The book has a tight-back case binding with a brown calfskin quarter-leather binding, the bound volume measuring 12⅜ × 7¾ × 1 inches (31 × 20 × 3 cm). The outside covers are adorned with shell marbled paper, with a red, green, and black body and veins of black. The back pastedown bears the inscriptions “c”, “c/i”, and “pep”—possibly original merchandising notes.
A single leaf—the conjugate of the leaf bearing pages 15 and 16—was removed from the first gathering of the book, but this occurred before the adjacent leaves were inscribed or paginated. Page 1 is the first lined page. Minutes were inscribed in the book on pages 1–219 and 226–265. Pages 220–225 were left blank, except for their page numbers. Following page 265, the remaining twenty-one pages and the three back flyleaves were left blank. At some point, began a table of contents, which was continued by but never completed; this table of contents is inscribed on all four pages of the two front flyleaves. The minute book was kept with quill pens. The entries and pagination were inscribed in ink that is now brown. Pages 39–55 include entry-dividing lines inscribed in red ink. There is also residue from an adhesive wafer on pages 156 and 157, indicating a sheet of paper was attached there at one time.
At some point, probably in the early 1840s, the front cover of the volume was labeled “Conference | A” in black ink. The “A” is written in a formal style that matches the covers of other early manuscript books in the Church History Library’s holdings. Copy notes and use marks, in¬scribed in graphite, were made by later scribes who used the minute book when compiling JS’s 1838–1856 history. At some point, probably in Utah, a white paper label was pasted on the spine; the label is now only partially extant, with the remaining inscription illegible. Another white paper label, also only partially extant, was pasted over this. It reads: “Kirtland Coun”. The rest of the label, which would have included approximately two more words, is missing. The pastedown on the inside of the book’s front cover bears an archival identification number inscribed in black ink and a more recent Historian’s Office library sticker. The spine also bears a more recent sticker with an identification number. Ink has bled through on several of the pages. The book has also suffered some wear and staining in the front and back.
The volume is listed in the 1846 Historian’s Office inventory as “Book of Conference A” and referred to as a high council record in subsequent Historian’s Office inventories from the 1850s. In 1988, the Church History Department transferred Minute Book 1 to the First Presidency’s Office. The minute book was transferred to the Church History Library in 2009. Archival records and the markings mentioned above indicate continuous institutional custody.
Sixteen different clerks took down the original minutes that were later copied into Minute Book 1, which was begun as part of a new effort in more permanent church record keeping. It appears that the book was begun in early December 1832, about two weeks after JS began his own personal journal and apparently began keeping a letterbook in which to copy outgoing correspondence. Frederick G. Williams began the minute book, which was later continued by Warren A. Cowdery and others in Ohio. Entries in the minute book are occasionally out of chronological order. The entries for October 1832–January 1833 were inscribed by Williams. None of these were inscribed before 3 December 1832, the date of the first entry in the book. However, the uneven copying style of the early entries suggests that the book was an active register beginning in early December, with original minutes being regularly copied into the book as they came to hand. In addition to minutes, the volume also contains scattered notes on matters related to the church affairs addressed in the minutes.
On 12 February 1834 JS held a council meeting with high priests and elders at his home in , Ohio. To those gathered he observed, “I shall now endeavor to set forth before this council, the dignity of the office which has been conferred upon me by the ministering of the Angel of God, by his own will and by the voice of this church. I have never set before any council in all the order in which a council ought to be conducted, which, perhaps, has deprived the councils of some, or many blessings.” Along with other instructions, JS related that “in ancient days, councils were conducted with such strict propriety, that no one was allowed to whisper, be weary, leave the room, or get uneasy in the least, until the voice of the Lord, by revelation, or the voice of the council by the spirit was obtained; which has not been observed in this church to the present.” (Minute Book 1, 12 Feb. 1834, 27–29.)
The record of this occasion is one of many found in Minute Book 1, also known as the “Kirtland Council Minute Book” or the “Kirtland High Council Minutes.” This and its companion, Minute Book 2 (also known as the “Far West Record”), are now published as part of the Administrative Records series on this website. These volumes illuminate many of the principles and practices that ordered early church governance and administration. They illustrate the early Saints’ determination to respond to revelation and divine guidance while simultaneously acknowledging the doctrine of common consent. Furthermore, these records demonstrate JS’s personal endorsement of and participation in a conference or council system of church government.
Entries for various conferences and councils recorded in Minute Book 1 stand as witness to several seminal events in early church history. Among these were the receipt of the revelation known as the “Olive Leaf” in late December 1832 and early January 1833; the organization of the School of the Prophets on 22–23 January 1833; the ordination of and as presidents of the high priesthood on 18 March 1833; revelations concerning construction of the ; the organization of the first standing high council in February 1834; church courts held in the aftermath of the Camp of Israel (Zion’s Camp) march in August 1834; the calling, ordination, and blessing of the Twelve Apostles and the Seventies in February 1835; the acceptance by the church of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants in August of that year; preparation for the dedication of the Kirtland House of the Lord in winter and early spring 1836; and events related to the Kirtland Safety Society, its demise, and the concomitant dissension within the Kirtland stake of Zion in 1837. Some of these minutes, especially those where JS was a participant in the meeting, will also appear with individual introductions in the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers.
In the texts of the various minute entries, and occasionally in separate entries accompanying them, the register records ordinations, blessings, disciplinary councils, testimonies, Pentecostal outpourings, callings and releases, missionary appointments, and fund-raising activities. Thus, Minute Book 1 provides a rich survey of JS’s interactions with associates and others during many dramatic, and often challenging, episodes beginning in October 1832 and concluding in November 1837. Sixteen different clerks took original minutes that were later copied into the volume by , , , , Marcellus Cowdery, , , and .
Minute Book 1 was initiated during a remarkable upsurge in record keeping, beginning with the calling of and later as church historians in 1830 and 1831. Revelations and commandments recorded in Revelation Book 1 were sent to to be published on the church’s first press in late 1831, and Revelation Book 2 was in use in by February 1832. Sometime in 1832, probably between July and September, JS and worked together on a brief history of JS’s early visionary experiences. JS purchased the small volume that contains his first journal in November 1832 and began penning entries that same month. That fall another record, containing retained copies of early church correspondence and now designated Letterbook 1, was commenced. In January of the following year, in an epistle recorded in Letterbook 1, JS wrote to encouraging him as editor of the church’s first periodical, The Evening and the Morning Star, then printed in , Missouri, to set “forth the rise and progress and faith of the church,” that is, to begin publishing items on the history of the church.
This upwelling was quite unusual for the time. As scholar Dean C. Jessee has observed, “So primitive were some aspects of record keeping in nineteenth-century America that much of the early Latter-day Saint experience was a pioneering effort. . . . Although Mormon record keeping was inaugurated by [an] 1830 revelation, details for carrying out that commandment were largely hammered out on the anvil of experience in the years that followed.” (Dean C. Jessee, “The Reliability of Joseph Smith’s History,” Journal of Mormon History 3 : 27.) Thus, during a brief span in the early 1830s, JS, along with those working under his direction, commenced the systematic collection and recording of critical documents pertaining to church governance and administration. Throughout the remainder of JS’s lifetime minute-taking, revelation-recording, correspondence-copying, journal-keeping, and history-writing activities would remain imperative commitments.