(Missouri) High Council and Stake High Council, “The Conference Minutes, and Record Book, of Christ’s Church of Latter Day Saints,” Minute Book 2, 6 Apr. 1838–[ca. June 1838], [ca. Oct. 1842], [ca. June 1844]; handwriting of , , , , and an unidentified scribe; 178 pages, as well as indexing in tabbed pages at beginning of book; CHL. Includes tables, redactions, use marks, and archival marking.
The second of two texts inscribed in a ledger book. The paper, which is ruled both horizontally and vertically, measures 12½ × 7¾ inches (32 × 20 cm). The book contains 276 leaves, including the flyleaves in the front and back of the book. The bound book, which features a brown suede cover, measures 13 × 8½ × 1¾ inches (33 × 22 × 4 cm). The spine has a pasted red label with “LEDGER” in gold lettering. Following the four front flyleaves, the first twenty-four pages are tabbed index pages. The next seventy-three pages were used by for various financial accounts he kept prior to his move to , Ohio. Following a blank page, Minute Book 2 fills the next 187 pages, although there are some blank pages within and at the end of this record. The portion of the ledger in which Minute Book 2 is inscribed has its own pagination, all apparently done by . ’s handwriting appears on the title page (the recto of the leaf preceding page 1) and on pages 1–37, 41–42, 44–52, and 55–93. Pages 38–40 are blank. ’s handwriting appears on pages 43 and 52–55. There is also unidentified handwriting in the middle of page 87. The inscription ends with minutes of the , Illinois, stake high council meetings held 1 and 15 June 1844, recorded by on pages 178–185. The minutes were recorded with a quill pen, and all are in brown ink, except for some blue ink on pages 179–181. The remaining 251 pages of the book are blank. There were originally four back flyleaves; only two remain, and they are blank.
Minute Book 2 includes several redactions made in graphite, as well as some marking in blue pencil. At some point, the leather cover was decorated with blind tooling, and a paper sticker was pasted on the spine with “CONFERENCE MINUTES AND HIGH COUNCIL RECORDS OF FAR WEST” inscribed in unidentified handwriting. This sticker resembles several other such stickers found on early church record books.
The volume may have been included in the exodus inventory as part of “Records of High Council.” It is listed in middle- and late-nineteenth-century inventories of the Historian’s Office in Salt Lake City. The Genealogical Society of Utah made a microfilm copy of the volume in 1954. Church historian Joseph Fielding Smith took the volume with him to the Office of the First Presidency when he became church president in 1970 and kept it in his safe. The book was returned to the Church History Department in 2008. These archival records and archival marking on the book indicate continuous institutional custody.
Minute Book 2 includes minutes of the first church conferences held in in 1830 and in in 1831. The bulk of the minutes, however, are from meetings held in in , , and counties during the 1830s. The record also includes minutes of meetings held in Indiana and . JS was present at New York and Ohio meetings and was present at Missouri meetings when he visited there and after moving there in March 1838. This record of minutes concludes in 1839, with the exception of minutes for two high council meetings held in in 1844.
The minutes inscribed in Minute Book 2 are copies—most likely copies of copies. The original minutes of these early church conferences, councils, and other meetings were taken by and several other men who acted as clerks. Whitmer, who lived in and was the appointed church historian, may have collected and kept the minutes that he and other clerks had taken down. , who began functioning as the clerk of the Zion (Missouri) high council in on 3 March 1838, was formally appointed to that position on 6 April 1838. Immediately following his appointment, Robinson attempted to procure the records of the church in Far West from Whitmer, but Whitmer refused to relinquish them. In response, JS and wrote a letter on 9 April 1838 demanding that Whitmer surrender his notes for the history he had been appointed to keep for the church. Half a century later, Robinson recounted that although Whitmer ignored this demand to give up his historical notes, a “record” was obtained from Whitmer and brought to Robinson’s house, and Robinson “copied the entire record into another book, assisted a part of the time, by Dr. .” That Robinson copied the record into “another book” seems to imply that Whitmer’s record was also kept in a record book. That Minute Book 2 is dated 6 April 1838 (when Robinson was appointed clerk), begins in Robinson’s handwriting, and includes handwriting from Richards indicates that it is the copy of the early minutes of the church that Robinson made from Whitmer’s record. Robinson titled his copy of the record book “The Conference Minutes, and Record Book, of Christ’s Church of Latter Day Saints.” The minute book has been more commonly known by the shorter and less formal name “Far West Record.” Because of its importance in the 1830s and the frequency with which it is cited in the annotation of The Joseph Smith Papers, it has been designated with the short citation “Minute Book 2.”
The minutes of the church’s January 1831 conference, as recorded on page 2 of Minute Book 2, include a reference to a revelation recorded on page 80 of the “Book of Commandments.” This indicates that ’s record was a copy of the original minutes and was likely made sometime between 1833 and 1835 after printing of the Book of Commandments had begun and before the Doctrine and Covenants was published. If Whitmer had begun making his copy of the minutes after the publication of the Doctrine and Covenants, he would have been much more likely to reference that book than the unfinished printing of the Book of Commandments. That made a copy of the minutes, rather than continuing Whitmer’s record, suggests that Whitmer’s record was returned to him. Whitmer left on 19 June 1838. He remained in Missouri and never reestablished ties with the church in . Robinson, therefore, apparently finished copying Whitmer’s record of minutes by 19 June, when Whitmer separated from the body of the Saints. In the lists of conference and council participants found in some of the minutes, some names are followed by parenthetical remarks regarding their excommunication or their disciplinary status. These parenthetical notes were evidently added by Whitmer when he copied the originals and were then copied from Whitmer’s record by Robinson.
On 13 December 1838, six weeks after JS and other church leaders were taken prisoner during the “Mormon War” in northwest and two weeks after they were incarcerated at , Missouri, , president pro tem of the church in Missouri, assembled the high council. , serving as clerk, recorded the following minutes:
Agreeable to appointment—the standing High Councellors met, when it was found that several were absent, who, (some of them,) have had to flee for their lives, therefore it being necessary that those vacancies be filled the meeting was called for that purpose, and, also, to express each others feeling respecting the word of the Lord. . . .
After prayer made a few remarks saying he thought it all important to have the Council reorganized, and prepared to do business.
He advised the councellors to be wise and judicious in all their movements and not hasty in their transactions; as for his faith it was the same as ever, and he fellowshiped all such as loved the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in act as well as deed word. (Minute Book 2, 13 Dec. 1838)
This entry from Minute Book 2, a volume sometimes known as the Far West Record (see JS, Journal, Mar.−Sep., 1838, 13 Apr. 1838), is a reminder of the crisis of leadership and faith endured by JS’s followers in the aftermath of the Mormon War. and others sought to rally the church in the face of daunting challenges while they awaited JS’s return from jail.
Minute Book 2, compiled beginning in 1838, contains 178 pages of minutes. They cover church conferences, councils, and other meetings held in , Indiana, , , and beginning in 1830 and ending, with the exception of two entries from 1844, in 1839. The minutes in the volume were copied from earlier notes and, aside from the 1844 transcriptions, were not inscribed into the minute book contemporaneously. Another portion of the bound volume, not presented here, contains seventy-three pages of ’s 1831−1833 business accounts in New York.
Minutes copied into Minute Book 2 for meetings predating April 1838 were originally taken by , , and about nineteen other clerks. Whitmer, who was appointed official church historian in 1831 (Minute Book 2, 9 Apr. 1831; JS History, vol. A-1, 111) and assistant church president for in 1834 (Minute Book 2, 7 July 1834), also served as one of the clerks for the Missouri high council from July 1834 until December 1837 (Minute Book 2, 12 July 1834–23 Dec. 1837). Oliver Cowdery served briefly as a “standing Clerk” for the council beginning in December 1837, and then on 6 April 1838, was appointed “Church Clerk & Recorder for the Stake of Zion & Clerk of the high Council” (Minute Book 2, 6–7 Dec. 1837 and 6 Apr. 1838).
The title page of Minute Book 2 in ’s handwriting designates the volume as “Conference Minutes, and Record Book, of Christ’s Church of Latter Day Saints. Belonging to the High Council of said Church, or their successors in office, of Caldwell County Missouri; Far West: April 6, 1838.” That page may have been a later insertion, as the date reflects Robinson’s assumption of office as clerk and recorder.
Immediately after his appointment, sought out the collection of church records had gathered in his role as church historian. This collection probably included some original minutes. Whitmer apparently refused to turn the records over to Robinson. On 9 April 1838, JS and wrote to Whitmer demanding his notes (JS, Journal, Mar.−Sep., 1838, 9 April 1838). According to Robinson’s later account (Ebenezer Robinson, “Items of Personal History of the Editor,” in The Return (Davis City, Iowa, September 1889, 134), Whitmer then permitted Robinson and to make a copy of a compilation that he had begun four or five years earlier. This assemblage included conference and council minutes from 9 June 1830 through 7 December 1837. Sometime afterward, Robinson and Richards recorded this material in Minute Book 2. Thus, that portion of Minute Book 2 is in effect a copy of a copy of a copy.
’s is the predominant hand on pages 1−93 of the volume, covering the entries from 9 June 1830 through 7 December 1837 noted above. ’s handwriting appears on pages 43 and 52−55. Page 87 is in an unidentified hand. Most of the minutes in this portion of the volume are of councils and conferences held in , but minutes are also included for a handful of meetings held in in 1830 and 1831, in 1831 and 1836, and Indiana in 1831.
On 1 October 1842, the high council authorized its clerk, , to assist in organizing ’s loose minutes for the high council and to copy them into Minute Book 2. (Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 1 Oct. 1842) These were the minutes Robinson began keeping when he was sustained as clerk for the Far West high council in April 1838. Robinson had not yet transferred his own notes to Minute Book 2 in the aftermath of the Mormon War and his assumption of duties as copublisher of the Times and Seasons with . He had also been extensively involved in the printing and publication of the 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon.
, apparently with ’s cooperation, inscribed more than eighty pages of minute entries into the volume, covering conferences, councils, and other meetings from 23 December 1837 through 2 January 1839. Subsequently, the high council permitted the record to be lent to , JS’s personal secretary, for use in compiling JS’s history. (Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 14 Sep. 1843) The last entries made in the volume were by for two Nauvoo high council meetings, on 1 and 15 June 1844. These last entries were evidently made contemporaneously, as Cole was dismissed as high council clerk in September 1844.
The minutes compiled in Minute Book 2, though for the most part not copied into that record at or near the time of the meetings they record, offer a remarkable view of the unfolding of early church organization and governance. The text captures and illuminates critical aspects of the church’s development including early conferences in , , and Indiana; the settlement of and the establishment of Zion in ; the aftermath of the ; the estrangement of key leaders, including and , , and ; and the outbreak and consequences of the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri. Minute Book 2 and Minute Book 1, which covers significant events in , Ohio, beginning in October 1832, constitute an indispensable resource for the student or scholar of early church history for the period from June 1830 to January 1839.
First. The laid before the council the effect of the proceedings of the Solemn assemblies as held throughout Zion attended by brs. & .
Resolved that a committee be appointed to write an epistle to our brethren in : Voted that & be the committee to write the epistle.
Conference adjourned until six o’clock in the evening, in the meantime the epistle to be written. prayer by .
Convened according to adjournment, the epistle accepted by the conference. We then all kneeled before the Lord & asked him to effect a perfect harmony between us & our brethren in which was the desire of our hearts.
Conference adjourned until four weeks from to-morrow