Minutes, , Geauga Co., OH, 11 Aug. 1834. Featured version copied [not before 25 Feb. 1836] in Minute Book 1, pp. 52–54; handwriting of ; CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Minute Book 1.
Between 11 and 29 August 1834, a series of councils of and convened in response to accusations made by , a member of the , Ohio, , that JS had engaged in “criminal conduct” while leading the to and from . While on the journey, Smith and JS had clashed several times. These encounters mainly involved JS chastising Smith for various actions, including insulting , threatening to kill JS’s dog if it bit him, and refusing to provide with bread when Pratt was in need. noted that such reprimands produced “refractory feelings” in Sylvester Smith. According to the 11 August 1834 minutes featured here, after returning to Kirtland from Missouri around 26 July, Smith accused JS of misusing “monies and other properties” of the camp, “proph[e]sying lies in the name of the Lord,” and “abusing” Smith’s “character.” On Saturday, 9 August, Smith made such accusations in public, but he was likely telling others about them before that time, perhaps even before his return to Kirtland. He later wrote to that by 11 August reports “censuring the conduct, of bro. J. S. jr.” were circulating to the churches “abroad”—meaning congregations outside of Kirtland. Although JS had previously been accused of improprieties by both church members and nonmembers, this appears to be one of the few times that a member of one of the church’s governing bodies had made such accusations, which is perhaps one reason why church leaders took them so seriously.
The 11 August meeting began as a gathering of high priests and elders, but after both JS and related their perspectives on the difficulties, participants convened into a formal council, with Bishop presiding. Although a November 1831 revelation had mandated that a “common court of the church,” consisting of the and “twelve counsellors of the ,” be called when the was in transgression, it is doubtful that this council served that purpose since JS does not appear to have been on trial. Sylvester Smith himself later stated that this was a “general council” trying to determine how to resolve the differences between Smith and JS. The minutes indicate that council participants overwhelmingly believed that Sylvester Smith was in the wrong, and they spent the majority of the meeting trying to determine how he could rectify the trouble caused by his accusations. The council eventually determined that Smith should publish a “proper confession” of his mistakes, which he at first agreed to but then later balked at. After another council was held, his confession finally appeared in the October 1834 issue of the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate.
This 11 August council also deliberated on how else to counteract the negative reports about JS that stemmed from ’s charges. The council finally appointed a committee to craft either an article or resolutions stating that the council was satisfied that JS had not committed any improprieties. The committee produced such resolutions and presented them to another council on 23 August 1834. They were subsequently published in the August 1834 issue of The Evening and the Morning Star.
served as clerk of the council and kept the minutes. later copied the minutes into Minute Book 1.
Sylvester Smith to Oliver Cowdery, Kirtland, OH, 28 Oct. 1834, in LDS Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1834, 1:11. Besides the minutes and records of the councils dealing with these accusations, there are no other extant sources detailing Smith’s specific charges against JS.
Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.
John Corrill, a counselor to BishopEdward Partridge, had accused JS in summer 1832 of abuses of power, for which Corrill was reprimanded by a council of high priests. (Godfrey, “Joseph Smith and Leadership in the Church of Christ,” 25–28. For examples of past accusations by a disaffected church member and by an outsider, see Ezra Booth, “Mormonism—No. VII,” Ohio Star [Ravenna], 24 Nov. 1831, ; and “Interview with the Mormon Prophet,” Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, 5 Apr. 1834, 5:107.)
Faulring, Scott H. “Early Marriages Performed by the Latter-day Saint Elders in Jackson County, Missouri, 1832–1834.” Mormon Historical Studies 2 (Fall 2001): 197–210.Godfrey, Matthew C. “‘Seeking after Monarchal Power and Authority’: Joseph Smith and Leadership in the Church of Christ, 1831–1832.” Mormon Historical Studies 13 (Spring/Fall 2012): 15–37.
Ohio Star. Ravenna. 1830–1854.
Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate. Utica, NY. 1830–1850.
Brother moved for a decision, relative to the first question, (viz.) What is to be done to arrest the evil? The then proceeded, after a few remarks, to give a decision according, to a motion previously made, (viz.) that an article be published in the Evening & the morning Star, by the direction of the , that the in has investigated the conduct of brother Joseph Smith Junr. while journeying to the West and returning, and that we find that he has acted in every respect in the an honorable and proper Manner, with all monies and other properties entrusted to his charge. After which a vote was taken and carried. A. motion was then made by brother and seconded by brother , that a committee of three, be appointed to write the article for the Star agreeably to the decision.
Brethren, The , and were nominated and appointed by unanimous vote.
, then made said that he was willing to publish a confession in the Star. A motion was then made by brother , and seconded by the , that the above named committe, be appointed to write letters in the name of the council to bro— , & .