Minutes, , Geauga Co., OH, 12 Feb. 1834. Featured version copied [ca. 12 Feb. 1834] in Minute Book 1, pp. 27–29; handwriting of ; CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Minute Book 1.
Following instructions outlined in the “Articles and Covenants” of the church, in June 1830 JS began conducting church business with other church officials in what were called “.” Over time, these fairly large gatherings were supplemented by smaller conferences, or “councils,” of holders and leaders. Those attending these meetings were instructed to seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost as they transacted the business at hand, and some felt they were successfully determining God’s will in the course of their deliberations. At a meeting held on 12 February 1834, however, JS expressed dissatisfaction with the way many attending the councils were conducting themselves. JS was particularly concerned about council members’ insufficient preparation and attentiveness during disciplinary hearings that had taken place in various councils in , Ohio, over the preceding year.
At this 12 February meeting JS also recounted some of the conditions and difficulties—including persecution and his own transgressions—he faced at the time he obtained and the Book of Mormon. The council then judged two cases. One case involved , who was charged with telling “that Joseph drank too much liquor when he was translating the Book of Mormon” and that JS “wrestled with many men and threw them.” Harris was also charged with saying that he knew the contents of the Book of Mormon before it was translated, whereas JS did not. Harris’s conversation with Russell, who lived in , probably took place after 23 March 1833, as Harris had not returned to Kirtland from a proselytizing mission by that date.
After passing judgment on ’s case, the council considered charges against “Bro Rich”—probably —who was accused of disobeying the Word of Wisdom and selling JS’s revelations at an “extortionary” price. Rich appears to have been the first person formally charged with disobeying the Word of Wisdom, several facets of which had been in question since JS dictated it a year earlier. In what way Rich disobeyed the Word of Wisdom is unclear, and the second charge against Rich is also somewhat ambiguous as it is not clear which revelations Rich was selling. In 1833, the Book of Commandments—a compilation of JS revelations—had been printed in , some pages of which survived the mobbing of the and were later bound into books and sold by for twenty-five cents each. Rich may have been selling copies of the Book of Commandments at higher prices, or he may have been selling copies of revelations that he had personally made before going east. Another possibility is that Rich was selling copies of a revelation dated 16–17 December 1833 that the had printed as a broadsheet. According to ’s 1834 statement, after this broadsheet was printed, “it was taken up by all their and carried to all their congregations, some of which were actually sold for one dollar per copy.”
Howe, Eber D. Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, from Its Rise to the Present Time. With Sketches of the Characters of Its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible Was Brought before the World. To Which Are Added, Inquiries into the Probability That the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written by One Solomon Spalding, More Than Twenty Years Ago, and by Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance. Painesville, OH: By the author, 1834.
Thursday Evening, February 12. 1834. This evening the and of the in at the house of bro. Joseph Smith Jun. in for Church business. The Council was opened organized, and opened by bro. Joseph Smith Ju[nior] in prayer. Bro. Joseph then rose and said: I shall now endeavour 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 voice 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, prehaps, has deprived the Councils of some, or many blessings.
He said, that no man was capable of judging a matter in council without his own heart was pure; and that we frequently, are so filled with prejudice, or have a beam in our own eye, that we are not capable of passing right descissions, &c.
But to return to the subject of the order: 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 by the voice of the Council by the spirit was obtained: which has not been [p. 27]