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.
observed in this to the present. It was understood in ancient days, that if one man could stay in another Could, and if the president could spend his time, the members could also. But in our Councils, generally, one would be uneasy, another asleep, one praying another not; one’s mind on the business of the Council and another thinking on something else &c. Our acts are recorded, and at a future day they will be laid before us, and if we should fail to judge right and injure our fellow beings, they may there prehaps condemn us; then, they are of great Consequence: and to me the Consequence appears to be of force beyond any thing which I am able to express &c. Ask yourselves, brethrn, how much you have exercised yourselves in prayer since you heard of this Council; and if you are now prepared to sit in judgment upon the soul of your brother.— Bro Joseph then went on to give us a relation of his situation at the time he obtained the record, the persecution he met with &C. He also told us of his transgressing at the time he was the Book of Mormon. He also prophecied that he should stand and shine like the sun in the firmament when his enemies and the gainsayers of his testimony should be put down and Cut off and their names blotted out from among men. After the Council had rec[e]ived much good instruction from Bro. Joseph. The Case of Bro. against whom certain Charges were preferred by bro. . One was that he told Esqr that Joseph drank too much liquor when he was translating the Book of Mormon and that he wrestled with many men and threw them &c. Another charge was, that he exalted himself above bro. Joseph, in that he said bro. Joseph knew not the contents of the book of Mormon until it was translated. but that he himself knew all about it before it was translated. said he did not tell that bro. Joseph drank too much liquor while translateing the book of Mormon, but this thing took place before the book of Mormon was translated. He confessed that his mind was darkend and that he had said many things inadvertently calculateing calculateid to wound the feelings of his bretheren and promised to do better. The Council forgave him and gave him much [p. 28]
According to JS’s 1838 history, “no sooner was it known” that he had the plates “than the most strenious exertions were used” to attempt to take them from him. “The persecution became more bitter and severe than before,” the history continues, with “multitudes . . . on the alert continualy to get them [the plates].” At the same time, “rumour with her thousand tongues was all the time employed in circulating tales” about JS and his family. JS’s history reports that the persecution eventually “became so intolerable” that he and Emma were “under the necessity of leaving Manchester” for Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, where they arrived in December 1827. (JS History, vol. A-1, 8–9.
This sentence probably refers to JS’s role in the events that led to Martin Harris, who had served as JS’s scribe, losing the part of the Book of Mormon manuscript known as the Book of Lehi in the summer of 1828. According to his 1832 history, JS, at Harris’s request, asked the Lord to permit Harris to take and read the manuscript pages to some of his friends and family “that peradventur he might convince them of the truth.” The Lord denied the request twice but granted conditional permission when JS asked a third time. Harris subsequently took the manuscript and lost it. JS’s history reads, “I . . . was chastened for my transgression for asking the Lord the third time wherefore the Plates was taken from me by the power of God and I was not able to obtain them for a season.” (JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 5–; see also Preface to Book of Mormon, ca. Aug. 1829; Revelation, July 1828 [D&C 3]; and Revelation, Spring 1829 [D&C 10].)