Kirtland high council, Minutes, , Geauga Co., OH, 16 June 1836. Featured version copied [ca. 16 June 1836] in Minute Book 1, pp. 212–218; handwriting of ; CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Minute Book 1.
On 16 June 1836, JS met with members of the of , Ohio, to consider accusations he had made against two members, and , for “a want of benevolence to the poor and charity to the church.” Since he himself had brought the charges, JS may have recused himself from presiding at this meeting, though he actively participated. The council first considered Harris’s case and then, after adjourning for an hour, returned and considered McWithy’s case.
The cases heard on 16 June highlight two concerns church leaders had at the time: providing for the destitute Saints in and supporting the church in —that is, . testified in both cases that the men had contributed very little to the poor, and he concluded that neither had borne an appropriate portion of the financial burden of caring for impoverished Kirtland church members. and were also tried for their reluctance to financially support church endeavors, including construction of the in Kirtland and purchasing land in Zion. In the trials, JS specifically mentioned Harris’s and McWithy’s refusals to send money or move to Zion; stated that such unwillingness had forced church leaders into debt. reminded those present of the need to consecrate all they had to building Zion, adding that if they refused, they were “unworthy of the fellowship of the Saints.”
During the meeting, the charges against were deemed fully sustained and he was disfellowshipped. defended himself against the accusations, claiming he had acted charitably, and asked the council for forgiveness. No verdict was recorded in the minutes for McWithy’s case. Harris appears to have been unwilling to change his conduct; he accepted the council’s decision and left the church. Although the extant minutes do not officially disfellowship McWithy, he also seems to have distanced himself from the church after this trial.
Throughout summer and fall 1836, JS and his fellow church leaders grappled with the competing priorities of providing for the poor Saints in while raising money and support for . Both concerns would again be addressed in December 1836, when a conference was held for the church leadership in Kirtland to consider the difficulties of additional impoverished church members moving there.
Unfortunately, the minutes featured here are the last entries in the Kirtlandhigh council records until May 1837. The handwriting of Warren A. Cowdery, who had acted as the scribe recording Minute Book 1 in 1836, ends with this entry, and Marcellus Cowdery’s handwriting begins with the next entry, dated 11 May 1837. The entry for the 16 June 1836 meeting featured here is followed by a blank half page, possibly indicating room was left to record additional information on the case. (Minute Book 1, 16 June 1836–29 May 1837.)
Council opened by prayer by and the counsellors charged according to the law of God.
The case of brother was first considered.
He was charged by J. Smith Junr with a want of benevolence to the poor and charity to the .
Bishop testifies that he does not know that has assisted him in relieving the poor or in assisting the church. He once gave 50. to send to but thinks he has not been as liberal as others in these matters. Counsellors appointed three of the counsellors to speak on each side.
Elder says he has been in a situation to know of the liberality of the Saints, being one of a committee to build the . donated some but too little for one who knows & intends to do his duty in this respect: seeing so many loud calls have been given for the rich to assist the poor, he knows not that he has assisted.
There is a general complaint against him in the church, from Spiritual men, men of God, knows that some individuals have suffered for want of assistance, and he has not heard them thank God for ’ liberality as they did for the liberality of others.
says he lives near Brother Fisher who has lived for the most part on the charity of the church saints. Many have assisted him [p. 212]
The identity and residence of “Brother Fisher” are not known. Four men with the surname Fisher were members of the church in Kirtland: Cyrus B. Fisher, Edmund Fisher, Jonathan Fisher, and Thomas G. Fisher. (Backman, Profile, 24–25.)
Backman, Milton V., Jr., comp. A Profile of Latter-day Saints of Kirtland, Ohio, and Members of Zion’s Camp, 1830–1839: Vital Statistics and Sources. 2nd ed. Provo, UT: Department of Church History and Doctrine and Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1983.