Kirtland high council, Minutes, , Geauga Co., OH, 16 May 1836. Featured version copied [ca. 16 May 1836] in Minute Book 1, pp. 205–207; handwriting of ; CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for Minute Book 1.
On 14 May 1836, , a member of the , preferred charges against and Charles Kelly of the of the for “unchristian like conduct.” Two days later, a consisting of church leaders from and met in the in , Ohio, to address Cowdery’s allegations, during which JS testified against Salisbury, who was his brother-in-law. In addition to considering testimony for and against Salisbury, the council deliberated over a complaint against two women, Hannah Brown and Lucena Elliott.
, as he was generally known, joined the church in and migrated to with a group of converts from , New York, during the spring of 1831. On 8 June 1831, he married JS’s sister in . In 1834, Salisbury marched with JS and others to as part of the expedition. Salisbury apparently had a propensity for hard liquor, and according to , he was excommunicated from the church sometime before December 1834. He had regained his membership by early spring 1835, and on 1 March he was ordained to the office of seventy. In the spring of 1836, Salisbury again faced church discipline. In the minutes of the high council meeting presented here, both JS and testified against their brother-in-law, accusing him of leaving his family without adequate food and firewood during harsh, wintry weather and suggesting that he had been unfaithful to his wife.
In his complaint of 14 May, also accused “Charels Kellogg” of “unchristian” behavior. There is no record of a Charles Kellogg belonging to the church in 1836. A later revision in JS’s history indicates that the individual referred to in the minutes was actually Charles Kelly. Kelly, like , participated in the Camp of Israel expedition in 1834 and was ordained a seventy in March 1835. Although there is no evidence the high council conducted a trial for Kelly during the 16 May meeting, the minutes close with a statement that the council unanimously “withdrew their fellowship” from him. The two other trials may have taken longer than expected, delaying Kelly’s hearing; it is also possible that he failed to appear before the council and was therefore temporarily disfellowshipped. On 23 May 1836, the high council did in fact hold a formal trial for Charles Kelly, in which he, like Salisbury the previous week, was excommunicated for leaving his family “in a destitute situation about the time of the solemn assembly.”
Little is known about the female subjects of ’s 16 May complaint, Hannah Brown and Lucena Elliott, who were both tried in the afternoon session. Lucena was the teenage daughter of and Mary Cahoon Elliott of , Ohio. In late October, the Elliott family became the subject of some controversy when accused the Elliott parents of beating and whipping their teenage daughter, presumably Lucena. Nothing is known about the other defendant, Hannah Brown. The two women were also accused of “unchristianlike conduct”; the minutes indicate that they confessed to “telling . . . falsehoods.”
The original copy of ’s 14 May charges against and Kelly, as well as his 16 May charges against Brown and Elliott, are no longer extant. later copied Oliver Cowdery’s charges and the minutes of the disciplinary council’s 16 May meeting into Minute Book 1.
Smith, William Smith on Mormonism, 19; Walker, “Katharine Smith Salisbury,” 9–10.
Smith, William. William Smith on Mormonism. This Book Contains a True Account of the Origin of the Book of Mormon. A Sketch of the History, Experience, and Ministry of Elder William Smith. . . . Lamoni, IA: Herald Steam Book and Job Office, 1883.
Walker, Kyle R. “Katharine Smith Salisbury: Sister to the Prophet.” Mormon Historical Studies 3 (Fall 2002): 5–34.
In December 1834, Joseph Smith Sr. gave patriarchal blessings to his children and their spouses. While copying Salisbury’s blessing into Patriarchal Blessing Book 1, Cowdery inscribed a short preface which read, “This man, at the time of receiving his blessing, was not a member of the church, having been cast out because of intemperance.” (Joseph Smith Sr. to Wilkins Jenkins Salisbury, Blessing, 9 Dec. 1835 , in Patriarchal Blessings, 1:7.)
Though it is not clear exactly when Salisbury left his family, the minutes indicate it was just before the solemn assembly on 30 March. According to JS’s journal, Kirtland experienced an “uncommon storm for this season” on 22 March, which left Kirtland covered with a foot of snow; later entries suggest that temperatures remained cold enough for the snow to persist. (JS, Journal, 22–26 Mar. 1836.)
left them in a starving them condition and without Wood just before the , when he ought to have been home. Question by relative to the use of tobacco <liquor.> &c.&c. called on to testify relative to the use of strong liquor says that had taken some once or twice in a few mont[h]s past. testifies that he left his family without sufficient wood to last more than two days, and no provision of any consequence in the house. He gave his family no intimation where he was going or when he should return, he also states that it is his full belief that when he went away he never intended to return.
J. Smith Junr. Stated that Elder had learned from that he had been intimate with every woman he could since he belonged to the church States that he had not heard any complaaint of since he belonged to the .
spoke at some length touching the evidence setting it in a clear light, and pointing out the criminality before the court. Spoke on the other part and touched the case but lightly.
Complainant spoke on part of the prosecution <in> setting the whole case in a clear light before the court according to the evidence addressed.
then Spoke in his own defence confesses his strong propensity to talebearing and drinking strong liquor, but denies the charge or unchastity to his , stated suggested by J. Smith Junr. as stated by
President then rose to give decision in the case before the council. He expressed his deep regret to have to act in this case. Guilt he said was fixed on the head of the and not rebutted. [p. 206]
John Johnson Sr. (and later his son, John Johnson Jr.) operated the Johnson Inn, located on the KirtlandFlats. Johnson Sr. was granted a license to keep a tavern on 5 April 1834. The account book of Gilbert Belnap, manager of and accountant for the inn, documents the inn’s sale of alcohol, which continued through at least fall 1837. (Geauga Co., OH, Court of Common Pleas, Court Records, 1807–1904, vol. M, p. 184, 5 Apr. 1834, microfilm 20,277, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL; Belnap, Account Book, CHL; Minute Book 1, 23 Oct. 1837.)
U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.
Belnap, Gilbert. Account Book, 1836–1874. CHL. MS 8124.
Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines talebearing as “the act of informing officiously; communication of secrets maliciously.” (“Talebearing,” in American Dictionary.)
An American Dictionary of the English Language: Intended to Exhibit, I. the Origin, Affinities and Primary Signification of English Words, as far as They Have Been Ascertained. . . . Edited by Noah Webster. New York: S. Converse, 1828.