General Conference Minutes, and JS, Discourses, , Hancock Co., IL, 5–7 Oct. 1839. Featured version published in Times and Seasons, Dec. 1839, pp. 30–31. For more complete source information, see the source note for Letter to Isaac Galland, 22 Mar. 1839.
On 5–7 October 1839, JS presided over a general of the at , Illinois, that organized the church in the Commerce area. The conference was to convene at ’s home, as determined in a May 1839 general conference. JS’s journal noted that the number of attendees at the conference, the first general conference held at Commerce, was “very large.” By October 1839, the church had purchased several hundred acres of land in the vicinity of Commerce, as well as almost eighteen thousand acres across the in , Iowa Territory. In addition to addressing conference participants about the need for contributions to pay for this land, church leaders used the conference to organize the church in Commerce and , which were experiencing an influx of members. The conference established a in Commerce, complete with a , three , and a . The conference also established a in Iowa, and it designated the Commerce region as “a place of ” for church members.
In addition to conducting other church business, including performing and instructing the Saints, the conference addressed several disciplinary matters involving church members. One of these issues pertained to the cases of and , two of the , who had been “suspended from exercising the functions of their office” at the 4–5 May 1839 general conference until they could personally appear “before the next general conference of the church to give an account of their conduct.” The conference also voted to publish a new edition of the church’s hymnbook to replace an unauthorized edition published by , a church member in .
According to JS’s journal, “a great deal of business was transacted and great instruction given.” Elizabeth Haven, a church member living in , Illinois, who heard reports about the conference, declared that JS was “filled with the Spirit” at the meeting and that “great union” existed among the Saints. The minutes of the meeting featured here were published in the December 1839 issue of the Times and Seasons, the newspaper the church had recently begun publishing in . Sometime after 28 July 1840, a copy of the minutes was recorded in JS Letterbook 2, likely using the Times and Seasons version as the source. Another copy was recorded in the letterbook sometime on or after 15 December 1840. This latter copy appears to be a more polished version of the published minutes and includes information not in the minutes featured here; these additions are identified in the notes.
JS, Journal, 29 Sept.–6 Oct. 1839. Another contemporary report declared that the conference was a “very crow[d]ed assembly.” (Elizabeth Haven, Quincy, IL, to Elizabeth Howe Bullard, Holliston, MA, 21, 28, and 30 Sept. 1839; 6–9 Oct. 1839, Barlow Family Collection, 1816–1969, CHL.)
See Historical Introductions to Bonds from Horace Hotchkiss, 12 Aug. 1839–A and B; and Lee Co., IA, Land Records, 1836–1961, Deeds (South, Keokuk), vol. 1, pp. 507–509, microfilm 959,238; vol. 2, pp. 3–6, 13–16, microfilm 959,239, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL; see also Cook, “Isaac Galland,” 270–275.
In structure, the branch appears to have been a stake, with a president, bishop, and high council. At this time, the terms stake and branch were sometimes used interchangeably, even though both also had separate meanings. (See “Branch” and “Stake” in the glossary.)
Some discussion had been held prior to this time as to the wisdom of gathering the Saints in one place, given the difficulties they had experienced in Missouri. BishopEdward Partridge, for example, stated in February 1839 that “it was not expedient under present circumstances, to collect together but thought it was better to scatter into different parts and provide for the poor which will be acceptable to God.” Brigham Young and other apostles, however, argued that the gathering was essential. (“Conference in Quincy Feby. 1839,” Far West Committee, Minutes, CHL.)
Far West Committee. Minutes, Jan.–Apr. 1839. CHL. MS 2564.
Pratt, Parley P. The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, One of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Embracing His Life, Ministry and Travels, with Extracts, in Prose and Verse, from His Miscellaneous Writings. Edited by Parley P. Pratt Jr. New York: Russell Brothers, 1874.
dent respecting observing order and decorum during , , spoke as to the duties of , , [e]tc.
President J. Smith, Jr. then spoke as to appointing a and other matters connected with the well being of the . Having now got through the business matters, the President proceeded to give instructions to the Elders respecting preaching the gospel, and pressed upon them the necessity of getting the spirit, so that they might preach with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, to be careful in speaking on those subjects which are not clearly pointed out in the word of God, which lead to speculation and strife.
Those persons who had been were then , and several children received blessings by Elders , and . Elder then addressed the meeting, on the subject of raising funds by contribution, towards paying for the lands which had been contracted for, as a settlement for the church, after which contributions were received for that purpose.
, was appointed to accompany Presidents J. Smith. Jr. and , to the City of .
The meeting then adjourned until Monday morning.
Monday morning October the 9th [7th].
Conference met pursuant to adjournment.
The President spoke at some length to the Elders, and explained many passages of scripture.
Elder , spoke on the subject of the resurection, and other important subjects. When he offered the following resolution, which passed unanimously:
Resolved, That a new edition of Hymn Books be printed immediately, and that the one published by , be utterly discarded by the church.
Elder Ezra Hayes was then put upon trial for teaching doctrine injurious to the church, and for falsehoods; which having been proved against him, his was withdrawn and he required to give satisfaction to those whom he had offended.
Charges having been prefered against , it was agreed that the case be handed over to the .
made application to be received into , and was voted into his former standing.
After having referred the business not gone into, to the high council; the president then returned thanks to the conference for their good attention and liberality; and having blessed them in the name of the Lord, the conference was dismissed.
The next conference was appointed to be held on the 6th day of April next. [p. 31]
Apparently, this topic was weighing on the minds of church leaders at the time. JS had given a sermon just a few days prior in which he “explained concerning uselessness of preaching to the world about great judgements but rather to preach the simple gospel.” Similarly, a letter from six of the church’s Twelve Apostles, written by July 1839 and published in the November 1839 issue of the Times and Seasons, counseled elders against preaching their own opinions or on speculative subjects: “The horns of the beast, the toes of the image, the frogs and the beast mentioned by John, are not going to save this generation.” Elizabeth Haven, a church member in Quincy, Illinois, stated that some of the elders who attended the conference told her that JS addressed other topics as well, including “the kingdom before the foundation of the world.” According to Haven, “he also related some very interesting facts which he has lately translated from the reccords which came with the Mummies,” referring to papyri JS obtained when he and others purchased several Egyptian mummies in 1835. (Discourse, 29 Sept. 1839; Brigham Young et al., “To the Elders of the Church,” Times and Seasons, Nov. 1839, 1:13–14; Elizabeth Haven, Quincy, IL, to Elizabeth Howe Bullard, Holliston, MA, 21, 28, and 30 Sept. 1839; 6–9 Oct. 1839, Barlow Family Collection, 1816–1969, CHL; Historical Introduction to Certificate from Michael Chandler, 6 July 1835.)
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.
The church’s governing Articles and Covenants directed that church members bring their children “unto the elders before the church” so that the elders could “lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ, and bless them in his name.” (Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830, in Doctrine and Covenants 2:20, 1835 ed. [D&C 20:70].)
After this paragraph, the second copy of the minutes in JS Letterbook 2 inserts the following: “On motion of Er Lyman Wight it was Resolved that Prst. Joseph Smith be authorised to deed property to his family, his fathers family and the poor for their support during life, to fall to their heirs and successors after them, as he shall deem proper.” (Minutes and Discourses, 5–7 Oct. 1839, in JS Letterbook 2, pp. 199–200.)
The second copy of the minutes in JS Letterbook 2 inserts “Also of the necessity of publishing another edition of the Hymn Book” here. (Minutes and Discourses, 5–7 Oct. 1839, in JS Letterbook 2, p. 200.)
The charges brought against Rogers are not clear, but when the high council considered his case on 8 March 1840, JS specified that he was accused of “unchristianlike conduct.” At a 29 March 1840 meeting of the high council, Rogers was acquitted of the charge because there was “no one appearing against him to sustain” it. (Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 8 and 29 Mar. 1840, 49, 53.)
Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 1839–1845. CHL. LR 3102 22.
In May 1836, Oliver Cowdery charged Perry with “unchristianlike conduct” and the Kirtlandhigh council cut him off from the church. It is not clear whether he was reinstated and then disciplined again between May 1836 and this conference. In 1838 he moved to Missouri and, after the Saints’ expulsion there, went to Quincy and then to Commerce. (Minute Book 1, 23 May 1836; “Obituary,” Deseret News [Salt Lake City], 3 Mar. 1869, 41; Stephen Perry, Springville, Utah Territory, to Wilford Woodruff, 28 Nov. 1884, typescript, Stephen C. Perry, Collection, CHL.)
Deseret News. Salt Lake City. 1850–.
Perry, Stephen C. Collection, 1843–1886. Typescript. CHL.
The business referred to might have included appointing additional officers and establishing policies for land transactions in the Commerce area, setting wages for JS’s clerk James Mulholland, providing a recommendation for the delegation going to Washington DC, and deciding on the production of a new edition of the church hymnbook—all items that the high council addressed later in October. (Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 21 Oct. 1839, 25–26; Minutes, 27 Oct. 1839.)
Nauvoo High Council Minutes, 1839–1845. CHL. LR 3102 22.