Minutes and Discourses, 6–8 April 1844, as Reported by Thomas Bullock
Special conference of the church, Minutes, and JS, Discourses, [Nauvoo, Hancock Co., IL], 6–8 Apr. 1844. Featured version inscribed in Thomas Bullock, Minutes, Nauvoo, Hancock Co., IL, 6–9 Apr. 1844, pp. 1–29; handwriting of ; General Church Minutes, CHL. Includes dockets, use marks and notations.
Twenty-one loose leaves and one bifolium measuring 12⅜ × 7⅝ × ⅛ inches (31 × 19 × 0.3 cm). Each page is ruled with either thirty-four or thirty-five blue lines. Some leaves are embossed in the top left corner of the recto with the inscription “D & J. AMES”, the insignia of a Springfield, Massachusetts, paper mill firm established by brothers David and John Ames in 1828. At some point, the leaves were unevenly cut by hand. After inscribed the minutes, the document was folded for filing. When the conference minutes were edited for publication, graphite and ink use marks were added. There are holes from staples (now removed) in the upper left corner of the recto of each leaf.
, who served as JS’s scribe from 1843 to 1844 and as clerk to the church historian and recorder from 1845 to 1865, docketed the minutes. The notation “A. J” was apparently later added twice by Andrew Jenson, who served as assistant church historian from 1897 to 1941. In the mid-twentieth century, the document was included in a miscellaneous minutes collection that was a vestige of a genre-based filing method used by the Church Historian’s Office (now CHL) in the first half of the twentieth century. This document genre collection contained many documents that subsequently formed the basis for the General Church Minutes collection that was cataloged in 1994. The document’s dockets, its notations, and its inclusion within the General Church Minutes collection suggest continuous institutional custody.
Whiting, “Paper-Making in New England,” 309; Gravell et al., American Watermarks, 235.
Whiting, William. “Paper-Making in New England.” In The New England States: Their Constitutional, Judicial, Educational, Commercial, Professional and Industrial History, edited by William T. Davis, vol. 1, pp. 303–333. Boston: D. H. Hurd, 1897.
Gravell, Thomas L., George Miller, and Elizabeth Walsh. American Watermarks: 1690–1835. 2nd ed. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2002.
See the full bibliographic entry for Historian’s Office, General Church Minutes, 1839–1877, in the CHL catalog.
From 6 to 8 April 1844, the held a special in , Illinois, in which JS and other church leaders gave extensive discourses and for which church clerk kept minutes. This conference marked the fourteenth anniversary of the church’s founding.
Prior to the April conference, tensions had been growing for months between JS and his opponents in . On 24 March, JS publicly accused , , , , and of plotting to take his life and the lives of his family members. Around the same time, William Law, a disaffected former member of the , told that he “was ready for an investigation before the Conference, and that there [he] would bring their abominations to light,” referring to the practice of plural marriage. Hyrum reportedly replied that “there would not be an investigation before [the] Conference, that they wanted peace.” At some point, Law apparently “sent Joseph and some of the , special word that he desired an investigation before the Church in General Conference, on the 6th of Ap’l.” JS, Hyrum Smith, and alluded to these difficulties during the April conference.
Another noteworthy development preceding the conference was the formation of the . On 11 March 1844, JS formally organized this secret body, which he and his closest associates saw as the beginning of the literal kingdom of God on earth. The Council of Fifty’s principal concerns included JS’s candidacy for the presidency, wide-ranging discussions about the meaning of the kingdom of God, and a possible Latter-day Saint emigration to the or elsewhere in the West. , who had been admitted to the Council of Fifty on 19 March 1844, referenced this body at several points during the conference.
Although work on the would not resume until 11 April 1844, efforts to raise funds for the building’s construction were ongoing. , a plural wife of , reported that after praying to know what she might do to build God’s kingdom, she felt “a most Pleasant sensation” and had the impression to “try to get the Sisters to subscribe one Cent per Week for the purpose of buying glass and nails for the Temple.” Thompson then went to JS and related to him “what seemed to be the wisperings of the still small voice,” and he approved her proposal. She next told her plan to Hyrum Smith, who, according to Thompson, “was much plea[s]ed and did all in his power to encourage and help by speaking to the Sisters on the subject in private and public promising them that they should recieve their blessings in that Temple.” Early in 1844, Hyrum “made a proclamation to the female members of the church, calling upon them to subscribe one cent per week each, in money for the purpose of buying the Glass and Nails for the Temple.” On 7 March 1844, he addressed the men of the church, urging them to contribute money to purchase gunpowder and fuses needed for the construction of the temple. He noted that the women were paying for the necessary glass and nails and requested that “the brethren . . . do as much as the sisters.” During the April conference, Hyrum Smith renewed his calls for funds and materials to forward the work of building the temple.
By all accounts, large congregations attended the April conference, which was held in the east of the construction site. JS opened the meeting on the morning of 6 April with some brief remarks explaining the conference’s business and defending his standing as a true prophet. , one of JS’s counselors, followed with a lengthy discourse on the history of the church and the kingdom of God. , a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, then spoke, lamenting the failure of the to live up to its potential as a land of liberty by guaranteeing the rights of the Saints. After an intermission, Rigdon took the entire afternoon session to continue his discourse from the morning.
The following day, 7 April, renewed his sermon on the church and the kingdom of God, followed by an intermission, during which were performed. , the church’s and a member of the , then addressed the Saints, urging them to contribute to the construction of the and counseling them to refrain from judging those who appeared to be apostatizing. JS was the concluding speaker on 7 April, preaching a long funeral sermon for church member , who had died on 9 March. In this discourse, JS taught about the nature of God and humankind and defended himself against accusations that he was a fallen prophet.
JS again spoke on the morning of 8 April, instructing the congregation about the location of , the , and the of the Latter-day Saints. After his exertion the previous day to make himself heard to a large group in the open air, JS’s lungs were exhausted, and he was forced to give a shorter discourse. To compensate for his inability to speak at length, JS requested that address the congregation, having previously given Adams some instruction on what he should teach. Adams then gave an extensive discourse that focused on the literal establishment of Zion and the salvation of the dead through vicarious . In the early afternoon, the special conference closed, and the meeting was turned over to the , who held an conference that afternoon and the next day.
The reaction to the April conference was mixed. For some it was an uplifting experience. observed that “the speakers have all had the Spirit of the Lord upon them. spoke powerful—and told of great things.” He considered the conference “the greatest, best and most glorious five days that ever were consecutively” and concluded that “all rejoiced” with “much good done.” Others shared Bullock’s sentiment. Ellen Douglas wrote to her family in that “the teaching which we heard made our hearts rejoice. I for one feel to rejoice and to praise my God that he ever sent the Elders of Israel to England and that he ever gave me a heart to believe them.” Likewise, Sally Randall wrote to her friends: “I wish you could have the teachings that we have here at the conference.” In contrast, remarked that “some of the most blasphemous doctrines have been taught by J. Smith & others” during the conference, referring, among other things, to JS’s teachings about the nature of God and humankind and ’s teachings on the kingdom of God.
Four individuals—, , , and —attempted to capture the proceedings of the April conference. Bullock, Clayton, and Richards all recorded their accounts while the speakers were preaching. Bullock specifically attended the conference as a reporter, and his notes are the most comprehensive of the four accounts. Clayton and Richards often acted as scribes for JS, and they may have been assigned to record the proceedings as well. Woodruff recorded a refined version of his notes from the conference in his journal. After the conference concluded, Bullock compiled the conference’s minutes for publication. The Times and Seasons subsequently published polished accounts of the 6 April morning session and the 7 April afternoon session, which were an amalgamation of Bullock’s and Clayton’s notes. Bullock’s rough minutes are featured here.
Clayton, History of the Nauvoo Temple, 45. During winter 1843–1844, work on the temple halted, leaving the unfinished building with “walls . . . as high as the arches of the first tier of windows all round.” (Clayton, History of the Nauvoo Temple, 40–41.)
Clayton, William. History of the Nauvoo Temple, ca. 1845. CHL. MS 3365.
Thompson, Autobiographical Sketch, 7–8; see also Editorial, Millennial Star, June 1844, 5:15. The exact date when Thompson felt impressed to raise money for the temple is unknown. Her autobiography suggests that it occurred after her marriage to Hyrum Smith in August 1843 and before Hyrum’s endorsement of the plan in the Millennial Star, which was dated 25 December 1843. Thompson and her sister, Mary Fielding Smith, “took down and kept a record of all the names” of those who contributed.
Thompson, Mercy Rachel Fielding. Autobiographical Sketch, 1880. CHL. MS 4580.
Taylor echoed a series of appeals written by Latter-day Saints to their native states in 1843–1844. These entreaties, such as JS’s appeal to Vermont, were meant to invoke sympathy for the Saints and win support for their renewed efforts to obtain redress for their losses suffered during the Missouri expulsion of 1838–1839. Similar language was also used in General Smith’s Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States. Taylor’s comparison of the kingdom of God with the kingdoms of the world also reflected ideas in an editorial on theocracy published in the Times and Seasons in 1842, which may have been authored by Taylor. (Rogers, “Mormon Appeals for Redress and Social Justice, 1843–44,” 36–39; General Joseph Smith’s Appeal to the Green Mountain Boys, 21 Nov.–ca. 3 Dec. 1843; Parley P. Pratt, An Appeal to the Inhabitants of the State of New York . . . [Nauvoo, IL: John Taylor, (1844)]; Benjamin Andrews, “An Appeal to the People of the State of Maine,” Nauvoo Neighbor, 17 Jan. 1844, ; Sidney Rigdon, “To the Honorable, the Senate and House of Representatives of Pennsylvania, in Legislative Capacity Assembled,” Nauvoo Neighbor, 31 Jan. 1844, ; Phineas Richards, “An Appeal, to the Inhabitants of Massachusetts,” Nauvoo Neighbor, 7 Feb. 1844, ; [Alphonso Young], “An Appeal to the State of Tennessee, by A. Young,” Nauvoo Neighbor, 28 Feb. 1844, ; General Smith’s Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States, ca. 26 Jan.–7 Feb. 1844; “The Government of God,” Times and Seasons, 15 July 1842, 3:855–858.)
Robers, Brent M. “To the ‘Honest and Patriotic Sons of Liberty’: Mormon Appeals for Redress and Social Justice, 1843–44.” Journal of Mormon History 39, no. 1 (Winter 2013): 36–67.
Pratt, Parley P. An Appeal to the Inhabitants of the State of New York, Letter to Queen Victoria: (Reprinted from the Tenth European Edition,): The Fountain of Knowledge, Immortality of the Body, and Intelligence and Affection. Nauvoo, IL: John Taylor, 1844.
Obituary for King Follett, Nauvoo Neighbor, 20 Mar. 1844, ; see also Discourse, 7 Apr. 1844. JS had meant to preach a funeral sermon for Follett on 5 April but was unable to because of poor health. On 27 February 1844, Follett had been “stoning up a well” some fifteen feet underground when a rope lowering a bucket of rocks snapped and Follett was struck by the falling objects. Although the blow did not kill him instantly, Follett died eleven days later, having “suffered much.” He was buried on 10 March “in due Masonic form.” (Woodruff, Journal, 5 Apr. 1844; Notice, Nauvoo Neighbor, 20 Mar. 1844, ; Nauvoo Masonic Lodge Minute Book, 10 Mar. 1844; see also Historian’s Office, Journal, 10 Mar. 1844.)
Nauvoo Neighbor. Nauvoo, IL. 1843–1845.
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
Nauvoo Masonic Lodge Minute Book. / “Record of Na[u]voo Lodge Under Dispensation,” 1842–1846. CHL. MS 3436
On 7 April 1844, JS spoke for two hours and fifteen minutes. On 8 April, Willard Richards recorded that JS brought the meeting to order at ten o’clock in the morning, after which William W. Phelps read 1 Corinthians 15 and Brigham Young said a prayer. JS then preached until 10:40, meaning that his discourse lasted less than forty minutes. (JS, Journal, 7–8 Apr. 1844.)
Derr, Jill Mulvay, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds. The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016.
In his account of the April conference, William Goforth observed that four clerks were at work recording the “masterly sermons.” (William Goforth [Sissimus, pseud.], Nauvoo, IL, 10 Apr. 1844, Letter to the Editor, Nauvoo Neighbor, 1 May 1844, .)
Woodruff, Journal, 6–9 Apr. 1844. The quality of Woodruff’s handwriting suggests that his account of the conference is a fair copy. Woodruff recalled in 1877 that “he had written” JS’s 7 April 1844 discourse “on the crown of his hat, standing in the congregation.” This suggests that at least on one occasion during the conference he took notes, which he then probably used to create the more polished account in his journal. (Bleak, Annals of the Southern Utah Mission, 10 June 1877.)
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
Bleak, James Godson. Annals of the Southern Utah Mission, ca. 1898–1907. CHL. MS 318.
Historian’s Office, Journal, 10, 23–26, and 28 Apr. 1844; see also the docket for the 6 April 1844 minutes in Historian’s Office, General Church Minutes, 6–9 Apr. 1844. Apparently, by 10 April there were plans to publish the discourses from the conference. (William Goforth [Sissimus, pseud.], Nauvoo, IL, 10 Apr. 1844, Letter to the Editor, Nauvoo Neighbor, 1 May 1844, .)
Prayer by , after which the Choir sung an hymn. with no ordinary degree of satisfaction felt the privilege that he enjoyed this morning— want of health has kept him in silence for nearly five years.— violence of disease using its influence— seeds of disease &c all combined prostrated him he has come forth from his bed of sickness— for the first time in his character— <he had not> come before a for the last 5 years— I hardly promise myself lungs to make this congregation hear me— I shall do the best I can and the greatest can do no more— the history of this which I have known from its infancy— my text is Behold the Church of <Jesus> Christ <in the last days>— I can make a text for myself as well as Paul— I recollect in the year 1830 I met the whole <Church> of Christ in a little old log house about 20 feet square near Waterloo— <we> talked with great confidence and talked big things altho but few— knew 14 years ago that it would be as large to day as it is— we were as big then as we shall ever be. if we did not see this people— we saw it thousands larger— the people thought we were going to upset the government altho we were not enough to man a farm all [illegible] Elders— all the members met in conference in <a room> 20 feet square— was put in jail for reading a Book of Mormon— he came to see us— he after came to and said he was a convert— many things were taught, preached, & believed then we knew the whole world would laugh at us— so we concealed ourselves— we had things to say to one another that nobody else knew of— the all nations should flock to it— whole nations born in one day— we talked such big things. we could tell such things for the salvation of men— we were obliged to retire to our secret chambers and commune ourselves with God— <we have now arrived at the age of 14 &> can now choose our own Guardian— if we had told them, what our eyes now behold this day— they would not be believed, but the rascals would have shed our blood if we had only told them what we believed— we saw all things pass and repass— here I never could have been here— we were alone. we had to run and hide ourselves from the violence of the mobs. the time has come now, to tell why we did it— we were maturing plans 14 years ago which we can now tell— no secret plans— no combinations— you never would have been here had it not been for the little meetings we had— the cry of false prophet and Imposter would have rolled us— all things were engraved upon the hearts of them— never could be taken out of the heart— it was indelibly engraved— no power could obliterate— it— this was the period when God laid the foundations of the Church of God and laid it firmly— if any man said it was not the work of God I know they lie— some of you who know you have a house how long would it take to make you reason yourself into a believe that— you had no house who will rise or fall— but we know that here is the Church of God and I have authority before God [p. 1]