On 11 October 1842, submitted a notice to the Times and Seasons in , Illinois, certifying that JS had reviewed the financial records of the Nauvoo and found them to be in good order. The notice was the result of a 1 October meeting between JS as trustee-in-trust of the ; , , and , the three members of the temple committee; Clayton as temple recorder; and , one of Nauvoo’s . The purpose of the meeting was to investigate rumors and address dissatisfaction among laborers who, as reported in JS’s journal, felt “the committee was not making a righteous disposition of property consecrated for the building of the .” These rumors were almost certainly connected to subsequent charges that the committee members’ sons received preferential treatment and pay. It seems that discontent over these reports caused some Latter-day Saints to withhold their in the form of labor or donations. To address this problem, JS had “sent for the Temple Committee to balance their accounts and ascertain how the Temple business was going on.”
In their meeting, JS reviewed the financial books kept by , interviewed the committee members, and then “expressed himself perfectly satisfied” with the committee’s conduct. However, perhaps recognizing that the committee needed additional help or supervision over their finances, during the meeting JS also directed that ’s office be moved “to the committee house near the Temple.” At the close of the meeting, in an apparent attempt to reassure tithe payers that they could trust the committee with their donations, JS promised to publish a notice expressing his satisfaction with the committee.
On 11 October, prepared the notice of support for the temple committee as directed by JS. In composing the notice, Clayton seems to have drawn on some of the language in the account of the 1 October meeting found in JS’s journal, which was also kept by Clayton. He concluded this public account of the meeting by encouraging the Saints to continue providing donations and labor for the construction of the . The notice appeared in the 15 October 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons. In response to the October 1842 decision described in this notice, the temple committee built “a small brick office” somewhere near the temple site, and Clayton transferred his office to this new building on 2 November 1842. In mid-November, shortly after he moved into his new office, Clayton and his assistant, , took over the committee’s daybooks from and transferred the accounts into a new, more organized ledger. Despite JS’s intentions, the notice did not end the controversy over the temple committee’s actions, which continued to circulate among those working on the temple until at least April 1843.
At least one individual employed by the temple committee attributed the lack of donations to opposition to the secret doctrine of plural marriage in addition to rumors of financial misconduct. (Joseph Hovey, Autobiography, July 1868, Obituary Notices and Biographies, CHL; see also “The Temple,” Times and Seasons, 1 Oct. 1842, 3:938.)
This may certify that Joseph Smith, the Trustee in Trust, for the , called upon the on the 1st inst. to present their books and accounts for examination, and to give account of their work at the . After carefully and attentively examining and comparing their books and accounts, the Trustee expressed himself well satisfied with the labors and proceedings of the Committce, and ordered that this be published in the Times and Seasons, that the saints may know the fact and be thereby encouraged to double their exertions and forward means to roll on the building of the in
It was also ordered that the be henceforth removed to the near the ; all property and means must therefore be brought to that place, where it will be recorded in due form.
Despite the support he expressed at the 1 October 1842 meeting and the published notice, JS had probably not completed a thorough review of the books. Elias Higbee’s ledger was poorly organized, and a careful review of its contents would have been impossible during a single meeting. In contrast to more complete ledgers, such as those kept by Clayton or other professional clerks, the one kept by Higbee recorded only monetary values and corresponding daybook pages without regularly noting when transactions occurred, what was exchanged, or even whether the transactions were credits or debits on the account. Additionally, according to Clayton, JS was also quite sick on 1 October, with “a very severe pain in his left side,” and was therefore “not able to be about.” In fact, Clayton’s subsequent evaluation of the records demonstrated that the allegations against the temple committee were at least partially true. At the April 1843 conference, Clayton announced that he could “prove by the books” that the committee members had been partial to themselves and their children. In response, Reynolds Cahoon and Higbee acknowledged that they had “made some mistakes” in their bookkeeping. (Ledger A, 1841–1842, Nauvoo Temple Building Committee, Records, CHL; JS, Journal, 1 Oct. 1842; 6 and 7 Apr. 1843.)
Nauvoo Temple Building Committee Records, 1841–1852. CHL.