Appendix 2: Constitution of the Society of the Daughter of Zion, circa Late June 1838

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Whereas in all bodies Laws are necessary for the permanancy, safety, and well being of society, we the members of the society of the Daughter of Zion do agree to regulate ourselves under such laws as in righteousness shall be deemed necessary for the preservation of our holy religion and of our most sacred rights, and the rights of our wives and children. But to be explicit on the subject, it is especially our object, to support and defend the rights confered on us by our venerable sires, who purchased them with the pledges of their, lives, their fortunes, and sacred honours— And now to prove ourselves worthy of the liberty confered on us by them, in the providence [p. [10]] of God we do agree to be governed by such laws, as shall perpetuate these high priviledges, of which we know ourselves to be the rightful possessors, & of which priviledges, wicked and designing men have tried to deprive us, by all manner of evil, and that purely in consequence of the tenacity we have manifested in the discharge of our duty towards our God, who had given us those rights and priviledges, and a right in common with others to dwell on this Land. But we, not having the priviledges of others allowed us unto us: have determined, to like unto others our Fathers, to resist tyrany whether it be in Kings, or in people, It is all alike unto us, our rights we must have, and our rights we will <​shall​> have, in the name of Israels God—
Article 1st
All power belongs originally and legitimately to the people and they have a right, and they have a right to dispose of it as they shall deem fit.— But as it is inconvenient, and impossible to convene the people in all cases. The legislative powers have been given by them from time to time into the hands of a representation, composed of delegates from the people themselves. This is and has been the law, both in civil and religious bodies, and is the true principle.
Article 2nd
The executive power shall be vested in the President of the whole church and his counsellors.
Article 3rd
The legislative powers shall reside in the president and his cousellors together, with and with the generals and colonels of the Society. By them all Laws shall be made regulating the society— [p. [11]]
Article 4th
All offices shall be during life and good behaviour, or to be regulated by the Law of God—
Article 5th
The society reserves the power of electing all its officers, with the exception of the aids and clerks which the officers may need in their various stations— The nomination to go from the Presidency to his second, and from the second to the third in rank, and so down through all the various grades, each branch or department retains the power of electing its own particular officers—
Article 6th
Punishments shall be administered to the guilty in accordance to the offence and no member shall be punished without law, or by any others <​than those​> appointed by law for that purpose. The Legislature shall have power to make laws regulating punishments, as in their judgments shall be wisdom and righteousness—
Article 7th
There shall be a Secretary whose business it shall be to keep all the Legislative records of the Society, and also to keep a register of the names of every member of the Society, also the rank of the officers. He shall also communicate the Laws to the generals, as directed by laws made for the regulation of such business, by the Legislature—
Article 8th All officers shall be subject to the commands of the Captain General, given through the Secretary of war— and so all officers shall be subject to their superiors in rank, according to laws made for that purpose—— [1/4 page blank] [p. [12]]


  1. 1

    This language echoes the U.S. Declaration of Independence.  

  2. 2

    The Latter-day Saints had been driven out of Jackson County in 1833, had been threatened with similar treatment if they did not leave Clay County in 1836, and had been warned to leave Daviess County in 1837. In March 1838, Carroll County landowner David Thomas wrote to JS about “some of the knowing ones” who had “aimed to uproot you.” The Saints living in the northwestern counties justifiably feared that their right to peaceably occupy their property was insecure. (Jennings, “Expulsion of the Mormons,” 41–63; “Public Meeting,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Aug. 1836, 2:353–355; Stokes, “Wilson Letters,” 504–509; Letter from William W. Phelps, 7 July 1837; Letter from David Thomas, 31 Mar. 1838.)  

    Jennings, Warren A. “The Expulsion of the Mormons from Jackson County, Missouri.” Missouri Historical Review 64 (Oct. 1969–July 1970): 41–63.

    Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.

    Stokes, Durward T., ed. “The Wilson Letters, 1835–1849.” Missouri Historical Review 60, no. 4 (July 1966): 495–517.

  3. 3

    The preamble and first article reflect the ideas of English political philosopher John Locke about the social contract and other types of revolutionary rhetoric, which were popular in the late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century in the United States. The focus on legislative powers in article 1 appears to be following the structure of the United States Constitution. (See Slauter, State as a Work of Art, 8–18; and Maier, American Scripture, chap. 2.)  

    Slauter, Eric. The State as a Work of Art: The Cultural Origins of the Constitution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

    Maier, Pauline. American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.

  4. 4

    This wording mirrors the first phrase in article 2 of the U.S. Constitution.  

  5. 5

    Nineteenth-century militias in the United States avoided appointing men to the rank of captain general—a supreme military commander—perhaps because the office was historically associated with the British monarchy. The term’s use here may be due to the influence of Avard, who was born in Guernsey, one of the British Isles. (See [Philippart], Royal Military Calendar, 2:249; Blessing for Sampson Avard, in Patriarchal Blessings, vol. 1, p. 63.)  

    [Philippart, John]. The Royal Military Calendar; or, Army Service and Commission Book. Containing the Services and Progress of Promotion of the Generals, Lieutenant-Generals, Major-Generals, Colonels . . . . 3rd ed. 5 vols. London: A. J. Valpy, 1820.

    Patriarchal Blessings, 1833–. CHL. CR 500 2.