“Doctrine and Covenants 102,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers (2020)
“Doctrine and Covenants 102,” Joseph Smith’s Revelations: A Doctrine and Covenants Study Companion from the Joseph Smith Papers
Revised Minutes, Kirtland Township, OH, 18–19 Feb. 1834. Featured version copied [ca. 19 Feb. 1834] in Minute Book 1, pp. 31–35; handwriting of Orson Hyde; CHL. For more information, see the source note for Minute Book 1, on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
On 17 February 1834, at a meeting that included priesthood holders and other members of the church, JS oversaw the initial organization of a standing “Presidents Church Council” in Kirtland, Ohio. Orson Hyde, the clerk of the meeting, noted in the minutes of that meeting that “many questions have been asked during the time of the organization of this Council and doubtless some errors have been committed, it was, therefore, voted by all present that Bro Joseph should make all necessary corrections by the spirit of inspiration hereafter.”1 JS worked on amending the minutes the following day “with all the strength and wisdom that he had” and presented the revised minutes—featured here—to a council of sixty-two priesthood holders and church members on 19 February. JS’s revisions were significant and both added and deleted material from the original minutes. After hearing the revised minutes read three times and making at least one correction, the council unanimously voted to accept the revised minutes as “a form, and constitution of the high Council of the Church of Christ hereafter,” with the proviso that “if the president should hereafter discover any lack in the same he should be privileged to fill it up.” At the 19 February meeting, after giving several blessings and items of instruction to members of the new council, JS reported that “the Council was organized according to the ancient order, and also according to the mind of the Lord.” Conducting itself according to procedures outlined in the minutes featured here, the council, later known as the Kirtland high council, then heard its first case.2
These minutes also authorized high priests at remote locations to, when necessary, organize similar, temporary disciplinary councils, the decisions of which could be appealed to the standing “high Council at the seat of the general government of the Church,” then in Kirtland.3 In addition, though these minutes contained no provision for doing so, JS organized another standing high council following the same pattern outlined in the minutes featured here in Clay County, Missouri, the following July.4 After the main body of church members in Missouri moved from Clay County to Caldwell County in 1836–1837, this second standing high council conducted its meetings at Far West, Caldwell County. Following JS’s move to Far West in March 1838, this Missouri council replaced the Kirtland high council as the “high Council at the seat of the general government of the Church” and, therefore, became the council to which appeals resulting from other church councils were made.5 Similar standing high councils were later organized in Illinois and Iowa Territory, with the Nauvoo high council assuming appellate authority after its organization in October 1839.6 In the meantime, the revised minutes of the 17 February 1834 meeting were included as section 5 in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.
The above items have been corrected according to the resolution passed <in the same>, and the following is the correction.7—— [p. 31]
Kirtland Feb 17. 1834.
This day a <general> council of <24> high Priests assembled at the house of Joseph Smith Junr. <by revelation> and proceeded to organize the high council of the Church of Christ, which
is <was> to consist of twelve high priests, and one, or three presidents, as the case may <might> require. This <high> council is <was> appointed by revelation, for the purpose of settleing important difficulties which may <might> arise in the church, which cannot <could not> be settled by the Church, or the bishop’s council to the satisfaction of the parties8
Joseph Smith Junr.
Sidney Rigdon and
Frederick G Williams were acknowledged presidents,9 by the voice of the council; and
Joseph Smith Seign
John S Carter
Saml. H Smith
Sylvester Smith and
high priests, were chosen to be a standing council for the Church, by the unanimous voice of the council.
The above named counsellors were then asked whether they accepted their appointments, and whether they would act in that office according to the law of Heaven: to which they all answered, that they accepted their several appointments, and would fill their offices according to the grace of God bestowed upon them.
The numbers composeing the council, who voted in the name, and for the church in appointing the above named counsellors, were forty three; As follows: Nine high priests,10 Seventeen elders, four priests, and thirteen members.11
this <the high> council cannot have power to act without seven of the above named counsellors, or their regularly appointed successors, are present; these seven shall have power to appoint other high priests whom they may consider worthy and capable to act in the place of absent counsellors. [p. 32]
Voted, that whenever any vacancy shall occur by the death, removeal from office, for transgression, or removal from the bounds of this church goverment of any one of the above named counsellors, it shall be filled by the nomination of the president, or presidents and sanctioned by the voice of a general
Conference <Council of high priests> convened for that purpose to act in the name of the Church.
The president of the church, who is also the president of the council, is appointed by the voice of the Saviour, and acknowledged in his administration, by the voice of the Church; and it is according to the dignity of his office that he should preside over the high Council of the Church; and it is his privilege to be assisted by two other presidents, appointed after the same manner that he himself was appointed; and in case of the abscence of one or both of those who are appointed to assist him, he has power to preside over the council without an assistant: and in case that he himself is abscent, the other presidents have power to preside in his stead, both or either of them.
Whenever a high council of the Church of Christ, is regularly organized according to the foregoing pattern, it shall be the duty of the twelve counsellors to cast lots by numbers and thereby ascertain who of the twelve shall speak first, commenceing with Number One, and so in succession to number twelve
Whenever this council convenes to act upon any case;
in the Church, the twelve counsellors shall consider whether it is a difficult one or not; If it is not, two <only> of the Counsellors shall speak upon it according to the form above written; but if it is thought to be more <a> difficult, <one> four shall be appointed, and if still more difficult, six: but in no case not over that number shall <shall be more than six be> be appointed to speak. The accused in all cases has a right to one half of the council to prevent insult or injustice; and the counsellors appointed to speak before the council, are to present the case after the evidence is examined, in its true light before the Council, and every man is to speak according to equity [p. 33] and justice.
Those counsellors who draw even numbers, that is, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12, are the individuals who are to stand up <in> the behalf of the accused and prevent insult or injustice.
In all cases the accuser and the accused shall have a privilege of speaking for themselves before the council, after the evidences are heared, and the Counsellors who are appointed to speak on the case, have finished their remarks.
After the evidences are heared; the counsellors, accuser and <the> accused, have spoken, the president shall give a decision according to the understanding which he shall have of the case, and call upon the twelve Counsellors to sanction the same by their voices.
But should the remaining Counsellors who have not spoken*, or any one of them, after hearing the evidences and pleadings impartially, discover an error in the descision of the president, they can manifest it, and the case shall have a re-hearing; and if after a careful rehearing, any additional light is thrown upon the case, the descision shall be altered accordingly; but in case no additional light is given, the first decision shall stand; the majority of the Council haveing power to determine the same.
In cases of difficulty respecting doctrine, or principle; if there is not a sufficiency written to make the case clear to the mind of the Council, the president may inquire and obtain the mind of the Lord by revelation.
The high priests, when abroad, have power to call and organize a Council after the manner of the foregoing, to settle difficulties when the parties, or either of them shall request it, <and the said council of high priests shall have power to appoint one of their own number to preside over such council>
by appointing or chooseing one of their number to preside over the council for the time being.
It shall be the duty of said Council to transmit, immediately, a copy of their proceedings, with a full statement of the testimony
with <accompanying> their decision, to the high council [p. 34] at the seat of the government of the Church.12
Should the parties, or either of them, be dissatisfied with the decision of said Council, they may appeal to the high Council at the seat of the general government of the Church, and have a re-hearing, which case shall there be conducted according to the former pattern written, as though no such descision had been
This Council of high priests abroad, is only to be called on the most difficult cases of Church matters; and no common or ordinary case is to be sufficient to call such Councils. The travelling or located high priests abroad, have the power to say whether it is necessary to call such a Council or not.
*13The twelve counsellors then proceeded to cast lots or ballot, to ascertain who should speak first, and the following was the result, viz:
drew No. 1
drew No 7
〃 〃 2
〃 〃 8
Saml. H Smith——
〃 〃 3
〃 〃 9
〃 〃 4
Joseph Smith sen
John S Carter——
〃 〃 5
〃 〃 11
〃 〃 6
〃 〃 12
Council then adjourned to meet on wednesday the 19th. Inst. at 10 Oclk A.M.
Orson Hyde Clk——
*Resolved, that the president
s or presidents at the seat of general church government, shall have power to determine whether any such case as may be appealed, is justly entitled to a re-hearing after examineing the appeal and the evidences and statements accompanying it. [p. 35]