Organization of the High Council—First Cases Before the Council.
Minutes of the Organization of the High Council of the Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints, Kirtland, February 17, 1834. 1
1. This day a general council of twenty-four High Priests assembled at the house of Joseph Smith, Jun., by revelation, and proceeded to organize the High Council of the Church of Christ, which was to consist of twelve High Priests, and one or three Presidents, as the case might require.
2. The High Council was appointed by revelation for the purpose of settling important difficulties which might arise in the Church, which could not be settled by the Church or the Bishop’s council to the satisfaction of the parties.
3. Joseph Smith, Jun., Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams, were acknowledged Presidents by the voice of the Council; and Joseph Smith, Sen., John Smith, Joseph Coe, John Johnson, Martin Harris, John S. Carter, Jared Carter, Oliver Cowdery, Samuel H. Smith, Orson Hyde, Sylvester Smith, and Luke Johnson, High Priests, were chosen to be a standing Council for the Church, by the unanimous voice of the Council.
4. The above-named Councilors 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 appointments, and would fill their offices according to the grace of God bestowed upon them.
5. The number composing the Council, who voted in the name and for the Church, in appointing the above named Councilors were forty-three, as follows:—Nine High Priests, seventeen Elders, four Priests. and thirteen members.
6. Voted: that the High Council cannot have power to act without seven of the above-named Councilors, or their regularly appointed successors, are present.
7. These seven shall have power to appoint other High Priests, whom they may consider worthy and capable to act in the place of absent Councilors.
8. Noted: that whenever any vacancy shall occur by the death, removal from office for transgression, or removal from the bounds of this Church government, of any one of the above-named Councilors, it shall be filled by the nomination of the President or Presidents, and sanctioned by the voice of a general council of High Priests, convened for that purpose, to act in the name of the Church.
9. The President of the Church, who is also the President of the Council, is appointed by revelation, and acknowledged in his administration, by the voice of the Church.
10. And it is according to the dignity of his office that he should preside over the Council of the Church; and it is his privilege to be assisted by two other Presidents, appointed after the same manner he himself was appointed;
11. And in case of the absence 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 he himself is absent, the other Presidents have power to preside in his stead, both, or either of them.
12. 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 Councilors to cast lots by numbers, and thereby ascertain, who of the twelve shall speak first, commencing with number one, and so in succession to number twelve.
13. Whenever this Council convenes to act upon any case, the twelve Councilors shall consider whether it is a difficult one or not; if it is not, two only of the Councilors shall speak upon it, according to the form above written.
14. But if it is thought to be difficult, four shall be appointed; and if more difficult, six; but in no case shall more than six be appointed to speak.
15. The accused, in all cases, has a right to one half of the Council, to prevent insult or injustice;
16. And the Councilors 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 and justice.
17. Those Councilors who draw even numbers, that is 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12, are the individuals who are to stand up in behalf of the accused, and prevent insult and injustice.
18. In all cases the accuser and accused shall have a privilege of speaking for themselves before the Council after the evidences are heard, and the Councilors who are appointed to speak on the case, have finished their remarks.
19. After the evidences are heard, the Councilor, accuser and 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 Councilors to sanction the same by their vote.
20. But should the remaining Councilors, who have not spoken, or any one of them, after hearing the evidences and pleadings impartially, discover an error in the decision of the President, they can manifest it, and the case shall have a re-hearing;
21. And if, after a careful re-hearing, any additional light is shown upon the case, the decision shall be altered accordingly;
22. But in case no additional light is given, the first decision shall stand, the majority of the Council having power to determine the same.
23. In case of difficulty, respecting doctrine or principle, (if there is not a sufficiency written to make the case clear to the minds of the Council,) the President may inquire and obtain the mind of the Lord by revelation.
24. 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;
25. And the said Council of High Priests shall have power to appoint one of their own number, to preside over such Council for the time being.
26. It shall be the duty of said Council to transmit immediately, a copy of their proceedings, with a full statement of the testimony accompanying their decision, to the High Council of the seat of the First Presidency of the Church.
27. Should the parties, or either of them be dissatisfied with the decision of said Council, they may appeal to the High Council of the seat of the First Presidency of the Church, and have a re-hearing, which case shall there be conducted, according to the former pattern written, as though no such decision had been made.
28. The 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 Council.
29. The traveling or located High Priests abroad, have power to say whether it is necessary to call such a Council or not.
30. There is a distinction between the High Council of traveling High Priests abroad, and the traveling High Council composed of the Twelve Apostles, in their decisions.
31. From the decision of the former there can be an appeal, but from the decision of the latter there cannot.
32. The latter can only be called in question by the general authorities of the Church in case of transgression.
33. Resolved, that the President or Presidents of the seat of the First Presidency of the Church, shall have power to determine whether any such case, as may be appealed, is justly entitled to a re-hearing, after examining the appeal and the evidences and statements accompanying it.
34. The twelve Councilors then proceeded to cast lots or ballot, to ascertain who should speak first, and the following was the result, namely:—
1 Oliver Cowdery,
2 Joseph Smith,
3 Samuel H. Smith,
4 Luke Johnson
5 John S. Carter,
6 Sylvester Smith,
7 John Johnson,
8 Orson Hyde,
9 Jared Carter,
10 Joseph Smith, Sen.,
11 John Smith,
12 Martin Harris.
After prayer the conference adjourned.
Supplementary Proceedings in the Organization of the High Council.
On the 18th of January I reviewed and corrected the minutes of the organization of the High Council, and on the 19th of February, the Council assembled according to adjournment, from the 17th, (Oliver Cowdery and Orson Hyde, clerks,) when the revised minutes were presented and read to the Council. I urged the necessity of prayer, that the Spirit might be given, that the things of the Spirit might be judged thereby, because the carnal mind cannot discern the things of God. The minutes were read three times, and unanimously adopted and received for a form and constitution of the High Council of the Church of Christ hereafter; with this provision, that if the President should hereafter discover anything lacking in the same, he should be privileged to supply it.
The number present who received the above-named document, was twenty-six High Priests, eighteen Elders, three Priests, one Teacher, and fourteen private members, making in all sixty-two.
After giving such instruction as the Spirit dictated, I laid my hands upon the heads of the two assistant Presidents severally and blessed them, that they might have wisdom to magnify their office and power to prevail over the adversary.
I also laid my hands upon the twelve Councilors, and commanded a blessing to rest upon them, that they might have wisdom and power to counsel in righteousness, upon all subjects that might be laid before them. I also prayed that they might be delivered from those evils to which they were most exposed, and that their lives might be prolonged on the earth.
My father, Joseph, then laid his hands upon my head, and said,
Joseph, I lay my hands upon thy head, and pronounce the blessings of thy progenitors upon thee, that thou mayest hold the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven until the coming of the Lord. Amen.
He also laid his hands upon the head of his son Samuel, and said,
Samuel, I lay my hands upon thy head, and pronounce the blessings of thy progenitors upon thee, that thou mayest remain a Priest of the Most High God, and like Samuel of old, hear His voice, saying, Samuel, Samuel. Amen.
Father John Johnson, also, laid his hands upon the head of his son Luke, and said,
My Father in heaven, I ask Thee to bless this my son, according to the blessings of his forefathers; that he may be strengthened in his ministry, according to his holy calling. Amen.
I then gave the assistant Presidents a solemn charge to do their duty in righteousness, and in the fear of God; I also charged the twelve Councilors in a similar manner, all in the name of Jesus Christ.
We all raised our hands to heaven in token of the everlasting covenant, and the Lord blessed us with His Spirit. I then declared the council organized according to the ancient order, and also according to the mind of the Lord.
First Case before the High Council.
The following complaint was then presented before the Council by Ezra Thayer, a High Priest:
Kirtland, February 19, 1834.
To the President of the High Council of the Church of Christ.
The following charges I prefer against Elder Curtis Hodges, Sen., of this Church: First, for an error in spirit; second, for an error in the manner of his address, which consisted in loud speaking, and a want of clearness in articulation, which was calculated to do injury to the cause of God; and also, for contending that that was a good and proper spirit that actuated him thus to speak—all of which I consider unbecoming in an Elder in this Church, and request a hearing before the High Council.
(Signed) Ezra Thayer.
Elder Hodges pleaded “not guilty” of the above charges.
Father Lions was called on to substantiate the above charges, and his testimony was pointed against Brother Hodges. Brother Story testified that Elder Hodges talked so loud at a prayer meeting that the neighbors came out to see if some one was hurt. At another meeting, he said that Elder Thayer rebuked him for his error, but he did not receive the rebuke; that he raised his voice so high, that he could not articulate so as to be understood; and that his teaching brought a damper upon the meeting, and was not edifying. Brother Erastus Babbitt was then called upon, who testified that Elder Hodges was guilty of hollowing so loud that in a measure he lost his voice, and uttered but little else distinctly than “Glory to heaven’s King.” His testimony against Brother Hodges was pointed. Brother Truman Wait testified much to the same effect.
Councilor Oliver Cowdery stood up on the part of the accuser, and opened the case clearly.
Councilor Joseph Coe stood up on the part of the accused, but could say but a few words.
The accuser and the accused then spoke for themselves, after which the President arose and laid open the case still more plainly, and gave his decision, which was, that the charges in the declaration had been sustained by good witnesses; also, that Elder Hodges ought to have confessed when rebuked by Elder Thayer; also, if he had the Spirit of the Lord at the meetings, where he hollowed, he must have abused it, and grieved it away. All the Council agreed with the decision.
Elder Hodges then rose and said he now saw his error, but never saw it before; and appeared to feel thankful that he saw it. He said he had learned more during this trial than he had since he came into the Church; confessed freely his error, and said he would attend to the overcoming of that evil, the Lord being his helper.
The Council forgave him, and adjourned to the evening of the 20th.
February 20.—The High Council met this evening to determine concerning the Elders going out to preach.
Minutes of the High Council.
The president opened the Council by prayer.
At a church meeting, held in Pennsylvania, Erie county, and Springfield township, by Orson Pratt and Lyman E. Johnson, High Priests, some of the members of that church refused to partake of the Sacrament, because the Elder administering it did not observe the Word of Wisdom to obey it. Elder Johnson argued that they were justified in so doing, because the Elder was in transgression. Elder Pratt argued that the church was bound to receive the Supper under the administration of an Elder, so long as he retained his office or license. Voted that six Councilors should speak upon the subject.
The Council then proceeded to try the question, whether disobedience to the Word of Wisdom was a transgression sufficient to deprive an official member from holding office in the Church, after having it sufficiently taught him.
Councilors Samuel H. Smith, Luke S. Johnson, John S. Carter, Sylvester Smith, John Johnson and Orson Hyde, were called to speak upon the case then before the Council. After the Councilors had spoken, the President proceeded to give the decision:
No official member in this Church is worthy to hold an office, after having the Word of Wisdom properly taught him, and he, the official member, neglecting to comply with or obey it; which decision the Council confirmed by vote.
The President then asked if there were any Elders present who would go to Canada, and preach the Gospel to that people; for they have written a number of letters for help. And the whole Council felt as though the Spirit required the Elders to go there. It was, therefore, decided by the Council, that Lyman E. Johnson and Milton Holmes should travel together to Canada; that Zebedee Coltrin and Henry Herriman travel together into Canada; and that Jared Carter and Phineas Young travel together, if they can so arrange their affairs at home as to be liberated.
It was also decided that Elder Oliver Granger should travel eastward as soon as his circumstances would permit, and that he could travel alone on account of his age; it was also decided that Elder Martin Harris should travel alone whenever he travels; that Elders John S. Carter and Jesse Smith travel east together as soon as they can; and that Elder Brigham Young should travel alone, it being his own choice; also that James Durfee and Edward Marvin should travel together eastward; that Sidney Rigdon and John P. Greene go to Strongville, that Orson Pratt and Harrison Sagers travel together for the time being; and that there should be a general conference held at Saco, in the state of Maine, on the 13th day of June, 1834.
It was furthermore voted that Elder Orson Hyde, accompanied by Elder Orson Pratt, go east to obtain donations for Zion, and means to redeem the farm on which the house of the Lord stands.
The Church and Council then prayed with uplifted hands, that they might be prospered in their mission.
Oliver Cowdery. Clerks.
1. D&C 102.