Charges Against the Prophet On His Return From Zion’s Camp Expedition—Trial of Elder Sylvester Smith.
Minutes of a Council held at Kirtland, August 11, 1834.
This day a number of High Priests and Elders of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, assembled in the new school house, for the purpose of investigating a matter of difficulty growing out of certain reports, or statements, made by Elder Sylvester Smith, one of the High Councilors of this Church, accusing President Joseph Smith, Jun., with criminal conduct during his journey to and from Missouri this spring and summer.
After calling the meeting to order, President Joseph Smith spoke at considerable length upon the circumstances of their journey to and from Missouri, and very minutely laid open the causes out of which the jealousies of Brother Sylvester Smith and others had grown. He made a satisfactory statement concerning his rebukes and chastisements upon Sylvester Smith and others, and also concerning the distribution of monies and other properties, calling on brethren present who accompanied him, to attest the same, all of which was satisfactory to the brethren present, as appeared by their own remarks afterwards.
After President Joseph Smith had closed his lengthy remarks, Brother Sylvester Smith made some observations relative to the subject of their difficulties, and began to make a partial confession for his previous conduct, asking forgiveness for accusing Brother Joseph publicly, on the Saturday previous, of prophesying lies in the name of the Lord; and for abusing (as he had said) his (Sylvester’s) character before the brethren, while journeying to the west.
Elder Rigdon made some remarks, by way of reproof, upon the conduct of Sylvester Smith.
Elder John P. Greene spoke: others also, followed by the clerk [Oliver Cowdery]: after which, on motion of Elder Rigdon, the assembly arranged itself into a council, Bishop Newel K. Whitney presiding, and proceeded to discuss how this difficulty should be disposed of.
Elder John Smith thought that for Brother Sylvester to make a public confession in the Star, would be the way to heal the wound.
Elder Cahoon followed with nearly the same remarks.
Elder Isaac Hill thought it ought to be quashed and go no further: followed with the same from Elder I. Bishop.
Samuel H. Smith said that it was his opinion that Brother Sylvester ought to make a more public confession, and send by letter, to those who are in the same transgression with himself, and inform them of this decision; and then, if necessary, make it public in the Star.
Elder Orson Hyde thought the confession ought to be as liberal as the accusation, or that it ought to be written and published.
Elder John P. Greene said, that if Brother Sylvester would view this thing in its proper light, he would be willing to make a public confession, and send it forth; and he advised him to do this for the salvation of the churches abroad.
Elder Isaac Story said, that it was his opinion, that the plaster ought to be as large as the wound; that a proper statement ought to be published abroad.
The clerk [Oliver Cowdery] then proposed that the council send a certificate of resolution, informing the churches abroad, that the conduct of President Joseph Smith has been investigated, and that he has acted in a proper manner, and in every respect has conducted himself to the satisfaction of the Church in Kirtland; and also let Brother Sylvester make a proper confession, following the same minutes.
Elders Amasa Lyman, Peter Shirts, Truman Wait, Roswell Evans, Alpheus Cutler, and Thomas Burdick, made remarks to the same effect.
Elder Sidney Rigdon made a few remarks upon the attitude in which Sylvester stood before the world, in endeavoring to preach the Gospel.
Elder Orson Hyde moved for a decision relative to the first question, viz., What is to be done to arrest the evil.
The moderator [Bishop Newel K. Whitney] then proceeded, after a few remarks, to give a decision according to a motion previously made, viz., that an article be published in the Evening and Morning Star, by the direction of the Council, that the Church in Kirtland has investigated the conduct of President Joseph Smith, Jun., while journeying to the west, and returning; and that we find that he has acted in every respect in an honorable and proper manner with all monies and other properties entrusted to his charge; after which a vote was taken and carried to the above effect.
A motion was then made by Orson Hyde, and seconded by Sidney Rigdon, that a committee of three be appointed to write the article for the Star, agreeable to the decision.
Oliver Cowdery, Thomas Burdick and Orson Hyde, were nominated and appointed a committee by unanimous vote.
Brother Sylvester then said that he was willing to publish a confession in the Star.
Oliver Cowdery, Clerk.
The Prophet Reports His Vindication to the Elders in Missouri.
I wrote to Lyman Wight, Edward Partridge, John Corrill, Isaac Morley, and others of the High Council of Zion, from Kirtland, August 16, 1834, as follows:
Dear Brethren—After so long a time, I dictate a few lines to you, to let you know that I am in Kirtland, and that I found all well when I arrived, as pertaining to health; but our common adversary had taken the advantage of our Brother Sylvester Smith, and others, who gave a false coloring to almost every transaction, from the time we left Kirtland, until we returned, and thereby stirred up a great difficulty in the Church against me. Accordingly I was met in the face and eyes, as soon as I had got home, with a catalogue of charges as black as the author of lies himself, and the cry was Tyrant—Pope—King—Usurper—Abuser of men—Angel—False Prophet—Prophesying lies in the name of the Lord—Taking consecrated monies—and every other lie to fill up and complete the catalogue. Such experiences may be necessary to perfect the Church, and render our traducers mete for the devourer, and the shaft of the destroying angel. In consequence of having to combat all these, I have not been able to regulate my mind, so as to give you counsel, and the information that you needed; but that God who rules on high, and thunders judgments upon Israel when they transgress, has given me power from the time I was born into the kingdom to stand; and I have succeeded in putting all gainsayers and enemies to flight, unto the present time; and notwithstanding the adversary laid a plan, which was more subtle than all others, as you will see by the next Star, I now swim in good, clean water, with my head out.
I shall now proceed to give you such counsel as the Spirit of the Lord may dictate. You will recollect that your business must be done by your High Council. You will recollect that the first Elders are to receive their endowment in Kirtland, before the redemption of Zion. You will recollect that Council will have power to say who of the first Elders among the children of Zion are accounted worthy; and you will also recollect that you have my testimony in behalf of certain ones, previous to my departure. You will recollect that the sooner these ambassadors of the Most High are dispatched to bear testimony, to lift up a warning voice, and proclaim the everlasting Gospel, and to use every convincing proof and faculty with this generation, while on their journey to Kirtland—the better it will be for them and for Zion. Inasmuch as the indignation of the people sleepeth for a while our time should be employed to the best advantage; although it is not the will of God, that these ambassadors should hold their peace after they have started upon their journey. They should arouse the sympathy of the people.
I would recommend to Brother Phelps, (if he be yet there,) to write a petition, such as will be approved by the High Council; and let every signer be obtained that can be, in the State of Missouri by them while they are on their journey to this place [Kirtland] that peradventure we may learn whether we have friends or not in these United States.
This petition is to be sent to the governor of Missouri, to solicit him to call on the President of the United States for a guard to protect our brethren in Jackson county, upon their own lands, from the insults and abuse of the mob.
And I would recommend to Brother Wight to enter complaint to the governor as often as he receives any insults or injury; and in case that they proceed to endeavor to take life, or tear down houses, and if the citizens of Clay county do not befriend us, to gather up the little army, and be set over immediately into Jackson county, and trust in God, and do the best he can in maintaining the ground. But, in case the excitement continues to be allayed, and peace prevails, use every effort to prevail on the churches to gather to those regions and locate themselves, to be in readiness to move into Jackson county in two years from the eleventh of September next, which is the appointed time for the redemption of Zion. If—verily I say unto you—if the Church with one united effort perform their duties; if they do this, the work shall be complete—if they do not this in all humility, making preparation from this time forth, like Joseph in Egypt, laying up store against the time of famine, every man having his tent, his horses, his chariots, his armory, his cattle, his family, and his whole substance in readiness against the time when it shall be said: ‘To your tents, O Israel! Let not this be noised abroad; let every heart beat in silence, and every mouth be shut.
Now, my beloved brethren, you will learn by this we have a great work to do, and but little time to do it in; and if we do not exert ourselves to the utmost in gathering up the strength of the Lord’s house that this thing may be accomplished, behold there remaineth a scourge for the Church, even that they shall be driven from city to city, and but few shall remain to receive an inheritance; if those things are not kept, there remaineth a scourge also; therefore, be wise this once, O ye children of Zion! and give heed to my counsel, saith the Lord.
I would inform Bishop Partridge that the bill I received from him was good, and when I can get our money changed for another, I will mail it to him.
The brethren, up to now, have generally arrived from Clay county in health, notwithstanding the warm season. I would also inform Bishop Partridge that I am not satisfied with Brother Hulet concerning the colt, and so long as unrighteous acts are suffered in the Church, it cannot be sanctified, neither can Zion be redeemed; and also that I was obliged to leave the consecrated horn in Illinois, also Brother William E. M’Lellin, who was sick. We expect when he recovers that he will come to Kirtland. He was very humble, and I entertain no doubt as to his standing while he continues so. We have a desire to hear concerning the cholera, and whether Sister Bunnel is yet alive. Inform us as to all deaths, and give the names and standing of all those who are called away.
The cholera is raging in Detroit, Cleveland, Fairport, Buffalo, and other places. We found it in Chariton as we came through and almost every other place. It is an awful and solemn day, but this is only the foreshadowing of what is to come.
The churches seem to be in a cold, languid and disconsolate state; and as the revolution of the earth is once in twenty-four hours, so we may look for frequent revolutions among this wicked and perverse generation, and also in the Church of Christ. When the head is sick, the whole body is faint; and when the Church lifts up the head, the angel will bring us good tidings. Even so. Amen.
Joseph Smith, Jun.
The Plague of Cholera in Cleveland.
August 21.—Doctor Frederick G. Williams returned from Cleveland and told us concerning the plague, and after much consultation, we agreed that Dr. Williams should go to Cleveland and commence administering to the sick, for the purpose of obtaining blessings for them, and for the glory of the Lord. Accordingly, we (Joseph, Frederick, and Oliver,) united in prayer before the Lord for this thing. Now, O Lord, grant us these blessings in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Affairs in Missouri—Hulet Branch Troubles.
The same day the High Council of Zion assembled at the house of Lyman Wight, and Elders Simeon Carter and Amasa Lyman made a report concerning their mission to the Hulet branch. They found the church willing to receive the decision of the last council respecting the false spirits with which they had been troubled.
Charge Against Lyman Wight.
John Corrill entered a complaint against Lyman Wight for teaching that “all disease in this Church is of the devil, and that medicine administered to the sick is of the devil; for the sick in the Church ought to live by faith.”
Elder Wight acknowledged that he had taught the doctrine, and rather believed it to be correct.
The President decided that it was not lawful to teach the Church that all disease is of the devil, but if there is anyone who has this faith, let him have it to himself; and if there are any who believe that roots and herbs administered to the sick, and all wholesome vegetables which God has ordained for the use of man—and if any say that such things applied to the sick, in order that they may receive health, and this medicine is applied by any member of the Church—if there are any among you that teach that these things are of Satan, such teaching is not of God.
Resolutions of Vindication.
On the 23rd of August, a council convened for the purpose of hearing the resolutions designed for the Star, which were to be drawn up by Elders Oliver Cowdery, Thomas Burdick, and Orson Hyde, on the subject of the difficulty existing between President Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sylvester Smith.
Elder Reynolds Cahoon presided in consequence of the ill health of Bishop Whitney.
The following preamble and resolutions were read and adopted, to wit:—
Whereas a report having come to this place [Kirtland] censuring the conduct of President Joseph Smith, Jun., relative to his proceedings during his late journey to and from Missouri; and whereas said report was calculated to create an unfavorable influence as regards the moral character and honesty of our brother, it becomes necessary for us to investigate the matter, and report the same to our brethren abroad; Therefore,—
Reynolds Cahoon, Moderator.
Oliver Cowdery, Clerk.
We, the undersigned, members of the above named Conference, for the satisfaction of our brethren abroad, feel it to be our duty to say to those with whom we have a personal acquaintance, that we were present during the foregoing investigation, and cheerfully concur in the spirit of the above minutes, and join in saying that we are perfectly satisfied that whatever impressions may have gone abroad or whatever may remain with any in this vicinity, relative to the conduct of our President, Joseph Smith, Jun., we are certain (from evidence) that he conducted himself in all respects as set forth in the resolutions of this Conference. We are induced to make these statements that the innocent may not suffer wrongfully, and that the minds of our brethren and friends may be satisfied, that every appearance of evil is, in this place, searched out, and that nothing unbecoming a society of people professing godliness is suffered to exist among them.
Ira Ames, Benson, Vermont.
Asa Lyman, Parishville, New York.
John Rudd, Springfield, Erie county, Pennsylvania.
Isaac Storey, Warsaw, New York.
William Burgess, Bolton, New York.
Jonas Putnam, Bolton, New York.
J.B. Bosworth, from the church in Norton.
Roswell Evans, Waterford, Vermont.
John Smith, Potsdam, New York.
Orson Johnson, Bath, New Hampshire.
Oliver Higley, Jamestown.
Alman Sherman, Pomfret, New York.
Jacob Bump, Silver Creek, New York.
Isaac Hill, East Liverpool, Ohio.
Lorenzo Young, the same.
The undersigned members of this Conference, having accompanied President Joseph Smith, Jun., to and from Missouri, certify that the above is a correct statement concerning his character and conduct.
Lyman E. Johnson.
Heber C. Kimball. 1
Sylvester Smith Refuses to Accept the Decision of the Council.
Brother Sylvester Smith objected to abiding by the decision of the former council, and proceeded to justify himself in his former conduct; and after much discussion, the following resolution was offered by the clerk, and passed by unanimous vote:—
Clerk of Council.
Formal Trial of Sylvester Smith
August 28, 1834.—This day the High Council assembled according to the direction of Bishop Whitney, to try Brother Sylvester Smith, charged with a misdemeanor. The following is a copy of the complaint:—
To Newel K. Whitney, Bishop of the Church of Latter-day Saints in Kirtland.
Sir, I prefer the following charges against Sylvester Smith, a High Priest of said Church:—
1st. He has refused to submit to the decision of a council of the High Priests and Elders of this Church, held in this place on the 11th of this month, given in a case of difficulty between said Sylvester Smith and Joseph Smith, Jun.
2nd. He continues to charge said Joseph Smith, contrary to the decision of the before mentioned council, with improper conduct in his proceedings as President of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, during his journey the past season to the State of Missouri.
As these things are exceedingly grievous to many of the Saints in Kirtland, and very prejudicial to the cause of truth in general, I therefore require that you summon the High Council of this Church to investigate this case, that a final decision may be had upon the same. I say the High Council because it is a case affecting the Presidency of said Church. 2
Kirtland, Ohio, August 23, 1834.
Bishop Whitney notifies Sylvester Smith of the Charge.
Kirtland, Ohio, August 27, 1834.
Brother Sylvester Smith—Whereas complaint has been made to me by Counselor Sidney Rigdon, setting forth that you have been violating the laws of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, you are therefore, notified to appear before the High Council of High Priests, to be held in the Council House, in Kirtland, on the 28th day of August, at ten o’clock, a.m., to answer to said charges, agreeably to the laws of the Church.
N. K. Whitney, Bishop.
The presidents proceeded to nominate a High Priest to fill the vacancy in the council, occasioned by the death of Elder John C. Carter, viz.: Orson Johnson—which nomination was carried unanimously, and he was ordained High Councilor under the hands of Counselor Sidney Rigdon.
Councilor Luke S. Johnson said he wished to be excused from sitting in this council, because he had been previously tempted on some matters, and that he had sinned, and wished to make a more public confession than he could make here.
After some remarks from the councilors. it was decided that Elder Johnson continue his seat in the council.
Elder John P. Greene was appointed to act in the place of Sylvester Smith; also Elder Amos Durfee in the place of John Johnson, Sen., who was absent; also Lyman Johnson in the place of Martin Harris.
The council was organized and complaint read. It was agreed that six councilors speak on the case. The bishop then charged the council in the name of the Lord, to act according to truth and righteousness.
Elder Reynolds Cahoon testified that the testimony given before a council, on the 11th instant, was, that President Joseph Smith, Jun., had conducted himself in a proper manner, while journeying to and from Missouri; and that the council considered that Sylvester Smith had accused President Joseph Smith wrongfully, and was entirely in the fault. He further considered that everything bearing on or relating to this affair had been brought before the council, and from this they gave their decision.
Elder John P. Greene concurred in the foregoing statements, and he supposed that Brother Sylvester, on the 11th instant, saw the affair in the same light in consequence of his [Sylvester’s] saying at the time, that he was not previously aware of the spirit that possessed him at the time he made his charges against President Joseph Smith.
Elder Alpheus Cutler said that he considered that the evidence given before the council on the 27th was sufficient to prove that President Joseph Smith had conducted himself in an honorable manner during his late journey to and from Missouri, and that he considered that the evidence there given was such that it could not be invalidated.
Elder Jacob Bump said that previous to the council on the 11th his mind had been agitated, and it was in consequence, in part, of reports which had been put in circulation respecting President Smith’s conduct during his late journey to and from Missouri; but when he heard the case investigated before that council his mind was satisfied that he had been misinformed, and was fully satisfied that President Joseph Smith had not acted in any respect contrary to righteousness before the Lord.
Elder Asa Lyman said, that previous to the council his mind had been agitated also, but was satisfied at the council; and he verily believed from the evidence there given that President Joseph Smith had not acted contrary to justice.
Elder Jacob Bump said that his mind was excited still further after conversing with Brother Sylvester, previous to the 11th, which served in a degree to excite his mind further.
Elder Edmund Bosley said that he understood the case on the 11th in the same light as stated by Brothers Cahoon and Whitney.
Elders John Rudd, Ezekiel Rider and Samuel H. Smith viewed the case in the same light.
Elder Orson Hyde said that he considered that Brother Sylvester was to publish a confession in the Evening and Morning Star, and that he himself had been in the fault, and this President Smith had not committed fault, as he [Sylvester] had previously stated.
Elders Alpheus Cutler, J. P. Greene, Ezekiel Rider, Jacob Bump, Samuel H. Smith, John Rudd and Frederick G. Williams concurred.
Elder Oliver Cowdery said, that after listening to all the reports and evidences, from the beginning up to the decision on the 11th instant, he considered that Brother Sylvester was to acknowledge that all the charges previously preferred in public against President Joseph Smith were ungrounded, and that he [Sylvester] was the one, and the only one in fault, touching all circumstances occurring between himself and President Joseph Smith, and that the other charges indirectly preferred as grievances of others, were also without foundation.
Elder John Smith concurred in the above.
Elder C. Durfee said that he considered that President Smith was acquitted, as not being guilty of any misdemeanor before the council on the 11th.
Elder Orson Hyde said that he had accompanied President Smith to Missouri from Mansfield in Ohio, except leaving him for a short time to visit the governor of Missouri. He was present when Brother Sylvester reproved President Smith concerning a certain difficulty arising about a dog; that he considered President Smith’s reproofs were just at the time, as he well recollects stating the same in substance to President Smith. He said he did not consider this reproof had any tendency to lessen the esteem of the brethren for President Smith; but if it had, in consequence of a confession in general terms from President Smith about that time, he thought that sufficient to heal any hard feeling then existing against him, or that might exist; and that during his journey to the west, he could not say that he had seen anything in President Smith’s conduct contrary to the true principles of his profession as a man of God.
Elder Luke S. Johnson said that he fell in company with President Joseph Smith at Mansfield, Ohio, and accompanied him most of the way to Missouri; and that during the whole course of the journey he did not see anything in his conduct to lessen his esteem for him as a man of God. But he said he heard President Joseph Smith reprove Brother Sylvester concerning a certain matter respecting some bread; he did not hear the whole, and thought at the time the reproofs were rather severe, but had learned since they were not any more severe than just.
President Joseph Smith was then called upon to make a statement concerning the transactions as they happened at the time these reproofs were given. He said that Brother John S. Carter came to him to know whether Brother Sylvester had conducted himself right in the affairs between him [Sylvester] and Brother Parley P. Pratt, when Brother Pratt called upon Brother Sylvester for some bread for supper. He learned from Brother Pratt’s mouth that Brother Sylvester had more bread than he needed at the time, yet directed him to some one else, who, he [Brother Sylvester] said, had sufficient. President Smith then went with Brothers Pratt and John S. Carter to Brother Sylvester’s tent, where Brother Sylvester justified himself in not imparting a portion of his bread to Brother Pratt. He then rebuked Brother Sylvester for contending that he had done right in this case, because, if this was so, brethren might frequently retire to rest without food, and as long as he [Brother Sylvester] had bread he was bound to impart to those who had none; and that, under these circumstances, Brother Sylvester had conducted himself contrary to the principles of Christ; and that his [Sylvester’s] mind was darkened in consequence of this covetous spirit.
The moderator then adjourned the counsel until nine o’clock, a.m., tomorrow, at this place.
Elder Hyrum Smith closed by prayer.
August 29th, nine o’clock, a. m., council being organized in due form, the testimony was continued as follows:
Elder Luke S. Johnson said, in relation to a circumstance that occurred on the twenty-five mile prairie in Missouri, that by a direction from the leader of the camp he had been back to inspect the crossing at a certain creek; that when he came up with the camp he found it moving, and as he was behind, he went on till he came up with Brother Wight’s and Sylvester’s company, and found them out of the road building a fire to cook supper. As the teams passed on Brother Sylvester called to the leaders of companies (those who were yet behind), and asked them whom they were following; whether General Wight or some other man. Some hesitated a little and went on. After taking supper he [Luke] went on with their company.
When he came up with the camp from the creek he found that the ensign or flag commonly carried ahead for the camp to follow, was then moving forward. He further said that he understood that Joseph was appointed to lead the camp; that he always, or generally, gave orders when the camp should move forward, and when it should stop; that when on his way to the creek the second time he met President Smith, who told him that he Joseph should order the camp to move into the prairie. When the camp came to order on the prairie in the evening, Brothers Wight and Sylvester were called upon to state why they had sought to divide the camp. They both acknowledged that they had been out of the way by so doing, and were reproved for their conduct. Relative to an assertion heretofore made, that President Smith did at the time throw a trumpet or horn at Brother Sylvester, he did not consider at the time that the President had any intention of throwing it at Brother Sylvester, because he might have hit him with it, being so near to him as he was; it only fell to the ground near to them (himself and Brother Sylvester), but supposed that he had had it in his hand, and only threw it down as usual. He further said that the reproofs given by President Smith at the time were no more severe than he had often heard him give previously; that he did not consider him angry, as he has been represented.
Elder Hyrum Smith said, that when the camp first came to the creek he and his brother Joseph were forward; that while the teams were crossing Brother Joseph asked whether it was advisable to move into the prairie to camp. After consultation it was first advised to camp in the bushes in the edge of the prairie. While making preparations to encamp they were informed that a mob intended to make an attack upon them that night. They further consulted upon their situation, and himself and Brother Thayer were requested by Brother Joseph to go on to the edge of the prairie, where they might encamp. They looked out a place, but it was near the bushes, and Brother Joseph gave an order to go forward on to the prairie. Some complained of the order because they could not find fuel with which to cook their supper. They were told that it would be advisable to carry wood for that purpose. Some further remarks were offered on the subject of a visit from a mob, and preparations were made with the guns, etc. Some fears were entertained for the teams and families yet crossing the creek, and it was thought advisable to send back a company, among whom was Luke S. Johnson, to guard and assist them over. He then took the flag or standard—as he had previously carried it—and gave the word to move forward, and the teams immediately began to follow. After the company had come upon the prairie, himself and Elder Roger Orton received an order to call on Lyman Wight to place a strong guard around the camp that night; but he [Wight] refused doing anything further, because he supposed that he [Hyrum] had ordered the camp on to the prairie without an order from the commander of the company. He was then informed by Brother Joseph that it was by his [Joseph’s] order that the camp moved on to the prairie. He was present when Brother Joseph reproved Lyman Wight and Sylvester Smith, and saw the transactions concerning the trumpet or horn; and as to Brother Joseph’s intention or design to throw it at Sylvester, he had no such thought at the time, nor could he have had such thought since; that at the time when Joseph had finished his remarks to Lyman Wight and Sylvester Smith he threw the horn on the ground, and Brother Wight told him the next day that he had had a jealousy existing in his mind against him [Hyrum] for some days, but now his mind was satisfied, and he now had no hardness or jealousy. He further said, that when he received the order for moving the camp on the prairie, Brothers Lyman and Sylvester were near by.
Adjourned to one o’clock p. m.
Council met according to adjournment. The clerk called the names of the councilors and parties, when business was resumed.
Elder Brigham Young said, that he was in company with President Joseph Smith, Jun., from about twenty-seven miles of this place [Kirtland] till they arrived in Clay county, Missouri; that at the time the difficulty occurred on the Twenty-five Mile Prairie, when the camp was divided, he concurred in what Brother Hyrum had said, and that he could not relate it any more circumstantially than he had done. He further said that he had not seen anything in President Smith’s conduct to justify the charge previously made by Brother Sylvester “that his heart was corrupt.” So far from this, he had not seen the least shadow of anything of the kind. He had not seen anything in his [Joseph’s] conduct, during his journey to the west, unbecoming his profession as a man of God.
Question by Sylvester Smith.—Did you not think that my character was injured in the minds of the weaker part of the camp in consequence of those reproofs and chastisements which were given me by Brother Joseph?
Answer.—I did not.
Elder Young further said in regard to a certain difficulty over a dog, that on a certain evening after crossing the Mississippi river, Brother Sylvester came up with the remaining part of the camp, when the dog came out and barked at him; he knew not whether the dog bit him or not. The next morning, after hearing considerable complaint and murmuring concerning the dog, President Smith spoke to several brethren present and said, “I will descend to that spirit that is in the camp, to show you the spirit you are of, for I want to drive it from the camp. The man that kills that dog, (or my dog), I will whip him.” He thought that about this time Brother Sylvester came up, and said, “If that dog bites me I will kill him.” Joseph replied, “If you do, I will whip you.” Sylvester said, “If you do, I shall defend myself the best way that I can!” Brother Joseph then said that he “would do it in the name of the Lord.”
President Smith then asked the brethren if they were not ashamed of such a spirit. Said he, “I am.”
He then proceeded to reprove them for condescending to that spirit; that they ought to be above it; that it was the spirit of a dog; and men ought never to place themselves on a level with the beasts; but be possessed of a more noble disposition. He [Joseph] then said, he had condescended to that spirit, in order to show the spirit which was among them.
Elder Young further said, that this explanation gave general satisfaction, and the most of the brethren saw that he had only made these remarks for the purpose of instructing them, and warning them against such a spirit or disposition.
Elders Lyman E. Johnson and Heber C. Kimball concurred.
Elder David Elliot said he was not present when those reproofs were given in the morning; that the circumstances were related to him afterwards, which unfavorably affected his mind, and gave him some disagreeable feelings; that at noon he heard President Joseph give a further explanation, which perfectly satisfied him.
He further said, that during the forenoon he learned there were many of the brethren dissatisfied with President Smith’s remarks in the morning concerning the dog, but that after the explanation at noon so generally given, he thought that every one in the camp might have understood President Smith’s purpose.
Elder Lorenzo Booth concurred in the statement of Elder Young; though he was not present in the morning when the reproofs were given concerning the dog; that he was with President Smith from twenty-seven miles from this place [Kirtland] to Missouri, and a part of the way home; that he did not see anything in President Smith’s character derogatory to a man professing religion; that he was present during a certain transaction which occurred during their journey home, respecting certain articles of bedding: that he had heard since his return that President Smith and Ezra Thayer had fought; that he was present during the whole transaction, and there was no fighting.
He further said, in relation to a certain report which had come to his knowledge since his return from Missouri, that President Smith had taken a bed quilt which was not his property; that while at New Portage, Ohio, on their way to Missouri, one of the brethren gave him [Joseph] two bed quilts, which he [Booth] had charge of, as he was the individual who drove the team for President Smith, and had charge of the baggage; that before leaving Clay county, Missouri, he [Booth] took them to be washed, and after starting for home he put them on board of the wagon, the baggage of which he had the charge during their journey home; that he brought the same back with him, has seen them since, and knows that the one which was said to be the property of another individual, is the one which was given President Smith at Norton.
Counselor Frederick G. Williams said, while at Norton certain articles were handed him to mark, among which were two bed quilts, which he marked with common ink; has seen certain bed quilts since his return, and has no doubt but this one in question is the one he marked.
Elder Brigham Young further said relative to a difficulty about some bread, that Elder John S. Carter, on their journey to Missouri, on the line between Ohio and Indiana, said to President Smith, “Is this thing right?” “What thing?” “Concerning Parley P. Pratt’s asking Brother Sylvester for some bread for supper.”
He then learned that Brother Pratt had asked Brother Sylvester for some bread; that Sylvester had bread at the time, but directed Brother Pratt to some one else, who he [Sylvester] said had sufficient; that Elder Pratt called upon that individual, and could not obtain any; that he was present when President Smith told Brother Sylvester that he had not acted right in the matter, that he ought to impart when he had it instead of directing one where he was not certain he could obtain, that by so doing some might be deprived of food at times.
He further said, that Brother Sylvester contended he had been right, and justified his own conduct in the matter; that Joseph reasoned with Sylvester to convince him that he [Sylvester] was in fault; but he continued to justify his course till President Smith reproved him sharply.
He frequently heard the brethren speak of this circumstance, and all whom he had heard say anything on the subject, manifested a satisfaction with President Smith, and thought his observations correct, and the principles which he advanced, just.
Elder Lyman Sherman said that he concurred in Elder Young’s statement concerning the bread; that he thought it was generally known that Elder Pratt, in consequence of Brother Sylvester’s not furnishing him with bread, was deprived of bread that night; that at the time he [Joseph] told him [Sylvester] that Brother Parley did not obtain any bread in consequence of Brother Sylvester not supplying him with it.
Elder Jacob Bump said, that since the brethren’s return from the west he had gone with Sylvester to Elder Rigdon to advise concerning the adjusting of certain complaints which were in circulation respecting President Joseph Smith’s conduct on the journey to and from Missouri; that Brother Sylvester told Brother Rigdon that Elder Pratt did obtain bread of the individual to when he sent him.
Elder Orson Hyde said, that he concurred in the statements of Elder Brigham Young concerning the circumstances which occurred at the time the difficulty arose about the bread.
Elders Lyman Johnson and Heber C. Kimball concurred in the same statement.
Elder Orson Hyde then exhibited an account current, taken from the receipts of monies and other property expended during their late journey to and from Missouri.
This account was taken from documents during the journey by Counselor Frederick G. Williams, who said that the account exhibited was correctly taken from his accounts, as he had the charge of the monies, and attended to paying them out, etc.
The case was then submitted to the council, and the councilors severally spoke in their turns, followed by the complainant and accused, as follows:—First, the councilors: Jared Carter commenced fifteen minutes before six o’clock, p.m., and spoke twenty-five minutes. Joseph Smith, Sen., commenced ten minutes past six o’clock and spoke five minutes. John Smith commenced fifteen minutes past six o’clock and spoke ten minutes. Lyman E. Johnson commenced twenty-five minutes past six o’clock and spoke one minute. Oliver Cowdery commenced twenty-eight minutes past six and spoke two hours and twelve minutes. Joseph Coe commenced twenty minutes before nine o’clock and spoke five minutes.
The accuser, Sidney Rigdon, commenced fifteen minutes before nine o’clock and spoke five minutes. Oliver Cowdery spoke seven minutes more.
The accused, Sylvester Smith, commenced eighteen minutes before ten o’clock and spoke one hour and eighteen minutes.
The Moderator then gave the following decision:
“That if Brother Sylvester Smith will acknowledge the following items of complaint before this council, and publish the same in print; that he can remain yet a member of this Church, otherwise he is expelled from the same, viz.: First, he is to acknowledge that he has wickedly and maliciously accused our President, Joseph Smith, Jun., with prophesying lies in the name of the Lord, once on the line between Ohio and Indiana, and at another time after crossing the Mississippi river, and at another time, after leaving the Church in Missouri, at Florida; that he is to acknowledge, that in making these charges against President Joseph Smith, Jun., he has himself wilfully and maliciously lied; that he has maliciously told falsehoods in saying that President Joseph Smith, Jun., has abused him with insulting and abusive language, and also in injuring his character and standing before the brethren while journeying to Missouri; that he further cast out insinuations concerning President Joseph Smith’s character, which was also an evil and malicious design to injure President Smith’s standing in the Church; that he further acknowledge that he has abused the former councils which have sat upon this case, and wickedly and maliciously insulted their just and righteous decisions; that he has further tantalized this present council, in seeking to excuse himself contrary to the advice of the counselors, after acknowledging that it was organized by the direction of revelation; and further, that he has wilfully and maliciously lied, by saying that Brother Joseph Smith, Jun., had prohibited the liberty of speech on their journey to Missouri; that he also acknowledge that he has wickedly and maliciously lied by charging President Joseph Smith, Jun., of being possessed of a heart as corrupt as hell.”
The councilors were then called upon to give their assent to the foregoing decision, and they concurred unanimously.
“I hereby certify that the foregoing charges or complaint are just and true, and hereby acknowledge the same, as set forth in the decisions of this council, by signing my own proper name to their minutes, with my own hand. (Signed)
The above was signed for fear of punishment. 3
The council then proceeded to other business, President Joseph Smith presiding.
Council agreed that the Church in Kirtland be instructed in their particular duties, etc., on Sunday next, by President Joseph Smith, Jun. It was further decided that Elder Brigham Young be appointed to take the lead in singing in our meetings.
The council then closed, at fifteen minutes before three o’clock, a. m., on the 30th of August, 1834. Brother Reynolds Cahoon prayed.
2. This has reference to the special High Council of the Church authorized to try the President of the High Priesthood, who is also the President of the Church, should he be found in transgression. The Council consists of the Presiding Bishop of the Church, assisted by twelve High Priests, agreeable to the revelation which says: “And inasmuch as a President of the High Priesthood shall transgress, he shall be had in remembrance before the common Council of the Church, who shall be assisted by twelve counselors of the High Priesthood; and their decision upon his head shall be an end of controversy concerning him. Thus, none shall be exempt from the justice and the laws of God, that all things may be done in order and in solemnity before Him, according to truth and righteousness.” D&C 107:82-84.
As remarked by Elder Rigdon, inasmuch as this case was one involving charges against the Presidency of the Church, it was proper that it should be heard by this special council of the Church.
3. This remark assigning a “fear of punishment” as the reason why Sylvester Smith signed the above acquiescence in the decision of the council, may have been true at the time it was signed; but in justice to Sylvester Smith the fact ought to he known that after time to reflect upon his conduct and his accusation against the Prophet his mind underwent a very radical change: for in a communication to the Messenger and Advocate, under date of October 28, 1834, he volunteered a most complete vindication of the Prophet’s course while on the Zion’s Camp expedition, and made a most humble confession of his own shortcomings. Following is the communication referred to:
“Having heard that certain reports are circulating abroad, prejudicial to the character of Brother Joseph Smith, Jun., and that said reports purport to have come from me, I have thought proper to give the public a plain statement of the facts concerning this matter. It is true, that some difficulties arose between Brother Joseph Smith, Jun., and myself, in our travels the past summer to Missouri; and that on our return to this place I laid my grievances before a general council, where they were investigated in full, in an examination which lasted several days, and the result showed to the satisfaction of all present, I believe, but especially to myself, that in all things Brother Joseph Smith, Jun., had conducted worthily, and adorned his profession as a man of God, while journeying to and from Missouri. And it is no more than just that I should confess my faults by saying unto all people, so far as your valuable and instructive paper has circulation, that the things that I accused Brother Smith of were without foundation; as most clearly proven, by the evidence which was called, to my satisfaction. And in fact, I have not at any time withdrawn my confidence and fellowship from Brother Joseph Smith, Jun., but thought that he had inadvertently erred, being but flesh and blood, like the rest of Adam’s family. But I am now perfectly satisfied that the errors of which I accused him before the council, did not exist, and were never committed by him; and my contrition has been and still continues to be deep, because I admitted thoughts into my head which were not right concerning him; and because that I have been the means of giving rise to reports which have gone abroad, censuring the conduct of Brother Joseph Smith, Jun., which reports are without foundation. And I hope that this disclosure of the truth, written by my own hand, and sent abroad into the world, through the medium of the Messenger and Advocate, will put a final end to all evil reports and censurings which have sprung out of anything that I have said or done.
“I wish still further to state for the relief of my own feelings, which you must be sensible are deeply wounded in consequence of what has happened, that I know for myself, because I have received testimony from the heavens that the work of the Lord, brought forth by means of the Book of Mormon, in our day through the instrumentality of Brother Joseph Smith Jun., is eternal truth, and must stand, though the heavens and the earth pass away.
“Please give publication to the above, and oblige a lover of righteousness and truth.
Yours in the testimony of Jesus,
“To O. Cowdery, Kirtland, October 28, 1834.”