Volume 2 Chapter 15


The First Mission of the Twelve.


[Page 218]

Close of the Elders’ School.

The school in Kirtland closed the last week in March, to give the Elders an opportunity to go forth and proclaim the Gospel, preparatory to the endowment.

Public Discussion at Huntsburgh.

Sunday, March 29.—I preached about three hours, at Huntsburgh—where William E. M’Lellin had been holding a public discussion, on a challenge from J. M. Tracy, a Campbellite preacher, the two days previous, on the divinity of the Book of Mormon—at the close of which two were baptized; and, on Monday, four more came forward for baptism.

Minutes of Conference held at Freedom, N. Y.

April 3rd and 4th, a conference of the Saints was held at Freedom, New York, Sidney Rigdon presiding.

Fifteen branches of the Church were represented, five of which had not been previously represented at any conference, numbering about fifty members.

Elder Chester L. Heath, of Avon, was expelled from the Church, for breach of covenant, and not observing the Word of Wisdom.

Warren A. Cowdery, Clerk.

Minutes of a Conference of the Twelve and the Seventies.

On the 26th of April the Twelve Apostles, and the Seventies who had been chosen, assembled in the temple (although unfinished), with a numerous concourse of people, to receive their charge and instructions from President Joseph Smith, Jun., relating to their mission and duties. The congregation being assembled, Elder Orson Pratt arrived from the south part of the state, making our number complete, Elder Thomas B. Marsh having arrived the day previous.

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Meeting of the Twelve.

April 28.—The Twelve met this afternoon at the schoolroom, for the purpose of prayer and consultation. Elder David W. Patten opened the meeting by prayer.

Moved and carried, that when any member of the council wishes to speak, he shall arise and stand upon his feet.

Elder M’Lellin read the commandment given concerning the choosing of the Twelve; when it was voted that we each forgive one another every wrong that has existed among us, and that from henceforth each one of the Twelve love his brother as himself, in temporal as well as in spiritual things, always inquiring into each other’s welfare.

Decided that the Twelve be ready and start on their mission from Elder Johnson’s tavern on Monday, at two o’clock a. m., May 4th.

Elder Brigham Young then closed by prayer.

Orson Hyde,

W. E. M’Lellin, Clerks.

Minutes of a General Council of the Priesthood.

May 2.—A grand council was held in Kirtland, composed of the following officers of the Church. viz: Presidents Joseph Smith, Jun., David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams, Joseph Smith, Sen., and Hyrum Smith, with the council of the Twelve Apostles, Bishop Partridge and counselors, Bishop Whitney and counselors, and some of the Seventies, with their presidents, viz. Sylvester Smith, Leonard Rich, Lyman Sherman, Hazen Aldrich, Joseph Young, and Levi Hancock; and many Elders from different parts of the country. President Joseph Smith, Jun., presiding.

After the conference was opened, and the Twelve had taken their seats, President Joseph Smith, Jun., said that it would be the duty of the Twelve, when in council, to take their seats together according to age, the oldest to be seated at the head, and preside in the first council, the next oldest in the second, and so on until the youngest had presided; and then begin at the oldest again. 1

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The Twelve then took their seats according to age as follows: Thomas B. Marsh, David W. Patten, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, William E. M’Lellin, Parley P. Pratt, Luke S. Johnson William Smith, Orson Pratt, John F. Boynton, and Lyman E. Johnson.

Items of Instruction to the Twelve and the Seventy.

President Joseph Smith then stated that the Twelve will have no right to go into Zion, or any of its stakes, and there undertake to regulate the affairs thereof, where there is a standing high council; but it is their duty to go abroad and regulate all matters relative to the different branches of the Church. When the Twelve are together, or a quorum of them, in any church, they will have authority to act independently, and make decisions, and those decisions will be valid. But where there is not a quorum, they will have to do business by the voice of the Church. No standing High Council has authority to go into the churches abroad, and regulate the matters thereof, for this belongs to the Twelve. No standing High Council will ever be established only in Zion, or one of her stakes. 2 When the Twelve pass a decision, it is in the name of the Church, therefore it is valid.

No official member of the Church has authority to go into any branch thereof, and ordain any minister for that Church, unless it is by the voice of that branch. No Elder has authority to go into any branch of the Church, and appoint meeting, or attempt to regulate the affairs of the church, without the advice and consent of the presiding Elder of that branch.

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If the first Seventy are all employed, and there is a call for more laborers, it will be the duty of the seven presidents of the first Seventy to call and ordain other Seventy and send them forth to labor in the vineyard, until, if needs be, they set apart seven times seventy, and even until there are one hundred and forty-four thousand thus set apart for the ministry. 3

The Seventy are not to attend the conferences of the Twelve, unless they are called upon or requested so to do by the Twelve. The Twelve and the Seventy have particularly to depend upon their ministry for their support, and that of their families; and they have a right, by virtue of their offices, to call upon the churches to assist them.

Elder Henry Herriman was ordained one of the Seventy.

The circumstances of the presidents of the Seventy were severally considered, relative to their traveling in the vineyard: and it was unanimously agreed that they should hold themselves in readiness to go, at the call of the Twelve, when the Lord opens the way. Twenty-seven of the Seventy were also considered, and it was decided they should hold themselves in readiness to travel in the ministry, at the call of the president of the Seventy, as the Lord opens the way.

After an adjournment of one hour, the council re-assembled.

Ezra Thayre was suspended as an Elder and member, until investigation could be had before the bishop’s court, complaint having been preferred against him by Oliver Granger.

Lorenzo D. Barnes was ordained one of the Seventy; also Henry Benner, Michael Griffiths, Royal Barney, and Lebbeus T. Coon, who, together with twenty others, were called upon to hold themselves in readiness to travel when circumstances might permit.

The Elders in Kirtland and its vicinity were then called upon, or their circumstances considered, and their names enrolled. President Joseph Smith, Jun., arose with the lists in his hand, and made some very appropriate remarks, relative to the deliverance of Zion; and, so much of the authority of the Church being present, moved that we never give up the struggle for Zion, even until death, or until Zion is redeemed.

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The vote was unanimous, and given with deep feeling.

Voted, that all the Elders of the Church are bound to travel in the world to preach the Gospel, with all their might, mind, and strength, when their circumstances will admit of it; and that the door is now opened.

Voted, that Elders Brigham Young, John P. Greene, and Amos Orton be appointed to go and preach the Gospel to the remnants of Joseph, the door to be opened by Elder Brigham Young, and this will open the door to the whole house of Joseph.

Voted, that when another Seventy is required, the presidency of the first Seventy shall choose, ordain, and set them apart from among the most experienced of the Elders of the Church.

Voted, that whenever the labor of other Seventy is required, they are to be set apart and ordained to that office; those who are residing at Kirtland and the regions round about, who can come to Kirtland, to be set apart and ordained by the direction of the Presidency of the Church in Kirtland.

Wm. E. M’Lellin, Clerk.

The First Mission of the Twelve.

The Twelve left Kirtland this morning [May 4th], 4 and embarked on board the steamer Sandusky, at Fairport, and landed at Dunkirk, New York, 5 o’clock p.m., and after preaching in those regions a few days, met in conference at Westfield, May 9th, according to previous appointment; the church being present, and Thomas B. Marsh, the oldest of the quorum, presiding.

The following items were suggested for the consideration of the council:

Resolved, 1st: That the limits of this conference extend south and west to the line of Pennsylvania, north as far as Lake Erie, and east as far as Lodi, embracing the branches of Westfield, Silver Creek, Perrysburgh, and Lavona, to be called the “Westfield Conference.”

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2nd. Inquire into the standing of all the Elders within the bounds of this conference.

3rd. Inquire into the manner of their teaching, doctrines, etc.

4th. Inquire into the teaching, conduct, and faithfulness of all traveling Elders who have recently labored within the bounds of this conference.

5th. Hear a representation of the several branches of the Church.

On investigation, the standing and teaching of the Elders present met the approbation of the council, except the teaching of Elder Joseph Rose, which was, “that the Jewish church was the sun, and the Gentile church was the moon, etc.; when the Jewish church was scattered, then sun was darkened: and when the Gentile church is out off, the moon will be turned to blood;” also some things relative to the apocalyptic beast with seven heads and ten horns.

He was shown his error, and willingly made a humble confession.

The faithfulness of all the traveling Elders was found to be good.

The members of the Westfield branch were represented as in good standing, but with a difficulty in the minds of some, relative to the baptism of Brother Lloyd L. Lewis, inasmuch as he was baptized by a traveling Elder without the church being called together to know if they would receive him to fellowship.

The council decided that if there was a fault, it was in the administrator, and not in the candidate. The branch numbered seventy-five.

The Lavona branch numbered twenty in good standing, but lacking in the enjoyment of the Spirit in consequence of a neglect to keep the Word of Wisdom.

After further instructions on general principles, the conference adjourned until 8 o’clock a.m., Monday. May 11.

Sunday, May 10.—Elders Marsh and Patten preached to an attentive congregation of about five hundred; after Sacrament, five persons desired baptism, which was attended to by Elder M’Lellin.

Monday, 11.—Conference met pursuant to adjournment.

Resolved unanimously—That this conference go to, immediately, and appoint their “wise men,” and gather up their riches, and send them to Zion to purchase land, according to previous commandment, that all things be prepared before them in order to their gathering.

Much was said to the conference upon these important things; and the Saints covenanted before the Lord, that they would be strict to attend to our teaching.

After preaching by Elder Young at 3 o’clock p.m., and the farewell exhortation of the Twelve, seven individuals were baptized by Elder Orson Hyde, and they were confirmed in the evening. After laying hands on many sick, who obtained relief, adjourned to the 22nd instant, to meet in Freedom, New York.

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Orson Hyde, Clerk.

The Conference at Freedom.

May 22.—The Twelve met in conference with the church in Freedom, New York, when, after an agreeable salutation and rejoicing in each other’s prosperity, Elder David W. Patten being chairman, conference was opened by singing, and prayer by the President.

[Here let it be remarked, that it was the universal custom of the Twelve and the Presidency of the Church, to open and close all conferences and councils by prayer, and generally singing, so that this need not be named in this history hereafter.]

Resolved—That the limits of this conference extend from Lodi in the west, so far east as to include Avon, south to Pennsylvania, and north to Lake Ontario, called the “Freedom Conference,” including the branches of Freedom, Rushford, Portage, Grove, Burns, Genesee, Avon, Java, Holland, Aurora, Greenwood, and Niagara.

The report concerning the labors and teachings of the Elders in the conference, and those who had recently traveled through the branches, was good.

The branch in Freedom numbered sixty-five; Rushford, twenty-eight; Burns, thirty; Holland, fifteen—represented by P. P. Pratt as having suffered much from false teachings by hypocrites and knaves: Aurora, four; Niagara, four; the numbers of the remaining branches not ascertained, but generally reported in good standing.

The council gave instruction concerning the “Word of Wisdom,” the gift of tongues, prophesying, etc., and adjourned until tomorrow morning.

May 23.—Conference met to take into consideration the redemption of Zion.

After addresses by five of the council, the church expressed their determination to put into practice the teachings we had given, when the conference adjourned.

May 25.—The Twelve met in council to pray for one another until they should meet again; and,

Resolved—That we recommand and counsel Elders John Murdock and Lloyd Lewis to go to the churches at Chenango Point, New York, and Springville, Pennsylvania (among whom we understand there is some difficulty), and set in order the things that are wanting in those branches.

Resolved—That Elder Brigham Young go immediately from this place to an adjacent tribe of the remnants of Joseph, and open the door of salvation to that long dejected and afflicted people. The council, according to his request, laid their hands upon him, that he might have their faith and prayers, to fill, with humility and power, that very important mission.

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They also laid hands on Elders John P. Greene and Amos Orton, for the same purpose, as they expected to accompany him.

Orson Hyde, Clerk.

On the 5th of June, nine of the Twelve met in council at Rose, or Lyonstown, New York. There being so few of the brethren in that region, it was resolved that it was not necessary to establish a conference, after which council adjourned. After they had preached several sermons in the vicinity, Elders Brigham Young, Orson Hyde and William Smith returned to Kirtland, as witnesses in a certain case wherein President Joseph Smith, Jun., was concerned before the county court, in which he righteously triumphed over his enemies. 5

Orson Hyde, Clerk.

On the 19th of June, nine of the traveling High Council met with the church in conference at Pillow Point, New York, and resolved that the limits of the conference embrace all the northern part of the State, to be called the “Black River Conference.” The Elders of the conference had been diligent in their callings. Their manner of teaching in some respects needed correction, which they gladly received.

The church at Pillow Point numbered twenty-one, but did not generally observe the Word of Wisdom. The church at Sackets Harbor numbered nineteen; Burville, seven; Champion, six; Ellesburg, thirty-three; Henderson, four; Alexandria, four; Lyme, four; and two in Orleans, three in Potsdam, and six in Stockholm.

After hearing the report of the churches, five of the council successively addressed the conference, upon the principles of church government, the nature and exercise of spiritual gifts, the Word of Wisdom, and the propriety of choosing wise men and sending them with moneys to purchase lands in Zion, so that they might not gather in confusion; and the conference unanimously acquiesced in the teachings of the council. Adjourned until the 20th, then met, and John Elmer was charged with holding very incorrect principles; such, for instance, that the Spirit of God sometimes took him and threw him down, and that he could die the death of the righteous, and of the wicked; and in order to show his power with God, he also stated that he had passed through a kind of death so as to become immortal, and would exist forever without any other death or change, only growing brighter and brighter eternally. He persisted in these things and would not receive teaching from the council, therefore was cut off. On Monday, five were baptized, and our public meeting closed.

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Orson Hyde, Clerk.

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1. It should be observed here, that this arrangement had reference only to the first organization of the quorum of the Twelve. After this first arrangement, the brethren of that quorum held and now hold their place in it and preside according to seniority of ordination, not of age. Though it must be admitted, that this order was not always strictly observed; for instance, the late President Woodruff, for a number of years, ranked in the quorum of the Twelve before Elder John Taylor; although the latter was ordained first, and actually assisted in the ordination of President Woodruff at Far West in the spring of 1839. I think this case illustrates the inconsistency of the idea that seniority of age should govern in fixing the standing of the members in the quorum of the Twelve. Surely it would be nothing short of an absurdity in order, for one just ordained to out-rank one that had taken part in his ordination. The slight irregularity here noticed was corrected by President Brigham Young some two years before his death, and President Taylor was accorded his place, which gave him priority of standing in the quorum to Elder Woodruff. President Taylor himself gives the following explanation of the matter: “Through some inadvertency, or perhaps mixed up with the idea of seniority of age taking the precedence, Wilford Woodruff’s name was placed on the records at the time, and for many years after, before that of John Taylor. This matter was investigated, some time afterwards, by President Young and his council, sanctioned also by the Twelve, whether [or not] John Taylor held the precedency and stood in gradation prior to Brother Wilford Woodruff; and it was voted on and decided that his name be placed before Wilford Woodruff’s, although Wilford Woodruff was the older man. The reason assigned for this change was, that although both were called at the same time, John Taylor was ordained into the Twelve prior to Wilford Woodruff; and another prominent reason would be, that as John Taylor assisted in the ordination of Elder Wilford Woodruff, he therefore must precede him in the council.” (Succession in the Priesthood, a Discourse by President John Taylor—October, 1835—p. 16).

2. But a temporary High council of High Priests abroad may be organized when necessity requires it, the High Priests abroad (i.e., outside organized stakes of Zion) having the power to determine when the organization of such High Council is necessary. (See the revelation at page 30 this volume, verses 24-32).

3. In his notes on Church History, John Whitmer, who was the Church Historian at that time, says concerning the organization of the seventy: “About the same time [i.e., that the quorum of the Twelve was organized] there were seventy High Priests chosen, who were called to be under the direction of the Twelve, and assist them according to their needs; and if seventy were not enough, call seventy more, until seventy times seventy.” (Ms. p. 51.) John Whitmer, however, is mistaken in saying that they were High Priests that were chosen. They were chiefly chosen from among the Elders, and the few High Priests that were called into the quorum were afterwards requested to take their place with the High Priests again, and others were chosen to fill the vacancies thus created. (see “History of the Organization of the Seventies,” Joseph Young, pp. 4, 5.)

4. Presumably on the 4th of May, since that was the date fixed for starting on this mission by the Twelve at their meeting on the 28th of April preceding (see p. 219). John Whitmer, in his notes on Church History, however, fixes the date on the 5th of May. He says: “On the morning of the 5th of May, the Twelve took leave of their families and brethren, to fill their first mission under their commission, being commissioned to carry the Gospel to Gentile and also unto Jew, having the keys of the Gospel to unlock, and then call upon others to promulgate the same.” (Whitmer’s Ms., p. 50.)

5. What the case in question was cannot now be ascertained.