The Council of Fifty

The recent announcement that the Joseph Smith Papers will be publishing the Nauvoo Council of Fifty Minutes had history nerds celebrating, and everyone else either wondering why the nerds were ecstatic or shrugging. The Council of Fifty is an enigmatic organization, of which we have very limited knowledge and whose minutes have been extant but completely unavailable to researchers. Even in the halcyon day of Camelot no one saw the minutes and as such they remained a sort of holy grail for the disbanded knights and their followers.

People predisposed to antagonism against either the LDS church or the History Department, could easily point to the existence of the minutes as a skeleton in the proverbial closet. See, the church is hiding something. Variations of this sentiment are so difficultly disabused that uneducated skeptics upon hearing the recent news couldn’t shake their conspiracies long enough to be happy.

So the Council of Fifty. What follows is a description based on information that researchers have pieced together from diaries and other documents, and is (excitingly) subject to massive potential revision when the minutes become available. On April 7th, 1842, Joseph Smith received a revelation instructing him to establish new organization parallel to the church. This organization has been referred to as the Council of Fifty, though the revealed name is quite different. It is an organization that has captured the fancy of many, both sympathetic and critical of Mormonism, and the best treatments of it were published by Ehat and Quinn mostly in the early 1980s. [n1] Jedidiah Rogers has edited a collection of documents relating to the Council of Fifty to be soon published with Signature, but as I understand it, it is mostly Utah era documents. Anyway, it appears that Joseph Smith ordained the council to be the governing body of the world, with himself as its King.

According to a late copy, the revelation dictated the name of the council:

Verily thus saith the Lord, This is the name by which you shall be called, The Kingdom of God and His Law, with the Keys and power thereof, and judgment in the hands of his servants, Ahman Christ. [n2]

Now the concept of a Kingdom of God separate from the Church remains somewhat familiar in Mormon discourse [n3], but the idea that Daniel’s rock hewn from the mountain never to be stopped is not the Church but a parallel organization is quite foreign. Moreover the original concepts have been modified a bit to fit more keenly into a modern perspective [n4].

In the post-martyrdom era it is particularly complex because discourses and institutions become saturated with ideas and cosmologies regarding kingdoms, particularly as a function of the temple (cosmological priesthood anyone?). But the Council of Fifty is clearly part of this potent gemische. After rebuking the Saints by the Platte River for excessive frivolity on the trail West, Brigham gathered the leadership around him and described their mountain destination in terms that clearly incorporate the Council of Fifty. Wilford Woodruff recorded:

He then spoke of the standard & ensign that would be reared in Zion, to govern the Kingdom of God * And the nations of the earth. For every nation would bow the knee & every tongue confess that JESUS was the Christ. And this will be the standard: The Kingdom of God & his Laws & Judgment in {the [-] if [--] man Christ}. And on the standard would be a flag of every nation under heaven so there would be an invitation to all Nations under heaven to come unto Zion. [n5]

Back to Joseph Smith. Despite receiving the revelation in April 1842, JS waited until April 1844 to establish the kingdom. This wait was during Bennett’s crusade against the church and while Hyrum and Emma had yet to be fully converted to all of Joseph’s teachings. Once they were converted, albeit in the case Emma only temporarily, and the complete temple liturgy revealed (with the associated capacity of King and Queen) the Council of Fifty was soon organized. This chronology suggests that the council’s organization was a function of the temple liturgy. We’ll see.

JS established the Kingdom in secret and the business of the members was to remain so. JS purportedly initiated members into the council by covenant, password and penalty [n6]. Members included a wide demographic of Mormon hierarchy and even a few non-Mormons. JS chose all the members, which action required unanimous consent of the council. Though relatively few non-Mormons were included in the council, the Lord apparently revealed that non-Mormons would persist into the Millennium, and any just government would require their representation [n7]. Council members were organized into a hierarchy by age (sort of like the Quorum of the Twelve at the time) and JS was chairman and apparently anointed Prophet, Priest and King over the Council and the world.

The theology is sort of sketchy, but it appears that it is with this context that JS preached just days after receiving the revelation on the organization of the Council:

Although David was a King he never did obtain the spirit & power of Elijah & the fulness of the Priesthood, & the priesthood that he received & the throne & kingdom of David is to be taken from him & given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his linage [n8]

JS apparently taught that his first-born son in the covenant, David Hyrum – born after Joseph’s death, would be this latter-day King over Israel [n9], which teaching was recognized by some nineteenth-century church leaders [n10].

Once the Council was organized, it adopted parliamentary “Rules of the Kingdom,” including those governing legislation. Quoting Ehat:

To pass, a motion must be unanimous in the affirmative. Voting is done after the ancient order: each person voting in turn from the oldest to the youngest member of the Council, commencing with the standing chairman. If any member has any objections he is under covenant to fully and freely make them known to the Council. But if he cannot be convinced of the rightness of the course pursued by the Council he must either yield or withdraw membership in the Council. Thus a man will lose his place in the Council if he refuses to act in accordance with righteous principles in the deliberations of the Council. After action is taken and a motion accepted, no fault will be found or change sought for in regard to the motion. [n11]

While affirmation or sustaining was required of members, it is interesting that all members were under covenant to voice dissent. There is tension in this legislative process as in the instance that no resolution could be passed, the chairman was to attain the will of the Lord by revelation. It is possible, however, that the people held an ultimate veto. The council could not meet unless fifty percent of the members were in attendance. If a majority of council members did not favor pending legislation they could simply not allow any meetings to be held. Perhaps.

The evidence suggests that the council never realized the measure of its design. In JS’s day, it did send out ambassadors to foreign governments and lobbied the American government. It may have caused quite a stir if it excommunicated William Law. It explored expeditions to Texas, Oregon and California for the emigration of the Saints and it was the foundation for Joseph’s campaign for U.S. President.

While the council was active during the final months of JS’s life, his death was apparently the beginning of its end. Theocracy was an important accusations of the Expositor. The council did play a significant role in the succession crisis if you go with Ehat, but Brigham’s later use of the council was quite perfunctory. And while there was a significant amount of council activity from 1848 to 1850 while the civil government of the Utah Territory was established, the council subsequently fell into disuse.

As he was wont, John Taylor, in a bit of JS fundamentalism, aspired to re-kindle the council and is the last publicly recorded individual to be anointed Prophet, Priest and King. All real power remained with the First Presidency, however, and the council continued to be a largely a figurative body until the death of its last member in 1945 [n12].

As he left for Carthage, Joseph instructed his secretary to burn all the minutes of the council. Fortunately, William Clayton spared them by burial. They ended out in the Historian’s Office files, then in Joseph Fielding Smith’s safe, which became the First Presidency Vault [n13]. They have stayed there. However, the JSPP has received a steady diet of document from the First Presidency, with virtually every volume containing some material that had not been previously available. And now we have the assurance that these minutes will be published with the balance of Joseph Smith papers.

There really aren’t any other great reveals. This is it kids.
___________________

  1. While the official records of the Kingdom remain vaulted, many extant journals and secondary sources describe the workings of the Council of Fifty. The best information to date is catalogued in the works of Andrew F. Ehat and D. Michael Quinn:
    • Quinn (1980) “The Council of Fifty and Its Members, 1844 to 1945,” BYU Studies vol. 20 no. 2 p. 163.
    • Ehat (1980) “‘It Seems Like Heaven Began on Earth': Joseph Smith and the Constitution of the Kingdom of God,” BYU Studies vol. 20 no. 3 p. 253
    • Ehat (1982) “Joseph Smith’s Introduction of Temple Ordinances and the 1844 Succession Question,” (Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University).
    • Quinn (1994) The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates).
  2. Quoted in Ehat “It Seems Like Heavan on Earth,” 254. The inclusion of Ahman in the name seems sort of odd to me as I have started to view its prevalence in the anything a Phelpsian idiosynchracy.
  3. See commentary on Isaiah 2:3, “Out of zion shall go forth the law . . . the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” E.g., Doctrines of Salvation, 3:69-71.
  4. E.g., Bruce R. McConkie states in Mormon Doctrine. (1966, p. 499) that:

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on earth; it is the kingdom which shall never be destroyed or left to other people; it is the kingdom which shall break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms; and it shall stand forever. But for the present it functions as an ecclesiastical kingdom only.

    With the millennial advent, the kingdom of God on earth will step forth and exercise political jurisdiction over all the earth as well as ecclesiastical jurisdiction over its own citizens.

  5. May 29, 1847. Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Kenny, ed., 3:188. Spelling corrected.
  6. Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy, 128-129.
  7. John Taylor received a revelation that stated that the Lord instructed Joseph to include nonmembers that they “be admitted to the right of representation. . . and have full and free opportunity of presenting their views, interests and principles, and enjoying all the freedom and rights of the Council.” Revelation dated 27 June 1882 in notebook collection of John Taylor revelations, Church Archives. Quoted in Ehat, “It Seems Like Heaven on Earth,” 257.
  8. The Words of Joseph Smith, p. 331
  9. Brigham related in a October 7, 1863 sermon that Joseph said: “I shall have a son born to me, and his name shall be David; and on him, in some future time, will rest the responsibility that now rests upon me.” LDS Archives, as cited in Quinn (1975) “The Mormon Succession Crisis of 1844,” BYU Studies vol. 16, no. 1, p. 229. For Biblical reference to this latter-day David see 2 Samuel 7:8-29, 37:21-28; Zechariah 3; Isaiah 55:3-5; Jeremiah 30:4-9; Psalms 89:1-4; and D&C 113:5-6 (scriptural references taken from footnote 29 of the preceding WoJS citation).
  10. Esplin, (1981) Joseph, Brigham and the Twelve: a Succession of Continuity. BYU Studies vol. 21, no. 3, p. 336-338; see also Origins of Power, 231-232.
  11. Ehat, “It Seems Like Heaven on Earth,” 260
  12. President Heber J. Grant was the last living member of the Council, of which there is public documentation.
  13. The most complete discussion of the “First Presidency’s vault” to date, including some of the spurious claims associated with it, is Richard E. Turley, Jr., Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992), index: “First Presidency—vault.” See also JSP, J2, 5 note 8; JSP, R1, 5 note 6; Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836 (Provo, Utah: BYU Studies/Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994), xiii.

Comments

  1. Wow! Double wow! I had never heard of this council before now. Thanks for the good summary.

  2. liz johnson says:

    This is really helpful to those who were interested in what the big deal was, but mostly uninformed as to the importance/contents. Thanks!

  3. Nice write up, J. I agree that this is big news. In addition to your sources, I’d only add Klaus Hansen’s Quest for Empire. Though overstated and outdated in parts, I think it remains one of the best sources available on this stuff. For now anyway…

  4. Excellent work, J.

  5. Glad this is helpful.

    I still haven’t read Hansen’s book, Randy. I know. I know. As I understand it, Quinn was in some ways a deflationary response to him.

  6. I got my hands on Ehat’s dissertation a year or two ago and was very surprised learning about things like the Council of 50 and Quorum of the Anointed, and I’d thought I was a reasonably well-informed layman. The more I learn the more I’m convinced that there’s just a little more to church history than True to the Faith lets on!

  7. Thanks for explaining the importance of it, I’ve heard it mentioned here and there, but never with any detail, so it will be fascinating to see what it’s purpose was. For instance, I didn’t realize the council had anything to do with Joseph Smith’s run for president.

  8. Thanks for laying this out so succinctly. There will of course be lots to talk about among the history nerds but this is a useful primer for the dilettantes such as myself.

  9. Re: note 9, the David thing appears in the Whitney revelation too. The whole batch of succession issues play into this. Again, good stuff.

  10. Agreed, WVS.

    And regarding Ehat’s thesis. I remember being totally riveted to it, when I first read it. I think it is and will remain tremendously important. I recently went back and found it dated and problematic in several aspects, so there is a big job ahead in pushing the major frameworks and arguments forward. Something the Nauvoo C50 minutes should help with.

  11. Do we know approx. when the minutes will be published then?

  12. Wow J! Very helpful. Can’t wait to go through your sources. Thanks!

  13. Wonderful summary, though I feel like you kind of buried the lead a bit- Joseph Smith was declared King over all the earth. That’s huge!
    They weren’t talking about a theoretical future state, but were establishing a Theocracy, here and now, which included Joseph’s bid for president. And it continued into Brigham Young’s time- he too was a King and President of the world according to the council.
    This is HUGE if the church really does open up about it.

  14. You write and summarize things nicely—thanks for your contribution. You are the best. I suppose I would be an “uneducated skeptic,” as is your wont to call someone with an alternative view: But with access to a few documents on my own, I find Quinn/Ehat unconvincing. I have Quinn, Ehat, Hansen, and also my own unique early sources despite my severe deficiencies of credentials and lack of what you’d consider to be legitimate faith in that I thought a Mormon King was ordained in Michigan in 1850. ;)

    The Council of Fifty were voting on motions governing themselves as a body. I observe the Fifty not as legislators for the Kingdom, but as an advisory council of counselors from prominent positions in education, law, and business: In some ways like the Quorum of Seventy now functions in Utah except that the Fifty were advisers to the First Presidency and the Seventy today are department executives for the First Presidency. Under Joseph, in contrast, the Seventy were “traveling elders” (D&C 124) and the Quorum of Twelve were a “traveling high council” (D&C 102, 107, 124). I emphasize the word traveling here, in contrast to executive authority at the seat (location) of the First Presidency. The Quinn/Ehat argument that the Fifty were to “rubber stamp” the Twelve does not fit Joseph’s model—it fits only today’s model. The argument uses a modern view of the responsibilities of the Twelve to assume that the Twelve had the power back then to make “decisions” that they have in the modern LDS Church. It also uses Brigham-era descriptions from the Council of Fifty as it existed much later than 1844 when Joseph was killed. Remember, the Twelve formed a quorum out East during the height of the Council of Fifty in the spring of 1844, except Richards and Taylor who were in the Carthage Jail with William Law’s mob.

    The Council of Fifty functioned more like the Kingdom’s privy council. A useful contemporary definition of a privy council illustrates the Council of Fifty perfectly. The London 1844 Dictionary of Trade, Commerce and Navigation defines it: “Council, Privy, of England, is the principal council belonging to the monarch. In 1679 the number of members having become inconveniently large, the number of counsellors was limited to thirty. It is now, however, again indefinite, but only such members attend as are summoned on each particular occasion. . . . Privy counsellors are nominated by the monarch without patent or grant, and removable at his or her pleasure. The power of the privy council in offenses against the government extends only to inquiry, and their committal is not privileged beyond that of an ordinary justice of the peace . . .”

    Hugh Murray’s London 1844 Encyclopedia of Geography adds detail: “The Privy Council holds a primary influence in directing the civil government of the kingdom. It is composed of eminent persons appointed by the king without restriction as to number who are bound by oath to advise their sovereign to the best of their judgment with all the fidelity and secrecy which their station prescribes. The king may declare to or conceal from his privy council whatever he thinks fit . . . The power of the council is to enquire into all offences against the government and to commit the offenders to safe custody for trial in some of the courts of law but persons so committed are entitled to their habeas corpus as much as if they had been committed by an ordinary justice of the peace . . . Any natural born subject of England is capable of being a member of the privy council taking the proper oaths for security of the government and test for the security of the church.”

    Nauvoo was the seat of the First Presidency (mainly Joseph and Hyrum, and until April 1844 William Law; Rigdon was campaigning as a Pennsylvanian for U.S. vice president). Joseph had a council of advisers, fifty or so of them, loosely organized. The Twelve were for the most part doing their job traveling as a quorum, despite chronic apostasy from their council. After Joseph’s death, Brigham rushed home (well he waited around in the Boston area for weeks, but eventually he rushed home). He said Joseph wouldn’t have a successor. But he didn’t say the Council of Fifty held that right, not in any public debate that I can think of offhand. There was no Council of Fifty in the public succession debate until Quinn/Ehat injected it to argue that some of the succession claimants (like King Strang) lacked secret and lofty spiritual powers had only by the Fifty (despite some of the Fifty “advisers” not being members of the Church and the privy council being by common law dissolved “on the demise of the crown”).

  15. SteveF, I have no information regarding the publication schedule.

    John, I doubt you fit the group of folks I was thinking of. I understand that some people that didn’t know that the JSPP put documents online speculated that the historians would likely fabricate or falsify their transcript for publication. Such accusations bother me. I also imagine that you were happy over the news!

    Regarding your outline, I find it very interesting. I have to admit that while I used to be in the Ehat/Quinn camp, I definitely in the wait and see mode now and have been for a while. It’s exciting.

  16. Anon hoarder says:

    Any idea if Ehat’s diss will ever get published? I have copies of the diss AND prepublication manuscript getting marked up for publication, so clearly it was on that path at one point.

  17. Anon. I have no idea if it will be published or not. As I said above, a lot has changed in the last 30 years, and with the C50 minutes and potentially the Clayton holograph diaries, neither of which Ehat had access to, there is a lot of new documents alone. I should put up a review of Words which is similarly important, dated, and flawed.

  18. I think this is a fascinating development. Here is what D. Michael Quinn said at the end of his article published in BYU Studies in 1980. It adds some details that I think explain why so many (both faithful and not) who are interested in Mormon history have salivated over the prospect of the publication of the Nauvoo-era Council of Fifty minutes:

    “Although the Council of Fifty no longer exists as an organized body, there remains one of its contributions which historically outweighs any practical influences the Council may have exerted. After 1845, the Council of Fifty focused primarily on immediate issues of the Mormon community-from exterminating wolves to preparing for elections. By contrast, in 1844 and on occasion thereafter, the Council meetings departed from the immediate, often humdrum concerns of the temporal struggles of the Church. These minutes contain numerous discourses and instructions by Joseph Smith and others concerning the role of the U.S. Constitution in the pre­sent and millennial existence of the Latter-day Saints, the Nature of the all­ encompassing Kingdom of God which the Council signified, and other crucial teachings that are in no other records than Council of Fifty minutes. For example, Benjamin F. Johnson reported that in the Council of Fifty meetings, Joseph Smith taught of “adopting the God Given Constatution [sic] of United States as a paladium of Liberty & eaqual [sic] Rights-But this of itself would Require a long Chapter:’ Both Benjamin F. John­ son and Orson Hyde affirmed that in a meeting of the Council of Fifty, Joseph Smith gave his famous charge to the Quorum of the Twelve to carry forth the Church and the Kingdom of God, which charge became the basis for the apostolic succession established after the death of Joseph Smith. These teachings of Joseph Smith to the Council of Fifty, found nowhere else, fill hundreds of pages. On 16 March 1880, nearly 200 pages of the Council’s minutes concerning only its “origin and Organization” were read to President John Taylor, Joseph F. Smith, and Franklin D. Richards. Elder Richards recorded that the “whole reading was exceedingly interesting & wonderful to contemplate.” Joseph F. Smith wrote that the Prophet’s 1844 instructions to the Council of Fifty were “grand & god like:’ When Joseph Smith went to Carthage, Illinois, for his last imprisonment, the Church nearly lost these voluminous teachings of the Prophet to the Council of Fifty. Joseph Smith had already been charged by anti­-Mormons with the ridiculous crime of treason for destroying the Nauvoo Expositor as a public nuisance. He knew that the frenzied anti-Mormons of June 1844 were incapable of understanding the symbolic nature of the prophet-king ordinance or the millennial context of his teachings about the Kingdom of God. Therefore, Joseph Smith told William Clayton to either burn or bury the records of the Council of Fifty. William Clayton trusted that calmer, more reasonable and more secure times would come for the Latter-day Saints and therefore preserved the records for future generations. Though not available at this time, those teachings of Joseph Smith and of his successors in the Council of Fifty are a far greater legacy to the Latter-day Saints than the often-mundane activities of the Council itself.”

    My question since first reading about the minutes is this: why did the LDS church all these years suppress, rather than publish and proclaim, hundreds of pages of “grand and god-like” teachings from Joseph Smith that are found nowhere else? It seems like hundreds of pages’ worth of teachings from Joseph Smith not recorded anywhere else would be a “great reveal,” indeed.

    If the church is truly going to publish these, I applaud the move (oh my heck, I will give it a standing ovation). I do hope that the church will not simply publish an edited version but will publish them in full and allow scholars access to the primary source materials. I also hope that this will signal a new era of openness regarding all the historical documents the church possesses but keeps hidden in the First Presidency’s vaults. Scholars, at the very least, should have access to all the documents that are more than 50 years old. The church’s collection should be fully indexed. This is really basic stuff on which I think anyone with an interest in Mormon history (faithful or otherwise) would agree.

  19. Good write-up, Jonathan. It’ll be interesting to see how much the minutes will help to flesh-out our general understanding of the Nauvoo Council of Fifty. Like you, I suspect the inaccessibility of the minutes added more to their mystique than their actual contents would have.

  20. I’m curious. Has there been any Church historian who has taken a peak inside the minutes during the past 50 years? Was Arrington allowed to see them?

  21. “He knew that the frenzied anti-Mormons of June 1844 were incapable of understanding the symbolic nature of the prophet-king ordinance or the millennial context of his teachings about the Kingdom of God.” I think Quinn nails it here. Thanks for quoting this Eric.

    J, I would love your write up of “Words”. Waiting patiently.

  22. Exciting news indeed. Your write up here gave me more information in fewer words than I have ever gotten anywhere else about the Council of 50.

  23. J Stapley – There is a long discussion in “From Mission To Madness” about David Hyrum Smith’s visit to Utah and meeting with Brigham Young. I don’t have the page number handy, but part of it reads “Brigham Young, on his part, had been pondering David’s role even longer
    than David had.” “He then laid out his hopes, as well as his frustrations, regarding the part David might play.” The part that really was intriguing is italicized on the next page. “It would be his right to preside over this church, if he would only walk in the path of duty.” There seems to be no mention of the Council of the 50, but is this why Brigham Young is saying it would be David’s right to preside over the church? The text goes on to quote Brigham Young again “There was a son born in November 18 in 1844 and the Prophet Joseph told me David would lead this church, and others can testify to this”. “But if the one that Joseph the prophet predicted should step forth to become the leader of this Church, he will come to us like a little child”. “But David who was born after the death of his father, I still look for the day to come when the Lord will touch his eyes”.

    Do we know if the Utah church was keeping tabs on David’s health while he was in the asylum? Or if David’s deteriorating health had any impact on Brigham Young’s faith concerning Joseph’s prophecies?

    There are a few interesting passages in Hansen’s book about polygamy and blood atonement. “The political kingdom, of course, did not depend upon polygamy for its survival, but plural marriage could only be practiced in ethical and moral terms within the kingdom. It was, therefore, no accident that Brigham Young deferred the public announcement of polygamy until he had established a quasi-independent kingdom of God in the Rocky Mountains.” There is not one single mention of David Hyrum Smith in the Hansen book.

  24. @Anon hoarder
    I spoke to Andy awhile back and he was asked not to publish his dissertation. However, he says in this new environment, he is planning on publishing a follow up to it. He’s also going to be involved with the discourses section of the JSPP.

    @J. I’m pretty Ehat did have access to the Clayton holograph–his transcripts of those where the subject of the huge Tanner legal hulabaloo. He’s mentioned some insights into Nauvoo polygamy he’s read in the Clayton journals that haven’t been printed.

    @Eric. I do hope the all the “hundreds of pages” do get published, I can only imagine the historical and doctrinal feasts that will be contained therein. Who knows, J. may finally have to admit that JS did teach spirit birth ;)

    @Aaron I don’t believe anybody historians such as Arrington, or even Elder Jensen has had access to it as they’ve been in the First Presidency vault, not Church Archives. I spoke to two editors of the JSPP about the publication of the 50 minutes last year. One was uncomfortable and said we don’t know but maybe sometime. The other was very forthright and said that they had made the request not to publish anything in them, but just to take a look at them to verify the date of Joseph’s last charge to use as a footnote–the request was denied.

  25. Jeff, I don’t know much beyond what is in Avery’s volume in regard to David’s later years.

    jpv, I don’t know Andy and consequently could be mistaken, but my reading of the publicly available documents suggests to me that Ehat’s excerpts were based on a more complete typescript.

  26. Coffinberry says:

    IIRC, women were part of the C50. On the lines of the recent orthodox position that the RS was a restoration of an ancient organization, I’m looking forward to learning how the women fit into the Kingdom.

  27. I don’t believe that any women were members of the council in Nauvoo. I think it is worth remembering that this was 1844. And I think we should be very careful when extrapolating from such early and isolated periods. Suffrage was a huge cause in Utah, with women gaining the vote in 1870 and the first female State Senator being Mormon (Mattie Cannon).

  28. By the way, footnote 7 is missing, and then footnotes 8-14 in the text are actually footnotes 7-13 at the end. If you could fix that, it would make the post even better!

  29. During the early 1980s, following the “discovery” of the so-called Joseph Smith III blessing (later determined to be a Mark Hofmann forgery), Elder Gorden B. Hinckley and Earl Olson (of the LDS Historical Department) went through the Nauvoo 50 minutes looking for any references to such a blessing as well as any mention of Joseph Smith’s “Charge” to the 12 Apostles. They didn’t find anything. No, I don’t think Leonard Arrington was ever able to read the Nauvoo mintues, though he did read the territorial minutes. There was a time when the Clayton diaries were temporarily transferred from the First Presidency’s office to the Historical Department, where Jim Allen and Dean Jessee were able to consult them. Mike Quinn also went through the Clayton and took his own notes (which are now in his papers at Yale). Andy Ehat was able to consult both the originals and the Jessee typescript. A few others, like Richard Anderson (from what I understand), were also able to consult the Clayton diaries. The Church’s decision to publish the Nauvoo 50 minutes bodes well for the eventual publication of the Clayton diaries, I think.

  30. Great post. I just would like to suggest a more careful reading of the C50 being part of the temple liturgy/doctrines, given the fact that it had an all-male membership and included non-members. Also, before Joseph’s ordination as King in the C50 in March 1844, Joseph and Emma had received their second anointings in September 1843 in a different priesthood quorum – the Holy Order/Quorum of Anointed.

    [@Coffinberry, in the Holy Order women received their endowments and were ordained as priestesses and queens in the second anointings.]

  31. The Other Clark says:

    “We believe… God will yet reveal many GREAT and IMPORTANT THINGS pertaining to the KINGDOM OF GOD”

    This could be one of them.

  32. Is there a complete list of the members of the council of 50? If there isn’t one, how are we sure that HJG was the last remaining one? Fascinating subject…

  33. Fixed the footnotes.

    Antonio, I am very particular with terminology surrounding the temple liturgy and things like, “priesthood” (see link in the post) and “quorums” and such. Presentism runs amok. As mentioned in the post, there have been persuasive arguments that the formation of the council was dependent on the complete temple liturgy being available. We’ll see if that holds up.

    kc, I’d check out Quinn’s article. It is available for free download at the BYU Studies website and has the details about who has been identified and how.

  34. Mark Ashurst-McGee says:

    Quinn, appends a list of C50 members to his article, but without documentation.
    However, he does have some documentation for members in the biographical notes in the back of Mormon Hierarchy.

  35. Thanks Mark. It has been a long time since I have read this material and had forgotten that lacuna.

  36. Speaking of the First Presidency’s Vault, I bought Joseph F. Smith’s gun at an auction today, to protect my own Joseph Smith papers. :)

  37. This is all really interesting. However, I found the website that comes up when you click on John Hajicek’s name in his comments to be equally fascinating. For instance, I loved the quote “I have discovered most of the major new contributions to Mormon history in the past twenty years.” Looking forward to reading the autobiography or watching the documentary.

  38. “Similarly, accusations of counterfeiting dogged the Saints in Nauvoo. Two members of Joseph’s secret Council of Fifty were known to have experience in ‘bogus making.’ Edward Bonney, a distant relation of Billy the Kid, ‘was not averse to passing the “long green” of counterfeit bills when it suited his purpose, according to one biographer. New York state was pursuing Council of Fifty member Marinus Eaton on counterfeiting charges.”

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