[All parts of this post may be found here.]
The new guard among the First Council took their responsibilities seriously, met together frequently and did their best to help train the missionary force of the Church. Unfortunately the pattern in force for calling missionaries at the time made calls to elders, who were then ordained seventies and sent on their way. Hence the seventies quorums were mostly filled with men who had already served and would likely not serve again. The men of the First Council served as mission presidents from time to time, and more than once each in many cases. Most of these men were dynamic preachers and good writers. In 1901 the First Presidency and Twelve decided that elders had all necessary authority to serve as missionaries. The character of the seventy’s quorums began to change. More on this later.
B. H. Roberts not only served missions, he was an Assistant Church Historian and a counselor in the General Superintendency of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association. He wrote manuals for the seventies, the YM, published in the Improvement Era and other magazines and took on George Q. Cannon’s aborted effort at publishing the History of Joseph Smith in hardback volumes as History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1901 (eventually 6 volumes, adding a 7th in 1932). Morgan’s bibliography was also lasting, his 1880s pamphlet “The Plan of Salvation” was still in use a hundred years later.
During Roberts time the puzzle of how the stakes were related to the First Council was becoming important. The Church was expanding and the increase in the number of stakes put pressure on the apostles in visiting their quarterly conferences (following Utah statehood, stakes began to increase by roughly 4 or 5 per year). The members of the First Council were now a regular part of the rotation but they were second class citizens in the stakes no matter how dynamic they were. During his history work, Roberts came across the declaration of Brigham Young mentioned in an earlier post:
the seventies are ordained apostles and when they go forth into the ministry they are sent with power to build up the kingdom in all the world and consequently they have power to ordain high priests and also to ordain and organize a high council
In a letter to the First Presidency, Roberts offered this and some statements by Joseph Smith as a solution to the problem of Seventies operating in stakes. Roberts went to the trouble of typesetting a page in the History of the Church style, hoping it might be inserted in the history. The Presidency rejected the idea with the statement that such a policy change would seem confusing to members and given the long standing separation between the Seventy and the high priesthood, this approach seemed difficult.
The problem really stemmed from the beginning of the Seventy. In 1835 during the selection process of the presidency of the Seventy, several high priests were selected and ordained and the same was true of the first quorum. Things went along swimmingly until people brought up the same question: what was the relationship between the Seventy and the high priesthood? Eventually Joseph Smith resolved the issue by inviting the high priest/seventies to move to the Kirtland high priest quorum and new candidates, not previously ordained high priests were selected for the vacancies. The language assumed to have been used by Joseph Smith (“contrary to the order of heaven”) cemented the problem of the early 1900s in place. (Probably) Warren Cowdery recorded Joseph as saying “The seventies are to be taken from the quorum of elders and are not to be high priests.” There was no “contrary” phrase originally.
 Heber C. Kimball Journal, Book 93 December 14, 1845. The 70s were great.
 B. H. Roberts collection, CHL. Beyond a nod to mission work in the stakes, stake presidents were clearly reluctant to take First Council members very seriously, especially in gospel scholarship. They were challenged on occasion in a way that the FP and Q12 never would be. Not only was the position of the First Council clearly restricted in the stakes, the non-existent first quorum never had any administrative power when it did exist. While it was a dream of the First Council to see their quorum returned to the land of the living, it’s activities and status were nothing if not unclear. Practices in the 1880s hint that the first quorum members would not be general authorities if they did exist. (For example First Council minutes 27 May 1883, CHL.)
 See MS history 2:756 (or HC 2:476 – ignore the * footnote which is confused). The MS history narrative here is not based on a contemporary record. Penned by Willard Richards, some of the material may originate with W. W. Phelps. Unfortunately language like “contrary to the order of heaven” gets assigned to JS by form, not evidence. That comes into play later. Check out Joseph Young’s (late) take on getting the high priests out in his 1878 “History of the Organization of the Seventies.”
 April 6, 1837 meeting. Original unknown. Messenger and Advocate 3 (April 1837), 486-487