Gems from #MHA2016 – C50 minutes

The Mormon History Association held its annual conference at Snowbird at the beginning of June. It was a fine affair, and I thought I would post a few items highlighting some of the fun things that went down. First a quick primer:

In the last months of his life, Joseph Smith established the Council of Fifty, a sort of para-governmental council that was to prepare for the Millennial reign of Christ. It was a pretty big deal when the JSPP announced that they would be publishing them, and now with the publication due this fall, we are starting to see some of the fruits of their work. Of course it won’t be nearly as extraordinary as imaginations conjured over the last century, and I missed the standing/crouching-room-only session at the MHA conference. Still, on the Church Historian’s Press vendor table was an interesting little booklet that I didn’t hear much chatter about.

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Beyond the cool image on the front and back cover that has prominent Mormon women wearing these sweet fingerless gloves that would kill today (they look sort of hardcore), the booklet includes excerpts from this year’s publications. Some have already hit, like the RS docs volume, but it also includes a minute from the Council of Fifty.

I remember reading Benjamin Johnson’s account of the Council of Fifty during my undergrad. It was squirreled away in a vintage volume I got from my grandparents Masterpieces of the Latter-day Saint Leaders, I think. It was sort of eclectic sampler that had bits from HCK teaching near Adam-God like soteriology, Widtsoe rocking the Holy Spirit aether, and Benjamin Johnson waxing triumphant about the US constitution becoming the bulwark of Justice for the Millennium. I later learned that BJ had become sort of a nutter.

Anyway, this fall we have the real deal, and this peek from the CHP is fascinating. I imagine it is one of the less boring minutes and it may have some relevance for today. There is some talk about the US Constitution, much to validation of Uncle Benny. This is only a small bit from the entire minute, and JS had discussed non-Members being part of the council.

we act upon the broad and liberal principal that all men have equal rights, and ought to be respected, and that every man has a privilege in this organization of choosing for himself voluntarily his God, and what he pleases for his religion…hence the importance of thrusting from us every spirit of bigotry and intolerance towards a mans religious sentiments, that spirit which has drenched the earth with blood—When a man feels the least temptation to such intolerance he ought to spurn it from him. It becomes our duty on account of this intolerance and corruption—the inalienable right of man being to think as he pleases—worship as he please &c being the first law of every thing that is sacred—to guard every ground all the days of our lives. I will appeal to every man in this council beginning at the youngest that when he arrives to the years of Hoary age he will have to say that the principles of intolerance and bigotry never had a place in this kingdom, nor in my breast, and that he is even then ready to die rather than yield to such things. Nothing can reclaim the human mind from its ignorance, bigotry, superstition &c but those grand and sublime principles of equal rights and universal freedom to all men. We must not despise a man on account of infirmity. We ought to love a man more for his infirmity.

May it ever be so.


  1. Awesome. Definitely a message that is needed now.

    On a side note, I recently discovered “Uncle Benny” is actually a gggg-uncle (as he probably is to many many others, given the number of siblings he had and the fact that they joined the church so early on and had lots and lots of kids). Any links to him becoming a nutter?

  2. J. Stapley says:

    You know, I should have been kinder to Benjamin. His late reminiscences terms forward the extraordinary, and have fueled various of theological and political stripes.

    Also sorry about the syntax of the post.

  3. J. Stapley says:

    …tend toward…

    …various theological…

    Sorry about that.

  4. I knew the crazy LeBaron Order claimed to have received some kind of special priesthood authority through him. Thanks for the additional info.

  5. I think JS may have seen his father in the admonition to love those with “infirmities.” Thanks for the post, J.

  6. Mark D. says:

    “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” – Romans 15:1

  7. FarSide says:

    “Nothing can reclaim the human mind from its ignorance, bigotry, superstition &c but those grand and sublime principles of equal rights and universal freedom to all men. We must not despise a man on account of infirmity. We ought to love a man more for his infirmity.”

    To avoid the appearance of condescension, the expression of such a noble sentiment should be accompanied by an admission that we, too, are often guilty of ignorance, bigotry, and superstition, that we are also infirm, that the religious sentiments of those with whom we disagree may have merit—indeed, they may in some respects be superior to our own. It is a gross act of self-deception and pride to presume that we are the ones who are strong, that it is the “other” who is infirm.

  8. “May it ever be so.” Amen.

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