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The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History

The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History

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The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History

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669 pages
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Dec 20, 2014


Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith had both millennial and temporal aspirations for the organization he called the Council of Fifty, named after the number of men who were intended to comprise it. Organized a few months before Smith’s death in June 1844, it continued under Brigham Young as a secret shadow government until 1851. Minutes from the earliest meetings are closed to researchers but contemporary accounts speak of a deliberative body preparing for Christ’s imminent reign. It also helped to sponsor Smith’s U.S. presidential bid and oversaw the exodus to present-day Utah.

One member downplayed the significance of this secret legislative body in 1849 as “nothing but a debating School.” On the contrary, a typical meeting included decisions regarding irrigation, fencing, and adobe housing, after which the group sang a song written by Parley P. Pratt: “Come ye sons of doubt and wonder; Indian, Moslem, Greek or Jew; … Be to all a friend and brother; Peace on Earth, good will to men.” Two weeks later, the council called for “blood to flow” to enforce its laws.

As the nineteenth century waned and the LDS Church moved toward the American mainstream, ending its emphasis on the imminent End of Days, there was no longer a need for a Church-managed municipal group destined to become the millennial world government. The council became irrelevant but survives today as a historical artifact available in fragmented documentary pieces which are presented here for the first time. 
Dec 20, 2014

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The Council of Fifty - Jedediah S. Rogers

The Council of Fifty

A Documentary History

edited by

Jedediah S. Rogers

foreword by

Klaus J. Hansen

Signature Books | Salt Lake City | 2014

Published in cooperation with the Smith-Pettit Foundation.

© 2014 Signature Books. All rights reserved. Signature Books is a registered trademark of Signature Books Publishing, LLC. www.signaturebooks.com.

Printed on acid-free paper and composed, printed, and bound in the USA.

Jacket design by Ron Stucki.

19 18 17 16 15 14 6 5 4 3 2 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

The Council of Fifty : a documentary history / edited by Jedediah S. Rogers; foreword by Klaus J. Hansen.

pages cm

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-1-56085-224-7 (alk. paper)

1. Council of Fifty (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)—History.

2. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—History—19th century.

I. Rogers, Jedediah Smart, editor. II.

Hansen, Klaus J., author of introduction, etc.

BX8611.C66 2014





Editor’s Preface

Abbreviations for Frequently Cited Sources

Members of the Council of Fifty

Editor’s Introduction

1.The Kingdom of God upon the Earth, 1844

2. The Millennium Has Now Commenced, 1845–46

3. The Gathering of Israel, 1846–47

4.The Council of YTFIF, 1848–50

Photographs and Illustrations

5. A Father Indeed to the Kingdom of God, 1851

6. The Council of Elders, 1867–68

7. A Living Constitution, 1880–87

Appendix 1

Appendix 2

Annotated Bibliography

About the Author

From the Dust Jacket


Klaus J. Hansen

The Council of Fifty was organized in the spring of 1844 to oversee political and temporal affairs such as Joseph Smith’s candidacy for the presidency of the United States. After the founder’s murder, the council was reconstituted under the auspices of the Quorum of the Twelve, meaning especially Brigham Young, to oversee the move to the Rocky Mountains and establish political hegemony. Flourishing intermittently until the late 1880s, the council was allowed to fade away, to be nearly forgotten except for the few passing notices LDS chronicler B. H. Roberts made to it in his monumental History of the Church and by a few others: future LDS Church Historian G. Homer Durham, who discussed it in a 1944 article; Fawn M. Brodie, who showed some interest in the topic while writing her biography of Joseph Smith; and by non-Mormon sociologist Thomas F. O’Dea, whose view of the council was that it manifested incipient nationalism in the LDS culture. None of the writers achieved sufficient access to documents to allow them to judge how broad or restricted the council’s influence might have been.

Another spark of interest came with the publication of Robert Cleland’s and Juanita Brooks’s A Mormon Chronicle: The Diaries of John D. Lee, 1848–1876 in 1955, followed by speculation on the part of LDS scholars Hyrum Andrus and James R. Clark, as well as from two fairly brash BYU undergraduates, Alfred Bush and myself. Bush called my attention to the council while he was reading the Lee diaries, and later when I was casting about for a research topic for a senior history seminar with Professor Richard Poll, I produced a paper on the early government and economics of Utah Territory. After that, Bush and I continued to dig for information and eventually expanded our thinking and committed it to an interpretive paper that remained unpublished. However, having pursued the topic on the M.A. level at BYU and then as a Ph.D. student at Wayne State in Detroit, I saw the fruits of my interest come into print a decade later in a volume I called Quest for Empire: The Political Kingdom of God and the Council of Fifty in Mormon History, published by Michigan State University Press. My reservations regarding a Mormon topic being supervised by non-Mormon professors had been countered by the realization that there was value in having outsiders critique my work.

Ten years may seem like a long time to bring forth a modest, 237-page book, including notes and back matter. Yet, I found documentation elusive. As I was doing the research, it appeared to me that I was sailing in a fog. The resulting study could only be considered tentative, awaiting further research to confirm or contradict what I could perceive as the most likely interpretation. As I put it, the effort to flesh out the origin and purpose of the council was a Herculean task. To my surprise, a gifted historian answered the call: D. Michael Quinn, whose sources for his two-volume Mormon Hierarchy series confirmed the council’s influence in a few critical deliberations. Equally impressive, if more interpretive, was Marvin S. Hill’s Quest for Refuge: The Mormon Flight from American Pluralism.

To that impressive heritage of researchers, whose curiosity and tenacity kept them pushing for more information, now comes a bright historian who is himself up to the task of expanding on what went before him. How has he accomplished this? By knocking on archival doors that were closed to us and by refusing to take no for an answer. When the church declined to allow him access to documents, he went elsewhere and found typescripts. Add to that the importuning of the insiders who have been curious to see what has been kept under lock and key for over a century and a half, and the miracle of disclosure seems to be about to come to pass. The Church Historian’s Press recently announced that it will even­tually release the sequestered minutes to the Nauvoo Council of Fifty meetings, perhaps also documents in the associated collections that have remained closed. When this happens—and they have promised to publish the minutes in book form—their effort will be a good complement to the current volume.

Some may think the minutes themselves are the all-important, and sufficient, record of the council, but I suspect not. Context is equally important. We don’t yet know exactly what the contents of the minutes might be, but I believe the church’s editors will find themselves hard pressed to produce anything as thorough and fine as the present volume. In some respects, that is because Rogers assembled sources the hard way and scraped together loose ends—all the better because he was able to confirm the authenticity, relevance, and context for the minutes or protocols by drawing on diaries, reminiscences, and the other documents that tell not only what happened, and without being written in dry secretarial prose, but interpreting it through the notes of the eyewitness participants. In addition to that, Rogers’s annotation gives necessary background information that would otherwise be lost on most readers. He has not only uncovered the details of what happened but has brought the meetings to life in the words of the contemporary inductees and shown us their significance.

His work, and that of others for whom space does not allow mention, have caused me to reconsider some of my original assumptions. It is now clear that some of my deductions were wrong. For instance, it seemed to me at the time that Daniel H. Wells and Thomas L. Kane might have been among the non-LDS members of the council, but now the more up-to-date evidence shows it not to have been the case—and this is just one example of the small details the current volume clarifies. Of course, I am equally surprised to find how much of what I assumed was actually right. In any case, the material Rogers has assembled here is impressive. He has wisely incorporated the material into his volume that was so impressively collected by Quinn a generation earlier and cites my own work and that of many other predecessors in our collective endeavor.

The book is certainly destined to become essential reading for future Mormon historians, as well as for the interested public who will have to draw their own conclusions about what it all means. For instance, to what degree was the Kingdom of God intended to be a literal and permanent government, as opposed to a millennial or more metaphorical concept? Did Joseph Smith intend himself to be an earthly king or a future heavenly ruler only? Readers could do no better than to consult this comprehensive collection of primary source documents to help them discover, in their own minds, the answers to such important questions.

I am happy to see that The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History is part of what seems to be a series sponsored by the Smith-Pettit Foundation and published by Signature Books, looking in depth at the documentary sources for the Nauvoo era of Mormon history. One volume, Joseph Smith’s Quorum of the Anointed, 1842–1845, shows how proponents of plural marriage were initiated into the ceremonies that became the foundation for the church’s temple rituals. The editors Gary J. Bergera and Devery S. Anderson were, like Jedediah Rogers, thorough in their research. Another invaluable volume in the series is John S. Dinger’s The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes, which shows the uncertainty and hysteria surrounding the decision-making in the city of Saints as things started to unravel.

The current volume is logically connected to the previous studies from Smith-Pettit and Signature Books in elucidating the radicalism that was pervasive in Nauvoo, which we see expressed in plural marriage and the temple rites, especially the shared secrecy surrounding these institutions and practices. The three volumes are bound together in other ways as well, in that the Council of Fifty determined policy that was implemented by the city council and then, in the west, by the territorial legislature. It is worth noting that the Council of Fifty, like the members of the other groups in question, were sworn to secrecy in order to help serve as a shield for plural marriage—the practice that was to be discussed and regulated under the laws of the Kingdom of God. This new volume, then, forms an integral part of the ongoing story. In my opinion, the series ranks among the most important projects in Mormon historical editing.

Editor’s Preface

When Joseph Smith established the Kingdom of God, better known as the Council of Fifty, there was an enormous disconnect between the rhetoric surrounding it, infused with mythology of divine origins and a future governing role in the End Days, and the mundane immediate tasks he assigned it that had to do with political lobbying, campaigning, and land scouting. For a brief period in 1844, members of the council occupied a privileged position in the architecture of the church leadership. After the prophet’s death, the council sputtered momentarily and then continued to function with a diminished role, including periods of inactivity, through 1851. Thereafter, it was mostly moribund until John Taylor revived it in 1880. Then for five years the council met regularly to discuss political and religious matters as it had done thirty years previously. When it died a second death, it became an intriguing footnote in Mormon history.

The obscurity of the council, shrouded as it is in lore and speculation because of the secrecy its members were sworn to, has made it an attractive plum for researchers who have sometimes stumbled across references to it. For some reason, while most of the members of the council remained circumspect in concealing their membership, others freely and colorfully recorded tidbits about it in journals, letters, and reminiscences. Their open discussion of it, along with other allusions from diffuse sources, form the basis for this volume. They are sometimes informative and sometimes simply tantalize more than illuminate, if read out of context. Historians Hyrum Andrus, Klaus J. Hansen, D. Michael Quinn, Andrew F. Ehat, Dale L. Morgan, and a few others pioneered the collection of hard-to-come-by details about the council and imposed order on the body of sources that they were able to find.¹ Quinn came the closest to bringing together the finished quilt’s individual patches. Many of the entries that comprise the current collection appear here for the first time, but others were found by scholars who went before me, who quoted and cited them and guessed at their meaning.

Some of the documents are still restricted from public view at the LDS Church History Library. The librarians themselves have given of their time and willingly assisted me in locating and proofing available sources, and I understand some of the church’s concerns about confidentiality, especially where reference was made to temple rites or disciplinary actions against church members. However, that sensitiv­ity does not entirely explain the ban on access to holographs where I already had typescripts or incredibly where the documents had already been published.

Readers of this volume deserve to know specifically what documents the church withheld from me. They are: the Nauvoo founding minutes and notes relating to the Council of Fifty; the council minutes kept in Utah Territory; some official council records such as roll books for the years 1845, 1849, 1867, 1868, 1880, and 1882; and extant diaries for Horace S. Eldredge, Heber J. Grant, Moses Thatcher, and Brigham Young Jr.² Fortunately, much—although not all—of this material is available from other sources such as the transcripts historian D. Michael Quinn prepared in the 1970s when he was allowed to see the originals. The principal exceptions are three small Nauvoo minute books titled Record of the Council of Fifty or Kingdom of God kept by recorder William Clayton from March to May 1844 and from February 1845 to January 1846. These were famously kept out of view of even archivists, locked in the LDS First Presidency Vault until 2010. References to these records are found in Appendix 1 of this work.³ I repeatedly asked to see these documents and was repeatedly denied permission.⁴

In spite of these limitations, the records that are available and are reproduced in this volume offer detailed insights into a bygone era. We witness the zeal of members as they anticipated building a real, bricks-and-mortar kingdom of God on earth. They labored to establish parameters of behavior for a new society in the Great Basin. They struggled mightily to retain political and social control in Utah Territory. All this may seem foreign to the uninitiated. Twenty-first-century Mormonism is a dim reflection of the nineteenth-century church, which jettisoned or transformed many theological concepts and practices such as plural marriage, hierarchical primogeniture (replicating the royal heavenly family), and the concept of the church president being the sovereign of God’s earthly kingdom, all of which gave early Mormonism a peculiar vitality and uniqueness. By the end of the nineteenth century, and certainly by the early twentieth century, Mormonism had undergone a transition that Douglas Davies called an excursion from the anticipation of Christ’s imminent return to a more normative Christian view of rewards in heaven for righteousness (or at least faith) on earth. The Kingdom of God came to be re-imagined as a future place where innumerable husbands, wives and children would live in celestial glory.⁵ As the church progressively entered the American mainstream and as its theology evolved from an emphasis on the End Days to more long-range planning, there was perhaps no longer a need for a special church-managed government to rule the world. The Council of Fifty became irrelevant.

This is not to say that Mormons no longer held to an ambitious goal of earthly dominance or the expectation of millennial grandeur as they watched for the prophesied earthly reign of Christ, just that their political participation was no longer directly linked to their eschatology. On occasion the modern church still enters into the political arena by claiming religious interest in matters of community morals, but does not seek overt temporal domination. Sometimes members are reminded the hard way when religious ideology butts up against political reality. Translating theology into the public sphere is not painless: when one enters the ring, there are counter-punches. Finding the right balance between living in a visible world and in the invisible realm of spirits and gods is as challenging today as it was for church members in the nineteenth century.

One gets the impression that even though the Council of Fifty no longer functions as an operative body, its previous existence still influences the worldview of people who on occasion hear rumors about the frontier shadow government. The unstated but perceived political aspiration of the church was a key reason some Americans were apprehensive about voting a Mormon into the White House in the 2012 contest between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Disabusing the public of these concerns has not been easy for the church. This volume, I hope, will add needed perspective on a chapter of Mormon history sometimes shrouded in mystery and speculation. The Council of Fifty is an important historical artifact that reveals itself in the fragmented documentary evidence. This volume contains many of the pieces that are available, which I assembled as best I could, and each fragment can be treated like a metaphorical archaeological shard that can be mentally hefted, weighed, and examined for its relative significance.

Editorial procedures

I have organized the documents chronologically according to when each meeting was held rather than when the document was created. Readers should be mindful of this and notice when each diary entry, official record, letter, or reminiscence was created. There are three types of sources: holographs, usually housed in historical archives; digital-­image reproductions, sometimes available online; and transcripts. Wherever a published version is available that meets the standards of accurate historical presentation, I have given preference to it due to its accessibility to readers. Otherwise, especially where the original would be of central importance to this study, I made my own transcription from the original, a scan, or from an existing transcript prepared at some point in the past by a competent researcher.

Where digital images of the original documents were available online and readers would be able to see the originals themselves, I noted this in the annotated bibliography. I have retained the original spelling in the transcripts, occasionally supplying words and punctuation where necessary for readability but putting anything new in [square brackets] to indicate it is not original. Any angled or french brackets come from a secondary source, such as where Wilford Woodruff recorded the name Fifty in shorthand and editor Scott Kenney rendered it as .

Where the original document lacked paragraphing, I added it. Where the paragraphing was excessive, for instance where there was a line return for each sentence, I sometimes combined two sen­tences into one paragraph. Similarly, I have retained original punctuation except where there was no period and I therefore silently added one. I capitalized proper nouns and the first letter of new sentences, leaving other capitalization as it appeared in the original handwriting.

When scribes employed abbreviations for people’s names, geographical locations, or organizations, I used brackets to flesh out the intended word on first mention in an entry for a given meeting. In doing so, I dropped the period from the original abbreviation. For instance, I expanded E. Snow to become E[rastus] Snow, not E[rastus]. Snow.

Where material in the original was superscripted, I underlined it, producing March 12th and Dr Richards, as examples. If the writer, or a later editor, added material above or below a line, I indicated it by employing ^carets^. Crossed-out words are shown using the strikeout modification. Where I thought readers would benefit from it, I pro­vided additional background in footnotes.

To avoid excessive duplication of common sources, I will simply note here that I frequently drew on Andrew Jenson’s invaluable Latter-­day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, published in four volumes in Utah between 1901 and 1936; Frank Esshom’s comprehensive Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah, published in Utah in 1913; and several key online resources such as the ancestral and pedigree resource files at FamilySearch.org, the biographical registers of BYU Studies (BYUStudies.­byu.edu), census records at the National Archives (archives.gov/research/), the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel pages at the LDS Church History Library site (history.lds.org/­overlandtravels/), obituaries from Utah Digital Newspapers (digitalnewspapers.org/), People of the Time pages at JosephSmithPapers.org, and the photographs and transcriptions from Find a Grave (findagrave.com). Occasionally I used Ancestry.com, the Deseret Book-produced GospeLink Digital Library, Signature Books’s New Mormon Studies CD-ROM, and as a reference only, Wikipedia.


My gratitude to those who assisted me in bringing the historical evidence together. My job was considerably easier thanks to the research and transcriptions of Mike Quinn approximately forty years ago. I would like to publicly acknowledge him here. Gary Bergera, managing director of the Smith-Pettit Foundation, orchestrated the collection of much of the material I drew from. I also want to extend special appreciation to Ken Panza, who completed some of the early transcriptions for this project, and to Devery Anderson and John Hatch—both talented historians—for helping proof transcriptions against the originals and for hefting much of the research. Mike Marquardt liberally shared his research files and deep knowledge of early Mormon history with me. Bruce Worthen carefully reviewed a late draft of the manuscript. I further want to extend gratitude to a few others who encouraged, supported, or reviewed my work at various stages, among them Bryan Buchanan, Lori Burkman, Joe Geisner, Klaus Hansen, Holly Rogers (who also prepared the index), Spencer Rogers, Bill Slaughter, and Henry Wolfinger.

The staffs of the following repositories assisted me in locating documents cited herein: the archives of the Family History and Church History Departments of the LDS church in Salt Lake City, the Manuscripts Division of the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, the L. Tom Perry Special Collections area of BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library in Provo, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University in New Haven, and the Library and Collections at the Utah Division of State History in Salt Lake City.

Once again, I found it a pleasure to work with the staff at Signature Books. Ron Priddis provided general encouragement and first-rate editing. Jason Francis carefully designed and typeset the manuscript, as well as assisted in procuring maps and photographs. Jani Fleet pored over the galleys to weed out any typographical errors that were still hiding beyond my range of perception. Thanks to Tom Kimball for his infectious promotion of the volume and enthusiasm for Mormon history, as well as to the rest of the staff, editorial board, and publisher George Smith. Notwithstanding all this valuable assistance and support, I am of course responsible for any transcription errors or interpretative mistakes.

—Jedediah Rogers

Salt Lake City

1. Hyrum Andrus, Joseph Smith and World Government (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1958); Klaus Hansen, Quest for Empire: The Political Kingdom of God and the Council of Fifty in Mormon History (Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1967); D. Michael Quinn, The Council of Fifty and Its Members, 1844 to 1945, BYU

Studies 20 (Winter 1980): 163–97; Andrew F. Ehat, ‘It Seemed Like Heaven Began on Earth’: Joseph Smith and the Constitution of the Kingdom of God, BYU Studies 20 (Spring 1980): 253–80; and Dale Morgan, Untitled Kingdom of God Manuscript (1940), in Dale Morgan on the Mormons, Collected Works, 1939–1951, ed. Richard L. Saunders (Norman, OK: Arthur H. Clark, 2012), 99–147. Morgan never published the manuscript during his lifetime.

2. These diaries are kept at the LDS Church History Library. The portion of Thatcher’s diaries (1880–81) located in Special Collections at BYU, does not contain Council of Fifty references.

3. The LDS church announced its intention to publish the minute books as part of the Joseph Smith Papers.

4. I requested access to the Council of Fifty records in September 2012 and was informed the following month that my request had been denied. I renewed my attempt through informal conversation with church archivists at the 2013 Mormon History Association conference and was given permission to see a portion of the Council of Fifty Papers, 1845–1883, MS 3405—specifically the diaries of council members from the territorial period—but was informed that I would not be able to see the body’s official minutes. Church history librarians were helpful in suggesting other sources and providing access to periphery documents, and in at least two cases they agreed to proof an entry in my transcript against the original.

Signature Books’s editors requested permission to see the Council of Fifty Papers while they were proofing transcriptions against the original sources and were told via email on April 17, 2014, that although the records include minutes as late as the 1880s that would not be published as part of the Joseph Smith Papers, the archives nevertheless reserved the first right of publication and would not allow the public to view them for the time being.

5. Douglas J. Davies, An Introduction to Mormonism (Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 251: millenarianism to exaltation—from the Second Coming of Christ to the future godhood of individual married couples and their families.

Abbreviations for Frequently Cited Sources

Albert Carrington diary

An LDS apostle’s diary, part of the Albert Carrington Papers at the Manuscripts Division of the J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.

Arrington Papers

The Leonard J. Arrington collection at the Merrill-Cazier Library, Utah State University, in Logan.

Benjamin F. Johnson autobiography

Published in 1997 by Grandin Book of Provo as My Life’s Review: The Autobiography of Benjamin F. Johnson., eds. Lyndon W. Cook and Kevin V. Harker.

Brigham Young diary

The personal diary of the future church president, 1832–46, located in the Brigham Young Office Files, Church History Library. These personal jottings should not be confused with the Brigham Young Office Journals covering a later period of time.

Brigham Young history

This refers to a history of Brigham Young’s life up to the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, prepared for serialization in the Deseret News by the LDS Historian’s Office. It is not the Manuscript History of Brigham Young, which was used as the basis for the second part of the History of the Church.

Charles C. Rich diary

The diary of an LDS apostle, located in the Church History Library and available on the library’s website and Selected Collections DVDs.

Church History Library

The official LDS library and archives in Salt Lake City, cater-corner from Temple Square, encompassing stacks, manuscript collections, and church records.

Committee of Seven minutes

A transcription and photocopy of the records of an ad hoc committee of the Council of Fifty, located in the Arrington Papers at Utah State University.

Daniel Spencer diary

The diary of Nauvoo’s mayor and president of a Salt Lake City stake, online at the Church History Library website.

Elias Smith journal

Joseph Smith’s cousin kept a diary that can be seen at the Church History Library website.

Franklin D. Richards journal

This apostle and Church Historian kept a personal journal that is available on the Church History Library website and Selected Collections DVDs.

George A. Smith journal

This apostle kept a journal from 1845, available on the website of the Church History Library and on the Selected Collections DVDs.

George Miller letter

The former LDS Presiding Bishop wrote repeatedly in mid-1855 to the Northern Islander, a Michigan newspaper published by James Strang.

Heber C. Kimball diary

In 1987 Signature Books and Smith Research Associates published this as On the Potter’s Wheel: The Diaries of Heber C. Kimball, ed. Stanley B. Kimball.

Heber J. Grant diary

Portions of Grant’s diary prior to his becoming president of the LDS church are available as typed excerpts in the Quinn Papers.

Historian’s Office history

This is a draft of the seven-volume History of the Church, compiled by the employees of the Historian’s Office. It is sometimes referred to as the Manuscript History of the Church.

Historian’s Office journal

This logbook holds notes on the daily activities of the employees of the Historian’s Office and should not be confused with the Historian’s Office history or Journal History scrapbook, all of which were maintained by the office clerks and were included in Selected Collections.

Hosea Stout diary

The cited source is the 1964 publication by the University of Utah Press, a two-volume work titled On the Mormon Frontier: The Diary of Hosea Stout, 1844–1861, edited by Juanita Brooks.

John D. Lee diary

A two-volume publication of the Huntington Library, edited by Robert Glass Cleland and Juanita Brooks in 1955 as A Mormon Chronicle: The Diaries of John D. Lee, 1848–1876.

Joseph Fielding journal

The record of a church official who, among other assignments, served as president of the British Mission. Scans are available on the Church History Library website.

John Henry Smith diary

This apostle’s diary, extending from 1874 to 1911, was edited by Jean Bickmore White in 1990 and published by Signature Books as Church, State, and Politics: The Diaries of John Henry Smith.

Joseph F. Smith journal

The personal writings of this apostle, who later became church president, are available through Selected Collections, although portions of his journal were redacted.

Joseph Smith diary

The daily activities of the church founder are available at the Church History Library website and in Selected Collections.

Journal History

The Journal History is the daily multi-volume scrapbook of newspaper clippings, letters, invitations, programs, and memorabilia kept by employees of the Church Historian’s Office. It was included on the Selected Collections DVDs.

Junius F. Wells diary

Wells’s diary, housed at the Church History Library, is unavailable to the public, but the Quinn Papers contain typed extracts.

Lyman Wight, An Address

This is a pamphlet published in 1848 in Texas by schismatic apostle Lyman Wight as An Address by Way of an Abridged Account and Journal of My Life from February 1844 up to April 1848, with an Appeal to the Latter Day Saints. A rare copy resides in the Church History Library.

Orson Pratt journal

This apostle’s journal is available at the Church History Library website and on the Selected Collections DVDs.

Perry Special Collections

L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo.

Phinehas Richards diary

The diary of a Council of Fifty member who was a brother of the Church Historian. It is part of the Richards Family Collection at the Church History Library.

Quinn Papers

The D. Michael Quinn Papers, housed in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven. A one-time LDS church archivist and later BYU Professor of History, Quinn created invaluable typescripts of historical documents.

Robert T. Burton diary

The diary of a counselor to the Presiding Bishop, this item is available at the Church History Library.

Selected Collections

In 2002 Brigham Young University Press released 74 DVD disks in a two-box set containing high-resolution scans of church documents. It was compiled by Richard E. Turley Jr., managing director of the LDS Family and Church History Department, and released as Selected Collections from the Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The disks provide a wealth of material that was previously unavailable for study.

Selected Minutes of the Council of Fifty

An item in the Quinn Papers, Selected Minutes of the Council of Fifty, from Miscellaneous Minutes, is the only version of the minutes available to the public. At the time of this printing, the Church History Library was not yet allowing access to the originals.

Thomas Bullock journal

The journals of the Council of Fifty recorder who was later a clerk in the Church Historian’s Office, they primarily document when the council met. They are available in the Church History Library.

Wilford Woodruff diary

The diary of the fourth president of the LDS church was published in 1983–85 by Signature Books, edited by Scott G. Kenney as Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833–1898: A Typescript.

Willard Richards journal

The journal of one of Joseph Smith’s secre­taries who later became Church Historian, the Richards documents are on the Church History Library website and available in Selected Collections.

William Clayton journal

Published in 1991 by Signature Books and edited by George D. Smith, the source cited throughout this volume is An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton, with occasional supplementary notes from portions that are still restricted to the public but were excerpted by D. Michael Quinn and deposited in the Quinn Papers.

William W. Taylor journal

The private writings of a son of an LDS apostle and a Council of Fifty member, this journal is kept at the Church History Library.

Members of the Council of Fifty

Adams, George J. Born 1811 in Oxford, N.J., raised in Boston. Prominent Mason and judge in Illinois. Inducted into council in spring 1844, dropped 1845-46. Died May 11, 1880, in Philadelphia.

Babbitt, Almon W. Born Oct. 1, 1813, in Berkshire County, Mass. Inducted into council in spring 1844. Official delegate of the Provisional State of Deseret. Killed in 1856 at Ash Hollow, Nebraska Territory.

Badlam, Alexander. Born Nov. 28, 1809, possibly in Dorchester, Mass. Inducted into council in spring 1844. Dropped 1845–46, reinducted in 1851, then dropped again. Helped settle Sacramento. Died Nov. 4, 1894, in San Francisco.

Benson, Ezra T. Born Feb. 22, 1811, in Mendon, Mass. Ordained to Quorum of Twelve in July 1846. Inducted into council Dec. 25, 1846, in Winter Quarters, Neb. Died Sept. 3, 1869, in Ogden.

Bent, Samuel. Born July 19, 1778, in Barre, Mass. Inducted into council on Mar. 19, 1844, in Nauvoo. Died Aug. 16, 1846, in Mt. Pisgah, Iowa.

Bernhisel, John M. Born June 23, 1799, in Loysville, Perry County, Penn. Member of Quorum of Anointed from 1843. Attended provisional meeting of council on Mar. 10, 1844, and was inducted the next day. Became Utah territorial delegate to U.S. Congress and church lobbyist. Died Sept. 28, 1881, in Salt Lake City.

Bonney, Edward. Born in 1807 in Essex County, N.Y. Inducted into council in spring 1844. Not a member of LDS church. Dropped from council in 1845–46. Became bounty hunter. Died Feb. 4, 1864, in Chicago.

Brown, Uriah. Born 1784 in Conn. Inducted into council on Mar. 19, 1844, in Nauvoo. Not a member of LDS church. Dropped from council in 1845–46, considered for readmission in 1851 but no action taken. Death date unknown.

Budge, William. Born May 1, 1828, in Lanark, Scotland. Became president of Bear Lake stake in Idaho. Inducted into council on June 24, 1882, in Salt Lake City. Died Mar. 1, 1919, in Logan.

Bullock, Thomas. Born Dec. 23, 1816, in Leek, Engl. Private secretary to Joseph Smith. Inducted into council on Dec. 25, 1846, in Winter Quarters, Neb., served as clerk. Became Assistant Church Historian. Died Feb. 10, 1885, in Coalville, Utah.

Burton, Robert T. Born Oct. 25, 1821, in Amherstburg, ON. Inducted into council on Jan. 23, 1867, in Salt Lake City. Called to Presiding Bishopric in 1874. Died Nov. 11, 1907, in Salt Lake City.

Cahoon, Reynolds. Born Apr. 30, 1790, in Cambridge, N.Y. Member of Presiding Bishopric in Ohio, member of Quorum of Anointed in Illinois. Attended provisional council meeting Mar. 10, 1844, and inducted the next day. Died Apr. 29, 1861, in Salt Lake City.

Caine, John T. Born Jan. 8, 1829, in Kirk Patrick, Isle of Man. Inducted into council on Apr. 8, 1881, in Salt Lake City, a year before becoming territorial delegate to U.S. Congress. Died Sept. 20, 1911, in Utah.

Cannon, Abraham H. Born Mar. 12, 1859, in Salt Lake City. Inducted into council on Oct. 9, 1884, in Salt Lake City. Ordained to Quorum of Twelve in Oct. 1889. Died July 19, 1896, in Salt Lake City.

Cannon, Angus M. Born May 17, 1834, in Liverpool, Engl. President of Salt Lake stake from 1876. Inducted into council on Apr. 10, 1880. Died June 17, 1915, in Salt Lake City.

Cannon, George Q. Born Jan. 11, 1827, in Liverpool, Engl. Ordained to Quorum of Twelve in Aug. 1860. Inducted into council on Jan. 23, 1867, in Salt Lake City, served as recorder. Called to First Presidency in 1873. Died Apr. 12, 1901, in Monterey, Calif.

Cannon, John Q. Born Apr. 19, 1857, in Salt Lake City. Inducted into council on Oct. 9, 1884, in Salt Lake City. Became editor of Deseret News, served in Spanish–American War, became member of Presiding Bishopric. Died Jan. 14, 1931, in Salt Lake City.

Carrington, Albert. Born Jan. 8, 1813, in Royalton, Vt. Inducted into council in Apr. 1845 in Nauvoo. Ordained to Quorum of Twelve in July 1870. Died Sept. 19, 1889, in Salt Lake City.

Clawson, Hiram B. Born Nov. 27, 1826, in Utica, N.Y. Became business manager for Brigham Young, superintendent of ZCMI cooperative. Inducted into council on June 27, 1882, in Salt Lake City; died there on Mar. 29, 1912.

Clayton, William. Born July 17, 1814, in Charnock Moss, Engl. Secretary to Joseph Smith and church hymnist. Attended provisional council meeting on Mar. 10, 1844, inducted the next day, appointed clerk. Died Dec. 4, 1879, in Salt Lake City.

Clinton, Jeter. Born Feb. 17, 1813, in Whitewater, Ind. Inducted into council on Jan. 25, 1867, in Salt Lake City. Became justice of the peace, city alderman. Died May 10, 1892, in Salt Lake City.

Cluff, William W. Born Mar. 8, 1832, in Willoughby, Ohio. Stake president and territorial legislator for Summit County (Park City). Inducted into council on Apr. 10, 1880, in Salt Lake City, died there Aug. 21, 1915.

Coolidge, Joseph W. Born May 31, 1814, in Bangor, Maine. Inducted into council on Apr. 18, 1844, in Nauvoo, became executor of Joseph Smith’s estate. Dropped from council in 1848–50. Died Jan. 15, 1871, in Coonville, Iowa.

Cutler, Alpheus. Born Feb. 29, 1784, in Upper Lisle, N.Y. Member of Nauvoo high council and Quorum of Anointed. Attended provisional council meeting on Mar. 10, 1844, inducted the next day, dropped between 1848–50. Died Aug. 10, 1864, in Shenandoah, Iowa.

Dana, Lewis. Born 1805 into Oneida Indian tribe. Served as liaison between Mormons and Indians. Inducted into council on Mar. 1, 1845, in Nauvoo, dropped from council in 1848–50. Died in 1885.

Daniels, Cyrus. Born Sept. 12, 1803, in Nelson, N.Y. One of first Mormon families to settle in Independence, Mo. Later sent to Wisconsin in search of timber lands. Inducted into council on Mar. 11, 1845, in Nauvoo. Died Dec. 1, 1846, in Winter Quarters, Neb.

Dunham, Jonathan. Born Jan. 14, 1800, in Paris, N.Y. Nauvoo police captain, wharf master, officer in Nauvoo Legion. Inducted into council on Mar. 1, 1845. Died July 28, 1845, in Newton County, Mo.

Eaton, Marenus G. Born Mar. 15, 1808. Inducted into council in Mar.–Apr. 1844. Not LDS. Dropped from council in 1845–46. Apparently engaged with Edward Bonney in counterfeiting. Died in 1861, place unknown.

Eldredge, Horace S. Born Feb. 6, 1816, in Brutus, N.Y. Inducted into council on Dec. 9, 1848, in Salt Lake City. Became church militia leader, territorial marshal, one of seven presidents of Seventy. Died Sept. 6, 1888, in Salt Lake City.

Emmett, James. Born Feb. 22, 1803, in Boone County, Ky. Became member of Iowa high council and Nauvoo police force. Inducted into Council of Fifty on Mar. 13, 1844. Dropped from council in 1845–46. Died Dec. 22, 1852, in San Bernardino, Calif.

Farnham, John W. Born Dec. 15, 1794, in Andover, Mass. Inducted into council in Apr. 1845, and received temple endowment eight months later on Christmas Day. Died in Illinois.

Farr, Lorin. Born July 27, 1820, in Waterford, Vt. Became mayor and stake president of Ogden in 1851. Inducted into council on Oct. 12, 1880, in Salt Lake City. Died Jan. 12, 1909, in Ogden.

Fielding, Amos. Born July 16, 1792, in Bolton, Engl. Served as church immigration agent in Liverpool. Attended provisional council meeting on Mar. 10, 1844, and was inducted the next day. Died Aug. 5, 1875, in Salt Lake City.

Fielding, Joseph. Born Mar. 26, 1797, in Honeydon, Engl. Presided over British Mission. Became member of Quorum of Anointed in Dec. 1843 and of Council of Fifty in Mar.–Apr. 1844. Died Dec. 19, 1863, in Salt Lake City.

Foster, Lucien R. Born 1806. Oversaw LDS church in New York City. Inducted into council on Mar. 1, 1845, in Nauvoo, dropped in 1846–47. Became professional photographer (daguerreotypes). Died Mar. 19, 1876, in Salt Lake City.

Fullmer, David. Born July 7, 1803, in Chillisquaque, Pa. Member of Nauvoo high council. Inducted into Council of Fifty on Mar. 1, 1845, in Nauvoo. Became member of Utah territorial legislature. Died Oct. 21, 1879, in Salt Lake City.

Fullmer, John S. Born July 21, 1807, in Huntington, Pa. Inducted into council in Apr. 1845 in Nauvoo. Immigrated to Utah in 1848 after serving as church agent in Illinois. Died Oct. 8, 1883, in Springville, Utah.

Gates, Jacob. Born Mar. 8, 1811, in Saint Johnsbury, Vt. One of seven presidents of Seventy and member of Utah legislature. Inducted into council on Oct. 10, 1882, in Salt Lake City. Died Apr. 14, 1892, in Provo.

Gibbs, George F. Born Nov. 23, 1846, in Haverfordwest, Wales. Secretary to First Presidency, son-in-law of future president Lorenzo Snow. Inducted into council on June 24, 1882, in Salt Lake City. Died Mar. 10, 1924, in same city.

Grant, George D. Born Sept. 10, 1812, in Windsor, N.Y. Became Danite in Missouri, inducted into council in Illinois on Sept. 9, 1845. Served as Brigham Young bodyguard and militia officer in Indian wars. Died Sept. 20, 1876, in Woods Cross, Utah.

Grant, Heber J. Born Nov. 22, 1856, in Salt Lake City. Inducted into council on June 26, 1882. Ordained as LDS apostle four months later, became president of church in 1918. Died May 14, 1945, in Salt Lake City.

Grant, Jedediah M. Born Feb. 21, 1816, in Windsor, N.Y. Inducted into council on May 6, 1844, in Nauvoo. Member of First Presidency from 1854. Died Dec. 1, 1856, in Salt Lake City.

Greene, John P. Born Sept. 3, 1793, in Herkimer, N.Y. Member of Ohio high council. Nauvoo city marshal. Inducted into Council of Fifty on Mar. 26, 1844. Died Sept. 10, 1844, in Nauvoo.

Hardy, Leonard W. Born Dec. 31, 1805, in Bradford, Mass. Member of Presiding Bishopric from 1856. Inducted into council on June 27, 1882, in Salt Lake City. Died there two years later on July 31, 1884.

Hatch, Abram. Born Jan. 3, 1830, in Lincoln, Vt. Member of Utah territorial legislature and stake president in Wasatch County (Heber). Inducted into council on June 29, 1883, in Salt Lake City. Died Dec. 2, 1911, in Heber.

Haws, Peter. Born Feb. 17, 1795, in Yonge, ON. High councilman (alternate) and Masonic lodge member in Nauvoo. Inducted into Council of Fifty on Mar. 11, 1844, and dropped in 1846–47. Died in 1862 in California.

Heywood, Joseph L. Born Aug. 1, 1815, in Grafton, Mass. Inducted into council on Dec. 6, 1848, in Salt Lake City. Died Oct. 16, 1910, in Panguitch, Utah.

Hollister, David S. Born in 1808 in Middleburg, N.Y. Steamboat captain and member of Nauvoo Masonic lodge. Inducted into council on Apr. 18, 1844, possibly dropped in 1847. Died in 1858.

Hooper, William H. Born Dec. 25, 1813, in Cambridge, Md. Utah territorial secretary and delegate to Congress. Inducted into council on Oct. 5, 1867, in Salt Lake City, where he died Dec. 30, 1882.

Hunter, Edward. Born June 22, 1793, in Newtown, Pa. Presiding Bishop from 1851. Inducted into council on Jan. 23, 1867. Died Oct. 16, 1883, in Salt Lake City.

Hyde, Orson. Born Jan. 8, 1805, in Oxford, Conn. Ordained to apostleship on Feb. 15, 1835. Inducted into council on Mar. 13, 1844, in Nauvoo. Died Nov. 28, 1878, in Spring City, Utah.

James, Samuel. Born 1814 in Pa. Member of Ohio high council. Inducted into Council of Fifty on Mar. 19, 1844, in Nauvoo, and dropped from council in 1845–46. Died 1876 in Steubenville, Ohio.

Jennings, William. Born Sept. 13, 1823. Inducted into council on Apr. 10, 1880. Founded Eagle Emporium and built Devereaux Mansion in Salt Lake City; became mayor of city in 1882. Died there on Jan. 15, 1886.

Johnson, Benjamin F. Born July 28, 1818, in Pomfret, N.Y. Served as Joseph Smith’s business manager. Inducted into council in Mar.–Apr. 1844 in Illinois. Elected to Utah territorial legislature, helped settle Colonia Díaz, Chih. Died Nov. 18, 1905, in Mesa, Ariz.

Kimball, Charles S. Born Jan. 2, 1843, in Nauvoo to Heber and Vilate Kimball. Fought in Utah’s Black Hawk War in 1866. Inducted into council the next year on Jan. 23. Died in Salt Lake City on Dec. 2, 1925.

Kimball, David P. Born Aug. 23, 1839, in Nauvoo to Heber and Vilate Kimball. Inducted into council on Jan. 23, 1867, in Salt Lake City. President of Bear Lake stake from 1869. Died Nov. 22, 1883, in Saint David, Ariz.

Kimball, Heber C. Born June 14, 1801, in Sheldon, Vt. Ordained to Quorum of Twelve in Feb. 1835, became member of Quorum of Anointed in 1842. Attended provisional Council of Fifty meeting, Mar. 10, 1844, and inducted the next day. Member of First Presidency from 1847. Died June 22, 1868, in Salt Lake City.

Kimball, Heber P. Born Jan. 1, 1835, in Kirtland to Heber and Vilate Kimball. Fought in Black Hawk War in Utah in 1866, inducted into council the next year on Jan. 23, 1867, in Salt Lake City, where he died Feb. 8, 1885.

Layton, Christopher. Born Mar. 8, 1822, in Thorncote Green, Engl. Founded Utah cities of Kaysville and Layton. Inducted into council on June 29, 1883, in Salt Lake City. Became Thatcher, Ariz., stake president in 1883. Died Aug. 7, 1898, in Kaysville.

Lee, John D. Born Sept. 6, 1812, in Kaskaskia, lll. Inducted into council on Mar. 1, 1845, in Nauvoo, served as clerk for Mar.–Aug. 1846 meetings. Executed for role in Mountain Meadows Massacre on Mar. 23, 1877, near Cedar City, Utah.

Lewis, Philip B. Born Jan. 16, 1804, in Marblehead, Mass. Inducted into council in Mar.–Apr. 1844 in Nauvoo. President of Sandwich Islands Mission, 1851. Died Nov. 13, 1879, in Kanab, Utah, where

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