IN the absence of Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon presided over the church at Kirtland and took the general oversight of the affairs of the church. The principal work to which attention was given was the erection of the Temple, on which all worked under most adverse circumstances and at great sacrifice.
Heber C Kimball records in his journal that he returned from Missouri to Kirtland on July 26, 1834. He then states:—
"At this time the brethren were laboring night and day building the house of the Lord. Our women were engaged in spinning and knitting in order to clothe those who were laboring at the building, and the Lord only knows the scenes of poverty, tribulation, and distress which we passed through in order to accomplish this thing. My wife toiled all summer in lending her aid towards its accomplishment. She had a hundred pounds of wool, which, with the assistance of a girl, she spun in order to furnish clothing for those engaged in the building of the Temple; and although she had the privilege of keeping half the quantity of wool for herself, as a recompense for her labor, she did not reserve even so much as would make her a pair of stockings, but gave it for those who were laboring at the house of the Lord. She spun and wove, and got the cloth dressed and cut and made up into garments, and gave them to those men who labored on the Temple. Almost all the sisters in Kirtland
labored in knitting, sewing, spinning, etc., for the purpose of forwarding the work of the Lord, while we went up to Missouri to endeavor to reinstate our brethren on their lands, from which they had been driven. Elder Rigdon when addressing the brethren upon the importance of building this house, spake to this effect: that we should use every effort to accomplish this building by the time appointed; and if we did, the Lord would accept it at our hands; and on it depends the salvation of the church and also of the world. Looking at the sufferings and poverty of the church, he frequently used to go upon the walls of the building both by night and day and frequently wetting the walls with his tears, crying aloud to the Almighty to send means whereby we might accomplish the building. After we returned from our journey to the West, the whole church united in this undertaking, and every man lent a helping hand. Those who had no teams went to work in the stone quarry and prepared the stones for drawing to the house. President Joseph Smith, Jr., being our foreman in the quarry; the Presidency, high priests, and elders all alike assisting. Those who had teams assisted in drawing the stone to the house. These all laboring one day in the week, brought as many stones to the house as supplied the masons through the whole week. We continued in this manner until the walls of the house were reared. The committee who were appointed by revelation to superintend the building of the house were, Hyrum Smith, Reynolds Cahoon, and Jared Carter. These men used every exertion in their power to forward the work." —Times and Seasons, vol. 6, pp. 867, 868.
During the summer the Evening and Morning Star was published monthly at Kirtland, by Oliver Cowdery. From the May number we learn of the establishment of branches in the following places: Sugar Creek, Shelby County, Indiana, with nineteen members; Drury Creek, Campbell County, Kentucky, eight members; five or six small branches in New York; a branch at Freedom, twenty six members; of seven being baptized at Salisbury, Connecticut. The June number contains notices of conferences to be held at Andover, Vermont,
July 19 and 20; at Benson, Vermont, July 26; and at Bolton, New York, August 2, 1834.
During the summer an attack was made on the faith by Alexander Campbell, through The Millennial Harbinger, which was answered by Oliver Cowdery through the Evening and Morning Star.
On August 11, 1834, the High Council of Kirtland met to investigate charges preferred against President Joseph Smith, by Sylvester Smith, a member of the High Council, charging him with "criminal conduct during his journey to and from Missouri." After a lengthy examination, during which several of those who went with him were examined, the council vindicated and exonerated Joseph.
Notwithstanding this Sylvester Smith continued to assert his complaints, and Sidney Rigdon preferred charges against him before the High Council as follows:—
"To Newel K. Whitney, Bishop of the Church of Latter Day Saints in Kirtland; Sir:—I prefer the following charges against Sylvester Smith, a high priest of said church:—
"1st.. He has refused to submit to the decision of a council of the high priests and elders of this church, held in this place on the 11th of this month, given in a case of difficulty between said Sylvester Smith and Joseph Smith, Jun.
"2d. He continues to charge said Joseph Smith, contrary to the decision of the before-mentioned council, with improper conduct in his proceedings as President of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, during his journey the past season to the State of Missouri. As these things are exceedingly grievous to many of the saints in Kirtland, and very prejudicial to the cause of truth in general, I therefore require that you summon the High Council of this church, to investigate this case, that a final decision may be had upon the same. I say the High Council, because it is a case affecting the Presidency of said church.
|"Kirtland, Ohio, August 23, 1834."|
|—Millennial Star, vol. 15, p. 170.|
The council met on August 28, 1834, and after a thorough examination rendered a verdict that fully vindicated President
Smith and required his accuser to make public confession of his wrong.
The August number of the Evening and Morning Star contains a notice of a conference to be held in Norton, Ohio, and the minutes of a conference held at Saco, Maine. The minutes are as follows:—
|"Saco, June 15, 1834.|
"Bro. O. Cowdery:—I take this opportunity to forward to you the minutes of the conference held in this place on the 13th day of the present month. It was an interesting scene, and no doubt will prove beneficial, and much good proceed from it. The public meeting commenced at half-past ten o'clock; those that stood in defense of the cause of God were blessed with the Spirit, and the people gave good attention. At four o'clock p. m. the elders' conference commenced—the conference came to order, and Jared Carter was chosen moderator. After prayer the conference made choice of Sylvester B. Stoddard, for clerk. It was then moved that the elders present proceed to give an account of themselves and the several churches to which they belonged. They then proceeded, and seventeen branches of the church were represented, and said to be in good standing. Two of the branches represented are located in Pennsylvania, three in the State of New York, and the remaining twelve east of the State of New York. We have also heard of twenty-three branches in York State, and other places east of Ohio, which are not represented in this conference.
"There were many interesting narratives of the travels of the brethren related, which were edifying. Bro. John F. Boynton then addressed the conference. Much instruction was given, and his address very appropriate. The conference then adjourned to seven o'clock a. m. on the next day, when we again met, and after prayer Bro. Jared Carter made known his mission concerning the building of the house of the Lord in Kirtland. By the voice of the conference it was agreed that there should be a contribution. The conference then adjourned till five o'clock p. m., in order to attend public meeting. After the meeting the conference again met, and after prayer proceeded to business. It was then motioned
and seconded that the elders, priests, teachers, and deacons in this conference abide by the Word of Wisdom, and passed by a unanimous vote. The subject of ordination then came before the conference, and six were ordained — three to the lesser priesthood, one to the office of a teacher, and two to the office of deacon, which was done in the name of the Lord. The conference then voted to appoint a conference in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, on the 28th day of the present month, and then closed by prayer. On the following day, being the first day of the week, we again repaired to the meetinghouse, where a numerous concourse had assembled to hear the word of the Lord, and God manifested himself to his servants and they were enabled to lay before them the great work of the Lord, and the glory of his kingdom which has been revealed in these last days. The people listened in a very becoming manner, and many were heard to say, 'We have heard the truth to-day;' and according to the appearance much good may proceed from the interview that we have had with the people in this section. There have been several baptized since the commencement of this conference, and some from a distance, who came to investigate the work, have united themselves with the people of God, and have returned with an olive leaf. The Lord has been pleased to manifest himself by accompanying the administration of laying on hands for reception of the Holy Ghost, in a manner convincing to all around, even to those that were not disciples! And as there were many from different parts, it will be likely to make room for the spread of the glorious gospel of Christ, and the upbuilding of his kingdom that he has established in these last days; which may God grant for the Redeemer's sake.
|"I remain yours, etc.,|
|"Sylvester B. Stoddard,|
"Clerk of Conference."
—Evening and Morning Star, vol. 2, pp. 360, 361.
"The excitement of the people began to repose, and the saints, both in Missouri and Ohio, began to enjoy a little peace. The elders began to go forth, two and two, preaching
the word to all that would hear, and many were added to the church monthly.
"September 1, 1834. I continued to preside over the church in Kirtland, and in forwarding the building of the house of the Lord. I acted as foreman in the Temple stone quarry, and when other duties would permit, labored with my own hands.—Millennial Star, vol. 15, P. 181.
A conference was held September 8,1834, at New Portage, Ohio, over which Joseph Smith presided and Oliver Cowdery acted as clerk; the business of which, though of local importance, is of little historical value.
The High Council, of Kirtland, convened September 24, 1834, a conference being in session at the same time. At this council Sylvester Smith was dropped from membership in the High Council, but was permitted to retain his office as a high priest. The President nominated Hyrum Smith to succeed him. This nomination was confirmed both by the council and the conference. Elders John P. Green and Brigham Young were chosen to act as members of the council, pro tem. in the places of Jared Carter and Martin Harris, who were absent.
In this council Elders Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and F. G. Williams were appointed a committee "to arrange the items of the doctrine of Jesus Christ," for the government of the church; with the provision that, "These items are to be taken from the Bible, Book of Mormon, and the revelations which have been given unto the church, up to this date, or shall be until such arrangements are made." To this committee was intrusted the duty of arranging and publishing the "Book of Covenants."
A resolution was passed providing: "that high priests be ordained hereafter, in the High Council at Kirtland, and receive license, signed by the clerk of the council."
Of the busy events of those times Joseph writes:—
"Great exertions were made to expedite the work of the Lord's house; and notwithstanding it was commenced, as it
were, with nothing, as to means, yet the way opened as we proceeded, and the saints rejoiced.
"October. The former part of October was spent in arranging matters respecting the Lord's house and the printing office; for it had previously been published that the Evening and Morning Star would be discontinued, and a new paper, entitled The Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, issued in its place.
"Having accomplished all that could be done at present, on the 16th of the month, I, in company with my brother, Hyrum Smith, and Elders David Whitmer, F. G. Williams, Oliver Cowdery, and Roger Orton, left Kirtland for the purpose of visiting some saints in the State of Michigan, where, after a tolerably pleasant journey, we arrived at Pontiac on the 20th.
"While on our way up the lake, on board the steamer Monroe, Elder Cowdery had a short discourse with a man calling his name Elmer. He said he was 'personally acquainted with Joe Smith;' had 'heard him preach his lies,' and now 'since he was dead,' 'he was glad!' He had heard Joe Smith preach in Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York, five years since; he knew it to be him, that 'he was a dark complexioned man,' etc. He appeared to exult the most in that Joe was dead, and made his observations in my presence. I concluded he had learned it from the popular priests of the day, who, through fear that their craft will be injured, if their systems are compared with the truth, seek to ridicule those that teach it; and thus am I suffering under the tongue of slander, for Christ's sake, unceasingly. God have mercy on such, if they will quit their lying. I need not state my complexion to those that have seen me; and those who have read my history thus far, will recollect that five years ago, I was not a preacher, as Elmer represented; neither was I ever in Bainbridge.
"After preaching, and teaching the saints, as long as our time would allow, we returned to Kirtland, greatly refreshed from our journey, and much pleased with our friends in that section of the Lord's vineyard.
"It now being the last of the month, and the elders beginning to come in, it was necessary to make preparations for
the school for the elders, wherein they might be more perfectly instructed in the great things of God, during the coming winter. A building for a printing office was nearly finished, and the lower story of this building was set apart for that purpose (the school) when it was completed. So the Lord opened the way according to our faith and works, and blessed be his name.
"No month ever found me more busily engaged than November; but as my life consisted of activity and unyielding exertions, I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it." —Millennial Star, vol. 15, pp. 183, 184.
The last number of the Evening and Morning Star was issued in September, 1834, and it was succeeded by the Messenger and Advocate, the first number appearing in October, 1834.
Oliver Cowdery, who had been editor of the Star since its removal to Kirtland, was also editor of the Messenger and Advocate. In his opening "address" he lays down clearly the platform upon which he and the people he represents propose to stand, and invites criticism from "men of character and respectability." 1
In the first number of the Messenger and Advocate is a letter from Sylvester Smith confessing his wrong in his difficulty with President Joseph Smith and fully exonerating President Smith. 2
On November 25, 1834, a revelation was given to W. A. Cowdery. 3
There is, in the December number of the Messenger and Advocate, a letter from Joseph Smith which is valuable for two points, at least; namely: It explains what is meant, in the early part of his history, by his reference to many vices and follies of which he was guilty; and second, that he had not claimed to be more than a man subject to error and dependent upon the grace of God. 4
This number also contains intelligence from Elders D. W. Patten and W. Parrish that they had opened the work in Tennessee, were preaching to large congregations, and had baptized seven at Paris. Letters from James Blakeslee, Woodville, New York; D. Nelson and M. Wilbur, Providence, Rhode Island; B. F. Bird, Southport, New York; John Lawson, Kortright, New York; W. A. Cowdery, Freedom, New York; Zerubbabel Snow, Mount Pleasant, Canada; Zebedee Coltrin and N. West, Liberty, Indiana; Abel Allton, Jay, Vermont; and J. H. Hitchcock and S. Chase, Franklin County, Missouri, give encouraging accounts of the spread of the work at that period.
On the 29th of November, 1834, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery made covenant, which will be seen to be quite in harmony with the general law of tithing. A few items from the pen of Joseph Smith will be of interest here:—
"On the evening of the 29th of November, I united in prayer with Brother Oliver, for the continuance of blessings. After giving thanks for the relief which the Lord had lately sent us by opening the hearts of the brethren from the east, to loan us four hundred and thirty dollars; after commencing and rejoicing before the Lord on this occasion, we agreed to enter into the following covenant with the Lord; viz.:—
"'That if the Lord will prosper us in our business, and open the way before us, that we may obtain means to pay our debts, that we be not troubled nor brought into disrepute before the world, nor his people; after that, of all that he shall give us, we will give a tenth, to be bestowed upon the poor in his church, or as he shall command; and that we will be faithful over that which he has intrusted to our care, that we may obtain much; and that our children after us, shall remember to observe this sacred and holy covenant; and that our children, and our children's children, may know of the same, we have subscribed our names with our own hands.
"'JOSEPH SMITH, JR.
"'And now, O Father, as thou didst prosper our father Jacob, and bless him with protection and prosperity wherever he went, from the time he made a like covenant before and with thee; as thou didst, even the same night, open the heavens unto him, and manifest great mercy and power, and give him promises, so wilt thou do with us his sons; and as his blessings prevailed above his progenitors unto the utmost bounds of the everlasting hills, even so may our blessings prevail like his; and may thy servants be preserved from the power and influence of wicked and unrighteous men; may every weapon formed against us fall upon the head of him who shall form it; may we be blessed with a
name and a place among thy saints here, and thy sanctified when they shall rest. Amen.'
"While reflecting upon the goodness and mercy of God this evening (November 30) a prophecy was put into our hearts, that in a short time the Lord would arrange his providences in a merciful manner, and send us assistance to deliver us from debt and bondage.
"December 1. Our school for the elders was now well attended, and with the lectures on theology, which were regularly delivered, absorbed for the time being everything else of a temporal nature. The classes being mostly elders, gave the most studious attention to the all-important object of qualifying themselves, as messengers of Jesus Christ, to be ready to do his will in carrying glad tidings to all that would open their eyes, ears, and hearts." —Millennial Star, vol. 15, pp. 203, 204.
Thus ended the year 1834 in Kirtland; the Temple building in progress and a special effort being made to complete it; the elders striving to qualify themselves for greater usefulness; while cheering news was reaching them from many places.
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1 That our principles may be fully known we here state them briefly:—
We believe in God, and his Son Jesus Christ. We believe that God from the beginning, revealed himself to man; and that whenever he has had a people on earth, he always has revealed himself to them by the Holy Ghost, the ministering of angels, or his own voice. We do not believe that he ever had a church on earth without revealing himself to that church: consequently, there were apostles, prophets, evangelists pastors, and teachers, in the same. We believe that God is the same in all ages; and that it requires the same holiness, purity, and religion, to save a man now, as it did anciently; and that, as he is no respecter of persons, always has, and always will reveal himself to men when they call upon him.
We believe that God has revealed himself to men in this age, and commenced to raise up a church preparatory to his second advent, when he will come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
We believe that the popular religious theories of the day are incorrect; that they are without parallel in the revelations of God, as sanctioned by him; and that however faithfully they may be adhered to, or however zealously and warmly they may be defended, they will never stand the strict scrutiny of the word of life.
We believe that all men are born free and equal; that no man, combination of men, or government of men, have power or authority to compel or force others to embrace any system of religion, or religious creed, or to use force or violence to prevent others from enjoying their own opinions, or practicing the same, so long as they do not molest or disturb others in theirs, in a manner to deprive them of their privileges
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as free citizens or of worshipping God as they choose and that any attempt to the contrary is an assumption unwarrantable in the revelations of heaven and strikes at the root of civil liberty and is a subversion of all equitable principles between man and man.
We believe that God has set his hand the second time to recover the remnant of his people Israel, and that the time is near when he will bring them from the four winds, with songs of everlasting joy and reinstate them upon their own lands which he gave their fathers by covenant.
And further: We believe in embracing good wherever it may be found; of proving all things and holding fast that which is righteous.
This in short is our belief and we stand ready to defend it upon its own foundation whenever it is assailed by men of character and respectability. And while we act upon these broad principles we trust in God that we shall never be confounded!
Neither shall we wait for opposition; but with a firm reliance upon the justice of such a course and the propriety of disseminating a knowledge of the same we shall endeavor to persuade men to turn from error and vain speculation; investigate the plan which heaven has devised for our salvation; prepare for the year of recompense and the day of vengeance which are near and thereby be ready to meet the Bridegroom!
|Kirtland, Ohio October 1834.|
|—Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1 p. 2.|
2 "Dear Brother:—Having heard that certain reports are circulating abroad prejudicial to the character of Bro. Joseph Smith Jr. and that said reports purport to have come from me I have thought proper to give the public a plain statement of the fact concerning this matter. It is true that some difficulties arose between Bro. J. Smith, Jr., and myself in our travels the past summer to Missouri; and that on our return to this place I laid my grievances before a general council where they were investigated in full in an examination which lasted several days; and the result showed to the satisfaction of all present I believe but especially to myself, that in all things Bro. J. S., Jr. had conducted worthily and adorned his profession as a man of God while journeying to and from Missouri. And it is no more than just that I should confess my faults by saying unto all people so far as your valuable and instructive paper has circulation that the things that I accused Bro. S. of were without foundation; as was most clearly proven by the evidence which was called to my satisfaction. And in fact I have not at any time withdrawn my confidence and fellowship from Bro. J. S. Jr. but thought that he had inadvertently erred, being but flesh and blood, like the rest of Adam's family. But I am now perfectly satisfied that the errors of which I accused him before the council did not exist and were never committed by him; and my contrition has been and still continues to be deep because I admitted thoughts into my heart which were not right concerning him and because that I have been the means of giving rise to reports which have gone abroad censuring the conduct of Bro. J. S. Jr. which reports are without foundation. And I hope that this disclosure of the truth written by my own hand and sent abroad into the world through the medium of the Messenger and Advocate, will put a
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final end to all evil reports and censurings which have sprung out of anything that I have said or done.
I wish still further to state for the better relief of my own feelings which you must be sensible are deeply wounded, in consequence of what has happened that I know for myself because I have received testimony from the heavens that the work of the Lord brought forth by means of the Book of Mormon in our day through the instrumentality of Bro. Joseph Smith Jr. is eternal truth and must stand though the heavens and the earth pass away.
Please give publicity to the above and oblige a lover of righteousness and truth.
|Yours in the testimony of Jesus,|
|To O. Cowdery, Kirtland October 28 1834.|
|—Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1 pp. 10, 11.|
3 1. It is my will that my Servant, Warren A. Cowdery should be appointed and ordained a presiding high priest over my church in the land of Freedom and the regions round about and should preach my everlasting gospel, and lift up his voice and warn the people not only in his own place, but in the adjoining countries, and devote his whole time in this high and holy calling which I now give unto him seeking diligently the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness and all things necessary shall be added thereunto; for the laborer is worthy of his hire.
2. And again verily I say unto you The coming of the Lord draweth nigh and it overtaketh the world as a thief in the night; therefore gird up your loins that you may be the children of the light and that day shall not overtake you as s thief.
3. And again, verily I say unto you, There was joy in heaven when my servant Warren, bowed to my scepter and separated himself from the crafts of men; therefore blessed is my servant Warren for I will have mercy on him and notwithstanding the vanity of his heart I will lift him up inasmuch as he will humble himself before me; and I will give him grace and assurance wherewith he may stand; and if he continues to be a faithful witness and a light unto the church I have prepared a crown for him in the mansions of my Father. Even so. Amen.
4Brother O. Cowdery:—Having learned from the first number of the Messenger and Advocate that you were, not only about to give a history of the rise and progress of the Church of the Latter Day Saints; but that said history would necessarily embrace my life and character I have been induced to give you the time and place of my birth; as I have learned that many of the opposers of those principles which I have held
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forth to the world profess a personal acquaintance with me though when in my presence represent me to be another person in age education and stature, from what I am.
I was born, (according to the record of the same kept by my parents ) in the town of Sharon Windsor County Vermont on the 23d of December 1805.
At the age of ten my father's family removed to Palmyra, New York where and in the vicinity of which I lived or made it my place of residence until I was twenty-one—the latter part in the town of Manchester.
During this time, as is common to most of all youths I fell into many vices and follies; but as my accusers are and have been forward to accuse me of being guilty of gross and outrageous violations of the peace and good order of the community I take the occasion to remark that though as I have said above "as is common to most, of all youths, I fell into many vices and follies," I have not, neither can it be sustained in truth been guilty of wronging or injuring any man or society of men; and those imperfections to which I allude and for which I have often had occasion to lament were a light and too often vain mind exhibiting a foolish and trifling conversation.
This being all and the worst that my accusers can substantiate against my moral character I wish to add that it is not without a deep feeling of regret that I am thus called upon in answer to my own conscience, to fulfill a duty I owe to myself as well as to the cause of truth in making this public confession of my former uncircumspect walk and unchaste conversation: and more particularly, as I often acted in violation of those holy precepts which I knew came from God. But as the "Articles and Covenants" of this church are plain upon this particular point I do not deem it important to proceed further. I only add that I do not nor never have pretended to be any other than a man subject to passion and liable without the assisting grace of the Savior to deviate from that perfect path in which all men are commanded to walk!
By giving the above a place in your valuable paper you will confer a lasting favor upon myself as an individual and as I humbly hope subserve the cause of righteousness.
I am, with feelings of esteem your fellow laborer in the gospel of our Lord,
JOSEPH SMITH, JR.
—Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1,