We are excited to announce that Matthew J. Grow, Ronald K. Esplin, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat and Jeffrey D. Mahas, editors of The Joseph Smith Papers: Administrative Records: Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844-January 1846 (published by the Church Historian’s Press) will be here Wednesday, Sep 21, to speak about and sign copies of their book. They will be here from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.—speaking at 6:00 p.m.—and will answer questions and sign books before and after that time. We hope you will be able to make it that night but, if not, we can mail a signed copy or hold one here at the store for pick-up. To RSVP, click here.
On 11 March 1844 in Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph Smith organized a council that he and his closest associates saw as the beginning of the government of the literal kingdom of God on earth. The council, known both as the Council of the Kingdom of God and the Council of Fifty (it had roughly fifty members), operated under Smith’s leadership until his murder less than four months later. Following Smith’s death, the council met in Nauvoo under Brigham Young’s leadership from February 1845 to January 1846. The minutes of the council’s meetings, kept primarily by William Clayton, have never been publicly available. This volume of The Joseph Smith Papers publishes them for the first time.
Participants saw the council as distinct from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and anticipated that the council would “govern men in civil matters.” According to Joseph Smith, the council “was designed to be got up for the safety and salvation of the saints by protecting them in their religious rights and worship.” Nevertheless, because Smith and Young were leaders of both the church and the council, ecclesiastical concerns were frequently reflected in the council’s discussions.
The minutes reveal much about early Mormon thought on earthly and heavenly governments as council members wrestled with what it meant to establish the kingdom of God on earth and how that kingdom related to the church and to existing civil governments. Though council members generally used the term “theocracy” to describe the ideal form of government for the kingdom of God, their model also incorporated democratic elements. They believed that a “theodemocratic” government would protect the rights of all citizens, promote free discussion, involve Latter-day Saints and others, and increase righteousness in preparation for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
At the practical level, the Council of Fifty was a significant decision-making body. For instance, the council helped manage Joseph Smith’s 1844 presidential campaign. The council also provided a forum for making decisions about matters in Nauvoo, including construction of the Nauvoo temple and how to protect and govern the city after the state of Illinois repealed the Nauvoo municipal charter in January 1845. In addition, the council played a major role in exploring possible settlement sites—which included sending a delegate to the Republic of Texas and sending emissaries to various American Indian tribes—and in planning the migration of the Latter-day Saints to the American West.
The minutes capture the principles, protocols, and activities of the Council of Fifty as it was formed and operated in Nauvoo. While many of the actions taken by the council have been known through other documents, the minutes chronicle the deliberations that led to these decisions, providing an unparalleled view of decision making at the center of what participants viewed as the nascent kingdom of God on earth. The minutes of the Council of Fifty thus shed new light on the development of Latter-day Saint beliefs and on the history of Nauvoo and the church during this critical era, while also providing new perspectives on American religious history, political culture, and western migration in the nineteenth century.
“The publication of the Council of Fifty minutes as the first volume of the Administrative Records series in the Joseph Smith Papers can only be described as a triumph. The new volume is sure to be celebrated for its annotation and editing, another excellent addition to the papers project. But the minutes are also a triumph of the new transparency policy of the Church History Department. Over the years, the council minutes attained almost legendary status, as a trove of dark secrets sequestered in the recesses of the First Presidency’s vault. Now the minutes are to be published for all to examine.”
— Richard L. Bushman
Matthew J. Grow, Ronald K. Esplin, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Jeffrey D. Mahas are historians for the Church History Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Gerrit J. Dirkmaat is an assistant professor of religion at Brigham Young University.
The Joseph Smith Papers: Administrative Records: Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844-January 1846 by Matthew J. Grow, Ronald K. Esplin, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat and Jeffrey D. Mahas. The Church Historian’s Press, 2016. 788pp. Hardback. $59.95 (save 10% as a subscriber!).
**pre-order signed copies now–books will be available mid-September**
Other Titles by Matthew J. Grow
From the Outside Looking In: Essays on Mormon History, Theology, and Culture. Oxford University Press, 2015. Paperback. $35.00
Liberty to the Downtrodden: Thomas L. Kane, Romantic Reformer. Yale University Press, 2009. Reg. $40.00, SALE $24.99
Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism. Oxford University Press, 2011. Hardback. Reg. $34.95, SALE $24.99
The Prophet and the Reformer: The Letters of Brigham Young & Thomas L. Kane. Oxford University Press, 2015. Hardback. $39.95. Limited quantities also signed by co-editor Ronald W. Walker
Other Titles by Ronald K. Esplin
The Emergence of Brigham Young and the Twelve to Mormon Leadership. BYU Studies, 2006. Paperback. $19.95 (limited number of used copies of this title)
Other Titles by Gerrit J. Dirkmaat
From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon. Religious Studies Center/Deseret Book, 2015. Hardback. $24.99
Previous Volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers
1. Journals, Vol. 1 (1832-1839), $49.95 (2008)
2. Revelations & Translations: Manuscript Revelation Books – Facsimile Ed., Reg. $99.95, SALE $79.99 (2009)
Includes full-color scans for every page in the two revelation books as well as color-coded transcriptions on the facing page.
3. Revelations & Translations. Manuscript Revelation Books – Vol. 1, $79.95 (2011)
This volume is simply a different version of #2. This edition does not include all the full-color scans of the original manuscripts (there are a few examples, though) but does include the transcriptions. In addition, this version is the regular size (like #1 and #4). Thus, this is not technically a new volume but a smaller, condensed version of an already published volume.
4. Revelations & Translations, Vol. 2: Published Revelations, Reg. $69.95, SALE $19.99 (2011)
5. Journals, Vol. 2 (1841-1843), Reg. $54.95, SALE $19.99 (2011)
6. Histories, Vol. 1: Joseph Smith Histories (1832-1844), $54.95 (2012)
7. Histories, Vol. 2: Assigned Histories (1831-1847), Reg. $54.95, SALE $19.99 (2012)
8. Documents, Vol. 1: July 1828 – June 1831, $54.95 (2013)
9. Documents, Vol. 2: July 1831 – January 1833, $54.95 (2013)
10. Documents, Vol. 3: February 1833-March 1834, $54.95 (2014)
11. Revelations & Translations, Vol. 3: The Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon (2 parts), $89.99/ea (2015)
12. Journals, Vol. 3—May 1843-June 1844, $57.95 (2015)
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