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Council of Fifty

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Title: Council of Fifty  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: List of members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (LDS Church), Alexander Badlam, William Clayton (Mormon), Anointed Quorum, Alpheus Cutler
Collection: 1844 Establishments in Illinois, 1945 Disestablishments in the United States, American Christian Political Organizations, Christian Political Organizations, Defunct Latter Day Saint Organizations, Defunct Organizational Subdivisions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, History of the Latter Day Saint Movement, Latter Day Saint Hierarchy, Leadership Positions in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Members of the Council of Fifty, Religious Organizations Established in 1844
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Council of Fifty

The Council of Fifty (also known as the Living Constitution, the Kingdom of God, or its name by revelation, The Kingdom of God and His Laws with the Keys and Power thereof, and Judgment in the Hands of His Servants, Ahman Christ)[1] was a Joseph Smith in 1844 to symbolize and represent a future theocratic or theodemocratic "Kingdom of God" on the earth.[2] Smith and his successor Brigham Young hoped to create this Kingdom in preparation for the Millennium and the Second Coming of Jesus.

The political Kingdom of God, organized around the Council of Fifty, was meant to be a force of peace and order in the midst of this chaos. According to Mormon teachings, while Heber J. Grant died in 1945.[4]


  • Establishment 1
  • Composition and organization 2
  • Role of the Council in Joseph Smith's administration 3
  • Role of the Council in the Utah Territory and state of Utah 4
  • Publication of minutes 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8


In early Mormonism, God's Kingdom was thought of as an amalgamation between two distinct yet intimately related parts. The first is the Spiritual Kingdom of God which is represented on earth by the Church of Christ. This, Mormons believe, was described in the Book of Daniel 2:44–45 as the stone "cut out of the mountain without hands" that will roll forth to fill the whole earth. In Daniel, this kingdom was never to "be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever."[5] However, in conjunction with this Spiritual Kingdom, Joseph Smith and other early Latter Day Saint leaders believed that Jesus would establish a Political Kingdom of God in the turbulent times leading up to His second coming.[6] God's Political Kingdom was to be centered around the Council of Fifty.

Like many in the mid-19th century, the Mormons believed that the second coming of Jesus was imminent, and would be attended by great destruction. After this destruction occurred, some structure would be necessary to politically organize the survivors. Joseph Smith said he received a revelation on April 7, 1842 calling for the establishment of an organization called the Living Constitution, or later the Council of Fifty. This would serve as the foundation for the establishment of Christ's

  • Andrus, Hyrum Leslie (1958), Joseph Smith and World Government, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, .  
  •   .
  • .  
  • Ehat, Andrew F. (1980), "It Seems Like Heaven Began on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Constitution of the Kingdom of God", BYU Studies 20: 253–79 .
  • Firmage, Edwin Brown; Mangrum, Richard Collin (1988), Zion in the Courts: A Legal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1900, University of Illinois Press, .  
  • Godfrey, Kenneth W. (1992), "Council of Fifty", in .  
  • Hansen, Klaus J. (1974) [1967], Quest for Empire: The Political Kingdom of God and the Council of Fifty in Mormon History, Michigan State University Press, .  
  • Hansen, Klaus J. (1992), "Chapter 13: The Metamorphosis of the Kingdom of God: Toward a Reinterpretation of Mormon History", in .  
  • Melville, J. Keith (1960), "Theory and Practice of Church and State During the Brigham Young Era" (PDF), BYU Studies 3 (1): 33–55 .
  •  .
  • .  
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  • Rogers, Jedediah S. (2014), The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History, Salt Lake City: Signature Books, .  


  1. ^ Quinn 1980, p. 167; Ehat 1980, p. 256.
  2. ^ Quinn 1980, p. 165
  3. ^ Ehat 1980, pp. 256–57
  4. ^ Quinn 1980, p. 185
  5. ^ Daniel 2:44 (KJV)
  6. ^ Journal of Discourses 1:202–3, 2:189, and 17:156–7.
  7. ^ Cummings, The Conspiracy of Nauvoo, The Contributor, 1884, pp. 251-260, available online at retrieved June 21, 2014.
  8. ^ Alexander L. Baugh and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, “I Roll the Burthen and Responsibility of Leading This Church Off from My Shoulders on to Yours”: The 1844/1845 Declaration of the Quorum of the Twelve Regarding Apostolic Succession, BYU Studies Vol 49:3 (2010), p. 18.
  9. ^ Cummings, The Conspiracy of Nauvoo, The Contributor, 1884, p. 253, available online at retrieved June 21, 2014.
  10. ^ Clayton 1844–1846, pp. 265, 267
  11. ^ Millennial Star 10:81-88
  12. ^ Clayton 1846–1847, p. 196
  13. ^ Rogers 2014, pp. 76–77
  14. ^ Rogers 2014
  15. ^ Quinn 1994
  16. ^ Rogers 2014
  17. ^ Rogers 2014, pp. 32–33
  18. ^ Rogers 2014, pp. 59–69
  19. ^ Quinn 1994, pp. 132–141
  20. ^ See minutes of meeting of Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, 12 February 1849, p. 3 [LDS Archives], cited in Quinn 1997, p. 238.
  21. ^ Melville 1960, p. 33
  22. ^ Rogers 2014, pp. 257–366
  23. ^ Lloyd, R. Scott (September 7, 2013), "Newest volume published for the Joseph Smith Papers Project",  .


See also

In 2013, the First Presidency of the LDS Church approved the publication of the minutes of the Council of Fifty as one of the upcoming volumes of the ongoing Joseph Smith Papers project.[23]

Publication of minutes

The Council resurfaced during the administration of John Taylor, to combat federal involvement in overseeing Utah elections.[22] The Council's last recorded meeting was in 1884.

The council was to act as a legislative body in the Kingdom of God,[21] and in Utah Territory upon petition by the church. After Utah became a territory, the American expectation for a separation between church and state sharply diminished the Council's official role in government. The Council then suspended meetings in October 1851. The council met again only briefly in 1867 and 1868 and voted for the establishment of Zion's Co-operative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI).

The Council assisted in the Mormon Exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois and the eventual migration to the Great Basin area of what is now Utah. Young relied upon the results of scouting missions by members of the Council in choosing the Great Basin as a destination for their exodus from Nauvoo, over several alternate possibilities including Texas, California, Oregon, and Vancouver Island.

After Smith's death, the Council anointed Brigham Young its leader, and as the "king and president" of the Kingdom of God.[20] Under Young, the council helped organize the trek west from Nauvoo in 1846, and it largely governed the unorganized territory of Utah until Congress granted territorial status in 1850.

Role of the Council in the Utah Territory and state of Utah

The second duty of the Council was to assist in Joseph Smith's 1844 campaign for President of the United States. Smith ran on a platform among church members of bringing restitution for land and property lost in Missouri, eliminating slavery, compensating slave-owners with the sale of private lands, reducing the salaries of members of Congress, eliminating debt imprisonment, etc. Members of the Council campaigned throughout the United States. Besides sending out hundreds of political missionaries to campaign for Smith throughout the U.S., they also appointed fellow members of the Fifty as political ambassadors to Russia, the Republic of Texas, Washington D.C., England, and France. However, Smith was murdered by a large mob in the midst of his presidential campaign.[19] The campaign was meant to draw greater attention to the plight of the Mormons, who had received no state or federal restitution for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property lost to mob violence in relation to the 1838 Mormon War. However, the Nauvoo Expositor incident, Smith's Presidential campaign, and even hyperbolic and inaccurate rumors about the Council of Fifty helped create the local unrest that led to his assassination.

While much of the rhetoric in Council of Fifty meetings focused on the council's millennial reign, in practice, the council performed two duties during its brief existence under Joseph Smith.[16] First, it sought out territorial lands for Mormons to settle, primarily in Texas and Oregon territory. The council sent emissary and council member Lucien Woodworth to meet with Sam Houston and the Texas government, then an independent nation.[17] The council also sent emissaries to Washington, D.C. to meet with members of Congress in the hopes of passing a resolution to allow Joseph Smith to be appointed General and march 100,000 volunteers to Oregon Territory.[18]

Role of the Council in Joseph Smith's administration

There are forty-six known members of the pre-martyrdom Council of Fifty. It included all members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the time in which it was active both in Nauvoo and in Utah. Notably, it did not include the two counselors to the First Presidency in Nauvoo, Sidney Rigdon and William Law. Other members included:

William Clayton served as clerk of the Kingdom from 1844–1879. In 1880, he was followed in office by L. John Nuttall. John Taylor's son William Whittaker Taylor was assistant clerk from 1880-1884.

Smith served as the president of the Council during his lifetime, after which Brigham Young presided, and then John Taylor. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who each were members of the Council, had a special leadership role. However, all actions by the body were officially to be taken only after unanimous vote. During Smith's lifetime, meetings of the Council were held in secret. The Council of Fifty met irregularly for most of its forty-year existence, including March–June 1844, 1845–1846, more regularly from 1848 to 1850, then only a handful of times between 1851 and 1868. The council was reconstituted under President John Taylor in April 1880 and met more regularly for another five years.[14]

Unlike other purely religious organizations formed by Joseph Smith, members of the Council of Fifty were not necessarily Latter Day Saints. At its formation, there were three non-Mormon members: Marenus G. Eaton, who had revealed a conspiracy against Smith by Nauvoo dissenters; Edward Bonney, whose brother was a Mormon but who later acted as prosecutor against Smith for his role in the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor; and Uriah Brown. Their admittance reflected Mormon teachings that the Millennial theocracy would be multi-denominational, though Jesus himself would be king.[11] Although Brigham Young did not admit non-Mormons to the Council during his administration, he invited both Mormons and non-Mormons to be part of the theocracy,[12] and even part of the theocratic government. All three nonmembers would be expelled in early 1845 once Brigham Young became chairman of the council.[13]

Composition and organization

According to sic]"

For some reason the conspiracy did not immediately attack after the conspirators took their murderous oaths as witnessed by the two spies. Perhaps believing the danger was past, Joseph Smith was "chosen as our Prophet, Priest, and King by Hosannas," as recorded by "clerk of the Kingdom", William Clayton, on April 11, 1844.[10] However Law and his conspirators would go on to publish the Nauvoo Expositor, starting a chain of events leading to Joseph's death on June 27, 1844.

The similarity in the foreboding sentiment expressed to the apostles and to the young spies is striking. [9] The timing of the last meeting of the Law conspiracy appears to have been Sunday, March 31, as Joseph told two young men who were infiltrating the conspiracy, "If you have to die, die like men... but I hardly think they will [kill you], as you are so young."[8] On March 26, 1844, it appears Joseph conferred the keys of ecclesiastical authority on the Twelve Apostles in a meeting of the Council of Fifty, telling them "It may be that my enemies will kill me...should any of you be killed, you can lay your hands upon others and fill up your quorum. ...if you are called to lay down your lives, die like men."[7]

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