Record of the Twelve, 14 February–28 August 1835

Only twice did the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles undertake a quorum mission under the direction of JS. Their success in the British Isles in 1840–1841 is well known. Less well known is their first quorum mission to the eastern states in the spring and summer of 1835, shortly after the quorum was organized. The “record of the transactions of the Twelve apostles” contains the official account of that mission.
This record begins with the call of the apostles and organization of the quorum in February 1835 and documents some of JS’s teachings to the new quorum about their role and functioning, including an admonition on record keeping. These teachings and the circa April 1835 “Instruction on Priesthood,” dictated by JS just before the newly called apostles received their first mission assignment, were viewed as foundational documents for the new quorum. According to this record, on 12 March, less than a month after the apostles were named, JS “proposed” that their first mission be “through the eastern States to the Atlantic Ocean.” This record preserves JS’s teachings to the quorum as they prepared to depart and then documents the central activities of that mission.
Orson Hyde and William E. McLellin, clerks for the Quorum of the Twelve, created this record by copying into a large, permanent record book the original minutes and notes, no longer extant, which they had written. This is evident from a careful examination of the content of the record and also from the nature of the volume into which it is copied, which is too large for the men to have conveniently carried on their travels. This also followed the standard record-keeping pattern of JS’s office. Minute Books 1 and 2 were created when loose minutes were copied into more permanent books of record, and a similar practice was followed with letterbooks and revelation books created under JS’s general direction. An original minute or letter, or a dictation copy of a revelation, would later be copied into a record book to create a more permanent record copy.
The existing record itself is almost entirely in the hand of Hyde. This is so even though Hyde shared with fellow quorum member McLellin the assignment to serve as clerks, and even though each actively served in creating the original minutes upon which this record is based. McLellin inscribed only the entries of 23 and 25 May. However, McLellin apparently retained possession of the original manuscripts. In a 24 May 1870 letter published in the True Latter Day Saints’ Herald, he claimed to have “our apostolic record, as we first made it up,” and proceeded to provide details consistent with the record.1

William E. McLellin, Independence, MO, to D. H. Bays, Lafayette, MO, 24 May 1870, True Latter Day Saints’ Herald,15 Sept. 1870, 553.
Comprehensive Works Cited



Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.

This record may be thought of as consisting of three parts. The first three and a half pages record the calling and general instruction of the apostles. The next three and a half pages, to the bottom of page seven, document a series of meetings as quorum members prepared for their spring and summer mission, a series that included JS’s 26 April “charge and instructions” to them and ended with a 2 May “grand council” consisting not only of the Twelve but of other leaders. The third part, the largest, consists of a dozen-page record of the conferences and other activities of the mission itself, including meetings of the quorum, conferences with members, and public preaching meetings that on occasion attracted hundreds.
The first entry in this record bears the date of 14 February 1835 and briefly describes the “conference or general meeting” convened by JS to consider if the time had come to implement a June 1829 revelation “relative to the choosing of twelve apostles.” After it was “ascertained that the time had come,” twelve men were chosen and, it is implied, ordained. Fortunately, a better record exists of this foundational meeting than this brief entry. The second entry, dated 27 February, provides a context for seeing the entry of 14 February as a retrospective account likely written some two weeks later than the date it bears and also helps explain why Minute Book 12

See Ordination Blessings, 14 February 1835, in Minute Book 1.
Comprehensive Works Cited



Minute Book 1 / “Conference A,” 1832–1837. CHL. Also available at josephsmithpapers.org.

contains a longer and more informative record of this meeting than does the Record of the Twelve.
On 27 February, JS convened the Twelve to instruct them on the importance of record keeping. After lamenting that the records of the church as a whole were not as complete as they should be, in his view a deficiency of considerable consequence, he urged that whenever they convened to transact business as a council to always keep a record of proceedings and important decisions so “they will ever after remain upon record as law, covenant and doctrine.” After further instruction on the importance of records, the council appointed McLellin and Hyde to serve as clerks for the Twelve. All this and further instruction from JS about the role of the quorum was duly noted by “William E. McLellin Clerk.”3

Minute Book 1 also preserves an account of this 27 February 1835 meeting created by Oliver Cowdery, clerk for JS and the church presidency.
Comprehensive Works Cited



Minute Book 1 / “Conference A,” 1832–1837. CHL. Also available at josephsmithpapers.org.

It seems evident that only with the 27 February instruction from JS and the appointment of clerks did the Quorum of the Twelve obtain a book and begin keeping a record, and that the brief 14 February entry with which the book begins was therefore created after the 27 February meeting. This also explains why Minute Book 1 contains not only more information about the 14 February meeting but minutes of 15 and 21 February meetings that are not part of the quorum’s own record. These minutes from Minute Book 1, therefore, provide both additional information about the calling and instruction of the apostles and a context for understanding the Record of the Twelve prior to 27 February.
The more extensive account in Minute Book 1 of the 14 February 1835 meeting reports that JS convened on that date the veterans of the 1834 Camp of Israel (later known as Zion’s Camp), a military march to Missouri in support of Saints violently dispossessed from their lands in Jackson County, Missouri, and that it was mainly from these veterans that the Twelve (and a related new quorum, the Quorum of Seventy) would be selected. The entry in Minute Book 1 then lists the names of fifty-six veterans. According to this account, the men had been assembled not so much to ascertain if the time had come to organize a Quorum of the Twelve but for JS to announce that it was the will of God that they proceed to do so. These minutes also indicate that three of those called, Lyman Johnson, Brigham Young, and Heber C. Kimball, were then ordained (and the minutes preserve their “ordination blessings”). In addition to a more full account of the 14 February 1835 meeting, Minute Book 1 contains minutes of a follow-up session on 15 February, about which the Record of the Twelve is silent. At this meeting additional numbers of those appointed on the 14th were ordained and their ordination blessings recorded.
The Record of the Twelve—but not Minute Book 1—is also silent about a meeting on Saturday, 21 February 1835, that was as important to the nascent quorum as were the meetings of 14–15 February. At this meeting, Parley P. Pratt was ordained a member of the Twelve and received his “ordination blessing,” bringing to ten the number of new apostles who had been ordained. (Before, or possibly as, the minutes of this meeting were copied from loose paper into Minute Book 1, the blessings of Thomas B. Marsh and Orson Pratt were also appended, bringing to twelve the number of blessings recorded in the book—but as the Record of the Twelve attests, Marsh and Pratt did not arrive in Kirtland until 25 and 26 April, respectively.) Following Parley Pratt’s blessing on 21 February, Cowdery gave him a detailed personal “charge” respecting his duty as an apostle. Later in the meeting, Cowdery delivered a lengthy and substantive charge to the entire quorum respecting their responsibilities and future labors.
The 27 February 1835 entry in the Record of the Twelve marked the effective beginning of record keeping for the Twelve and a shift from preserving such records elsewhere. Although Minute Book 1 also contains an account of this meeting—an apparently independent account recorded by Oliver Cowdery that parallels the one by McLellin that appears in the Record of the Twelve—it is the final 1835 meeting of the newly organized quorum to be preserved in Minute Book 1. After the admonition in this meeting that the new quorum keep a record—and after the creation of this record which came as a result—there are no more entries in Minute Book 1 related to the official meetings of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1835. The Record of the Twelve presented here, then, becomes not only the official record but the only extant record.
The nature of the minutes for 27 February 1835 in the two records illustrates this shift. That the two accounts of JS’s instructions to the Twelve are so similar suggests that both Cowdery and McLellin successfully captured much of what JS said on this occasion. But unlike the entries of 14 February, in which Cowdery recorded much more detail than exists in the retrospective entry in the Record of the Twelve, for 27 February the record of the Twelve contains additional instructions not noted by Cowdery. Cowdery, by now a veteran in creating minutes, added details about the setting and people present that McLellin did not preserve, including the preamble: “This evening a meeting of nine of the twelve of the Apostles, who had been chosen and ordained was held at the house of President Joseph Smith,” after which he named the nine present and accounted for those not present. But only the official Record of the Twelve and not the account in Minute Book 1 contains the additional, closing explanation by JS about “the power and authority of the priesthood”—the explanation that the Twelve had received their authority as apostles “from God through me,” and that they and only they now had the authority and “duty to go and unlock the kingdom of heaven to foreign nations.”
Although the notes of most subsequent meetings preserved in the Record of the Twelve are not lengthy, they are instructive. The entry for the 12 March 1835 meeting notes not only the proposal by JS that they take their first mission to the East but a plan for the mission that included a 4 May departure date and an ambitious itinerary, complete with dates for conferences with members in outlying branches in New York, Upper Canada, and New England. Later entries confirm that they largely followed this itinerary, regulating branches, teaching members, and preaching and proselytizing along the way. Among the several preparatory meetings held late April and early May was a 26 April assembly of the Twelve and some of the Seventy, held in the unfinished temple in Kirtland, convened “in order to receive our charge and instructions from President Joseph Smith Jun. relative to our mission and duties.” Two days later they made the decision not only to leave on 4 May, as earlier proposed, but to depart at 2:00 a.m. that day, ensuring arrival at Fairport Harbor in time to catch a lake steamer for New York.
Traveling east on their quorum mission “to the Atlantic,” the newly organized quorum normally met as a group with members along the way, though occasionally one or another had a different assignment (and in early June, Brigham Young and Orson Hyde had to leave their brethren for a time and return to Kirtland as witnesses in a court case on behalf of JS). Through their 7 August conference in Bradford, Massachusetts, the schedule of conferences unfolded largely as had been planned in the 12 March meeting. That day, however, they decided to alter plans for the remainder of the mission and return home a month earlier. One conference was canceled and the last two moved up, changes, say the minutes, dictated by “the Spirit of God.” The record thereafter documents only two more conferences, both in Maine: Saco on 21 August and Farmington on 28 August. With the account of the latter, presumably the final gathering before quorum members returned home, the record abruptly ends.
The Record of the Twelve is the only known record created by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during its first several years of existence. This can be explained by practical difficulties but also by the fact that most activities of quorum members over the next several years were undertaken either as individual assignments or in connection with the activities of other leadership quorums. In the fall and winter of 1835–1836, members of the Twelve joined with other quorums in finishing the House of the Lord in Kirtland, Ohio, and in preparing for and participating in the March 1836 dedication and solemn assembly. JS’s journal for 30 March 1836 reports that rather than undertaking a quorum mission, “the 12 are at liberty to go wheresoever they will and if one shall say, I wish to go to such a place let all the rest say Amen.” The quorum mission to England planned for 1837 was postponed because of division within the church and within the quorum, although Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde of the Twelve did make the journey. The mass migration of leadership and members from Kirtland to Far West, Missouri, in 1838 made a mission impractical that summer. Not until 1839–1840, after the violent expulsion from Missouri, would the Twelve again undertake a mission as a quorum.