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THERE was a special conference held at Council Bluffs, Iowa, beginning June 1, 1860. Elders Jason W. Briggs and William Marks presided; William Slater was chosen clerk.
The Boomer branch was represented by Elder B. F. Leland, the Galland's Grove branch by Elder William Vanausdall, Belvidere by Elder G. R. Outhouse, and Farm Creek by Elder Calvin Beebe.
A call was made for volunteers to labor in their respective localities, which was responded to by John Smith, Hugh Lytle, David Jones, Calvin Beebe, Archibald Patten, B. F. Leland, Isaac Beebe, G. R. Outhouse, S. Scott, Uriah Roundy, William Vanausdall, R. Y. Kelly, R. Price, J. Thomas, R. Cobb, and J. Bardsly.
William H. Kelley, J. Thomas, C. F. Stiles, and G. R. Outhouse were each ordained to the office of seventy. John A. McIntosh was ordained a President of Seventy, according to the provision of the previous April conference.
Joseph Smith was received and sustained as President of the High Priesthood of the Church, in harmony with the action of the Amboy conference in April.
The July number of the Herald contained 'A card from Bro. Joseph Smith," which defined his position on some important points, and reads as follows:-
"In taking the head of the Mormon 1 Church I am running
1This word was used in its Commonly accepted sense.-J. Smith.
counter to the opinions of many people; but believing that 'there is a destiny which shapes our ends,' I am contented to let those who are astonished and opposed to such a measure, stand the test of time and an opportunity for reflection, satisfied that investigation will result in my favor.
"To those familiar with the books upon which our faith is founded, the Bible being the groundwork, I have no apologies to offer; and to those not familiar with them, and to those who do not believe them, none is due.
"I know that many stories are now being circulated in reference to what will be the result of the step I have taken. I know that many believe that I will emigrate to Salt Lake. To those who know me, it is needless for me to say that I am not going to do any such thing while the doctrine of polygamy and disobedience to the laws are countenanced there. To those who do not know me personally, and to whom my principles are unknown, I must say, withhold your censure until such time as I shall, by some flagrant act of disobedience to the law of the land, or some striking breach of morality, deserve the just indignation of society. When I do either one or the other, I am ready for the opening of the vial of wrath of outraged society, and shall cheerfully receive the condemnation I shall merit.
"Numbers of the readers of the Democratic Press know me personally, and have been warm friends to me; they know my sentiments in regard to those obnoxious features in Utah Mormonism, and I trust in their knowledge of me as a pledge to them of what my future actions shall be.
"Religious toleration is one of the principles of our government, and so long as any denomination shall keep within the pale of the law, so long is it entitled to the consideration and protection of the government; but when those bonds are exceeded, the claim is forfeited, and society ought to ignore it, and the law proclaim against it.
"A man is known by his acts. I have been judged heretofore by mine, and am willing still to be so judged, asking all to do so fairly and impartially, laying their prejudices aside, relying not upon rumor for their knowledge, but investigating for themselves.
"I leave the result in the hands of Him who 'doeth all things well,' hoping no man will judge me without knowledge.
-True Latter Day Saints' Herald, vol. 1, pp. 169, 170.
The Semiannual Conference for 1860 met near Sandwich, Illinois, October 6, and continued four days. President Joseph Smith presided, and Elders Isaac Sheen and W. W. Blair acted as clerks.
Elder W. W. Blair reported labor done in Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, a part of the time assisted by Elder James Blakeslee. Elder Blakslee [Blakeslee] reported to the same effect.
Elder John Landers reported labor done in Woodford County, Illinois, assisted by Elder Andrew Cairns.
Elder E. C. Briggs reported a wide and growing interest in Western Iowa.
Elder George Morey reported laboring in Decatur County, Iowa.
Elder A. M. Wilsey had labored in Wisconsin and Illinois.
Elder C. G. Lanphear had labored in Illinois.
Elder Isaac Sheen, editor of Herald, reported that "letters were reaching him almost daily from the different States, and from Utah, California, Canada, and Europe. In letters which he had received from Sr. Harriet Wight [widow of Lyman Wight] and family, from Texas, they expressed a desire to gather with the saints. Letters from Utah indicate that the new organization is held in high esteem, and the late missionaries from Utah state that affairs are very unsettled and the people (not the leaders) look with much favor on the coming of the second Joseph."
On recommendation of President Joseph Smith a committee was appointed to choose three men for the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. The committee was W. W. Blair, William Marks, and O. P. Dunham, who made choice of John Shippy, James Blakeslee, and Edmund C. Briggs. These selections were confirmed by the conference, and those selected were ordained by Apostles Z. H. Gurley, Sen., and W. W. Blair.
The 7th was devoted to preaching.
On the 8th the following business was transacted: W. W. Blair was released as Church Recorder, and Isaac Sheen appointed in his stead. Joseph Smith was sustained as President of the Church, and J. W. Briggs, Z. H. Gurley, Sen., Samuel Powers, E. C. Briggs, W. W. Blair, James Blakeslee, and John Shippy as apostles.
The Israelite Indeed, a paper published in New York by a Jew by the name of G. R. Lederer, was by resolution indorsed [endorsed], and a copy of resolution ordered sent to the editor.
The following missions were appointed: E. C. Briggs and W. W. Blair, Western Iowa; James Blakeslee, Kirtland, Ohio; Samuel Powers, Canada. J. W. Briggs, requested to go to England.
On the 9th the following business was done: Former committee on hymn book was discharged and Mrs. Emma Bidamon appointed to make selection of hymns.
The following branches reported: Galien, Michigan; Nauvoo, Fox River, Amboy, Henderson Grove, and Batavia, Illinois; Montrose, Little River, Crescent City, North Star, Raglan, Belvidere, Boomer, Union Grove, Farm Creek, Boyer, Little Sioux, and Galland's Grove, Iowa; Burlington, Wisconsin; and Shokokon,--.This was also reported;-
"There were twenty two persons baptized and confirmed during the conference, some of them for a renewal of their faith. Nine members of the old organization united with the church, without rebaptism.
"Prayer meetings were held every evening during the conference and the Spirit of God was poured out upon the saints in an extraordinary degree. The gift of tongues, interpretation of tongues, the gift of prophecy, and other gifts, were graciously bestowed. . . ."-True Latter Day Saints' Herald, vol. 1, p. 239.
On November 7, 1860, President Joseph Smith issued an address to the saints, which forms an important link in the policies of the Reorganization. It is as follows:-
"Permit me, through the columns of the Herald to address a few lines to the scattered saints.
"The question is often asked, 'Where is the gathering place for the saints?' seeming to imply the positive necessity for such a place. That such a place was necessary no one doubts; but when, for various reasons not necessary now to mention, the people were scattered, successively, from Kirtland, from Jackson County, Missouri, and lastly from Nauvoo, there seemed to come a time when there was a necessity for a division-for a sifting of the elements of discord, that the inharmonious and incongruous might be separated from the better and purer parts of the whole. What the result has been, most of those who know the history of this people are able to see; yet to many it is still dark.
"There are many obstacles to be met with by us, and which are to be overcome, not the least of which is the prejudice of those, who, most unfortunately for us, judge of us from very bad specimens of men, who either were, and are, or claim to be of the so-called Mormon faith. Another difficulty, and one of considerable importance, is the gathering together hastily in so large a body, that being incapable of harmonizing and assimilating the one with the other, so as to form a complete whole, it totters, and falls of its own concentrated weight.
"I shall not at this time enumerate or notice any more of the (to me) apparent difficulties than the two I have just spoken of, but if I can help to set these before some of those into whose hands this little volume may come, then am I amply repaid; and if not, then the good God, who sees the motives of all men, will receive the will for the deed, and pardon my shortcoming.
"I make no apology for my manner, neither for the crudeness of my material, nor for the indifferent way it is put together; but give it to the inspection of all, feeling sure that He who ruleth all things to his glory will guide and direct this to its desired end.
"When I assumed the position I now occupy, I covenanted that I would never willingly nor willfully do anything to
injure the cause of the true Latter Day Saints, or make their condition worse than it was when I found them; and I mean by God's help to keep that covenant.
"Now, knowing many of the rocks on which the church was split, is it not my duty to keep clear of them, each and every one of them! There is but one answer: most certainly it is. By keeping the church separated for the present (how long, God alone knows) I know that some of the rocks will be missed, and many difficulties overcome that we, as a body, existing at any one designated place could never meet. How I obtained this knowledge is not my province, at this time, to say. I know the anxiety that is felt by all to be gathering home to Zion, I see the increasing desire to secure happiness, but things seen by prophetic eye seem near at hand when years MAY intervene before they are brought to pass.
"Men may differ in their views, a thing to-day may seem as to-morrow, and weeks, nay months may pass away, and still it is in the morrow. Speculative theories may be urged as truth; yet no change is made in God's plan of salvation, and he disposes of events, and of men and their destinies, despite their theories and their views.
"To those who are disposed to cavil at things they may not understand, in regard to the gathering of the saints, I would recommend a careful reading of the seventh paragraph of section one hundred and two, Book of Doctrine and Covenants:-
"'And let all my people who dwell in the regions round about, be very faithful and prayerful, and humble before me, and reveal not the things which I have revealed unto them, until it is wisdom in me that they should be revealed. Talk not judgment, neither boast of faith, nor of mighty works; but carefully gather together, as much in one region as can be consistently with the feelings of the people. And behold, I will give unto you favor and grace in their eyes, that you may rest in peace and safety, while you are saying unto the people, execute judgment and justice for us according to law, and redress us of our wrongs.' I would also
refer them to the sixty-third section, paragraph four: 'And now, if your joy,' etc. . . 'Contend against no church, save it be the church of the devil,' etc., and to the latter half of paragraph six, section seventy-two. If after a careful reading, and a prayerful asking, they cannot understand how we are to overcome a great deal of prejudice of the world, and that we are better situated to advance our cause, as we now are, than if gathered into one city or place, then I am most willing to be told the reason why.
"I could carry this subject further, but wisdom dictates that I ought not to take up so much space in our journal at one time, and so I must conclude my letter by stating, that to me there is no command to gather this people together at any given locality; and if I did so, in the absence of such command, I would be guilty of an act of injustice to them, and might possibly injure them and others. I must say, however, in justice to them and to myself, that all who are seeking after truth, and are determined to forsake wickedness and corruption, will quickly get themselves away from places where crime, wickedness, and abominations are sanctioned or justified; and will quietly settle themselves in some region of country where truth is acknowledged, where they can serve God, be good to their fellow men, live uprightly and honestly before God and in the sight of men, quitting their evil ways, and cleaving unto righteousness; holding in honor the laws of the land, and living in obedience and amenable to them. Our land is wide, and full of pleasant places, wanting good men for citizens. Our religion, if good at all, is good for one, ten, twenty, an hundred, or an hundred thousand; here, there and everywhere. Doing good, and not evil, is its true intent, and preached by example as well as precept, it must be lived to, if we mean to reap its reward. I will follow this subject further at some future time, until then, may God bless and keep his people is the prayer of,
"President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
"NAUVOO, Illinois, Nov. 7,1860."
-True Latter Day Saints' Herald, vol. 1, pp. 254-256.
The following note published in the same number of the Herald is an indication of the general feeling among the scattered saints:-
"The numerous letters which we have received recently show that the branches of the church generally are blessed with prosperity and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. Many old saints, who were heretofore unacquainted with the resuscitated latter day work, have been made to rejoice in the glorious news."-Page 268.
The year 1860 is one to which many old Latter Day Saints look back with gratitude, as it brought to them the realization of hopes long deferred; and in that realization their souls were satisfied, believing that the Holy Spirit had renewed within them the gifts and graces of the gospel, in which they had experienced so much joy and comfort in the early days of the church.
The position taken by President Smith on the gathering was strange to many, and a severe trial to some who for years had esteemed the gathering to be the paramount feature of the work. Some adverse criticism was indulged in, and some faltered in their devotion to the cause. Notwithstanding hindering causes, however, the work spread rapidly, and the sun of the old year went down upon a happy, hopeful people rejoicing in the brightening prospects before them. Subsequent developments have been accepted as proof of the wisdom of President Smith's advice, and as evidence of the reliability of the directing influence under which he acted.
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