BYU

BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY

Topic(s): History of the Church: Nauvoo Era, 1839–44
What was the Council of Fifty?
The Council of Fifty, formally organized just three months before the death of Joseph Smith in 1844, was intended to be an arm of the millennial government of God. In this article, Andrew F. Ehat answers two important questions about the Council of Fifty. First, why did Joseph Smith wait two years from the time he received his first revelation about the Council before he officially organized it? Ehat says that because priesthood was the Council's official source of power, Joseph delayed until temple ordinances had been established. Second, why was the April 18, 1844, meeting of the Council so important? According to Ehat, on this day the Prophet revealed the Constitution of the Kingdom of God, which was a short imperative to the members of the Council that "ye are my Constitution." In that meeting, the Council also adopted a list of nine "Rules of the Kingdom," which included parliamentary procedures for unanimous decision-making and for seniority of members within the Council. Ehat includes extensive excerpts from the journal of William Clayton, clerk of the council, which reflect implicit faith in the Prophet's revelations on the Council of Fifty. He also adds a listing of dates of Council meetings, from the Council's organization in 1844 to its final appearance in 1884.
Written By:
Andrew F. Ehat -
Andrew F. Ehat graduated from Brigham Young University in mathematics in 1973. He has been a graduate student in history, a researcher with the Religious Studies Center, and an editorial intern with BYU Studies.
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