Future diversity in Mormonism is a theme of history conference
“Miller and Wight proposed that the mill be sold and the missionaries be sent to Texas to select a place of gathering for all of (the church members in) the South,” Grow explained.
That led to discussions about the church looking for a place where it could establish a theocracy, be it in Texas, Oregon or California. The discussions resulted in the formation of the Council of Fifty.
“By the last time Joseph Smith met with the council, in May 1844, (just prior to his assassination in June), 54 men had been admitted” into the council, Grow said, including three non-Mormons.
Esplin acknowledged that, because the minute record has long been unavailable for study, much speculation has surrounded it, some of which will not hold up in the light of the record itself. Contrary to some conjecture, the minutes contain no hidden doctrine or sermons.
In summary, Esplin said the value of the minute record “is not an opening of vistas unknown, but it has significant value in providing a fuller context that we didn’t understand, providing helpful details for this initiative or that policy, allowing us to better understand the reason for some policy decisions, allowing us to share in some of the discussion that went into those decisions, preserving additional teachings and statements of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young about government-related topics.”
The records “will offer new insights along with gems here and there expanding on familiar topics,” Esplin said.
Near the end of the session, a question was posed as to why the minutes have not been made available for study until now, as they seem rather innocuous.
“I think the best answer is tradition,” Turley responded. “I think over the course of time, people kind of lose understanding about the significance of things, and when they lose that understanding, there is a sense of uncertainty that surrounds it. When there is a sense of uncertainty, people can be very conservative about how they handle it.”
The minutes are coming forth now, Turley said, because of the coincidence of several factors that have “demystified” them. These factors include the launching of the Joseph Smith Papers Project, the financial resources for the project provided by the Gail and Larry Miller family and the recruitment of many bright people with knowledge and expertise “to do the kind of high quality work we are doing,” he said.
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