A Want of Clearness in Articulation: The First High Council Disciplinary Charge

A Want of Clearness in Articulation: The First High Council Disciplinary Charge

I couple days ago, I finished a re-read of what is now Doctrine and Covenants 102, which contain the revised minutes of the organization of the High Council of Zion. (see here for early versions of the text)

I find this section of particular historical interest, because I currently serve on the High Council of our Stake. For the most part, the practical elements of D&C 102 are still fully in force, especially when it comes to the details of convening and carrying out a Disciplinary Council.

However, In 1834, Church organization was significantly less expansive than it is now. At this point, there was no Quorum of Twelve Apostles, nor Quorums of 70. Presidents of Stakes as we understand them now would come significantly later.

Prior to the organization of the High Council, the General Church Government consisted of a Presidency (with many assistants), and the Bishop. As the Church expanded and Stakes were established, the patterns were expanded, and Bishops were situated in additional stakes as their presiding officers. For example, there was a Bishop in Kirtland, and a Bishop in Zion (Independence, MO).

It was at this time that the first High Council was established, with General Churchwide jurisdiction, and with the President of the Church and his two counselors (Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams) as the Presidency of the Council.

Once the Quorum of the 12 was established a short while later, they were originally established as a Traveling High Council, with jurisdiction only over what may be referred to as ‘The Mission Field’, or over branches in areas where full stakes were not yet organized.

Early Church Organizational Structure

While the High Council was generally established to convene difficult matters concerning offenses in the Church where one’s membership and standing would be in question, I found that the first recording meeting of the High Council for such a purpose was a bit more, shall we say, for a far less serious offence than what would call for such a council today.

In short, an Elder was called to the council on the charge that he was…preaching too loud.

Seriously.

Here’s how the official charge read on this matter:

Elder Hodges was being called to account “ for an error in the manner of his address, which consisted of loud speaking, and a want of clearness in articulation

One witness testified that, “Elder Hodges talked so loud at a prayer meeting that the neighbors came out to see if someone was hurt…he raised his voice so high that he could not articulate so as to be understood.” Another testified that, “Elder Hodges was guilty of hollowing so loud that in a measure he lost his voice, and uttered but little else distinctly than ‘Glory to heaven’s King’.

While he originally pleaded not guilty, the words of the President of the Council (Joseph Smith) made him rethink his position.

Joseph said, apart from noting Elder Hodges lack of humility, that, even “if he had the Spirit of the Lord at the meetings, where he hollowed, he must have abused it, and grieved it away.

All the council agreed with this assessment, and Elder Hodges “then rose, and said he now saw his error, but never saw it before…He said that he had learned more during this trial than he had since he came into the Church; confessed freely his error, and said he would attend to the overcoming of that evil, the Lord being his helper.

The Council forgave him, and adjourned”.1

Can anyone question why I love Church History so much?

Makes me wonder if Elder Hodges preaching was anything like this:

  1. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2:33 []

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