The Essential Joseph Smith
Foreword by Marvin S. Hill
“I Have Something to Lay before the Council,” A Sermon Delivered on 27 February 1835
(from “A record of the transactions of the Twelve apostles of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints
from the time of their call to the apostleship which was on the 14th Day of Feby. A.D. 1835,”
archives, Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah)
[p.53]I have something to lay before the council [of Twelve Apostles], an item which they will find to be of great importance to them. I have for myself learned a fact by experience which on recollection gives me deep sorrow. It is a fact that if I now had in my possession every decision which has been given upon important items of doctrine and duties since the rise of this church, they would be of incalcuable worth to the saints, but we have neglected to keep record of such things, thinking that perhaps that they would never benefit us afterwards, which had we now, would decide almost any point that might be agitated; and now we cannot bear record to the church nor unto the world of the great and glorious manifestations that have been made to us with that degree of power and authority which we otherwise could if we now had these things to publish abroad.
Since the twelve are now chosen, I wish to tell them a course which they may pursue and be benefitted hereafter in a point of light of which they, perhaps, are not now aware. At all times when you assemble in the capacity of a council to transact business let the oldest of your number preside and let one or more be appointed to keep a record of your proceedings and on the decision of every important time, be it what it may, let such decision be noted down, and they will ever after remain upon record as law, covenant and doctrine. Questions thus decided might at the time appear unimportant, but should they be recorded and one of you lay hands upon them afterward, you might find them of infinite worth not only to your brethren but a feast also to your own souls.
[p.54]Should you assemble from time to time and proceed to discuss important questions and pass decisions upon them and omit to record such decisions, by and by you will be driven to straits from which you will not be able to extricate yourselves—not being in a situation to bring your faith to [bear] with sufficient perfection or power to obtain the desired information. Now in consequence of a neglect to write these things when God reveal them not esteeming them of sufficient worth the spirit may withdraw and God may be angry and here is a fountain of knowledge[, the] importance [of] which is now lost. What was the cause of this. The answer is slothfulness, or a neglect to appoint a man to occupy a few moments in writing. Here let me prophecy the time will come when if you neglect to do this, you will fall by the hands of unrighteous men. Were you to be brought before the authorities and accused of any crime or misdemeanor and be as innocent as the angels of God unless you can prove that you were somewhere else, your enemies will prevail against you: but if you can bring twelve men to testify that you were in some other place at that time you will escape their hands. Now if you will be careful to keep minutes of these things as I have said, it will be one of the most important and interesting records ever seen. I have now laid these things before you for your consideration and you are left to act according to your own judgments.