Accounts of the June 1831 Conference

Primary Sources

Joseph Smith

On the 3rd of June, the Elders from the various parts of the country where they were laboring, came in; and the conference before appointed, convened in Kirtland; and the Lord displayed His power to the most perfect satisfaction of the Saints. The man of sin was revealed, and the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the Elders.3   It was clearly evident that the Lord gave us power in proportion to the work to be done, and strength according to the race set before us, and grace and help as our needs required. Great harmony prevailed; several were ordained; faith was strengthened; and humility, so necessary for the blessing of God to follow prayer, characterized the Saints.     

Note 3. A misapprehension has arisen in the minds of some respecting the statement-"The authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the Elders." It has been supposed that this passage meant that the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood was now for the first time conferred upon men in this dispensation. This of course is an error, since even before the Church was organized, the Apostleship, the highest authority in the Melchizedek Priesthood, was conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and very probably upon David Whitmer also (See pp. 40-42, note.) The Prophet does not mean that the Melchizedek Priesthood was given for the first time in the Church. It was at this conference, however, that the special office of High Priest was for the first time conferred upon men in this dispensation, except in so far as Apostles are also High Priests (Doctrine and Covenants, sec. 84:63); and of course as there were men who had been ordained to the apostleship before this conference of June, 1831, in that manner there had been High Priests in the Church, but not otherwise.  (History of The Church,1:175-177)

John Whitmer

June 3, 1831, a general conference was called, and a blessing promised, if the elders were faithful, and humble before him. Therefore, the elders assembled from the East and the West, from the North and the South. And also many members. Conference was opened by prayer and exhortation by Joseph Smith, Jr., the Revelator. After the business of the Church was attended to according to the covenants. The Lord made manifest to Joseph that it was necessary that such of the elders as were considered worthy, should be ordained to the High Priesthood.   

The spirit of the Lord fell upon Joseph in an unusual manner. And prophesied that John the Revelator was then among the ten tribes of Israel who had been led away by Salmanasar King of Israel  be Assyria], to prepare them for their return, from their long dispersion, to again possess the land of their fathers. He prophesied many more things that I have not written. After he had prophesied he laid his hands upon Lyman Wight  [ordained him] to the High Priesthood after the Holy Order of God. And the spirit fell upon Lyman, and he prophesied, concerning the coming of Christ, he said that there were some in the congregation that should live until the Savior should descend from heaven, with a shout, with all the holy angels with him. He said the coming of the Savior should be, like; the sun rising in the east, and will cover the whole earth, so with the coming of the Son of man be, yea, he will appear in his brightness and consume all before him. And the hills will be laid low, and the valleys be exalted; and the crooked be made straight; and the rough smooth. And some of my brethren shall suffer martyrdom, for the sake of the religion of Jesus Christ, and seal the testimony of Jesus with their blood.   

He saw the heavens opened, and the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the Father. Making intercession for his brethren, the Saints. He said that God would work a work in these last days that tongue cannot express, and the mind is not capable to conceive. The glory of the Lord shone around.  

At the conference these were ordained to the high priesthood, namely, Lyman Wight, Sidney Rigdon, John Murdock, Reynolds Cahoon, Harvey Whitlock and Hyrum Smith were ordained by Joseph Smith, Jr., except Sidney Rigdon.   

The following by Lyman Wight by commandment. Parley P. Pratt, Thomas B. Marsh, Isaac Morley, Edward Partridge, Joseph Wakefield, Ezra Thayer, Martin Harris, Ezra Booth, who denied the faith, Harvey Whitlock denied the faith, also Joseph Wakefield, Joseph Smith, Sen., Joseph Smith, Jr., John Whitmer. The bishop then proceeded and blessed the above named and others by the laying on of hands. Isaac Morley and John Corrill were ordained as bishop's counsellors to Edward Partridge.  

Joseph Smith, Jr., prophesied the day previous that the man of sin should be revealed. While the Lord poured out his spirit upon his servants, the devil took a notion, to make known his power, he bound Harvey Whitlock and John Murdock so that they could not speak, and others were affected but the Lord showed to Joseph the Seer, the design of the thing, he commanded the devil in the name of Christ and he departed to our joy and comfort.   

Therefore a part of the revelation given at Fayette, New York, was fulfilled. The churches of the state of New York had moved to Ohio, with their wives and their children, and all their substance, some purchased farms others rented, and thus they situated themselves as convenient as they could. The day being now far spent and the conference was adjourned. (The Book of John Whitmer, Chapter 7)  

John Corrill

Previous to this there was a revelation received, requiring the Prophet to call the elders together, that they might receive an endowment [D&C 38]. This was done, and the meeting took place some time in June. About fifty elders met, which was about all the elders that then belonged to the church. The meeting was conducted by [Joseph] Smith. Some curious things took place. The same visionary and marvelous spirits, spoken of before, got hold of some elders; it threw one from his seat to the floor; it bound another, so that for some time he could not use his limbs nor speak; and some other curious effects were experienced, but, by a mighty exertion, in the name of the Lord, it was exposed and shown to be from an evil source. The Melchizedek Priesthood was then for the first time introduced, and conferred on several of the elders. In this chiefly consisted the endowment--it being a new order--and bestowed authority. However, some doubting took place among the elders, and considerable conversation was held on the subject. The elders not fairly understanding the nature of the endowments, it took some time to reconcile all their feelings. In a few days, however, a commandment was received for the elders to go to Missouri, two by two; no two were to travel in the track of the others, and they were to preach the gospel by the way. After a little delay we started. Smith, Rigdon, and six or eight others came in company. They continued their journey until they arrived in Jackson County, where they found Oliver Cowdery and his companions, Smith pointed out the spot for the temple, received some revelation concerning the purchasing of land and settling the church in that place, appointed some persons to remain there, held one or two conferences, and then returned with part of his company to Kirtland; Cowdery went back with him. . . . (History of the Mormons (1839), p.18)

Secondary Sources

Brigham Young

How came these Apostles, these Seventies, these High Priests, and all this organization we now enjoy? It came by revelation. Father Cahoon, who lately died in your neighbourhood, was one of the first men ordained to the office of High Priest in this kingdom. In the year 1831, the Prophet Joseph went to Ohio. He left the State of New York on the last of April, if my memory serves me, and arrived in Kirtland sometime in May. They held a General Conference, which was the first General Conference ever called or held in Ohio. Joseph then received a revelation, and ordained High Priests. You read in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants how he received the Priesthood in the first place. It is there stated how Joseph received the Aaronic Priesthood. John the Baptist came to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. When a person passes behind the vail, he can only officiate in the spirit-world; but when he is resurrected he officiates as a resurrected being, and not as a mortal being. You read in the revelation that Joseph was ordained, as it is written. When he received the Melchisedek Priesthood, he had another revelation. Peter, James, and John came to him. You can read the revelation at your leisure. When he received this revelation in Kirtland, the Lord revealed to him that he should begin and ordain High Priests; and he then ordained quite a number, all whose names I do not now recollect; but Lyman Wight was one; Fathers Cahoon and Morley, John Murdock, Sidney Rigdon, and others were also then ordained. These were the first that were ordained to this office in the Church. I relate this to show you how Joseph proceeded step by step in organizing the Church. At that time there were no Seventies nor twelve Apostles.    (Journal of Discourses,  9:89)

George A. Smith

Among the early baptisms in Northern Ohio, was a Methodist minister by the name of Ezra Booth. He was present when the Elders first received the ordination of the High Priesthood. They met together in June, 1831, in a log school house in Kirtland, a room about eighteen feet by twenty. While they were there, the manifestation of the power of God being on Joseph, he set apart some of the Elders to the High Priesthood. Ezra Booth was bound, and his countenance was distorted, and numbers of the brethren looked at him, and thought it was a wonderful manifestation of the power of God, but to their astonishment, Joseph came forward and rebuked the foul spirit, and commanded it to depart, in consequence of which Booth was relieved, and many of the brethren were greatly tried at such a singular treatment by the prophet of these wonderful manifestations of power.     
Others had visions. Lyman Wight bore testimony that he saw the face of the Savior.     

The Priesthood was conferred on a number of Elders, and thirty were selected to take a mission to the western boundaries of Missouri, and travel and preach two and two by the way, travelling without purse or scrip. They did so, building up churches. (Journal of Discourses, 11:4-6)

Joseph F. Smith

It is a pity that greater attention is not paid to matters of history, for then such mistakes would not occur. Several errors of this character have crept into history through neglect or want of proper attention to the subjects. The passage of history from which this brief and misleading extract was taken reads as follows: "On the sixth of June (1831) the elders from the various parts of the country where they were laboring, came in; and the conference before appointed, convened in Kirtland; and the Lord displayed his power in a manner that could not be mistaken. The man of sin was revealed, and the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested, and conferred for the first time upon several of the elders." Now, if this does not mean that on this occasion several elders received their first ordination, then it must mean that these several elders who had previously been ordained, then, for the first time, received the power or authority of their ordinations. The words "conferred for the first time upon several of the elders," would seem at first glance to mean that several were then ordained elders, but taking the complete sentence together, namely, "The man of sin was revealed, and the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested, and conferred for the first time upon several of the elders," we naturally conclude that several who had previously been ordained elders, had not yet received the spirit, or power, or authority of their ordinations, but that now for the first time, the authority of the Priesthood having been manifested, it fell upon them. It is evident from the context that the word authority as used in this quotation means power. It reads as follows: "It was clearly evident that the Lord gave us power in proportion to the work to be done, and strength according to the race before us, and grace and help as our needs required." That several persons were ordained on that occasion is directly stated, as follows: "Great harmony prevailed; several were ordained; faith was strengthened; and humility so necessary for the blessing of God to follow prayer, characterized the Saints." One thing is perfectly clear, and that is, no reference whatever is here made to the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood by Peter, James and John, which great event occurred, without doubt, between May and July, 1829. However until about the time this conference was held, the term Melchizedek Priesthood was seldom or never used. The High Priesthood, or the Holy Priesthood, were the terms generally applied until then.     

Thus this glorious Priesthood, which "is after the holiest order of God," has been restored to man in its plenitude and power in the present age for the last times," and no part of it will be "taken from the earth again until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness," or "until God shall gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven and which are on earth." In conclusion I will call the attention of the readers of this to Sections 5, 13, 27, 84, 107, 110 and 128 of the Doctrine and Covenants for further reflection on the subject. (Gospel Doctrine, p.196)

Joseph Fielding Smith

FIRST HIGH PRIESTS ORDAINED. At the fourth conference, held in Kirtland, June, 1831, the first high priests in this dispensation were ordained. There were 23 in all, among them being the Prophet Joseph Smith, who was ordained a high priest under the hands of Lyman Wight, he (Lyman Wight) having first been ordained to that office by the Prophet. Owing to his absence, Oliver    

Cowdery was not ordained a high priest at this conference, but was ordained by Sidney Rigdon, August 28, following.    
At this conference Edward Partridge was also ordained a high priest; he had previously been called to the bishopric, and on this date chose as counselors-or assistants as they were then called-John Corrill and Isaac Morley. This was the first bishopric in the Church.    

From this time forth the Church grew rapidly in power and strength, notwithstanding the many trials, apostasies and hardships through which it was forced to pass.  (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:232)  

John A. Widtsoe

The Important Conference of June, 1831.  In the month of February (1831), the Lord commanded that the word be sent out to the Elders of the Church calling them from the east and from the west; from the north and from the south; to meet in conference and receive instruction. Accordingly a conference was set for June 3, which convened at Kirtland and continued until the 6th. The spirit of the Lord was displayed in a marvelous way, and the power of the evil one, which was made manifest in opposition to the work was successfully rebuked.   

The First High Priests Ordained. At this conference the first High Priests in this dispensation were ordained. Lyman Wight, John Murdock, Reynolds Cahoon, Harvey Whitlock and Hyrum Smith, were ordained to the office of High Priest, by Joseph Smith the Prophet; Joseph Smith, Sen., Joseph Smith the Prophet, Parley P. Pratt, Thomas B. Marsh, Isaac Morley, Edward Partridge, Joseph Wakefield, Martin Harris, Ezra Thayer, Ezra Booth, John Corrill, Samuel H. Smith, John Whitmer and Sidney Rigdon were ordained to the office of High Priest, under the hands of Lyman Wight. Edward Partridge, the Bishop of the Church, then blessed those who had been ordained. John Corrill and Isaac Morley were sustained and ordained as assistants, or counselors, to Bishop Whitney, under the hands of Lyman Wight.-ECH.126.   

In the minutes of the meeting the statement is made that the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time on several of the Elders. This is an error, for the Melchizedek Priesthood had been conferred upon these and other brethren when they were ordained Elders. The meaning is clear that the office of High Priest is meant instead of Melchizedek Priesthood.-DHC.1:175-176.   (Priesthood and Church Government, p.122)

Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr.

In June 1831, at a conference in Kirtland, nineteen men were the first to be ordained to the office of high priest in modern times (ECH, 106). This office of the Melchizedek Priesthood had been mentioned in a revelation received several months earlier (D&C 42:31, 71). Reference to this office can also be found in section 20, but in verses that were added five years after the original revelation was received (D&C 20:66).    

Although it is a separate office in the priesthood, it is often used to designate men who hold yet other offices. For example, bishops must be high priests unless lineal descent from Aaron can be ascertained (D&C 68:14-21). Apostles are designated as high priests (D&C 84:63), as are members of the First Presidency of the Church (D&C 107:22). High councilors must be high priests (D&C 102:1).    

The office of high priest is an appendage to the Melchizedek Priesthood and derives its authority from that priesthood (D&C 107:2-5). One who holds the office of high priest would do well to ponder these words of President Joseph F. Smith: "Every man who holds the office of high priest in the Church, or has been ordained a high priest, whether he is called to active position in the Church or not-inasmuch as he has been ordained a high priest, should feel that he is obliged-that it is his bounden duty, to set an example before the old and young worthy of emulation, and to place himself in a position to be a teacher of righteousness, not only by precept but more particularly by example-giving to the younger ones the benefit of the experience of age, and thus becoming individually a power in the midst of the community in which he dwells.… There is no body of priesthood in the Church who should excel, or who are expected to excel, those who are called to bear the office of high priest in the Church." (GD, 182.)    

Those who belong to the high priests quorum "should have a lively union with it, not a dead connection" (PCG, 125).    (Doctrine and Covenants Encyclopedia , p.244)