When Joseph Smith founded the Church of Christ in April 1830, he also established the framework for councils, the decision-making mechanism of the early Church. Early councils included a group of men holding the priesthood and often included a congregation. They would gather and make authoritative decisions, including if someone accused of wrongdoing was guilty and should receive formal disciplinary action. As the Church grew, Smith further developed this council system. Elders and high priests frequently formed councils, which gradually gave way to bishop's councils. In 1834, high councils began to establish an appellate court where disgruntled Church members could appeal their case. Later, Smith formed other disciplinary bodies and gave them limited jurisdictional authority. Depending on where they lived, Church members utilized different councils. Kirtland and Missouri principally used a bishop and high council, while other outlying congregations relied primarily on elder and high priest councils. Notwithstanding these organizational differences, early Church councils exhibited several consistent patterns. They encouraged individuals to reform their behavior, provided progressive rights to women and children, and inspired confidence in the system, even though Church leaders sometimes disagreed with individual rulings. Although often overlooked, early Church councils played a pivotal role in protecting and developing Church orthodoxy and orthopraxy.
College and Department
Religious Education; Religious Education
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Davis, Nicholas Andrew, "Early Restoration Councils, 1830–1838: A Tool to Refine Individuals" (2017). Theses and Dissertations. 6619.
Councils, conferences, disciplinary councils, high council, Seventies, bishop's courts, traveling high council, Missouri presidency, Church discipline