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Chapter Eight


As Joseph W. Musser searched accounts from early periods of Church history for evidence to support the existence of High Priest Apostles; he identified six groups of men during the years of 1835 to 1837 that he felt were meetings or groups of a Council of Friends:(246)

1. The Twelve Instructed Feb. 1835

2. Trial of Jared Carter Sep. 1835

3. Trial of Gladden Bishop Sep. 1835

4. Temple Anointings Jan. 1836

5. Temple Washings Mar. 1836

6. Counselors to Joseph Smith Sep. 1837

This chapter will analyze these six companies.


On February 27, 1835. a group met to receive instruction from Joseph Smith. Nine of the Twelve Apostles were present. The first portion of the record reads:

This evening, nine of the Twelve, viz., Lyman Johnson, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, David W. Patten, Luke Johnson, William E. M'Lellin, John F. Boynton, and William Smith, assembled at the house of President Joseph Smith, Jun., who was present, with Frederick G. Williams, Sidney Rigdon, Bishop Whitney, and three Elders. (HC 2:198-200) [Underlining by the authors.]

As can be from those underlined, seven individuals were in attendance besides the members of the Twelve. Those seven included the three members of the First Presidency, Bishop Whitney, and "three Elders." Regarding these seven, Joseph W. Musser has written:

While this group of seven men are not specifically referred to as the "First Elders" or "Friends" they doubtless comprised this group, possessing jurisdiction over the Twelve who they had met to instruct. (Supplement p. 105, Truth 17:171.)

Joseph White Musser suggested that the Council of Friends met that day to instruct the subordinate Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. His interpretation of those events is problematic for several reasons.

1. While a lofty Council of Friends could teach the Quorum of the Twelve, it would be more consistent with the hierarchy set up by Musser for the High Priest Apostles to teach the First Presidency and for them in turn to teach the Twelve. We are unable to distinguish this hierarchy because Musser taught that all of the First Presidency were members of the Council of Friends. The number seven is completed by adding Newel K. Whitney and the three unnamed elders. A more plausible explanation for this meeting would be that the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency, with Bishop Newel K. Whitney were assembled to hear the prophet teach. Joseph Smith used the pronoun "I" when giving his instructions, not "we." To say a Council of Friends convened to instruct the Twelve is pure conjecture.

2. We are informed that the clerks for the meeting were Orson Hyde and William E. M'Lellin. They felt that listing the names of the Twelve, First Presidency, and Bishop was important. If they had understood that the "three Elders" also in attendance were members of the highest priesthood quorum, it is likely that their names would also have been included out of respect for their office alone. This was not done.

3. From previous investigation we know that Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Martin Harris, along with five brethren associated with D&C 84, were supposedly members of the Council of Friends. Why were they not invited? Likewise, we have a numbers problem at that time giving 13 members of that dominant priesthood council instead of seven. This does not seem to be a real problem in the Musser narrative however.

4. Six times Joseph Musser included Sidney Rigdon as a member of his Council of Friends during the 1830's.(247) However, when discussing the membership in 1844, Musser showed that clearly Rigdon never could have been involved. Musser was forced to conclude this in light of Rigdon's actions after the death of Joseph Smith in 1844.

The months following the martyrdom found Sidney proposing, by virtue of his authority as a counselor in the First Presidency, to serve as a "guardian" to the Church until Joseph Smith III was old enough to preside.(248) He viewed his membership in the First Presidency, not a higher priesthood quorum (like the proposed Council of Friends), as the source of his priesthood authority.(249) Joseph Musser apparently realized this problem and stated in A Priesthood Issue:

After the death of Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon applied for the guardianship of the Church, advancing claims based on ordinations he had received in the Church. (p. 26.)

Musser also stated that Sidney Rigdon "wasn't one to be trusted, even though a member of the First Presidency."(250)

The real problem with the idea that Sidney Rigdon had ever been associated with a Council of Friends stems from the complete lack of reference to that purported body by Rigdon in 1844 when he was trying to persuade Church members of his visions and calling to lead. After the death of Joseph Smith, Rigdon promoted the priesthood councils to be organized as they had stood at the time of the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in 1836. Nothing in Rigdon's ideology even vaguely resembled Musser's doctrine of an external Priesthood organization, a Council of Friends or High Priest Apostles. Even a negative reference to them would have substantiated the claims of their existence. Nevertheless, not so much as a hint of the Council of Friends is found.

Sidney Rigdon was excommunicated from the Church in 1844 and proceeded to establish his own religion. He organized a Church with a First Presidency, not a Priesthood organization with a Council of Friends. In view of Sidney Rigdon's statements and actions after the death of the Prophet, it is impossible to believe that he was ever a member of or aware of any quorum higher than the First Presidency.


Jared Carter, an Elder in the Church, was brought before the Kirtland High Council and others on September 19, 1835. The account is recorded as follows:

Minutes of a High Council held in Kirtland, September 19, 1835. The trial of Elder Jared Carter. President Joseph Smith, Jun., Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Frederick G. Williams, Sidney Rigdon, and W. W. Phelps, present. [Then twelve "councilors" listed]. (HC 2:277.)

Musser quoted the above and then commented:

These minutes clearly indicate a trial before the "Presidency of the Council of High Priesthood" (or "Council of the Presidency", or "Presidency of the High Priesthood") (See D&C, Sec. 107:79) with twelve other High Priests chosen to assist as counselors thus indicating the functioning of the highest judicial body, the presidency of which, at least, was of the order of Presiding High Priests, herein mentioned. (Supplement p. 106, Truth 17:172.)

Here we find a somewhat confused elaboration where Musser was forced to redefine titles for his Council of Friends in order to demonstrate its existence historically. From his observations above we are taught that other names for the Council of Friends include:

Presidency of the Council of High Priesthood
Council of the Presidency or
Presidency of the High Priesthood

Musser gave a reference to support his conclusion (D&C 107:79):

And the Presidency of the council of the High Priesthood shall have power to call other high priests, even twelve, to assist as counselors; and thus the Presidency of the High Priesthood and its counselors shall have power to decide upon testimony according to the laws of the church.

Since the term "Presidency of the Council of the High Priesthood" is not used anywhere else in the scriptures, it is easy for an author to define it to be whatever his theology requires. However, the next verse helps us to understand its jurisdiction:

And after this decision it shall be had in remembrance no more before the Lord; for this is the highest council of the church of God, and a final decision upon controversies in spiritual matters. (D&C 107:80.) [Underlining by the authors.]

The council referred to is a Church council. Considering the great efforts Fundamentalists exert to show that their Priesthood organization exists outside the Church, it seems a little odd that Musser would then suggest they are also a "council of the Church."

Additionally, it should be noted that the stake high council is trying the case along with other brethren. This is not an appeal of a lower judgment which might, on request, merit consideration by a higher body, such as the First Presidency (or a Council of Friends if they existed). But how much sense does it make to suggest that the highest priesthood body, which exists outside the Church, is going to join with a stake high council from within the Church to try a case for the first time? Joseph Smith was then serving as President of the High Council at Kirtland and so would attend. But his presence there should not be interpreted as participation of a Council of Friends. Some will say that the attendance of Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Frederick G. Williams, Sidney Rigdon, and W. W. Phelps constitutes assistance from a special priesthood quorum of which they were all supposed to be members. However, it is more likely that the First Presidency and Assistant President Oliver Cowdery had invitation by virtue of their Church positions alone. Also, it is likely that David Whitmer and W.W. Phelps (with John Whitmer) were invited as a teaching opportunity for them as members of the Stake Presidency in Missouri.(251)


One week after the trial of Jared Carter, we find a member, Gladden Bishop, on trial with charges preferred by the Twelve to the Kirtland High Council. The account reads:

September 26. - This morning the Twelve returned from their mission to the East, and on the same day the Council of the Presidency of the Church, consisting of Joseph Smith, Jun., Sidney Rigdon, David Whitmer, W. W. Phelps, John Whitmer, Hyrum Smith and Oliver cowdery, met to consider the case of the Twelve who had previously been reproved in consequence of certain letters and reports coming to the ears of the Council...

An attempt was made in the foregoing Council to criminate the Twelve before the High Council for cutting off Gladden Bishop at their Bradford conference, but their attempt totally failed. I decided that the High Council had nothing to do with the Twelve, or the decisions of the Twelve. But if the Twelve erred they were accountable only to the General Council of the authorities of the whole Church, according to the revelations. (HC 2:283-285 and quoted with Musser's emphasis in Truth 17:172.) [Underlining ours.]

Regarding the above episode, Musser has written:

- Subject only to the direction of the First Presidency of the Church. (Mill. Star, 15:595) and accountable only to the "General Council of the authorities of the whole Church," or the seven High Priests who chose them and before whom they actually appeared to give an account of their labors. (Mill. Star, 15:342.)

It will be remembered that the "High Council in Zion," "the standing High Council at the Stakes of Zion," "the quorum of the Presidency" and the "Twelve traveling Council" (Apostles), in their judiciary acts, are equal in authority (Sec. 107:36, 37), and that an appeal lies from the decision of each of these councils or judiciary tribunals, to the "Council of the Church before the Presidency of the High Priesthood," (107:78, 79), which is the supreme court "in spiritual matters," and from whose decisions there is no appeal, for:

"After this decision (the matter) shall be had in remembrance no more before the Lord; for this is the highest Council of the Church of God, and final decision upon controversies in spiritual matters." (Verse 80)

This council of the Church before the Presidency of the High Priesthood, comprises the group of seven "Presiding High Priests" in the special order of Priesthood under discussion. This "Presidency of the high Priesthood," however, "have power to call other High Priests, even twelve, to assist as counselors." (Verse 79). Thus the court of last resort in the Church of God comprises men that are Presiding High Priests whose Priesthood and appointments are indicated by God through direct revelation to his presiding High Priest on earth, and twelve other High Priests... (Supplement pp 106-107 (in part), Truth 17:172-173.)

It is possible that the reader may be a little confused after reviewing Joseph Musser's commentary on the selections he cited. He asserted from the verses and the historical account:

1. That the "Council of the Presidency of the Church" comprised of Joseph Smith, Jun., Sidney Rigdon, David Whitmer, W. W. Phelps, John Whitmer, Hyrum Smith and Oliver Cowdery, which convened on September 26, 1835, was actually a meeting of the Council of Friends.

2. That the Twelve are subject only to the direction of the First Presidency of the Church and accountable only to the "General Council of the authorities of the whole church," or the seven High Priest Apostles who choose them.

3. Since 1) the Twelve Apostles, 2) the Seventy, 3) the standing high councils at the stakes of Zion, and 4) the high council in Zion all form quorums "equal in authority in the affairs of the Church,"(252) the appeal from the decisions of these four groups is to the "Council of the Church before the Presidency of the High Priesthood" which is a Council of Friends.

4. By virtue of their being the "Council of the Church before the Presidency of the High Priesthood," the Council of Friends has power to call other High Priests, even twelve, to assist as counselors.(253)

These conclusions show the difficulty Musser faced as he tried to interject a quorum into the priesthood hierarchy that was never there in the first place. The First Presidency is entirely replaced by the Council of Friends. In the original accounts and scriptures, Musser's additional level of leadership is absent, so he is forced to displace one that was in existence (the First Presidency) to support the belief that his lofty priesthood body was then present.

Here are some additional problems with his interpretation of the scriptures and events:

1. Since the Council of Friends is supposedly a priesthood body existing outside the church, it seems strange that the reference to the "Council of the Presidency of the Church" would be referring to it. This would be an accurate description of the First Presidency and any additional counselors called to assist.

2. The shifting of membership is bothersome since just one week prior at the trial of Jared Carter, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer were absent (along with Martin Harris and the D&C 84 group(254)) and now Newel K. Whitney is gone and W. W. Phelps has been ordained. This most powerful priesthood quorum appeared to have had a somewhat mercurial membership.

3. The statement that the Twelve were "subject only to the direction of the First Presidency of the Church, and accountable only to the `General Council of the authorities of the whole Church,' or the seven High Priests who chose them and before whom they actually appeared..." promotes an interesting philosophy mingled with scripture without any historical support whatsoever. One is left wondering if the seven High Priests Apostles have ever chosen a "General Council of the authorities of the whole church" and if so, why and when? The alleged Council of Friends did not even preside in 1844 at the trial of Sidney Rigdon who had been a member of the First Presidency and supposedly the Council of Friends.

4. Musser contended that the court of appeals for 1) the Twelve, 2) the Seventy, 3) the standing high councils, at the stakes of Zion, and 4) the high council in Zion was the Council of Friends. This, of course, bypasses the First Presidency. Since there is no record of the Council of Friends ever even existing prior to 1933, one must conclude that no appeals were ever made which is doubtful.

5. This account includes Sidney Rigdon as a member of the Council of Friends which is problematic as discussed above.

6. A question concerning the seniority arises. Several of the different Councils of Friends of the distinct polygamist sects identifiable today follow very strict orders respecting seniority. However, since Musser failed to satisfactorily define how the "Second Elder" was to be designated, at least three modes have been promoted: 1. Seniority through age. 2. Seniority through oldest ordination. 3. Second Elder chosen by the First Elder through a special ordination irrespective of remaining members of the Quorum. After the death of Joseph Musser in 1954, Rulon Allred claimed leadership as Musser's" Second Elder" through special ordination. The Fundamentalists in Colorado City, Arizona, however, followed Leroy Johnson(255) through seniority of ordination.(256) Throughout the first two decades of church history, little attention was paid to seniority in the groups Musser proposed. After 1933 however, positioning became very important and was the source of many splits and disagreements among Fundamentalists.


The Kirtland Temple in Ohio was dedicated March 27, 1836.(257) Prior to its formal dedication it was used for various meetings of church groups. One of these meetings occurred January 21, 1836. The prophet recorded:

At early candle-light I met with the Presidency at the west school room, in the Temple, to attend to the ordinance of anointing our heads with holy oil... I took the oil in my left hand, Father Smith being seated before me, and the remainder of the Presidency encircled him round about. We then stretched our right hands towards heaven, and blessed the oil, and consecrated it in the name of Jesus Christ.

We then laid our hands upon our aged Father Smith, and invoked the blessings of heaven. I then anointed his head with consecrated oil, and sealed many blessings upon him. The Presidency then in turn laid their hands upon his head, beginning at the oldest, until they had all laid their hands upon him, and pronounced such blessings upon his head... (HC 2:379-380.)

The text proceeds by accounting how Joseph was also anointed and received a revelation that is now D&C 137. Others in attendance also "saw glorious visions" and angels administered unto them. The record then continues:

The Bishop of Kirtland with his Counselors, and the Bishop of Zion with his Counselors, were present with us, and received their anointings under the hands of Father Smith, and this was confirmed by the Presidency, and the glories of heaven were unfolded to them also.

We then invited the High Councilors of Kirtland and Zion into our room, and President Hyrum Smith anointed the head of the President of the Councilors in Kirtland, and President David Whitmer the head of the President of the Councilors of Zion... (Ibid pp. 381-382.)

The narrative identifies Joseph Smith, Jr., David Whitmer, Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Joseph Smith, Sr., by name as being present. Also we learn that the Bishop of Kirtland, Newel K. Whitney, and the Bishop of Zion, Edward Partridge,(258) both with their counselors attended. Respecting other proposed High Priest Apostles on the date, the wording of the account would not exclude Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris (doubtful), Frederick G. Williams, W. W. Phelps, John Whitmer or any individuals such the proposed D&C 84 group of six elders, though none of them are mentioned as being there. Commenting on this occurrence, a contributed article in a monthly series from the periodical Truth, entitled "Priesthood Items" stated:

From the History of the Church Vol. 2, p 379, we learn that the Presidency of the Priesthood met and received their washings and anointings. Upon this occasion many of them communed with angels, saw visions, received revelations, or viewed the face of the Savior... The following brethren were named as members of the Presidency upon this occasion namely: President Joseph Smith, Jr., President Joseph Smith, Sr., President Hyrum Smith, President David Whitmer, and President Sidney Rigdon. Others were not mentioned by name. It cannot be argued that the Presidency here named were presidents of the Church, or presidents of various quorums as is sometimes claimed, for God by revelation designates that these shall be three who shall preside as Presidents of the Church and the various Quorum Presidents later received their washings and anointings. (Truth 9:189.)

Even with this explanation, several questions arise:

1. Why is the author of the commentary so certain that the reference to the "Presidency of the Priesthood" alludes to a Council of Friends and not the First Presidency?

2. It is true that the Quorum of the "First Presidency" is composed of three Presiding High Priests and is also called the "Quorum of the Presidency of the Church."(259) To require that Joseph Smith or any other Church President is limited in the number of additional counselors they may wish to call to assist in the work is without scriptural basis. (This question also arises in 1837 and 1873.)

3. We know that both Bishop Newel K. Whitney, with his counselors Reynolds Cahoon and Vinson Knight,(260) and Bishop Edward Partridge, with his counselors John Corrill and Isaac Morley,(261) were present at this supposed meeting of High Priest Apostles. Even though both Newel K. Whitney and Edward Partridge had been listed as members of the Council of Friends previously, they carry the title of Bishop, not the proper title of President, and attend with their counselors in the account quoted. This is a curious combination of High Priest Apostles and other leaders from within the Church. The idea of a distinct quorum meeting for ordinance work deteriorates as the full complement of members in attendance is elucidated.

4. Sidney Rigdon is listed as a member which is highly unlikely in light of his statements in 1844.

5. The problem of seniority persists.


The Kirtland Temple was again the location of a group of church members who received instruction and priesthood ordinances at the hand of the Prophet Joseph Smith. March 29, 1836 found nine of the leading brethren with the two Bishops and their counselors assembled for sacred washings. A Priesthood Issue records the following:

Accordingly, we proceeded to cleanse our faces and our feet, and then proceeded to wash one another's feet. President Sidney Rigdon first washed President Joseph Smith, Junior's feet, and then, in turn, was washed by him; after which President Rigdon washed President Joseph Smith, Senior, and Hyrum Smith. President Joseph Smith, Jun., washed President Frederick G. Williams, and then President Hyrum Smith washed President David Whitmer's, and President Oliver Cowdery's feet. Then President David Whitmer washed President William W. Phelps' feet, [and in turn President Phelps washed President John Whitmer's feet. The Bishops and their Counselors were then washed..]. (HC 2:429-430 -quoted in A Priesthood Issue, pp. 13-14 with the portion in brackets omitted.)

Since the Quorum of the Twelve did not receive the ordinances of Washing of the Feet until the next day, Musser concluded three things. The first:

1st. That the nine brethren who performed the ordinance of feet washing as indicated, were none of them members of the Quorum of Twelve. They were doubtless the "First Elders," a Priesthood group working entirely separate and apart from the Church and independent of it, and with whom the Twelve were to meet in "solemn assembly;" and being the "First Elders," and consequently higher in the order of Priesthood than the Twelve, the ordinance was performed first in their behalf. (A Priesthood Issue, p.14.)

Musser correctly observed that none of the nine individuals named were members of the Quorum of the Twelve. However, to assume that they must then comprise a "Priesthood group working entirely separate and apart from the church" is strictly his opinion and is without historical support. It is unfortunate that Joseph Musser and others have insisted that for one to be worthy of church ordinances (anointings, washings, or endowments), they must have held some high priesthood calling. Many in this group had significant church callings. For example, Joseph Smith, Jr., Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams comprised the Quorum of the First Presidency. Oliver Cowdery was Associate President of the Church. David Whitmer was President of the Stake in Missouri with counselors W. W. Phelps and John Whitmer. Joseph Smith, Sr., was Church Patriarch. The washings that took place might have been in association with their church callings, or it might have been that these men were just worthy, because of personal righteousness, of the ordinances performed. This approach is consistent with the selection of the individuals who received their entire temple endowment prior to the completion of the Nauvoo Temple.

During the Autumn prior to the washings discussed above, Joseph Smith directed the Twelve to attend a "solemn assembly" with the "First Elders" in the Spring. Musser desired to show that this reference to the "First Elders" was actually a reference to the Council of Friends:

That there was Priesthood council operating wholly separate and apart from the Church and, generally speaking, unknown to the Church, must be conceded for the evidence of the fact is conclusive. A single incident, as related by the Prophet, will give the reader a basis for further study. (A Priesthood Issue p. 13.)

Then Musser quoted HC 2:287 adding his own emphasis:

Monday, 5 (October, 1835) -- I returned home, being much fatigued from riding in the rain... and in the evening attended a Council of the Twelve Apostles... told them that it was the will of God they should take their families to Missouri next season; also this fall to attend the SOLEMN ASSEMBLY OF THE FIRST ELDERS, for the organization of the School of the Prophets; etc.

It doesn't seem to bother Musser that the incident he listed as fulfillment of this directive occurred in the Kirtland Temple, hundreds of miles from Missouri. Likewise, it is a forced conclusion to assume that the Twelve Apostles were not "First Elders" themselves simply because they were to attend a "solemn assembly of the First Elders." Musser incorrectly insisted upon excluding the Twelve as First Elders.

The terms "First Elders" are used thirteen times in the seven volume History of the Church.(262) An examination of these references shows clearly the terms were utilized when discussing leading elders of the Church, many of which held callings far less important than the Twelve Apostles. Musser appears to have been groping in the dark when he chose "First Elders" as another name for his Council of Friends.

The second thing learned from the account of the Kirtland Temple washings according to Joseph Musser:

2nd. That each of the eight brethren embracing the "First Elder," was designated by the Prophet as "President," which title is strictly in keeping with their high calling of Presiding High Priests, each of the group being a "President." (A Priesthood Issue p. 14.)

We have shown that at least seven of the nine men named carried the title of "President" by virtue of their priesthood calling. Joseph Smith, Sr., and Hyrum were also both Presidents. When Joseph Smith Sr., was ordained Patriarch to the Church, he was also termed a "President of the High Priesthood" and therefore was a president.(263) He was also a President in another capacity as was Hyrum. Both functioned as "assistant counselors" in the First Presidency of the Church. The Prophet's history begins listing Hyrum as a president as early as February, 1835. At the meeting of February 14, 1835, when the Twelve were called, Hyrum was first termed "President."(264) A review of the offices of these nine presidents:

Joseph Smith Jr. First Presidency
Sidney Rigdon First Presidency
Frederick G. Williams First Presidency
Oliver Cowdery Associate President
Hyrum Smith Assistant President
Joseph Smith Sr. High Priesthood
David Whitmer Missouri Stake
W. W. Phelps Missouri Stake
John Whitmer Missouri Stake

It has been shown that none of the nine individuals present for the ordinance of Washing of the Feet needed to be members of a higher priesthood quorum in order to be called "president." Additionally, it should be pointed out that today's proposed members of the Council of Friends are seldom or never referred to as "President."

The third lesson listed by Musser:

3rd. That following the ceremony performed in behalf of themselves, this group of "First Elders" proceeded to attend to the same in behalf of the Bishops and their counselors, they holding the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood independent of the Church; and that following the Bishops, and on the next day, the ordinance was performed for the Twelve, whose calling, as we have shown, was to an appendage ambassadorial office. (A Priesthood Issue, p. 14.) [Underlining by the authors.]

To say that bishops have ever held their priesthood keys "independent of the Church" is puzzling. It is doubtful that Joseph Musser, or any other Fundamentalist, has ever expounded this enigma.(265) However, after reading the account, the need for Musser to explain why the Bishops and their counselors were invited to partake of the ordinances with a dominating Council of Friends who supposedly held much higher priesthood keys is obvious. Regarding Bishops, the Lord said:

But as a high priest of the Melchizedek Priesthood has authority to officiate in all the lesser offices, he may officiate in the office of bishop when no literal descendant of Aaron can be found, provided he is called and set apart and ordained unto this power by the hands of the Presidency of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church. (D&C 107:17-18.) [Underlining ours]

Here the Lord states the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood is to hold the keys of spiritual blessings within the church. To extricate the keys held by the Bishops from the church and make them "independent of the church" becomes difficult in light of the scriptures above. The whole concept is inconsistent with the duties of a Bishop as given in the Doctrine and Covenants and the organization established through Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and subsequent priesthood leaders.

There are other difficulties in believing that the meeting on March 29, 1936 involved a Council of Friends. The old concern about membership regarding the position of Martin Harris or the D&C 84 Elders persists. Likewise, Sidney Rigdon is an active participant.


The minutes of a conference assembled in committee of the whole Church at Kirtland on Sunday, the 3rd of September, 1837 include:

President Smith then presented Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams as his counselors, and to constitute with himself the three first Presidents of the Church...

President Smith then introduced Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith, Sen., Hyrum Smith, and John Smith for assistant counselors. These last four, together with the first three, are to be considered the heads of the Church. (HC 2:509.)

Concerning these sustainings, Musser wrote:

Since the First Presidency of the Church consists of three presiding High Priests (D&C 107:22) the choosing of four extra counselors -- the seven to constitute the "heads of the Church" -- must be considered in a broader light than merely adding extra help to the appendage office of First Presidency. Joseph would hardly commit the error of going contrary to the revelation given of the Lord to himself, specifically designating the number that was to constitute this Church position... (A Priesthood Issue p. 14.)

Joseph Musser suggested that these seven individuals were High Priest Apostles and apparently members of the Council of Friends. The leadership of the Church to this point is:

MARCH 1833
President - Joseph Smith
1st Counselor - Sidney Rigdon
2nd Counselor - Frederick G. Williams
Associate President - Oliver Cowdery
Assistant Counselor - Hyrum Smith
Assistant Counselor - Joseph Smith, Sr.
Assistant Counselor - John Smith

The total number of men sustained that day as "heads of the Church" was seven. The number of men in this group is probably the best evidence that they might have had something to do with a Council of Seven Friends. Problems with such an interpretation include:

1. We are told that they are the "heads of the church." Since the Council of Friends are supposed to be presiding over the Priesthood, it is strange that they might be considered as heads of the Church. A more accurate title, according to Musser, would have been "heads of the Priesthood." The First Presidency, with any additional counselors are more accurately considered the "heads of the Church."

2. These seven individuals were sustained by the church utilizing the principle of common consent:

And all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith. (D&C 26:2.)

But Musser has suggested that his "priesthood" is actually outside the church and not subject to the law of common consent:

[The] Priesthood is a Theocracy - direction coming direct from God, while the Church is in essence a Democracy - all things being done in it by "common consent" of its members (D&C 26:2). (A Priesthood Issue, p. 31.)

In light of this, how much sense does it make for the lofty Council of Friends, a non-church entity, to be sustained as "heads of the Church" using the law of common consent at the Church conference in question?

3. The membership is a problem. What about David Whitmer, Newel K. Whitney, W. W. Phelps, and John Whitmer? They were all active believers on the date above.

4. The inclusion of John Smith is curious because it is the only time he is ever mentioned in association with the Council of Friends. What happened to him later?

5. Sidney Rigdon is listed as a member which is difficult to believe in light of his 1844 activities.

6. The seniority inconsistency again appears.


During the development of the doctrine of High Priest Apostles, Joseph W. Musser demonstrated considerable creativity in his selection and interpretation of the specific evidences he cited. Nevertheless, a more detailed inquiry of the membership of the Council of Friends during the 1835 to 1837 period fails to support his underlying suppositions.



246. See Musser's "15 Groups" of proposed Council of Friends membership.

247. See Musser's "15 Groups" of proposed Council of Friends membership.

248. Church History in the Fulness of Times, p. 289.

249. Musser attempted to bolster his claims that a Council existed which presided over the Church (COUNCIL OF FRIENDS) by quoting Heber C. Kimball who stated in 1844 at the trial of Sidney Rigdon:

Elder Rigdon after he came from Pittsburgh never attended council only when he could not avoid it. He has no authority, only what he receives from the Church; if he was one with us, why was he not in our councils? [Musser added: Councils independent of the Church]. He was not in the council pertaining to the High Priesthood until just before he started for Pittsburgh. Brother Phelps was the means of bringing him in, but he has not got the same authority as others; there are more than thirty men who have got higher authority than he has. (A Priesthood Issue p. 26, quoted from Times and Seasons, 5:663.)

Musser's examination of Church history caused him to seize any quotation that might possibly support his ideas. He interpreted this reference to mean that their were thirty High Priest Apostles living at that time, though he never elaborated on who they were or how they related to his COUNCIL OF SEVEN FRIENDS. Of course, Musser's High Priest Apostles all purportedly possessed higher authority than the First Presidency. In reality, the thirty men referred to were those who had received their full temple endowment which Rigdon had not received. The "councils" referred to were those associated with the restoration of the temple endowment. It is pure fantasy to suggest that the "councils" were somehow "independent of the Church."

250. A Priesthood Issue, p. 26.

251. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia 1:252, 265 and 3:694.

252. D&C 107:33-37.

253. Ibid verse 79.

254. See chapter six.

255. Rulon Jeffs succeeded Leroy S. Johnson.

256. Two members of the purported COUNCIL OF FRIENDS, Charles F. Zitting and LeGrande Woolley, declined to assume the leadership position. The next senior High Priest Apostle was Leroy S. Johnson.

257. James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book. 1976. p. 99.

258. The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 102-103, 118.

259. D&C 107:22 see also 112:30.

260. HC 2:509.

261. Donald Q. Cannon and Lyndon W. Cook eds., Far West Record, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1983. p. 7.

262. Besides the quote listed, see HC 1:307, 342; 2:108, 110, 144 (twice), 164 (twice), 308; 4:470, 6:44, 7:359.

263. HC 4:190-191 (see footnote), 2:273.

264. HC 2:186; see also 2:219, 274, 283, 364, 366, 367, 372, 382, 411, 427 etc.

265. President Joseph F. Smith taught:

In a local capacity, 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. From among those who hold this office are chosen the presidents of stakes and their counselors, and the high councils of the stakes of Zion, and from this office are chosen the bishops, and the bishops' counselors in every ward in Zion. (Gospel Doctrine, p. 182)