Paul A. Douglas
35. The Council of 50 and An Accusation of Treason
Joseph Smith was a very ambitious man. Shortly before his death in 1844 he established a theocratic-political system which he named the Council of 50. And on April 11th, 1844 was named King and Ruler over all the earth with unlimited civil, military and ecclesiastical power.
This body met in Nauvoo seventeen times before he was killed.
Smith prophesied the entire overthrow of the United States within a few years.
Smith saw himself as reigning over all of America and eventually the entire world. Like so many things Joseph Smith did it was done covertly and undercover and those who were given knowledge of it or who was promised to become one of the ‘Princes’ were sworn to secrecy under penalty of death.
Wilson Law, the brother of William Law, the former second counselor in the First Presidency and the highest ranking Major General in the Nauvoo Legion, stated that Smith’s intended to:
“Set the laws at defiance; for the Government, he said, was corrupt, and ought to be overthrown, and he would do it, for he could get help plenty from the Indians, for he had communication with them all the time, and they were ready. And deponent further saith that he verily believes that said Joseph Smith is and has been, conspiring with the Indians against this Government, he having agents out among the Indians, passing to and fro ever since last summer; and that a number of Indians have come to Nauvoo, at different times, last winter and spring, and held secret councils with said Smith. And further, that Hyrum Smith, last winter, said to the affiant, that this Government must be changed; for it did not suit them, and they could never keep the revelations or build up the kingdom under the present form of Government.” 1
John W. Putnam. Putnam, a resident of Bear Creek, Illinois, a community not far from Nauvoo, stated on August 13, 1844: “That he saw in the lodge at Nauvoo, a number of arms, and he understood that there were plenty of arms in Nauvoo. He further states that the Mormons are endeavoring to seduce the Indian tribes from their allegiance to the United States and engage them to take up the hatchet against the people of the United States, and that white men are to lead them on to the conflict.”
He further states that “he has understood that Lyman Wight has already departed [to Texas] to stir up the savages, and prepare them for the final struggle with the whites. He also understood that cannon had been received in Nauvoo, sent there in hogsheads of sugar, and also fire arms and ammunition. He further states … that in conjunction with the Indians [the Mormon plan is] to attack the people and subvert the government, and establish Mormonism throughout the United States. He further states, that…. the Indians had twice held their powwows or war dances in Nauvoo.” 2
Smith’s determined goal of a theocratic-political empire is evident in the pretentious ‘Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To all the Kings of the World’ which the Council of the Twelve (who are also all members of the Council of Fifty), addressed: “To all the Kings of the World; To the President of the United States of America; To the Governors of the several States; And to the Rulers and Peoples of all Nations.”
The pronouncement warned world leaders: “You cannot…stand as idle and disinterested spectators of the scenes and events which are calculated in their very nature to reduce all nations and creeds to one political and religious standard, and thus put an end to Babel forms and names, and to strife and war.” 3
Is this not precisely the form of government militant Islam longs for today?
“Islamic government does not correspond to any of the existing forms of government… Islamic government is neither tyrannical nor absolute, but constitutional. It is not constitutional in the current sense of the word… It is constitutional in the sense that the rulers are subject to a certain set of conditions in governing and administering the country, conditions that are set forth in the Noble Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Most Noble Messenger (Imam). It is the laws and ordinances of Islam comprising this set of conditions that must be observed and practiced. Islamic government may therefore be defined as the rule of divine law over men.” 4
If you replaced the word Islam with Mormonism and the word Imam for LDS Church President you have Joseph Smith’s un-American dystopian society. Smith’s goal of world domination simply echoes the message of the Book of Mormon:
- And I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive after they have scattered my people
- Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
- Thy hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off.
- And it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that the sword of my justice shall hang over them at that day; and except they repent it shall fall upon them, saith the Father, yea, even upon all the nations of the Gentiles. 5
3 Nephi 20: 15-17, 20 12
And my people who are a remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles, yea, in the midst of them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he go through both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces and none can deliver.
14 Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent; for it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Father, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots;
15 And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strongholds;
18 And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities.
21 And I will execute vengeance and fury upon them, even as upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.
3 Nephi 21: 14-15, 18, 21
Brigham Young speaking as a member of the Council of the Fifty on March 11th, 1845:
“The gentiles have rejected the Gospel; they have killed the Prophets and those who have not taken an active part in the murder all rejoice in it, and that is saying that they are willing the blood of the prophets should be shed. The gentiles have rejected the Gospel [And] we will sweep them out of existence.” 5
Treason has ever been deemed the highest crime which can be committed in civil society and in the past, has been visited with the deepest public resentment and the greatest of penalties – usually death.
Were Smith’s actions treasonous?
Probably. Black’s Law Dictionary: defines treason as “the offense of attempting to overthrow the state to which one owes allegiance, either by making war against the state or by materially supporting its enemies.”
Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution reads:
“Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”
Had Smith not been killed in the gunfight at Cartage jail, I think it would have been unlikely that he would have been convicted of treason.
Treason is a high bar, ‘levying War against them.’
But the Jig was up for Joseph Smith and his illegal order to destroy the Expositor and call out the Nauvoo Legion was serious stuff. Even more serious, Smith’s adulterous affairs with other women and his now public revelation of plural marriage was very upsetting to many of the good citizens of his community; especially since teenage girls and married women were involved.
Had he not been killed, I suspect this time he would have spent a considerable amount of time in the penitentiary. It is perhaps telling that I have been unable to find any Apologists having commented directly on Smith’s accusations of Treason. The only mention is the following sentence in a blurb by intended to paint Smith as a martyr.
1 Affidavit of Wilson Law, June 20, 1844, published in “Letters to Gov. Ford−No. II,” Alton Telegraph & Democratic Review, February 22, 1845,
2Affidavit of John W. Putnam, August 13, 1844, published in “Letters to Gov. Ford−No. IV,” Alton Telegraph & Democratic Review, March 15, 1845.
3 Liverpool: F. D. Richards, 1845, 1, 6.
4 Ayatullah Sayyid Imam Ruhollah Musawi Khomeini, ‘Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist’, Jan 21, 1970.
5 Council of 50 Minutes, 300
Again, no specific comment on what I have written.