Council of Fifty

In March 1844, Smith launched a secret organization in the upper room of his mercantile store that he referred to as “the political Kingdom of God,” more commonly called the Council of Fifty. Comprised primarily of church leaders along with a few non-Mormon members, the theocratic Council met almost daily in Smith’s store and combined ritual elements with political planning. According to Bishop George Miller, the all-male society was organized as “princes in the Kingdom of God,” with Smith himself being ordained as “Prophet, Priest, and King,” although some historians have recently begun questioning whether Miller was conflating a coronation with temple ceremonies that were held in the same meeting room, often in the same night. The Council was tasked with exploring Texas as a possible resettlement site for the Mormons as well as the ambitious task of drafting a memorial to the President and Congress proposing that Smith be appointed General over a commission of 100,000 soldiers with intent to secure the Oregon Territory for the United States. Finally, the Council of Fifty managed Smith’s Presidential campaign and sent the Twelve out as emissaries to preach the Mormon faith and stump on Smith’s behalf. Ultimately, the Council of Fifty aspired to become a theocratic millennial government. The members of the Council were convinced of the imminent collapse of the United States government and the return of Christ and stood at the ready to establish and govern God’s Kingdom on the Earth. Although direct evidence has yet to materialize, some LDS scholars, using the later writings of LDS leaders, insist it was in one of these meetings that Joseph Smith gave his “final charge” to the Twelve Apostles to carry on the government of the Church in the event of his death.