Council of Friends

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The Council of Friends was an organization described by Joseph Smith in early 19th century Mormon theology. He viewed the organisation as being part of a world government which would guide and direct the Kingdom of God (Zion) on earth during the end times as a theodemocracy.


Smith envisioned this council as serving in an advisory capacity to both the Priesthood authorities of his church and a Council of Fifty. This group of three organizations was expected to rule as a world government just prior to the Millennium.[1][2] As advisers, the Council of Friends would serve as the base of the governing body, but possessed no real political power. Although claims to priesthood authority preceded the official organization of Smith's church in 1830, and a Council of Fifty was organized on March 11th, 1844, no Council of Friends was ever organized by Smith.[3]

Mormon fundamentalism[edit]

Mormonism and polygamy
The Family of Joseph F. Smith
A Mormon polygamist family in 1888.

The concept of a Council of Friends or Priesthood Council was central to the Mormon fundamentalist theology developed by Lorin C. Woolley and others in the late 1920s, wherein it was said to consist of seven "High Priest Apostles" holding higher authority than the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).[4] Early fundamentalists believed that the council had been restored in secret by Joseph Smith before the LDS Church itself, and dated back to the time of Adam.[5] Various historical Mormons were said to have been members of the Council at one time or another, including the first six Presidents of the LDS Church.[6] When fully organized, Woolley taught that the Council would function as the presidency of a larger, seventy-one member Sanhedrin.[7]

Because the authority of the Council of Friends pertained to the Priesthood and not to the Church, early Mormon fundamentalists, most of whom had been excommunicated from the LDS Church, felt that its existence gave them the right to continue solemnizing plural marriages even after Church President Wilford Woodruff's 1890 Manifesto discountenancing the practice. Indeed, Woolley claimed to have been ordained to the Council for precisely that purpose by President John Taylor in 1886, along with his father John W. Woolley and four others. In order to ensure that "no year passed by without children being born in the principle of plural marriage," Woolley, who had ostensibly become the last member of the Council after his father's death in December 1928, ordained six more men to the same calling between 1929 and 1933: J. Leslie Broadbent, John Y. Barlow, Joseph White Musser, Charles Zitting, Dr. LeGrande Woolley, and Louis A. Kelsch. This Council gradually emerged as the leadership of the polygynous Short Creek Community.

Additions were made to Woolley's Council as time went on and former members died or left the movement. Leroy S. Johnson and Rulon Jeffs, future leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church) were ordained by John Y. Barlow in the 1940s, while Joseph Musser's ordination of Rulon C. Allred in 1952 caused a division in the community and led to the creation of the Apostolic United Brethren. Today, the AUB continues to be led by a Priesthood Council, while the FLDS Church transitioned to autocratic "One Man Rule" by a single prophet in the 1980s. Other fundamentalist groups led by a Priesthood Council include the Centennial Park group, the Latter Day Church of Christ, and the Righteous Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Andrus, Hyrum Leslie (1958). Joseph Smith and World Government. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book. OCLC 4146522. 
  2. ^ Riggs, Robert E. (Winter 1959), Joseph Smith and World Government, "Book Reviews", BYU Studies 1 (1): 71–73 
  3. ^ Bradley, Don (April 2006), "The Grand Fundamental Principles of Mormonism: Joseph Smith's Unfinished Reformation", Sunstone: 32–41 
  4. ^ Musser, Joseph W. (1948), A Priesthood Issue.
  5. ^ Musser, Joseph W. (1939) Michael, Our Father and Our God, Truth Publications, 122-123.
  6. ^ Briney, Drew (2010) Joseph W. Musser's Book of Remembrance. Hindsight Publications.
  7. ^ Zitting, Laura Tree. (1988) Charles F. Zitting: One of God's Noble Men.