. . . I observed that we had heard them1 patiently and in turn should expect to be heard patiently also; and first I remarked that it was necessary that the 12 should state whether they were determined to persevere in the work of the Lord, whether the presidency were able to satisfy them or not; vote called, and carried in the affirmative, unanimously; I then said to them that I had not lost confidence in them, and that they had no reason to suspect my confidence, and that I would be willing to be weighed in the scale of truth today in this matter, and risk it in the day of judgment; and as it respects the chastening contained in the letter in question, which I acknowledge might have been expressed in too harsh language; which was not intentional and I ask your forgiveness, inasmuch as I have hurt your feelings; but nevertheless, the letter that Elder Mclellin wrote back to Kirtland while the Twelve were at the east was harsh also, and I was willing to set the one against the other. I next proceeded to explain the subject of the duty of the Twelve; and their authority which is next to the present presidency, and that the arrangement of the assembly in this place, on the 15 inst in placing the High Councils of Kirtland next [to] the Presidency, was because the business to be transacted, was business relating to that body in particular which was to fill the several quorum's in Kirtland; not beca[u]se they were first in office, and that the arrangement was the most Judicious that could be made on the occasion also the 12, are not subject to any other than the first presidency, viz. myself S. Rigdon, and F G. Williams2 -- I also stated to the Twelve that I do not countenanc[e] the harsh language of President Cowdery to them, neither in myself nor any other man, although I have sometimes spoken to harsh from the impulse of the moment, and inasmuch as I have wounded your feelings brethren I ask your forgiveness, for I love you and will hold you up with all my heart in all righteousness, before the Lord, and before all men, for be assured, brethren, I am willing to stem the torrent of all opposition, in storms in tempests in thunders and in lightning by sea and by land in the wilderness or among fals[e] brethren or mobs or wherever God in his providence may call us and I am determined that neither heights nor depths principalities nor powers things present or to come nor any other creature shall separate me from you; and I will now covenant with you before God that I will not listen too nor credit, any derogatory report against any of you nor condemn you upon any testimony beneath the heavens, short of that testimony which is infalible, untill I can see you face to face and know of a surity and I do place unlimited confidence in your word for I believe you to be men of truth, and I ask the same of you, when I tell you anything that you place equal confidence in my word for I will not tell you I know anything that I do not know - but I have already consumed more time than I intended when I commenced and I will now give way to my colleagues
1. The occasion of this meeting was the request of the apostles to determine their standing in the eyes of the Church Presidency, and to clear the air regarding some charges made against them while they were preaching in the eastern states. The portion of the record quoted here is identified by Dean Jesse as the handwriting of Jesse Hitchcock [PJS 2:146n1]. This portion begins with the words "I observed that we had heard" and ends with "the 15 inst." The remainder of the material is in the hand of Warren Parrish.
2. This statement was later expanded by the editors of Joseph Smith's history (volume 2, chapter XXVII- [click on this link and search on the phrase "also the Twelve"]) after his death to read
also the Twelve are not subject to any other than the first Presidency, viz., myself, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams, who are now my Counselors; and where I am not, there is no First Presidency over the Twelve.The expansion suggests that when Joseph Smith was not present, or if he died, that the counselors in the First Presidency would no longer preside over the Twelve. While it may be argued with good evidence that eventually Joseph Smith intended that the Twelve as a body could succeed him in the event of his death, it was certainly the case that the counselors in the Presidency were superior to the apostles in the Church hierarchy while that Presidency was organized, whether or not Joseph Smith was "in town." Some relevant Church documents on this subject include D&C 102:11, 17Feb34, D&C 107:22-24, D&C 112:15-20, 30. Years later, when Williams had been relieved of his office and Rigdon had fallen out of favor with Joseph Smith and most of the 1836 apostles had left the Church, the hierarchy clearly began to approximate Joseph Smith's statements made in this meeting. The reconstituted apostles in Nauvoo, for all practical purposes, stood next to Joseph and Hyrum Smith [Hyrum Smith had become a counselor to his brother], while Rigdon became more and more estranged. Thus after a fashion, the insertion by the editors became accurate, for while Rigdon retained his position, the apostles had moved between him and Joseph Smith. The point behind this expansion was to asure Church members of the legitimacy of the apostles' administration after the death of Joseph Smith. The phrase was further modified by the HC editor, B. H. Roberts, but with no essential change in meaning.