I listened to a lesson today riddled with apostate heresy and historical errors. The lesson was hopelessly beyond repair, so I said nothing. But a little while before attending that meeting I had been reading in the Times and Seasons about the very topic mangled by the lesson.
On May 22, 1841 the saints in Kirtland called a General Conference. There was no central authority consulted before calling the conference. The first presidency was not asked, nor the twelve apostles, nor any seventy. It was a decision made only by the saints themselves.
At the conference Almon Babbit resigned as the stake president. After resigning the conference was adjourned for an hour to allow the saints to decide who they wanted to nominate. Following that adjournment the saints settled on Almon Babbitt as their nominee, but he declined. Despite declining a vote was taken and Babbitt was unanimously elected stake president. Upon being elected, he relented and agreed to serve. He nominated Lester Brooks and Zebidee Coltrin as counselors, who were likewise unanimously elected.
The minutes of the General Conference were mailed to Nauvoo, and were published in the Times and Seasons on July 1, 1841.
The whole church with various equal quorums (first presidency, twelve traveling high councilors, seventy, stake high councils) had been fully organized five years before 1841. Everyone at that time understood a stake high council had authority equal to the twelve traveling high council, and equal as well to the first presidency. With equal and separate divisions it was designed to be impossible for one branch to corrupt the entire church.
The early church governed themselves by common consent, without overlords dictating to them. Equality prevailed and authority was disbursed into equal and independent groups. That prevented autocratic rule and guarded against apostasy of the whole body, until church government was overthrown by Brigham Young and replaced by an autocracy of the twelve.