In the minutes of the morning meeting of 18 April 1844, an incomplete draft of the constitution for the “kingdom of God” was read. In the afternoon meeting of that day, the constitution was discussed. In the discussion, a remark was recorded about the relative importance of the church and kingdom: “He [Er. Lorenzo D. Wasson] considers that the kingdom is something more important than the church and is approximating nearer to God.” (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 126.)
It is the “kingdom of God”– not a church — whose destiny is to destroy all other governments, kingdoms and institutions pretending to exercise authority over mankind. God’s kingdom will be welcome relief to the oppression mankind has suffered for thousands of years.
The fledgling “kingdom” did not acquire any clear definition in 1844. When anyone was inducted into the initial organization “the men took an oath to keep their proceedings secret.” (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 40.) Very little information has been available about the “kingdom of God” until the publication of the minutes as part of the Joseph Smith Papers project.
Even though we now have minutes of the meetings, they are incomplete. As an example, Joseph Smith “gave much instructions on many subjects” in the 11 March 1844 meeting, but what was said is not included in the minutes. (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 43.) In the same meeting, “the chairman [Joseph] continued his instructions”–again, without any detail of what was taught. (Id., p. 44.)
The LDS Historian’s Office describes the meeting of 13 March 1844 by stating the minutes “clearly fails to record most of the day’s council discussion.” (JS Papers Administrative Records, pp. 45-46.)
The view we have into the incipient “kingdom” is even more limited because it was decided by the participants that,
It was considered wisdom to burn the minutes in consequence of treachery and plots of designing men. (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 50)
Records were burned. Many of the minutes that now survive are recreations made afterwards. Attempts at remembering some of what happened.
In the meeting of 19 March 1844, “The chairman [Joseph] continued his instructions on the order of the kingdom of God.” (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 52.) We do not have what he instructed.
By the afternoon of 4 April 1844 the subject of “kingship” had been raised and discussed. Before anyone was considered a “king,” the minutes of 4 April record:
Er Alman [Almon] Babbit differed in some respects from some of the previous speakers. He explained his views on laws in general (i.e.) the laws of the land. He referred to the apostacy of the children of Israel in choosing a king. (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 79.)
He was referring to the decision to replace a theocratic system, at the time presided over by Samuel, with a king–described in 1 Samuel chapter 8. When the prophet Samuel inquired of God he was told, “they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” (1 Sam. 8:7.) The Book of Mormon anticipated the gentiles displacing the Nephite/Lamanite inheritance, and proclaims: “this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles.” (2 Ne. 10:11.)
Elder Babbit’s protest made sense and has scriptural support. In effect, he was saying the restoration of a “kingdom of God” by adopting a king would be like a return to the post-Samuel era of the Old Testament. That is generally considered a time of apostasy, as Babbit suggested.
Elder Babbit sent a letter on 10 April, explaining he would not be able to participate in the meeting scheduled for the next day. He expressed his confidence in the group, and said, “I will most cheerfully give my sanction to all measures which may receive your sanction.” (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 86.)
Babbit’s protest may have led the Chairman Pro-Tem (Sidney Rigdon) to offer an observation about how the “kingdom of God” ought to be operated. Rigdon explained:
The design was to form a Theocracy according to the will of Heaven, planted without any intention to interfere with any government of the world. We wish to have nothing to do with them. We have no violence to offer to governments, no rights to infringe. The object is to live so far above their laws that they cannot interfere with us, unless by violence. (JS Papers Administrative Record, p. 88.)
Perhaps that would have satisfied Babbit, had he attended. Hyrum Smith spoke to the group and suggested they “have a greater work to do than Enoch had[.]” (JS Papers Administrative Record, pp. 93-94.)
In the meeting held 11 April Joseph Smith was sustained as a “prophet, priest and King” over the “kingdom of God” by members of the council.
It makes one wonder whether the Book of Mormon imperative (“this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles.”) was at least part of the reason Joseph would be slain two months later. One thing is certain: The “kingdom of God” did not begin to roll down the mountain in 1844. Nor has it broken in pieces any of the false governments oppressing mankind. The world has yet to see that put into motion by God’s almighty hand.