Gil Bradshaw and Dr. Fred E. Woods Church History and Doctrine
With no available temples wherein they could perform their endowments, early Saints performed endowments for the living in various other places. For example, when Church members first entered the Salt Lake valley, their early endowments were performed on top of Ensign Peak. This was a special exception for missionaries returning from the South Pacific who missed the Nauvoo era completely1. For this paper I concentrated on the Council House as a similar temple substitute. Though not a temple, between its construction in 1850 and its eventual destruction in 1883, the Council House on Temple Square served as Utah’s first established location for administration of sacred ordinances for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The blessing of the endowment is not exclusively given within the formal walls of temples. Joseph Smith administered the endowment in his very own red brick store. 2 The Council House was the first major building erected when the Saints settled the Salt Lake Valley, partly because of the need for the temple ordinances.
The building of the Council House was considered as urgent as the building of the Kirtland temple. In the first meeting held on the temple block in Salt Lake City, Heber C. Kimball admonished the saints of the importance of the edification of the Council House. He stated that while constructing in Kirtland every construction team went once a week to build the temple. He advised that they do the same for the Council House because “this building [is] as important as that.”3
The endowments and sealings were administered by William C. Staines, Heber C. Kimball, and others. Heber C. Kimball, member of the First Presidency, also officiated ordinances therein where he “frequently lectured to those going through for two or three hours at a time.”4 Others who did the washings and anointings were: Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Charles C. Rich, Parley P. Pratt, and Zera Pulsipher.
A great number of church members were able to receive their endowments in the Council House between 1851 and 1854. The Saints who received their endowments in the Council House numbered 2,222. Although work had a brief lapse for unknown reasons between November 6 1852 and February 3 1854, a great many saints received their temple endowment there. In the year 1851 alone there were 211 males and 258 females endowed. During the year1852 there were 522 men and 696 women who received their endowment. During the last 8 months of 1854 233 males were endowed and 302 females. The total number of people was tallied by Thomas Bullock Clark. The total number of endowed saints was 2,222 with “290 more females than males.” Usually anywhere from 30 to 40 saints received their endowment on any given day.5
The Council House was considered so important to finish that it was held equal in importance to the Kirtland temple. After it was completed in 1850, sacred endowments were performed until the completion of the Endowment House in 1855. There were 2,222 members of the LDS church endowed therein. The Council House was referred to as the House of the Lord. The Council House burned to the ground in 1883, and the official church records that were stored therein were miraculously saved. The Council House is sorely underrated particularly in its role in sacred ordinances for the living in the early days of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
For my ORCA project I started on the most comprehensive study on the Utah Territorial Council House that has ever been done. My results have been submitted to present at the Mormon Historical Association’s 2004 annual conference. I am still waiting for the reply as to whether or not I have been accepted to present my findings. My final paper that I was able to write is in press right now with the Mormon Historical Studies Journal. My mentor Fred E. Woods has been thoroughly impressed and hired me as his research assistant as a result of this project. I also have been recognized by several faculty members of Church History and Doctrine. My paper was nominated for the Phi Kappa Phi student essay competition. My paper was also submitted for a scholarship with the religion department.
This project had many hardships. I had several problems including: growing weary with the same topic, finding stumbling blocks in the research (i.e. lack of sources, incomplete information etc.). I also ended up with more research than I could ever fit into one paper, so I had to narrow the topic into a much narrower topic.
There were several great things that came out of this paper. I am the authority on this subject and I will always be able to draw upon this experience as my first professional historical project. In addition, I was able to obtain permission to research material that previously has been “Access Restricted” in the LDS Historical department archives. That was exciting. This research even took me to the Genealogical “Special Collections,” where I had to show my temple recommend to get in.
Several professors have asked for my paper for their own research. Dr Richard Bennett was very interested. Dr. Cowan was also interested in my paper. David Boone adopted me as a research partner and took me to the LDS Archives every week.
I would say that this was the best work I’ve done to date, excepting the potential of a project which I intend to apply for the 2003-2004 ORCA. I benefited tremendously and have obtained the same publication that many professors try to get when they are applying for tenure.