Jesse Gause

Lawrence R. Flake, Prophets and Apostles of the Last Dispensation (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2001), 160–63.

Born: about 1784, East Marlborough, Virginia

First counselor to President Joseph

Smith: 8 March 1832

Excommunicated: 3 December 1832

Died: about 1836

Jesse Gause is a “mystery man” in the history of the Church. Neither his birth nor his death date is known. The story of his conversion and the date of his baptism are likewise unknown, as is his reason for leaving the Church only about a year after joining it.

What is known about Brother Gause, however, is interesting and important in the early development of the kingdom and in the unfolding of the office of the First Presidency. When the Church was organized 6 April 1830, there were only two leaders: Joseph Smith, the First Elder, and Oliver Cowdery, the Second Elder. In March of the next year the Lord spoke of “the presidency . . . of the Church” (D&C 48:6). In early November 1831 the Prophet received a revelation (D&C 68) with four references to the “First Presidency.” On 25 January 1832 the Prophet Joseph was sustained and ordained the “President of the High Priesthood.” A few weeks later in the first week of March, the Lord authorized the Prophet to call counselors to assist him as president of the priesthood. On 8 March the Prophet recorded, “Chose this day and ordained brother Jesse Gause and Broth[er] Sidney [Rigdon] to be my councellers of the ministry of the presidency of th[e] high Priesthood.”[1]

Though the brethren mentioned were apparently not designated as first and second counselors, Brother Gause was listed first and, because he was eight or nine years older than Sidney Rigdon, may have been considered First Counselor. An acquaintance from the Shaker community to which Brother Gause belonged prior to his conversion wrote in a letter concerning Brother Gause, “He is yet a Mormon—& is second to the Prophet or Seer—Joseph Smith.”[2]

Before becoming a Shaker, Jesse Gause had been a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers) for twenty-three years. In spite of the pacifism espoused by that group, he fought in the War of 1812. In 1828 while residing in Wilmington, Delaware, Jesse’s first wife died, leaving him the care of their four children. Shortly after her death he married again and a fifth child was born. The Gauses then joined the Shakers. After Brother Gause became a Latter-day Saint, he tried in vain to get his wife to join the Church.[3]

During his brief service as a counselor to Joseph Smith, Elder Gause served two missions: one to Missouri during April and May of 1832 to help the Prophet establish the United Order in Zion, and the other in August of that same year with Zebedee Coltrin to preach to the Shakers. During this second mission the companions separated, and that is the last that Church history records of President Jesse Gause except for a sad notation in Joseph Smith’s journal for 3 December 1832, stating that “Bro. Jesse was excommunicated.”[4]

The heading to D&C 81 states: “When this revelation was received in March 1832, it called Jesse Gause to the office of counselor to Joseph Smith in the Presidency. However, when he failed to continue in a manner consistent with this appointment, the call was subsequently transferred to Frederick G. Williams. The revelation (dated March 1832) should be regarded as a step toward the formal organization of the First Presidency, specifically calling for the office of counselor in that body and explaining the dignity of the appointment.”


[1] D. Michael Quinn, “Jesse Gause: Joseph Smith’s Little-Known Counselor,” BYU Studies 23, no. 4 (fall 1983): 489.

[2] Robert J. Woodford, “Jesse Gause, Counselor to the Prophet,” BYU Studies 15, no. 3 (spring 1975): 364.

[3] Quinn, “Little-Known Counselor,” 489.

[4] Lyndon D. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Provo, UT: Seventy’s Mission Bookstore, 1981), 192.