D&C/CHURCH HISTORY - LESSON 41
Succession In The Presidency
- Introductory Comments.
- Events Following The Death Of Joseph & Hyrum.
- Governor Ford.
- On the afternoon of Joseph and Hyrum's death he was addressing the
Saints in Nauvoo.
- He encouraged the Saints to keep the peace. He stated: "You
ought to be praying Saints, not military Saints. Depend upon it, a little
more misbehavior from the citizens, and the torch, which is already lighted,
will be applied, and the city may be reduced to ashes, and extermination
would inevitably follow..."
- Upon his return to Carthage that afternoon the governor learned of
the assassination. In Carthage the governor advised those remaining in
town to flee since he expected the Mormons to storm the county seat and
burn it to the ground.
- The governor left town for Quincy.
- The Saints kept the peace and there were not any serious threats to
Nauvoo during the remainder of the summer.
- The Burial.
- June 28: The bodies of Joseph & Hyrum were brought to Nauvoo by
Willard Richards, Samuel Smith, and a guard of eight men.
- June 29: The bodies lay in state from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM while thousands
viewed them. The coffins containing Joseph & Hyrum were removed from
the pine boxes and bags of sand substituted for the coffins. The funeral
procession moved to the cemetery east of the city where W.W. Phelps preached
the funeral sermon.
- Near midnight the coffins containing the bodies were taken and secretly
buried in the basement of the Nauvoo House. Later that fall the bodies
of Joseph & Hyrum were reburied under the floor of the springhouse
near the old homestead.
- This was considered necessary because of threats to desecrate the bodies.
A reward of $1000 was reportedly offered for the head of the Prophet.
- In 1879 when Emma died she was buried at the this same site.
- In January 1928, Frederick M Smith (President of the Reorganized Church)
began searching of the remains of Joseph & Hyrum. Old Nauvoo residents
were asked where the Spring House once stood. After six days of searching
the skeletons were discovered and the remains of Joseph, Hyrum, and Emma
were moved to a higher spot.
- Samuel Smith: On the day of the martyrdom, he mounted his horse and
rode for Carthage. Samuel was pursued for two hours, finally arriving in
Carthage shortly after the assassination. Once in Carthage he helped carry
John Taylor to the hotel and dress his wounds. He also assisted in preparing
and moving the bodies. The physical and nervous exhaustion caused a severe
fever and Samuel died one month after the burial of his brothers.
- Succession In The Presidency.
- IF PRESIDENT HINCKLEY WERE TO DIE TODAY, HOW WOULD THE NEXT PRESIDENT
OF THE CHURCH IS CHOSEN?
- IS THERE ANY QUESTION IN YOUR MIND WHO THE NEXT PRESIDENT WOULD BE?
- THINGS WERE DIFFERENT IN 1844! Questions were asked: Who was highest
in authority? Who held the keys of the kingdom? Who would lead them now?
- Claims To Leadership.
- Emma: She felt that the next officer below the President should assume
the Presidency. That office was President of the High Council in Zion.
She felt that the Twelve only had authority among the branches of the world,
not in the stakes.
- Her ideas changed a few years later when her oldest son, Joseph III,
accepted the position of president in the Reorganized Church.
- Sidney Rigdon: When he arrived in Nauvoo from Pittsburgh, he offered
himself as guardian to the Church and claimed that there could be no successor
to the dead prophet. He was supported in his claim by the Nauvoo Stake
president, William Marks.
- Bishop George Miller & Alexander Badlam contended that the Council
of Fifty should convene and organize the church anew.
- Several claimed they had received a secret ordination or appointment
from the Prophet. These included James J. Strang, Lyman Wight, Alpheus
Cutler, and Joseph Smith III.
- Brigham Young and the Twelve.
- The Transition.
- July 9: Brigham Young learns, by letter, of the martyrdom of the Prophet.
He was in Petersboro, New Hampshire at the time with Orson Pratt.
- He said: "The first thing I thought of was whether Joseph had
taken the keys of the Kingdom with him from the earth. Brother Orson Pratt
sat on my left; we were both leaning back in our chairs. Bringing my hand
down on my knee, I said, 'The keys of the Kingdom are right here with the
- Brigham & Orson started for Nauvoo and were joined in Boston by
Heber C. Kimball & Wilford Woodruff.
- August 3: Sidney Rigdon arrives in Nauvoo. He refused to meet with
the few members of the Twelve then in town.
- August 4: At Sunday services Rigdon offered to take over the leadership
of the Church as guardian. He requested William Marks (stake president
& supporter) to schedule a conference on August 6. Marks called a meeting
for August 8.
- WHAT IF MARKS HAD CALLED THE CONFERENCE FOR THE 6TH?
- August 6: Brigham Young and other members of the 12 arrive in Nauvoo
in the evening.
- August 7: Nine of the Twelve met together at the home of John Taylor,
who was still recuperating from being shot at Carthage.
- At 4:00 PM, the Twelve, the high council, and the high priests met
in the Seventies Hall and listened to Sidney's claim to guardianship.
- Sidney said: "I have been ordained a spokesman to Joseph, and
I must come to Nauvoo and see that the church is governed in a proper manner....
No man can be the successor of Joseph."
- Following Sidney, Brigham Young spoke and said he didn't care who led
the Church, but he wanted to know the mind of God on matter. He also said
that all the keys and powers were conferred upon the twelve.
- August 8: (10:00 AM) 10,000 gathered in a grove for the meeting called
by William Marks. That is 2,000 more than can be seated in the Tabernacle.
- Rigdon addressed the Saints for 1 1/2 hours advancing his claims. Brigham
then stood and called for a general assembly of the Priesthood and Saints
at 2:00 that afternoon for the purpose of sustaining the proper authorities.
- That afternoon, while Brigham was speaking, many of the Saints heard
and saw him transfigured as the Prophet Joseph Smith.
- Testimony of Benjamin F. Johnson: "I sat in the assembly near
to President Rigdon, closely attentive to his appeal to the conference
to recognize and sustain his claim as 'guardian for the Church.' And I
was, perhaps, to a degree, forgetful of what I knew to be the rights and
duties of the apostleship. And as he closed his address and sat down, my
back was partly turned to the seat occupied by Apostle Brigham Young and
other Apostles, when suddenly, and as from heaven, I heard the voice of
the Prophet Joseph. That thrilled my whole being, and quickly turning around,
I saw in the transfiguration of Brigham Young, the tall, straight, and
portly form of the Prophet Joseph Smith, clothed in a sheen of light covering
him to his feet. And I heard the real and perfect voice of the Prophet,
even to the whistle, as in years past caused by the loss of a tooth, said
to have been broken out by the mob at Hiram. This view or vision, although
but for seconds was to me as vivid and real as the glare of lightning or
the voice of thunder from the heavens. And so deeply was I impressed with
what I saw and heard in this transfiguration, that for years I dared not
publicly tell what was given me of the Lord to see. But when in later years
I did publicly bear this testimony, I found that others could testify to
having seen and heard the same. But to what proportion of the congregation
that were present, I could never know. But I do know that this, my testimony,
is true." (Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. Gibbs)
- Brigham Young addressed the conference by saying, "For the
first time in my life, for the first time in your lives, for the first
time in the kingdom of God in the 19th century, without a Prophet at our
head, do I step forth to act in my calling in connection with the Quorum
of the Twelve, as Apostles of Jesus Christ unto this generation--Apostles
who God has called by revelation through the Prophet Joseph, who are ordained
and anointed to bear off the keys of the kingdom of God in all the world.
"....There has been much said about President Rigdon being President
of the Church, and leading the people, being the head, etc. Brother Rigdon
has come 1,600 miles to tell you what he wants to do for you. If the people
want President Rigdon to lead them they may have him; but I say unto you
that Quorum of the Twelve have the keys of the kingdom of God in all the
- Brigham spoke for about two hours explaining the role of the Twelve.
Brigham put the question to a vote: "If the church want the Twelve
to stand as the head, the First Presidency of the Church, and at the head
of this kingdom in all the world, stand next to Joseph, walk up into their
calling, and hold the keys of this Kingdom, every man, every woman, every
quorum is now put in order, and you are the sole controllers of it. All
that are in favor of this, in all the congregation of the Saints, manifest
it by holding up the right hand."
- There was a universal vote. When asked if there were any votes to the
contrary, not a single hand was raised. The unanimous vote superseded the
question regarding Sidney Rigdon and it was not put to a vote. The Twelve
took the reins of leadership and over the next few weeks numerous administrative
decisions were made. The church continued forward.
- Apostate Groups.
- Almost immediately, apostate groups began to spring up, claiming they
were successor to Joseph. These included:
- SIDNEY RIGDON: Claimed to hold the higher keys of David. He ordained
men to be prophets, priests, and kings to the gentiles. Excommunicated
September 8. Returned to Pittsburgh and organized his church there. His
church denounced polygamy and claimed that Joseph Smith was a fallen Prophet.
It had disintegrated by 1847.
- GEORGE MILLER & LYMAN WIGHT: Both found that they could not go
along with the Twelve and eventually left the Church and led colonies to
- JAMES J STRANG: Baptized by Joseph Smith in February 1844. Sent to
Wisconsin by the Prophet to survey an area for a possible new gathering
place. After the Prophet's death he claimed to have received a letter from
the Prophet naming himself as prophet and president of the church and designating
Voree, Wisconsin, as the new gathering place for the church. He was excommunicated
by a conference of elders in Michigan and that was confirmed by the Twelve
on August 26.
- Strang was rather successful at gathering dissidents. Among those who
joined him for a time were William E. McLellin, John E. Page, William Smith,
William E. Marks, and John C. Bennett. There was dissension and in 1847
Strang moved his colony to Beaver Island in northern Lake Michigan. In
1850, in an elaborate ceremony, Strang was crowned King of the Kingdom.
In 1856 Strang was assassinated by alienated followers and shortly his
2600 adherents were driven from Beaver Island.
- The ReOrganization.
- The splinter groups from these apostate churches became the nucleus
of the reorganization.
- The chief organizers:
- Jason W. Briggs
- Joined the Church in 1841. Claims he was ordained an elder in 1842.
- Sustained the Twelve after the death of the Prophet, put did not follow
the Saints west in 1846.
- Later joined James J. Strang's organization.
- 1850: He renounced Strang's church and joined a group led by William
Smith, the Prophet's brother.
- Eventually joined with another follower of Strang, Zenas H. Gurley,
and organized their own church which became the "Reorganized"
- 1886: Briggs left the Reorganized Church declaring that it was not
the Church of Christ.
- Zenas H. Gurley:
- Joined the Church in 1838 and moved to Far West.
- After the expulsion, he settled in Nauvoo.
- 1844: Ordained a seventy by Joseph Young.
- Endowed in the Nauvoo Temple in January 1846.
- Like Briggs, he remained with the Church until the exodus west.
- After the Saints departure, Gurley joined up with Strang.
- 1852: Gurley and Briggs eventually joined two branches which they had
been leading, forming the "Reorganized" church.
- The first conference of the church was convened in 1852. They tried
to persuade young Joseph III to accept the presidency. He did not accept
the presidency at this time, but later accepted it in 1860.
- Joseph Smith III became the guiding force in the Reorganized movement.
- The doctrine of the church took a more conservative stance.
- Polygamy, plurality of gods, baptism for the dead, temple ordinances,
and other later doctrines taught by the Prophet were expunged from the
- According to historian Leonard Arrington: "Thus the Reorganization
came to occupy a stance between standard Protestantism and Utah Mormonism.
It retained a belief in a reopened canon, but its doctrinal position edged
closer to a socially conscious, conservative sort of Protestantism."
- The church maintains headquarters in Independence, Missouri.
- Two thoughts concerning the validity of the Reorganization.
- Why would the Lord wait so long to organize the Church? The vast majority
of the believers had been lost by the time of reorganization. Scriptural
precedent: The Twelve took the reigns of leadership immediately after the
death of the Lord.
- One would have to accept the fact that Joseph Smith was a fallen Prophet
since the doctrinal development of the Nauvoo era is denied in the teachings
of the Church. Scriptural precedent: I am not aware of any fallen Prophets.