Sunday School lessons for Gospel Doctrine Class

Friday, September 1, 2017

President Brigham Young Leads the Saints

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When the Prophet Joseph and Hyrum Smith were murdered in Carthage jail it seemed like sheep had been left without a shepherd and  many people predicted that the Church would cease to exist.  The Quorum of the Twelve and other Church leaders were serving missions and were absent from Nauvoo. Several days passed before these men learned of the deaths. When Brigham Young heard the news, he knew that the keys of priesthood leadership were still with the Church, for these keys had been given to the Quorum of the Twelve and that the Church would continue as the Lord directed; however not all Church members understood who would replace Joseph Smith as the Lord’s prophet, seer, and revelator

The Church of Joseph or the Church of Jesus Christ? 

If our dear President Monson passed away today, is there any question in your mind who would be the next president of the Church?  Would we ask Who was highest in authority?  Who held the keys of the kingdom?  Who would lead us now?  No there is none of those questions for us as we have been taught that this is the church of Jesus Christ organized and ran has he has instructed, but in 1844, it wasn't so for some and these were some of the many questions asked by some members, however the fact remains that the Church was not the Church of Joseph, it is the Church of Jesus Christ.  The heart of the Church was not great personality, it was restored priesthood of the Lord and Master.

The Prophet Joseph Smith gave the Twelve the keys of the kingdom and taught the principles of succession in the Presidency.

“Now, brethren, I thank God I have lived to see the day that I have been enabled to give you your endowments, and I have now sealed upon your heads all the powers of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods and Apostleship, with all the keys and powers thereof, which God has sealed upon me; and I now roll off all the labor, burden and care of this Church and Kingdom of God upon your shoulders, and I now command you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to round up your shoulders, and bear off this Church and Kingdom of God before heaven and earth, and before God, angels and men”  (Joseph Smith -Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ) 

In Nauvoo in the winter of 1843–44, the Prophet Joseph Smith spent several days giving the Quorum of the Twelve their temple endowments and teaching them about their responsibilities. He told the Twelve that he had been concerned that he would soon die without having bestowed the keys of the kingdom on others.  These private instructions, however, were unknown to the general membership of the Church.  There was the Doctrine and Covenants Section 107 that had been delivered to the people but as of the specific instructions given to the twelve, by the summer of 1844 there was no explicit outline of presidential succession in print,  this along with not understanding section 107 v 22-24 laid the foundation for a succession crisis. 

What do these verses teach about the relationship of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles? D&C 107:22–24

The First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles each form a quorum. The two quorums are equal in authority and power, but the First Presidency is called to preside.

" 22 Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church.
23 The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling.
24 And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned."  

Why is it important to understand this relationship between these two presiding quorums of the Church?

“The Prophet Joseph Smith declared that ‘where the president is not, there is no First Presidency.’ Immediately following the death of a President, the next ranking body, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, becomes the presiding authority, with the President of the Twelve automatically becoming the acting President of the Church until a President of the Church is officially ordained and sustained in his office” ( Conference Report, Apr. 1970, 123)

After Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, the Twelve presided over the Church until Brigham Young was sustained as President.

When Joseph Smith died, the First Presidency was dissolved, and the Quorum of the Twelve became the presiding authority in the Church. Brigham Young, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, did not return to Nauvoo until 6 August 1844. When he did return he declared that he wanted only to know “what God says” about who should lead the Church. The Twelve called a meeting for Thursday, 8 August 1844.  

Brigham Young spoke briefly, comforting the hearts of the Saints. As Brigham spoke, George Q. Cannon remembered, “it was the voice of Joseph himself,” and “it seemed in the eyes of the people as if it were the very person of Joseph which stood before them.”   William C. Staines testified that Brigham Young spoke like the voice of the Prophet Joseph. “I thought it was he,” Staines said, “and so did thousands who heard it.”   Wilford Woodruff also recalled that wonderful moment and wrote, “If I had not seen him with my own eyes, there is no one that could have convinced me that it was not Joseph Smith, and anyone can testify to this who was acquainted with these two men.” 

This miraculous manifestation, seen by many, made clear to the Saints that the Lord had chosen Brigham Young to succeed Joseph Smith as leader of the Church.  In the afternoon session, Brigham Young again spoke, testifying that the Prophet Joseph had ordained the Apostles to hold the keys of the kingdom of God in all the world. He prophesied that those who did not follow the Twelve would not prosper and that only the Apostles would be victorious in building up the kingdom of God.

"All that want to draw away a party from the Church after them, let them do it if they can, but they will not prosper."  Brigham Young 

While a few others would claim a right to the Presidency of the Church, for most of the Saints the succession crisis was over.  The Saints voted unanimously to sustain the Quorum of the Twelve as the leaders of the Church. Brigham Young, as the senior Apostle and President of the Quorum of the Twelve, was the man God had chosen to lead his people, and the people had united to sustain him. With Brigham Young as President of the quorum, presided over the Church for three and one-half years. On 27 December 1847, the First Presidency was formally reorganized with Brigham Young as the President.


Upon the death of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the senior apostle in the Church's governing quorums becomes presiding officer of the Church.

The principles underlying the succession process were established at the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1844. Since there was at the time no precedent and no clear procedure providing for succession to the office of president, competing views arose. Brigham Young, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, presented the proposition that the Twelve, ordained apostles who held all the keys necessary to govern the Church, should be sustained as the authorized leaders in the absence of Joseph Smith. In his favor was the fact that the Twelve in Nauvoo had been carefully tutored by the Prophet in all aspects of Church leadership and had served as his right hand. The Church also understood that this position was in harmony with the 1835 revelation on priesthood (D&C 107). After describing the First Presidency ("three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church"), that revelation affirmed that the Twelve Apostles "form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned" (D&C 107:22-24).

Inherent in the Twelve's proposal was the assumption that, although the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had equal authority and power with the Quorum of the First Presidency, as long as the First Presidency was intact and functioning, they, and not the Twelve, possess the necessary jurisdiction to govern the Church. But the death of the president, thereby disorganizing the presidency and automatically releasing the president's counselors, bestows on the Quorum of the Twelve the required authorization to exercise the keys they already possess and assume full responsibility for governing the Church-including the reorganization of the First Presidency. Representing the Twelve, Brigham Young also reminded the Saints in 1844 of Joseph Smith's "last charge to the Twelve," stipulating that in the event something happened to him, the Twelve were responsible for carrying on the work he had begun.

Sidney Rigdon, who had been a counselor to Joseph Smith, presented an alternative view. He argued that Joseph Smith's death did not disorganize the presidency or the Church and that, therefore, as first counselor to Joseph Smith, he should be sustained as "guardian" over the Church. This ran directly counter to the Twelve's position that the death of the president automatically dissolves the First Presidency, leaving the counselors without authority over the Church.

Though there were theoretically other possibilities for succession besides these two, the competing claims of Sidney Rigdon and of Brigham Young, representing the Twelve, were the only two practical alternatives at that time. After several private meetings during which leaders reviewed the options, on August 8, 1844, thousands of Church members gathered in the grove near the Nauvoo Temple to decide by a public sustaining vote  whether Sidney Rigdon or the Twelve would lead the Church. Rigdon, an eloquent speaker, took the stand first and spoke at length of his right and position. Then Brigham Young, with less polish but confident that the Twelve held authority and that they were prepared to "direct all things aright," presented the other view. The result was overwhelming support recognizing the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as the authorized leaders of the Church, specifically with the keys to act as the First Presidency and with the power to reorganize the First Presidency. Although that decision was clearly sanctioned by the 1835 revelation and was in harmony with the position of the Twelve in Nauvoo, many Latter-day Saints claimed a further deciding factor: when Brigham Young spoke on August 8, his voice and appearance bore a striking resemblance to those of Joseph Smith. Wilford Woodruff, one who was present, later said that if "I had not seen him with my own eyes, there is no one that could have convinced me that it was not Joseph Smith" (Deseret News, Mar. 15, 1892; cf. JD 15:81).

For the next three years the Church was governed by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles with Brigham Young as president of the quorum. In December 1847, following the pioneer journey to the Rocky Mountains, the First Presidency was reorganized and Brigham Young was named President of the Church.

Though the right of the Quorum of the Twelve to reconstitute the First Presidency was firmly established, there have been other short periods when the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles governed the Church before a new First Presidency was organized. John Taylor, president of the quorum when Brigham Young died in 1877, did not have the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles formally reorganize the First Presidency until 1880. A similar interim existed after his death in 1887. Wilford Woodruff as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles directed the affairs of the Church on the basis of that position until 1889. Several years later, he instructed Lorenzo Snow, then President of the Twelve Apostles, that it was the will of the Lord that the First Presidency should be organized without delay upon the death of the president (Lorenzo Snow Notes, Dec 3, 1892, Church Archives). Lorenzo Snow, therefore, was named President of the Church in a new First Presidency eleven days after President Woodruff's death, a precedent of reorganizing the presidency without delay that has since been followed.

Since a fundamental doctrine of the Church is the reality of continuing revelation, and since the Twelve Apostles are sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators, there is no apparent reason that the Quorum of the Twelve could not depart from this precedent and select someone other than the senior apostle to lead the Church, if so directed by revelation. Established principles, however, require (1) that a revelation directing any other course of action must come through the senior apostle in the presiding quorum and approved by unanimous vote of the members of the quorum and (2) that the senior apostle in the presiding quorum by virtue of that position immediately presides over the Church following the death of the president.

The fundamental organizing principle of the Church rests on the reality that it was established by direct commandment from God to Joseph Smith and that those who lead it are specifically called of God to those positions. The existing succession process does not violate that principle, which it would do if succession were decided by a contested election either within the Quorum of the Twelve or by the body of the Church. In keeping with the principle of common consent, the name of each new president is submitted to the body of the Church for its sustaining approval. But this procedure is in no wise an election nor does it affect the legitimacy of the president's divine commission. Rather than empowering the new leader, the vote is an expression by members that they recognize the legitimacy of the calling and that it is binding upon them. To sustain the president is a commitment that no assistance that can aid his success will be withheld and that no barriers that might hinder his efforts will be erected.  Encyclopedia of Mormonism Succession

Claims to Succession

Sidney RigdonAfter Joseph murder Sidney Rigdon claimed the right as first counselor to preside over the Church as “guardian,” but his previous unstable Church service did not inspire confidence in his claim. Less than four months after he had been appointed as a counselor to Joseph Smith on 8 March 1832,  Rigdon attempted to seize control of the Church, as described in the diary of Reynolds Cahoon, under the date of 5–6 July 1832: 
Thursday 4 O’clock Met with some of the Br for Meting and at the meting Br Sidney remarked that he had a revelation from the Lord & said that the kingdom was taken from the Church and left with him fryday Br Hiram went after Joseph. When he came he affirmed that the kingdom was ours & never should be taking from the faithful....  
The Prophet disfellowshipped Rigdon (“took his license”), but after a period of about three weeks he restored Rigdon to the position of counselor. After the expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri in 1839, Rigdon again became disaffected, claiming that “he would never follow any revelation again that did not tend to his comfort and interest, let it come from Joseph Smith, God Almighty, or any body else.” Rigdon apparently also urged the Saints to scatter after their expulsion, “for the work seems as though it had come to an end.”  When Joseph Smith escaped from prison in Missouri, however, he had the Saints gather at a settlement on the Mississippi he later named Nauvoo.

At Nauvoo, Joseph Smith sought to displace Rigdon from the Presidency of the Church. In 1841 Joseph appointed John C. Bennett as Assistant President to assume Rigdon’s duties, and on 13 August 1843, a conference of the Church at Nauvoo temporarily disfellowshipped Rigdon for allegedly aiding anti-Mormons. Nevertheless, a general conference on 7 October 1843, voted to retain Rigdon as first counselor even though Joseph Smith proposed that Rigdon be deposed and excommunicated.
Forced to have a counselor he didn’t want, the Prophet remarked: “I have thrown him off my shoulders, and you have again put him on me. You may carry him, but I will not.”  Although Sidney Rigdon briefly regained the confidence of the Prophet in the spring of 1844, on the eve of his assassination Joseph expressed gratitude that Rigdon would not lead the Church.   
After the martyrdom of the Prophet, Sidney Rigdon returned to Nauvoo from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, claiming that he was the man to lead the Church as its “guardian.” He presented his claim of succession by reminding the Mormons of his long association with the deceased prophet and by referring to a revelation he had allegedly received in Pittsburgh confirming his right to lead. Moreover, Rigdon claimed that the death of Joseph Smith had not disorganized any quorum of the Church, and therefore Rigdon claimed he still functioned as first counselor. But many of the Saints at Nauvoo were well aware of his previous instability, and at a public meeting on 8 August 1844, rejected Rigdon’s claim to succession and voted to accept the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as the presiding authority. 
Bitterly disappointed, Rigdon refused the offer of the apostles to continue functioning under their direction. The seriousness of Rigdon’s position and the threat he represented in 1844 was indicated in the journal of one of the apostles, George A. Smith:  

Tuesday Sept 3 I Learned Elder Rigdon was Making a Division in the Church ordaining Prophets Priests & Kings contrary to the Say of God The Twelve visited him he Said his Authority was Greater than ours Seemed Determined to Scatter the Church and Led up A Party he Claimed to have many visions and Revelation and at varance with those Given Prest Joseph Smith We Labored With him till 9 o’clock at Night and after Deliberation desfeloshiped him & Sent Elders P P Pratt O Hide A Lyman to Demand his Licenc he was angry he Said he Would Expose the Counsels of the Church and Publish all he knew against us he knew the Church had not Been Led By the Spirit to God for Long time. 

Unable to tolerate Rigdon’s schismatic activities, the Quorum of the Twelve prepared to excommunicate him.   He began speaking to a large group of the Saints assembled for their Sunday worship service. He told them of a vision he had received in which he had learned that no one could replace Joseph Smith. He said that a guardian to the Church should be appointed and that guardian should be him, few Saints supported him.  Sidney Rigdon’s followers began deserting him in 1846, when his rash prophecies failed and when he introduced a form of polygamy.  He died in 1876, after years of preaching against the church, and at the death of his spokesman in 1879 his movement disintegrated and is no more.  ( The Mormon Succession BYU Religious Studies)  Succession

James J Strang:  James J. Strang had been baptized into the Church on 25 February 1844, and had left Nauvoo shortly thereafter to explore a possible location for the Mormons in Wisconsin. He claimed that while there he received a revelation in a letter from Joseph Smith dated 18 June 1844, which appointed him as Joseph’s successor: & now behold my servant James J Strang hath come to thee from far truth when he knew it not & hath not rejected it but hath had faith in thee the shepherd and stone of israel & to him shall the gathering of the people be fore he shall plant a stake of Zion in Wisconsin & I will establish it & there shall my people have peace & rest & shall not be moved....20 Even at face value, the letter seemed to be no more than a local appointment, but Strang insisted the document designated him as Joseph’s successor. Rather than presenting his claims to the Church in Nauvoo, Strang announced his position at a conference of the Church at Florence, Michigan, on 5 August 1844. The presiding elder of that branch, Crandall Dunn, denounced the claim as an imposture and observed that the postmark on the envelope of Strang’s letter proved it to have been a forgery.21 Brigham Young in 1846 denounced the entire letter as a forgery: “Every person acquainted with Joseph Smith, and his style of dictation and writing might readily know that he never wrote nor caused to be written that letter to Strang.”22 Modern analysts of the document have not only agreed with that verdict, but have also judged the signature of Joseph Smith on the letter to
be a forgery.23 In addition to the letter, Strang also claimed that he had been ordained successor by an angel. Persisting in his claims, he was excommunicated by the branch at Florence, Michigan, on 5 August 1844, an action that was repeated by the apostles at Nauvoo.

 Strang established a stake in Wisconsin, and built a theocratic community on Beaver Island, Michigan, where more than two thousand followers assembled. Strang alienated many of his own followers, however, by advancing to the highest leadership in his organization such avowed enemies of the Prophet Joseph Smith as William E. McLellin and John C. Bennett, by introducing a form of endowment ritual and the practice of polygamy, and by his public coronation as king in 1850. Strang was murdered by disgruntled followers and non-Mormons in 1856. Although he survived his assassination long enough to appoint a successor, he steadfastly refused to do so, and his erstwhile dynamic following disintegrated after his death. In 1897, one of Strang’s apostles ordained a man to be a presiding high priest, and subsequent ordinations have continued to provide leadership to a devoted band of approximately 200 Strangites.  

Lyman Wight:   Lyman Wight had an impressive record of service in the Church and Kingdom of God that extended back to his baptism in 1830. He was the first man ordained by Joseph Smith to the office of high priest in June 1831, and not quite ten years later he was ordained an apostle. As a member of the Council of Fifty in 1844, Wight had been commissioned by Joseph Smith to establish a colony in Texas, which mission he was allowed by the Council of Fifty to commence after the martyrdom. Wight never departed from that mission, and his refusal to rejoin the Quorum of the Twelve in Utah or to recognize its authority over him resulted in his being dropped from that quorum and excommunicated on 3 December 1848.  
He supported the Quorum of Twelve Apostles until he was asked to depart from his original mission; he maintained that the Council of Fifty had the right to reorganize the Church and appoint a successor to Joseph Smith; he accepted in November 1849 the position of counselor to William Smith as the Patriarchal successor to Joseph Smith; and he repeatedly affirmed that it was the patrilineal right of Joseph Smith III to be the Prophet’s successor.   Nevertheless, Lyman Wight firmly believed he had authority by secret ordination superior to that of anyone else on earth. In a letter written in July 1855, Wight said that Joseph Smith in 1834 had ordained him to the office of “Benamey” in the presence of an angel, and that when Joseph Smith commissioned Wight to establish the Texas colony in 1844, the Prophet gave to Wight a lifelong mission.  Wight was able to acknowledge individually or collectively the prerogatives of the Quorum of the Twelve, of the Council of Fifty, of William Smith, and Joseph Smith III, as long as those claimants did not presume to infringe upon his view of his own appointment and mission. From 1845 until his death in 1858, Lyman Wight led his devoted followers on a series of exoduses, explorations, and colonizations in Texas, which dissipated after his death.

 Alpheus Cutler:  The last man who claimed a right of succession on the basis of a secret ordination was called Father Cutler” by Joseph Smith.   Alpheus had been a member of the Church since 1833. He rose to special prominence at Nauvoo, becoming a member of the high council, of the temple committee, of Joseph Smith’s bodyguard, and in 1844, of the Council of Fifty. It was from the latter body that Cutler derived his own claim of special authority. In a letter of 29 January 1856, Alpheus Cutler described the Church as the lesser stream which flows from the greater fountain of the Kingdom of God.29 For Cutler, however, the right of succession came through a special ordination, as described in the official history of Cutler’s Church of Jesus Christ: Joseph Smith, sometimes prior to his death, organized a Quorum of Seven, all of whom were ordained under his hand to the prophetic office; with all the rights, keys, powers, privileges, and blessings belonging to that condition. The only difference in the ordinations of the seven, was in the case of Alpheus Cutler, whose right to act as prophet, seer and revelator was to be in force upon the whole world from that very hour. Under this ordination, he claimed an undisputed right to organize and build up the kingdom the same as Joseph had done.30 Declining to go to Utah with the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and Council of Fifty, Alpheus Cutler withdrew from Winter Quarters in 1848, and
established a colony of followers in Iowa. He ordained a patriarch on 1 February 1849, and, having been excommunicated from the LDS Church on 20 April 1851, Culter performed the first baptism of a separate organization on 8 September 1853. On 19 September 1853, Alpheus Culter was sustained by his followers as “our head or chief Councilor” while (consistent with Cutler’s view of the superiority of Kingdom over the Church) another man was sustained president of the Church of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, on 13 March 1863, Alpheus Cutler stated “that the Quorum of 7 ord[ained] by Joseph had no control over Spiritual affairs.”31 At its apex in 1859, Cutler’s organization comprised only 183 persons, and following his death on 10 August 1864, the movement gradually disintegrated until as of 1973 only five persons maintained his testimony.

William Smith:  In 1847, the prophets brother announced that he was the new president of the Latter Day Saint church and that he held a right to leadership due to the doctrine of lineal succession. He excommunicated Young and the leadership of the LDS Church and announced that the Latter Day Saints who were not in apostasy by following Young should gather in Lee County, Illinois. In 1849, Smith gained the support of Lyman Wight, who led a small group of Latter Day Saints in Texas, however, Smith's church did not last, and within a few years it dissolved.  In 1878, he became a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS Church), which was organized in 1860 with Smith's nephew, Joseph Smith III, as its leader. The majority of William Smith's followers also became members of the RLDS Church. While Smith believed that he was entitled to become the presiding patriarch or a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles of the RLDS Church, his nephew did not agree and William Smith remained a high priest in the RLDS Church for the remainder of his life. Today, the Community of Christ sometimes refers to Smith as "Petitioner for RLDS Patriarchate" from April 6, 1872, until his death.

 Granvile Hedrick:   as late as 1863 claims of succession were still being made, and Hendrick became the founding leader of the Church of Christ (Temple Lot).  Within one month of his ordination in mid-July, 1863, Hedrick began to produce revelations stating that the pride of Joseph Smith led him to produce false revelations. As a result, Smith was said to have introduced doctrines to the church that were inconsistent with the word of God as found in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Hedrick declared Smith to be a "fallen prophet". Eventually, Hedrick decided that among the errors introduced by Smith were the creation of a president of the church and First Presidency of the church. Thereafter, Hedrick repudiated his 1863 ordination to these positions, holding that the true Church of Christ was to be headed by only by a presiding elder, an office which was done away with by a vote of apostles in 1925. Other doctrines rejected by Hedrick included celestial marriage, exaltation and plurality of gods, tithing as one-tenth of income, and the existence of the priesthood office of high priest.  

On April 24, 1864, Hedrick produced a revelation directing his followers to return to Independence in Jackson County, Missouri in 1867 to initiate a re-gathering of Saints to the region. Granville's wealthy brother John A. Hedrick and two other families were apparently the first  to return to Independence and reside there, John Hedrick purchased a 245-acre (0.99 km2) farm east of the city on October 11, 1865. About sixty Hedrickites moved by covered wagons to Jackson County in February 1867.  Granville Hedrick himself, ironically, did not move to Independence.  

By 1877, the Hedrickites had purchased the most prominent portion of a plot of land which Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon had dedicated in 1831 as the future location of a temple headquartering "New Jerusalem"   As a result of their ownership over this strategic property Hedrick's church came to be called the Church of Christ (Temple Lot). The church exists today with a worldwide membership of approximately 5000.  Hedrick died at Independence and was buried at the "Hedrick Cemetery" about three miles (5 km) northeast of the Temple Lot. His widow, Eliza Ann Jones Hedrick, died in Independence on April 6, 1910, and their son James A. Hedrick, who had served as the church's "General Secretary," died in Independence, age 60, on April 22, 1926.

David Whitmer:  The Church of Christ, informally referred to as the Church of Christ (Whitmerite) was formed by David Whitmer one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon's Golden Plates.   There were actually two separate organizations of this church.  In 1847, William E. McLellin who led a congregation of Latter Day Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, remembered that Joseph  had designated David Whitmer as his successor.  McLellin encouraged Whitmer to come forward and lead his church. Whitmer agreed and gathered others to his cause.  Taking the original name of the church, the "Church of Christ" published a periodical from Kirtland called, The Ensign of Liberty. Whitmer, however, never joined the main body of his followers in Kirtland and the church dissolved.  However, by the 1870s David Whitmer was active again and had reorganized his Church of Christ.

In 1887 he published his An Address to All Believers in Christ which promoted his church and affirmed his testimony of the Book of Mormon.  Whitmer died in 1888, but the Whitmerite church continued on. The church published a periodical called The Return beginning in 1889, which became known as The Messenger of Truth in 1900. The church published its own edition of the Book of Mormon under the name, The Nephite Record and published a new edition of the Book of Commandments. By 1925, most remaining members of the Whitmerite church had united with the Church of Christ (Temple Lot). The last of the Whitmerites was John C. Whitmer's daughter Mayme Janetta Whitmer Koontz, who died in 1961.  ( The Mormon Succession BYU Religious Studies)  Succession  

Beginning of the End, Once Again...

After a relatively peaceful summer, forces began to move against the Saints and in September 1844:  The Hancock County "Wolf Hunt." began.  This was an extensive military movement by the people of Hancock County against the Saints at Nauvoo.  Militias and military companies from surrounding counties in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri were invited to participate in what was called a "peaceful military display."  Governor Ford called it a "great wolf hunt" and the "wolves" to be hunted were Mormons and Jack-Mormons.  Fortunately, Governor Ford was able to put together a force of 500 volunteers that was marched into Hancock County, sufficient to have the leaders of the "wolf hunt" abandon their plans. The leaders of the movement fled to Missouri.

Trial of the Accused Murders of Joseph and Hyrum:  In October 1844 a grand jury was impaneled to investigate the Carthage incident. Within a few days, the jury issued a bill of indictment against nine individuals.  The defendants appeared and demanded an immediate trial.  The prosecutor said that they were not ready. The trial was held over until the next session of court in May 1845.  More than a thousand men took up arms to keep the Mormons away from the trial, thus no Mormons were impaneled on the jury.  The trial for the murderers of Joseph Smith lasted from May 19 to May 30, 1845.  Three of the chief witnesses for the prosecution had their testimonies discredited and the testimony of those who were witnesses for the defense, could be summed up in one word, "perjury."
After deliberating for several hours, the jury handed down a verdict of not guilty. 

A trial for the murderers of Hyrum was dismissed for want of prosecution and the defendants were discharged.  John Hay, in his account of the trial, wrote: "There was not a man on the jury, in the court, in the county, that did not know the defendants had done murder. But it was not proven, and the verdict of 'not guilty' was right in law. And you cannot find in this generation [he wrote in December, 1869] an original inhabitant of Hancock county who will not stoutly sustain the verdict." (Comprehensive History of the Church, 2:327)

The Leadership of Brigham Young

On August 9, 1844, the day after the vote to sustain the Twelve, Brigham Young met with Church leaders and proceeded to tighten up church organization and was the leader who led the Church through a phase of consolidation, organizational strengthening, doctrinal clarification, and dealing with practical problems.  

At the October 1844 General Conference Brigham reaffirmed the importance of the work, "It is necessary that the saints should also be instructed relative to building the Temple, and spreading the principles of truth from sea to sea, and from land to land until it shall have been preached to all nations" (History of the Church, 7:284-285) 

The Work

The missionary work:  Parley Pratt was sent to the East to reassert apostolic control over those missions. Wilford Woodruff and Dan Jones continued to lead the work in the British Isles.  In three years, Dan Jones was responsible for 3,600 baptisms in Wales.  

Complete the Nauvoo Temple and endow as many members as possible: 

The work on the temple continued at an accelerated pace. As much was done in the next eighteen months as had been accomplished in the previous three years.  The October 1845 General Conference was held in the temple even though it would not be completed until the following spring. The attic of the temple was completed and dedicated in November. The temple was not dedicated in its entirety until May 1846 when most of the Saints were gone.

The adversary’s opposition to temple work

The Saints in Nauvoo experienced great opposition as they worked to complete the temple. In discussing the persecution of the Saints each time they tried to build a temple, Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve said:

“The opposition was leveled at the Saints because the adversary was afraid of the temple. He would do anything to prevent their construction of it” (The Holy Temple [1980], 175).

Why is the adversary fearful of temples and temple work? What can we do to strengthen our resolve to attend the temple regardless of the obstacles we face?

  • The endowment was necessary to strengthen the Saints for the trials that lay ahead in moving west and building a new Zion.
  • Many would die on the trek west or in the early days of Utah. This is an important ordinance necessary in our eternal progression.
  • Endowment work began on December 10 and sessions continued steadily during the day and into the night and on Saturdays. By February 7, 1846, more than 5000 ordinances (endowments, sealings, and marriages) had been performed.

Consolidate and strengthen the internal structure of the Church: 

The number of Seventies were increased and charged with conducting the missionary effort throughout the world and Missionary districts were established in each of the country's congressional districts.  This strengthened the outlying branches and minimized the possibility of further division after the Prophet's death.

The Last Days In Nauvoo

In January 1845 The Nauvoo Charter was repealed by the Illinois legislature and with the repeal of the charter much of the judicial and physical protection of the Saints in Nauvoo was lost.  The state's attorney, Josiah Lamborn, in a letter to Brigham Young, dated at Springfield, Ill., Jan., 1845, wrote:

"I have always considered that your enemies have been prompted by political and religious prejudices, and by a desire for plunder and blood, more than the common good. By the repeal of your charter, and by refusing all amendments and modifications, our legislature has given a kind of sanction to the barbarous manner in which you have been treated. Your two representatives exerted themselves to the extent of their ability in your behalf, but the tide of popular passion and frenzy was too strong to be resisted. It is truly a melancholy spectacle to witness the lawmakers of a sovereign state condescending to pander to the vices, ignorance and malevolence of a class of people who are at all times ready for riot, murder and rebellion." (Comprehensive History of the Church, 2:468-469)

The repeal of the charter left the 20,000 citizens of Nauvoo without a city government and yet life continued forward peacefully. The editor of the Nauvoo Neighbor wrote in April 1845: "One thing further: having no charter with municipal authority to protect the rights of an innocent people, a city of at least twenty thousand people, presented the glorious sight of being protected by the counsel of God; and watched over by the trustworthiness of bishops and deacons."

One of the means of protecting the peace in Nauvoo was the institution of the Whistling and Whittling Brigade.  When a suspected or undesirable stranger came into the city, troops of boys armed with knives and sticks would gather round the person and whistle and whittle vigorously, following him wherever he went. They didn't speak or answer any questions. They just "whistled and whittled." Finally, exasperated and helpless, the victim would leave Nauvoo.

In September 184 a mass meeting was held in Quincy to take action against the Saints.  This meeting called for the removal of the Saints from the state.  The following appeared in the Quincy Whig: 

"It is a settled thing that the public sentiment of the State is against the 'Mormons,' and it will be in vain for them to contend against it; and to prevent bloodshed, and the sacrifice of many lives on both sides, it is their duty to obey the public will and leave the State as speedily as possible. That they will do this we have confident hope and that too, before the next extreme is resorted to--that of force."

Brigham Young's response to this was propose to leave the following spring, ask for assistance of their neighbors to sell and rent properties, ask that men would leave the Saints alone with the lawsuits, that all business be transacted honorably and requested that the public peace to be preserved.

Quincy citizen's committee response was to accept the proposition but declined to make any promises regarding the rent and purchase of property. Then on September 11, 1845 an attack was made upon the Morley settlement.  Twenty-nine houses were burned down and the occupants driven into the bushes. Throughout the night they remained in the rain.

Preparations For Leaving Illinois Begin

Brigham Young and the leadership of the Church saw the writing on the wall and knew the time had come to prepare to leave their homes once again.  As early as March 1845, a petition was drafted by the leadership of the Church and sent to the governors of each of the states and a revised petition sent to President Polk, requesting a place of asylum for the Saints.  Nothing came of any of these petitions. The only reply was received from Thomas Drew, governor of Arkansas. He suggested that the Saints move west. 

In August 1842, Joseph Smith stated:  "I prophesied that the Saints would continue to suffer much affliction and would be driven to the Rocky Mountains . . . and some of you will live to go and assist in making settlements and build cities and see the Saints become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains." (History of the Church, 5:85)

Knowledge of this prophecy must have persuaded Brigham Young and the Twelve to look west in their search for a place of refuge.  The brethren read John C. Fremont's Report of The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains. They studied other maps of the west and a decision was made to send a party of 1500 men to the Great Basin the following year. The preparations for this effort became the preparations for the general exodus from Nauvoo.

Nauvoo soon became a place of activity in preparation for the exodus.  President Joseph Fielding Smith remembered  "...every available building in Nauvoo had been converted into a shop where wagons, harnesses and other necessary articles could be manufactured for the journey. The timber for the wagons was cut and brought to Nauvoo, where it was prepared and boiled in salt and water or kiln dried. Teams were sent to various parts of the country to procure iron; and blacksmiths, wheelwrights, carpenters and other workmen were kept busy night and day. There was very little sale of property because of the opposition of the citizens of the country, who used their influence to discourage sales by making threats against the new settlers as well as harassing the Saints." (Essentials In Church History, p330)

Elder B.H. Roberts wrote:  "Nauvoo presented a busy scene those days. Men were hurrying to and fro collecting wagons and putting them in repair; the roar of the smith's forge was well nigh perpetual, and even the stillness of the night was broken by the steady beating of the sledge and the ringing of anvils. Committees were seeking purchasers of real estate and converting both that and personal property into anything that would be of service to those just about to plunge into an unknown wilderness; and purchasers were thronging Nauvoo, intermittently, to take advantage of those bargains in houses and lands which the necessities of the saints threw in their way; and which they Would purchase 'lower than the prices at a sheriff's sale'." 

The Exodus Begins

The Nauvoo Covenant:  Prior to the departure, on October 6, 1845, the assembled Saints met and adopted the Nauvoo Covenant. This was done in the Temple, with the Saints agreeing, "That we take all the saints with us, to the extent of our ability, that is, our influence and property." (Essentials In Church History, pp332-333)

After this Saints began leaving Nauvoo on 4 February 1846.  On February 15 1846:  Brigham Young, Willard Richards, and George A. Smith, along with a large company of Saints, cross the Mississippi on the ice and continued nine miles to Sugar Creek where a camp was established for the exiles.  These brethren were delayed in their departure because they served as officiators in the temple due to the large numbers of Saints wishing to receive the temple ordinances. The work continued from early morning until late at night.   The camp of Saints became known as the Camp of Israel because the Saints identified themselves with the ancient exodus from Egypt.  At Sugar Creek, the camp was organized for the trek west based and patterned after the organization of the Zion's Camp expedition.

From this time a steady stream of Saints left Nauvoo throughout the winter.  Because the Saints began leaving Nauvoo in the winter and were forced to make hurried preparations, they had a very difficult journey.  Many of the Saints were unprepared. This was probably due to the earlier than planned for departure. Things were not as orderly and disciplined as they might have been. The Saints had been admonished to leave with adequate supplies, but many left before sufficient preparations were complete.  Heber Kimball left with sufficient supplies to care for his family for two years but the lack of preparation by others caused his supplies to be gone within two weeks.


In early February at Sugar Creek, approximately seven miles from Nauvoo on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River; on the first night of encampment nine infants were born. The weather was extremely cold, and the Saints did not have adequate shelter. Eliza R. Snow recorded:

“Mothers gave birth to offspring under almost every variety of circumstances imaginable, except those to which they had been accustomed; some in tents, others in wagons—in rain-storms and in snow-storms. I heard of one birth which occurred under the rude shelter of a hut, the sides of which were formed of blankets fastened to poles stuck in the ground, with a bark roof through which the rain was dripping. Kind sisters stood holding dishes to catch the water as it fell, thus protecting the new-comer and its mother from a shower-bath. …

“Let it be remembered that the mothers of these wilderness-born babes were not … accustomed to roam the forest and brave the storm and tempest. … Most of them were born and educated in the Eastern States—had there embraced the gospel as taught by Jesus and his apostles, and, for the sake of their religion, had gathered with the saints, and under trying circumstances had assisted, by their faith, patience and energies, in making Nauvoo what its name indicates, ‘the beautiful.’ There they had lovely homes, decorated with flowers and enriched with choice fruit trees, just beginning to yield plentifully.

“To these homes … they had just bade a final adieu, and with what little of their substance could be packed into one, two, and in some instances, three wagons, had started out, desertward” ( Edward W. Tullidge, The Women of Mormondom [1877).

On March 1, 1846 Brigham Young resumed the trek westward through Iowa. The march across Iowa was difficult and often disorganized.  It took the wagons longer to cross Iowa, than the wagon train from Winter Quarters to Salt Lake in 1847.  The trek across Iowa provided much of the experience needed to move into the wilderness the following spring.

April 14, 1846:  Ellen Kimball received a letter from Nauvoo. It contained news of the birth of a son to William Clayton. The following morning Clayton went off by himself and in joy and gratitude wrote the words to Come, Come, Ye Saints.

April 1846:  That same month while Heber Kimball's party was camped on Medicine Creek, a rattlesnake bit one of Heber's horses. Without hesitation he quieted the animal, handed its reins to someone, and laid his hands on the animal's head, blessed it, and rebuked the poison; the horse recovered. To those who wondered at the propriety of this Heber answered: "It is just as proper to lay hands on a horse or an ox and administer to them in the name of the Lord, and of such utility, as it is to a human being, both being creatures of His creation, both consequently having a claim to his attention." (Heber C. Kimball, p135)

June 1846:  Five hundred wagons had reached Council Bluffs, the junction of the Missouri and Platte Rivers. In addition, as many as 2,500 wagons and 12,000 Saints were scattered across Iowa from Council Bluffs to Nauvoo. Winter Quarters was established across the river in what is now Omaha. The winter of 1846-47 was difficult. Two hundred Saints died at this one camp alone.

September 1846, most of the Saints had left Nauvoo and were scattered across Iowa in settlements they had prepared for the coming winter. Determined to drive the remaining Saints out of Nauvoo, mobs looted their homes and drove them down to the river. Some escaped across the river but were unable to take provisions or additional clothing. Those who were not able to escape were beaten or thrown into the river by the mob.

Refugee camps of five to six hundred homeless men, women, and children were scattered along two miles of the riverbank. Most had only blankets or brush for shelter and very little to eat. Many of them were too sick to travel, and some died. Bishop Newel K. Whitney purchased some flour and distributed it as best he could, but this was not enough to sustain the people. Then the Lord provided for them in a miraculous way:

On 9 October, when food was in especially short supply, several large flocks of quail flew into camp and landed on the ground and even on tables. Many of them were caught, cooked, and eaten by the hungry Saints. To the faithful it was a sign of God’s mercy to modern Israel as a similar incident had been to ancient Israel. (See B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 3:135–36.)

What similar miracle did the Lord perform for the ancient Israelites?  Exodus 16:12–15

12 I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God.
13 And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host.
14 And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.
15 And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.

How has the Lord provided for you in times of need?


A study of this lesson is to help us understand the process of succession in Church leadership and to show how Brigham Young began preparing the Saints for their journey west.  The Prophet Joseph Smith gave the Twelve the keys of the kingdom and taught the principles of succession in the Presidency.  After Joseph Smith's martyrdom, the Twelve presided over the Church until Brigham Young was sustained as President.  Before leaving Nauvoo, the Saints received temple ordinances as well the Saints experienced trials and miracles as they began journeying west. 

The  process of succession in the Presidency of the Church has occurred many times as follows.  There is no other church on earth that so effortlessly follows the direction of Jesus Christ because this is the Church of Jesus Christ.  The Spirit that is felt when a leader is called, when one is in harmony with the gospel is undeniable and I am so thankful that my heart was open to hear, know and believe. I am so thankful, especially in these times that we are presently in, for the foundation laid by the prophet, for those that listened and obeyed the directions, and for those that persevered to bring us today what we have in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I have a hard time trying to imagine living without it...nor do I ever want to...

Succession in Church Leadership:
  1. A man who has been foreordained to preside one day over the Church is called by revelation to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
  2. He is trained for his future calling through his association with members of the Quorum and the First Presidency and through his assignments. As he outlives other members of the Quorum, he advances in seniority until he is President of the Quorum of the Twelve and only the President of the Church has been an Apostle longer than he has..
  3. When a President of the Church dies, the First Presidency is dissolved. Counselors in the First Presidency return to their places in the Quorum of the Twelve (if they were members of the quorum). The Quorum of the Twelve becomes the presiding quorum in the Church. The President of the Twelve becomes the presiding authority in the Church.
  4. Members of the Twelve assemble in the temple in a spirit of fasting and prayer. Guided by revelation, they come to a unanimous decision regarding the reorganization of the First Presidency. In accordance with this decision, they sustain the senior member of the Twelve as the President of the Church. They then lay their hands on his head and ordain him and set him apart as President of the Church.
  5. The new President chooses two men (usually members of the Quorum of the Twelve) to be his counselors.
  6. Vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve caused by the reorganization of the Presidency are filled


A Comprehensive History of the Church by B.H. Roberts
A Study In Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle.
BYU Religious Studies.
Community of Christ website -
Essentials In Church History by Joseph Fielding Smith.
Heber C. Kimball - Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer by Stanley B. Kimball.
History of the Church HC
Journal of Discourses JD
The Mormon Experience by Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton.
They Made Mormon History by Robert B. Day.
Our Heritage pp 66-71 our Heritage

The Mormon Succession BYU Religious Studies  Succession 
BYU Quartley Succession BYU Quartley
Encyclopedia of Mormonism Succession in the Presidency  Succession in the Presidency
The Restored Church William Edwin Bennett
Essentials In Church History
Conference Report

Sunday, August 27, 2017

To Seal the Testimony

**Scripture references have been highlighted in red and hyperlinked to the LDS Scriptures at and will open in a new window. Resources have been highlighted in blue.  All References and videos have been hyperlinked at the end of the blog.  
Just click and it will take you there! 

I have always had a great and deep study of Joseph Smith. His strength and courage, and Christ like virtues have been a major guidance and education in my life.  Many times I have not given up, because of the life and trials that he endured, which taught me to endure.  I have found in the last few weeks of teaching this class an even greater understanding and love for Joseph the Prophet and man.  This week as I prepared and studied the events and winding down of his life and mission on earth I felt a deep loss and found myself mourning even the great loss of a loved one, the great loss of a best friend...  

I can testify that I know Joseph Smith was and is a true Prophet of God, there was no greater man that lived on earth that has done more for mankind save Jesus Christ only.  I Hope the following presentation of some major events that lead to his martyrdom and of his last days will not only enlighten your mind but will cause you to study and love him and honor him and testify also with praise to the man that he truly is a Prophet of God that has restored the Church in these latter-days.

I've uploaded the following power point slides that include some of what I consider the "higher" points in the winding down of this time.  There is so much information concerning this time and the last day that it cannot be included in one blog. I have listed links at the end of the page so that you can go and read the full accounts of all the happenings.  In the middle of the slides there are two videos that are wonderful and complete the lesson I prepared please click on the videos in order to follow the natural progression of the lesson.  If the print seems to small to read just click on the slide to enlarge.  


The Ride to Carthage....


Encyclopedia of Mormonism  Martyrdom
Our Heritage pp 62-66 Our Heritage
Remembering the Martyrdom  Remembering
Church History in the Fulness of times  The Martyrdom
Jospeh Smith Papers  
Studies In Scripture, Volume 1, edited by Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson
History of the Church
The Restored Church William Edwin Berrett
The Carthage Conspiracy, Dallin Oaks and Marvin Hill
Readings in early Mormon History  Early Mormon History
Nauvoo Expositer Conspiracy
 An Authentic Account of the Massacre of Joseph Smith  

The Fall of Adam and Eve

  Scriptures are hyperlinked to Scriptures at Resource quotes have been highlighted in blue and are noted at the end...