Unit 30: Day 1, Succession in the Presidency
    Footnotes

    “Unit 30: Day 1, Succession in the Presidency,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2017)

    “Unit 30: Day 1,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide

    Unit 30: Day 1

    Succession in the Presidency

    Introduction

    After the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith on June 27, 1844, many people were confused about who would lead The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But before his death, the Prophet had prepared for this transfer of leadership by conferring all of the keys and powers of the priesthood upon the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. When Brigham Young, who was the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke to the Saints on August 8, 1844, many Church members received a spiritual witness that he had been called and prepared by God to lead the Church.

    Timeline of the Succession in the Presidency after the Martyrdom of Joseph Smith

    Date

    Event

    June 27, 1844

    Joseph and Hyrum Smith are martyred in Carthage, Illinois.

    June 29, 1844

    Public viewing of the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

    June 27–July 7, 1844

    Willard Richards and the injured John Taylor are the only Apostles in Nauvoo, Illinois.

    July 8, 1844

    Parley P. Pratt returns to Nauvoo and helps Willard Richards and John Taylor keep order in the Church.

    August 3, 1844

    Sidney Rigdon arrives in Nauvoo from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

    August 4, 1844

    Sidney Rigdon tells a group of Saints that he should be the guardian of the Church and wants a special meeting to be called on August 6 to ratify his appointment. The meeting is actually held on Thursday, August 8.

    August 6, 1844

    Most of the rest of the Apostles, including Brigham Young, return to Nauvoo from their missions.

    August 7, 1844

    In the morning, the Apostles and Sidney Rigdon meet together in the home of the injured John Taylor.

    At an afternoon meeting of the Apostles, high council, and high priests, Sidney Rigdon again claims he should be guardian of the Church. Brigham Young states that he holds the keys and wants to do the Lord’s will in the matter.

    August 8, 1844

    During a 10:00 a.m. meeting, Sidney Rigdon speaks for an hour and a half to thousands of assembled Saints, explaining why he should be guardian of the Church. Brigham Young also speaks and calls for the Saints to gather again for a meeting at 2:00 p.m.

    Throughout the day, many members of the Church received a witness that the mantle, or authority, of the Prophet Joseph Smith fell upon Brigham Young. During the 2:00 p.m. meeting, the Saints sustain Brigham Young and the Twelve Apostles as the Church’s leaders.

    During both meetings, many Saints witness Brigham Young temporarily appear and sound like the Prophet Joseph Smith.

    After the Martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Some People Claim the Right to Lead the Church

    Imagine that you found out the President of the Church had passed away last night. Who would become the next President of the Church? How would he be chosen? How are the priesthood keys to preside over the Church passed to the next President of the Church?

    After the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, the Saints experienced deep sadness, and many Church members were confused about who would lead the Church. During this time various people claimed that they had the right to lead the Church. Among them were Sidney Rigdon, James Strang, and Brigham Young.

    As you read the following paragraphs, look for why Sidney Rigdon, who had been a prominent leader in the Church for many years, claimed he should lead the Church:

    “Sidney Rigdon, First Counselor in the First Presidency, arrived [in Nauvoo] from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 3 August 1844. In the year before this time, he had begun taking a course contrary to the counsel of the Prophet Joseph Smith and had become estranged [separated] from the Church. He refused to meet with the three members of the Twelve already in Nauvoo and instead spoke to a large group of the Saints assembled for their Sunday worship service” (Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [1996], 66).

    Sidney Rigdon called for a special meeting to be held on Tuesday, August 6, so Church members could choose a guardian for the Church. It appeared as though he tried to hold this meeting so Church members could ratify his position as guardian of the Church before all of the Twelve Apostles would return from their missions to the eastern United States. Some Church leaders felt that Brother Rigdon might be plotting “to take advantage of the situation of the saints” (History of the Church, 7:225). Fortunately, because of the efforts of Elder Willard Richards and Elder Parley P. Pratt, the meeting was moved to Thursday August 8, by which time most of the Apostles had returned to Nauvoo.

    Sidney Rigdon

    Sidney Rigdon

    Brother Rigdon claimed that because he had previously been called and ordained as a spokesman for Joseph Smith, it was his responsibility to “see that the church is governed in a proper manner” (in History of the Church, 7:229). He also claimed that he should “be a guardian to the people” and that in fulfilling this responsibility, he was doing what God had commanded him to do (see History of the Church, 7:230).

    1. journal icon
      Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

      1. If you had been in Nauvoo at the time, what might you have thought about Sidney Rigdon’s claims?

      2. What concerns might you have had about Brother Rigdon?

    As you read the following paragraph, look for why James Strang claimed he should lead the Church:

    James Strang, who had been baptized in February 1844, was exploring a possible location for the Saints in Wisconsin in the spring of 1844. After the martyrdom, Brother Strang claimed to have received a revelation in a letter from Joseph Smith stating that he had been appointed to be Joseph’s successor. Brother Strang’s letter, which he showed to members of the Church, appeared to have Joseph Smith’s signature. Brother Strang claimed to be the next prophet and announced his position at a conference of the Church in Michigan on August 5, 1844.

    1. journal icon
      Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

      1. If you had been with the Saints in Michigan, what, if anything, do you think might have been convincing about James Strang’s claims?

      2. What concerns might you have had about his claims?

    As you read the following paragraphs, look for what Brigham Young told other priesthood leaders, including the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who were in Nauvoo, about who should lead the Church:

    Elders John Taylor, Willard Richards, and Parley P. Pratt were already in Nauvoo when Sidney Rigdon arrived. Most of the rest of the Apostles, including Brigham Young, returned to Nauvoo on the evening of August 6, 1844. The next day, August 7, the Apostles met in council at the home of John Taylor. Later that day, in an afternoon meeting, the Twelve Apostles, the high council, and the high priests met together in Nauvoo. President Young, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, asked Sidney Rigdon to state his message to the Saints. Sidney Rigdon boldly declared that he had seen a vision and that no man could succeed Joseph Smith as President of the Church. He then proposed that he be appointed as the guardian of the people.

    After Sidney Rigdon concluded his remarks, Brigham Young said:

    President Brigham Young

    “I do not care who leads the church, … but one thing I must know, and that is what God says about it. I have the keys and the means of obtaining the mind of God on the subject. …

    “Joseph conferred upon our heads [referring to the Twelve Apostles] all the keys and powers belonging to the Apostleship which he himself held before he was taken away. …

    “How often has Joseph said to the Twelve, ‘I have laid the foundation and you must build thereon, for upon your shoulders the kingdom rests’” (in History of the Church, 7:230).

    1. journal icon
      Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

      1. How did President Brigham Young’s desires seem to differ from those of Sidney Rigdon and James Strang?

      2. Why was Brigham Young’s testimony regarding the keys of the priesthood important?

    President Brigham Young and other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught the following truth: The Apostles hold all the keys of the priesthood necessary to preside over the Church.

    Those same powers and keys of the priesthood are held by the Apostles today. When an Apostle is ordained, he is given all of the keys of the priesthood on the earth (see D&C 112:30–32), but the authority to exercise all of those priesthood keys is restricted to the senior Apostle, the President of the Church.

    In January 1836, more than eight years before he died, the Prophet Joseph Smith instructed the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that “the Twelve are not subject to any other than the first Presidency,” and then he said, “Where I am not, there is no First Presidency over the Twelve” (in History of the Church, 2:374).

    Based on this instruction from the Prophet Joseph Smith, what happens to the First Presidency when the President of the Church dies?

    Who is able to lead the Church when the First Presidency is dissolved?

    Read Doctrine and Covenants 124:127–28, looking for who was the senior Apostle and President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the time of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s death.

    Brigham Young was the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles because he was the senior Apostle. When the quorum was first formed in 1835, seniority was decided by age. As members were added, seniority was determined by the date of ordination. Therefore, in our day, seniority is determined by the date and order in which an Apostle is ordained. When the President of the Church dies, the First Presidency is dissolved and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles becomes the presiding quorum, under the direction of the senior Apostle.

    Succession in the Presidency of the Church has been established by the Lord so that the Church is never without inspired leadership, and there is no reason for speculation or controversy over who will become the next President of the Church. President Harold B. Lee explained: “[The Lord] knows whom he wants to preside over this church, and he will make no mistake. The Lord doesn’t do things by accident. He has never done anything accidentally” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 153).

    In summary, the keys of the kingdom are conferred upon each member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the time of his ordination to the apostleship. The senior Apostle, who presides among the Quorum of the Twelve, is determined by the date and order of his ordination. When the President of the Church dies, the Quorum of the First Presidency is dissolved and the counselors, if they previously had been in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, return to their respective places of seniority in that quorum. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles then becomes the presiding quorum in leading the Church. The senior Apostle, as President of the Twelve Apostles, automatically actively holds and exercises all of the Priesthood keys of the kingdom and presides over the whole Church. As the presiding officer of the Church, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve has the right to receive revelation regarding when to reorganize the First Presidency. All things in the Lord’s Church are done by wisdom and order.

    Many Receive a Witness That President Brigham Young Should Lead the Church

    On August 8, 1844, the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois, gathered at 10 a.m. to hear Sidney Rigdon make his claims as guardian of the Church. Because the wind was blowing toward the stand, Brother Rigdon took his position in a wagon behind the assembled congregation so the people could better hear his voice. The congregation turned around so they could see Brother Rigdon as he preached. He spoke to the thousands of assembled Saints for an hour and a half, explaining why he should be guardian of the Church. Several people described his speech as uninspiring.

    President Brigham Young and other Church leaders came and sat on the stand opposite where Sidney Rigdon was speaking. The wind had died down by this point. After Sidney Rigdon had finished, President Young spoke. The audience turned around to hear Brigham speak and turned their backs toward the wagon occupied by Sidney Rigdon. (See “Discourse by President Geo. Q. Cannon,” Deseret News, Feb. 21, 1883, 67.) President Young spoke briefly and said that he would have preferred to come back to Nauvoo to mourn for the Prophet than to have to appoint a new leader. He announced that an assembly of Church leaders and members would be held later that day at 2:00 p.m. As he spoke, several Church members saw Brigham Young’s appearance and heard his voice change to resemble those of the Prophet Joseph Smith. This miraculous event helped many of the Saints know that the Lord wanted Brigham Young to lead the Church.

    As you read the following experiences, look for how the Lord blessed the Saints to know whom He had appointed to lead the Church. The term “mantle” pertains to authority passing from the prophet and President of the Church (Joseph Smith) to his successor (Brigham Young).

    Benjamin F. Johnson

    Benjamin F. Johnson recalled, “President Brigham Young arose and spoke. I saw him arise, but as soon as he spoke I jumped upon my feet, for in every possible degree it was Joseph’s voice, and his person, in look, attitude, dress and appearance was Joseph himself, personified; and I knew in a moment the spirit and mantle of Joseph was upon him” (My Life’s Review [1947], 103–4).

    William C. Staines described Brigham Young as speaking “with the voice like the voice of the Prophet Joseph. I thought it was he, and so did thousands who heard it” (in History of the Church, 7:236).

    President Wilford Woodruff

    Wilford Woodruff 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” (in History of the Church, 7:236).

    President Brigham Young and other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke during the afternoon meeting. Many others commented that Brigham Young looked and sounded like Joseph Smith as he spoke that day. George Q. Cannon, who was 17 years old in 1844, remembered, “If Joseph had arisen from the dead and again spoken in their hearing, the effect could not have been more startling that it was to many present at that meeting; it was the voice of Joseph himself; and not only was it the vice of Joseph which was heard, but it seemed in the eyes of the people as if it were the very person of Joseph which stood before them. … The Lord gave his people a testimony that left no room for doubt as to who was the man chosen to lead them” (in History of the Church, 7:236).

    In addition to this miracle, many of the Saints also felt the Holy Ghost witness to them that Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were called by God to lead the Church. At the conclusion of this meeting, the Saints in Nauvoo voted overwhelmingly to sustain the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with Brigham Young at their head, to lead the Church. However, not all Church members ultimately chose to follow the Apostles. Some of the people chose instead to follow individuals such as Sidney Rigdon and James Strang, who formed their own churches.

    If you had been at either meeting on August 8, 1844, what conclusions might you have made about whom God had called to lead the Church?

    When the Prophet Joseph Smith died, the senior Apostle (Brigham Young) was immediately able to exercise all of the keys of the priesthood. He had the right to receive revelation concerning when to organize a new First Presidency. In 1847—more than two years after the martyrdom—President Brigham Young was inspired to reorganize the First Presidency rather than continue to lead the Church as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As the Church continues to grow and expand, it is important to remember that through the Holy Ghost, we can receive a witness that those who lead the Church have been called of God.

    First Presidency, 2013

    The First Presidency, 2013

    1. journal icon
      Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

      1. Why do you think it is important to receive a testimony that our Church leaders are called of God?

      2. Think about when you have received a witness that a leader of the Church was called of God. If you have had that experience, what did you do to receive that witness? If you have not experienced a witness of Church leaders, write about what you could do to receive one.

    2. journal icon
      Ask a member of your family or one of your friends to share with you their experience of receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost that a Church leader was called of God. You might also share what you wrote in the previous journal assignment with them. In your scripture study journal, write what you learned from this person’s experience.

    3. journal icon
      Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:

      I have studied the “Succession in the Presidency” lesson and completed it on (date).

      Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: