“Lesson 27: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Is Sustained to Lead the Church,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material (2018)
“Lesson 27,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material
In the summer of 1844, the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois, mourned the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. After learning of the martyrdom, the Apostles and others who had been serving missions in the eastern United States began traveling back to Nauvoo. Sidney Rigdon, who had been living in the state of Pennsylvania to help with Joseph Smith’s presidential campaign, traveled back to Nauvoo as well. He arrived on August 3, 1844, and offered to guide the Church as a “guardian” in Joseph’s absence. Soon after, several members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles returned, and meetings were held in which both Sidney Rigdon and Brigham Young, who was president of the Twelve, addressed the Saints. As Brigham Young spoke, the Lord’s will was made manifest, and the Saints sustained the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to lead the Church.
- June 27, 1844
Joseph and Hyrum Smith were martyred at Carthage, Illinois.
- August 3, 1844
Sidney Rigdon arrived in Nauvoo and claimed that he should be guardian of the Church.
- August 6, 1844
Brigham Young and four other Apostles arrived in Nauvoo from their missions to the eastern United States.
- August 7, 1844
Brigham Young and Sidney Rigdon spoke to Church councils about the future leadership of the Church.
- August 8, 1844
Thousands of Saints in Nauvoo sustained the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to lead the Church.
Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846 (2018), chapter 45
Display the following excerpt from an article published in the Weekly Herald, a New York newspaper, on July 13, 1844, and invite a student to read it aloud:
“We yesterday received by the western mail the following particulars of the death of Joe Smith the Prophet, and his brother Hiram.
“They were both shot. …
“Thus ends Mormonism” (“Important from Nauvoo—Death of Joe and Hiram Smith—Terrible Excitement at the West,” Weekly Herald, July 13, 1844, 220–21).
Why do you think some people assumed that the Church would not continue after the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith?
Explain that Church members had various reactions to Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s deaths. Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from the following three accounts. Ask the class to listen for how some people responded to the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.
Lucy Mack Smith recorded what happened after the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum were returned to Nauvoo:
“After the corpses were washed and dressed in their burial clothes we were allowed to see them. I had for a long time braced every nerve, roused every energy of my soul, and called upon God to strengthen me; but when I entered the room, and saw my murdered sons, extended both at once before my eyes; and heard the sobs and groans of my family—the cries of ‘Father! Husband! Brothers!’ from the lips of their wives, children, brother and sisters, it was too much—I sunk back crying to the Lord in the agony of my soul, ‘My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken this family?’ A voice replied, ‘I have taken them to myself that they might have rest.’ Emma was carried back to her room in a state of almost insensibility. Her oldest son approached the corpse and dropped upon his knees, and [lay] his cheek against his father’s; then kissing him, he exclaimed, ‘Oh, my father! my father!!’” (Lucy Mack Smith, “Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845,” pages 312–13, josephsmithpapers.org; punctuation standardized).
Church member Warren Foote recorded the following:
“Elihu Allen and I were working in the harvest field cutting his wheat when about three o’clock P.M. my wife came out and told us that word had just come that Joseph Smith and his Brother, Hyrum was shot in Carthage Jail yesterday afternoon. I said at once ‘that it cannot be so.’ … We all felt as though the power of darkness had overcome and that the Lord had forsaken His people. Our prophet and patriarch were gone. Who now is to lead the Saints?” (Warren Foote, Autobiography and journals, 1837–1903, 29, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; spelling standardized).
Apostles Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff were in Boston, Massachusetts, on the day of the martyrdom. Wilford Woodruff recalled that he and Brigham Young both experienced a feeling of being “overshadowed by a cloud of darkness and gloom,” although they did not understand why until a few weeks later, when they learned that Joseph and Hyrum Smith had been killed (Wilford Woodruff, “The Keys of the Kingdom,” Millennial Star, Sept. 2, 1889, 545).
If you had been among the early Saints at this time, what thoughts or feelings do you think you might have had upon receiving news that Joseph and Hyrum Smith had been killed? Why?
Invite a student to read aloud how President Brigham Young (1801–77) responded when he received word that the Prophet had been killed:
“When we got that letter, Orson Pratt and I were there and read the letter. I felt then as I never felt in my life. … My head felt so distressed [I] thought it would crack. … Is the Priesthood off the earth? Joseph and Hyrum are gone. [Then] it came like a clap of hands. It came to me like Revelation—the keys of the kingdom are here” (Brigham Young, in Historian’s Office general Church minutes, Feb. 12, 1849, 2, Church History Library, Salt Lake City; spelling, punctuation, and grammar standardized).
What gave Brigham Young comfort after he learned of Joseph Smith’s death?
Display the following statements by the Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) and President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read each statement aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Prophet and President Packer taught about the keys of the kingdom of God. (Before the statement by Joseph Smith is read, explain that he made this statement to members of the Quorum of the Twelve in the spring of 1844.)
“Brethren, the Lord bids me hasten the work in which we are engaged. … Some important scene is near to take place. It may be that my enemies will kill me. And in case they should, and the keys and power which rest on me not be imparted to you, they will be lost from the earth. But if I can only succeed in placing them upon your heads, then let me fall a victim to murderous hands if God will suffer it, and I can go with all pleasure and satisfaction, knowing that my work is done, and the foundation laid on which the kingdom of God is to be reared in this dispensation of the fulness of times.
“Upon the shoulders of the Twelve must the responsibility of leading this church henceforth rest until you shall appoint others to succeed you” (quoted in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 533–34).
“Individually and collectively, the Twelve hold the keys” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Shield of Faith,” Ensign, May 1995, 7).
Based on these statements, what truth can we learn about the authority of those ordained as Apostles? (Students should identify the following truth: The Apostles hold all of the priesthood keys necessary to preside over the Church. [See also D&C 27:12–13; 112:30–32.])
Why is it important that each member of the Twelve receives all of the keys of the kingdom of God necessary to preside over the Church when he is ordained as an Apostle?
Invite a student to read aloud the following instruction from the Prophet Joseph Smith’s history:
“The Twelve are not subject to any other than the first presidency, … and where I am not, there is no first presidency; over the twelve” (Manuscript History of the Church, vol. B-1, p. 691, josephsmithpapers.org).
What do we learn from this statement about what happens to the First Presidency when the President of the Church dies?
Explain that after Joseph Smith’s death there was confusion among the Saints about who should lead the Church.
Divide the class into groups of two to four students, and give each student a copy of the accompanying handout, “Important Moments Leading to the Succession in Church Leadership.” Ask the groups to read the handout together, looking for some of the events that occurred prior to the succession in Church leadership. Invite them to also discuss their answers to the questions on the handout.
After sufficient time, invite a few students to share their responses to the questions on the handout.
Write the following date on the board: August 8, 1844.
Explain that on the morning of August 8, 1844, Sidney Rigdon addressed a gathering of thousands of Saints and once again proposed that he become guardian of the Church. Later that day, a special conference was held in which Brigham Young addressed the Saints for over an hour.
Invite a student to read aloud the following excerpt from Brigham Young’s remarks at the conference:
“There has been much said about President Rigdon being President of the Church and leading the people, being the head. … If the people want Pres[iden]t Rigdon to lead them, they may have him; but I say unto you that the quorum of the Twelve have the keys of the Kingdom of God in all the world. The Twelve are appointed by the finger of God” (Brigham Young, in Manuscript History of the Church, vol. F-1, p. 298, josephsmithpapers.org).
Based on your reading of chapter 45 of Saints: Volume 1, what did many Church members experience as they watched and listened to Brigham Young speak? (Many of the Saints received a spiritual manifestation that Brigham Young, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was called of God to lead the Church. Some later reported that for a time Brigham Young seemed to resemble Joseph Smith in appearance, speech, and mannerisms.)
Invite two students to read aloud the following accounts by Church members Emily Smith Hoyt and President George Q. Cannon (1827–1901), who later served in the First Presidency. Ask the class to listen for how these individuals described what happened as President Brigham Young addressed the Saints.
“The manner of reasoning, the expression of the countenance, the sound of the voice thrilled my whole soul. My own eyes had beheld Joseph’s murdered body. My own hands, had felt death’s icy coldness on his once noble forehead. I knew that Joseph was dead. And yet I often startled and involuntarily looked at the stand to see if it was not Joseph. It was not, it was Brigham Young and if any one doubts the right of Brigham to manage affairs for the Saints, all I have to say to them is this. Get the spirit of God and know for yourselves. The Lord will provide for his own” (Emily Smith Hoyt, in Lynne Watkins Jorgensen and BYU Studies Staff, “The Mantle of the Prophet Joseph Passes to Brother Brigham: A Collective Spiritual Witness,” BYU Studies, vol. 36, no. 4 [1996–97], 164).
“Brigham Young … arose and addressed the people. … Who that was present on that occasion can ever forget the impression it made upon them! If Joseph had risen from the dead and again spoken in their hearing, the effect could not have been more startling than it was to many present at that meeting. It was the voice of Joseph himself; and not only was it the voice of Joseph which was heard; but it seemed in the eyes of the people as though it was the very person of Joseph which stood before them. A more wonderful and miraculous event than was wrought that day in the presence of that congregation we never heard of. The Lord gave His people a testimony that left no room for doubt as to who was the man He had chosen to lead them. They both saw and heard with their natural eyes and ears, and then the words which were uttered came, accompanied by the convincing power of God, to their hearts, and they were filled with the Spirit and with great joy. There had been gloom, and, in some hearts probably, doubt and uncertainty; but now it was plain to all that here was the man upon whom the Lord had bestowed the necessary authority to act in their midst in Joseph’s stead” (George Q. Cannon, “Joseph Smith, the Prophet,” Juvenile Instructor, Oct. 29, 1870, 174–75).
What stands out to you in these accounts?
Explain that after Brigham Young finished his remarks at the meeting on August 8, 1844, he called for a vote. The Saints sustained the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with Brigham Young as its president, as the governing body of the Church. The Church moved forward under the leadership and direction of the Twelve for more than three years until the First Presidency was reorganized and Brigham Young was sustained as President of the Church in December 1847.
Invite a student to read Moroni 10:5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and consider how this verse could help someone who desires a testimony that those who lead the Church are called of God.
How might Moroni’s teaching in this verse help someone who desires a testimony that those who lead the Church are called of God? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: Through the Holy Ghost, we can receive a testimony that those who lead the Church are called of God.)
Why do you think it is important for each of us to obtain a testimony that the Church is currently led by those who are called of God?
When have you received a witness from the Holy Ghost that those who lead the Church in our day have been called of God?
Testify that those who have led and now lead The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been called of God. Encourage students to obtain or strengthen their testimony of this truth.
Invite students to prepare for the final class of this course by reading chapter 46 of Saints: Volume 1.