Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
President Brigham Young Leads the
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.
The Saints experienced trials and miracles as they began journeying west.
A study of this lesson will help us understand the process of succession in
Church leadership and to show how Brigham Young began preparing the Saints for
their journey west.
Scripture references for study:
Our Heritage, pages 66–71
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Lesson 33 Handout (PDF)
Succession In The Presidency
IF PRESIDENT MONSON WERE TO PASS AWAY TODAY, HOW WOULD THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF
THE CHURCH BE 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 and 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.
July 9, 1844: Brigham Young learns, by letter, of the martyrdom of
the Prophet. He was in Petersboro, New Hampshire at the time with
Brigham Young: "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 church'." (CHC, 2:413)
Brigham and Orson started for Nauvoo and were joined in Boston by Heber
C. Kimball and 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
and 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 Twelve 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: "It was shown to me that this
church must be built up to Joseph, and that all the blessings we receive
must come through him. 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.
Joseph sustains the same relationship to this church as he has always done.
No man can be the successor of Joseph." (HC, 7:229)
Following Sidney, Brigham Young spoke: "I
do not care who leads the church, even though it were Ann Lee; 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 all the keys and powers belonging to the Apostleship which he
himself held before he was taken away, and no man or set of men can get
between Joseph and the Twelve in this world or in the world to come.
"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'....
"My private feelings would
be to let the affairs of men and women alone, only go and preach and baptize
them into the kingdom of God; yet, whatever duty God places upon me, in
his strength I intend to fulfill it." (HC, 7:230)
August 8 - 10:00 AM: 10,000 Saints gathered in a grove for the meeting
called by William Marks.
Sidney Rigdon addressed the Saints for one and one-half hours advancing
his claims. Brigham then stood and called for a general assembly
of the Priesthood and Saints at 2:00 PM for the purpose of sustaining the
At the afternoon session, Brigham Young addressed the conference:
"Attention all! This congregation makes me think
of the days of King Benjamin, the multitude being so great that all could
not hear. I request the brethren not to have any feelings for being convened
this afternoon, for it is necessary; we want you all to be still and give
attention, that all may hear. Let none complain because of the situation
of the congregation, we will do the best we can.
"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 world." (HC,
Brigham spoke for about two hours explaining the role of the Twelve. He was then followed by Amasa M. Lyman and W.W. Phelps, both supporting
the claim of the Twelve.
After a few brief comments from Parley P. Pratt, Brigham then 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." (HC, 7:240)
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.
That afternoon, while Brigham was speaking, many of the Saints heard and
saw him transfigured as the Prophet Joseph Smith.
"It is impossible to verify the number of those
in attendance at the conference who saw or heard a physical transformation.
Records currently known establish 101 written testimonies of people who
say a transformation or spiritual manifestation occurred. Of these, fifty-seven
are firsthand documents: personal journals, personal narratives told to
a scribe, or first-person testimonies published in Church magazine articles.
Forty-two are secondhand testimonies: accounts gleaned from biographies
written by family members or from historical compilations."
(Lynne Watkins Jorgensen, BYU Studies, vol 36, #4)
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." (quoted
in BYU Studies, 32:188)
The Twelve took the reins of leadership and over the next few weeks numerous
administrative decisions were made. The Church continued forward.
Almost immediately, apostate groups began to spring up, claiming they were
the legitimate successor to Joseph Smith. These included:
Sidney Rigdon: He claimed to hold the higher keys of David. He ordained men to be prophets, priests, and kings to the gentiles.
Excommunicated September 8, 1844. He returned to Pittsburgh and organized
his church there. His church denounced polygamy and claimed that
Joseph Smith was a fallen Prophet. Rigdon's organization disintegrated
George Miller and 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, 1844.
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 thereafter
his 2600 adherents were driven from Beaver Island.
The splinter groups from these apostate churches became the nucleus of
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
they organized their own church which became the "Reorganized" church.
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 the 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 doctrines taught by the Prophet were expunged from the faith.
According to historians Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton
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." (Mormon Experience, pp92-93)
The church maintains headquarters in Independence, Missouri.
"Delegates at the church's 2000 World Conference
passed legislation to change the name of the church to Community of Christ--a
name that more adequately represents the church's theology and mission:
'We proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and
peace.' On April 6, 2001, the anniversary of the church's 1830 founding,
the church officially became Community of Christ." (Community
of Christ website)
Two thoughts concerning the validity of the Reorganization.
Why would the Lord wait so long to reorganize the Church? The vast
majority of the believers would have been lost by the time of reorganization. Scriptural
precedent: The Twelve took the reigns of leadership immediately after the death
and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
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 Reorganized Church. Scriptural precedent: There is no record of any fallen
The Last Days In Nauvoo
The Beginning of the End.
September 1844: The Hancock County "Wolf Hunt."
After a relatively peaceful summer, forces began to move against the Saints.
An extensive military movement by the people of Hancock County was planned
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
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.
October 1844: A grand jury was impaneled to investigate the Carthage
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.
May 1845: New session of court begins.
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,
Three of the chief witnesses for the prosecution had their testimonies
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
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." (CHC, 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.
Prior to this time the organization had been rather loose. Said Brigham,
remarked that Joseph's presence had measurably superseded the necessity
of carrying out a perfect organization of the several quorums."
(Mormon Experience, p85)
Brigham Young was the leader who led the Church through a phase of consolidation,
organizational strengthening, doctrinal clarification, and dealing with
Important tasks taken on by the Twelve under the leadership of Brigham
The missionary work.
At the October 1844 General Conference Brigham reaffirmed the importance
of this 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" (HC, 7:284-285)
Parley Pratt was sent to the East to reassert apostolic control over those
missions. There was some rivalry there between William Smith, George
Adams, and Samuel Brannan.
Wilford Woodruff and Dan Jones continued to lead the work in the British
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 continued at an accelerated pace. As much was done in the next
eighteen months as had been accomplished in the previous three years.
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.
WHY DO YOU SUPPOSE THE TWELVE WERE SO ANXIOUS TO COMPLETE THE TEMPLE EVEN
THOUGH THEY WOULD SOON ABANDON IT?
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
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.
Missionary districts were established in each of the country's congressional
This strengthened the outlying branches and minimized the possibility of
further division after the Prophet's death.
The Last Days In Nauvoo.
January 1845: The Nauvoo Charter was repealed by the Illinois legislature.
The Nauvoo Charter had provided:
Incorporation of the city and defined boundaries.
Mayor and alderman given the powers of justices of the peace.
A city university.
The Nauvoo Legion - subject to the call of the mayor and governor for
The city council had passed an act assuring protection for all religious
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."
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." (CHC, 2:470)
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.
September 1845: 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." (CHC, 2:504)
Brigham Young's response:
Propose to leave the following spring.
Asked for assistance of their neighbors to sell and rent properties.
Asked that men would leave the Saints alone with the lawsuits.
That all business be transacted honorably.
Requested that the public peace to be preserved.
Quincy citizen's committee response: Accepted the proposition but
declined to make any promises regarding the rent and purchase of property.
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.
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
Decision to go 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." (HC,
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.
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 pitched activity in preparation for the exodus.
President Joseph Fielding Smith: "...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 could purchase 'lower
than the prices at a sheriff's sale'." (CHC 2:540-541)
The Exodus Begins.
February 2, 1846: Brigham Young and the Twelve decided it was time
to leave Nauvoo. WHY?
Indictments charging President Young and the Apostles with counterfeiting
and other crimes.
At the December 1845 term of the U.S. District Court for Illinois, nine
Church leaders were indicted on charges of counterfeiting the current coins
of the U.S.
There were, in fact, some counterfeiters who had set up in Nauvoo, but
they had been run out of town. There is evidence that the counterfeiters
made the charges against the Church leadership.
An interesting story about the attempted arrest of Brigham Young as told
by President Young: "One-five p. m., Almon W.
Babbitt came into the Temple and informed me that there were some federal
officers from Springfield accompanied by several of the state troops in
the city for the purpose of arresting some of the Twelve, especially Amasa
Lyman and myself.
"It was soon reported
that they were at the door of the Temple and were intending to search it.
George D. Grant, my coachman, went below and drove my carriage up to the
door as if he was waiting for me to come down.
put on my cap and Brother Kimball's cloak and went downstairs meeting the
marshal and his assistants at the door, as he was about getting into my
carriage the marshal arrested him, on a writ from the United States court,
charging him with counterfeiting the coin of the United States. Miller
told him there must be some mistake about it, as he was not guilty of anything
of the kind, but the marshal insisted it was right." The
marshal took Miller into custody and took him to Carthage before he discovered
that he had the wrong man. (HC, 7:549-551)
President Young reported on another occasion: "Hans
C. Hanson, the doorkeeper reported that there were two officers waiting
at the foot of the stairs for me. I told the brethren that I could bear
to tarry here where it was warm as long as they could stay in the cold
waiting for me." (HC, 7:535)
There were rumors of Federal military intervention for the purpose of preventing
the Saints from moving west on grounds that they were intent on setting
up an independent commonwealth.
February 4 1846: The first of the Saints leave Nauvoo and cross the Mississippi
The Exodus From Nauvoo
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.
The camp of Saints became known as the Camp of Israel. The Saints
identified themselves with the ancient exodus from Egypt.
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 Nauvoo Covenant.
Prior to their departure, on October 6, 1845, the assembled Saints met
and adopted the Nauvoo Covenant.
Done in the Nauvoo Temple, the Saints agreed, "That
we take all the saints with us, to the extent of our ability, that is,
our influence and property." (Essentials In Church History,
At Sugar Creek, the camp was organized for the trek west based patterned
after the organization of the Zion's Camp expedition.
From this time (February 1846), a steady stream of Saints left Nauvoo throughout
the winter and spring. By September 1846 the city of Nauvoo stood
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
Heber Kimball left with sufficient supplies to care for his family for
two years. The the lack of preparation by others caused his supplies to be gone within two
IS THERE A LESSON TO BE LEARNED HERE?
That first night at Sugar Creek the weather was inclement and extremely
cold. Nine babies were born.
Eliza R. Snow wrote of these days: "As we journeyed
onward, 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 rainstorms and snowstorms. 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 newcomer and its mother from
a showerbath as the little innocent first entered on the stage of human
life; and through faith in the Great Ruler of events, no harm resulted
to either." (CHC, 3:45)
March 1, 1846: Brigham Young resumes 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
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
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
WHO WAS BRIGHAM YOUNG?
Outside of the Church, the name of Brigham Young is probably the name that
people relate most commonly to the history of Mormonism, even more so than
Joseph Smith. It was Brigham Young who led the exodus to the west
and built the Mormon empire in the Rocky Mountains. It was Brigham
Young that made the practice of plural marriage public. These were
the things that caught the attention of a curious public.
Quotes And Stories.
In Arthur Conan Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study In Scarlet,
Brigham Young was a villain.
The story tells of the attempt of two unhappy Mormons, John Ferrier and
his daughter, to escape from Utah. The father is murdered, and the
heartbroken girl is forced to marry a leading Mormon. Soon she also
In the story, the father is commanded to have his daughter choose between
two leading churchmen. Young said to Ferrier, "What is the thirteenth
rule in the code of the sainted Joseph Smith? 'Let every maiden of
the true faith marry one of the elect; for if she wed a Gentile, she commits
a grievous sin.' This being so, it is impossible that you who profess
the holy credo, should suffer your daughter to violate it."
Young continued: "It were better for you, John Ferrier that you and
she were now lying blanched skeletons upon the Sierra Blanco than that
you should put your weak wills against the orders of the Holy Four."
Such treatment by Conan Doyle and others helped paint a negative picture of
Brigham Young and the Church in the second half of the Nineteenth century
and into the Twentieth. While serving on my mission in the early 1970s I had the opportunity
of meeting a wonderful sister that must have been in her 80s. As
a youth she had immigrated to England where she lived for a time before
coming to America. She talked about going to the movies in the early
part of the 20th century and seeing the villainous young Mormon missionaries
portrayed on the screen as kidnappers of young women and taking them back
to Salt Lake City.
Historian Bernard DeVoto, though a critic of Mormonism, wrote that Brigham
"marks a decisive change in
Mormonism." He continued: "Whatever
else Smith was, he was primarily a prophet, a religious leader.... Young
was primarily an organizer of the kingdom on this earth.... Under Young
[Mormonism] became a religio-economic social system, based on cooperative
enterprise, subordinating religious ecstasy to practical achievement....
'Live your religion,' was his unvarying counsel to the Saints. And by 'live
your religion' he meant: take up more land, get your ditches in, make the
roof of your barn tight, improve your livestock, and in so doing glorify
God and advance the Kingdom."
One Solomon Carvalho, who traveled south with Brigham Young in 1854, wrote:
"As soon as our party were descried from the
observatory at Parowan, the authorities of the town, and numbers of other
gentlemen, came out to welcome the arrival of his excellency, Governor
Young; and I never could have imagined the deep idolatry with which he
is almost worshipped. There is no aristocracy or presuming position about
the governor; he is emphatically one of the people; the boys call him Brother
Brigham. They place implicit confidence in him.... He must certainly possess
some extraordinary qualities, which could inspire such unlimited confidence
in two hundred thousand Mormons." (quoted in They Made Mormon
Robert B. Day: "Dynamic was the word
for Brigham Young. For thirty-three tumultuous years, by force of personality,
character, ability, and organizing genius, he led The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints. The Brigham Young who ascended to leadership of the
Latter-day Saints in the crisis of 1844 was relatively unschooled in formal
institutions. But he brought to his task rare native abilities. In him
idealism and pragmatism were blended to an exceptionally fine degree....
"A mind that never
tired of detail, that left nothing to chance, was one of the greatest of
his gifts. Coupled to all these capacities was an iron will that had been
beaten on many anvils of adversity from Kirtland to Missouri to England
to Illinois, shaped by the hammer blows of mobs and apostates to a cleaving
edge. Tempered in faith, it was the driving power of the man through the
fire and storm of one crisis after another through which he led the Church
for a third of a century." (They Made Mormon History,
George Q. Cannon wrote of his thoughts near the time of Brigham's death:
"As I sat near his bed and thought of his death,
if it should occur, I recoiled from the contemplation of the view. It seemed
to me that he was indispensable. What could we do without him? He has been
the brain, the eye, the ear, the mouth, and hand for the entire people
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From the greatest details
connected with the organization of this church down to the smallest minutae
connected with the work, he has left upon it the impress of his great mind."
(quoted in They Made Mormon History, p91)
A Brief History of Brigham Young.
June 1, 1801: Born in Whittingham, VT.
After his mother died in 1815 he was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker, painter,
and glazier. By age 21 he was in business for himself.
1829: Moved to Mendon, NY with his wife and three year old daughter. In Mendon he met his life long associate, Heber C. Kimball.
Brigham Young kept himself aloof from the religious ferment of the day. He said: "I saw them get religion all around
me. Men were rolling and bawling and thumping but it had no effect on me.
I felt that if I could see the face of a Prophet, a man that had revelations,
to whom the Heavens were opened, who knew God and his character, I would
freely circumscribe the earth on my hands and knees." (JD, 4:104-105)
1832: After studying the Book of Mormon, Brigham was baptized and
ordained an elder. After his wife died he lived with Heber and Vilate
Kimball for a time.
November 1832: Joseph Young, Heber Kimball, and Brigham Young go
to Kirtland and meet the Prophet. Brigham wrote of this event: "We
immediately repaired to the woods, where we found the Prophet, and two
or three of his brothers, chopping and hauling wood. Here my joy was full
at the privilege of shaking the hand of the Prophet of God, and receiving
the sure testimony, by the spirit of prophecy, that he was all that any
man could believe him to be as a true prophet." (HC, 1: footnote
to Chapter 21)
That evening a few of the brethren met together where Brigham was called
on to pray and delivered his prayer in tongues. Joseph commented on this
and said that Brigham had spoken in the pure Adamic tongue. He said, "It
is of God, and the time will come when brother Brigham Young will preside
over this Church." (CHC, 1: footnote to Chapter 23)
1834: A captain in Zion's Camp.
1835: Ordained to the original Quorum of the Twelve.
1839: Leaves on a mission to Great Britain.
1844: Upon the death of the Prophet became leader of the
Church as President of the Twelve.
For additional information see
Prophets of the Restoration - Brigham Young at LDS.org.
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
Record your thoughts on the history discussed in this lesson.
In what ways can you show your support for the Lord's prophet?
Resources Used In This Lesson
A Comprehensive History of the Church by B.H. Roberts (CHC).
A Study In Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle.
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
They Made Mormon History by Robert B. Day.
Gospel Doctrine Class
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