Brigham Young Faction

(RLDS History of the Church 3:13–28)

At Nauvoo, Brigham Young, as President of the Twelve, sustained by eight others of his quorum, assumed control, interpreting the action of August 8,1844, as sustaining them as the presiding quorum of the church. (William Smith, John E. Page, and Lyman Wight refused to indorse the actions of their colleagues and denounced them as usurpers.) They, however, declared that Joseph Smith’s place was not to be filled by another.

In an epistle of the Twelve, signed Brigham Young President, written at Nauvoo, August 15, 1844, occurs the following, which clearly indicates that they then wished the saints to understand that no effort would be made to place anyone in the office left vacant by the death of Joseph Smith:—


To the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in Nauvoo and all the world; Greeting.

Beloved Brethren:—Forasmuch as the saints have been called to suffer deep affliction and persecution, and also to mourn the loss of our beloved Prophet and also our Patriarch, who have suffered a cruel martyrdom for the testimony of Jesus, having voluntarily yielded themselves to cruel murderers who had sworn to take their lives, and thus like good shepherds have laid down their lives for the sheep, therefore it becomes necessary for us to address you at this time on several important subjects.

You are now without a prophet present with you in the flesh to guide you; but you are not without apostles, who hold the keys of power to seal on earth that which shall be sealed in heaven, and to preside over all the affairs of the church in all the world; being still under the direction of the same God, and being dictated by the same Spirit, having the same manifestations of the Holy Ghost to dictate all the affairs of the church in all the world, to build up the kingdom upon the foundation that the Prophet Joseph has laid, who still holds the keys of this last dispensation, and will hold them to all eternity, as a king and priest unto the most high God, ministering in heaven, on earth, or among the spirits of the departed dead, as seemeth good to him who sent him.

Let no man presume for a moment that his place will be filled by another; for, remember he stands in his own place, and always will; and the Twelve Apostles of this dispensation stand in their own place and always will, both in time and in eternity, to minister, preside, and regulate the affairs of the whole church.

How vain are the imaginations of the children of men, to presume for a moment that the slaughter of one, two, or a hundred of the leaders of this church could destroy an organization, so perfect in itself and so harmoniously arranged that it will stand while one member of it is left alive upon the earth. Brethren, be not alarmed, for if the Twelve should be taken away, still there are powers and offices in existence which will bear the kingdom of God triumphantly victorious in all the world. This church may have prophets many, and apostles many, but they are all to stand in due time in their proper organization, under the direction of those who hold the keys.

On the subject of the gathering, let it be distinctly understood that the city of Nauvoo and the temple of our Lord are to continue to be built up according to the pattern which has been commenced, and which has progressed with such rapidity thus far.

The city must be built up and supported by the gathering of those who have capital, and are willing to lay it out for the erection of every branch of industry and manufacture, which is necessary for the employment and support of the poor, or of those who depend wholly on their labor; while farmers who have capital must come on and purchase farms in the adjoining country, and improve and cultivate the same. In this way all may enjoy plenty, and our infant city may grow and flourish and be strengthened an hundredfold; and unless this is done, it is impossible for the gathering to progress, because those who have no other dependence cannot live together without industry and employment.

Therefore, let capitalists hasten here; and they may be assured we have nerves, sinews, fingers, skill, and ingenuity sufficient in our midst to carry on all the necessary branches of industry.

The temple must be completed by a regular system of tithing, according to the commandments of the Lord, which he has given as a law unto this church, by the mouth of his servant Joseph.

Therefore, as soon as the Twelve have proceeded to a full and complete organization of the branches abroad, let every member proceed immediately to tithe himself or herself a tenth of all their property and money, and pay it into the hands of the Twelve, or into the hands of such bishops as have been or shall be appointed by them to receive the same, for the building of the temple or the support of the priesthood, according to the Scriptures and the revelations of God; and then let them continue to pay in a tenth of their income from that time forth; for this is a law unto this church as much binding on their conscience as any other law or ordinance. And let this law or ordinance be henceforth taught to all who present themselves for admission into this church, that they may know the sacrifice and tithing which the Lord requires, and perform it; or else not curse the church with a mock membership as many have done heretofore. This will furnish a steady public fund for all sacred purposes, and save the leaders from constant debt and embarrassment; and the members can then employ the remainder of their capital in every branch of enterprise, industry, and charity, as seemeth them good; only holding themselves in readiness to be advised in such manner as shall be for the good of themselves and the whole society; and thus all things can move in harmony, and for the general benefit and satisfaction of all concerned.

The United States and adjoining provinces will be immediately organized by the Twelve into proper districts, in a similar manner as they have already done in England and Scotland, and high priests will be appointed over each district, to preside over the same, and to call quarterly conferences for the regulation and representation of the branches included in the same, and for the furtherance of the gospel; and also to take measures for a yearly representation in a General Conference. This will save the trouble and confusion of the running to and fro of elders, detect false doctrine and false teachers, and make every elder abroad accountable to the conference in which he may happen to labor. Bishops will also be appointed in the larger branches, to attend to the management of the temporal funds, such as tithings and funds for the poor, according to the revelations of God, and to be judges in Israel.

The gospel in its fullness and purity must now roll forth through every neighborhood of this widespread country, and to all the world; and millions will awake to its truths and obey its precepts, and the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.

As rulers and people have taken counsel together against the Lord and against his anointed, and have murdered him who would have reformed and saved the nation, it is not wisdom for the saints to have anything to do with politics, voting, or president-making, at present. None of the candidates who are now before the public for that high office have manifested any disposition or intention to redress wrong or restore right, liberty, or law; and therefore, woe unto him who gives countenance to corruption, or partakes of murder, robbery, or other cruel deeds. Let us then stand aloof from all their corrupt men and measures, and wait, at least, till a man is found, who, if elected, will carry out the enlarged principles, universal freedom, and equal rights and protection expressed in the views of our beloved prophet and martyr, General Joseph Smith.

We do not, however, offer this political advice as binding on the consciences of others; we are perfectly willing that every member of this church should use their own freedom in all political matters; but we give it as our own rule of action, and for the benefit of those who may choose to profit by it.

Now, dear brethren, to conclude our present communication, we would exhort you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to be humble and faithful before God, and before all the people, and give no occasion for any man to speak evil of you; but preach the gospel in its simplicity and purity, and practice righteousness, and seek to establish the influence of truth, peace, and love among mankind, and in so doing the Lord will bless you, and make you a blessing to all people.

You may expect to hear from us again.

BRIGHAM YOUNG, President of the Twelve.
Nauvoo, August 15, 1844.
Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 6l8–620.

The Millennial Star, volume 25, has this purporting to be the language of Brigham Young, on August 8, 1844:—

You cannot fill the office of a prophet, seer, and revelator; God must do this. You are like children without a father, and sheep without a shepherd. You must not appoint any man at your head. If you should, the Twelve must ordain him. You cannot appoint a man at your head; . . . I tell you there is an over-anxiety to hurry matters here. You cannot take any man and put him at your head; you would scatter the saints to the four winds. You would sever the priesthood. So long as we remain as we are the heavenly head is in constant cooperation with us; and if you go out of that course, God will have nothing to do with you.... I again repeat, No man can stand at our head except God reveals it from the heavens.”—Page 231.

These statements are quite significant. They voice sentiments which it will be well for the reader to remember as we proceed with the narrative.

The following thoughts are made prominent: First, The people cannot by selection place a man at their head; God must do this. Second, The effect of presuming to select would be to scatter the saints to the four winds, and sever the priesthood. Third, Every man should remain just as he was without changing his position, and this was in harmony with the motion that he put to sustain the Twelve in their calling. Fourth, The effect of this policy would be, that the heavenly head would cooperate with them. Fifth, The effect of a departure from it would be that God would have nothing to do with them. Sixth, There was then no man who by virtue of his position was entitled to be at the head, but when, if ever, one should be placed there, God must reveal it from the heavens.

Nominally the Twelve adhered to this declared policy for over three years; and though they may have usurped authority not attaching lawfully to their office, they laid no claim only indirectly and incidentally to another office while they were with the body of the church at Nauvoo.

In 1846 an exodus took place from Nauvoo, and a large portion of the church moved westward. A party of them, including several of the Twelve, reached Salt Lake Valley in July, 1847. Immediately after arriving there, for some reason which they have not fully explained, they instituted the practice of rebaptism. The Twelve led the way and others followed. Elder Young, on October 23, 1853, counseled others who had come to the valley to be rebaptized.

I will refer again to the brethren and sisters who have lately come over the plains. My counsel to them today is, as it has been on former occasions to all who have come into these valleys, Go and be baptized for the remission of sins, repenting of all your wanderings from the path of righteousness, believing firmly, in the name of Jesus Christ, that all your sins will be washed away. If any of you inquire what is the necessity of your being baptized, as you have not committed any sins, I answer, it is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.

I have heard of some of you cursing and swearing, even some of the elders of Israel. I would be baptized seven times, were I in your place; I would not stop teasing some good elder to baptize me again and again, until I could think my sins forgiven. I would not live over another night until I was baptized enough to satisfy me that my sins were forgiven. Then go and be confirmed, as you were when you first embraced the religion of Jesus. That is my counsel.—Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, pp. 8, 9.

Here is the record as given by themselves, as recorded in “Life of Brigham Young, or Utah and Her Founders,” by Tullidge, who quoted from “the historian Woodruff,” late President of their church.

On the 6th of August, the Twelve were rebaptized. This we considered a privilege and a duty. As we had come into a glorious valley to locate and build up Zion, we felt like renewing our covenants before the Lord and each other. We soon repaired to the water, and President Young went down into the water and baptized all his brethren of the Twelve present. He then confirmed us, and sealed upon us our apostleship and all the keys, powers, and blessings belonging to that office. Brother Heber C. Kimball baptized and confirmed President Brigham Young. The following were the names and order of those present: Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, and Amasa Lyman. Ezra T. Benson had been dispatched several days before to meet the companies on the road.

In the afternoon of the next day, the Twelve went to the temple block to select their inheritances.

President Young took a block east of the temple, and running southeast, to settle his friends around him; Heber C. Kimball, a block north of the temple; Orson Pratt, south and running south; Wilford Woodruff, a block cornering Temple Block, the southwest corner joining Orson Pratt’s; Amasa Lyman took a block forty rods below Wilford Woodruff’s; George A. Smith, one joining the temple on the west, and running due west. It was supposed that Willard Richards would take his on the east, near President Young’s. None others of the Twelve were present in camp.

During the same evening the Twelve went to City Creek, and Heber C. Kimball baptized fifty-five members of the camp, for the remission of their sins; and they were confirmed under the hands of President Young, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, and Amasa Lyman; President Young being mouth.

On the next day (Sunday, August 8) the whole camp of Israel renewed their covenants before the Lord by baptism. There were two hundred and twenty-four baptized this morning, making two hundred and eighty-eight rebaptized in the last three days.—Life of Brigham Young; or, Utah and Her Founders, pp. 180–182.

It will be observed from the above that the Twelve and others were not only rebaptized, but President Woodruff says: “He [Brigham] then confirmed us, and sealed upon us our apostleship, and all the keys, powers, and blessings belonging to that office.”

On August 26, 1847. the Twelve, or some of them, left Salt Lake Valley, and returned to Winter Quarters, where they arrived October 31,1847.

On December 5,1847, they met in council and appointed Brigham Young to be President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards his counselors.

In a “General Epistle from the Council of the Twelve Apostles, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, abroad, dispersed throughout the Earth, Greeting,” “written at Winter Quarters, Omaha Nation, west bank of Missouri River, near Council Bluffs, North America, and signed December 23, 1847, in behalf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Brigham Young, President, Willard Richards, Clerk” (Millennial Star, vol. 10, pp. 81–88)—an extract from that Epistle as found on page 86 is as follows:—

Since the murder of President Joseph Smith, many false prophets and false teachers have arisen, and tried to deceive many, during which time we have mostly tarried with the body of the church, or been seeking a new location, leaving those prophets and teachers to run their race undisturbed, who have died natural deaths, or committed suicides; and we now, having it in contemplation soon to reorganize the church according to the original pattern, with a First Presidency and Patriarch, feel that it will be the privilege of the Twelve, ere long, to spread abroad among the nations, not to hinder the gathering, but to preach the gospel, and push the people, the honest in heart, together from the four quarters of the earth.—Millennial Star, vol. 10, p. 86.

The very next day after signing this epistle, December 24, 1847, the action of the Twelve on the 5th, forming a Presidency, was presented to a conference composed of no more than one thousand persons, and by this conference the action of the Twelve was confirmed. Thus was Brigham Young made President by choice of a part of his quorum first, and then by about one thousand members assembled on the confines of civilization, and without the knowledge of the majority of the church, which at the death of Joseph Smith numbered, as has been estimated, about one hundred and fifty thousand in the world, including about thirty thousand in Nauvoo and vicinity. There is no evidence that a notice had been served on the rest of the church. In fact, there could have been no notice given until December 5, as Elder Young himself had not expressed his views until then, as will appear by the following:—

On the 3d of December a conference was held on the east side of the river; but, after having resolved to build immediately a large tabernacle for the congregation, it adjourned for three weeks.

There was a feast and a grand council, December 6, at the house of Elder Hyde, who had been in charge at Winter Quarters during the absence of the pioneers.

In this council of the Twelve Apostles, their president first expressed his views concerning the reorganization of the quorum of the First Presidency, and wished those present to do the same in their order, when Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, Willard Richards, George A. Smith, Amasa Lyman, and Ezra T. Benson spoke to the question. President Young closed.

Orson Hyde then moved that Brigham Young be President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and that he nominate his two counselors to form the First Presidency. Wilford Woodruff seconded the motion, and it was then carried unanimously.

President Young then nominated Heber C. Kimball as his first counselor, and Willard Richards as his second counselor, which was seconded and carried unanimously.—Life of Brigham Young; or, Utah and Her Founders, p. 188.

Nineteen days were not sufficient to serve notice on a large body of people scattered throughout Europe and America, and give them time to appear, especially when the notice must be sent from, and the gathering be to, a place far removed from railroad and telegraphic communications. This too notwithstanding a promise had been made that, “When any alteration in the Presidency shall be required, seasonable notice will be given.”—Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 632.

Not only did one thousand people assume to act for one hundred and fifty thousand, without their knowledge and consent, in changing the declared policy of the church, but, the Quorum of the Twelve as they were left when Joseph died was in that condition that Elder Young could not have been elected by a majority vote without casting his own vote for himself; and it would also require the votes of Kimball and Richards each voting for themselves to place them in the Presidency. William Smith, John E. Page, and Lyman Wight had before renounced the proceedings of the quorum, and were not present at that meeting. John Taylor and P. P. Pratt were in Salt Lake Valley and could not possibly have known anything of this movement before it was consummated.

This left just seven present, a majority of one only. They were Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Orson Hyde, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, and George A. Smith. The moment they by their own act removed from the quorum Young, Kimball, and Richards, it left only four present, who had sanctioned this extraordinary movement; and when it was sanctioned by Taylor and Pratt, there were only six; hence the quorum was broken, and could no more act as a quorum until reorganized, as the law recognizes no less than a majority as forming a quorum. (See Book of Doctrine and Covenants 104:11.)

They had previously elevated Amasa Lyman and Ezra T. Benson to positions in the quorum; but by what authority does not appear, as no revelation is upon record calling them to that position; and the evidence of their selection by a General Conference or High Council is wanting.

Brigham Young in a letter to Orson Spencer, dated January 23, 1848, and published in Millennial Star, volume 10, pages 114 and 115, states:—

In December last we appointed a day to hold a conference on the other side of the river, in a large double block house, occupied by one of the brethren, where the saints congregated in such large numbers that we found it impracticable to continue our conference, the house being so crowded and many shouting at the windows to get in, so that we adjourned for three weeks to build a house capable of holding the saints. Accordingly, on the 24th, we convened again at the ‘Log Tabernacle,’ which they erected in a short time, during the severest weather we have had this winter. It is a well-constructed, capacious log house, 60 by 40 feet inside, and will seat 1,000 persons, with a recess or stand 20 by 10 feet for the priesthood and a clerk’s bench: it is certainly an ornament to this new country, and shows a little of Mormonism. I told them at the conference that the brethren had built, fenced, and made as many improvements in the short time they had been there (about a year) as they would in Missouri in about ten years; and it is a fact, and they have raised a crop equal to any we used to raise in Illinois.

At this conference we suggested to the brethren the propriety of organizing the church with a First Presidency and a Patriarch, as hinted at in our General Epistle, and the expediency of such a move at this time was so clearly seen by the brethren, that they hailed it as an action which the state of the work at present demanded, and as a means to liberate the hands of the Quorum of the Twelve, who now feel at liberty to go abroad and herald the truth to the ends of the earth, and build up the kingdom in all the world. Accordingly Brigham Young was nominated to be the First President of the Church, and he nominated Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards to be his two counselors, which nominations were seconded and carried without a dissentient voice. Father John Smith was then nominated to be Patriarch of the whole church, in the same capacity as Father Joseph Smith was, and also Brother Hyrum—seconded and carried unanimously. The Spirit of the Lord at this time rested upon the congregation in a powerful manner, insomuch that the saints’ hearts were filled with joy unspeakable; every power of their mind and nerve of their body was awakened and absorbed. A dead stillness reigned in the congregation while the President spoke. He said: "This is one of the happiest days of my life; it’s according as Heber prophesied yesterday, our teachings today have been good. I never heard better. Is not the bliss of heaven and the breezes of Zion wafted here? Who feels hatred, malice, or evil? If you come to the door with a bad spirit, it would not come in with you; no, it could not mingle here; but when you enter, your feelings become as calm and gentle as the zephyrs of paradise; and I feel glory, hallelujah. Nothing more has been done today than what I knew would be done when Joseph died.”

A small fraction of the church had that day assumed to act for the whole and placed a man at their head; and that man declared that, “Nothing more has been done today than what I knew would be done when Joseph died.” This remark is a very peculiar one if, as reported, this same man did on August 8, 1844, declare: “You cannot take any man and put him at your head; you would scatter the saints to the four winds. You would sever the priesthood.”

That no divine call was then claimed is evident from a sermon of Brigham Young’s delivered in Salt Lake City, April 7, 1852:—

A person was mentioned today who did not believe that Brigham Young was a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator. I wish to ask every member of this whole community, if they ever heard him profess to be a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, as Joseph Smith was? He professed to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, called and sent of God to save Israel. If you know what the calling of an apostle is, and if there were ten thousand of them on the earth at the same time, you must know that the words of an apostle who magnifies his calling are the words of the Almighty to the people all the time. He never need be called in question whether he revealed the mind of the Lord or not. Although Brothers Willard Richards, Heber C. Kimball, and myself are out of the Quorum of the Twelve, our apostleship has not been taken from us. Who ordained me to be First President of this church on earth? I answer, it is the choice of this people, and that is sufficient.—Millennial Star, vol. 16, p. 442.

We could not get a direct answer to the question: “Who ordained Brigham Young President of the Church?” as the following correspondence will show:—

LAMONI, Iowa, October 2, 1896.


Dear Sir:—I believe you are Church Recorder, and so write you for historical information. Will you favor me by stating what the approximate or exact numerical strength of the church was at the time of the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

I desire this simply to get at correct historical data.



To this we received the following reply:—

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Oct. 12, 1896.

MR. HEMAN C. SMITH, Lamoni, Iowa,

Dear Sir.—In reply to yours of the 2d inst. as to the numerical strength of the church at the time of the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

The nearest we can approximate the number was about 26,000 to 27,000 souls.



To this we replied as follows:—

LAMONI, Iowa, Oct. 17, 1896.


Dear Sir:—Yours of October 12, 1896, is at hand, stating the approximate numerical strength of the church at the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith to have been "about 26, 000 to 27, 000 souls."

I am surprised at the number being given so small by you. How do you explain the statements of Joseph Smith on this point? In a historical sketch written by him and published by I. Daniel Rupp in 1844 he writes: "There are no correct data by which the exact number of members composing this now extensive, and still extending, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints can be known. Should it be supposed at 150,000 it might still be short of the truth."—History of Religious Denominations, p. 409.

In his reply to Henry Clay, May 13, 1844, he writes: "Why, Great God! to transport 200,000 people through a vast prairie; over the Rocky Mountains, to Oregon, a distance of nearly two thousand miles, would cost more than four millions!"—Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 547.

These two statements would closely agree if we include in the latter statement dependents who were not members, but there is a very wide difference between your estimate and his.

I do not quote these statements by way of argument against your figures, but to get your explanation of the difference. Upon what basis did you make your estimate? Have you the record of names kept at the time? I want to get at the truth of the matter for the sake of historical accuracy.

I would like to ask another favor of you; namely: to inform me when, where, and by whom were Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff ordained Presidents of the High Priesthood, or presidents of the church, if so ordained?

Or if it is the position of your people that they needed no other ordination than that to the apostleship, will you please so state.

I am engaged in writing history and do not wish to misrepresent you.



Waiting until November 19, and receiving no reply to our inquiries, we wrote Mr. Richards as follows:—

LAMONI Iowa, Nov. 19, 1896.


Dear Sir:—On October 17, I wrote you in reply to yours of October 12. I am very anxious to receive answer to inquiries made. If you have not received it please let me know and I will send you a copy.

I am, respectfully,


Still receiving no reply, we waited until December l6, when we mailed him a copy of our letter of October 17, together with the following note, registering them:—

LAMONI, Iowa, Dec. 16, 1896.


Dear Sir:—On October 17 I wrote you in answer to yours of October 12, and made some further inquiries. Waiting until November 19, and receiving no reply I wrote inquiring if you received it. Still I have no reply.

I now inclose a copy of my letter of October 17, as you may not have received the original. Will you please give it your early attention, as I am anxious to get the information sought.

I inclose stamp for reply.

In bonds,


In due course of mail we received the “Registry Return Receipt,” signed “F. D. Richards, per John Jaques;” but up to date, January 19, 1900, no answer has been received.

Under date of March 7, 1898, F. D. Richards, Historian of the Utah Church, wrote Mr. J. B. Clark, of Eula, Alabama, that no ordination was necessary. C. W. Penrose, Assistant Historian, wrote to J. O. Long, of Higdon, Alabama, same effect, May 18,1898.

We have no means of determining how many accepted the claims of Mr. Young, but certainly a very small minority of the church followed him to his rendezvous in the mountains. In 1850, three years after their arrival, the United States census gave the entire population of Utah, Mormons and Gentiles included, as follows: White, 11,354; slaves 26; total 11,380. Young enriched himself and died a very wealthy man. In 1847 he went into a new and desert country, comparatively a poor man, and while others struggled with poverty and hardships incident to the settlement and improvement of a new country, he accumulated over seventeen thousand dollars in the first year. According to his own words this was a very small portion of his first year’s accumulation. How many more thousands we know not. Here is his own statement:—

I will commence at the north and go to the south settlements, and pick out twenty-five of our inhabitants as they average; and another man may take fifty of the gold diggers, off hand, and they cannot buy out the twenty-five who have tarried at home. Before I had been one year in this place, the wealthiest man who came from the mines, Father Rhodes, with seventeen thousand dollars, could not buy the possessions I had made in one year! It will not begin to do it; and I will take twenty five men in the United States, who have staid at home and paid attention to their own business, and they will weigh down fifty others from the same place, who went to the gold regions; and again, look at the widows that have been made, and see the bones that lie bleaching and scattered over the prairies.—Millennial Star, vol. 13, p. 18.

He died in 1877 a millionaire, bequeathing more than a million in his will.