The Dark and Cloudy Day
During the fourteen years from April, 1830, to the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in 1844, the church had an unprecedented growth. Notwithstanding the severe ordeals of persecution and internal dissensions, the driving of its members from place to place and from State to State, attended with the destruction of life and property, the ministry had canvassed the United States and the Canadas quite thoroughly, and had extended their labors to Europe, where thousands had received their message.
At the time of the martyrdom the numerical strength of the church was variously estimated at 160,000 to 200,000. Joseph Smith, in 1844, wrote a statement published by I. Daniel Rupp, in which he said that 150,000 “might still be short of the truth.” On May 18 of the same year, in writing to Henry Clay, he estimated the number to be removed in case the church should seek another location, at 200,000.
Governor Ford in his “History of Illinois,” page 359, gives the number at about 200,000, and states parenthetically that Mormon statistics made it 500,000. Where he saw such statistics we do not know. Of those composing the church it is estimated that there were about 30,000 in Nauvoo and vicinity. The church in America had received accessions from foreign nations, not including Canada and other British provinces in America, of over 4,000, as follows: Under the agency of Brigham Young up to April 21, 1841, 769 persons; under the agency of P. P. Pratt and Amos Fielding up to October 29, 1842, 1,991 persons; under the agency of Amos Fielding and Hyrum Clark up to October 21, 1843, 769 persons; under the agency of Reuben Hedlock, up to March 5,1844, 501 persons; which makes a total of 4,030 persons. These details are taken from the “Illustrated Route from Liverpool to Great Salt Lake Valley;” but the same authority quotes P. P. Pratt as saying that 1,000 had immigrated from Europe up to April, 1841; which would make 231 more than the above figures show, or a total of 4,261. At the next European annual conference held at Manchester, England, April 6, 1845, according to a note appended to the minutes, there were left in the European mission 9, 635 members, 1, 910 of whom had been baptized since the last General Conference. (Millennial Star, vol. 5, p. 178.) After allowing for the probable number baptized after the death of Joseph Smith and before the conference of 1845, we have approximately nearly or quite 13,000 European members in the church at the time of the death of the Prophet. So if there were 150,000 in the church, about 137,000 were Americans. At this same conference Elder Wilford Woodruff represented the membership in America to be “above one hundred thousand saints.” (Millennial Star, vol. 5, p. 170.)
As might have been expected, when Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed the church was thrown into confusion, and honest men differed regarding the proper course to pursue; and possibly some designing men, prompted by ambition for place and power, sought to take advantage of the church’s extremity to lift themselves into positions of authority. But of this the reader will be better able to judge as we proceed.
The church was entirely unprepared for this sad condition, and hence had given little or no thought as to what would be the proper mode of procedure in such an emergency. The masses of the people had concluded that their beloved prophet would continue with them until Christ should come and the final victory was won. In this they were largely at fault. Intimations had been given by revelation and otherwise that he would be taken away, but in their zeal and earnest desire that he should live they overlooked all warnings and admonitions, hence when the emergency came, were not so well prepared as they should have been. Had they been wise and discreet they might have been in better condition to think soberly and act considerately, and hence less liable to be imposed upon if a disposition was manifested to deceive.
As early as February, 1831, the probability of the prophet’s being taken away had been presented by revelation, the manner of appointing one in his stead pointed out, and a law given whereby deceivers could be detected, and the people might know that they were not of God.
O hearken, ye elders of my church, and give ear to the words which I shall speak unto you: for, behold, verily, verily I say unto you, that ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church, through him whom I have appointed unto you, to receive commandments and revelations from my hand. And this ye shall know assuredly, that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me.
But verily, verily I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him, for if it be taken from him he shall not have power, except to appoint another in his stead; and this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations, or commandments; and this I give unto you, that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me. For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me, shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before, to teach those revelations which you have received, and shall receive through him whom I have appointed.
And now, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that when ye are assembled together, ye shall instruct and edify each other, that ye may know how to act and direct my church how to act upon the points of my law and commandments, which I have given; and thus ye shall become instructed in the law of my church, and be sanctified by that which ye have received, and ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me, that inasmuch as ye do this, glory shall be added to the kingdom which ye have received. Inasmuch as ye do it not, it shall be taken, even that which ye have received. Purge ye out the iniquity which is among you; sanctify yourselves before me, and if ye desire the glories of the kingdom, appoint ye my servant Joseph Smith, Jr., and uphold him before me by the prayer of faith. And again, I say unto you, that if ye desire the mysteries of the kingdom, provide for him food and raiment and whatsoever thing he needeth to accomplish the work, wherewith I have commanded him; and if ye do it not, he shall remain unto them that have received him, that I may reserve unto myself a pure people before me.—Doctrine and Covenants 43:1–3.
At the time of the martyrdom Sidney Rigdon, the only member of the Presidency remaining, was in Pennsylvania. The only members of the Twelve at Nauvoo were John Taylor and Willard Richards. Brigham Young, H. C. Kimball, William Smith, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, Orson Hyde, and Lyman Wight were somewhere in the Eastern States; P. P. Pratt was near Utica, New York; J. E. Page was at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; G. A. Smith was in Michigan. Brigham Young is reported to have said at a special meeting held in Nauvoo, Illinois, on August 8,1844, that Amasa Lyman was a member of the First Presidency, (See Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 638.) but upon what authority he made that statement we do not know, as we have seen no account of his call or ordination to that office. We have not the evidence that would justify us to historically recognize him as a member of that quorum.
The saints in deep sorrow and anxiety awaited the arrival of authorities, expecting that from them some counsel would be received. The most important question discussed was, “Who shall be the successor of Joseph Smith” In the Times and Seasons for September 2,1844, the editor, John Taylor, published the following:—
Great excitement prevails throughout the world to know "who shall be the successor of Joseph Smith?"
In reply, we say, be patient, be patient a little, till the proper time comes, and we will tell you all. "Great wheels move slow." At present, we can say that a special conference of the church was held in Nauvoo on the 8th ult., and it was carried without a dissenting voice, that the "Twelve" should preside over the whole church, and when any alteration in the Presidency shall be required, seasonable notice will be given; and the elders abroad, will best exhibit their wisdom to all men, by remaining silent on those things they are ignorant of. Bishops Whitney and Miller have been appointed trustees, to manage the financial concerns of the church, and will soon enter on the duties of their calling.—Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 632
This was a misrepresentation of the case in part if the report of the conference referred to was correctly printed in the same issue of his paper. The report fails to show any such resolution passed as the one stated in the above editorial. The published report shows that the resolution passed was simply this: “‘All in favor of supporting the Twelve in their calling (every quorum, man, and woman) signify it by the uplifted hand,’ and the vote was unanimous,” etc. (Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 638).
Orson Hyde in a lecture delivered before the High Priests’ Quorum at Nauvoo, April 27, 1845, states it substantially the same:—
The question was then put: "All in favor of supporting the Twelve in their calling’ (the several quorums of officers being present and duly arranged in order) ‘signify it by the uplifted hand." The vote was unanimous; not a hand being raised in the negative.—Speech of Orson Hyde, p. 13.
There was nothing in this motion that any member of the church could not or should not have voted for, providing the Twelve were not in transgression. It did not, however, commit those who voted for it to the position stated in Mr. Taylor’s editorial.
Soon after the death of the martyrs, Elder Rigdon came to Nauvoo and presented his claims. He maintained that he was the legal guardian of the church, entitled to preside by virtue of his being the only surviving member of the First Presidency, and that according to inspired instruction he was equal with Joseph Smith in holding the keys of the kingdom. (See Doctrine and Covenants, section 87:3.)
Prior to the special conference, August 8, 1844, he addressed an assembly in the grove near the temple in advocacy of his claim, and by consultation and agreement with William Marks, President of the Stake, appointed the conference of the 8th. Some of the Twelve, however, arrived before the date of the conference. Brigham Young it appears assumed control of the meeting.
It is claimed by some that Rigdon addressed the meeting. Elder B. H. Roberts states:—
He had full opportunity to present his case, and for an hour and a half spoke without interruption; but despite his reputation as an orator, he failed to convince the saints that he was sent of God.—Succession in the Presidency of the Church, p. 5.
But the published report of the meeting does not show that Elder Rigdon either spoke, or had the opportunity to do so. The report indicates that Elder Young took charge of the meeting, arranged the quorums, made the opening argument, followed by Elder Amasa Lyman, Elder Phelps, and Elder P. P. Pratt; when Elder Young concluded, and during his concluding address put the motion before referred to; Elder Rigdon refusing to have his claims submitted to the assembly.
On the 8th of August, 1844, at a special meeting of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, convened at the stand in the city of Nauvoo, President Brigham Young called the audience to order, and arranged the several quorums according to their standing and the rules of the church. The meeting had been previously called, as stated, to choose a guardian or trustee for said church.
Elder Phelps opened the meeting by prayer, and President Young then proceeded to speak, and gave his views of the present situation of the church, now that the Prophet and Patriarch were taken from our midst by the wickedness of our enemies. For the first time since he became a member of the church a servant of God, a messenger to the nations in the nineteenth century—for the first time in the kingdom of God,—the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, chosen by revelation, in this last dispensation of the gospel for the winding up scene, present themselves before the saints, to stand in their lot according to appointment. While the Prophet lived, we all walked by “sight;” he is taken from us and we must now walk by “faith.” After he had explained matters so satisfactorily that every saint could see that Elijah’s mantle had truly fallen upon the “Twelve,” he asked the saints what they wanted. Do you want a guardian, a prophet, a spokesman, or what do you want? If you want any of these officers, signify it by raising the right hand. Not a hand was raised.
He then gave the saints his views of what the Lord wanted. Here are the “Twelve,” appointed by the finger of God, who hold the keys of the priesthood and the authority to set in order and regulate the church in all the world. Here is Elder Amasa Lyman and Elder Sidney Rigdon: they were councilors in the First Presidency, and they are counselors to the Twelve still, if they keep their places; but if either wishes to act as “spokesman” for the Prophet Joseph, he must go behind the veil where Joseph is. He continued his remarks nearly an hour, opening by the Spirit of God the eyes, ears, and hearts of the saints to the subject before them, and to their duty and the glory of God.
Elder Amasa Lyman followed, and fully accorded with the instructions and views of Elder Young. I have been at the back of the Prophet Joseph, and I shall be at the back of the “Twelve.” There is no need of choosing a guardian or head; the apostles have the power, as they had anciently; and this is the power that turns the key and will bear off the kingdom of God in all the world triumphantly; and I shall help them obtain that glory that eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, and the heart of man hath not conceived. His remarks were continued in the full fruition of the Spirit that whispers: Union is strength, and peace is joy.
Elder Phelps spoke next, and continued the same spirit and feeling, having known many of the elders for fourteen years, and had seen them take their lives in their hands, without purse or scrip, in summer and in winter, through good and through evil report, for the salvation of souls and for the benefit of Zion, without the hope of reward, save pleasing God and obeying his commandments; had seen them harness for war when wicked men sought their lives and endeavored to destroy their wives and children; and at all times they were willing to act by counsel; they will do it now. This lake of faces does not seem so pleasant without indicating good; and the elders who have stood on the right and left of our departed prophet, knowing the authority and power of the priesthood, will honor it. Elder Rigdon must know how he obtained his endowment, or what he has; for he has not received all, only a small part. Let him and the whole of Israel rejoice this day, for if they rear that temple and are faithful, they shall all be endowed (men and women) as God will, till they can save themselves and their progenitors as well as secure their posterity. Fear not concerning a prophet; Joseph held the keys in this world, and holds them in the world to come, and counsels for you now. I understand the revelations, and know that in them all things are written concerning the Twelve.
Elder P. P. Pratt said what had been said was well said, and went into the merits of the subject with his usual animation. Says he, I know we can all live happy if we deal with honest men: I do not like the practice when anyone is sick or in difficulty to run to a doctor or a lawyer; run to the very worst men to be cured or helped out of difficulty! Let me die a natural death, and suffer wrong rather than hire a doctor to kill me, or a lawyer to fleece me and leave me to the beggarly elements of the world. As to merchants, I say nothing of them; you know what I mean.
Elder Young again resumed: I do not ask this audience to take my counsel; act for yourselves. If Elder Rigdon is your choice, manifest it; if the Twelve be the men to counsel you to finish the great work laid out by our departed prophet, say so; and do not break your covenant by murmuring hereafter. When the whole subject was properly explained and understood, and Counselor Rigdon refused to have his name voted for as a spokesman or guardian, the question was put, “All in favor of supporting the Twelve in their calling (every quorum, man, and woman) signify it by the uplifted hand;” and the vote was unanimous, no hand being raised in the negative. The next vote was that the Twelve should select and appoint two bishops to act as trustees for the church, according to law. This vote was unanimous also. Another unanimous vote was passed to use every exertion to forward the building of the temple, and to strengthen the hands of the committee. The revelation in relation to tithing was referred to, and the manifestation of every saint seemed to be, We will do as the Lord hath commanded; and the assembly was dismissed with the blessings of the Lord.
[The following also indicates the purpose of the Twelve at the time.—H. C. S.]
The Twelve would invite the brethren abroad, in obedience to the commandments of the Lord, to gather to Nauvoo, with their means, to help build up the city, and complete the temple, which is now going forward faster than it has at any time since it commenced. Beware of the speculations about the prophet! Believe no tales on the subject. Time will tell who are the friends of Joseph Smith, who laid down his life for his brethren. We have no new commandments, but beseech the brethren to honor and obey the old ones. For wheresoever the carcase, there will the eagles be gathered together. More in the next.
BRIGHAM YOUNG, President of the Twelve.
September 2, 1844.
Times and Seasons, vol. 6, pp. 637, 638
Elder Rigdon evidently did not consider this a final settlement of the question, for he continued to assert his claims, and gained a considerable following, among them some men of respectability and influence.
Elder Rigdon returned to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, where on October 15,1844, he commenced to publish the Messenger and Advocate claiming it was the revival of the periodical of that name formerly published in Kirtland, Ohio.
He was quite bitter in some of his denunciations against the Twelve, charging among other things that they were practicing polygamy or spiritual wifery. This they denied, but have since admitted it to have been true. (RLDS History of the Church 3:1–8)
At the General Conference held in October, 1844, some peculiar moves were made, showing the general tendency toward the centralization of power. At this time Elder Brigham Young ventured to claim for himself the position of revelator, and thus elevated himself above his colleagues in his quorum. He said:—
It is the test of our fellowship to believe and confess that Joseph lived and died a prophet of God in good standing; and I don’t want anyone to fellowship the Twelve who says that Joseph is fallen. If you don’t know whose right it is to give revelations, I will tell you. It is I. There never has a man stood between Joseph and the Twelve, and unless we apostatize there never will.—Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 683.
There was also a resolution passed which ventured a little further than the one of August 8, 1844, and associated the Quorum of the Twelve with the Presidency of the Church as one quorum. The resolution was as follows:—
Elder W. W. Phelps moved that we uphold Brigham Young the President of the Quorum of the Twelve, as one of the Twelve and First Presidency of the Church.
This motion was duly seconded, and put to the church by Elder John Smith, and carried unanimously.—Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 692.
There was . . . an intimation given by Brigham Young that he contemplated teaching something not before taught to the church.—
We want you to come on with your tithes and offerings to build this temple, and when it is finished we want you to spend a year in it and we will tell you things you never thought of.— Times and Seasons, vol. 6, p. 694.
The manner of selecting seventies and others at this conference was very peculiar. Their policy to build up the church in the States was again declared and explained. The following is from the minutes:—
Elder G. A. Smith moved that all in the Elders’ Quorum under the age of thirty-five should be ordained into the Seventies’, if they are in good standing, and worthy, and will accept it. The motion was seconded and carried unanimously. . . .
He then recommended all those elders who are under the age of thirty-five, and also all the priests, teachers, deacons, and members who are recommended to be ordained, to withdraw and receive an ordination into the seventies, which was done.
President B. Young then appeared and proceeded to select men from the High Priests’ Quorum to go abroad in all the congressional districts of the United States to preside over the branches of the church. . . .
President Young explained the object for which these high priests were being sent out, and informed them that it was not the design to go and tarry six months and then return, but to go and settle down, where they can take their families and tarry until the temple is built, and then come and get their endowment, and return to their families and build up a stake as large as this.
President Young then selected from the Elders’ Quorum some to be ordained high priests, whose names for the want of room are omitted for the present.
He also selected a number more to go into the Seventies’, after which the remainder of the morning was spent in calling out the several quorums of seventies, and giving charges to the several presidents.
Brother Joseph L. Heywood was ordained under the hands of Elder B. Young, H. C. Kimball and P. P. Pratt, to be a bishop to the church in Quincy, Illinois.
Previous to adjournment the Presidents of the Seventies ordained upwards of four hundred into the quorums of the seventies, and the Presidents of the High Priests’ Quorum ordained forty into their quorum.
The meeting then adjourned until two o’clock, p. m.
Two o’clock, p. m. Conference resumed business. Those Presidents of the Seventies who were present and had not received an ordination to the Presidency over the Seventies were called out and ordained, under the hands of President Joseph Young and others.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent in filling up the quorums of seventies, and at the close, eleven quorums were filled and properly organized, and about forty elders organized as a part of the twelfth quorum.”—Times and Seasons, vol. 5, pp. 695, 696.
The remaining part of the year passed in comparative peace so far as outside opposition was concerned, but the contention between the aspirants for leadership was very bitter, and if we are to judge from their utterances a very bad spirit was engendered. Sidney Rigdon came in for his share of abuse and slander, and he retaliated in much the same spirit.
In December, 1844, the Seventies’ Hall in Nauvoo was dedicated with imposing ceremonies. Two quorums were accommodated each day, and there were fifteen quorums, so several days were necessary to complete the service. There had been a remarkable increase of seventies since the death of Joseph Smith. We do not know just how many there were at his death, but certainly they did not exceed the “seven times seventy” provided for in the law. (See Doctrine and Covenants 104:43–4.) We have seen account of but two quorums. What authority was had for more than seven quorums, of seventy each, is not clear. The Utah people cite an alleged statement of Joseph Smith’s found in Millennial Star, volume 15, page 261, (see [RLDS] History [of the Church], vol. 1, p. 561), which in addition to the provision found in the law adds: “And even until there are one hundred and forty and four thousand thus set apart for the ministry.” But as they did not publish this statement until April, 1853, long after they ventured beyond the limits, and as this additional provision is not found in the law, others claim it to be without authority.
By January 19,1846, there were at least thirty quorums. (Times and Seasons, vol. 6, p. 1096.) They have since increased the number to over one hundred quorums. (RLDS History of the Church 3:115–121)
From late 1844 on, the factions of the Church began to form. Listed below are their leaders and links to information about them and their factions as found in the RLDS History of the Church, Volume 3. It is hoped that we can learn why their movements did not represent the true Church established by God through Joseph Smith Jr. in 1830.
Sidney Rigdon | Brigham Young | William Smith | Lyman Wight
J. J. Strang | C. B. Thompson | J. C. Brewster | Austin Cowles