The Reorganization Waits for Joseph Smith III

RLDS History of the Church 3:226–241

During the autumn and winter after this conference [October 6–8, 1853, General Conference] some strange spiritual manifestations were witnessed, which threatened to destroy the good work done. Of these manifestations and the division resulting therefrom Elder Briggs writes as follows:—

Jason W. Briggs

Jason W. Briggs

During the autumn and winter there were some strange manifestations of a spirit hitherto but little known among us, and caused no little trouble. It was in prophecy and tongues. Sometimes boisterous, and accusation began to be made against different persons through the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and interpretation; and this in public meeting. At this many were terrified, not knowing what moment they might be publicly accused by the Holy Ghost; while some who had thus been accused protested in the most solemn manner their innocence. These things occurred mainly in the Zarahemla branch. There was much discord and differences of opinion respecting these manifestations, some of which were as follows: When the spirit moved to speak by way of rebuke, accusation, or chastisement of a brother or sister, the speaker would not only name the accused and point to them, but would frequently while speaking approach and cuff them over the head and various parts of the body, castigating them in the name of God. Those cases, however, generally occurred in special meetings appointed through the zeal of those so gifted, and not in the regular meetings.

The whole branch was in doubt what to do. Many believed the spirit was false, but many others thought it the Holy Ghost. The resident elders were mainly young members, hence the timidity in meeting the case. But a solution came in due time and doubt respecting its real character was entirely removed, by the spirit itself, in the following manner. One speaking by it, accusing another in the severest language, and demanding instant confession, which was at once proffered, though the offense complained of was trivial, but the speaker by the spirit commanded the confessing one, to get upon their knees to them, while another one was by the spirit moved to bark like a wolf.

The spirit was rebuked, and all were satisfied and peace restored. And from that time the spirit that became a public accuser of individual members, has been generally regarded as a false spirit. And that tongues spoken were not necessarily the word of the Lord as had been largely believed; but that though the gift was of God, but might be exercised either under the influence of the Holy Spirit, by one’s own spirit, or a false spirit. Hence the sentiments spoken would be, of God, of themselves, speaking out of their own hearts, or false, by a false spirit. Thus the admonition, "Try the spirits," was pressed upon us.

About this time another cause of trouble showed itself; which subsequently was believed to be due to a similar spirit to the one above referred to. Bro. H. E. Deam conceived the idea that the expected son of Joseph had neglected to comply with the will of God, and had forfeited the right, and that it was our privilege and duty to go forward and fully organize. Such was the force of his reasoning that numbers were inclined to the same view, while others were in doubt, and all were disturbed. About the middle of January (1854), Bro. Deam went to see J. W. Briggs, at Beloit, to confer upon the subject. The consultation lasted two days, during which he urged his views at length, and late at night of the second day he proposed that he (J. W. Briggs) should be sustained by himself and all who he had influence with, as the president, who, with his two counselors would constitute the legitimate Presidency of the Church. "Let this position be taken," he said, "and we will carry the whole church, except Bro. Gurley and a few of his personal friends, and they will soon fall in too."

Whether this was a temptation, or how strong it was, matters very little except to the one tempted, so we pass it, and state the conclusion of this council, which was, that Elder Deam should not teach, or take any step looking to any change in the organization, only in concert with the brethren of the Quorum of the Twelve, and especially with Elder J. W. Briggs. This was urged by the latter and agreed to, and Elder Deam returned to Zarahemla.

Considerable uneasiness was felt by the saints over this disunion in sentiment developed by the agitation by Elder Deam, though he for awhile conformed to the agreement referred to above. Others helped it on, and his claiming to receive manifestations of the Spirit favoring his views, it resulted in developing what was known as the "Deam party." Meanwhile the following testimony was received and sent to Zarahemla by the President of the Twelve:—

A testimony of the Holy Spirit, given at Beloit, Wisconsin, January 29, 1854, concerning the saints at Zarahemla: Ye ask truly, but ye ask amiss; cleanse ye yourselves of all bitterness and come before me as one man, and prove me hereby, saith the Lord, by the voice of his Spirit; and lo! I will scatter the darkness, and thy watchmen, oh! mine Israel, shall see eye to eye, and this remnant shall arise out of obscurity and out of darkness. Uphold the first elder, or senior, by your faith and prayers, and I will give you knowledge and strength, even hidden wisdom, concerning this remnant, of whom I have spoken in days of old, whom I have appointed to speak comfortably unto the captives, and give them bread and water in their journey. Therefore seek the preparation, for that which I have promised, even power over false spirits and disease; and if you seek it in unity, with all your hearts, I will bless the sacrifice, and you shall have peace and joy, beyond that which you have before tasted in Zarahemla.

At the April conference following, it was resolved, unanimously, after some discussion, that manifestations of the Spirit, in anywise relating to the church as a body, should be written and submitted to a body of high priests before circulating or teaching them to the church, and only then on their being approved. . . .

Zenos H. Gurley

Zenos H. Gurley

A degree of peace and harmony followed this conference and the elders did considerable labor, which was blessed with numerous additions to the church. Among these was Bro. Samuel Powers, who for some years had been an outside believer. In July, of this year, Aaron Smith, the first convert to James J. Strang, and one of his chief witnesses and counselor, came to Zarahemla and united with the church by baptism, at which time the question of rebaptism was first prominently brought forward. It happened that a very general attendance of the church at Zarahemla and the surrounding branches were present, among whom were Brn. Z. E. Gurley [Sen.], Deam, Cunningham, and J. W. Briggs, of the Twelve, and Ethan Griffith. . . . It was urged by some that we should begin anew, and all be baptized, and thenceforward make it a test of fellowship. Elders Deam, Cunningham, and Griffith favored this, and the latter, together with Bro. Aaron Smith, just received, urged it with great vehemence. On the other hand, Elders Z. E. Gurley and J. W. Briggs took the ground that where the evidence of a legal baptism once having been received, and in the absence of evidence of expulsion or apostasy, it was not admissible to require a rebaptism, to be identified with the Reorganization; but that in such cases it was optional with the persons themselves—a matter of conscience with them alone. This latter view had been acted upon generally up to this time, but now it was affirmed; and became a ruling precedent thenceforward. But from this day, it became the occasion of schism.

At this point the divergence began, which developed the "Deam party." For between this and the October conference, they had taken steps to organize according to the plan proposed by H. E. Deam, in the January previous. . . . Their platform, so to speak, had but two planks in it,—"rebaptism" and a "perfect organization" of the First Presidency. The former they made a test, and accomplished the latter by making E. H. Deam president, and Aaron Smith the first of two counselors; and they held a separate conference on the 6th of October.

This was the darkest time that had arisen since the restoration had commenced, and threatened its progress, if not its ruin. Under these auspices the October conference of 1854 met, was very well attended, at which the position occupied upon those points was reëxamined and reaffirmed, and the schismatics disfellowshiped as a body, and E. H. Deam and J. Cunningham were expelled from the Quorum of the Twelve.

Numerous manifestations of the Spirit were received, approving the work, and testifying that this last schismatic organization, together with the others that had arisen elsewhere, should "cease to exist," should "utterly dissolve," etc. At this conference an individual presented himself for baptism, stating that he came to us as Jesus went to John,—the greater to the lesser,—that he was "the second coming of Christ,"—the Elijah of scripture, and Gabriel. He wore a "leather girdle," and carried in his hand an "iron rod;" with the latter he was going to "break in pieces the nations."—The Messenger, vol. 2, pp. 29, 30, 37.

The Annual Conference for 1854 met April 6, at Zarahemla, Wisconsin. At this conference some significant business was done. The following resolution was doubtless prompted by the manifestations mentioned in the foregoing quotation from Elder Briggs:—

Resolved, that this conference authorize the Twelve holding the highest authority in the priesthood, assembled at Zarahemla, as a council to try and examine all revelations and manifestations, that have been or may be given through any member of this church, male or female, and that such revelations or manifestations, after having been examined by this council and declared to be the word of God, may be taught as such until the next General Conference shall reject or receive it as the law. And if any member of the church assumes to teach, as law or doctrine, any revelation or manifestation before being presented to this council, shall be considered a transgressor of the law, and proceeded against as such.

That this council send copies of all revelations and manifestations to the several branches.

J. W. Briggs was sustained as President of the Twelve and legal representative. The Twelve were separately sustained. The president of the stake and council were sustained; also the Seventy as a quorum.

There being no regular publication issued by the church during this period, many of the details of history are no doubt lost, but a fair idea of the business done and the positions taken can be obtained from the minutes of conferences which have been carefully preserved.

The Semiannual Conference for 1854 met October 6, at Zarahemla, Wisconsin, J. W. Briggs presiding, Z. H. Gurley, Sen., acting as clerk. At this conference two of the Twelve were expelled from the church for “apostasy and an assumption of authority;” namely, Henry H. Deam and John Cunningham, and an investigation ordered in the case of George White, of the same quorum.

Jason W. Briggs was sustained as President of the Quorum of the Twelve and representative of the legal heir to the Presidency; and George White, Reuben Newkirk, Daniel B. Rasey, and Z. H. Gurley, Sen., were sustained as apostles.

The disaffected ones at Zarahemla were disfellowshiped “until they return and make satisfaction.” The ordination of William Day and William White to the office of seventy was ordered.

On April 6, 1855, the Annual Conference met, (place not given—probably Zarahemla,) J. W. Briggs presiding, Z. H. Gurley, Sen., clerk. At this conference the same members of the quorum were sustained as at the last, also other quorums.

Samuel Powers and David Newkirk were ordained apostles to fill the places made vacant by the expulsion of H. H. Deam and John Cunningham. They were selected by a committee appointed by the conference, composed of William Cline, Cyrus Newkirk, and Daniel B. Rasey.

On motion the following proclamation was adopted and ordered sent abroad:

That all apostles, high priests, seventies, elders, priests, deacons, and teachers, whose hearts the Lord has touched, for the work of the preparation, for the restoration of the captives of Zion, be requested to report themselves in person or otherwise at the next conference.

Zenos H. Gurley, Sen., was appointed Church Recorder.

The Semiannual Conference for this year met at Zarahemla, October 6, 1855, and continued two days; J. W. Briggs president, H. B. Lowe clerk. The general officers were sustained as at the preceding conference.

Samuel H. Gurley, Eli M. Wildermuth, Isaac Newkirk, David Cline, William White, and William Day were ordained seventies.

Mrs. Polly Briggs, mother of Jason W. and Edmund C. Briggs, was received into the church.

John Cunningham, one of the expelled apostles, made application to be received back into the church. The conference decided by vote that he could be reinstated by baptism.

Upon motion it was resolved to reaffirm the “resolution adopted at a conference held at Beloit, June 12 and 13, 1852, affirming that the successor of Joseph Smith must come from his seed.”

The General Annual Conference for 1856 convened at the usual time, at Zarahemla, and continued two days. The general authorities were sustained, excepting William Day, of the Seventy, who was subsequently expelled in May, 1856, after trial and investigation, on the charges of apostasy and unchristianlike conduct.

The Semiannual Conference of 1856 was held at the usual time and place, J. W. Briggs presiding, Z. H. Gurley, Sen., clerk, but outside of the regular routine no important business was done.

The Annual General Conference of 1857 was held at Zarahemla, April 6, 1857, J. W. Briggs presiding, W. W. Blair clerk. Upon motion the first five resolutions passed at Beloit, in June, 1852, were reaffirmed.

Edwin Cadwell was received into full fellowship and sustained as an elder.

Jason W. Briggs was sustained as President of the Twelve and representative of the legal heir.

Reuben Newkirk, David Newkirk, Z. H. Gurley, Sen., and George White were sustained as apostles, the latter upon conditions that he accept the admonition which had been sent to him by letter, and his being more punctual. The motion to sustain Daniel B. Rasey as an apostle was lost. We find no mention in the minutes of Samuel Powers, the other apostle.

William W. Blair was ordained a high priest, and E. C. Briggs sustained in his mission, but what his mission was is not stated.

The following resolution was adopted:—

Resolved, that it shall be the duty of all who are connected with us holding priesthood to report themselves personally or by letter once in six months, showing their faith and labor in this work.

The Semiannual Conference of this year was held at Blanchardville or Zarahemla, Wisconsin, October 6, 1857, Zenos H. Gurley, Sen., presiding, William W. Blair acting as clerk. The following resolutions were adopted on separate motions:—

Brn. [Jedediah] Owens and [Granville] Hedrick were received as the representatives of the saints in Woodford County, Illinois, and vicinity, and the right hand of fellowship was given them.

Resolved, that this conference raise funds for printing purposes, and the work of the ministry; said fund to be at the disposal of the church and under its control.

On motion J. W. Briggs was appointed to coöperate with Bro. Hedrick in writing a pamphlet setting forth the true position of our doctrine.

Resolved, that in case either of the persons named in the second [third] resolution shall find it necessary, they may choose one to act in their place, and assist in carrying out the resolution according to the intent thereof.

Resolved, that the President of this conference appoint persons to circulate a subscription, and solicit aid to carry out the design of these resolutions. (The following persons were named: J. W. Briggs, Samuel Powers, Edwin Cadwell, and William W. Blair.)

Resolved, that all the officers of this church who are living in the faithful discharge of their duty be sustained in their offices and upheld by the prayer of the church.

Resolved, that the church meet in conference at Crow Creek, Woodford County, Illinois, on Christmas next.

The minutes of this conference on Crow Creek are not on the record.

The Annual Conference for 1858 was held April 6, 7, at Zarahemla, Wisconsin. Jason W. Briggs presided, and William W. Blair acted as secretary. The following resolutions were adopted:—

Resolved, that Jason W. Briggs be and is truly exonerated from acting in connection with Granville Hedrick, of Bloomington, Illinois, in writing out matter for publication as directed by the previous fall conference.

Resolved, that Elder Reuben Newkirk be appointed to travel with Elder Edmund C. Briggs in visiting and preaching to the scattered saints, and that during his absence on said mission we will properly provide for his family.

Resolved, that this conference does hereby approve of the manner in which Elder Edmund C. Briggs is performing a mission appointed him at a meeting of the church on the 20th November, 1856; and we solemnly promise that we will uphold him by our prayers and faith, until the final fulfillment of his mission.

Walter Kinney was ordained an elder.

The Semiannual Conference for the year 1858 was held at Zarahemla, October 6, 7; Jason W. Briggs president, Walter Kinney clerk.

At this conference Elder William W. Blair was ordained an apostle.

Samuel Powers was appointed to travel with E. C. Briggs.

Elder Andrew Cairnes was received into fellowship and appointed to do missionary work in connection with Elder James Blakeslee.

Elder Jason W. Briggs was appointed to travel in the vicinity of Zarahemla. Elders Z. H. Gurley, Sen., W. W. Blair, and Edwin Cadwell were sustained in former missions. Elder Reuben Newkirk was appointed a mission in the vicinity of his home.

The Annual Conference for 1859 met at Beaverton, Boone County, Illinois. April 6, and continued five days. Elder Samuel Powers presided; Elder W. W. Blair was clerk.

The first, second, third, and fifth days of the conference were used in devotional exercises, the business being transacted on the fourth day of the conference.

John C. Gaylord was received into full fellowship as a seventy; William Aldrich was received as an elder; A. Emery, L. C. Delmon, P. Cole, J. H. Blakeslee, and C. G. Lanphear were ordained elders.

The authorities of the church were sustained. Samuel Powers and H. W. Pomeroy were appointed to visit the scattered saints of Zarahemla and vicinity. At this conference there were nine baptized: Perry Cole, Jeremiah Taylor, Lydia Blakeslee, and James H. Blakeslee, by William W. Blair; and Royal Stone, Harmon Van Dusen, Catherine Cole, Harriet Cadwell, and Elizabeth Blair, by Samuel Powers.

A Special Conference was held June 10-14, 1859, at Amboy, Illinois. The minutes of this conference do not show who presided or who acted as secretary, but they are signed by “William W. Blair, recorder.”

The 10th was devoted to devotional exercises. On the 11th considerable business was done. The following were received by vote into the Reorganization, having formerly been in fellowship with the church: William Marks (high priest), John L. Bartholf (elder), William D. Morton (elder), O. P. Dunham (deacon), Hannah Aldrich, and Lotty Pease.

A series of resolutions was adopted. The most important ones are as follows:—

  1. Resolved, that a treasurer of this church be appointed to receive moneys and properties for the church, and to disburse the same as he may be directed by the church; and that said treasurer give security for the faithful performance of his duty.
  2. Resolved, that Elder Edwin Cadwell be appointed Church Treasurer.
  3. Resolved, that William W. Blair be appointed Church Recorder.

  1. Resolved, that the Church Treasurer shall give such securities for moneys and properties put into his hands as the Church Recorder may require.
  2. Resolved, that Elders William Marks, Z. H. Gurley [Sen.], and James Blakeslee, be appointed a committee to publish a hymn book.

The 12th was devoted to preaching and prayer services; and the following-named persons were baptized by Elder William W. Blair: M. J. Carey, Sarah Hook, Charlotte Barrett, Mahala Rogers, Jacob Doan, and Betsey Doan.

On the 13th business was resumed. The following members were received into fellowship by vote: Jacob Brown (elder), J. T. Barrett (elder), Alva Smith, Amasa Harrington, and Anne Harrington.

The following-named persons were baptized by Elder Samuel Powers: Addison Mead, Annette Lanphear, and William Leonard. Winthrop H. Blair was baptized by Elder James Blakeslee.

A letter of inquiry was read from Isaac Sheen, of Cincinnati, Ohio, he wishing to know the particulars of the Reorganization. This letter was referred to Elder William W. Blair for reply.

Elders William W. Blair and E. C. Briggs were appointed to labor in the West, with Nauvoo, Illinois, Far West, Missouri, and Council Bluffs, Iowa, as objective points

The following elders reported: James Blakeslee, Andrew Cairnes, Samuel Powers, Z. E. Gurley, Sen., J. W. Briggs, and E. C. Briggs.

Samuel Powers and H. W. Pomeroy, the committee appointed to visit Zarahemla, reported that all or nearly all desired to retain their membership in the church.

A call was made for means, which was responded to by the donation of $62.75. It was ordered that this amount be applied to pay the expense of Elders Blair and Briggs on their western mission, and to the payment of certain debts already contracted.

The Semiannual Conference of 1859 was held October 6-10, in the grain barn of Israel L. Rogers, in Kendall County, Illinois. Elder Z. E. Gurley, Sen., presided, and Elders James Blakeslee and William W. Blair were appointed clerks.

Elder W. W. Blair reported the mission of himself and Elder E. C. Briggs west. They represented the following branches: Franklin branch, in Decatur County, Iowa, composed of eighteen members; David Hall presiding elder, Van Buren Hale priest, Benjamin Harding teacher, and Elijah Hall deacon. Little River branch, in Decatur County, Iowa, composed of twenty members; George Morey presiding elder. Union Grove branch, in Pottawattamie County, Iowa; David Jones presiding elder, composed of twenty two members. The most of these members and many others were baptized by Elders Blair and Briggs. Elder Blair reported leaving Elder Briggs at Manti, Iowa, where Elder Calvin Beebe expected to join him and labor with him. Elder Blair stated that their “mission was highly successful.”

Reports were also made by Elders Z. H. Gurley, Sen., A. M. Wilsey, Edwin Cadwell, William Marks, Dwight Webster, W. D. Morton, and James Blakeslee.

It was “resolved that this church publish a monthly church paper and continue it for six months.” This was the resolution under which The True Latter Day Saints' Herald was launched upon the literary sea in the following January. Its publication was begun at Cincinnati, Ohio, where it was continued as a monthly publication until March, 1863, when it was removed to Plano, Kendall County, Illinois. The first issue from Plano was under date of April, 1863.

Commencing with July, 1863, the Herald was issued semimonthly, and continued as such until the close of the year 1882. Beginning with the first week in January, 1883, it was published as a weekly, and still continues as such.

In the latter part of the year 1881, the plant was removed from Plano, Illinois, to Lamoni, Decatur County, Iowa, its present location. The first issue from Lamoni was on November 1, 1881.

Its first editor was Isaac Sheen, who continued its sole editor until May 1,1865, when he was succeeded by President Joseph Smith, who has been connected with the editorial department ever since, sometimes as the sole editor, and sometimes associated with others, as follows: In 1870 Elder M. H. Forscutt was appointed assistant editor, his name first appearing in that connection in the issue for May 15. He served about two years, his services as assistant editor ceasing with the issue of June 15, 1872; and President Smith resumed sole editorial charge on July 1, 1872, and so continued until August 15, 1874; when Elder M. B. Oliver was associated with him, as assistant editor, and continued until he was succeeded by Elder H. A. Stebbins, April 15, 1876. Elder Stebbins continued until November 1, 1880, when his connection with the editorial department ceased, and President Smith was again left in charge as sole editor. He continued as such until September 1, 1883, when Elder Daniel F. Lambert was made associate editor. He served until November 24,1883, when President Smith again became sole editor, and continued as such until April 25, 1885, when Elder William W. Blair became associate editor. Elders Smith and Blair then composed the editorial staff until June 6, 1891, when Elder R. S. Salyards was added to the staff as assistant editor. This arrangement continued until April, 1893, when Associate Editor Blair’s connection with the office ceased, and the office of corresponding editor was created, and Elder Joseph Luff chosen to the position. The staff then stood without change until April, 1895, when Elder Luff was succeeded by Elder Heman C. Smith. In the spring of 1897 Elder Joseph Luff was again added to the staff; so as it now stands the editorial staff is, Joseph Smith editor, R. S. Salyards assistant editor, Heman C. Smith and Joseph Luff corresponding editors.

When the Herald was first issued it was a monthly of twenty-four pages four by seven inches in size. It was afterwards reduced to only sixteen pages of the same size. It was then enlarged from time to time, until at the close of 1876 each issue contained thirty-two pages of about the original size. The 1st of January, 1877, it was enlarged to its present size of sixteen pages eight by ten and one half inches. With the change in size came a change of title, or rather an abbreviation of the title; so it has since been known as “The Saints’ Herald.”

It was at first controlled by a “publishing committee,” later by a “Board of Publication,” but these changes will occur in proper place in the history.

At this conference of 1859, at the same time the publication was provided for, Elders Z. H. Gurley, Sen., William Marks, and William W. Blair were appointed a committee to supervise the publishing of the paper.

For reasons not given the conference refused on separate motions to sustain as apostles Jason W. Briggs, Reuben Newkirk, David Newkirk, George White, and Daniel B. Rasey. We have seen no record of charges against them, nor of any further investigation. The causes could not have been of very serious character, and must have been adjusted without much friction, as they, or some of them, were subsequently recognized in their places.

Z. E. Gurley, Sen., Samuel Powers, and William W. Blair were sustained as apostles.

On the 8th Elder William Marks was appointed a mission to Western Iowa, and Elder E. C. Briggs sustained in his mission. Amasa Harrington was ordained an elder. Sunday, the 9th, was spent in devotional exercises. On Monday, the 10th, an elders’ council was held, when George Morey, Z. H. Gurley, Sen., W. D. Morton, William Marks, Edwin Cadwell, William Aldrich, John Landers, James Blakeslee, Isaac Sheen, E. C. Briggs, I. L. Rogers, Samuel Powers, Zenos Whitcomb, Louis Delmon, A. C. Haldeman, and William Redfield were appointed to solicit subscriptions and donations for the church paper.

The publishing committee appointed Isaac Sheen, of Cincinnati, Ohio, to act as editor of the proposed church paper.

Thus ended the year 1859. The elders were generally active, and the old saints were being aroused everywhere and inspired with new faith and hope.