Strang, The Martyred Prophet
Home Strang, The Deliverer

 

James was aware from an early time that his mission would have a fateful ending.  Like Joseph, he would have to offer himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the people; and become a true witness for the doctrines which he taught.  The enemies who shot him were protected by the U. S. Steamer Michigan, returned to their home town, given a mock trial, and released--never to be prosecuted again

CHAPTER EIGHT:
JAMES J. STRANG, THE MARTYRED PROPHET

Murderous Assault
Apostle Chidester Announces James’ Death
Apostle Post On James’ Death
Lamentations of Apostle Warren Post
No Successor, No Head
Daughter of Zion Today

The fate of James was sealed the day he was ordained by the hands of angels on June 27, 1844 .  He realized all of his life that he would seal his testimony with his own blood; and thereby become a true witness for his faith and receive the glory of a martyred Prophet and King in eternity.  In a revelation given to James on August 25, 1846 , God warned, “2… The sword is already bathed in blood, which spareth not their destroyers. And blood shall not cease till their most haughty oppressor is laid low to rise no more.

“3. And he hath chosen this nation to begin vengeance for them. And if this people will turn unto him, and repent of all their evil deeds, and no more slay the prophets which he sendeth unto them, but will hearken unto them to do the things which they shall speak unto them, and keep the words of the Lord, and his commandments to do them, then will he exalt the nation and establish it, for he hath raised it up by the hands of wise men, whom he set up for that very purpose, to be the instrument of his purpose in the last days.”

It has been said that James’ Bible was opened to Micah 4, when he left for the dock where he was shot.  “Now why dost thou cry out aloud?  is there no king in thee?”  In the last regular issue of the Northern Islander an article entitled “Apology for the Mormons” appeared just three weeks before James was shot.  It told of the persecutions of the people since the days when Joseph first opened the dispensation.  At the end, it is written, “If we live, here will we live. If we die, here will we die, and here shall our bones be buried, expecting in the resurrection of the just to possess the land forever, and dwell with the righteous during the lifetime of the Eternal.”  James was shot by assassins on June 16, 1856 ; and died on July 9th.

On June 20, 1856 , the Northern Islander published the following account of the assassination of James.

  Murderous Assault

  “MURDEROUS ASSAULT.

“On Monday last the U. S. steamer Michigan entered this harbor at about 1 o'clock , P. M., and was visited by the inhabit­ants promiscuously during the af­ternoon.

“At about 7 o'clock Capt. McBlair sent a messenger (San Bar­nard, the Pilot) to Mr. Strang, requesting him to visit him on board. Mr. Strang immedi­ately accompanied the messen­ger, and just as they were step­ping on the bridge leading to the pier in front of F. Johnson & Co.'s store, two assassins ap­proached in the rear, unobserved by either of them, and fired up­on Mr. Strang with pistols. The first shot took effect upon the left side of the head, entering a little back of the top of the ear, and rebounding, passed out near the top of the head.

“This shot, fired from a horse pistol, brought him down, and he fell on the left side, so that he saw the assassins as they fired the second and third shots from a revolver; both taking effect upon his person, one just below the temple, on the right side of the face, and lodged in the cheek bone; the other on the left side of the spine, near the tenth rib, followed the rib about two inches and a half and lodged.

“Mr. Strang recognized in the persons of the assassins Thomas Bedford and Alexander Wentworth. Wentworth had a re­volver, and Bedford a home pis­tol, with which he struck him over the head and face, while ly­ing on the ground. The assassins immediately fled on board the U. S. steamer, with pistols in hand, claiming her protection.

“The assault was committed in view of several of the officers and crew from the deck of the steamer, also Dr. H. D. McCulloch, Franklin Johnson, and oth­ers, and no effort made to stop it.

“Mr. Strang was taken up by a few friends, and some of the officers of the boat, and carried to the house of Messrs. Prindles, where the surgeon of the steamer made an examination of his wounds, and declared recovery hopeless.

“Process was taken out for the apprehension of the assassins, and the Sheriff of the county called on Capt McBlair for their deliv­ery. The Capt. refused to give them up, saying that he would take them to Mackinac, and de­liver them into the hands of the civil authorities of the State there.

“The steamer left the next day, carrying off all the persons supposed to be complicated in the af­fair, thus affording military protection to murderers, and overthrow­ing the sovereignty of civil law.

“Hopes are entertained of Mr. Strang's recovery.” (Northern Islander, June 20, 1856)

James was returned to Voree; where he died on July 9, 1856 , exactly twelve years after receiving the letter of appointment from Joseph Smith.  Apostle Edward Chidester was with the prophet when he died.  He wrote the following to Apostle Post:

Apostle Chidester Announces James’ Death

  Burlington   July 14th, 56
  
“Bro. Post

“I received your letter today, and hasten to answer.  If you have not received the news ahead of this, it will be sad news to you.  I closed the prophets eyes in the sleep of death the 9th of July, fifteen minutes before ten oclock.

“You inquire what to do.  His direction was for every man to take care of his family and do the best he could till he found out what to do.  You will understand when you receive this how to act, as well as any of us; you have it second hand, I had it from his own mouth.  You state that you left word with your folks to go to voree, they have not been here and we know not where they are, but expect they followed you.  I should like to keep up a correspondence with you, and if you are of the same mind, please direct to Dunkirk Mo.

       Truly sincerely in haste
  
         Edward Chidester”
  
         (Record of the Apostles of James 1844-1856, p. 31)

Great sorrow and confusion fell upon all the saints.  Those living on Beaver Island were driven from their homes; and their livestock and property were stolen.  Apostle Chidester wrote Apostle Post again on August 3, 1856 .

Dunkirk   Aug. 3d 1856
  
“Bro. W. Post, Dear Sir:

“I received your communication of July 27th last evening, and sit down to answer it.

“In the first place we are without a head to our knowledge, in the flesh, our Prophet and King has been stricken down by the hands of wicked men.  The question arises what for?  Was it for his transgressions, or for the transgressions of his people?  I have heard men of very high standing and reputation, sitting in judgment as it were upon the head of the Prophet, & arguing that he had sinned unto death.

“But I remember that Jesus Christ who was without sin, & no guile in his mouth, died for the sins of his people, not because he was a transgressor:  As Jesus Christ died, has not James also?  I cannot entertain the idea for a moment that he was in transgression.  When I reflect back upon his righteous, undeviating course, and his exemplary life, I feel more like putting my hand upon my mouth, than like accusing him.  When Jesus Christ left, he left the Quorum of the Twelve organized, with commission to act, and when he left finally, he left a head to the Church on earth.  When Joseph Smith was taken he also left the Quorum of the Twelve & also appointed his successor; but in the present case I know of no revelation to guide us, as to a successor. On the seventh of July he said the active part of his life was at an end, that the bearing off of the Kingdom must devolve upon others; he felt that his ministry as Chief was done.  He did not say who was to be the leader of the people, but on this day his eyes brightened, and his countenance was lit up and it was observed by all, that he was a great deal better.  On the eighth he began to run down, & it seemed as though he just wilted away.  I asked him if he was going to leave us:  He said he was.  I then asked him if we were to have a successor appointed through him?  A tear started in his eye, and he said ‘I do not want to talk about it.’  Bro. Hickey & Adeline got up and I finished a letter I was writing.  I helped turn and fix him comfortable about break of day, and lay down for a nap.  I lay about one hour and a half at the foot of his bed.  When I awoke there was no one in the room but him & myself.  I immediately arose & discovered he was dying.  I nursed him very attentively for about an hour & saw no hopes of recovery, when I sent for some of the neighbors.  I then asked him if there was anything he wished to communicate.  He replied ‘Yes’ which was the last word he spoke.

“All these circumstances go to confirm me in the opinion that there is a head somewhere, & that he will come in the Lord’s own due time to the faithful.

“You state that you think the time at hand for the building of Synagogues among the Gentiles.  This may all be, but how is it to be done without a Prophet.  I suppose you understand there are two Priesthoods as well as myself, and in the Priesthood of an endless life two Orders, and that the Quorum of the Twelve are the third Degree of the First Order, and can only act under the direction of their superiors.  The Twelve are without a President to their Quorum, and you speak of a meeting to consult about matters that concern us all.  That is what Bro. Miller, Hickey, & myself were in favor of; but we were apposed, & no one authorized to take the lead, so we have concluded that the trial of the getting up such a meeting would be vain.  (I proceed now to answer some of your questions which you deem of minor importance, but the big ones I shall not attempt at this time.  “How many of the saints were present at his death?”  Bro. George Miller, L. D. Hickey, E. Chidester; sisters Betsey, Phoebe, Sarah Hickey, Betsyes children.

“How many attended his funeral?  Bro. Miller & family, Hickey & family, Tubb’s family, C. Linnel & family, sis. Townsend, B. G. Wright, E. Chidester , of the saints, and a respectable congregation of Gentiles.  Bro. Hickey opened the meeting by prayer, & such a prayer I never heard except from the Prophet himself, it seemed as though the earth trembled, the wagon where he stood did at any rate, he had the spirit to such a degree that he never had it before, at least he says so.  Bro. B. C. Wright then attempted to preach, but it was only an attempt, Bro. Hickey had the spirit.  He was buried in the burying ground at Voree, in as good style as that part of the country could afford.  I paid $20.00 for his coffin & it was said to be worth $35.00, his shroud was of the finest silk flannel at a cost of $4.77.  I considered him worthy of the best, and therefore I gave it him.)  His parents feel very bad, at their loss, & the old lady I think believes beyond a doubt that he was a prophet of God.  They manifest a very tender feeling towards the woman & children & say they will do all they can for them.  As for what our enemies say, they say just as they always do, that Prophets cannot be killed to fast, but there seems not to be a terrible sight of that class, but a large share on the sympathetic order, and a few friends.  The newly printed Book of the Law was brought to Racine , Bro. Geo. Miller furnished Anson the Money to pay the freight & B. G. Wright has stepped in & takes charge of the Books.  I do not know where they are.

“The Twelve.  W. Post at Rutland hollow ???. Co. N. Y.  L. D. Hickey & P. Wright in Voree, D?? Pearce in Northern Wisconsin , I do not know his address although I have seen him twice.  A. W. Prindle is west in Wisconsin, L. D. Tubbs is probably in Iowa by this time, E. Page two weeks ago tomorrow morning was in Milwaukee.  I have not heard from him since J. Hutchins was on the mission that James sent him on, & I have not heard from him, I saw his family in Milwaukee two weeks ago, & they knew nothing of his whereabouts, but promised to inform me as soon as they learned, & E. Chidester last & least, is here today, tomorrow he may be somewhere else, a wanderer & pilgrim.  As for the news of the Island, the details would fill a volume, suffice it to say that the saints have pretty much been driven from their homes, men, women, & children, at the muzzle of the enemies guns, forced aboard of Steam Boats without scarce anything to help themselves, not a hoof of stock was allowed to go away, the Tabernacle burned to the ground.  It would be a great task to tell who went from the Island , but those that stayed are few.  Dennis was at the Light House the last I heard of him, Reuben Field, Newel Scott, Tobias Mr. Nutt & very few others that were the name of Mormons are or were there two weeks ago, with the threats of vengeance if they did not leave Gentile locations.  I know but little about, except Jim Cable, he has taken possession of the dock & head of the Island .

“Pseudoes McCulloch was trying to arrange to leave, Bedford had taken possession of Prindle’s house, & Wentworth the Kings Palace.  O that the blackest fiends of hell might be let loose to torment them the longest day of their lives.  The Prisoners G. C. Wright, came up on the same Boat with his family, they came here, & his wife is here now he has gone to look a location, Samuel E. Field has gone to Ohio to his wife, Robert Nichols went to Canada, H. Black is up in the Western States somewhere, Briggs & Ketchum’s say have made such fools of themselves that Briggs at all events must keep shop for 15 years.  The Iron Steamer did not return to Beaver at all. As regards your family I have learned a little since I wrote to you, Father & Mother says they came up on the same Boat with them, and were a going to Chicago .  Father Brown’s health was very poor, & that one legged Moore that was at Aldrich’s intended to get him in the hospital at Chicago.

“There were four hundred and ninety came on that Boat, and at Chicago they would not let some of them ashore, so the Captain took about fifty back to Milwaukee and landed them on the Dock I left.  The Iowa took a load of three hundred before, & the Boat we came on about fifty, the Prairie State a load before, & the Louisville , took all she could stow to Detroit , Elvira with the rest.  The widows are all at Voree.  Bro. Hickey & all his family also Phineas Wrights wife & family were at Newell Scotts, two weeks ago, and I received a letter from Voree a few days since & no tidings of her.

“Bro Post, these are dark times, but I expect the clouds to break, and the light to burst, but know not which way to look.  East, West, North or South.  I desire an interest in the prayer of all  faithful Saints that I may so live that when the light comes I may see and walk therein.

“Your Bro, as ever, Edward Chidester, to W. Post.”  (Ibid., pp. 32-37)

  Apostle Post On James’ Death

  Apostle Post gave an account of the murder of James and told of the circumstances of the priesthood following his death.  “I will now sketch a few things relative to Church history as I have noted them down from time to time as opportunity offered.

“In consequence of what has transpired in the Kingdom of God, it becomes necessary to relate more particularly, some of the characters, and principal events that have occurred.  While the Prophet was steadily engaged in promoting the cause of truth, many of the unstedfast were watching for iniquity; and many more of the fearful Saints, would stand afar off, & dare not gather with the Saints, neither send up their means, for fear all was not right in Voree.  They concluded to see if the Prophet could build a Temple, and also a Tower of Strength, without their means before they would venture to render any assistance; and in this way the work which the Lord required, was retarded:  and the Lord was displeased with his saints, by reason of their slackness in serving him:  nevertheless he was merciful unto them, and often forgave them their sins.  But for want of the tithing of the Saints, and the free will offerings which the Lord required of them; the house of the Lord was not built in Voree, neither the Tower of Strength. The Lord had told the prophet; that unless that house was built, that the Saints might be endowed with wisdom from on high, they could not hold the dominion.  The Prophet did all in his power to accomplish these things, when in the mean time he was assailed by many in the Church for doing things which they counted wrong.  The Prophet endured his persecutions, & afflictions so patiently, the Lord declared him ‘More patient than Job, and Meeker than Moses’ he also conferred on him the Keys of the Kingdom, never to be taken from him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.  Notwithstanding God’s promises unto him; many were ready to find fault with him, for doing certain things, to accomplish what the Lord had promised in multiplying &c.  Persecution has never ceased in the Church & Kingdom and all that live godly shall suffer persecution.  The Law requires the Saints to dress in a manner that is seemly, and not according to the follies of the Gentile Nations--and in consequence of the King requiring obedience to that law--cruel enemies arose and conspired against his life--the people were divided in sentiment--some determining to have their own way--while others remembered the Covenants they had made to keep God’s law.  Some were chastised for their wickedness:  cut off from the Church:  and straightway set to work to overthrow the Kingdom as it existed upon Beaver Island.  Some of the leaders in the sedition (viz) Hezekiah D. McCulluch, Franklin Johnson, Dr. Aikinside, Alexander Wentworth, Thomas Bedford, and others, were determined to take the life of the King; and McCulloch went from the Island to enlist men in his crusade against the Church, and prevailed insomuch, that the U. N. S. Steamer Michigan came into the harbor, apparently for the very purpose of killing the Prophet of God.  Said McCulloch made over his property unto one of the officers to prevent the Saints from collecting their dues of him.  McCulluch brought home several pistols, which he gave to his clique, that they might become expert marksmen.  It so happened that after several days practice in shooting at targets, the iron Steamer came again into the Bay.  Then was the time for their hellish plot to be executed:  the King must be slain, & some of the principal men arrested if they could be found.  McCulluch had given in the names of the Chief men of the Island, for the purpose of having them arrested, that if possible there might be a complete overthrow of the Kingdom.

“The plot was conducted on this wise, after some of the officers went and conferred with McCulluch in his house, & two of the officers made a short excursion into the Island --Capt. McBlair sent the Pilot to the Prophets house, requesting him to go on board the man of war:  he accordingly started, being somewhat cast down in mind in relation to what was transpiring around him:  they went conversing by the way, & as they were about stepping upon the bridge leading to McCulluch Johnson’s Pier, about 4 rods East, and in front of McCullochs Store, Wentworth, & Bedford stepped out of the Store, & came up hastily behind the Prophet, & without being seen by him; Wentworth fired a revolver at the back part of his head, the ball passed through his hat, and grazed the skull bone, dividing an artery, making an incision 1 1/2 inches long, glanced out again through the hat:  this felled the Prophet to the ground but he had the presence of mind to raise his head instantly, to see who it was that shot him, & he saw Wentworth about 3 feet from him, who instantly shot at him again, the second ball went into the right cheek bone about 1 inch from the eye, this seemed to stun him:  then Bedford immediately fired a marine pistol into his back as he partly rolled over, which entered near the back bone, and struck on the left side on the tenth rib & passed two or 3 inches along the rib & it was not ascertained what became of any of the balls, they were none of them seen.  The last mentioned ball injured the spine so that the Prophet had no sensation of any part of his body, below where the ball struck.  Bedford then struck the Prophet over the right eye, & angling over the lower part of the nose and chin.  The murderers then ran on board the Iron Steamer Michigan, which lay tied to said Pier; and immediately claimed the protection of said officers, which was readily granted.  Wentworth exclaimed on entering said Boat “that damned rascal is out of the way” and some one of the crew asked who?  “Strang the dammed son of a bitch” was the reply.  The friends of the Prophet such as happened to be in hearing of the pistols ran to the scene of action, and found the Prophet weltering in his blood.  They immediately took him into Bro. Prindle’s house & rendered him every assistance in their power.

“The officers and surgeon of the Boat, came ashore, & feigned to act sorrowful, and rendered some little assistance.  Many of the Chief Brethren were immediately notified of what had occurred, and came running together to see what was to be done under such awful circumstances.  The Prophet was not in a condition to give any counsel in the matter:  but such of the brethren of the Twelve & Counselors, as could be obtained, conferred together upon the course to be pursued.  This murder took place on Monday evening about 6, o’clock, of the 16th day of June A. D. 1856:  the same night, General George Miller, drew-up an Epistle of Manitue county requesting the Captain and officers of said Boat to come ashore & meet in Council with the before mentioned company, in the Printing Office to determine the best course to be pursued in relation to Wentworth, & Bedford.  The Sheriff received in reply that the prisoners were in safe custody & would be carefully kept until they could deliver them into the hands of the first civil authority in Mackinac; and if we had any particular business with him (the Capt, of the Boat) we must come on Board the Steamer.  The following morning the Capt, & some of his Officers came again to visit the Prophet; and said they were sorry that the mormons had shot him while their Boat lay in the harbor.  The King then made a demand of the Captain for those murderers; but the Capt. refused to give them up, replying, about as he had before unto the counselors.

“The Surgeon pronounced the wounds mortal & said Mr. Strang could not survive them.  About 10, o’clock of the 17th after getting on board the murderers & conspirators, nearly all of them, with some of their effects they left the Harbor; leaving the saints to get along with their wounded Prophet the best way they could.  The Saints rendered every assistance unto their King, which was in their power, & often called upon the Lord to speedily restore him in health unto them.  By the blessing of the Almighty & the faith & works of the Saints, the Prophets life was lengthened out marvelously.  The saints believed God would heal him, even is “his visage was marred more than that of any man, and his form more than the Sons of Men.”  We hoped he would remain alive on the Earth until the coming of Jesus Christ, in the Clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  In the mean time while the saints were bearing up under their afflictions, with becoming greatness, their enemies were still plotting their destruction.  The murderers were taken to Mackinac; & Wentworth, & Bedford, were put into jail, & kept there about five minutes, & then released.  About the 25th of the same month, the Steamer Michigan Capt. Steward Martin, called as usual at the Island & McCulloch was seen on Board, while on their way to Green Bay; in a day or two the Steamer returned, & called as usual at the Island; they at first landed at the head, at B. G. Wrights dock to wood, & commenced arresting some of the brethren.  Ezra Ketchum and Samuel Wright.  The Boat then set off for the harbor at St. James.  As soon as they landed at McCulloch’s dock, they commenced arresting such of the brethren as were in sight, (viz) Samuel E. Field, Robert Nichols, Harvey Black, & Lewis Briggs.  Samuel E. Field was fired upon by the mob which consisted of McCulloch, & Johnson, A. Wentworth, T. Bedford, Christopher Scott, Conrad Steinhelber (all apostates) and a number from Washington Island .  Two or three that prophesied to be saints apostatized & went off on said Steamer:  they also threatened to take the Prophet dead or alive:  but the saints began to gather to see what the uproar was about; and the Steamer set off for Mackinac.  It was then counseled for Br. Strang to take the first Boat up the Lake to Voree.  It was also advised, for others of the Saints such as the mob pretended to have warrants for to keep out of their way until the excitement was over, & until the prophet recovered his health, so he could prosecute our enemies, and bring them to justice according to law, even the law of the land.

“On the 28th the Prophet left the Island on the Propeller Louisville, with a number of brethren to take care of him.  On the 30th several families left on board the Iowa for Voree and the adjacent country.  On the 3d. of July the mob from Mackinac, made their appearance on the Island , having the Sheriff with them to arrest some of the chief men among the saints if they could be found; but they were directed by the Spirit to take care of themselves:  and they left the Island without the help of mobs.  The mob then gave notice to all the faithful Saints that they must leave the Island forthwith.

“And the saints were immediately forced upon the Piers, to await an opportunity of getting away.

“The conduct of the mob which consisted of about 60 ruffians, gathered from the regions round about; and the suffering of the Saints in consequence of the cruelty of the mob, is beyond the power of description.  On the 8th of July the balance of the faithful left the Island on board the Steamer Buckeye State, (which was chartered by H. D. McCulloch for that purpose,) for the several Ports up the Lake .  On the 9th of July the Prophet James died.  He was buried by his friends, who deeply mourned the death of their Prophet & King.  Thus ended the life of James the beloved of the Lord.  He was 43, years, 3 months, and 18 day old.  He bore his sufferings with great patience, & as far as we know as innocent as a lamb, and had patience like Job, & meeker than Moses, and the wisdom of Solomon.  Since the days of Jesus Christ upon the earth, there has been none to excel him.  He was carefully trained while under his parents; and after being called of God to obey the gospel, being initiated into the Church and Kingdom by the prophet Joseph, and ordained by Hyrum the Patriarch, he was careful in observing God’s law, and keeping his commandments, as man could be.  He has translated the Book of the Law of the Lord, & caused it to be printed; which Law is to be kept by the Saints, until everlasting righteousness is brought in.  The prophet was faithful unto his friends, & too merciful unto his enemies for his own safety.” (Ibid., pp. 37-44)

  Lamentations of Apostle Warren Post

  Apostle Warren Post lamented over the failure of the people to live by the law of God; and the consequent death of James. “Where is Zion ? When will she put on her beautiful garments? When will she be redeemed?

Zion, and the Daughter of Zion, are words that often occur in the Scriptures. I have often pondered over those words, and fancied while reading of Zion, that it was some hallowed spot almost Celestial: sometimes Sion [a] small mountain, on which stands part of the Ancient City of Jerusalem, passes for this holy Zion. Zion when referred to as a place of gathering, signifies a place of righteousness. Often it means the pure in heart. According to prophecy ancient, and modern, America is the land of Zion; and was given by the Almighty to the Children of Joseph for an everlasting possession. Missouri is the State in which is found the center of Zion, and in Jackson County is the place that God designated as the very place where the Temple should be built, and the city around the Temple is called the New Jerusalem. God has declared it by the mouth of the prophet Joseph. Kirtland ( Ohio ) was appointed one of the Stakes of Zion, and was to be a strong hold for the Saints, for the span of five years. The prediction was fully verified: and then wickedness sprang up, where it ought not, and the prophet of God was voted out of the Temple . The Saints went from that place to Missouri , and remained but a few years, before they fell into divers sins, and God suffered them to be scourged; and driven from the State. Soon after another stake was appointed in Illinois called Nauvoo. There was a beautiful Temple built according to the pattern shown unto the prophet--but before the Temple was finished, the people again practiced divers sins, & the prophet was taken from them, and soon nearly all that were called saints, were expelled from Nauvoo, and went into a salt land, and not inhabited. From 1830, until 1844 the prophet led the people, until they became numerous, numbering nearly two hundred thousand souls: the people became vain in their imagination, and were lifted up in pride; and practiced their abominations; therefore the Lord caused them to be removed out of their place. Nine days previous to the death of Joseph, he appointed J. J. Strang as his successor. He also appointed Voree in Wisconsin as a city of refuge & place of peace and safety for the Saints. Soon after the administration of James commenced, there was another Stake appointed on Beaver Island, called the comer Stake of Zion. There the Kingdom of God was more fully organized in 1850, in the presence of four hundred witnesses. There we expected deliverance from oppression, and from all our enemies: there we receive the promise of everlasting inheritances. We hoped the prophet would continue with us, until the coming of the Son of God. The people again sinned and came short of the promises. On the 16th day of June 1856 the prophet was shot; but lived an example of patient sufferings until the 9th of July 1856 : making a period of 12 years that he presided over the Church.

“Has Zion yet put on her beautiful garments? Does her light now shine? Is there any King in her: Has she any lovers: Where are they?

“O Lord God thou knowest. Who hath known the mind of the Lord, and who hath been his counselors? How mysterious are his judgments. And his ways past finding out! Zion ’s lovers have nearly all forgotten her! She has become a hiss and a by word unto her enemies: Her children have forsaken her, and dwell among strangers. Her King is murdered, her Princes banished. Murderers can inherit King's palaces, and vile apostates, possess Princes' dwellings! How long before the time to favor Zion will come? When will she be clothed in her beautiful garments? Behold all joy is turned into mourning: the apparent light into darkness: the voice of joy and melody is no more heard in the streets, they that praised the Lord in the dance, have departed far from her!

“her Sabbaths are not kept,
   “her feasts & offers neglected;

“and no more do we hear the voice of our King in her sanctuary, nor Apostles and high priests instructing the people on her sabbaths: no elders, priests, teachers, & deacons to comfort the saints, & strengthen the weak visit the sick, & comfort the afflicted.

“No more do we hear the Elders warning the Saints to flee out of babylon; to come out from among the ungodly & be clean, even all that bear the vessels of the Lord! Has the Lord utterly cast away his covenant people: even all that remained faithful to the words of the Prophet? O Lord forbid. For who would stand before thee? who could dwell in they presence? O Lord help us to walk in a straight way wherein we shall not stumble. We realize O Lord that thou wilt have a pure people to serve thee: thou canst not look upon sin with any allowance, where thou hast so often sought after, and entreated thy Saints, to hear thy word and obey. O Lord we learn from thy word, that thou didst cast off thy people in the days of old, because they would not listen to thy reproof, because they were unsteadfast and perfidious in thy covenants: because they despised thy counsel, & set at naught thy judgments. Thou changest not, thou art no respecter of persons. May we take heed unto thy word, which is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul & spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts, and intents of the heart. O Lord help us to bring up our children in thy fear; so that our Sons may be like olive plants that have grown up in their youth; and our Daughters like chief comer stones, that are polished after the similitude of a palace. Zion will prosper when her children shall put away every strange god from among them; and love, and serve the living and true God. Covetousness and pride, jealousy, ambition, and lust; have caused divisions, & contentions among us; which things the Lord hates: for he has often told us by the mouths of his prophets; that except ye are one, ye are none of mine. God delights in being honored; but his holy name is every day blasphemed: God requires of his people; that the strong, should bear with weak; that they should help to bear each others burdens. But the strong have trodden down the weak, & have sorely oppressed them. God requireth that men should live by every word which proceedeth out of his mouth: but men cleave to their abominations, and indulge freely in the things which are forbidden. 0 Lord we have sinned, we have done wickedly: unto us belongeth shame and confusion of faces: whilst unto thee belongeth righteousness and peace forever.

“O God our Father, turn away thine anger from us, and remember once more the covenant, made with thy people! O Lord remember again the day that thou didst give the Kingdom unto thy saints, which is everlasting! Remember again the promises made unto our fathers, and suffer not strangers to rob us of the dominion; let fear take hold of our enemies; for behold their eyes have looked upon Zion in unrighteousness, they despise dominion, are not afraid to speak evil of dignities, they have shed innocent blood, they have robbed the widow, and the fatherless! Let sudden destruction come upon them, suffer them not to escape the vengeance of thy wrath, for they have despised thy Law. Even many that have known thy law, & home witness to its truth; have turned therefrom, and joined hands with the ungodly to drive thy saints from their inheritance.

“O Lord 'tis not for any righteousness which we have done, but for thy great names sake, and the promises made unto our fathers, that we desire to be delivered out of the hands of strange children, even those that thou hast already condemned.

“O Lord they have despised thy word, they have refused to obey thy gospel, they have killed thy Prophets, and Saints; they have persecuted thine Elders and servants, when sent with messages unto them: therefore I beseech thee O God, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to let fall thine indignation upon them . Suffer not the heathen to make derision of thy people, and utterly disregard the authority which thou hast conferred upon those that hold thy Priesthoods. Let such as thy saints have cursed, in righteousness; be accursed; and such as they have blessed, let them be blessed: Thou knowest O Lord that our desires have been to serve thee; notwithstanding in consequence of the weakness of the flesh, we have often strayed from thee. Bring us again into thy fold into the land of our inheritances. May we again hear the voice of the true Shepherd that will call us into thy fold. Grant that thy law may be written in our hearts, that it may be our chief delight to serve thee. Separate our sins as far from us, as the East is from the West, and let the light of truth shine forth in us, and the day star arise in our hearts. Let thy Holy Spirit lead us in thy ways: then we will teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners will be converted unto thee.

“Now therefore hear thy servant O Lord when he maketh confession unto thee, and supplicateth thy name and in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit we will ascribe all praise, honor, glory, and dominion forevermore. Amen.” (Ibid., pp. 49-54)

  No Successor, No Head

  At the death of James only third degree Apostles remained.  God did not call an Apostle, Prophet, and Lawgiver to succeed James.  James explained the only office that can succeed a Lawgiver at the head of the people is a second degree Apostle.  Although such would not have authority to give commandments to the people, he could act in a Judicial and Administrative capacity.

“1. As Viceroy, this Priesthood is capable of ruling in place of a Lawgiver in matters of administration and judgment.  If there was an interregnum in the Priesthood of Lawgiver, the oldest Apostle of this Degree, associated in the administration, or if none was associated, then the oldest in fact would stand at the head till the place was filled.

“2. Joshua succeeded Moses under this rule, having been ordained to only a part of Moses’ authority. (Num. xxvii, 18-23. Josh. I, 1, 2.) By that example Sidney Rigdon had a just claim, as against Brigham Young, to stand at the head, after the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph and his Counsellor Hyrum. The only reason his claim was not absolutely valid was, that a successor was duly appointed and ordained.” (Book of the Law, p. 219)

Only third degree Apostles remained after the death of James.  Apostle Chidester wrote to Apostle Post on August 3, 1856 :  “In the first place we are without a head to our knowledge, in the flesh, our Prophet and King has been stricken down by the hands of wicked men… I suppose you understand there are two Priesthoods as well as myself, and in the Priesthood of an endless life two Orders, and that the Quorum of the Twelve are the third Degree of the First Order, and can only act under the direction of their superiors.  The Twelve are without a President to their Quorum, and you speak of a meeting to consult about matters that concern us all.  That is what Bro. Miller, Hickey, & myself were in favor of; but we were apposed, & no one authorized to take the lead, so we have concluded that the trial of the getting up such a meeting would be vain.” (Record of the Apostles of James, p. 33)

Apostle Post in his account of the murder of James told of the circumstances of the priesthood following his death.  “We are now left without any higher in the Priesthood than the Quorum of the Twelve, (unless God retains Joseph the land in his calling.) He did not tell who should succeed him as the Chief Shepherd of the flock; neither did he instruct the Apostles as to their duty, any farther than to take the best care of their families they could, until it was shown them what to do. Some of the Twelve attempted to get up a conference on the 6th of October (same year) and but few attended, & there was not much done for the relief of the Church.”

“Again on the 6th of December there was another Conference appointed; but the poverty of the Saints, and the inclemency of the weather, prevented there being much done at that Conference. The Saints being anxious to obtain the word of the Lord, concerning them, and the cause of Zion , proposed a fast: and the last day of the year 1856 was kept by some of them as a day for fasting and prayer. The day was not kept, only by a few, for the people are determined to do what seemeth right in their own eyes. There were five of the Apostles, that met together (viz) L. D. Hickey, L. D. Tubbs, J Pearce, J. Hutchins, & W. Post on the 10th of Feb. 1857, in the wilderness 6 miles from Racine, and there prayed and communed with each other all night. We became satisfied, that the Twelve could not lead the Church without a Prophet; and concluded to take care of ourselves & families; and when occasion offered; minister to the necessities of the Saints, according to our abilities, until we have the word of the Lord to guide us on to other duties. This is truly a time of mourning, & fasting; for God has chastened us sorely for our sins, & we know not the extent of our sins, for God has not shown them unto us.

“The faithful among us are determined to wait upon the Lord, and trust in his Mercies: for his mercy endureth forever.” (Ibid., 44-46)

L. D. Hickey was the last of the Twelve.  He died on April 25, 1897 .  All of the Apostles understood that the church was not organized without a Prophet; and that none could stand at the head.  It is contrary to the laws of God for any person—other than members of the First Presidency—to attempt to govern and regulate the church independently without the supervision of the Presidency.  The Twelve under Joseph were rebuked for making such an attempt.

James taught, “I am aware also that the Twelve claim in their first Apostolic letter after the death of Joseph to preside over and dictate all the affairs of the Church in all the world.

“This claim is not only utterly unsupported by any one testimony but is in many points directly contrary to the word of God. The Twelve are a traveling and not a local or general High Council and though they are required to build up the Church and regulate the affairs thereof in all nations they are to do so expressly under the direction of the Presidency of the Church agreeable to the institution of heaven.” (Voree Herald, No. 1)

Wingfield Watson lived on Beaver Island at the time the saints were driven from the Island .  He was ordained a High Priest by L. D. Hickey on April 18, 1897 —about a week before Hickey’s death. L. D. Hickey was authorized to ordain evangelical High Priests in large branches of the church according to revelation.  “It is the duty of the Twelve, in all large branches of the church, to ordain evangelical ministers [High Priests], as they shall be designated unto them by revelation.” (Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 107:39)  This order generally passes from father to eligible son.

On April 14, 1919 , Watson wrote Milo M. Quaife, who was compiling a history of the Strangites, of the sad condition of the people in his day.  “To be short, we have been through fire and through water through reproach and persecution, through the spoiling of our goods, and poverty, and exile and in peril amongst false brethren and apostates; and because of these things we have been compelled to search, and investigate as we never had done before, and have been well rewarded… But as you inquire how the organization under Mr. Strang has been kept up since his death, I can only say that this organization has not been well kept up, from the circumstances in which we were placed; for when Mr. Strang was taken from us, most of us were as little children suddenly left without father or mother… Where there was an Elder who remained faithful, he taught his children and grand children, and baptized them into the faith, and preached the gospel to his neighbors also and baptized any who were willing to receive the gospel.  Besides the office of apostle there is also the office of High Priest and Elder, who holds the right to preach the gospel and administer its ordinances.  It was not in the nature of things, to be expected that we could do a great work, for nearly all the men had families dependant upon them for support, and Mr. Strang's last advice and counsel to us, was to let every man take care of himself and his family, and do the best he can until he is informed further what he shall do.

  Daughter of Zion Today

  The sad condition of the priesthood remains today.  Many followers of our great Prophet still opt for the will of man over the will of God.  When the roll is called, only half of those in the kingdom will be found worthy to escape the desolation of the last days.  “1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish… 7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out… 11 Afterward came also the other [foolish] virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.” (Matt. 25)

As long as one person is left holding a valid claim to the Melchisedec Priesthood, there is divine authority on the earth to preach and administer the saving ordinances of the gospel. The greatest opportunity ever given to man remains available—the approbation of eternal life.  Man must always decide whether he prefers the will of God, His law, and the testimony of His holy prophets more than the teachings of man and the pleasures of the world.

When man strays from the will of God, he often follows the common sentiment of the day.  Even errors, within a couple generations, become tradition.  Opinions then guide those who trust in the arm of flesh.  “Opinions, where we have the word of the Lord, are worth nothing. Since the days of the Savior, they have strangely divided men into almost as many sects, as the number of the name of the beast that John saw. All men have a right to their opinions, but to adopt them for rules of worship, is wrong, and may finally leave the souls of them that receive them for spiritual guides, in the Telestial kingdom.” (Evening and Morning Star, Vol. 1, p. 69)

Hope in eternity is dependent on faith and obedience in mortality.  We have been instructed to study; and to prove all things according to the law of God and the testimony of His holy prophets.  “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)  “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thess. 5:21)  “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa. 8:20)

Our hearts and minds must be as a little child—open and desiring to learn.  Our faith must be as firm as the hardest rock; and built upon the rock of revelation.  Our hearts must always be towards our God and our Savior; and seeking to do their will.  “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:36)

The choice to follow the will of God or the will of man has been offered to the people of God throughout many generations.  “1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: 2 And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God… 15 But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee.” (Deut. 28)  “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)

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JAMES J. STRANG, THE DELIVERER