A LETTER FROM JAMES J. STRANG TO MRS. COREY
Saint James, Sept. 26, 1854.
Dear Sister--Your good sister, Mrs. Derby, has done me the kindness to show me your letter of July 31st, in which you ask the "vain usurper," meaning me, "to write you, and show forth his strong reasons," etc., and promise to "answer me according to my arguments."
I rejoice in reading this promise, believing it is made in all sincerity. I have never yet obtained such a promise from a Brighamite, but God has given me a soul; and I hope for none more worthy than the chronicler of the martyred prophet. [Mrs. Corey wrote the history of the Smiths (not published), called Mother Smith's History.]I shall not complain of you, dear sister, for calling me a vain usurper, when in the same line you acknowledge you "know not what claims" I "dare to urge," meaning that you know not what evidence God has vouchsafed, that he has given me a dispensation of the kingdom.
And as David of old was a fugitive from the wrath of Saul, long and tedious years after God gave him the kingdom, and made him King by his holy anointing in his company I can endure the name of "fugitive King," with neither crimson nor blush on my cheek, remembering that Jesus Christ, the heir of David and heir of God, the King of Kings, was also a fugitive from the face of wicked men, and hid himself in dens, and caves, and mountains, and desert places.
But, God's name be praised, though fugitive once, fugitive no longer. It has pleased God, by whose voice I was called, and whose angels anointed me, to give to me the kingdom, and to commit to my hands deliverance for the oppressed. The little flock fear no longer. But the fear of us is on those that hate us.
God has been too good to me, for me to be resentful for any such unkindness. But would it not be commendable for a noble woman, the beloved historian of a much beloved prophet, to learn from the example of Michael, the Archangel, who durst not bring a railing accusation even against the devil? (Jude 9.) It is said, of old, "Be mindful to entertain strangers for so some have entertained Angels." In this dispensation the fault of men has not been so much shutting the doors against Angels, as falsely accusing the Prophet and Saints, of whom the accusers "knew not."
Dropping this subject as one which, from your sensitiveness on the character of the prophet Joseph, I know you will not misappreciate, allow me to tell you that if you "know not what claims I dare to urge," it is no fault of mine that you remain uninformed; and if I am called on now to show my strong reasons, it is not because I have not shown them often enough already. My strong reasons were shown more than ten years ago, and as often as any occasion arose from that time to this; and no man who follows Brigham Young has ever attempted to answer them. None ever will. They know they are unanswerable.
More than that, sister: to dispute my prophetic calling, is to say that Joseph
Smith is an impostor, and Mormonism a lie. Probably you are not now prepared to take my word for this. I only ask you to take Joseph's.
Joseph gave numerous revelations concerning the law of prophetic succession, establishing most distinctly this rule: "That whenever Joseph ceased to act on earth in the prophetic office, whether removed by death, by transgression, or by whatever means, another should be raised up in his stead, who should be called by revelation of God, given unto Joseph, and be ordained as he was, by the hand of angels."
Among the multitude of testimonies which Joseph has given that this is the law of God, I will now refer you to the following:
I have sent forth the fullness of my gospel by the hand of my servant Joseph; and I have given unto him the keys of the mysteries of those things which have been sealed, even things which were from the foundation of the world, and the things which shall come from this time until the time of my coming, if he abide in me, and if not, another will I plant in his stead. D. & C., sec. 34:44 or 35:17, 18.
But, behold, verily I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jr., for he receiveth them even as Moses. And thou (Oliver Cowdery) shall not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church; for I have given him the keys of the mysteries and the revelations which are sealed, until I shall appoint unto them another in his stead. Sec. 2 7:2 or 28:2, 6, 7.
Verily I say unto you the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you while thou art in this world, neither in the world to come; nevertheless, through you shall the oracles be given to another, even unto the church. Sec. 8 7:2 or 90:3, 4.
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. Sec. 4 3:1 or 43:3.
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. Sec. 43:2 or 43:4-7. (Given Feb., 1831.)
Wherefore marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth:- also with John the son of Zacharias;--which John (an angel) I have sent unto you, my servants, Joseph Smith, Jr., and Oliver Cowdery, to ordain you unto this first priesthood which you have received, that you might be called and ordained even as Aaron:--and also with Peter and James and John (angels), whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry; and of the same things which I revealed unto them unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fullness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven and which are on earth. Sec. 1:2, 3 or 27:5-13. (Given Sept., 1830.)
Nothing plainer than this is contained in the English language; nothing clearer has been spoken by the voice of prophets, or written by the finger of God.
Joseph no longer stands a prophet on earth. He is not standing among us to guide us as he was when these revelations were given, for God has taken him, and he wears the crown of King and Martyr.
What follows? Either Joseph has given the word of God appointing another in his stead, or those revelations have fallen to the ground, and Joseph
has proved himself a false prophet, and Mormonism an imposture.
Neither you nor I can take the latter alternate. We are both obliged, by our faith in Joseph as a true prophet, to say that "through him God has appointed another in his stead."
Who has been so appointed? It is needless to say that there is not a person on earth who pretends to have received such an appointment except myself. During the ten years since the martyrdom of Joseph, I, and I alone, have stood up as a prophet of God, claiming to have been appointed by revelation of God through Joseph, and to have been sent by the hands of Angels, as he was.
Therefore there is no escaping the conclusion that either I am a true prophet, and his lawful successor, or Joseph is a false prophet, and Mormonism an imposture. This is the only alternate with you. With me there is none. Called by the voice of God, and ordained by the hand of Angels, since the day of his death I have known my calling, as he did his in the days of his ministry.
So forcible is the position I have above stated, that for years after Brigham Young assumed to stand at the head of the church, the promise was held out continually that a prophet was yet to rise, who had been appointed by Joseph.
Knowing the attachment of the Saints to the family of the martyred prophet, it was skillfully insinuated that one of the sons of Joseph had been appointed, and that Brigham, to save him from being murdered by the Gentiles, as his father had been, was standing ostensibly in his place and governing by his authority, until the Church, being delivered from the fear of the Gentiles, should be able to acknowledge and defend their prophet. Any one who was in Nauvoo in 1846 and 1847, knows that a majority of those who started on the western exodus started in this hope.*
*The following testimony on this subject occurs in the published correspondence of Gen. Miller:
Saint James, June 28, 1855.
DEAR BROTHER-- * * * On my arrival in Nauvoo, I visited elder John Taylor, of the quorum of the Apostles, who was sick of his wounds received in Carthage jail, at the time of Joseph's death. Dr. Willard Richards was there, and after a few remarks in regard to the mob, I asked him who Joseph had left to succeed him in the prophetic office. He replied, all was right; that there were sealed documents left, which would be opened when the twelve Apostles should get home, that would settle all these matters. Sidney Rigdon had already returned from Pittsburgh (where he was sent before Joseph's death), and had made some moves as a leader of the people, and from hints and innuendos that I heard frequently I was induced to believe that Joseph had designated his son to succeed him in the prophetic office, and on this belief I rested.
On the return of the Twelve there was a public meeting called--the Apostles and Sidney Rigdon on the stand--Brigham Young acting as principal speaker. Sidney urged his pretensions as a kind of guardian, or temporary leader. Young made a long and loud harangue, and as I had always took him to be a blunderbuss in speaking, and on this occasion to me apparently more so, for the life of me I could not see any point in the course of his remarks, than to overturn Sidney Rigdon's pretensions. As this meeting was a pretty general Conference of the Elders, the Twelve assuming a temporary leadership, which was generally conceded to them, as they were the quorum next in authority to the prophet and Presidency of the whole church, N. K. Whitney and myself were put in nomination as trustees in trust for the church, instead of Joseph Smith, deceased, and were voted in by acclamation, and acknowledged as such by all present. * * *
Subsequent to these times of intense excitement I had frequent attempts at conversation with Brigham Young and H. C. [page 4] Kimball in regard to Joseph's leaving one to succeed him in the prophetic office, and in all my attempts to ascertain the desired truth as to that personage, I was invariably met with the innuendo, stop, or hush, brother Miller, let there be nothing said in regard to this matter, or we will have little Joseph killed as his father was; inferring indirectly that Joseph Smith had appointed his son Joseph to succeed him in the prophetic office; and I believe this impression was not left on my mind alone, but on the brethren in general, and remains with many until this day. ' '
-Northern Islander, No. 77.]
_________________________________________________________________________________In the meantime the papers issued by the Mormons in Nauvoo, New York and Liverpool were continually preparing the minds of the Saints to expect a prophet for a leader no more; telling them, "let no man presume for a moment his place will be filled by another," as though a successor would rob him of his crown; and claiming that the Twelve had power to dictate all the affairs of the Church in all the world, not under the direction of the Presidency, as they did in Joseph's
time, but independently as sectarian priests do.*
* 'The following extract from the first general epistle of the Twelve lays down expressly that Joseph should have no successor, and as clearly that the Twelve should have none, and is the first published avowal of the intention of the Twelve to seize the reins of power in the Church:
AN EPISTLE OF THE TWELVE.
To the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in Nauvoo and all the world--GREETING:
BELOVED BRETHREN-- * * * You are now without a prophet present with you in the flesh to guide you; but you are not without apostles who hold the keys of power to seal on earth that which shall be sealed in heaven, and to PRESIDE OVER ALL THE AFFAIRS OF THE CHURCH IN ALL THE WORLD; being still under the direction of the same God, and being dictated by the same spirit, having the same manifestations of the Holy Ghost TO DICTATE ALL THE AFFAIRS OF THE CHURCH IN ALL THE WORLD to build up the kingdom, upon the foundation that the prophet Joseph has laid, WHO STILL HOLDS THE KEYS OF THIS LAST DISPENSATION, AND WILL HOLD THEM TO ALL ETERNITY, as a king and priest unto the most high God, ministering in heaven ON EARTH, or among the spirits of the departed dead, as seemeth good to him who sent him.
LET NO MAN PRESUME FOR A MOMENT THAT HIS PLACE WILL BE FILLED BY ANOTHER; FOR REMEMBER, HE STANDS IN HIS OWN PLACE AND ALWAYS WILL; and the Twelve Apostles of this dispensation stand in their own place and always will, both in time and in eternity, to minister, preside and regulate the affairs of the whole church.
How vain are the imaginations of the children of men, to presume for a moment that the slaughter of one, two or a hundred of the leaders of this church could destroy an organization, so perfect in itself and so harmoniously arranged that it will stand while one member of it is alive upon the earth. Brethren, be not alarmed, for if the Twelve should be taken away, still there are powers and offices in existence which will bear the kingdom of God triumphantly victorious an all the world. This church may have prophets many, and apostles many, but they are all to stand in due time in their proper organization, under the direction of those who hold the keys. * * *
You may expect to hear from us again.
President of the Twelve.
Nauvoo, August 15th, 1844.
--Times and Seasons.The following letter may perhaps be regarded as a kind of feeler or preparatory step, a careful preparation for what followed:
TO THE SAINTS ABROAD.
DEAR BRETHREN--On hearing of the martyrdom of our beloved prophet and patriarch, you will doubtless need a word of advice and comfort, and look for it from our hands. We would say, therefore, first of all, be still, and know that the Lord is God; and that he will fulfill all things in is own due time; and not one jot or tittle of all his purposes and promises shall fail. Remember, REMEMBER, that the priesthood and the keys of power are held in eternity, as well as in time; and therefore the servants of God who passed the veil of death are prepared to enter upon a greater and more effectual work, in the speedy accomplishment of the restoration of all things spoken of by his holy prophets.
Remember, that all the prophets and saints who have existed since the world began are engaged in this holy work, and are yet in the vineyard, as well as the laborers of the eleventh hour; and are all pledged to establish the kingdom of God on the earth, and to give judgment unto the saints; therefore, none can hinder the rolling on of the eternal purposes of the Great Jehovah. And we have now every reason to believe that the fulfillment of his great purposes are much nearer than we had supposed, and that not many years hence we shall see the kingdom of God coming with power and great glory to our deliverance.
P. P. PRATT,
Nauvoo, July 15th, 1844.
--Times and Seasons.But at the meeting called by Sidney Rigdon, at Nauvoo, Aug. 8th, the program of the Twelve was marked out. Though their measure was carried at Nauvoo, they did not venture to give it to the public until after the publication of their general epistle.
The following is the history of the meeting, as given in the Times and Seasons of Sept. 1st, 1844, p. 637:
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 [page 5] 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 give 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 holds 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 Counselors 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.
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.
Elder P. P. Pratt said what had been said was well said.
When the whole subject was properly explained and understood, and Counselor Rigdon refused to have his name voted for as 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. (See, also, Voree Herald, March 16, 1848, pp. 257, 258.)
Here is the doctrine avowed by Brigham Young that the Twelve, FOR THE FIRST TIME in the dispensation, STAND IN THEIR LOT, because the PROPHET'S MANTLE had fallen on them. He is sustained in it by Lyman and Pratt, and finally by a unanimous vote of the meeting, which was probably one of the largest ever assembled in Nauvoo. Here is also a declaration that Rigdon and Lyman, by being "COUNSELORS IN THE FIRST PRESIDENCY before the death of the prophet," were "COUNSELORS TO THE TWELVE" afterward, which is sustained by the acts of the same meeting.
_________________________________________________________________________________This was the burden of their argument continually, till the great mass had got up as far as the Missouri River, and a little beginning made at Salt Lake; when at the October Conference at the Tabernacle, at Council
Bluffs, they suddenly turned and acknowledged that the argument had all the time been against them, because the Strangites had adhered to the original constitution of the Church, and they had departed from it; and in order to mend their case so that we should have the best of the argument no longer they then elected Brigham Young, Prophet, Seer, Revelator, First President, Successor to Joseph Smith, by whatever name the office may be called!*
*The election of Brigham Young to the Presidency of the church was at Winter Quarters, in December, 1847. The following account of it is found in the Gospel Herald (Voree), Vol. iii, pp. 77, 78, 79:
This is the Brighamite account of the Conference; but whether first published by them in the Frontier Guardian (Orson Hyde's paper), or the St. Louis Republican, we cannot now say. It was reprinted in the Herald, from a pamphlet edition.
Minutes of a Conference held Dec. 24th, 1847, at Winter Quarters, Council Bluffs, as taken by Jas. Flanagan.
Conference opened Friday, Dec. 24th, 1847, at 11 o'clock, and was first addressed by elder Woodruff, in preparing the minds of the people for the business and council of the meeting. He made many good preparatory remarks, and was followed by Orson Pratt, who addressed the Conference in a masterly style, on the Presidency of and progress of the church; stating that the church had progressed rapidly, although we had everything to contend with--poverty, persecution, priestcraft, demagoguery, the press, and, worst of all, the opposition of apostates; and that in our unorganized state, and we had beaten them all, and had the best prospect we ever had. He asked what the apostates had accomplished, and where are they? He said they could hardly be called a remembrance; they had gone to oblivion--to the shades of night. Still the church was rolling on rapidly, and now, at this period of the church, THEY HAD TO SELECT A FIRST PRESIDENCY and they would admit the first argument of the apostates (viz., that the organization was not complete) was correct. "
Elder G. A. Smith asked if they would lay him up a few log cabins at the time of the [page 6] jubilee. It was moved that Bro. Henry Miller oversee the job, and carried. Bro. Miller expressed himself on the subject, that it could be done, and electioneered in pretty good terms for help to accomplish the work, and have it done at the jubilee, or not come to it at all. Elder O. Pratt said that there was some business to come before the Conference before it closed; that in connection with farming and raising grain that there would have to be some mills to grind it; and another item of business was to choose three First Presidents of the church, to preside over the whole church; the organization of the church should be completed, and so defeat the Devil and carry out the work of the Lord.
He referred to the Book of Doctrine and Covenants to show how this was to be done; that the time had come when the hands of the Twelve must be liberated by the power and spirit of their calling, to go and push the people together from the ends of the earth to headquarters, and there would be men to lead and guide them to the great and glorious scenes which are yet to be unfolded to their view. G. A. Smith asked how Joseph received his power to preside over the church; and answered, from Peter, James and John, and that power was conferred by him to the Twelve, and they had power to appoint First Presidents of the church. The question was then called for, whether the people wanted their First Presidents or not. The house responded unanimously.
A. Lyman spoke on the subject, and said the idea of having their First Presidents in the church was nothing new; that it all had been arranged long since by the council, and there was no danger of going wrong; that all bodies must have a head, and all intelligence must come from the head. And the time had come when ends of the church could not be saved without a head, and the very man who was to be the head had been at the head all the time. He asked who the head was amenable to; and answered, to his head; for no bodies, however great, were so high that they had no head; and that the time had come when the Twelve must lead out the master spirits of the kingdom; must go to the east, west, north and south, and plant the seeds of eternal life.
It was moved and seconded that Brigham Young should be our First President. It was carried unanimously. It was next moved and carried that Heber C. Kimball be the first Counselor of Pres. B. Young. Carried unanimously. It was next moved and seconded that Dr. W. Richards be appointed second Counselor. Carried unanimously. It was moved that John Smith be appointed a Patriarch over the whole church. Carried unanimously. The band played a choice piece of music.
Pres. B. Young said the time had come to dismiss the meeting; that the meeting had been of the best kind, the good spirits had been with us all the time, that joy and peace had filled every bosom, and that if any had come here with any animosity against us, they had lost it before they were among us long. He blessed the saints in the name of the God of Israel, and that he had but little fault to find with any of the saints; that he would do the best he could for the church, and that he would not be burthened or trammeled by any body; that the moves of the church had all been directed right every time, and that our sufferings and trials had not come on account of our wickedness, but the hand of God had directed them in all of their moves; and that all of their moves were right, and if any one disputed it let him say wherein it was wrong, and say how it could be bettered.
The band then played, when the Conference was dismissed, to meet on the 6th of April, 1848. The number of the congregation was considered about 12,000. In the evening the brethren met to praise the Lord by making merry in the dance. After the house was arranged, the meeting was opened by singing and prayer. President Young led the first figure. The next the Presidents of the Seventies were called on. Then the High Priests, and the whole was conducted in the best order, and came off at 11 o'clock P.M.
This intention to elect a Prophet had been announced in the general epistle of the Twelve, as follows:
General epistle from the Twelve Apostles, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, abroad dispersed
throughout the earth--GREETING:
Since the murder of President Joseph Smith many false prophets and false teachers have arisen, and tried to deceive many; during which time we have mostly tarried with the body of the church, or been seeking a new location--leaving those prophets and teachers to run their race undisturbed, who have died natural deaths or committed suicide; and we now, having it in contemplation soon to REORGANIZE THE CHURCH ACCORDING TO THE ORIGINAL PATTERN, WITH A FIRST PRESIDENCY and Patriarch, feel that it will be the privilege of the Twelve, ere long, to spread abroad among the nations, not to hinder the gathering, but to preach the gospel, and push the people (the honest in heart) together from the four quarters of the earth.
BRIGHAM YOUNG, President.
WILLARD RICHARDS, Clerk.
--Gospel Herald (Voree), Vol. ii, p. 249,The epistle of the (Brighamite) Twelve to the President in England, dated March, 1849, and published in the Millennial Star, shows that the Presidency had been so elected, by elevating three members of that quorum to that dignity, and filling their places in the Twelve. It is as follows:
On the 12th of February the Presidency and those of the Twelve who were here, met in council, and proceeded to fill the vacancies of that quorum. Elders P P. Pratt, John Taylor and A. Lyman were present, and Charles C. Rich, Lorenzo Snow, Erastus Snow and Franklin D. Richards were ordained to the apostleship, and numbered among the Twelve, instead of the three who were called to the First Presidency, and Lyman Wight, of Texas, who was disfellowshipped. This accession increased the members here to a majority, and enabled them to act as a quorum. They were then instructed to assist in reorganizing the different quorums here, and in establishing righteousness. They met with the Presidency and others almost daily, and proceeded to organize and ordain the Presidency of the High Priest's quorum, viz: John Young and his counselors; also Daniel [page 8] Spencer as President of this stake, and his two counselors, David Fulmer and Willard Snow. They also ordained and set apart a High Council. After this the city was divided into nineteen wards, consisting generally of nine blocks, or seventy-two lots; over each ward a bishop was ordained.
Signed on behalf of the members of the quorum who are in the valley.
PARLEY P. PRATT, Pres. pro tem.
FRANCIS D. RICHARDS, Clerk.
--Gospel Herald (Voree), Vol. iv, pp. 164, 165.A more complete change of position could not take place--nor would it be possible for Brigham Young to make a more practical acknowledgment that he had been all wrong from August 8th, 1844, till his election and dance, in the holidays of 1847.
As an election to the prophetic office is invalid and utterly void, it is of no consequence whether it was attended to at a general or local meeting-attended by few or many. But, as another evidence of the baldness of Brigham Young's pretensions, it is worthy of note that this election took place at a kind of holiday jubilee, held in a building forty feet by sixty, which could not contain above eight hundred people. A very small number, certainly, to assume to elect a head of this church.
The minutes of this Conference estimate the number present at twelve thousand; but, for the purpose of making it clear that a very large number were present, they also state in the minutes that at one time the Tabernacle was full, and that that was forty feet by sixty. A building of that size would seat six hundred people, or contain eight hundred standing; and thus furnishes the true count of the congregation very nearly accurate.
____________________________________________________________________________________If an election by a local assembly of the Saints, called together without any such purpose, and authorized by no law to do such an act, is sufficient to make a man a prophet of God, a Seer and a Revelator, the representative on earth of the name and power of the Almighty,
then, and then only, have they helped their case.
To pretend that such an election is a fulfillment of that law which requires the leader of this Church to be called by the voice of God, and ordained as Joseph was, by the hand of Angels, is so utterly bald that it needs only to be stated, not answered.
And I have the assurance now of Benjamin Clapp, an Elder so much in the confidence of Brigham Young that he has entrusted to him the important mission of selecting locations and establishing stakes in various States, that at this day, though publicly sustained in the papers and official documents as Prophet, Seer and Revelator, Brigham disclaims himself any such office, and looks for a prophet yet to rise; thus yet playing fast and loose, to retain his actual position as leader, and hold on to those who are not blind enough to be deceived by a popular election to the Prophetic office.
I perceive that you have put Young's right to be the "leader of the people" upon the words of Joseph, "I now roll the kingdom upon the shoulders of the Twelve, and they must bear off the kingdom."
It strikes me that these words of Joseph are getting a little more definite in their purport and application, and a little more public in their original promulgation, than when they were first appealed to in defense of Brigham Young's usurpation.
But let that pass. I will take the issue upon your version. The Prophet said to the Conference, "I now roll the kingdom upon the shoulders of the Twelve, and they must bear off the kingdom."
Either this gave to the Twelve the power they exercised from the death of Joseph till the exodus into the wilderness, or it did not. If it did not, there is an end of your argument, and for that period they were usurpers.
But if it did give that power, it gave it from the very time the words fell from the Prophet's lips. It is in the present tense, and very emphatic, "I now roll the kingdom," etc. Whatever new responsibilities these words placed upon the Twelve, whatever new powers they gave them, they took from the moment the words were spoken.
Hence if these words gave Brigham Young or the Quorum of the Twelve the power which he and they exercised, as the chief rulers on earth of the Church, they gave that power in presenti; and they became at that time the chief rulers, and superseded Joseph in his office as chief ruler. If the words made Brigham Young Prophet, Seer, Revelator, or anything else, they made him so then, and so far turned Joseph out.
There is no escaping this conclusion. The language is not as in the case of Christ to Peter, "I will give unto you the keys of the kingdom," but, "I now roll the kingdom upon" your shoulders.
So if these words put Brigham in the prophetic office, they put him in in presenti, and turned Joseph out. And if they do not put him in in presenti and make Joseph a usurper and an impostor from then to the end of his life, they do not give him the office at all; and Brigham has been a usurper and an impostor from the time he assumed "to dictate all the affairs of the Church in all the world," until elected to the prophetic office by the Conference at Council Bluffs, subsequent to the exodus from Nauvoo; and he stands now just as much a prophet of God, as men can make him; inducted into office by as sacerdotal forms as a popular election,
instead of a call of God, and an evening dance instead of the anointing by the hands of Angels.
If there is anything obnoxious to you in this dressing up of Brigham's sacerdotal office, I ask you only to remember that I did not make his priestly robes. I have only reproduced him before you as I found him dressed by his own organs, the Nauvoo Times and Seasons, and the Council Bluffs Guardian.
In regard to the language which Joseph did use on the occasion you allude to, I suppose you know, as I certainly do, that a little previous to that some things had been done in reference to the kingdom of God, which have never yet been given to the public.
I presume also you know that the language of Joseph had sole reference to the duties which devolved on the Twelve, in consequence of the advance of the dispensation.
I am fully persuaded that you will agree with me, that Joseph did not, by that simple remark, set aside the revelations of God; change the constitution of the Church; abolish the prophetic office; turn himself out of the priesthood, and raise up the Twelve to the supreme headship on earth. Unless he did all these things, there is a full end of Brigham Young's pretensions.
And if he did do all or any of these things, how strangely blind you and I and all the rest of the Church were, that we continued to look to Joseph as our Prophet and leader, who was to dictate all the affairs of the Church in all the world. How blind Joseph and Brigham were, that Joseph continued to act as Prophet, and Brigham to take missions under his direction.
The whole volume of sacred history furnishes but a single example of a Prophet suffering the melancholy fate to survive on earth the call of his successor. I hardly need tell you this one was Eli, to whom the Lord said, "I will judge thy house forever, for the iniquity which thou knoweth; and it shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering forever." 1 Sam. iii. 13.
But if Brigham's claims are sound, there was less assumption on the part of the rejected Eli than Joseph, and much more of modesty on the part of Brigham than Samuel. For when the word came to Samuel, "rolling the kingdom upon his shoulders," Eli said, "it is from the Lord," and acted as Prophet no longer, but "all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, knew that Samuel was established a Prophet of the Lord." 1 Sam., iii. 20.
If Brigham received any such appointment as you claim, why did not all the Saints from Nauvoo to Manchester, or at least those present at the Conference, know that he was established
a Prophet of the Lord? Why did nobody learn it till some months later, and several weeks subsequent to Joseph's martyrdom?
Yes, tell me, why did the Apostles, returning from their eastern mission by different routes, encourage all the Saints, saying, "fear not, for if Joseph is taken, he has appointed another to take his place, and the appointment will be proclaimed as soon as we reach Nauvoo"?
Why were all the Saints in and out of Nauvoo assured, by the few men left in authority there, that Joseph had left important documents in their hands, under seal, which were to be opened on the return of the Apostles, and would show who was to lead the Church?
And, as you insist, down to this date, that "the Twelve have always had charge of all the affairs of the kingdom in all the world,"* it would be well to define your sense of this assertion.
*If they had the same charge before the death of Joseph as they assumed immediately afterwards, what a ridiculous speech was that of W. W. Phelps in defense of Brigham's usurpation at Nauvoo, Aug. 8th, 1844, "for the FIRST time in the kingdom of God, the Twelve Apostles stand in their lot according to appointment." It was there admitted that during Joseph's life they had not been in the office and priesthood which was assumed by them after his death; and if they then got into their place by getting rid of the First Presidency, what folly it was to crowd them out of their place by setting up a First Presidency again.
If it means that they had the charge, etc., "under the directions of the First Presidency," as the Book of Doctrine and Covenants says, then where did they get authority to act independently, from the death of Joseph till the election of Brigham, four or five years later, at Council Bluffs?
But if it means that they hold this authority immediately from God, and not immediately through the First Presidency, then by what right did Joseph and his two Counselors dictate them in their administration, until his death? And why have Young, Kimball and Richards been taken out of the Quorum of the Twelve and erected into a First Presidency?
And as their places have been filled in that Quorum, and there are Twelve without them, why do you not stick to your text, and still look to the Twelve to dictate the affairs of the kingdom? If the kingdom is on the shoulders of the Twelve, why are Brigham Young, J. M. Grant* and H. C. Kimball as a First Presidency allowed to bear it off?
*Since the death of Willard Richards, J. M. Grant has been elected to the Presidency, and his place in the Quorum of the Twelve filled.
I don't like this constant changing; this playing fast and loose; this being everything by turns and nothing long. Truth is ever the same. If Brigham is the chosen of God; if he is the anointed leader of the Saints, his right to that office rests upon the same facts now that it did ten years ago.
Why could not these facts be frankly stated, and rest at that? If they justify his claim, they are enough. If they do not, all the new inventions which can be spliced on will not make that true which was false in its inception.
For myself, having been truly called to the priesthood after the order of the Son of God, and the Prophetic office, holding the keys of the dispensation, I never had but one story to tell on the true subject, the plain facts in the case, the history of which has never varied.
I might, if I was hard put to it for evidence of my calling, as Brigham Young is, go back to the time when the prophet Joseph in his own house, in the presence of a multitude of witnesses, prophesied on my head, all that has since happened to me, saying that by my hand God shall deliver his people in the day of their distress, for he would give unto me the keys of the
kingdom and the mysteries and revelations, that, standing at the head of the dispensation, I might lead his people to another land, where they should receive an everlasting inheritance as Abraham did, and should be delivered from the power of their enemies.
In like manner I might appeal to the testimony of the Patriarch, Hyrum Smith, given a week later, of what the spirit of God showed to him at the time of ordaining me to the priesthood, to the same import, though in a very different form of language.
But to all this you would answer, just as every man must answer to the word you have taken to justify the Twelve, "that words spoken in discourse, whatever their import, do not confer priesthood; that at best such words can only apply to a power to be conferred in a lawful manner; and however glorious a work the prophet may have foretold on my head, I can only enter upon it when called thereto, according to the law of God." To this I agree, and shall judge any claim set up in behalf of the Twelve by the same standard.
Before proceeding further, I may be allowed to say that since the foregoing was written, I have taken the pains to read it to brother and sister Derby; and that they tell me that it is impossible that any one should have understood the words of Joseph concerning rolling the kingdom upon the shoulders of the Twelve, as you applied them.
By their history of the matter, Joseph was complaining of the Quorums generally, and the Quorum of the Twelve in particular, that they had not attended to the duties devolving on them by their callings; but that he had the duties of all the Quorums to do; and reminding the Twelve that they had the charge of sending out Elders to preach the gospel in all the world, and the keys of opening the gospel to the nations, and that in that sense the responsibility of bearing off the kingdom rested upon them; he told them he would do their duties and carry them on his back no longer; but that he "would now roll the kingdom upon their shoulders."
If this language meant anything, it meant that the duties which, by the law of God, ought to have been performed by the Twelve, under the direction of the First Presidency, he would thereafter require of them, instead of doing what they neglected. Instead of a new authority, and a new priesthood, making them the leaders of the Church, independent of or without a First Presidency, they got merely a rebuke for having neglected to do the duties of their calling under the direction of the First Presidency, and the assurance that they could not longer neglect it with impunity.
Every claim ever set up in behalf of Brigham Young and the Twelve, as leaders of the Church, has evaporated as has this. I suppose that this is the reason he and his advocates have always refused to give his and their claims a definite form, and will not set down at what time he became leader of the Church; by what means he became leader of the Church; under what law he became leader of the Church; or in what office he is leader of the Church.
The consciousness of the utter baldness of his claims has not only prevented his advocates ever placing them upon any definite foundation, and resting their defense upon that; but it has prevented all the able men in his organization from daring to discuss the question of his authority, just as none of the sects dare discuss the doctrine taught by Latter Day Saints.
As an evidence of this I may mention to you that at Philadelphia, the 30th of
August, 1846, I sent a most respectful proposition to Orson Hyde and John Taylor, then preaching in that city, to discuss this question of the authority of the Twelve to lead the church; and such a proposition they answered by a scurrilous piece of Billingsgate, which I shall not copy in this letter, but which you can see in the Millennial Star, Vol. viii, p. 94.*
* The following is the correspondence on the subject, as found in the Millennial Star, Vol. viii, p. 94:
Philadelphia, August 30th, 1846.
Messrs. J. TAYLOR AND ORSON HYDE:--Knowing from your public proceedings, as well as otherwise, that you and others associated with you, claim the right, and are attempting to use the power of dictating all the affairs of the church of Jesus Christ in all the world, not under the direction of the First Presidency thereof, but independently; I suggest to you the propriety of publicly showing by what means you are authorized to act as leaders to said church, and offer to publicly discuss that question with you in this city, or any other proper place that will suit your convenience.
Your answer to this, left at the house of Jacob Gibson, on the N.E. corner of Third and Dock Streets, near the postoffice, will receive immediate attention.
JAMES J. STRANG.
ANSWER TO THE ABOVE
SIR:--After Lucifer was cut off and thrust down to hell, we have no knowledge that God ever condescended to investigate the subject or right of authority with him.
Your case has been disposed of by the authorities of the church, and being satisfied with our own power and calling, we have no disposition to ask from whence yours came.
See, also, Gospel Herald (Voree), Vol. i, No. 8.
____________________________________________________________________________________But, though Hyde and Taylor refused to enter into a fair and open discussion, they did get out a scurrilous and false hand bill, of which they had ten thousand copies printed, and distributed from door to door in Philadelphia, for the purpose of rendering me infamous among both Saints and Gentiles--a purpose that signally failed.
Going on in the same spirit, and relying on vituperation rather than argument, when they took charge of the Millennial Star, they so filled its pages with slander and falsehood, that in eighty-three successive pages, fourteen are made up of false witness against me.*
*A sample of their style of treating the question is found in the following heading of a three and a half page article, from the Millennial Star, Vol. viii, p. 123.
SKETCHES OF NOTORIOUS CHARACTERS.
James J. Strang, successor of Sidney Rigdon, Judas Iscariot, Cain & Co. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of His Most Gracious Majesty, Lucifer the I, assisted by his allied contemporary advisers, John C. Bennett, William Smith, G. J. Adams and John E. Page, Secretaries of Legation.
Thus all the advocates of Brighamism have refused to submit their pretensions to the test of reason and revelation, and have opposed my calling and Apostleship by slander and falsehood, just as all the sectarian priests opposed that of Joseph. Reasonable men have come to the conclusion that they had similar reasons for doing it; the want of anything else wherewith to oppose me.
I have often been accused of teaching that Joseph had fallen from the faith and the favor of God because one of the revelations say that if his gift (of revelation) is taken from him, he shall only have power to appoint another in his stead. But this accusation is ill founded; for my appointment is not under that provision of the law, but under the general provision for appointing a successor, whenever he ceased to act in the Prophetic office on earth.*
*It has been a favorite resort of those opposing the prophetic calling of Mr. Strang, saying that if Joseph appointed a successor, he could do nothing further. Thus the following letter from elder Dunn to elder Appleby, from the Millennial Star, Vol. viii, p. 93:
New York, Aug. 4th, 1846.
DEAR BROTHER APPLEBY:--I address you a few lines this morning, which may be for your benefit, as I understand that Strangism is making a division in the branch at Philadelphia. I shall state the fact which I am knowing to, as I was presiding over the western part of the State of Michigan at the time J. J. Strang presented himself as a prophet to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, appointed, as he said, [page 12] by brother Smith. He came to the town of Florence, St. Joseph's County, Michigan, on the 5th of August, 1844, and presented a letter to me purporting to come from brother J. Smith. I read its contents, and saw that it did not correspond with the Revelation that is in the Book of Covenants, for it says if he (Joseph) "transgresses he shall not have power except to appoint another." And the revelation to J. J. Strang, purporting to come from brother Smith, appointed Strang's counselor and gathering place, etc., which the Book of Covenants said he should not do, for if he transgresses he should only have power to appoint, and go no farther. * * *
This letter entirely misstates Mr. Strang's position. His claim was never that Joseph fell from his priesthood, and therefore had no power except to appoint a successor; but that he was martyred for the witness of Jesus and the word of God, and taken unto God, and therefore through him the keys of mysteries and revelations were given to another; that is, unto him.
But in the other case the words "shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead" seem to have reference only to ordaining; shall have power only to appoint, not to ordain a successor, for the same paragraph goes on to say that the successor shall be ordained in the manner which God had before revealed to Joseph. This was in February, 1831. And in the preceding September God had revealed to him the law of ordaining by the hand of angels. D. & C., sec. 1:2, 3.
'Thus saith the Lord, verily, verily I say unto you my son, thy sins are forgiven thee, according to thy petition, for thy prayers and the prayers of thy brethren have come up into my ears. D. & C., sec. lxxxv, p. 1. (lxxxiv, in the Kirtland edition or 27:5-13; or 90:1--ED.)
There are numerous revelations in which God charges Joseph with sin, but the end of them all, is that he repented with godly sorrow, and was foregiven.*
*Thus saith the Lord, verily, verily I say unto you my son, thy sins are forgiven thee, according to thy petition, for thy prayers and the prayers of thy brethren have come up into my ears. D. & C., sec. lxxxi:1 or 90:1) It is not I who charge him with these sins, but the same God who forgave him was his accuser, and it does not become us to make God a liar, and Joseph a false prophet, in order to say that Joseph knew no sin, of whom God said, "Thy sins are forgiven thee."
These revelations make a wide distinction between the case of Joseph and that of Eli, who was removed from the Prophetic office, and had no power except to declare the appointment of his successor.
Joseph remained a Prophet in the favor of God till the end of his life; he had full power to do anything which a Prophet may lawfully do. A few days previous to his death, God gave him a revelation appointing me as his successor in the Prophetic office.
This revelation Joseph caused to be written and placed among the confidential archives of the Church at Nauvoo. He also wrote to me a letter repeating the substance of it, and giving me brief counsel for my calling. This letter reached me at Wisconsin, and its contents became public several days before the first rumor of the martyrdom of the Prophet, or of his arrest."
*LETTER OF JOSEPH SMITH TO JAMES J. STRANG
Nauvoo, June 18th, 1844,
MY DEAR SON:--Your epistle of May 24th proposing the planting a Stake of Zion in Wisconsin and the gathering of the saints there, was duly received, and I, with most of the brethren whose advice I called in, were of opinion that you was deceived by a spirit not of this world, great but not good. Brother Hyrum, however, thought otherwise, and favored the project, not doubting it was of God. I, however, determined to return you an unfavorable answer for the present. But, oh, the littleness of man in his best earthly state! not so the will of the Almighty. God hath ruled it otherwise, and a message from the throne of grace directed me as it hath inspired you, and the faith which thou hast in the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel, hath been repaid to thee a thousand fold, and thou shalt be like him; but the flock shall find rest with thee, and God shall reveal to thee his will concerning them.
I have long felt that my present work was almost done, and that I should soon be called to rule a mighty host, but something whispers me it will be in the land of spirits, where the wicked cease from troubling and the bands of the prisoner fall off. My heart yearns for my little ones, but I know God will be a father to them, and I can claim face to face the fulfillment of promise from him who is a covenant keeping God, and who sweareth and performeth and faileth not to the uttermost.
The wolves are upon the scent, and I am waiting to be offered up, if such be the will of God, knowing that though my visage be more marred than that of any, it will be unscarred and fair when archangels shall place on my brow the double crown of martyr and king in a heavenly world.
In the midst of darkness and boding danger the spirit of Elijah came upon me, and I went away to inquire of God how the church should be saved.
I was upon the hill of the Temple. The calm father of waters rolled below, changeless and eternal. I beheld a light in the heavens above and streams of bright light [page 13] illuminated the firmament, varied and beautiful as the rainbow, gentle, yet rapid as the fierce lightning.
The Almighty came from his throne of rest. He clothed himself with light as with a garment. He appeared, and moon and stars went out. The earth dissolved in space. I trod on air, and was borne on wings of Cherubims. The sweetest strains of heavenly music thrilled in my ear, but the notes were low and sad as though they sounded the requiem of martyred Prophets.
I bowed my head to the earth and asked only wisdom and strength for the church. The voice of God answered, My servant Joseph, thou has been faithful over many things, and thy reward is glorious; the crown and sceptre are thine, and they wait thee. But thou hast sinned in some things, and thy punishment is very bitter. The whirlwind goeth before, and its clouds are dark, but rest followeth, and to its days there shall be no end. Study the words of the vision for it tarrieth not.
And now behold my servant James J. Strang hath come to thee from far for truth when he knew it not, and hath not rejected it, but had faith in thee, the Shepherd and Stone of Israel, and to him shall the gathering of the people be, for he shall plant a stake of Zion in Wisconsin, and I will establish it; and there shall my people have peace and rest, and shall not be moved, for it shall be established on the prairie on White River, in the lands of Racine and Walworth; and behold my servants James and Aaron shall plant it, for I have given them wisdom, and Daniel shall stand in his lot on the hill beside the river looking down on the prairie, and shall instruct my people, and shall plead with them face to face.
Behold my servant James shall lengthen the cords and strengthen the stakes of Zion, and my servant Aaron shall be his counselor, for he hath wisdom in the gospel, and understandeth the doctrines, and erreth not therein.
And I will have a house built unto me there of stone, and there will I show myself to my people by my mighty works, and the name of the city shall be called Voree, which is, being interpreted, garden of peace; for there shall my people have peace and rest, and wax fat and pleasant in the presence of their enemies.
But I will again stretch out my arm over the river of waters, and on the banks thereof shall the house of my choice be. But now the city of Voree shall be a stronghold of safety to my people, and they that are faithful and obey me I will there give them great prosperity and such as they have not had before, and unto Voree shall be the gathering of my people, and there shall the oppressed flee for safety, and none shall hurt or molest them.
And by this shall they know that I have spoken it; the people there and the owners of the land shall show kindness to them, for great calamities are coming on the church, and such as have not been, and if they scatter, the ungodly of the world shall swallow them up, but if they gather to my city of Voree there will I keep them under the shadow of my wings and the cities from whence my people have been driven shall be purged with a high hand, for I will do it, and my people shall be again restored to their possessions; but dark clouds are gathering, for the church is not yet wholly purged.
And now I command my servants, the Apostles and Priests and Elders of the church of the Saints, that they communicate and proclaim this my word to all the Saints of God in all the world, that they may be gathered unto and round about my city of Voree, and be saved from their enemies, for I will have a people to serve me.
And I command my servant, Moses Smith, that he go unto the saints with whom he is acquainted and unto my people, and command them in my name to go into my city of Voree and gain inheritances therein, and he shall have an inheritance therein, for he hath left all for my sake, and I will add unto him many fold if he is faithful; for he knows the land, and can testify unto them that it is very good.
So spake the Almighty God of heaven. Thy duty is made plain, and if thou lackest wisdom, ask of God, in whose hands I trust thee, and he shall give thee unsparingly; for if evil befall me, thou shalt lead the flock to pleasant pastures. God sustain thee.
JAMES J. STRANG.
This letter was received at Burlington by regular course of mail, coming through the distributing office at Chicago, and bears the Nauvoo postmark of June 19th, the day following its date. It arrived at Burlington July 9th, and was immediately taken from the office by C. P. Barnes, Esq., a distinguished lawyer. at that place, who, in consequence of the rumors of persecution and civil war against the Mormons, and a general anxiety to hear the latest news, immediately carried it to Mr. Strang, with the request to be informed of any news of public interest which it might contain. It therefore became public the same evening. * * *
Mrs. Emma Smith recollects well of her husband receiving a letter from Mr. Strang, and holding a council on the subject, and names Hyrum Smith, Willard Richards and John P. Green as present at that council, and also that a letter was sent to Mr. Strang in answer, but of the import of the answer she was not informed.