The murder of Joseph Smith created a new problem for the saints: Who is the successor and head of the church? James J. Strang made the first claim at the very moment of Joseph's death, 400 miles away. Brigham Young first claimed there would be no successor; and the twelve Apostles were to lead the church. Three and a half years later he decided the church had to have a Prophet; and through a vote of the people presumed to fill the office. The only other Mormon group that will be addressed are the followers of Joseph Smith's son.
Second Phase - Finding a Successor
The murder of Joseph Smith tossed the people into the second phase of the history of the church. As divine authority is the foundation of Mormonism, the most serious question to ever face Mormons was determining who was the legitimate successor to Joseph. Only one could be true.
The first claim was by James J. Strang. He claimed, at the very moment of Joseph's murder, although 400 miles away, to have been ordained at the hands of angels to succeed Joseph; although this could only mean that Joseph was dead. As required by Mormon law, a letter from Joseph Smith appointed James his successor arrived by regular mail over a week later.
The second claim was by Brigham Young that Joseph would never have a successor; and that the twelve Apostles stood at the head. The law given through Joseph was for "another" to stand in his stead. Neither Brigham, nor the twelve ever received any appointment from Joseph Smith. Two and a half years later Brigham changed his position, said the church had to have a prophet at the head, and the conference by vote of the people thought to bestow an honor that God never called. Brigham was never ordained a prophet; as required by the law of God.
In 1856, the church entered a third phase. James J. Strang was shot by two apostate Strangites; and died on July 9, 1856. The people had their property stolen; and were scattered across several states. The Apostles knew that according to the law of God they could not stand at the head of church. James' dying words were for them to take care of their families; and do the best they could in promoting the gospel.
Through the diligent work of several generations the Melchisedec Priesthood, the gospel, and the kingdom of God continued. In 1961, the Strangites encountered a fourth phase. One group, under the leadership of Vernon Swift, reorganized their church into a corporation. A corporation is a "fictitious" entity that exists only the mind of the law. The organization loses its former identity. Formerly they used the original name The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with (Strangite) appended. After the incorporation, they are required by law to append the "Inc." to the end their name. They organized a new order of the priesthood to rule their church; and use the corporate by-laws to govern their church.
The rest of the Strangites have held to the original unincorporated identity of the church. There are only a few that remain; but, that is what the Bible prophesied.
The fifth phase offers the last opportunity for most. The times of the Gentiles were fulfilled in 1967. Soon, Jesus will return to Jerusalem, gather His people from the four corners of the earth, and stand as King of the earth with them as His people. A remnant of the original Strangites are to remain and be gathered in this final harvest dispensation.
It has been a standing law of God, since Adam, that no one can hold this prophetic office, unless called of God and ordained at the hands of angels (one who held that priesthood in life). This same law was given through Joseph Smith, "For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before, to teach those revelations which you have received and shall receive through him whom I have appointed." (Doctrine and Covenants, 43:7)
The Church of Christ always requires a Prophet at the head. The Bible recognizes this organization of the church.
"11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." (Eph. 4)
The ruling authority of the twelve Apostles and High Priests exists only under the direction of this First President.
"The Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and secondly unto the Jews." (Doctrine and Covenants, 107:33)
"High priests after the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood have a right to officiate in their own standing, under the direction of the presidency, in administering spiritual things, and also in the office of an elder, priest (of the Levitical order), teacher, deacon, and member." (Ibid., v. 10)
The murder of Joseph Smith left the church without a head. God had already provided for this contingency. Four separate revelations had been given through Joseph advising the saints that should Joseph be taken that he would appoint a successor.
"4 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. 5 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; 6 And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me. 7 For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before, to teach those revelations which you have received and shall receive through him whom I have appointed." (Doctrine and Covenants 43)
" 2 But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses... 7 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." (D&C, 28)
"17 And I have sent forth the fulness of my gospel by the hand of my servant Joseph; and in weakness have I blessed him; 18 And I have given unto him the keys of the mystery 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, 35)
"3 Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come; 4 Nevertheless, through you shall the oracles be given to another, yea, even unto the church." (D&C 90)
Two things were required of any man to represent himself as the successor of Joseph: (1) he had to be appointed by Joseph, and (2) he had to be ordained at the hands of angels, as Joseph before him.
The first group followed James J. Strang. He claimed to be ordained at the hand of "the Angel of the Lord" in Voree (near Burlington), Wisconsin (some four hundred miles from Joseph's murder), at the very time of his death. In February, 1831, Joseph Smith gave the following revelation: "4 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. 5 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; 6 And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me. 7 For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before, to teach those revelations which you have received and shall receive through him whom I have appointed." (Doctrine and Covenants 43)
On June 18, 1844, Joseph Smith wrote a letter to James J. Strang appointing him as his successor. It was post marked at Nauvoo on June 19, 1844. Joseph Smith was assassinated on June 27. The letter of appointment arrived in Burlington, Wisconsin on July 9th. James J. Strang was the only person that claimed to have been appointed by Joseph Smith according to revelation and to have been ordained at the hands of "the Angel of the Lord."
This letter of appointment is contained in Chapter 1 of "The Diamond."
The ordination of James is contained in Chapter two of the same tract.
The second group followed Brigham Young as President of the Twelve Apostles. The first general epistle of the Twelve on August 15, 1844, expressly declared that Joseph would not have a successor and that the Twelve had seized the reins of power in the Church.
"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. (Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, p. 618)
Over three years later they realized the folly of their pretension, as third degree Apostles, to lead the Church and they suddenly reversed their course and elected Brigham Young as Prophet, Seer, Revelator, First President, Successor to Joseph Smith, by whatever name the office may be called. At the conference, on Dec. 24, 1847, at Council Bluffs, "It was moved and seconded that Brigham Young should be our First President. It was carried unanimously." Brigham Young, by vote of the people, was thought to have been elected to be a prophet of God.
Brigham Young later said, "The brethren testify that Brother Brigham is Joseph's successor. You never heard me say so. I say I am a good hand to keep the dogs and wolves out of the flock." (Journal of Discourses, June 3, 1860)
Further he testified, "I do not profess to be a prophet. I never called myself so; but I actually believe I am, because people are all the time telling me that I am." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 5, p. 176)
Brigham Young was not appointed by Joseph Smith as required by the law of God. He was not ordained at the hands of angels; as required by the law of God. He was voted into the office and admitted, "I do not profess to be a prophet." I will put my trust in the law and the testimony and take Brigham's own word for it.
As their highest priesthood is voted in by the people, as is the pope, they are simply Sectarian Mormons. Jesus said, "13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. 15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." (Matt. 7) The example set by this organization is "wide is the gate...and many there be which go in thereat." It is headquarted in Salt Lake City Utah.
The third group followed Joseph Smith's son. In1856, eleven years after Joseph Smith's death, Jason W. Briggs and Zenos H. Gurley went to young Joseph and encouraged him to take up the claim to be his father's successor in the prophetic office on the basis that he was Joseph's son. He replied, "Will I ever have anything to do with Mormonism? If so, how and what will it be?" Young Joseph was accepted as Joseph Smith's successor after Mr. Gurley gave this revelation: "The successor of Joseph Smith is Joseph, the son of Joseph the Prophet. It is his right by lineage saith the Lord your God." They ordained young Joseph to be their prophet, seer, and revelator and president of their Church. All who took an active part in his ordination were apostates from the Church under James J. Strang except one, and he had been baptized by one of them. Young Joseph said, in 1883, "He [his father] could not ordain and induct a successor while himself lived." Yet in 1885, Elder Whitehead of the Reorganized Church said, forty-one years after the death of Joseph Smith, "he saw Newell K. Whitney, Hiram Smith, and Joseph Smith anoint and ordain Young Joseph a prophet, seer and revelator in 1844, in a room over Joseph's store in Nauvoo." This organization is headquartered in Independence, Missouri.
There is a principle in prophetic succession all should consider. Never has there been, and never will there be, a prophet of God in the days following Abraham that is not his literal descendant. All prophets from Abraham to Christ were of the House of Israel. Peter, James, and John were the only prophets called to the Gentile dispensation. Joseph Smith was of the tribe of Ephraim. James J. Strang was of the tribe of Judah. All prophets must make note of this heritage to be considered a prophet of God. Jesus was of the seed of Abraham, the tribe of Judah, and the house of David. Without this lineage, according to the flesh, His claims would have been vain.
James J. Strang was the only man that was duly called and ordained a successor of Joseph Smith; according to the law of God. There were three requirements to make a valid claim to be Joseph Smith's successor: (a) he must have been appointed by Joseph Smith, (b) he must have been ordained at the hands of angels as Joseph, and (c) he must have produced fruits of his priesthood that agreed with all other prophets of God.
Joseph Smith had given a revelation on prophetic succession. "4 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. 5 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; 6 And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me. 7 For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before, to teach those revelations which you have received and shall receive through him whom I have appointed." (Doctrine and Covenants 43)
The first rule on succession was that Joseph would appoint (call) another in his stead. "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." (Doctrine and Covenants, 33:4)
James J. Strang was the only man appointed by Joseph Smith. On June 18, 1844, Joseph Smith wrote a letter to James J. Strang appointing him his successor. It was post marked at Nauvoo on June 19, 1844. Joseph Smith was assassinated on June 27. The letter of appointment arrived in Burlington, Wisconsin on July 9th.
The second rule of succession was that Joseph's successor had to "come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before." James J. Strang was the only man that claimed to have been ordained at the hands of angels as Joseph Smith before him.
James J. Strang claimed to be ordained at the hand of "the Angel of the Lord" in Voree (near Burlington), Wisconsin (some four hundred miles from Joseph's murder), at the very time of Joseph's death. There was no means of communication at that time. Until the letter of appointment arrived from Joseph on July 9th (over two weeks later), those in Voree had no way to verify the death of Joseph Smith and the claims of James J. Strang. If the claims of James J. Strang were false, according to the law of God Joseph had no successor and he was therefore a false prophet. James J. Strang was the only man to present a letter of appointment from Joseph (which was verified as true) and to claim ordination at the hand of "the angel of the Lord."
Third, James J. Strang taught the same as Joseph Smith. As the Dispensation of the Meridian of Time and the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times had not been fully molded together, it was necessary that James J. Strang continue the work of translation, of gathering the people, and of establishing the first dominion of the kingdom of God in the latter days.
The prophet Ezekiel wrote, "Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand." (Ezek. 37:19) Joseph was of the tribe of Ephraim and James of the tribe of Judah. This was truly realized with the Book of Mormon and the Book of the Law of the Lord. The Book of Mormon could only be brought forth by one of the seed of Joseph (Ephraim) and the Book of the Law could only be brought forth by one of the tribe of Judah. This was realized in that exact order.
James J. Strang taught the seventh day of the week is the Sabbath of the Lord as required by the Book of the Law. The prophet Isaiah had prophesied of this time, "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little." (Isa. 28:10) The Gentiles learning under the Apostles was based upon this same principle. They were first given the milk of the gospel (first principles). As it was a long tradition of the Gentiles to worship on Sunday, a dispensation was given which allowed the early latter day saints to worship on Sunday. Sunday was not the Sabbath; but, the Lord allowed that day to be kept by the Gentiles for a time. When James J. Strang translated the Book of the Law of the Lord from ancient plates taken from those given to Moses, that dispensation ended and the people were commanded to keep the seventh day of the week.
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God." (Book of the Law, p. 22) James J. Strang wrote in his notes, "1. The day of rest originated in the rest of God, when he ceased the work of creation, at the making of man, to have dominion over the earth.
"2. It was had in remembrance as an institution of God, before promulgated by his voice in Sinai; (Gen. ii, 2, 3. Ex. xvi, 23;) and there is no ground for believing that the sanctifying of the Sabbath, was not a law among the Patriarchs and the Antediluvians, because it is not mentioned in the scriptures; for from the time of Moses until that of Solomon, when it was unquestionably in force, it is nowhere mentioned.
"3. Throughout Christendom, with some slight exceptions, the first day, and not the seventh, is kept as a Sabbath. For this they have no warrant in the scriptures, and pretend to none. (Bucks Th. Dic. 'Sabbath.') The reason given for the change, is, that Christ raised from the dead the first day, and the attempt is to justify it by tradition, and the practice of the Church.
"4. But, evidently, the Church have no power to change or abrogate a commandment of God, who required us to keep the seventh day, not any other day in the seven.
"5. The early Christians did undoubtedly frequently meet on the first day for religious worship, precisely as the Saints do nowadays, in exclusively Christian communities; not because they regarded it as the Sabbath of God, but because on that day, being the regular day of heathen festivals, men would come together to hear them.
"6. Keeping the first day as a Sabbath, instead of the seventh, is one of the innovations forced upon Christianity by the Emperour Constantine, to make the change of national religion less difficult.
"7. The very language of this Commandment, seems to presage the propensity of man to change the Sabbath; remember the Sabbath day; and God, foreseeing what wicked men would do, has placed on his chosen a special injunction that they keep that day in all their generations for a perpetual covenant; (Ex. xxxi, 13-17;) and awful penalties are denounced against those who abolish it.
"8. The Sabbath is appointed for men in every station in life. The crime of exacting labour of children and servants on the Sabbath day, is a great offence unto God. But it is the Sabbath of the beast as well as of men, and to work beasts for our pleasure or profit, is an offence unto God." (Ibid., pp. 22, 23)
The law of God on keeping the Sabbath was given for a thousand generations. "9 Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations...11 Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them." (Deut. 7) James J. Strang was the only successor of Joseph Smith to abide in this law of God.
James J. Strang has been the only one to translate all ten commandments as they were given to Moses. In his note on the Decalogue, he wrote, "1. From time immemorial the Constitution of God's Kingdom has been entitled, 'The Decalogue,' or, the 'Ten Commandments.' There can be no greater evidence how poorly the oracles of God have been kept, than the fact that among Christian sects none know what these Commandments are." (Book of the Law, p. 38) In ignorance, the Christian world ignores the second greatest commandment given to man. The ten commandments no longer exist in the Old Testament. We have to turn to Jesus to solve the puzzle of the ten commandments. "34 But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. 35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matt. 22)
James J. Strang restored, by divine authority, the lost Book of the Law, as written out by the prophets for public use. The Decalogue arranges first the greatest commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy might, and with all thy strength." Upon this commandment rests: (2) "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain...he alone hath the right to rule; and in his name, only he to whom he granteth it;" and (3) "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."
The second greatest commandment given by Jesus is number four in the Decalogue. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Upon this commandment hang all the rest: (5) "Honour thy father and thy mother," (6) "Thou shalt not kill," (7) "Thou shalt not commit adultery," (8) "Thou shalt not steal," (9) "Thou shalt not bear false witness," and (10) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's inheritance."
It would take thousands of pages to outline all of the teachings of James J. Strang that are in agreement with God's holy prophets. There has been none other than James to offer the law and the testimony which bonded the two dispensations. Through this, and the offering of his own life, the testimony against the Gentiles will stand to their own destruction. If he was not a prophet of God, Joseph Smith was a false prophet and the Gentiles are still destitute of the priesthood and gospel of Christ.
James J. Strang also gave several new revelations, had an extensive missionary work, published hundreds of pages on Scripture, established the Dominion (kingdom of God on the earth) in 1850, and gave his own life to assassins bullets; even as Joseph Smith had before him. He sealed his testimony with his own blood.
In 1855, James J. Strang wrote, "As First President, I have regularly presided over the Church and took the direction of its affairs in all the world, according to the law of God.
"As prophet, I have foretold in the name of God, the ills that were coming on men, and directed all who received the word of the Lord how and where to come out from among the wicked, that they receive not of their plagues.
"I have obtained covenants and promises of God and at his hand obtained an everlasting inheritance for the Saints, which I have divided among them by lot, without cost or price. God is our God and we are his people forevermore.
"As a Seer, I have seen the visions of the Almighty, and as a Revelator have received knowledge of his purposes and commandments, and made them known among the children of men. As a translator, I have brought forth hidden treasures, and revealed the old record to all who love the truth, and seek unto it. The visions of the past and the hidden lore of future ages are laid by the side of present hopes and future knowledge.
"As an apostle I have borne a faithful testimony of the kingdom and the coming of the Lord Jesus. I have fought a good fight. I have kept the faith. I have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God. In the treasure-house of the Almighty there is laid up for me a crown of glory richer than all diadems of earthly kings.
"Of all that dwell on earth, God has made me the most happy. From men I fear no evil. May God bless you abundantly with the same blessings, and especially with the love of the truth. Truly and sincerely, JAMES J. STRANG."
[Note: Additional instruction on God's calling and ordination of His holy prophets is contained in The Diamond (by James J. Strang) and The Prophetic Controversy (by James J. Strang) found in the Library Section. Additional information on the calling and ordination of Mr. Strang as compared with young Joseph Smith is contained in the article, The Prophetic Office (by Edward T. Couch), found on the "Mormon Books" page].
The Church of Christ continued through James J. Strang from June 27, 1844, to July 9, 1856. Two apostate Strangites, under the protection of the U. S. Steamer Michigan, shot James on June 16, 1856. He was carried back to his parents house in Burlington, Wisconsin, where he died on July 9th. His murderers were returned to the mainland, held in jail about five minutes, and released. The blood of another martyred prophet stained the soil of a country professing religious freedom.
"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 Godís 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 Godís law. Some were chastised for their wickeness: cut off from the Church: and straghtway 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 bridgeleading to McCulluch Johnsonís 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. Prindlesí 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 immedately 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 & Counsellors, as could be obtained, confered together upon the course to be pursued. This murder took place on Monday evening about 6, oclock, 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 counsellors.
"The Surgeon pronouced the wounds mortal & said Mr. Strang could not survive them. About 10, oclock 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 & McClloch 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 McCullochs 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, & Johson, A. Wentworth, T. Bedford, Christopher Scott, Conrad Steinhelber (all apostates) and a number from Washington Island. Two or three that prophessed 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 Louiseville, 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 Buckey 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 Soloman. 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 Godís 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. 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 intruct 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 towait upon the Lord, and trust in his Mercies: for his mercy endureth forever." (Record of the Apostles of James, pp. 37-46)
The Church of Christ was lost again; and God no longer spoke to the Gentiles. The saints were driven off the island and their property stolen. A remnant of the Apostles and saints gathered in Wisconsin. The kingdom of God remained among the remaining members of the Melchisedec Priesthood.
There have been a few that have tried to hold the people together in spirit, preach the gospel of Christ, and maintain the kingdom until Jesus returns.L. D. Hickey, the last of the Apostles, ordained Wingfield Watson, who ordained Samuel Martin, who ordained Lloyd Flanders, who ordained me on July 8, 1956.
Wingfield Watson in a letter to Milo M. Quaife on April 14, 1919, wrote:
"As to how, and to what extent Mr. Strang's organization has been kept up, since his death, we can only say that we have all been put to our wits end to know what to do, and we have gone through a great and sore trial: and it gives us little else than pain, and sorrow to undertake a relation or rehearsal of what we have gone through. In fact Mr. Strang was killed and his people scattered, it would seem that all hell was let loose against us. Many of the papers seem to gloat over the fact that "Strang was killed, and that there was none left of any talent to take his place." And in every side of our ears we could hear the words: "Where is your kingdom now?" "Where is your prophet now?" "Didn't I tell you how it would be?" etc., etc. Oh we had lots of Job's comforters on every side, and not a soul to say a comforting or consoling word; and the Utah Mormons, and the Reorganized Mormons, who were then hatching up the Reorganized Church, all looked upon our case as evidence that they had been right, and that they had been led aright all the while, and that we had been led wrong and deceived by Mr. Strang; but we were unable to see how that which was false in 1844, could be true in 1856, for Mr. Strang soon after Joseph Smith was killed in 1844 had well demonstrated and proven his right to lead the church of the Latterday Saints, and no one in Brigham Young's ranks, or among the founders of the Reorganized Church ever called him to account according the laws of the Church, nor did any one of them when invited, "to bring forth their strong reasons" against his claims, ever respond to that invitation; and knowing these things and that their claims to the right to lead the Church were absolutely false, we saw no consolation, in either Utah or in the Reorganized Church for us.
"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 I can write but a little of all these things. 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. And when a boat load of us were left on the wharf at Chicago, we knew not what to do. But the man who owned the wharf came and took a look at us and after giving the mob his blessing? in no very polite language, shoved the big warehouse doors apart and said: "here ladies and gentlemen, come in here out of the heat and rest yourselves till you can find places to go to." And little as this kind act was to him, to us it was duly appreciated and kindly remembered. Where the rule is ill treatment, one little kind act is very sensibly felt, and valued. However it wasn't many days before all were scattered, and many were lost to each other, and their descendants of the first, second and, third and fourth generation are scattered in many of the States, especially the Western States.
"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 use, was to let every man take care of himself and his family, and do the best he can untill he is informed further what he shall do."
In 1961, Vernon Swift called a general conference for the purpose of reorganizing his church into a corporation. According to corporate law, Vernon became the President of this new church. Never had the Church of Christ been married to a government of man.
It is likely that many did not understand the principles of corporate law. But, with Vernon (who had been recognized to preside over the remnant of the Strangites) at the helm, both the Certificate of Incorporation and the corporate by-laws, which they called their Constitution, were overwhelmingly approved.
When an organization incorporates, they change their identity. They become a "fictitious" entity that exists only in the mind of the law of man. The old identity is lost. If ABC Company, decided to incorporate, it would become ABC Company, Incorporated. This new entity would be divorced from its original identity. Whoever owned the company would become stockholders, separate from their personal identity. Many organizations incorporate; because of its limited liability. Since the original owners are separate by law, should someone sue the company, they could not sue the personal assets of the owners (except in cases of fraud, etc.). Any other group could now form a new unincorporated ABC Company.
This "fictitious" identity is especially serious when applied to the Church of Christ. The church is the bride of Christ. Its love and sole duty is toward God. A person must get a divorce to marry another. Vernon, in effect, divorced Jesus, and married the government of the United States. The first love of this people is now the government. It is a most unusual marriage of church and state. No church that incorporates can make any claim to being the Church (bride) of Christ.
They went even further. First, they adopted the corporate by-laws to govern their new church; calling it The Constitution. Only God has authority to make laws for His church. James J. Strang wrote, "From time immemorial the Constitution of God's Kingdom has been entitled 'The Decalogue,' or, the 'Ten Commandments.' "
James noted, "The very idea that a constitution the work of a deliberative assembly of several score members, produced through months of labor, in which it was brought together piece by piece, changed, altered, patched and amended till it was brought into working shape... was given by inspiration of God is too ridiculous to be talked of." (Northern Islander, Thursday, July 5, 1855.)
"But as they have departed from his gospel, introduced the ordinances of men and neglected to teach the things that God commanded them, they have lost the authority, blessings and power of the priesthood, their candlestick is removed out of its place, and Christ has ceased to be with them." (Times and Seasons, Vol. 4, p. 9)
"They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men." (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 28:14)
Joseph had prophesied the people would turn from God; and establish man-made laws . "29 But they receive it not [spirit of revelation]; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men. 30 And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." (Doctrine and Covenants, 45) The times of the Gentiles were fulfilled in 1967; when Jerusalem was no longer trodden down of the Gentiles.
Second, they organized a new order of the priesthood, called a Council of High Priests, to rule over the new church. Joseph Smith taught, "The duty of a High Priest is to administer in spiritual and holy things, and to hold communion with God; but not to exercise monarchial government." (History of the Church, Vo. 1, p. 338) Although High Priests have been lesser kings (e.g. David), they have never stood at the head of the church. The twelve Apostles do not even have that level of authority.
The priesthood of God never changes. The same officers that governed the church in the days of the Apostolic Church, the church under Joseph Smith, and under James J. Strang could not be changed. When man institutes his own priesthood, he sacrifices the authority from God. The moment Constantine sat as the absolute ruler of the Catholic church, every person that accepted his civil authority divorced themselves from divine authority.
Lloyd Flanders presided over the Strangites before Vernon Swift. He wrote Vernon on Feb. 12, 1967, "...for as noted in my letter to you before: if we make the Ruling Council anything else but a Temporary High Council: we have set a man-made head on the Church: and are no better than other L.D.S. Bodies."
On Nov. 25, 1969, he wrote Vernon, "I reget ever having had the slightest thing to do with the charter for the Church: I regard it is a serious mistake ON MY PART: and I have repented of it and asked God's forgiveness."
They have been termed the Swiftites. With Vernon Swift as President of their corporate church, the name is most likely appropriate.
Prophesy has foretold that a very small remnant of the Gentile dispensation would remain to be gathered shortly before Jesus returns.
"8 And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. 9 Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah." (Isa. 1)
"Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the LORD shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies." (Micah 4:10)
"And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem." (Isa. 4:3)
The door to the kingdom of heaven and eternal life remains open to those who are earnestly seeking truth. With the Melchisedec Priesthood still among a remnant of the Strangites, the hope of eternal life is alive.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." (Rom. 1:16)
The strongest warning must also be given. The opportunities of today will soon become the destruction of tomorrow. The times of the Gentiles was fulfilled in 1967, marking the beginning of the last 40 year generation before the return of Jesus. "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled." (Luke 21:32) Before His return there is to be a desolation the human mind cannot comprehend.
"21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." (Matt. 24)
Now What? You are no longer ignorant of the great apostasy of the Christian church. You are no longer ignorant of living and true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You are no longer ignorant of the gospel of Christ. You are no longer ignorant of the priesthood; which has authority to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel.
You are not ignorant of the terrible desolation's coming upon this earth in the near future. It will come swift and without warning. "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." (Matt. 24:27) "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." (1 Thess. 5:2)
"14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; 16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: 17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" (Rev. 6)
When the dispensation is soon opened to the House of Israel, a gathering place will be established for the safety and refuge of the people. "And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call." (Joel 2:32)
You have been given an opportunity to know God and to obey the gospel of Christ, to abide in faith, obey the law of God, and prepare for that great and dreadful day of judgment. Now What? The choice is yours, "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)
We are only a few. According to Scripture, Malachi was the last prophet, some four hundred years before Christ. There was only John (the Baptist) remaining when Christ opened the dispensation to the Jews. The Melchisedec Priesthood still remains on the earth. I cry to you, even as one crying in the wilderness (of the people), to worship God and obey the gospel of Christ. Today will soon turn into the reprobation of tomorrow. The door will be closed and eternal judgment will fall upon the world when the dreadful day of the Lord comes like lightning out of the East.
Come with me.
As long as there is one righteous man on the earth that holds the Melchisedec Priesthood, authorized by God to administer the ordinances of the gospel (baptism of water and of the Spirit, and the Eucharist), the kingdom of God remains on the earth. The door to the kingdom and eternal life remains open.