Joseph smith's introduction of temple ordinances and the 1844 mormon succession question


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A Thesis Presented to the

Department of History

Brigham Young University

Table of Contents

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements

for the Degree Master of Arts

c Andrew F. Ehat 1981


Andrew F. Ehat

December 1982



Andrew F. Ehat

Department of History

M.A. Degree, December 1982


The murder of Joseph Smith in June 1844 created a complex succession problem for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The immediate question, however, was whether the Quorum of Twelve Apostles should lead the Church or whether Sidney Rigdon, counselor in the First Presidency, should alone lead. On 8 August 1844 the Church in Nauvoo unanimously chose to follow Brigham Young and the Twelve. They were sustained in large part because they constituted the priesthood quorum Joseph Smith designated to be the stewards of his temple revelations, should anything happen to him. The revelations included the higher priesthood ordinances of the temple: the endowment, eternal marriage, plural marriage and the fullness of the priesthood. The apostles, however, did not feel that the unique position qualifying them for immediate leadership allowed them to disregard Joseph Smith's intention that his eleven-year-old son, Joseph Smith III, should eventually be successor. Nevertheless, the interim leadership of the apostles became permanent when Joseph Smith III rejected the efficacy of the temple revelations received by his father.

This thesis, by Andrew F. Ehat, is accepted in its present form by the Department of History of Brigham Young University as satisfying the thesis requirement for the degree of Master of Arts.

James B. Allen, Committee Chairman

D. Michael Quinn, Committee Member

Date James B. Allen, Department Chairman


In the process of this study of the Temple and Succession, numerous additional insights to the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of-Latter-day Saints came from various records. Besides the role temple ordinances played in clarifying the succession from Joseph Smith to the Twelve Apostles in 1844, this work presents for the first time comprehensive data on individuals and on the nature of the meetings in which temple ordinances were performed during the lifetime of the Prophet. There is herein presented a considerable refinement of the chronological framework regarding the introduction of the temple ordinances of endowment, eternal marriage, plural marriage, and the fullness of the priesthood -- a framework crucial to new interpretations of the history of the Church in Nauvoo and beyond. The following is a summary of the data and new interpretations of this study.

The historical and doctrinal context of Joseph Smith's introduction of sacred temple ordinances is explored, as appropriate, in detail as never before done.
Joseph Smith's public teachings on the meaning of temple ordinances are analyzed afresh based on contemporary source materials.
Important new source materials (including the diaries of William Clayton and William Law) are here first discussed together in their temple ordinance-related context.
A deeper analysis of the original sources of the History of the Church regarding temple ordinance meetings in Nauvoo is presented. In particular, decipherment and interpretation of shorthand in the Joseph Smith diary reveals for the first time the dates of the eternal marriage sealings of Joseph and Emma Smith, Hyrum, and Mary Fielding Smith, Brigham and Mary [iv] Ann Young, and Willard and Jeanetta Richards -- sealings that took place a year before the Martyrdom.
The previously, undiscussed difficulty that Hyrum Smith had with plural marriage and this difficulty's effect on the introduction of temple ordinances is made clear. The episode particularly gives fresh insight into Joseph Smith's religious convictions regarding this practice.
It also provides insight into the apostasies of John C. Bennett and William Law and reveals the nature of alleged denials of plural marriage in 1842 and 1844.
Anomalies in the ecclesiastical interrelationships among the First Presidency and among the Twelve Apostles are represented by who did and who did not receive certain temple ordinances. In particular, the reasons for the intentional exclusion of Sidney Rigdon and his replacement in the First Presidency by Amasa Lyman is addressed.
The temple-related context and meanings within the newly discovered Joseph Smith III designation document is discussed in depth for the first time.

New insight into the operations of the Council of Fifty provides important understanding of the activities of Joseph Smith shortly before his death.

A date for Joseph Smith's "Last Charge" is here given and is placed in its historical context.
The Sidney Rigdon excommunication trial is analyzed because of its pervasive discussion of the temple and succession. In particular, this discussion makes clear Sidney Rigdon's illegitimate attempt to institute his own version of the Council of Fifty and of the temple ordinances.
Within the perspective of temple ordinances, the relationship of the Twelve Apostles and Joseph Smith's wife and children is discussed.

I owe deep gratitude to so many people in the production of this work that simply to list them all would require many pages. The following are preeminent:

Truman G. Madsen has never been just an employer. On that day in 1971 when he employed me as his research assistant, he changed my life and unknowingly became my mentor. His desire as director of the [v] Brigham Young University Institute of Mormon Studies to see that a collection of the primary source materials of Joseph Smith's sermons led directly to the book, The Words of Joseph Smith. In the process of compiling and editing that book, I analyzed the temple related diary entries of early Church leaders, entries fundamental to this thesis. Because of Dr. Madsen's intense interest in Joseph Smith and his unabashed love and honor of the temple he greatly aided me in appreciation of these and many other source materials which now, eleven years later, shape this thesis. His loyal and always too generous praise made this work possible.

Cited in the footnotes are many people who have supplied invaluable source materials and ideas. They deserve recognition here also. I remember with particular pleasure Dean C. Jessee, Lyndon W. Cook, Ronald K. Esplin, Richard L. Anderson, Mark William Hofmann, Steve Pratt, Gertrude Richards, and LaJean Purcell. Dr. Esplin deserves special recognition because very early in my research he became a kind friend who was always encouraging, truly feeling this study important. His significant article "Joseph, Brigham and the Twelve: a Succession of Continuity" appeared in Brigham Young University Studies and is reflective of his insight.

Materials used in this study were gleaned principally from the Church Archives, the Historical Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. Other institutions included Special Collections, Archives and Manuscripts, and the Microfilm Reading Room -- all in the Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; Manuscripts Division, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of [vi] Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah; Library-Archives, History Commission, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, The Auditorium, Independence, Missouri; The Widener Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the Boston Public Library, Boston, Massachusetts. I am extremely thankful to the kind, professional staffs of these libraries, who were patient with my requests and unfailing in their service.

In early stages of this work many were kind enough to read and make suggestions which were incorporated in this study. I remember especially Grant Underwood, Steve Gilliland, Richard L. Anderson, Truman G. Madsen, Dean C. Jessee, Lyndon W. Cook, and Ronald K. Esplin. Linda Hunter Adams, editorial assistant with Brigham Young University Studies, because I was away from Utah when the final draft of this manuscript was typed, spent much time making sure that my committee received a manuscript intact. As is her nature, she voluntarily applied her gifts and improved the readability of this paper.

I appreciate the painstaking efforts and patience of Karin Orr, who typed the manuscript through each of its drafts. I am also grateful for the assistance of Leigh Price, who aided in the typing of the first draft.

I wish now to give special acknowledgment to my committee. To Dr. James B. Allen, chairman of the Department of History and chairman of my committee, and to Dr. D. Michael Quinn, I owe unbounded gratitude for their patience and skill. They have given great encouragement, shared important source materials, and provided insight that has been invaluable. Their advice and guidance will always be appreciated. I am [vii] also grateful to Dr. Larry C. Porter and Dr. Blair Holmes, who as outside readers made suggestions and criticisms which greatly improved this study.

To these and others I will always be grateful. I also acknowledge here that no blame can reasonably be imputed on them for misjudgments in use of resource materials or errors that have remained.

For my dear wife, Lori, I hope this work justifies her unfailing trust that my research was important. Regardless of how intense the research and writing became, she has never been far from my thoughts and has nobly endured the sacrifices required. I dedicate this work to her. I also express affectionate gratitude to my children because they, too, have wonderfully persevered.

Finally, I am grateful to Joseph Smith, Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young, Willard Richards, William Clayton, Heber C. Kimball, and many others, who took the few moments each day to create the journals without which this history could not have existed. May this work do honor to their spiritual legacy.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................... 4

LIST OF TABLES..................................................... 8
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.............................................. 8
I. INTRODUCTION.................................................... 1
II. THE MAY 1842 ORGANIZATION OF THE QUORUM........................ 24
III. QUANDARY IN THE QUORUM........................................ 46
IV. "EVEN THE FULLNESS OF THE PRIESTHOOD".......................... 76
V. AN OVERVIEW OF QUORUM MEETINGS.................................. 97

VI. A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS...........................................118

VIII. THE ROAD TO CARTHAGE.........................................172

SUCCESSION IN THE PRESIDENCY......................188

IX. THE SUCCESSION OF THE TWELVE...................................189
X. THE SPOKESMAN SILENCED..........................................212

SOURCES CITED......................................................296


1. An Overview of All Known Quorum of Anointed Meetings

Held During the Lifetime of Joseph Smith..................... 98

2. A Summary of Data on the Individuals Who Received The Endowment

Before Ordinance Work Began in the Nauvoo Temple.............102

3. The Two Newel K. Whitney Lists of Members of the

Anointed Quorum..............................................107

4. The Kirtland Temple Endowment Compared With

the Nauvoo Period Temple Ordinances..........................169



1. A Venn Diagram Describing What Relationships Existed at the Death of the Prophet Joseph Smith Between the General Authorities, Those Who Received the Endowment, Those Who Received the Fullness of the Priesthood Ordinances, The Council of Fifty, and Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints..................193



In the late afternoon of a sultry day in June 1844, a mob of over one hundred disguised men stormed a jail in obscure Carthage village in frontier Illinois and murdered Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum. Two others were in the room at the time. One was wounded quite severely and the other escaped unharmed. This was not an uncommon event. During other restless, hot summers of the antebellum period of American history many others suffered fates similar to these two men. Often before, other vigilantes had rallied volunteers to their cruel causes as these 1844 rioters did, saying, "The law will not reach them, but powder and ball will!"(1) Civilized communities condoned such conduct then. If existing systems of justice could not control the heavy-handed activities of a minority, in the name of "law and order," violence would do what ineffectual laws could not do: enforce the will of the majority.(2)

However, Joseph Smith was not destined to be another faceless name stricken from history by mob violence of Jacksonian America. This was the Joseph Smith -- Joseph the Prophet of Mormonism. Since 1830 he had been the charismatic leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. During his fourteen years of leadership, he and the Church of Christ often faced stormy times. In less than nine years, Church headquarters moved from New York to Ohio, from Ohio to Missouri and [2] finally from Missouri to Illinois. Each time, the church sought a new place for refuge from the storm of persecution. To be sure, Mormon beliefs, attitudes, and practices often provoked outsiders. Joseph Smith, as the visible center of activity, was often the target of counterattacks. Personally accused over forty times, he faced charges for alleged crimes of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, treason, fraud, and adultery. Yet he was always released.(3)

From the Church's beginnings he was acknowledged as the prophet of the last gospel dispensation -- "the dispensation of the fullness of times."(4) He was to his followers the Lord's "Prophet, Seer and Revelator."(5) As such he revealed the mind and will of God in the administration of God's earthly Kingdom. Through inspiration, he translated such ancient records as the Book of Mormon. He had his dictated revelations compiled for publication; first, as the Book of Commandments (1833), and, later, as the Book of Doctrine and Covenants (1835). He also "translated" the Bible -- revealing and restoring missing texts and contexts for that ancient scripture. Though this latter work was never published during his life, several times he was on the verge of publishing it.(6) By an appointment he believed he received from God, he was seen as the foremost representative of Christ to the Church.

During the Church's Illinois period, Joseph emerged more than ever before as the focal point of the restoration movement. While his spiritual stature enlarged, his people also welcomed increased political and social direction from him. When Nauvoo city was formed, he was commissioned lieutenant general of the Nauvoo Legion -- a state outfitted militia -- and was appointed a member of the board of regents of Nauvoo University. But three years after he founded this Mississippi river [3] town, he became its mayor.(7) His influence and importance to the Church and community grew during the Nauvoo period. He was Nauvoo's preeminent religious, political, social, commercial and civic leader.(8) While such prominence was welcomed by the majority of the Saints, anti-Mormon's believed that if Joseph Smith were killed, Mormonism would fall. Assured of his own divine calling, as late as January 1843 he disagreed: "I understand my mission and business. God Almighty is my shield and what can man do if God is my friend? I shall not be sacrificed until my time comes; then I shall be offered freely."(9)

He lived fully convinced of the magnificence of his calling. To him, martyrdom could not be the final act of his prophetic calling, for with such comments he had assured his followers that the blood of the martyrs would become the seed of the Church.

Joseph Smith, however, had not engaged in mere dramatic, overpessimistic rhetoric. The most important scenes of the Restoration movement -- scenes he announced early in the Nauvoo experience -- still had to be enacted. With a sure sense of destiny, he had been actively engaged in these developments until a few months before his death.

Joseph Smith's road to his personal Gethsemane began in the summer of 1843. Perhaps it was not so much the influence he had had on Nauvoo as it was his apparent power in county and state politics that irked non-Mormons of Hancock County. Tensions began to build between Mormons and non-Mormons as a result of the August 1843 county and state elections.(10) A slate of Mormon candidates handily won county positions. For example, James Adams, twenty-two-year resident of Springfield and president of the branch of the Church there, shortly before the elections decided to move to Nauvoo to become a candidate for [4] the probate judgeship of Hancock County. Adams, the first lawyer in Sangamon County history, had been elected that county's probate judge continuously for eighteen years. His move to Nauvoo seemed quite unexpected, but with the help of the Mormon vote he won the election. Although Adams died only a few days later, and never served in office, still many non-Mormons of the county were furious a carpetbagger could come in and win. Naturally, Joseph bore the brunt of the criticism for such apparent maneuvering.(11)

If the results of county elections were disheartening to nonMormons, Mormon influence on a state election was more damning. The results of the 1843 U.S. Congressional campaign showed that the Mormons, who seemed at the last minute to switch their vote from the Whig candidate, Cyrus Walker, to the Democratic candidate, Joseph P. Hoge, made the difference as to which man went to Congress. To many in the county and the state, Joseph Smith, by his religious influence, singlehandedly affected the outcome of this controversial Congressional campaign. Joseph Smith's apparent mixing of politics and religion was too much for many of the non-Mormon populace to tolerate.(12)

When Joseph announced the following winter that he was going to seek the presidency of the United States, it signaled to anti-Mormons that he and his zealots were mad with power; they believed that the Mormons, so enamored with their own political influence, gloated in their ability to manipulate either party. In the heat of the campaign, when so many of the leaders of the Church were stumping for Joseph's candidacy, an opposition party decided to expose what they saw as the religious, economic and political authoritarianism of the Mormon prophet. Consisting of a few influential recent dissenters from the [5] Church, the opposition party bought a printing press and in early June struck off the first issue of the Nauvoo Expositor. Three days later, after lengthy city council deliberations, Mayor Joseph Smith ordered the destruction of the press. The county was soon aroused. Thomas Sharp, editor of the rabidly anti-Mormon Warsaw Signal, worked up the feelings of the opposition.

"We have only to state that this is sufficient! War and extermination is inevitable! CITIZENS ARISE, ONE AND ALL!!! Can you stand by, and suffer such INFERNAL DEVILS! to ROB men of their property rights, without avenging them. We have no time for comments! everyman will make his own. LET IT BE WITH POWDER AND BALL!"(13)
The Expositor affair convinced many in Hancock County that Joseph was an unconscienced demagogue who would defy all law. He had violated the sanctity of the press -- one of America's most sacred institutions -- and if the law could not remedy such insolence then the vigilante vengeance that Sharp called for would execute the will of the majority. Only two weeks after Sharp's call to arms, Joseph Smith was dead at the hands of a mob led by men of "property and standing." The community apparently assented to this form of justice. It was the only way to quell the menace of the Mormons and their Mohammad.(14)

It was not until early the following morning that Nauvoo, only 14 miles away, heard the awful news. Grief and mourning and disbelief reigned. Paralyzed Mormon men, women and children awaited final proof. Finally, in mid-afternoon the bodies arrived. The following day, 29 June 1844, approximately 10,000 persons formed a steady stream past the remains of the Prophet and the Patriarch lying in state. For the first time the Church was left leaderless at its highest echelon.(15)

[6] The Question of Succession

What would become of the Church? Would it rebound from the shock of the murders? Would Mormonism's lesser lights handle the transition of leadership smoothly and without significant social trauma?

In an important study of these 1844 Mormon succession questions, a study which was not merely a summary of previous views and evidence but also a significant publication of previously unused source materials, D. Michael Quinn posed several theoretical methods of succession that either were outlined explicitly by or could be inferred from the teachings and revelations Joseph Smith presented during his fourteen years of Church leadership.(16) Quinn presented eight possible methods of succession: (1) by a counselor in the First Presidency, (2) by a special appointment, (3) through the office of Associate President, (4) by the Presiding Patriarch, (5) by the Council of Fifty, (6) by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, (7) by four priesthood councils,(17) and, (8) by a descendant of Joseph Smith, Jr.(18) Ostensibly, all but three of these options were open for consideration in the quest for an immediate successor. Method three and four were specifically ruled out because Hyrum Smith, who was both Associate President and Presiding Patriarch, was also killed at Carthage and could not, therefore, succeed to the Presidency. Because none of Joseph Smith's sons were old enough to have assumed the Presidency at the time of their father's death, method number eight was unfeasible as an immediate option. The other five possibilities were equally viable alternatives.

However, in April and May before his death, U.S. presidential candidate Joseph Smith sent out hundreds on missions to electioneer for [7] his political and spiritual platform. Consequently, nearly all the principal persons who would play a role in the succession options were away from Nauvoo at the time of his death. Of the surviving First Presidency, both Sidney Rigdon and Amasa Lyman were away in the East. So too were the majority of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, George A. Smith, William Smith, John E. Page and Lyman Wight. Apostles John Taylor and Willard Richards were exceptions: they were with Joseph and Hyrum when Carthage Jail was stormed by the mob. Because one of the projects of the Council of Fifty was the presidential campaign of the Prophet, they, too, were scattered throughout the country campaigning for his election. However, William Marks, president of the Nauvoo Stake High Council and a member of the Council of Fifty, was in town.(19)

Owing to the 1981 discovery of the text of a blessing revelation, we now know that on 17 January 1844, six months before his death, Joseph Smith identified his son, Joseph Smith III, as his eventual successor.(20) This discovery has naturally renewed the historical relevance of the 1844 Mormon succession question. Because Joseph III was only eleven years old at the time of his father's death, an interim leadership was essential.(21) In fact, in the period immediately after the death of Joseph Smith, the question of succession was whether the Quorum of the Twelve (the second leading governing body of the Church) should succeed a disorganized First Presidency (the leading quorum of the Church), or if Sidney Rigdon (a surviving member of that Presidency) should alone superintend the Quorum of the Twelve, [8] and, consequently, the whole Church. Most Mormons chose to follow Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Quinn's study showed, however, that the 1844 Mormon succession problem in Nauvoo was potentially more involved than it turned out to be. Now it is necessary to ask: Did both the apostles and Sidney Rigdon disregard the many teachings of Joseph Smith on succession -- in particular, Joseph Smith's designation of his sort as successor? For 120 years, this question has been of paramount importance to the two main bodies of the Restoration movement: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which traces its authority back to Joseph Smith in a succession of apostles, and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which claims its succession through lineal descendants of Joseph Smith. If Joseph Smith was serious then he often maintained that he might soon die, did he do anything to identify which of the other myriad methods (of options 1, 2, 5, 6, or 7) available in 1844 would be the transition option until Joseph Smith III came of age? When he blessed his son, was Joseph Smith in the midst of chartering a previously unrevealed course for the Church and Kingdom of God which established the direction that interim leadership would follow and solidified the instructions and authority that that leadership would eventually have to give to Joseph Smith III before he could, in harmony with his father's implicit wishes, assume the role of successor? Finally, because the Twelve Apostles succeeded in gathering the largest part of the movement, how did they reconcile their claim to the Presidency with the expectations of Joseph Smith regarding his son?

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