“President Brigham Young Leads the Saints”

Lesson 33 – D&C 107:22-24; Our Heritage pgs. 66-71


When the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, many expected the Church to disintegrate and scatter because they thought that the Church was simply a group of Joseph Smith’s followers. They failed to understand important principles pertaining to the leadership of the Church. President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “No man of himself can lead this church. It is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ; he is at the head… He chooses men and calls them to be instruments in his hands to accomplish his purposes, and he guides and directs them in their labors. But men are only instruments in the Lord’s hands, and the honor and glory for all that his servants accomplish is and should be ascribed unto him forever. If this were the work of man, it would fail, but it is the work of the Lord, and he does not fail” (Improvement Era, June 1970, 26)

Following the martyrdom of Joseph, Brigham Young became the leader of the Church in an inspired process of succession in the Presidency that continues today. As one president passes away, the senior apostle becomes the leader of the Church and exercises the proper keys.


The Prophet Joseph Smith gave the Twelve the keys of the kingdom and taught the principles of succession in the Presidency

In Nauvoo from 1843-44, the Prophet Joseph Smith gave the members of the Quorum of the Twelve their temple endowments and taught them the responsibilities of their callings. He expressed concern that he did not want to die without having bestowed the keys of the kingdom on other brethren. Wilford Woodruff quoted the Prophet as saying: “Now, brethren, I thank God that I have lived to see the day that I have been enabled to give to you your endowments, and I have now sealed upon your heads all the powers of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods and Apostleship, with all the keys and powers thereof, which God has sealed upon me; and I now roll off all the labor, burden and care of this Church and Kingdom of God upon your shoulders, and I now command you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to round up your shoulders, and bear off this Church and Kingdom of God before heaven and earth, and before God, angels, and men” (Messages of the First Presidency, [1965-75], 3:134).


D&C 107:22-24 contains an important principle of succession in the Presidency. While the authority and power of the quorum of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve is equal, the quorum of the First Presidency is designated as the presiding quorum. It is important to understand this relationship between the Quorums. President Harold B. Lee said: “The Prophet Joseph Smith declared that ‘where the president is not, there is no First Presidency.’ Immediately following the death of a President, the next ranking body, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, becomes the presiding authority, with the President of the Twelve automatically becoming the acting President of the Church until a President of the Church is officially ordained and sustained in his office” (Improvement Era, June 1970, 28).


After Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, the Twelve presided over the Church until Brigham Young was sustained as President

Upon the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the First Presidency was dissolved, and the Quorum of the Twelve became the presiding body. See “Succession in the Presidency”, pages 66-67, Our Heritage.


Sidney Rigdon failed to understand Church leadership. While Bro. Rigdon wanted to assume leadership, Bro. Young was only interested in knowing the will of the Lord on the matter. This should be an example for us to note and follow. We should always be willing to seek and follow the Lord’s guidance rather than seeking to promote and gain acceptance of our opinions. Following an afternoon discussion session on Church leadership, Brigham Young prophesied that only the Apostles would be successful in building the Kingdom of God, but those who did not follow the Twelve Apostles would fail. This has proven true through the years. As the meeting concluded, the Saints unanimously voted to sustain the Quorum of the Twelve as the leaders of the Church. The Quorum presided until the 27th of December in 1847, some three and one-half years later, when the quorum of the First Presidency was formed under President Young.


Before leaving Nauvoo, the Saints received temple ordinances

In1845-46 as the Saints prepared to depart from Nauvoo, they kept their commitment to finish the temple. Once the House of the Lord was ready, the Saints anxiously assembled to receive their endowments in the temple. Of this occasion, President Young wrote in his journal: “This morning there was an immense crowd at the reception room waiting for admission… One hundred twenty-one persons received ordinances” (History of the Church, 7:565). “Such has been the anxiety manifested by the saints to receive the ordinances [of the Temple], and such the anxiety on our part to administer to them, that I have given myself up entirely to the work of the Lord in the Temple night and day, not taking more than four hours of sleep, upon an average, per day, and going home but once a week. Elder Heber C. Kimball and the others of the Twelve Apostles were in constant attendance but in consequence of close application some of them have had to leave the Temple to rest and recruit their health. (History of the Church, 7:567).


The ordinances of the temple were planned to end in February 1846 so that the Saints could leave Nauvoo because the persecution had escalated, but those who had not yet received the temple ordinances were not willing to depart. President Young wrote: “Notwithstanding that I had announced that we would not attend to the administration of the ordinances, the House of the Lord was thronged all day, the anxiety being so great to receive, as if the brethren would have us stay here and continue the endowments until our way would be hedged up, and our enemies would intercept us. But I informed the brethren that this was not wise, and that we should build more Temples, and have further opportunities to receive the blessings of the Lord, as soon as the saints were prepared to receive them. In this Temple we have been abundantly rewarded, if we receive no more. I also informed the brethren that I was going to get my wagons started and be off. I walked some distance from the Temple supposing that the crowd would disperse, but on returning I found the house filled to overflowing. Looking upon the multitude and knowing their anxiety, as they were thirsting and hungering for the word, we continued to work diligently in the House of the Lord. Two hundred and ninety-five persons received ordinances” (History of the Church, 7:579). It was important that the Saints receive the ordinances so that they would have the necessary knowledge and strength to face the trials of their journey west. Temple work continued for the remainder of the week, but then the temple was finally closed. Nearly 6000 Saints had received their endowments before they began the westward trek.


The Saints experienced trials and miracles as they began journeying west

Some of the Saints left Nauvoo on 4 February 1846. See Our Heritage, pgs. 69-70 “Preparing to Leave Nauvoo” and “The Trials of a Winter Trek”.

Because they were leaving in the winter and their preparations had been rushed, they were in for a difficult journey. One memorable event occurred at Sugar Creek, about seven miles from Nauvoo, across the Mississippi River in Iowa. During the very first night of encampment at Sugar Creek, nine infants were born. The available shelter was inadequate against the extreme cold of the Iowa winter night. Eliza R. Snow wrote: “Mothers gave birth to offspring under almost every variety of circumstances imaginable, except those to which they had been accustomed; some in tents, others in wagons—in rainstorms and in snowstorms. I heard of one birth which occurred under the rude shelter of a hut, the sides of which were formed of blankets fastened to poles stuck in the ground, with a bark roof through which the rain was dripping. Kind sisters stood holding dishes to catch the water as it fell, thus protecting the new-comer and its mother from a shower-bath,… Let it be remembered that the mothers of these wilderness-born babes were not…accustomed to roam the forest and brave the storm and tempest… Most of them were born and educated in the Eastern States—had there embraced the gospel as taught by Jesus and his apostles, and, for the sake of their religion, had gathered with the saints, and under trying circumstances had assisted, by their faith, patience and energies, in making Nauvoo what its name indicates, ‘the beautiful’. There they had lovely homes, decorated with flowers and enriched with choice fruit trees, just beginning to yield plentifully. To these homes… they had just bade a final adieu, and with what little of their substance could be packed into one, two, and in some instances, three wagons, had started out, desertward” (The Women of Mormondom [1877], 307-8).


In September 1846, the majority of Saints had abandoned their beautiful city and settled in temporary locations all across Iowa as they prepared for another winter. With a fierce determination to rid Nauvoo of all remaining Mormons, mobs looted and burned houses and drove the remaining residents down to the river. Some escaped the mobs with only the clothes on their backs and no supplies. The really unfortunate were those who were caught and beaten, or thrown into the Mississippi by the mobs.


Along the riverbank, refugee camps of 500-600 homeless men, women, and children were established. Blankets or simply brush served as shelter and there was precious little for many to eat. Some died and many were too ill for traveling. Bishop Newel K. Whitney distributed some flour that he had purchased, but it was insufficient to sustain the assembled saints. But the Lord provided for them in a miraculous way:

·        On 9 October, when food was in especially short supply, several large flocks of quail flew into camp and landed on the ground and even on tables. Many of them were caught, cooked, and eaten by the hungry Saints. To the faithful, it was a sign of God’s mercy to modern Israel as a similar incident had been to ancient Israel. (Comprehensive History of the Church, 3:135-36.)



The adversary’s opposition to temple work was evident because great opposition was experienced as the temple construction progressed. In discussing that opposition to temple building, Elder Boyd k. Packer said: “The opposition was leveled at the Saints because the adversary was afraid of the temple. He would do anything to prevent their construction of it” (The Holy Temple [1980], 175).


Lessons may be found on the Internet at http://www.neumanninstitute.org



Additional Information on Succession in the Presidency of the Church


The steps in the succession of a new Presidency include the following:


·       A man who has been foreordained to preside one day over the Church is called by revelation to become an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.

·       His association with the members of the Twelve and the First Presidency, and the assignments he receives and fulfills, provide the necessary training for his future calling. As he outlives other members of the Quorum, he advances in seniority until he becomes the President of the Quorum of the Twelve. At that point, only the President of the Church has served as an Apostle longer than he has.

·       When the President of the Church dies:

o      The First Presidency is dissolved

o      Counselors in the First Presidency return to their places in the Quorum of the Twelve (if they were members of the quorum)

o      The Quorum of the Twelve becomes the presiding quorum in the Church

o      The President of the Twelve becomes the presiding authority in the Church

·       Members of the Twelve assemble in the temple while fasting and praying. Guided by revelation, they come to a unanimous decision regarding the reorganization of the First Presidency. They then sustain the senior member of the Twelve as the President of the Church. They then lay hands upon his head and ordain him and set him apart as President of the Church.

·       The new President of the Church chooses two men to serve with him as his counselors. In most cases, these are members of the Twelve.

·       Vacancies in the Twelve are filled.