Succession of the
For many years I have studied and written about the succession in
the LDS presidency. I was fully converted to the process of how
the the Quorum of the Twelve were automatically in charge as soon
as the president died, because the First Presidency was dissolved.
And since the Quorum of the Twelve was a quorum of equal authority
107:24), then it was obvious that they were now in charge.
Also, since the president of the Quorum of Twelve apostles
presided over that quorum, that meant that he immediately presided
over the church.
However, it wasn't scriptural.or historically accurate.
22 Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three
Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed
and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith,
and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency
of the Church.
23 The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles,
or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus
differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their
24 And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power
to the three presidents previously mentioned.
25 The Seventy
are also called to preach the gospel, and to be especial witnesses
unto the Gentiles and in all the world—thus differing from other
officers in the church in the duties of their calling.
26 And they form a quorum, equal in authority to that of
the Twelve special witnesses or Apostles just named.
. . .
36 The standing high
councils, at the stakes of Zion, form a quorum
equal in authority in the affairs of the church, in all
their decisions, to the quorum of the presidency, or to the
traveling high council.
Notice that we have four quorums that are all "equal in
authority": First Presidency, Twelve Apostles, Seventy and High
Council. We tend to think that only the First Presidency and
Twelve Apostles are involved in succession in the presidency, but
according to the scriptures we have at least two other quorums
that have equal authority. As the revelations reveal, the Lord did
not intend to build a hierarchical church structure. The citizens
of Zion know the Lord (Jer.
31:34) and they don't require any man to speak for the Lord
for they all shall know the Lord.
9 The president of the church, who is
also the president of the council, is appointed by revelation, and
acknowledged in his administration by the voice of the church.
10 And it is according to the dignity of his office that he should
preside over the council of the church; and it is his privilege to
be assisted by two other presidents, appointed after the same
manner that he himself was appointed.
Making a Tradition
1. The Prophet will designate his successor
3 And this ye shall know assuredly—that there is none other
appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he
be taken, if he abide in me.
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. “Despite
frequent kidnapping and assassination attempts, Joseph Smith
established no firm policies regarding presidential succession in
the event of his death. The resulting confusion threw the prophetic
transition into turmoil. He simply had not expected to die at
thirty-eight. Never given to full disclosure to any man or woman,
the prophet’s public and private statements between 1834-44
suggested at least eight different methods for succession, each
pointing to different successors with some claims to validity.” (“The Making of a Mormon
Myth: The 1844 Transfiguration of Brigham Young,” Dialog, Vol.
28, No. 4, Winter 1995, 4, pdf)
91 And again, verily I say unto you,
let my servant William be appointed, ordained, and anointed, as
counselor unto my servant Joseph, in the room of my servant Hyrum,
that my servant Hyrum may take the office of Priesthood and
Patriarch, which was appointed unto him by his father, by blessing
and also by right;
92 That from henceforth he shall hold the keys of the patriarchal
blessings upon the heads of all my people,
93 That whoever he blesses shall be blessed, and whoever he curses
shall be cursed; that whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be
bound in heaven; and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be
loosed in heaven.
94 And from this time forth I appoint unto him that he may
be a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church, as
well as my servant Joseph;
2. What about the other members of the 1st Presidency.
Is it possible that Sidney Rigdon as First Councilor would have the right to succeed Joseph? We have D&C 90:6 that says that Sidney and Frederick G. Williams were equal in holding the keys.
6 And again, verily I say unto thy brethren, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, their sins are forgiven them also, and they are accounted as equal with thee in holding the keys of this last kingdom; (D&C 90:6)We also have the words in D&C 102 that indicate that the councilors can take over without the president.
9 The president of the church, who is also the president of the council, is appointed by revelation, and acknowledged in his administration by the voice of the church.
10 And it is according to the dignity of his office that he should preside over the council of the church; and it is his privilege to be assisted by two other presidents, appointed after the same manner that he himself was appointed.
11 And in case of the absence of one or both of those who are appointed to assist him, he has power to preside over the council without an assistant; and in case he himself is absent, the other presidents have power to preside in his stead, both or either of them.
Section 107:22-24 indicates that the First Presidency and the Twelve are quorums that are equal in authority.
Does the First Presidency exist if the president dies? That question is apparently answered by a statement by Joseph Smith.
also the Twelve are not subject to any other than the first Presidency, viz., "myself," said the Prophet, "Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams, who are now my Counselors; and where I am not, there is no First Presidency over the Twelve. The Prophet also stated to the Twelve that he did not countenance the harsh language of President Cowdery to them" (History of the Church, 2:374)However, the words in bold are not part of the original record as shown in the Joseph Smith Papers.
So maybe Sidney did have a valid claim to succession over and above the Twelve.
3. We have to find another way (The designated way isn't
- Joseph's brothers Hyrum and Samuel both died within a month of
- As noted above the High Council and Seventy are equal in
authority to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
- There was no revelation received to re-organize the First
Presidency as required by D&C 102:9.
- Rigdon might have had a valid claim to the leadership as one of the members of the First Presidency.
- Brigham didn't consider himself to be Joseph Successor.
What of Joseph Smith's family? What of his boys? I have prayed from the beginning for sister Emma and for the whole family. There is not a man in this Church that has entertained better feelings towards them. Joseph said to me, "God will take care of my children when I am taken." They are in the hands of God, and when they make their appearance before this people, full of his power, there are none but what will say—"Amen! we are ready to receive you."
The brethren testify that brother Brigham is brother
Joseph's legal successor. You never heard me say so. I say that I am a good hand to keep the dogs and wolves out of the flock I do not care a groat who rises up. I do not think anything about being Joseph's successor. (Journal of Discourses 8:69).
4. Wasn't Brigham Young "transfigured" on August 8, 1844?
- No contemporary accounts. The
first mention of something special came many years later.
- The church was sustaining the Quorum of Twelve apostles to
lead the church, not Brigham Young.
- Testimonies from John D. Lee and Apostle Orson Hyde are
marvelous and specific, but they were not in Nauvoo at the time
and therefor could not have witnessed the event they describe.
- Why did Brigham Young only give us
only one revelation?
- Brigham had to convince most of the Twelve Apostles that the
First Presidency needed to be organized.
Considerable opposition to Brigham
Young establishing a First Presidency is evident in original,
unaltered accounts. Particularly outspoken were Wilford Woodruff,
Orson Pratt, and to a lesser degree John Taylor, Parley P. Pratt,
George A. Smith, and Amasa Lyman. The number of meetings on the
topic is ample proof of contention. Woodruff told Young on 12
October 1847 that he felt it "would require revelation to change
the order of that Quorum." (Kenney, Wilford Woodruff's Journal,
3:283) Six weeks later Woodruff, again objecting to Young's
formation of a First Presidency, said that if three were taken out
of the Twelve it seemed like "severing the body in two."
Furthermore, if the Quorum of the Twelve surrendered its power
"unto three" he added, "I should be totally opposed to it."
Pratt's viewpoint was that the "head of the church consists of the
Apostleship united together." (5 Dec. 1847, Miscellaneous Minutes,
Brigham Young Collection, ms. 1234 box 47, fd. 4.) The matter was
not resolved until a lengthy, emotion-filled meeting of the quorum
on 5 December 1847 that didn't include some of the members who
Brigham Young didn't feel comfortable with the title of prophet
October 6, 1857:
We will attend to the business of the Conference first, and then
dismiss until afternoon.
[After putting the motion for himself to be sustained as "Prophet,
Seer, and Revelator," the President remarked:—]
I will say that I never dictated
the latter part of that sentence. I make this remark, because
those words in that connection always made me feel as though I am
called more than I am deserving of. I am Brigham Young, an Apostle
of Joseph Smith, and also of Jesus Christ. If I have been
profitable to this people, I am glad of it. The brethren call me
so; and if it be so, I am glad. (Journal of Discourses 5:296)
We also have these statements from Brigham:
"Heretofore you have had a prophet as the mouthpiece of the Lord to
speak to you. But he [Joseph Smith] has sealed his testimony with his
blood, and now, for the first time, are you called to walk by faith, and
not by sight." (Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, 1844, pg 20)
"I am not going to interpret dreams; for I don't
profess to be such a Prophet as were Joseph Smith and Daniel; but I am a Yankee guesser”
(Journal of Discourses 5:77)
“I am not a visionary man, neither am I given much to prophesying. When I want any of that done I call on brother Heber—he is my Prophet, he loves to prophesy, and I love to hear him” (Journal of Discourses, 1:132-133).
5. The new President of the Church is Ordained or Set Apart.
- Brigham was never ordained as the president or prophet of the
Who ordained me to be First President of this Church on earth? I
answer, It is the choice of this people, and that is sufficient.
(April 7, 1852 discourse -- Millennial Star, Vol. 16, p. 442).
- Lorenzo Snow was the first president to be ordained (set
apart) by the apostles.
A solemn assemble ratified the appointment of Lorenzo Snow on 10
Oct. 1898. After the conference they ordained the new apostle,
Rudger Clawson. After that, Franklin D. Richards records:
President Snow with 14 hands on his head was set apart and
blessed by GQ Cannon then Pres. Snow and 14 blest GQ Cannon as
his First and Jos. F. Smith as his 2nd Counselor. . . .
"For the first time, a Church president had been 'ordained' as
president by his fellow apostles. Each apostle thus symbolically
yielded his keys to the senior apostle. It was a gesture of
unity, an outward sign that there was but one head of the Church
at a time, even though each apostle received the 'keys of the
kingdom' at ordination. This innovation became the standard
procedure at all reorganizations after President Joseph F.
Smith." (Steven H. Heath, Notes on Apostolic Succession,
Dialogue vol. 20, no 2, p. 49)
- Joseph F. Smith was ordained by John Smith, the presiding
"At the reorganization meeting,
President Smith called upon his brother John Smith, the patriarch,
to set him apart as president of the Church. It was the first time
the Patriarch to the Church had ever been involved in a
reorganization meeting. A natural question was: Did the patriarch
have the authority to set a president apart?" (Steven H. Heath,
Notes on Apostolic Succession, Dialogue vol. 20, no 2, p. 51)
prophet is called until he dies
The following prophet/presidents have been incapacitated during the
end of their lives.
- John Taylor
- David O. McKay
- Joseph Fielding Smith
- Spencer W. Kimball
- Ezra Taft Benson
- Howard W. Hunter
David O. McKay, who led the church
from 1951 to 1970, was housebound and incapacitated during his
last few years, as was Ezra Taft Benson, president from 1985 to
Howard W. Hunter suffered ill health for a number of years before
becoming LDS Church president in 1994. He fought off depression
when his wife, Clara, died in 1983. He was in a coma for three
weeks after gall-bladder surgery in 1992; he died at 87 in 1995,
after prostate cancer had spread to his bones. ("Hinckley
has been remarkably healthy
", Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 26,
If it is God's plan to keep a prophet until he died, why would the
Lord not take him before that prophet has no power over the church
Taft Benson was not in control for the last year of his life.
DOCUMENTS SHOW COUNSELORS CONTROL
LDS ASSETS FILINGS WITH STATE IN 1989 TRANSFERRED PRESIDENT
BENSON'S CORPORATE CONTROL
Date: August 15, 1993 COPYRIGHT 1993, THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
Documents on file with the state of Utah are strong evidence that
the parent corporation of the Mormon Church no longer is being
directed by its president, Ezra Taft Benson.
Two certificates of authority filed in May 1989 gave absolute
control over the Corporation of the President of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to counselors Gordon B. Hinckley
and Thomas S. Monson. . . .
7. God's Plan or Man's Plan
Succession started with the understanding that they would need a
revelation from God (D&C
102:9), but it evolved into a principle that succession should
automatically pass to the president of the Quorum of the Twelve
UNLESS God gives a revelation to the contrary. It seems that we have
developed a man-made system that removes the will of God and defines
that we already know what God wants, unless he contradicts our will.
This seems a little backwards.
Actually, since 1940 succession is defined by legal documents.
ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION
CORPORATION OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE CHURCH OF
JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
STATE OF UTAH ss.
COUNTY OF SALT LAKE
HEBER J. GRANT,
being first duly sworn, deposes and says:
That he is now and
for more than twenty years last past has been the duly chosen
and appointed President of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints and as such President has been since on or
about the 26th day of November, 1923, and now is, the legally
constituted Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter=day Saints, a corporation sole; that under and
pursuant to Section 18-7-5 R.S.U. 1933 he hereby amends Article
"Fourth" of said Articles of Incorporation as now of record in
the proper offices of this and other states, said article as
amended to read as follows:
Fourth: The title
of the person making these articles of incorporation is
"President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
He and his successor in office shall be deemed and are hereby
created a body politic and corporation sole with perpetual
succession, having all the powers and rights and authority in
these articles specified or provided for by law. But
in the event of the death or resignation from office of the
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
or in the event of a vacancy in that office from any cause,
the President or Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve
Apostles of said Church, or one of the members of said Quorum
thereunto designated by that Quorum, shall, pending the
installation of a successor President of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints, be the corporation sole under
and the laws pursuant to which they are made, and shall be and
is authorized in his official capacity to execute in the name of
the corporation all documents or other writings necessary to the
carrying on of its purposes, business and objects, and to do all
things in the name of the corporation which the original signer
of the articles of incorporation might do; it being the purpose
of these articles that there shall be no failure in succession
in the office of such corporation sole.
[Signed] Heber J. Grant
President of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints,
Subscribed and sworn to before me this 18 day of June, 1940.
[the name of Notary Public not shown on copy of amendment]
(Original in State of Utah Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah)