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Title: Succession in the Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Author: B. H. Roberts
Release Date: March 11, 2011 [EBook #35556]
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SUCCESSION IN THE PRESIDENCY OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS.
By ELDER B. H. ROBERTS,
Author of The Life of John Taylor, Outlines of Ecclesiastical History, The Gospel.
The keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come; nevertheless, through you shall the oracles be given to another—even to the Church,—The Lord to Joseph Smith, Doc. and Cov., sec. xc.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH. THE DESERET NEWS PUBLISHING COMPANY. 1894.
Copyright applied for
The fact that many honest people in the United States and other countries are being led astray by the pretensions of the "Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," or "Josephite Church," as it is more commonly called, must justify the publication of this work. My desire to preserve from error those not acquainted with the order of the priesthood of God, and the facts of church history in the great dispensation of the last days, has been the incentive which prompted me to write it. Moreover, though the facts of church history which of themselves disprove the claims of the "Josephite Church," are abundant, yet are they scattered through the church works in such a manner as to make it exceedingly difficult for the Elders of the church to consult them; and, therefore, the writer believes he is doing a service to those Elders who are and shall hereafter be engaged in the ministry, especially to those who travel in the localities where they will come in contact with "Josephite" pretensions—by publishing this treatise on the SUCCESSION IN THE PRESIDENCY OF THE CHURCH.
I have endeavored to treat the theme on as broad a basis as possible, and have avoided technical disputes with our opponents, which only serve to burden the subject with matter that is not only unprofitable in itself, but wearying to the patience of the reader. Nor does the successful issue of our argument demand that we stop to contend over every error, either in history or argument, made by "Josephites." Did we attempt it, our task would be endless. An attorney being called upon to explain why his absent client should not be punished for contempt of court, told the judge he could assign several good reasons for the absence of his client—reasons which he hoped and believed would clear him, even in the opinion of the judge, of any intention to treat the court with disrespect. "You may name them," gruffly said the judge. "Well, then, your honor, in the first place my client is dead; and in the second place—" "Never mind your 'in the second place,'" said the judge, "if the man is dead that is sufficient—the court dismisses the case." So with this controversy; there being a few leading facts of church history, and a principle or two connected with the order of the priesthood which, if considered in the light of right reason, dispose of all the claims made by "Josephites," it is not necessary to consider their quibbles and all the details of their sophistry.
The writer is under deep obligation to acknowledge assistance he has received from a number of prominent brethren; to some for placing at his disposal books and papers, and to others for reading the work from the manuscript and greatly improving it by their invaluable suggestions. The brethren who have thus rendered me assistance are too numerous to mention by name, and it would be unfair to name a few only, when the writer is indebted to so many and to each equally. The consciousness of having assisted in a work which is designed to carry enlightenment to many in regard to so important a matter as the subject of this writing, will reward them for their labors.
SUCCESSION IN THE PRESIDENCY OF THE CHURCH.
All that want to draw away a party from the Church after them, let them do it if they can, but they will not prosper.[A]
[Footnote A: From Brigham Young's speech, at a special Conference in
Nauvoo, August 8th, 1844, the conference being convened to consider
the claims of Sidney Rigdon to be the Guardian of the Church.—Mill.
Star, Vol. XXV, p. 216.]
When the Prophet Joseph Smith fell a martyr at Carthage, Illinois, on the 27th of June, 1844, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was deprived of its President. As that was a condition which had never existed before in this dispensation, and one that the church had not anticipated, the question very naturally arose: Upon what person or quorum devolved the responsibility of leadership—of Presidency? It is a matter of astonishment that so many arose as claimants for the position; but it reveals the vanity and weakness of human nature which in its love of power looks clear beyond the responsibilities in the case, and seeks only for that position which exalts its possessor above his fellows.
Among the many who claimed to be the legal successor to the prophet Joseph, and, indeed, the first, was Sidney Rigdon, the only remaining counselor in the First Presidency. Hyrum Smith, the other counselor to the prophet, had nobly suffered martyrdom with him at Carthage. At the time of the martyrdom of Presidents Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon was living at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, presiding over the branch of the church and preaching the gospel at that place. He had removed from Nauvoo to Pittsburg, in opposition to a revelation from God which required him to make his home in Nauvoo, and stand in his office and calling of counselor and spokesman to the prophet Joseph.[A]
[Footnote A: The revelation was given 19th January, 1841.—Doc. and
Cov., Sec. cxxiv 103-106.]
The truth is that from the expulsion of the saints from Missouri in 1838-9, Sidney Rigdon had been of but little service either to the church or to the prophet as a counselor. He was a man of admitted ability as an orator, but lacked discretion; a man of fervid imagination, but of inferior judgment; ambitious of place and honor, but without that steadiness of purpose and other qualities of soul which in time secure them. In the early years of the church he suffered much for the cause of God, but he also complained much; especially was this the case in respect to the hardships he endured in Missouri; and subsequently of his poverty and illness at Nauvoo. This habit of complaining doubtless did much to deprive him of the spirit of the Lord; for at