The Law Pertaining to Succession
“…him whom I have appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations”
It occurred to me while writing the post about Frederick G. Williams that I have never done a specific post on the LDS succession crisis in detail although I have touched on it in bits and pieces in lots of posts that focused on other topics.
When I started blogging nearly three years ago I never intended to write anything this controversial however, over time, I have actually written about many things that are probably even more controversial than this series is going to be..
I have therefore decided to do a series focusing on this most important topic.
In this series I am going to be a little repetitive at times, on purpose.
As I have said previously, the succession crisis is far from over.
It is a continuing issue.
We still need to try to understand it and face it head on.
In fact, one way to view the Marvelous Work and a Wonder is to characterize it as a continuation and ultimately the conclusion to the succession debate that took place after the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. In some ways, the succession issue was a microcosm of the war in heaven, having to do with a great debate and war over the control over the souls of men. Free agency is the principle that allows us to become free by submitting to Christ or to submit ourselves into bondage by being deceived and choosing Satan and his minions.
In this first part of this series I am going to give a summary and associated commentary on the law of succession that is contained in section 43. in so doing, I will highlight seven major principals contained therein.
The following parts of this series will then eventually fall into place as this series evolves and will include highlights of the trial of Sidney Rigdon. The amazing information contained in the notes of that trial has been largely neglected and suppressed by the corporate church.
In that trial, President William Marks gave one of the most eloquent and succinct summaries of the law of succession and he explained from a scriptural point of view why Sidney Rigdon was the only living person who met the qualifications laid out in section 43. (not be confused with William Law, William Marks was the Stake President in Far West and eventually also of Nauvoo)
One of the great myths believed by some students of modern day Mormonism is that the LDS succession crisis took place because the Lord had not given a clear explanation of how succession in church leadership was to take place.
This view is erroneously ascribed by D. Michael Quinn who stated that-
“by the summer of 1844 there was no explicit outline of presidential succession in print..”
“Not only did most Mormons have only the haziest concept of what should transpire in the leadership of the LDS Church if the founding prophet were to die, but between 1834 and 1844 Joseph Smith had by word or action established precedents or authority for eight possible methods of succession
- By a counselor in the First Presidency
- By a special appointment
- Through the office of Associate President
- By the Presiding Patriarch
- By the Council of Fifty
- By the Quorum of the twelve Apostles
- By the three priesthood councils,
- By a descendant of Joseph Smith, Jr.
Four Very Important Foundational Succession Issues
Before we dissect the law of succession in section 43, we need to address four issues that can create confusion if they are not understood-
1…The Lord gives the church the free agency to reject being presided over by a Prophet Seer and Revelator via the Law of Common Consent:
There is a huge difference between the collective church or even a branch of the church, randomly appointing someone to preside over them as their presiding officer as opposed to the church membership requiring the chosen candidate to first be called and ordained by God to be a prophet seer and revelator expressly chosen by God to receive revelations and commandments for the church.
In other words, the church actually does have the option, through the law of common consent to refuse to appoint the Lord’s prophet seer and revelator as their presiding officer. They may choose someone else that they would rather have preside over them.
Although it appears from historical accounts that Joseph Smith may have suggested some or all of the above eight methods of succession mentioned by Quinn, they would only be reasons for choosing someone according to the law of common consent to simply preside over the church in a leadership capacity.
It is interesting and informative to note that the Lord called Joseph Smith by revelation to be a prophet seer and revelator to receive commandments and revelations for the church in section 28, and then, at a later time, in section 43 the Lord admonishes the saints to appoint Joseph Smith to preside over them by common consent if they want the glories of the kingdom-
“But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church [the Church of Christ] excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses. And thou shalt be obedient unto the things which I shall give unto him, even as Aaron, to declare faithfully the commandments and the revelations, with power and authority unto the church.” (Section 28)
“And if ye desire the glories of the kingdom, appoint ye my servant Joseph Smith, Jun , and uphold him before me by the prayer of faith.13 And again, I say unto you, that if ye desire the mysteries of the kingdom, provide for him food and raiment, and whatsoever thing he needeth to accomplish the work wherewith I have commanded him;14 And if ye do it not he shall remain unto them that have received him, that I may reserve unto myself a pure people before me..” (section 43)
This demonstrates that the calling to be a prophet seer and revelator comes from God but the appointment to preside comes from the church membership via common consent ( or at least the ratification of God’s appointment).
The only way the church can appoint someone to act as a prophet seer and revelator while presiding over the church is if they appoint someone who has already been called and ordained to that SPIRITUAL GIFT by God.
Appointment to preside by the church does not mystically confer the spiritual gift of prophecy and seership upon the person being appointed.
Although Joseph Smith may very possibly have suggested some or all of the eight methods for identifying someone to preside over the church, those prerequisites do not give the person the spiritual gift of being a prophet seer and revelator, nor do they bestow the right to receive revelations and commandments for the church.
In my opinion, the real succession issue has to do with the protocol that the Lord had given by revelation, not the many conflicting alleged protocols that were supposedly suggested by Joseph Smith
2…President of the High Priesthood vs. President of the Church
Another very important distinction that must be understood, is that there is a difference between the office of President of the Church in a specific geographical area, vs, the office of President of the High Priesthood, who is the presiding officer over all of the congregations of the church worldwide.
As the President of the Church in Kirtland, Joseph Smith was not the president of the church in Zion, David Whitmer was. Similarly, the president of the church in Nauvoo was President William Marks, not Joseph Smith. However, Joseph Smith, while serving as the local president of the Kirtland stake of Zion, was also sustained in a separate and distinct calling, as the President of the High Priesthood which made him the presiding officer over all church congregations and over all presidents of the various churches in all geographical locations.
Section 107:91-92 is not speaking about the office of “President of the Church” as many suppose, rather it is referring to the president of the high priesthood, which also presides over all church presidents and their respective congregations-
“And again, the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses— Behold, here is wisdom; yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church.”
Many assume that the president of the church, ie, the president of the church in Kirtland or Zion or Nauvoo, and the president of the high priesthood are synonymous but this is not true. They are two different and distinct callings, although one person can be functioning in both callings at the same time like Joseph Smith did during the Kirtland era of the church.
3.. Joseph Smith was called to be the Presiding “Elder”, not the President of the High Priesthood when he established the church in Nauvoo:
If you compare section 107 91-92 with section 124:125 you might be surprised to find out that Joseph Smith was no longer acting as the President of the High Priesthood when the saints settled in Nauvoo, rather, he was the “Presiding Elder” who also was appointed to be a prophet seer and revelator for the church. The reason for this, as noted in section 124 is that the fullness of the priesthood had been lost from the earth and therefore there was no longer anyone acting in the office of President of the High Priesthood who held all of the spiritual gifts of the church. (see also 127:12)
In previous posts we have discussed how Joseph established three churches, ie, the Church of Christ (presided over by an elder) in the early Kirtland years, the Church of God which describes the saints who were in the process of gathering and consecrating, (presided over by a High Priest- beginning with the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood at the Morley Farm). Finally, after the gentile church rejected the fulness of the priesthood and the fulness of the Gospel sometime around 1834, Joseph was instrumental in renaming/establishing the Church of the Latter day Saints, (later changed, due to a misinterpretation of section 115, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints which refers to the saints who are in a scattered and unconsecrated and apostate condition which is presided over by an elder or elders)
4… Joseph Smith was not “the” or “a” prophet Seer and Revelator of the church when he died, Hyrum was the sole prophet seer and revelator for the church. As documented in several other posts, after the Lord called Hyrum to be the co-president and prophet seer and revelator of the church with Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Joseph stated publicly in a general conference that he would no longer be acting as a prophet of the church. This left Hyrum as the sole presiding elder and prophet seer and revelator of the church. Hence, the true succession issue had nothing to do with finding a successor for joseph Smith, a successor had already been chosen and ordained. It had to do with finding a successor for Hyrum Smith!
The Doctrine of Succession was Very Clearly Defined
Although it is true that most Mormons were unclear about the true succession protocol, it is not because it did not exist, it is because of their doctrinal ignorance or refusal to accept the revealed protocol.
So, while some people like D. Michael Quinn postulate that there was no clear protocol for succession based on historicity showing confusion on the issue, actually, the opposite is true.There was a very clear protocol which is contained in section 43.
The real reason the succession crisis took place is because he Quorum of the Twelve and others who had been initiated into the secret measures wanted to dissolve the first Presidency and have the Twelve preside over the church.
Tthe Lord had given a very clear protocol about how he would call and ordain future successors to the Prophet Joseph Smith but the saints either were unaware of it or they refused to accept it as they were distracted by the dog and pony show that Brigham and his brethren were putting on.
The succession protocol in section 43 is so specific and exacting that nobody familiar with modern revelation could possibly refute the protocol. Indeed, section 43 even contains a succession prophecy revealing how succession would indeed take place BEFORE Joseph dies!
It also provides a continuing protocol for those who succeed Joseph’s successor.
Nevertheless, the majority of the saints either knowingly or unknowingly rejected the protocol either because they were doctrinally ignorant of the law-
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” Isaiah 4:6
OR they didn’t want to be led by true prophets that spoke the harsh truth… they wanted to be told smooth things-
“.. this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits. Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. Isaiah 30:9-11
As we shall see as we continue in this series, there was only one living person who had been properly called and chosen by the Lord as a Prophet Seer and Revelator who had been ordained and publicly presented to the saints as such by those who had the authority to perform such an ordination.
Many if not most of saints living in Nauvoo in 1844 probably did not own a copy of the 1833 Book of Commandments or the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants.
A large portion of the early latter day gentiles from the Kirtland era had since rejected the fullness of the gospel and left the church by the time Joseph and the church migrated to Nauvoo and now, because of the secret visitation which is now documented in section 110, the children of Abraham were now converting to Mormonism, crossing the ocean and coming into Nauvoo from foreign lands. Most of them were very poor and did not have their own set of scriptures.
Many of the new converts were virtually illiterate.
These children of Abraham would include many of the children of Judah.
This very possibly included those who were literal descendents of the original apostles of Jesus Christ as well as literal descendents of the rebellious Jews who cried out to Pilot-
“Let him be crucified…. His blood be on us, and on our children.”
The Law of Succession- Section 43
Once again, section 43 was extremely explicit on how succession was to take place. In fact, the Lord provided at least seven main points on how succession was to take place. This law of succession even contained a conditional prophecy explaining how succession would take place in the future and the prophecy came to pass in Nauvoo.
The main purpose of part one of this paper is to simply summarize and analyze the LAW OF SUCCESSION that is provided in section 43.
1… Verse 2) “..Him whom I have appointed unto you to receive revelations and commandments..”:
The law begins by informing us that in the latter day restored church, Joseph Smith was the initial one who is appointed to receive commandments and revelations . It mandates that only those appointed as prophets, seers and revelators for the church, and given those spiritual gift, by God, are allowed to receive commandments and revelations for the church. It is not the church or leaders of the church who decide who God bestows this gift upon… it is God.
2… (Verse 3) “..IF he abides in Me..”:
The second point I want to address in the law of succession is also a conditional prophesy. It informs us that there will be no other person appointed to receive commandments and revelations for the church until Joseph is taken IF Joseph continues to abide in the Lord.
In this conditional promise, we are informed that If Joseph Smith abides in the Lord, no one else will be appointed to receive revelations and commandments for the church. It appears that Zion would have been redeemed IF Joseph would have continued to ABIDE in the Lord.
This part of the law of succession makes it clear that there is a possibility that Joseph may not continue to abide in the Lord, in which event, another would be called and appointed to that gift and that office. (Please don’t assume that Joseph did not continue to abide in the Lord because of his own unrighteousness… for more information on this topic see the post on the atonement statute-scapegoat doctrine)
3,,, (Verse 4) “..If it (the gift) be taken from him..”:
This is the second part of the conditional promise previously given. Building upon the previous acknowledgement that Joseph may not continue to abide in the Lord, the law of succession provides a solution for the appointing of another. If another is appointed God will do it by revelation through Joseph.
The ONLY way another will be appointed by God to the spiritual gift of receiving commandments and revelations for the church will be through Joseph Smith. This amazing prophecy came true in 1841 when section 124 was given. In that revelation the Lord appointed Hyrum through the Prophet Joseph Smith to receive the gift of receiving commandments and revelations for the church, in concert with Joseph.
Shortly after Hyrum’s ordination, Joseph announced in a conference that he, (Joseph) would no longer be acting in the capacity of a prophet to the church. In essence, he was announcing the fulfillment of the succession prophecy in section 43.(whether he knew it or not)
Some of the members of the Church approached Joseph after the conference and told him that they did not feel Hyrum could lead the church. It is not clear whether they were a small minority or if they represented the majority of the church membership. (the history of the Church does not reveal who these brethren were, however I believe there is a good possibility that they were the same brethren that would also eventually reject Sidney)
Whether or not Hyrum was ultimately rejected by the church as the sole prophet seer and revelator is not clear, however it is a clear historical fact that he was called and ordained as such by the Lord through the “prophet Joseph Smith according to the protocol given in section 43. Unfortunately many Mormons falsely assume that Joseph Smith was the prophet Seer and Revelator for the church at the time of his death but this is not the case. Brigham Young made the following declaration, ““Did Joseph Smith ordain any man to take his place. He did. Who was it? It was Hyrum..,”.Times and Seasons, 5 [Oct. 15, 1844]: 683…..”
4… (Verse 7) “.. He that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained..”:
Section 43 informs us that the only way a person can be called to the gift of receiving commandments and revelations for the church is by first, entering in at the gate, which is to receive the spiritual rebirth, and second, being called by God and ordained by the existing anointed servant of the Lord who has already been appointed to the gift.
Apparently it is not possible for someone to bestow a spiritual gift upon another that they themselves don’t possess. As we shall see in a future part of this series, this is one of the points made by William Marks at the trial of Sidney Rigdon.
It is really quite amazing that the Lord is telling the church that one must have entered into the “GATE” before they can even be called and chosen by God to be a prophet seer and revelator of the church. Is it possible that this portion of the law of succession requires the church members to be able to discern if the candidate has previously received the spiritual rebirth!
I would submit to you that only those who have themselves been spiritually been born again can spiritually discern if someone else has been spiritually born again. This is why we are told in section 45 that those who are wise and have taken the Holy Spirit as their guide will not be deceived!
To summarize: anyone who receives the gift of being able to receive revelations and commandments for the church after Joseph fails to abide in the lord, must first receive the spiritual rebirth by entering in at the gate and secondly, they must be appointed by the Lord by the spirit of revelation through Joseph.
It is truly amazing that the law of succession requires the saints to be able to discern if someone has been spiritually reborn! A key word search on the word “gate” will bring up a multitude of passages about the strait gate that one must enter into in order to be spiritually born of the Lord. Also, in section 5 we are informed that becoming born of God through the manifestation of the spirit is initiated by believing in the word of God as contained in the Book of Mormon- “And behold, whosoever believeth on my words, [contained in the Book of Mormon] them will I visit with the manifestation of my Spirit; and they shall be born of me, even of water and of the Spirit—
5… Verse 6) “..And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived..”:
The Lord gave the law of succession in section 43 to enable the saints to avoid being DECEIVED by false prophets.
If you do a key word search using the words “prophets” and “deceived”, the first reference that comes up in the New Testament has to do with the mandate Christ gives to his disciples to not be deceived be false prophets. He informs the saints that false prophets will arise in the latter days. That warning is also found in JST Matthew. We see from this that the succession doctrine given in section 43 is a continuation of Christ’s warning about false prophets in the New Testament!
This is incredible!
We see from this that the false prophets of the latter days that Christ warns about in the New Testament are not coming from Catholicism or Protestantism but rather, from the latter day restoration movement!
The prophecies warning about false prophets in the latter days are clearly spawned from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That warning contained in section 43 is accompanied by the commandment to “receive not the teachings of any that come before you as revelations or commandments” who had not entered in at the gate and been properly appointed and ordained by God through Joseph Smith, or a legal successor of Joseph Smith.
It is truly remarkable that the largest faction of the restoration movement did in fact accept the teachings of the person that did not meet the requirements of the succession protocol provided in section 43. Instead they chose to follow someone else and they chose to eventually accept his teachings as revelations and commandments…
..indeed, the saints allowed the person they chose by the law of common consent to alter doctrines and alter the scriptures. Despite the fact that the saints rejected the Lord’s appointed prophet in favor of someone else, the Lord gave them the option to do so via the law of common consent.
This scenario is reminiscent of when God’s people chose to follow a king rather than a prophet… choosing King Saul instead of the prophet Samuel-
“But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.”
Obviously, there have been times when righteous kings were also inspired prophets. Another passage from Alma 10 documents how a people governed by a righteous king can eventually become ruled by the “voice of the people”.
“Yea, well did Mosiah say, who was our last king, when he was about to deliver up the kingdom, having no one to confer it upon, causing that this people should be governed by their own voices—yea, well did he say that if the time should come that the voice of this people should choose iniquity, that is, if the time should come that this people should fall into transgression, they would be ripe for destruction. And now I say unto you that well doth the Lord judge of your iniquities; well doth he cry unto this people, by the voice of his angels: Repent ye, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.“
6… (Verse 2) “..ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church..”;
The law of succession in section 43 began by acknowledging that the church had just previously received section 42 which was the LAW given to the church by the Lord through his anointed prophet, seer and revelator.
The LAW unto the CHURCH given in section 42 was an integral part of the LAW of SUCCESSION because it identifies many of the fruits and doctrines of the true church and what will be taught by the true Prophet Seer and Revelator.It also requires the church to accept the established four standard works as the law of the church.
The leading elders of the church were commanded to assemble together and instruct and edify each other that they may know how to act and direct the true church upon the points of the LAW and COMMANDMENTS given in section 42.
They were promised that they could be sanctified by the law given in section 42 if they lived it. The law given in section 42 bound the saints to live the fullness of the gospel contained in the inspired version of the Bible (when it was completed), the Book of Mormon and the revelations that had been and would be given through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Section 42 clearly laid out the law of consecration and the celestial law of monogamy.
The law of consecration and the law of monogamy would ultimately be key issues when the succession crisis took place after the death of Hyrum Smith, the Lords appointed prophet seer and revelator of the church.
Again, it is truly amazing that the presiding quorum and ultimately the presiding person sustained by the largest faction of the saints would personally refuse to live the law of monogamy and the law of consecration for the remainder of his very long life.
7… (Verse 11) “..Purge ye out the iniquity that is among you..”:
The saints were commanded to purge out the wicked and the wickedness that was among them.
That was a necessity before they could become sanctified. They were also commanded to uphold the prophet Joseph Smith through the prayer of faith. In a later revelation the Lord explains that he would allow the wheat and tares to remain together until the great day of purging. From this we learn that the restored church was not successful in purging out the iniquity which was among them and in becoming sanctified.
Those who study the so-called succession issue closely, will find that the real issues at the root of the succession controversy were not being based on the succession protocol that the Lord had given. The saints were not focusing on trying to discern who had entered into the gate and been appointed by the Lord through Joseph Smith, rather, they were deciding who they wanted to follow.
As we continue in this series, we shall see that the real controversy between Sidney Rigdon and the Twelve Apostles had to do with another gospel that had been secretly introduced into the church. It involved secret endowments and ordinations and a secret practice that had entered into the church which was contrary to the celestial law of monogamy. This secret practice had to do with the spiritual wife doctrine and the ancient practice of polygamy.
To be continued.