The Law of Succession’ Part Five (William Marks Challenges the Protocol of the Church Court & Defends the Character of Sidney Rigdon)

The Trial of Sidney Rigdon

We shall now address some of the major doctrinal issues that came out in the trial of Sidney Rigdon which was recorded in the Times and Seasons.

I wish I could provide the entire proceedings that were reported in the Times and Seasons but this article and series has already become too long.

Those wanting to read the whole account may acquire a copy of it from Colliers Publishing or look it up in the Times and Seasons or check here.

Although section 102 states that a court may be held by the “Bishop’s Council” OR the “High Council of the Church of Christ“, it appears as if the trial for Sidney Rigdon’s was an amalgamation of those two options.

Apparently, Bishop Newel K. Whitney presided over the court but the High Council of the Church of Christ of the Nauvoo Stake acted as the council of twelve high priests in the Bishops Council.

As the stake President, William Marks acted as a member of the High Council but did not preside over the church court.

Unlike courts held today in modern times, Marks did not preside over the court, he simply participated as the presiding member of the high council.

Brigham Young and his brethren of the Quorum of the Twelve did not have the authority to preside in a stake of Zion. That is why Brigham Young stated in his opening remarks, that “The Twelve are to be regarded as witnesses in this trial, and not Judges: we present ourselves before this court as witnesses, and we are prepared to bring other testimony forward if necessary.”

Obviously, Bishop Whitney and the High Council were being coerced and controlled by the quorum of the Twelve and it appears that Brigham was directing the hearing even though it should have been the presiding officer over the high council or Bishop Whitney. If not for the conflict of interest between Brigham and the Twelve and Rigdon, there is no reason to believe that the local leaders would have ever called a court.

It should also be understood that the quorum of the twelve was actually not united in their beliefs at the time of the succession crisis.

It appears that there were actually only six members of the quorum who testified at the trial of Sidney Rigdon, they are-

  • Brigham Young
  • Amasa Lyman
  • Orson Hyde
  • Parley P. Pratt
  • Heber C. Kimball
  • John Taylor.

In additional to those six, W.W. Phelps also testified.

Several members of the quorum that appear to not be present at the trial and ultimately rejected the authority of Brigham Young were as follows;

  • Lyman Wight
  • William Smith
  • John E. Page.

The quorum of the Twelve

It is important to remember that many changes had taken place in the original quorum of the Twelve by the time that the death of Joseph and Hyrum took place.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the quorum of the Twelve and the adjustments that were made-

” In 1835, the Three Witnesses were asked by Joseph Smith, Jr. to select the original twelve members of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve. They announced their choices at a meeting on February 14, 1835.[1] The Three Witnesses also ordained the twelve chosen men to the priesthood office of apostle by the laying on of hands.[1] Below is a list of members of the quorum prior to the succession crisis of 1844.

Ten of the eighteen followed Brigham Young to Utah Territory and remained part of the Quorum in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (indicated below as “LDS after 1844”). Thomas B. Marsh and Luke S. Johnson later rejoined the Latter-day Saints in Utah, but did not resume their former places in the Quorum. Three of these apostles went on to be apostles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite). One, John E. Page, went on to be an apostle in the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) or “Hedrickite” church. Another, William Smith, later asserted his claim to head his own “Williamite” church organization before ultimately joining what is now the Community of Christ (where he did not resume his place in the quorum). Lyman Wight, likewise, organized his own branch of the church. William E. M’Lellin joined with multiple post-1844 church organizations in succession, each of which recognized his apostleship.

The list includes the dates when each apostle was ordained. In some cases, the date of the calling is used when the actual date of ordination is unclear.

Sidney Rigdon Claimed to have the Spirit of Revelation & Prophecy

When Sidney Rigdon returned to Nauoo after the death of Joseph and Hyrum and locked horns with the Twelve, he claimed to have had a vision while he was in Pittsburgh. He claimed that the vision was a continuation of the Vision that He and Joseph had had which is documented in section 76.

Among other things he claimed that it was shown to him in vision that the Twelve would withdraw fellowship from him, the temple would not be completed and the church would be rejected with their dead.

Orson Hyde accused Rigdon of intimating that he, Sidney was the stone that the builders rejected (see Psalms 118:22, Matt 21:42, Mark 10:12, Luke 20 :17, Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7, Isaiah 22:25)

Sidney was obsessed with great battles to take place in the future and that he would become a great conqueror.

We will touch again on the significance of Sidney’s vision later on as we review accusations made by the Twelve however, keep in mind that when Joseph Smith presented greater clarification to section 76 by writing a poem about it, he revealed that verse 29 was not speaking about a past war with Satan but rather about a future one in which Satan would encompass the saints round about.

“For Satan, old serpent, the devil’s for war,-
And yet will encompass the saints round about.”

Perhaps one of the most intriguing statements that Sidney made was an innuendo that the Lord had shown Sidney what would befall himself (Sidney) as a result of the apostasy of the church… A possible implication having to do with the sins of latter day Israel being artificially put upon the head of the Lords scapegoat servant. That statement, as it applies to Sidney’s role as the scapegoat in the atonement statute, may explain why Sidney would have such a strange and troubled history after he is rejected by the church led away from the congregation of Israel –

Perhaps the most important significance of the vision that Sidney claimed to have had is that Sidney was claiming to have the spirit of prophecy which is consistent with his calling as a prophet seer and revelator of the church.

Elder Hyde defends the Secret “Measures” –

The first accuser to follow the opening remarks of Brigham Young was Elder Hyde.

According to Elder Hyde’s testimony, Sidney had said to Elder Hyde and his brethren of the Twelve-

You are not led by the Lord, and I have known for a long time that you were not led by the Lord

Elder Hyde attempted to defend the actions of the Twelve, claiming that the “measures” they were involved in had come from Joseph Smith-

I defy any man to show that we have adopted any measure, only what Joseph has directed us

Elder Rigdon was obviously making a categorical observation that the twelve were not being led by the spirit. He was also accusing the Twelve of departing from the pure and simple gospel of Jesus Christ that had been restored to the earth.

Elders Hydes use of the term “measures” was alluding to the secret quorums and secret ordinations and secret teachings about spiritual wifery and the associated practice of practice of polygamy, the secret revelation that would eventually become known as section 132, secret council meetings where secret ordinations were being introduces, etc.

In essence, Rigdon was confirming that another gospel, one that was contrary to the true gospel of Christ, had been introduced to the saints and that the prophecies in 2nd Thess the and the original text of section five of the D&C had come true, the Lord had sent strong delusion upon the church for believing a lie and therefore, because of their hardened hearts the Lord had turned them over to Satan-

It is interesting that the primary debate during the succession crisis was not focused on the doctrine of succession and the pure gospel as documented in the accepted scriptures or the importance of the church being led by revelation, rather, Orson Hyde was defending the actions of the Twelve by stating that the secret “measures” they were following were given to them by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Why would the Lord Contradict Himself?

Orson quoted the Prophet Joseph as saying-

The Lord bids me to hasten and give you your endowment before the temple is finished

This hastening to give the endowment was supposedly done so that the keys of the kingdom could be transferred from Joseph to the Twelve and so that the Twelve could bear off the kingdom triumphantly even if Joseph were to be killed and the temple not finished.

There are several very serious doctrinal problems with the alleged pronouncement of Joseph Smith.

Perhaps the most obvious one is that the logical and doctrinal choice for handing over the keys of the kingdom would be other members of the first presidency and just about anyone other than the missionary quorum of the Twelve who had been expressly forbidden by the Lord to ever preside in a stake of Zion.

Another point is that Joseph Smith was no longer the prophet seer and revelator of the church and therefore was not even authorized to receive new doctrine and new covenants for the church, especially new doctrine and new ordinances and covenants that contradicted previous revelations.

If anyone would have been revealing new doctrine and new ordinances and covenants and secretly handing the keys of the kingdom to anyone in the church, it would have been Hyrum who was the only presiding member of the presidency who was authorized to act as a prophet seer and revelator of the church at the time!

Even if Joseph had been the acting prophet seer and revelator of the Church, the saints would have been duty bound to reject the new “measures” being introduced since they contradicted the previous revelations and the four standard works of the church which had been voted on and sustained by the church as the LAW of the CHURCH.

The reason that the Lord provides a protocol for excommunicating the president of the high priesthood is because no mortal person is infallible! That would include Joseph Smith, who according to the succession prophecy in section 42, would not always abide in the Lord.

Fourthly, the Lord had commanded the saints to not add to or diminish from the doctrines contained in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. (D&C 124:119-120)

Lastly, Orson’s claim that Joseph had been inspired by the Lord to reveal and bestow the temple endowment BEFORE the temple was finished, so that the kingdom could roll forth, contradicted what the Lord said in sections 124.

Clearly, section 124 stated that if the temple was not finished, the church would be rejected with their dead. How could the kingdom roll forth if the church is rejected with their dead? Hence, there was nothing gained by prematurely revealing the “full endowment” just in case the temple was not finished by the appointed time.

Further, the prophet Hyrum Smith had clarified the warning in section 124 and made it clear that the key of knowledge that unfolds the dispensation of the fullness of times cannot be turned until the temple was completed and the baptismal font finished.

“…they have neglected the House of the Lord, the Baptismal Font, in this place, wherein their dead may be redeemed, and the key of knowledge that unfolds the dispensation of the fullness of times may be turned, and the mysteries of God be unfolded, upon which their salvation and the salvation of the world, and the redemption of their dead depends, for ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ ‘there shall not be a general assembly for a general conference assembled together until the House of the Lord shall be finished, and the Baptismal Font, and if we are not diligent the church shall be rejected, and their dead also,’ ‘saith the Lord,’ therefore, dear Brother, any proceedings otherwise than to put forth their hands with their might to do this work, is not according to the will of God, and shall not prosper; therefore, tarry not in any place whatever but come forth unto this place from all the world, until it is filled up and polished, and sanctified according to my word…”

In another sermon given in May of 1842 Joseph Smith stated that there were

keys of the kingdom,” and “certain signs and words by which false spirits and personages may be detected from true, which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed.

Obviously all of the above documentation testifies to the fact that there would be no advantage to the so called endowment and special keys being given to anyone before the completion of the temple.

If Joseph had made the declaration that Brigham claimed he made, it would have contradicted previous revelations and statements of Joseph Smith.

Everything was predicated upon the completion of the temple.

If Joseph really did make the proclamation that Orson (and Brigham) claimed he made, Joseph was contradicting himself, Hyrum and the Lord.

Nevertheless, it makes sense that Joseph may have done these things in fulfillment of the original prophecy in section 5 foretelling that God would turn the saints over to Satan.

The Testimony of Parley P. Pratt

The next accuser of Sidney Rigdon was Parley P. Pratt, a previous disciple of Rigdon’s who had helped to bring Rigdon into the church.

Pratt quoted Rigdon as saying-

I shall now take the liberty to publish to the world, all the secret works of this church… I now the result both on you and the Church, and myself…”

Again, we see from the testimony of Pratt that the central issue of the succession crisis had to do with the secret acts of many of the leading brethren of the church, including most of the twelve apostles.

Rigdon was threatening to expose the secret abominations that were being practiced by Young, Hyde, Pratt and their brethren.

Again, when Rigdon said he knew what the result would be on the church and even himself, one has to wonder if in fact the Lord had shown him in vision that the sins of the church would be artificially placed upon his own head and he would himself eventually be turned over to delusion, per the prophecy in the atonement statute. (Lev 16)

According to the testimony of Pratt, Sidney Rigdon claimed that the vision he had in Pittsburgh revealed that the twelve apostles would withdraw fellowship from him.

The Testimony of Amasa Lyman

Next, Amasa Lyman attached the character of Sidney Rigdon by claiming that he had not been valiant in his calling for 4 or 5 years. He also said ,

Now where has this individual been for these years past? Has he been laboring to support and uphold the man whom God has appointed to bring forth His work? Has he been endeavoring for the last four or five years to build up the principles taught and laid down by the man of God? There are men here present who have travelled through the length and breadth of these united states, and to Europe, and some who have travelled as far as the Palestine to carry out the establish the principles which have been laid down by our deceased prophet, and yet the Great God has not made known to any of these men the wonderful things made known in this revelation.

Neither has Elder Marks nor the twelve received any such wonderful revelation. but this man who has been asleep[ all the while, when he was not too sick to sleep and smoke his pipe, and take his drink; correspond with John C. Bennett, and other mean, corrupt men. This is the character of the man on whom shines the light of revelation, this is the man who says that the Twelve have gone astray and this Church is not led by the Lord!”


What interesting charges these are!

Apparently Sidney Rigdon, like Joseph Smith and many others of the elders living in Nauvoo was known for enjoying an occasional smoke and an occasional drink.

This is fascinating.

The accusers were actually the ones that really should have been on trial for fornication and adultery and yet they were suggesting that Sidney Rigdon should be excommunicated for not obeying the word of wisdom!

With regard to the fact that Sidney Rigdon had not been overly active during the last five years, if you have not read my tribute to Sidney Rigdon to understand why Rigdon had been largely silenced for a period of time, please read the article here.

Furthermore, as we will see as we progress further into the details of this kangaroo court, President Marks would later stand up and declare that it is not appropriate according to church procedure to retry someone for something they have previously been tried for and exonerated from.

Sidney Rigdon had already been accused of corresponding with Bennett and for not being active in his calling in the Presidency and had been exonerated by the Church and by Hyrum Smith and by Joseph Smith.

Sidney Rigdon had already previously been accused of not being active in his calling in the first presidency for the last five years and he was forgiven, and President Hyrum Smith had led the vote in sustaining President Rigdon in his calling.

According to Amasa, Sidney Rigdon had testified that he had seen in vision that the “the temple must be forsaken and not be finished, and all that Joseph has done must be rejected.”

That prophecy of Rigdon’s about the saints eventual failure to complete the Temple is really quite remarkable since the saints had every intention of finishing the temple when Rigdon arrived at Nauvoo. At that time there was no apparent reason why the temple would not be finished.

In conjunction with this, Sidney quoted Isaiah “The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner”

Another interesting thing that came out of this trial is that Sidney Rigdon had said that the “vision was a continuation of the vision recorded in the book of doctrine and covenants

Sidney was linking his credibility as a prophet to the fact that he had been the co-testator with Joseph Smith in providing the testimony of the Father and the Son as contained in section 76.

After Brigham and his six conspirators had finished making their accusations, Brigham Young said-

I shall now wait and see if there is anyone to produce testimony in favor of the opposite side of the question.”

At this point in time, “President William Marks arose and said he felt disposed to say a few words in defense of Elder Rigdon

“there has been a strong team against him. They all seem to speak against him and there I nothing said in his favor. If feel to take up the opposite side of the question and say something in his defense, for I have always been a friend to Elder Rigdon.”

William Marks was pointing out that bishop Whitney and/or Brigham Young, whoever was conducting the trial, was not following the protocol given in section 102 which requires the council to draw straws to see which members of the quorum defend the accuser and make sure that his character and reputation are not tarnished.

Marks made the bold declaration that revelatory protocol was not being followed as it had been in past trials-

It has always been the case before this High Council, that there are two sides to the question, there are some to speak in favor of the accused, but there seems to be only one side to this subject.”

… it has always been the case before the High council that some should speak in the defense of the accused, I feel to volunteer to speak in his behalf. It is no more than right that both sides should be represented.”

in regard to his character, there are many things said which appear to be objectionable

“I hear objections to his authority and to his conduct for four or five years past. There charges brought before the conference, last fall, and one or two days spent in hearing of them, and it seemed to me, that every exertion was made that could be made, to criminate him and cut him off.

There was time given to bring all the charges that could be got at, but there was not a single particle of the charges sustained, if I recollect right, as to proving him guilty of committing any of the acts specified in the charges.

Now I think if Brother Rigdon was restored at that time we ought not to go beyond the conference to fetch up charges today, but here are charges fetched up for years back. It is known that he was restored to full faith and fellow ship last fall. I have heard Brother Joseph say repeatedly since that time that all things was right between them….”


Marks was standing in the gap!

He was calling out the accusers and pointing out the inappropriate things they were doing and saying.

He declared that the church court was not in accordance with the protocol in the scriptures.

He was boldly stating that most of the things that were being brought up had already been brought up in a previous hearing and that Rigdon had been found innocent and restored to his calling.

Imagine the courage it must have taken to stand up against the crowd, realizing he was putting his own standing in jeopardy!

The reason Marks had to get up and “volunteer” to defend Rigdon is because nobody else was doing it. The court had neglected draw straws and appointed members of the high council to defend and protect the rights and the character of Rigdon.

One the things missing in the trial was any volunteered comments from any members of the high council!


Because they all knew that Brigham and the Twelve were orchestrating the Kangaroo trial and they knew that the outcome of the trial had been predetermined. They understood that if they spoke favorably about Rigdon, it could cost them their membership, as it eventually did cost Marks his.

Praise God for the integrity of President William Marks, one of the most honest, steady, valiant leaders of the LDS restoration movement.

In the next part of this series we shall finish hearing the testimony of William Marks. In my opinion, he provides the most clear and scripturally sound explanation of the law of succession and his testimony will stand as a witness against the seven accusers the members of the high council, Bishop Whitney and the apostate members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter days.

Clearly the saints who chose to follow Brigham Young and the majority of the twelve chose to be led by rulers rather than prophets. They chose to be led by dogma and the teachings of man rather than by revelation.

They chose to discard the man who had been chosen by revelation and ordained to be a prophet seer and revelator according to the voice of God out of heaven in favor of a man who openly proclaimed that he was not a prophet.

More on the testimony of William Marks in the next installment.

Keep Watching

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