William Marks was one of the great leaders of the LDS restoration movement, having served on the high council in Kirtland, then being called to preside as the president of the church in Far West and finally, he was called by revelation to preside over the church in Nauvoo.
As the Stake President of Nauvoo, Marks became a pivotal player in the Nauvoo drama caused by the succession crises.
Marks was seen in vision by Joseph Smith
According to Smith’s own record on March 29, 1838. Smith wrote that he saw Marks:
“... closely pursued by an innumerable concourse of enemies, who pressed upon him hard; and when they were about to devour him, and had seemingly obtained some degree of advantage over him, a chariot of fire came, and near the place, even the angel of the Lord, put forth his hand upon Bro. Marks and said unto him: ‘Thou art my son, come here.’ And immediately he was caught up in the chariot and rode away triumphantly out of their midst. And again the Lord said, ‘I will raise thee up for a blessing unto many people.‘”(1 Millennial Star. Volume 16, page 131.)
As Stake President, William Marks assisted in the laying of the corner stones of the Nauvoo Temple in April, 1841.
Although Marks was a close friend of Joseph Smith, he occasionally found himself at odds with the prophet.
On one occasion Smith presented questionable evidence of why he felt Sidney Rigdon should be rejected as first counselor in the First Presidency of the church during the October 1843 General Conference.
He accused Rigdon, the long-time friend of Marks, as having lost his “integrity and steadfastness” and stated that he had no confidence in Rigdon’s abilities as a leader in the church or as his counselor.
Regardless of these accusations, Joseph’s brother Hyrum defended Sidney and encouraged the Saints to uphold him in his calling.
Following that, it was William Marks that motioned that Rigdon remain in his station as a counselor in the First Presidency.
Rigdon was then sustained to the position by the membership of the church.
Smith later realized that he had over reacted to some false reports he had heard about Rigdon and both Smith and Rigdon made efforts to mend hard feelings. (there is evidence to support the fact that Rigdon and Smith were on much better terms with each other than the sanitized history of the church would have us believe)
Initially, it was commonly assumed and agreed upon by leaders of the church at the death of Joseph Smith that William Marks, as the president of the Nauvoo Stake, should be the “successor and trustee” but because of Marks rejection of the secret measures that had infiltrated the church, several leaders of the church manipulated things and appointed someone else to that most important task. Here is what a historian had to say-
“The majority of a certain “Quorum” in Nauvoo at this time opposed the appointment of William Marks as successor and trustee. They believed that because William Law, Emma Smith and William Marks (all members of this “Quorum”) were opposed to Joseph and the Quorum on certain matters — in fact, as they put it, on “the most important matters” — if Marks were permitted to be Trustee, they and the Quorum, and the Church would have it’s highest “spiritual blessings destroyed”.
In other words, the false “secret endowments” and the false “spiritual wife doctrine” would be put in jeopardy and possibly exercised from the church, and those unrepentant souls that were involved it these practices would be cut off.
The unusual thing about Marks rejecting “the most important matters”, was that he had actually been part of the secret cabal that Joseph was introducing them to.
Nevertheless, Marks was able to keep his spiritual and doctrinal equilibrium as Joseph Smith was leading an inner circle of intimates away from the straight and narrow- indeed, Marks seemed to realize that Joseph was no longer “abiding in the Lord” and that the succession prophecy in section 43 had been fulfilled.
On with the Trial
Ok, in our last installment we discussed how Brigham Young and his fellow accusers of Sidney Rigdon basically incriminated themselves by trying to justify their secret meetings, ordinations, and polygamous abominations as the “measures” of Joseph Smith the prophet.
It is amazing that even though these men were not on trial themselves and even though Sidney was sick and did not show up to defend himself and bring to light the secret acts of these brethren, their own remarks attempting to justify their secret acts revealed what this trail was really about.
We also reviewed how William Marks valiantly stood up and began defending the character of Sidney Rigdon and pointing out that the court was not acting consistently with divine protocol as contained in section 102.
Furthermore, William Marks pointed out that most of the charges being brought up against Rigdon had already been brought up in the previous trial in which Rigdon was found innocent and re-sustained by the church to his calling.
It is now, in this installment that we will review the rest of William Marks testimony.
Prepare yourself for one of the most illuminated summaries of what the true doctrine of succession really is and how it played out in the succession crisis in Nauvoo.
William Marks was able to use passages from the D&C to clearly substantiate the doctrine of succession and yet he did so without even referencing section 43 which contains the succession doctrine and a succession prophecy that was fulfilled in Nauvoo.
It is this author’s opinion that Marks intentionally avoided referencing section 43 because he did not want to tarnish the reputation of Joseph Smith in a high profile church trial that might possibly color how generations to come would view the prophet Joseph Smith if it were pointed out that Joseph had not been “abiding in the Lord” per the ominous sayings in section 43.
William Marks took modern revelation very seriously and was undoubtedly one of the greatest students of modern revelation of his time and this is undoubtedly one of the reasons why the Lord called him to preside over the saints in Far West and Nauvoo.
He was quite capable of showing forth the true doctrine of succession even without using section 43, as we shall see. .
One of the things Brigham and his fellow conspirators wanted to accomplish was to dissolve the quorum of the First Presidency and have the quorum of the Twelve Apostles preside over the church.
The following declaration by William Marks must have really pissed off brother Brigham!
“I had always been taught that the First Presidency would remain and always be with the Church. I have always understood that the Church would be imperfect without a quorum o three to stand as the First Presidency, and I cannot find any law to say that this quorum should ever by dropped” (see D&C 107:2-22 , 65-66)
Obviously Marks was right. There is always supposed to be a first Presidency to lead the Church until the Savior returns. Brigham and his brethren wanted to disband it because they wanted to continue in the secret measures they were doing and didn’t want to deal with Rigdon.
It appears that they didn’t want anyone over them holding them accountable for their actions. They had become a law unto themselves.
The next bombshell that President Marks laid on the Twelve was this-
“I laid my hands on Brother Sidney with Brother Joseph and he ordained him to be a ‘Prophet Seer and Revelator”, and to be equal with him in holding the Keys and Authority of this Kingdom. I have known this for two years” (See also section 90:6)
This amazing testimony is powerful. An eye witness was testifying that he had participated along with the prophet Joseph Smith in ordaining Sidney Rigdon to be a prophet seer and revelator AND to be equal with Joseph in holding the keys and authority of the kingdom.
The testimony of William Marks was consistent with the published record of the event which was inconspicuously recorded on page 431 of the Times and Seasons for the date of June 1 1841-
“We have to announce that Sidney Rigdon has been ordained a Prophet, Seer and Revelator”
The testimony of William Marks and the documentation of the event in the Times and Seasons are consistent with the calling of Sidney Rigdon by the Lord in D&C 90:6 to be equal with Joseph in holding the keys of the kingdom
“THUS saith the Lord, verily, verily I say unto you my son, thy sins are forgiven thee, according to thy petition, for thy prayers and the prayers of thy brethren have come up into my ears. Therefore, thou art blessed from henceforth that bear the keys of the kingdom given unto you; which kingdom is coming forth for the last time. Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, [Joseph Smith] while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come;
Nevertheless, through you shall the oracles be given to another, yea, even unto the church. And all they who receive the oracles of God, let them beware how they hold them lest they are accounted as a light thing, and are brought under condemnation thereby, and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house. 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;
Did you notice how the Lord warned the church to beware not to hold the revelations of God as a light thing?
In other words, you better use the holy word of God to direct the church in all things. If you discard the callings of people and divine protocol contained in the holy word of God, you are guilty of taking the word of God lightly.
That is what William Marks was trying to point out at the trial.
He was quoting from the revelations in the D&C and showing the accusers of Sidney Rigdon that they were taking the word of God lightly, not only with regard to succession protocol, but with regard to the calling of Sidney Rigdon by the voice of God through his servants.
Marks was documenting the fact that Rigdon had been set apart and ordained as a member of the first Presidency as a prophet seer and revelator and was equal with Joseph in holding the keys of the kingdom.
But notice also how the Lord paraphrased Isaiah in the above passages-
And all they who receive the oracles of God, let them beware how they hold them lest they are accounted as a light thing, and are brought under condemnation thereby, and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house.
Keep this ominous warning in the above passage in the back of your mind.
In a later installment we will show that the succession crisis was the culmination of that very prophecy in section 90 and Isaiah 28! It was the crescendo of when the saints cumulatively stumbled and fell backwards.
Marks continues with his testimony-
“I always felt that there was a power and responsibility in that quorum which did not exist anywhere else.”
Marks is exactly right.
The first presidency has a power and responsibility that no other quorum has, hence, no other quorum has the right and power to create a first presidency and ordain members of it .
Many apologists attempt to suggest that the quorum of the twelve held the same power authority and position as the first presidency but that is a lie and a misinterpretation of scripture… otherwise, the quorum of the Lord would not have been expressly prohibited by the Lord from presiding in an organized stake of Zion.
Paraphrasing modern revelation, the Prophet Joseph Smith made the following declaration about the Twelve Apostles-
“The president then stated that the Twelve will have no right to go into Zion or any of its stakes and there undertake to regulate the affairs thereof where there is a standing High Council. But it is their duty to go abroad and regulate all matters relative to the different branches of the Church..”
Modern revelation makes it clear that the Twelve are under the direction of the Presidency of the church-
“The Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church“, (107:23)
Marks then quoted from section 90:3 and said-
“This is what I ever supposed would be the case that through him the oracles should be given to another who should be a Prophet, and a Seer and Revelator, and through him to the Church. I have always felt since last special conference that the order was not according to this pattern.
Sidney Rigdon and Fredrick G. Williams were appointed to stand equal with Joseph in this kingdom and I always supposed that one [of them] would receive the oracles from Joseph and give them to the Church. Now brethren, I have searched diligently to get at the right of the matter, and I know I am honest and wish to know how it should be.”
Brigham and his brethren must have been ready to explode as they had to stand there and hear the pure doctrine of succession flowing from this man of integrity as he quoted from modern scripture.
William Marks continued-
“I will read another extract from the Doctrine and Covenants which you will find on the ninty sixth page.
I never supposed that this quorum could be disorganized while there was one or two left.
I have ever felt that Elder Rigdon sustains his authority.
I never believed he had lost it through transgression.
I believe he is the man to receive the oracles from Brother Joseph and give them to the Church.
All I want is to have the thing right, and when I believe it is right , I am as ready to confess it as any other man”
He then read extracts from section 102:9-11
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. 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. 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.
The above passage contains one of the most misunderstood doctrines of the kingdom.
The quorum of the first presidency does not need a quorum of three or even two to act.
Any member of it may act when the other two are not present.
Furthermore, the quorum does not become disorganized or dissolved when the President or a member of it dies or transgresses. The other two remain as members of the quorum with the power to replace the missing member(s)
Indeed, the remaining member of the quorum is the only one who has the right to receive revelation as to who should be called into the quorum. He is the one with the power and authority to ordain and replace the missing members of the quorum!
The following entry in the history of the church during the Kirtland years provides yet another testimony to this great truth-
“On 19 april 1834 at the organization of the Kirtland Council, the Prophet spoke of the role of counselors in the ancient church: “he had two men appointed as counselors with him, in case Peter was absent, his counselors could transact business alone….
Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Zebedee Coltrin “laid hands upon brother Sidney and confirmed upon him the blessings of wisdom and knowledge to preside over the church in the absence of brother Joseph.”
From the above declaration of Joseph Smith it is clear that James and John continued to have the keys to preside in the church after Peter was crucified. (some accounts of the restoration of the 2nd priesthood by Peter James and John reveal that it was just one angel, not three that restored this priesthood and that the angel was John, not Peter. If this is true, it provides another testimony that all three members of a first presidency may act singularly without the other two)
How ironic it is that Joseph gave this instruction as Sidney was being ordained with blessings of wisdom and knowledge and to be able to preside over the church in the absence of Brother Joseph.
As you can see, Sidney had been given the authority to preside in Joseph’s absence as early as 1834!
How incredibly refreshing it is to actually hear the voice of reason and the quoting of scripture as the standard…Something Brigham Young and his brethren failed to do at all during the trial.
The blatant absence of sound doctrine would later become a trademark of Brigham’s future administration.
The accusers at the trial did not base any of their remarks on the law of succession as contained in the scriptures, it appears that all they wanted to do was destroy the credibility and reputation of Rigdon and characterize him as being delinquent in his duties so that they could cast him aside, dissolve the quorum of the first presidency and become the presiding quorum of the Church.
Marks wasn’t finished.
He continued on to make sure that his testimony on the succession issue was complete and fully understood.
He wanted to make sure that they understood that the quorum of the twelve did not have the authority to organize another first presidency and they would not be able to preside over the church because their calling was to be a traveling missionary quorum of life, to take the gospel into the mission field-
“When this organization is broken up there is a quorum broken up which is of great power and authority, and I always thought it ought to have been continued.
The Church has always supposed the Twelve were to bear the gospel to all the world and when they are absent, who will preside over the church? (107:23,33)
We know that it is necessary for individuals to preside over the whole church.
Now we are losing this office and power and authority, but I feel as though we don’t want to lose anything.
I feel that we ought to keep up the organization, if it is right to do so.”
If the doctrine being preached by William Marks is sound and true, it stands as a condemnation not only against Brigham and his brethren of the Twelve at that time, it stands as a condemnation of the current quorum of the twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints.
For indeed, they base themselves out of what they claim is the main stake of Zion and the preside over what they claim to be organized stakes.
Something the Lord has expressly forbidden them to do.
They fly all over the world organizing stakes of Zion and presiding in “stakes of Zion” instead of focusing their efforts exclusively on preaching the gospel to non-members in the mission field as they have been commanded to do by revelation.
By dissolving the first presidency that was set up by revelation and then eventually reorganizing it themselves, even though they had no power and authority to do so, the quorum of the Twelve have taken unto themselves a power and calling that was never given to them!
[Although the church membership have the right by common consent to appoint a president instead of some that the Lord has designated as a prophet seer and revelator, is certainly must be a serious thing for these authorities to call themselves the Lord’s anointed prophets, seers and revelators!]
They are doing something they have been expressly forbidden to do!
They are not allowed to preside in a stake of Zion!
They had no authority to organize a portion of their traveling missionary quorum into the first presidency of the church!
Within 3 ½ years after the church sustained the Twelve as the presiding quorum over the church, Brigham and his brethren would create a first presidency to preside over the church and the quorum of the Twelve.
Although Brigham was quite candid about the fact that he was not a prophet and was not a legal successor to Joseph Smith, the marketing department of the corporate church would eventually indoctrinate the church membership to believe that these men hold the same keys and spiritual gifts as Joseph and Sidney held.
Wilford Woodruff would be the first person that Brigham would confide in about reorganizing the First Presidency. Here is what Wilford Woodruff writes in his personal diary-
“I had a question put to me by President Young: What my opinion was concerning one of the Twleve Apostles being appointed as the President of the Church with his two counselors. I answered that a quorum like the Twelve who had been appointed by revelation, confirmed by revelation from time to time, I thought it would require a REVELATION to change the order of that quorum..”
We must give Wilford Woodruff credit for understanding that a change in the quorum of the Twelve would require a revelation from God.
Indeed, the creation of a First Presidency would require a revelation from God, if indeed it was even possible for a lesser priesthood quorum to create a higher priesthood quorum.
Despite the concerns of Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young would eventually move forward without a revelation and have himself elected as the President of the Church.
Back to the trial, William Marks continued-
“When Elder Rigdon first came from Pittsburgh he said it was his place to receive the oracles, but there was a delicacy in Brother Rigdon in presenting his claims to the people; he supposed there would have been some individuals who would have taken up the case.—
What does it mean to “receive the oracles“?
One way to interpret the revelation is that the successor to Joseph Smith would be responsible for being the steward over the existing canonized revelations and be responsible for teaching what they mean.
Another way to interpret it is that the successor to Joseph Smith would be responsible for receiving additional revelation for the church.
It would appear as if both interpretations may be correct.
Marks then says that he is willing to sustain the actions of the court if it can be proven that Rigdon was worthy of being severed from the church, reiterates that he can find nothing that Rigdon has done wrong-
“It appears from what has been stated this morning, that the questions have been put which seems to bring a contradiction. If Elder Rigdon has done anything worthy of being severed from the church, I feel to go with the church, and to be satisfied with what they do. I dont [don’t] know that I can see anything worthy of cutting him off at the present time. Probably I am prejudiced in his favor; if it is wrong I hope the brethren will forgive me.
When I have set with the High Council I have always tried to divest myself of prejudice. I am willing that the High Council and church should act on his case, if they think best. I felt as though there was a great many men here who were saying hard things against him and nobody to speak a word for him, and I have volunteered to say a few words in his defence [defense].
I have had a conversation with Elder Rigdon and I cannot find that he has committed a crime. The church has never cut off any person without a crime was proven against him.
The following question by Marks may well be the most important question he asked during the trial-
“Now is there a man in the church who has received the ordination of a prophet, seer and revelator? [other than Sidney Rigdon] If there is I want to see him.—”
“There has men been ordained prophets, priests and kings, but I have never heard of anyone [except Sidney Rigdon] being ordained a seer and revelator. I think I am knowing to all the ordinations, but I dont [don’t] know of a man who has been ordained to the office and calling Brother Sidney has; and if he is cut off, who will we have to obtain revelations?”
Again, one of the reasons that William Marks testimony is so powerful is that he was actually one of the members of the secret quorums where men were being ordained as “prophets, priests and kings“. Yet he clearly understood that those callings did not have the power to act as a prophet seer and revelator for the church.
He was a member of the quorum of 50 and he was also involved in receiving the secret endowment ….. so he was aware of the ordinations that Joseph had done regarding being a prophet priest and king but he understood that those ordinations did not give someone the power and authority to preside over the church nor did any of Joseph’s “secret measures” supersede the protocol written in the scriptures.
Marks then made the following declaration-
“A man must be in possession of this power to be able to ordain a prophet, and a seer and a revelator. If there is a man ordained to lead this people, [other than Sidney Rigdon] I do not know it.”
” I dont [don’t] believe there are sufficient revelations given to lead this people, and I am fully of the belief that this people cannot build the kingdom except it is done by revelation”
The Importance of Revelation in Leading the Church
Marks declarations really bring us to the bottom line of what the trial was all about. The church was going to be making a decision about whether they would submit themselves to a prophet seer and revelator and be led by divine revelation or whether they would rather follow the council of a quorum of men who had been ordained kings and priests and who would eventually role over the church like kings, rather than as as prophets seers and revelators. (what many people don’t realize is that Joseph had used the members of the quorum of the Twelve and others to re-established the throne of David, in fulfillment of ancient prophecy. The presidents of the church from Brigham Young to the Thomas Monson, are apparently decedents of the House of David and the ancient kingdom of Judah, nevertheless, they were not prophets, seers, and revelators)
In wrapping up this installment and the magnificent pontifications of William Marks, let us review the 18 points he made during his defense of Sidney Rigdon-
1- The court was not proceeding according to the protocol provided in modern revelation
2- Straws must be drawn to see who defends the character of the accused and makes sure he gets a fair trial
3- It is improper to bring up old charges that Rigdon has already been tried for and found innocent of
4- The First Presidency of the Church always presides over the church
5- It does not become unorganized or dissolved when one or two members die
6- Any member of the quorum can conduct business when the other two are not present
7- The First Presidency has “power and responsibility” no other quorum has. They preside over the quorum of the Twelve
8- The quorum of the 12 are a traveling missionary quorum that has no right to preside in an established stake of Zion (with no authority to organize the First Presidency)
9- He personally helped Joseph Ordain Sidney to be a Prophet Seer and Revelator
10- A person must be a prophet seer and revelator in order to ordain another person to be a prophet seer and revelator (Marks could not have ordained Sidney himself, he could only participate in the circle while Joseph performed the ordinance)
11- Marks was aware of every ordination and Sidney was the only living person was ordained to be a prophet seer and revelator
12- A “prophet, priest and king” does not have the same authority as a “prophet seer and revelator” and does not have the right to receive the oracles for the church
13- Sidney was equal with Joseph in holding the Keys and Authority of the Kingdom
14- Sidney has sustained his authority and has not lost it through transgression
15- Sidney is the one to receive the oracles from brother Joseph and give them to the church
16- If Sidney is cut off from the church, there will be no one to obtain revelations for the church
17- Continuous revelation was essential to guide the church
18- The kingdom cannot be built without revelation
Finally, let’s review what Joseph Smith had said regarding the importance of revelation-
The essence of Mormonism is revelation from God to man. It is by revelation that God is known. The prophets have consistently taught this throughout the ages.
Joseph Smith taught “Jesus in His teachings says, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ What rock? Revelation.” Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Five 1842–43, p.273.
“Salvation cannot come without revelation; it is in vain for anyone to minister without it. No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a Prophet. No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy.” Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 160.
“No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator.” Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 328.
In our next installment we shall take a look at the amazing man who led the scapegoat out of the congregation of Israel and then positioned himself to become the sole president of the church. Ancient prophecy refers to this man as a “fit man”.