Essential Brigham Young
Foreword by Eugene E. Campbell
“The Remarks of President Young in Behalf of the Claim of the Twelve to Lead the Church in the Absence of the First Presidency” A Sermon in Two Parts Delivered on 8 August 1844 (from Joseph Smith et al., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 7 vols.
[Salt Lake City: Deseret Press, 1932], 7:231-36, 239-42)
[p.11]The meeting being opened, President Brigham Young arose and said:—
Attention all! This congregation makes me think of the days of King Benjamin, the multitude being so great that all could not hear. I request the brethren not to have any feelings for being convened this afternoon, for it is necessary; we want you all to be still and give attention, that all may hear. Let none complain because of the situation of the congregation, we will do the best we can.
For the first time in my life, for the first time in your lives, for the first time in the kingdom of God in the 19th century, without a Prophet at our head, do I step forth to act in my calling in connection with the Quorum of the Twelve, as Apostles of Jesus Christ unto this generation—Apostles whom God has called by revelation through the Prophet Joseph, who are ordained and anointed to bear off the keys of the kingdom of God in all the world.
This people have hitherto walked by sight and not by faith. You have had the Prophet in your midst. Do you all understand? You have walked by sight and without much pleading to the Lord to know whether things were right or not.
Heretofore you have had a Prophet as the mouth of the Lord to speak to you, but he has sealed his testimony with his blood, and now, for the first time, are you called to walk by faith, not by sight.
The first position I take in behalf of the Twelve and the people is, to ask a few questions. I ask the Latter-day Saints: do you, as individuals, at this time, want to choose a Prophet or a guardian? Inasmuch as our Prophet and Patriarch are taken from our midst, do you want some one to guard, to guide and lead you through this world into the kingdom of God, or not? All that want some person to be a guardian or a Prophet, a spokesman or something else, signify it by raising the right hand. (No votes).
When I came to this stand I had peculiar feelings and impressions. [p.12]The faces of this people seem to say, we want a shepherd to guide and lead us through this world. 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.
If any man thinks he has influence among this people to lead away a party, let him try it, and he will find out that there is power with the Apostles which will carry them off victorious through all the world, and build up and defend the church and kingdom of God.
What do the people want? I feel as though I wanted the privilege to weep and mourn for thirty days at least, then rise up, shake myself, and tell the people what the Lord wants of them; although my heart is too full of mourning to launch forth into business transactions and the organization of the church, I feel compelled this day to step forth in the discharge of those duties God has placed upon me.
I now wish to speak of the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If the church is organized, and you want to know how it is organized, I will tell you. I know your feelings—do you want me to tell your feelings?
Here is President Rigdon, who was counselor to Joseph. I ask, where are Joseph and Hyrum? They are gone beyond the veil; and if Elder Rigdon wants to act as his counselor, he must go beyond the veil where he is.
There has been much said about President Rigdon being President of the Church, and leading the people, being the head, etc. Brother Rigdon has come 1,600 miles to tell you what he wants to do for you. If the people want President Rigdon to lead them they may have him; but I say unto you that the Quorum of the Twelve have the keys of the kingdom of God in all the world.
The Twelve are appointed by the finger of God. Here is Brigham, have his knees ever faltered? Have his lips ever quivered? Here is Heber and the rest of the Twelve, an independent body who have the keys of the priesthood—the keys of the kingdom of God to deliver to all the world: this is true, so help me God. They stand next to Joseph, and are as the First Presidency of the Church.
I do not know whether my enemies will take my life or not, and I do not care, for I want to be with the man I love.
You cannot fill the office of a prophet, seer and revelator: God must do this. You are like children without a father and sheep without a shepherd. You must not appoint any man at our head; if you should, the Twelve must ordain him. You cannot appoint a man at our head; but if you do want any other man or men to lead you, take them and we will go our way to build up the kingdom in all the world.
I know who are Joseph’s friends, and who are his enemies. I know where the keys of the kingdom are, and where they will eternally be. [p.13]You cannot call a man to be a prophet; you cannot take Elder Rigdon and place him above the Twelve; if so, he must be ordained by them.
I tell you there is an overanxiety to hurry matters here. You cannot take any man and put him at the head; you would scatter the saints to the four winds, you would sever the priesthood. So long as we remain as we are, the heavenly Head is in constant cooperation with us; and if you go out of that course, God will have nothing to do with you.
Again, perhaps some think that our beloved Brother Rigdon would not be honored, would not be looked to as a friend; but if he does right and remains faithful he will not act against our counsel nor we against his, but act together, and we shall be as one.
I again repeat, no man can stand at our head, except God reveals it from the heavens.
I have spared no pains to learn my lesson of the kingdom in this world and in the eternal worlds; and if it were not so, I could go and live in peace; but for the gospel and your sakes I shall stand in my place. We are liable to be killed all the day long. You have never lived by faith.
Brother Joseph, the Prophet, has laid the foundation for a great work, and we will build upon it; you have never seen the quorums built one upon another. There is an almighty foundation laid, and we can build a kingdom such as there never was in the world: we can build a kingdom faster than satan can kill the saints off.
What do you want? Do you want a patriarch for the whole church? To this we are perfectly willing. If Brother Samuel H. Smith had been living, it would have been his right and privilege; but he is dead, he is gone to Joseph and Hyrum, he is out of the reach of bullets and spears, and he can waft himself with his brothers, his friends and the saints.
Do you want a patriarch? Here is brother William [Smith] left; here is Uncle John Smith, uncle to the Prophet Joseph left; it is their right. The right of patriarchal blessings belongs to Joseph’s family.
Do you want a Trustee-in-Trust? Has there been a bishop who has stood in his lot yet? What is his business? To take charge of the temporal affairs, so that the Twelve and the elders may go on their business. Joseph condescended to do their business for them. Joseph condescended to offer himself for president of the United States, and it was a great condescension.
Do you want a spokesman? Here are Elder Rigdon, Brother Amasa Lyman [whom Joseph expected to take as a counselor] and myself Do you want the church properly organized, or do you want a spokesman to be chief cook and bottle-washer? Elder Rigdon claims to be spokesman to the Prophet. Very well, he was; but can he now act in that office? If he wants now to be a spokesman to the Prophet, he must go to the other side of the veil, for the Prophet is there, but Elder Rigdon is here. [p.14]Why will Elder Rigdon be a fool? Who knows anything of the priesthood, or of the organization of the kingdom of God. I am plain.
Does this church want it as God organized it? Or do you want to clip the power of the priesthood, and let those who have the keys of the priesthood go and build up the kingdom in all the world, wherever the people will hear them?
If there is a spokesman, if he is a king and priest, let him go and build up a kingdom unto himself; that is his right and it is the right of many here, but the Twelve are at the head of it.
I want to live on the earth and spread truth through all the world. You saints of latter-day want things right. If 10,000 men rise up and say they have the Prophet Joseph Smith’s shoes, I know they are imposters. In the priesthood you have a right to build up a kingdom, if you know how the church is organized.
Now, if you want Sidney Rigdon or William Law to lead you, or anybody else, you are welcome to them; but I tell you, in the name of the Lord that no man can put another between the Twelve and the Prophet Joseph. Why? Because Joseph was their file leader, and he has committed into their hands the keys of the kingdom in this last dispensation, for all the word; don’t put a thread between the priesthood and God.
I will ask, who has stood next to Joseph and Hyrum? I have, and I will stand next to him. We have a head, and that head is the Apostleship, the spirit and power of Joseph, and we can now begin to see the necessity of that Apostleship.
Brother Rigdon was at his side—not above. No man has a right to counsel the Twelve but Joseph Smith. Think of these things. You cannot appoint a prophet; but if you let the Twelve remain and act in their place, the keys of the kingdom are with them and they can manage the affairs of the church and direct all things aright.
Now, all this does not lessen the character of President Rigdon; let him magnify his calling, and Joseph will want him beyond the veil—let him be careful what he does, lest that thread which binds us together is cut asunder. May God bless you all.” …
President Brigham Young again arose and said:—
“There is more business than can be done this afternoon, but we can accomplish all we want to have done without calling this convention of the whole church. I am going to present to you the leading items.
I do not ask you to take my counsel or advice alone, but every one of you act for yourselves; but if Brother Rigdon is the person you want to lead you, vote for him, but not unless you intend to follow him and support him as you did Joseph. Do not say so without you mean to take his counsel hereafter.
[p.15]And I would say the same for the Twelve, don’t make a covenant to support them unless you intend to abide by their counsel; and if they do not counsel you as you please, don’t turn round and oppose them.
I want every man, before he enters into a covenant, to know what he is going to do; but we want to know if this people will support the priesthood in the name of Israel’s God. If you say you will, do so.
We want men appointed to take charge of the business that did lay on the shoulders of Joseph. Let me say to you that this kingdom will spread more than ever.
The Twelve have the power now—the seventies, the elders and all of you can have power to go and build up the kingdom in the name of Israel’s God. Nauvoo will not hold all the people that will come into the kingdom.
We want to build the Temple, so as to get our endowment; and if we do our best, and satan will not let us build it, we will go into the wilderness and we will receive the endowment, for we will receive an endowment anyhow.
Will you abide our counsel? I again say, my soul for any man’s, if they will abide our counsel, that they will go right into heaven. We have all the signs and tokens to give to the porter at the door, and he will let us in.
I will ask you as quorums, Do you want Brother Rigdon to stand forward as your leader, your guide, your spokesman. President Rigdon wants me to bring up the other question first, and that is, Does the church want, and is it their only desire to sustain the Twelve as the First Presidency of this people?
Here are the Apostles, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants—they are written on the tablet of my heart. If the church want the Twelve to stand as the head, the First Presidency of the Church, and at the head of this kingdom in all the world, stand next to Joseph, walk up into their calling, and hold the keys of this kingdom, every man, every woman, every quorum is now put in order, and you are now the sole controllers of it.
All that are in favor of this, in all the congregation of the saints, manifest it by holding up the right hand. (There was a universal vote). If there are any of the contrary mind, every man and every woman who does not want the Twelve to preside, lift up your hands in like manner. (No hands up). This supersedes the other question, and trying it by quorums.
We feel as though we could take Brother Rigdon in our bosom along with us; we want such men as Brother Rigdon. He has been sent away by Brother Joseph to build up a kingdom; let him keep the instructions and calling; let him raise up a mighty kingdom in Pittsburgh, [p.16]and we will lift up his hands to Almighty God. I think we may have a printing office and a gathering there. If the devil still tries to kill us he will have enough to do.
The next is President Marks. Our feelings are to let him stand as president of the stake, as heretofore. We can build the Temple, etc.
You did not know who you had amongst you. Joseph so loved this people that he gave his life for them; Hyrum loved his brother and this people unto death. Joseph and Hyrum have given their lives for the church. But very few knew Joseph’s character; he loved you unto death—you did not know it until after his death: he has now sealed his testimony with his blood.
If the Twelve had been here we would not have seen him given up—he should not have been given up. He was in your midst, but you did not know him; he has been taken away, for the people are not worthy of him.
The world is wide. I can preach in England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, etc. I can preach in all the world, and the devils cannot find us. I’ll swear to you I will not be given up.
There is much to be done. You have men among you who sleep with one eye open. The foundation is laid by our Prophet, and we will build thereon; no other foundation can be laid but that which is laid, and we will have our endowment, if the Lord will.
As the authorities do not want us to do military duty, don’t do it. If it is necessary, my neck is ready for the knife; as for myself, I am determined to build up the kingdom of God: and by and by there will be a gleaning of grapes, and it may be said, ‘To your tents, O Israel’.
We can build on the foundation that was laid by the Prophet. Joseph has finished his work, and all the devils in hell and all the mobbers on earth could not take his life until he had accomplished his work. God said, I will put a veil over his eyes and lead him up to the slaughter like a sheep to be killed, for the people are not worthy of him, though God loves this people.
Let no man suppose that the kingdom is rent from you; that it is not organized. If all the quorums of the church were slain, except the high priests, they would rise up with the keys of the kingdom, and have the powers of the priesthood upon them, and build up the kingdom, and the devil cannot help himself.
You can go to a healthy country, buy the land, and don’t let a cursed scoundrel get in your midst. Let there be good men, good women, and whenever a man comes with a wheelbarrow-full of goods don’t sell him land, don’t let him a house, nor buy of him.
Suppose we had ten thousand such places, and increasing in greatness, perfectly free from these poor devils, we should feel better than we do [p.17]now. Let us all be humble and get our endowments—all be humble, industrious and prudent, what sort of a kingdom would it be? The foundation is laid for more than we can think or talk about today.
Is it the will of this congregation that they will be tithed until the Temple is finished, as they have hitherto been? If so, signify it by the uplifted hand. (The vote was unanimous).
The men will act that have never acted before, and they will have the power and authority to do it. Is it the mind of this congregation to loose the hands of the Twelve, and enable us to go and preach to all the world? We want to know the feelings of the people. Is it your will to support the Twelve in all the world in their missions? (The congregation sustained this question by a unanimous vote). Will you leave it to the Twelve to dictate about the finances of the church? and will it be the mind of this people that the Twelve teach what will be the duties of the bishops in handling the affairs of the church? I want this, because twelve men can do it just as well as calling this immense congregation together at any other time. (A unanimous vote).
We shall have a patriarch, and the right is in the family of Joseph Smith, his brothers, his sons, or some one of his relations. Here is Uncle John, he has been ordained a patriarch. Brother Samuel would have taken the office if he had been alive; it would have been his right; the right is in Uncle John, or one of his brothers (read sec. iii, par. 17, Doctrine and Covenants). I know that it would have belonged to Samuel. But as it is, if you leave it to the Twelve, they will wait until they know who is the man. Will you leave it to the Twelve, and they dictate the matter. (A unanimous vote). I know it will be let alone for the present.
I feel to bring up Brother Rigdon; we are of one mind with him and he with us. Will this congregation uphold him in the place he occupies by the prayer of faith and let him be one with us and we with him. (Unanimous). The Twelve will dictate and see to other matters. There will be a committee for the Temple; and now let men stand to their posts and be faithful.”