Eugene E. Campbell
Church Organizational Development
[p.147]While colonizing efforts demanded time and energy, Mormon leaders never lost sight of their real purpose: the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. This required ecclesiastical organization. During their first years in the Rocky Mountains, the three-member First Presidency was firmly established as the leading quorum of the church. An extension of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the First Presidency worked effectively with the apostles, while the Quorum of Seventy continued to struggle to find its role and the Presiding Bishopric became identified and stabilized only after a period of some confusion. The Presiding Patriarch, an office based on lineage, served as a comforting and guiding influence.
Stake presidencies and high councils continued to function as they had in the pre-Utah period. However, ward bishoprics assumed a much more important role, especially as the number of settlers continued to grow. Their duties included presiding over weekly sacrament services and also exerting control over such priesthood activities as visiting the Saints at home each month (variously called block teaching, ward teaching, or home teaching). Sunday schools and a reactivated Relief Society were auxiliary organizations, but neither assumed the importance that it was to gain in later years. These first decades were a time of stabilization.
The First Presidency, dissolved at the time of Joseph Smith’s death in June 1844, was not formally reorganized until after Brigham [p.148] Young had led the majority of church members from Nauvoo to Winter Quarters in 1846 and the pioneers to the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Young served as de facto leader for the majority of church members by virtue of his position as president of the Twelve Apostles, which was sustained as the governing quorum of the church on 8 August 1844.1
Upon his return to Winter Quarters in the fall of 1847, Young began to sound out the members of the Twelve about organizing a First Presidency composed of members from within their ranks. Some of the apostles initially opposed the move, fearing that their authority would be diminished as a result, and three meetings ended without a decision. However, a fourth meeting on 5 December 1847, in Orson Hyde’s home in Kanesville, Iowa, resulted in Young’s being sustained as president, Heber C. Kimball as first counselor, and Willard Richards as second counselor. The Twelve’s action was sustained by the church at a conference on 27 December in Kanesville and in other conferences held in Salt Lake City and in Manchester, England.2
The First Presidency, as initially reorganized, was little more than an extension of the Twelve. Although the Twelve did not actually set the First Presidency apart for their positions until twenty years after the death of Brigham Young, since 1847 the senior member of the quorum with the longest period of continuous service in the quorum has been named the new president. The quorum voted on the reorganization, so technically it was not an automatic appointment; however, this vote was, and is, pro forma.3
[p.149] Young’s first presidency functioned more effectively than those organized by Joseph Smith. With the single exception of Smith’s older brother, Hyrum, every member of the first presidencies organized by Smith either apostatized or was excommunicated. Young’s counselors, on the other hand, were tested friends and close relatives. Richards was Young’s first cousin, and Kimball was not only a longtime personal friend but he and Young shared several in-law relationships through polygamous marriages.
The three men operated as a unit until Richards died at the age of forty-nine on 11 March 1854. He was succeeded by Jedediah M. Grant the following 7 April. Grant, who had been the first mayor of Salt Lake City, was still a young man when he died after only two years in the presidency. He died at the age of forty, after leading the church through a vigorous period of introspection and self-criticism known as the Mormon Reformation (see chap. 11). His place was filled by Daniel H. Wells on 4 January 1857. Kimball served as first counselor until his death in 1868 and was succeeded by George A. Smith. Smith had served as an apostle since 1839 and had been one of the most successful colonizers in the Great Basin.
If the First Presidency was an extension of the Twelve, then the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was the source that produced and directed church leadership. As Young said on 26 June 1865, “Tomorrow it will be twenty-one years since Joseph Smith was killed, and from that time to this the Twelve have dictated, guided and directed the destinies of this great people.” Despite his having organized the First Presidency, Young still considered himself president of the Quorum of the Twelve and that his being president of the church resulted from his being senior apostle.
Originally designated as a “traveling high council,” with jurisdiction only in areas outside the organized stakes, the Twelve had been given increased recognition and authority by Joseph Smith, especially during the Nauvoo period. The proselyting success of the apostles in England and the loyalty of some of the quorum members [p.150] to their prophet during times of crisis had contributed to the ascendancy of the Twelve during the succession crisis that followed the prophet’s death.
Eight (nine, counting Young) members of the Twelve supported Young after Smith’s death. Apostles William Smith and John E. Page had been excommunicated in 1845 and 1846, respectively, and Lyman Wight was disfellowshipped in 1848 when he failed to respond to the call to go west. But Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt, and Orson Pratt, of the original Twelve, and later additions John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Willard Richards, Amasa M. Lyman, and Ezra Taft Benson all played prominent roles in leading the church west and in colonizing the Great Basin. Their leadership added greatly to the prestige of the Twelve during the pioneers’ first twenty years in the Rocky Mountains.
Some problems of authority did inevitably arise. During the early months of 1848, for example, while the pioneers rationed their food and continued their building projects, some of their leaders became involved in a jurisdictional dispute. As noted in chapter 1, when Young left the valley in late August 1847, he indicated that John Smith was to preside as stake president, with Charles C. Rich and John Young as counselors. A high council was also organized. Young did this, knowing that in two or three months, apostles Pratt and Taylor would arrive in the valley. Evidently, Young expected the stake organization to recognize Pratt’s and Taylor’s higher position in the hierarchy. However, neither Pratt nor Taylor felt that their authority was being respected by the stake presidency or high council.4 When Young returned to the valley in September 1848, he attempted to clarify the issue. In so doing, he left the way open for varying interpretations.
According to his manuscript history for 16 February 1849, Young said, speaking of the duties of the president of the stake:
He should take charge of all the affairs of the stake, spiritual and temporal, under the direction of the first Presidency. It is his privilege to call on the Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, the High Priests, the different Quorums, or any man in the Stake to assist him.… The Twelve are not ruling authorities here, they are subject to the authorities of the Stake and the High Council and are to observe every law and ordinance as would any member of the Church, the same as if they had not office. If [p.151] the First Presidency are absent and the Presidency of this Stake or the High Council are in transgression, then if the Twelve or any one of them be there, it is his right and duty to step in and say, “I am the man to lead you.” And if the High Council think they are as big as he, let them call the people together and he can wield the power and the Word of the Spirit as he pleases in magnifying his office. If the people are given up to wickedness and will not harken to him then he can bid them good-bye and leave them in the hands of the devil and God. The High Priests are a local quorum to fill up the travelling quorum when needed.
Young thus attempted to subordinate the Twelve to local authorities in matters of local concern but left the way open for any member of the Twelve to assert his authority and to demonstrate his power if the occasion demanded. Young seemed to be reflecting his experience in the 1844 succession crisis.
By the end of 1847, four vacancies existed in the Quorum of the Twelve. Three members had been called into the First Presidency and Lyman Wight had been dropped from the quorum for “dishonor[ing] the Holy Priesthood” by publishing a pamphlet against the Twelve. On 12 February 1849, Young, his counselors, and four of the Twelve met and ordained Charles C. Rich, Lorenzo Snow, Erastus Snow, and Franklin D. Richards to fill the vacancies.5 Young then said, as reported in the official minutes of the Twelve, “Brother Heber and I have now ordained twelve apostles and we expect to ordain no more. Joseph never ordained one. Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer did it. It then fell on the Twelve. They have been ordained by us. If any more come in they will be ordained by the Quorum and not by us as we have done our work. Seven of the twelve were here.”6
Shortly after this meeting, Amasa Lyman and Charles Rich were sent to California, George A. Smith was called to the Iron County Mission, Lorenzo Snow was called to “open the door of the Gospel in Italy,” Erastus Snow was sent to open the Scandinavian Mission, John Taylor was called to France, and Franklin D. Richards was sent to England—first to assist Orson Pratt and then to replace him when Pratt felt it was time to return to Utah. Each of these men showed remarkable ability in difficult situations and no doubt enhanced the prestige of the quorum in the eyes of church members.
[p.152] George A. Smith represented the southern Utah settlers in the territorial legislature, helped to survey a city plat for Provo and established part of his family there, served as military commander for the military district “south of Utah mountains” during the Walker War, went to Washington, D.C., in 1856 with a constitution of the proposed State of Deseret, and later led settlers to St. George, which was named for him. In 1868, six years before his death, he became a member of the First Presidency.
According to his own report, Lorenzo Snow set out on
my mission to Italy, established the gospel in that country and also in Switzerland and the Island of Malta and sent missions to Calcutta, Bombay, and the East Indies and returned home after an absence of nearly three years. Built me a good home in Salt Lake City and was then appointed to superintend the settlement of Box Elder. Laid out a city which we called Brigham City. Built a large flour mill and a public hall for meeting 45 to 60, two stories high, above the basement [and] which when completed will cost perhaps $30,000.
This beginning enterprise ultimately led to the most successful communitarian enterprise in pioneer Utah.
Lyman and Rich presided at San Bernardino until they were called to serve in the European Mission in 1857. Due to uncertainties regarding the Utah War, they did not leave for Europe until May 1860. After serving in Europe, Rich returned to his families but was soon called to colonize the Bear Lake region. Lyman drifted into Spiritualism, was deprived of his apostleship in 1867, was excommunicated in 1870, and died seven years later.
Orson Hyde, after returning from Iowa, was called to colonize the Green River country in Wyoming in 1853 and was then asked to serve as probate judge and leader of the church in Carson Valley, Nevada, in 1855. He fell into disfavor with Young as a result of his activities in the Nevada colony. Young even referred to Hyde as “a stench in my nostrils” and insisted that Hyde “had no more right to lead the twelve than a dog.” However, when Hyde returned from Carson Valley, he entered into the Mormon reformation crusade with vigor and was called to fill many speaking assignments by Young. He subsequently incurred Young’s wrath again by presuming to start a conference meeting when Young was late in arriving and took a “tongue lashing from Brigham on that occasion.” Later he was called to preside in San Pete County, where in died in 1878.
Ezra T. Benson presided over the church in Cache Valley, while Orson Pratt, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Franklin D. Richards [p.153] served in various capacities in the Salt Lake Valley and in immigration and mission assignments.
Perhaps most tragic was the case of Parley P. Pratt. Called to preside over the Pacific missions, Pratt went to California in 1851 where he set the church in order, including disfellowshipping Samuel Brannan. He then attempted to open missionary work in South America, traveling to Chile where he labored under great difficulty. Returning home, he tried to aid a recent convert, Eleanor McLean, whom he had met in California. Finally, Pratt married her even though she had not been legally divorced from her first husband. Trying to help her secure her children, Pratt was waylaid by her first husband and his friends near Van Buren, Arkansas, and was shot and stabbed to death in 1857. He was replaced on the Twelve by George Q. Cannon, a nephew of John Taylor. Cannon had distinguished himself as a missionary in Hawaii and as editor of the Western Standard, a Mormon newspaper published in San Francisco.
Only two other men were added to the Quorum of the Twelve during these early years, and both were called and ordained in rather unusual circumstances. Joseph F. Smith, a son of Hyrum Smith, was only twenty-eight years old when Brigham Young ordained him to the apostleship. According to the official minutes:
July 1st, 1866. Sunday Afternoon in a prayer circle. After we were dressed in our priesthood garments, Elder John Taylor offered the opening prayer, then Brigham Young offered a prayer with great spirit and power. When we had finished, President Young arose from his knees and took off his apron with an intention apparently of undressing. Of a sudden he stopped and exclaimed, “Hold On, should I do as I feel it? I always feel well to do as the spirit constrains me. It is in my mind to ordain Elder Joseph F. Smith to the apostleship. And to be one of my counsellors.” And then called on each one of us for an expression of our feelings and we individually responded and it met our hardy approval, and we then offered up the signs of the priesthood after which Elder Joseph F. Smith, knelt upon the alter and taking off his cap we laid our hands upon him, brother Brigham being mouth and we repeated after him in the usual form. We said, “Brother Joseph F. Smith, we lay our hands upon your head in the name of Jesus Christ and by the virtue of the holy priesthood to ordain you to be an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and be a special witness to the nations of the earth and seal upon your head all the authority and power, and keys of this holy apostleship and ordain you to be a counsellor unto the first Presidency of the church and the kingdom of God upon the earth. These blessings we seal upon your head in the name of Jesus Christ by the authority of the Holy Priesthood. Amen.” After the ordination, Brother [p.154] Brigham said that this is the first time that any person has been ordained in this manner.… After we had finished upstairs we descended into the historian’s office and wrote this statement which we signed about 20 minutes past 6 in the afternoon of Sunday July the 1st, 1866. Signed, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, and George Q. Cannon.
Smith was not set apart as one of the Twelve until 8 October 1867 when he replaced Amasa Lyman who was dropped from the quorum at the same time.
On 15 April 1864, Young, Taylor, and George A. Smith met for prayers. The minutes record that Young said,
I am going to tell you something that I have never before mentioned to any other person. I have ordained my sons, Joseph A., Brigham, and John W., apostles and my counsellors, have you any objections? Brother Taylor, George A. Smith said that they had not that it was his own affair and they considered it under his own direction. He further stated that in ordaining “my sons I have done no more than I am perfectly willing that you do with yours and I am now determined to put my sons into active service in the spiritual affairs of the Kingdom and keep them there just as long as possible, that you have the same privilege.” Signed John Taylor, and George A. Smith.
Brigham Young, Jr., was ordained on 4 February 1864 by his father but was not set apart as a member of the quorum until 9 October 1868. At that time he replaced George A. Smith who had been called to the First Presidency. Young evidently ordained his son John at the age of ten and again at the age of nineteen. John Young served in the First Presidency from 1873 to 1877 but was never admitted to the Twelve, nor was his brother, Joseph, who died in 1875.
The office of Presiding Patriarch was unfilled at the time the pioneers came to the Rocky Mountains.7 William Smith, brother of Joseph Smith, had claimed the right to be ordained by reason of his relationship to Joseph and Hyrum. Although acknowledging Smith’s right to the patriarchal office, Young did not ordain him until 24 May 1845, only after Smith had satisfactorily explained his questionable conduct in the eastern states where he had evidently entered into and performed plural marriages. Soon afterwards, however, Smith published a pamphlet against the Twelve and was rejected as [p.155] Presiding Patriarch by a conference assembled on 6 October 1845. Excommunication followed thirteen days later.
The office was not filled again until 1 January 1849 when “Uncle” John Smith, president of the Salt Lake Stake, was ordained by Young and Kimball. Then sixty-eight years old, John Smith was highly respected by church members. In addition to his other church callings, Patriarch Smith gave some 5,560 patriarchal blessings which were recorded in seven large books. Five years later, sensing his own death, Smith dictated the following statement to church scribes, as recorded in the Historians’ Office Journal, in mid-May 1854: “Father John Smith, patriarch, does not wish the brethren who meet in the council house to pray for him to live, for I know it is the will of the Lord to take me to himself when he pleases and I want him to do it in the best possible manner for my ease and comfort. By his request, John Smith, patriarch.” He died at 10 minutes past 11 p.m. on May 23, 1854, a few days after making this request.
Smith was succeeded as Presiding Patriarch by John Smith, son of Hyrum Smith, on 18 February 1855. Only twenty-three years old, Smith had lost his mother in 1837 and his father in 1844. Commenting on Smith’s life at the time of his ordination, Young said, according to his manuscript history,
John Smith, son of Hyrum and Jerusa, was born in Kirtland, Guana (now Lake) County, Ohio, September 22, 1832. When in his twelfth year, his father, the patriarch, was massacred at Carthage. In consequence of the persecution of the Church and the circumstances of his family, his opportunities of attending school were very limited. He labored diligently to attend to the wants of his father’s family. In manner, he was very diffident and he possessed no tact for public speaking. In the canyons and on Indian expeditions he was always found on hand by his brethren.
John Smith acted as Presiding Patriarch until his death in 1911 but was often threatened with dismissal because he habitually used alcohol and tobacco.
The Seventy had difficulty finding a definite role in the church during the Saints’ first two decades in the West. Members played a prominent part in the Mormon Battalion, and Levi W. Hancock, one of the seven presidents of the Seventy, emerged as spiritual leader of the group, although he held the lowly rank of Musician, 3rd Class, which was about the same as Private. Seventy-eight members of the Seventy were listed in Brigham Young’s 1847 pioneer company. As quorum members helped to colonize the West, they settled in different communities, and leaders found it difficult to keep in contact [p.156] with members, since each quorum of Seventy retained their members no matter where they lived.
The seven presidents of the Seventy, who made up the presiding officers of the Seventy, were veterans of church service when they came to Utah. Joseph Young, brother of Brigham, had been ordained one of the first presidents in 1835 and continued in that office until his death in 1881. Levi W. Hancock, also called to the Seventy in 1835, served until his death in 1882. Henry Harriman and Albert P. Rockwood were ordained in 1838 and served until their deaths in 1879 and 1891. Zeta Pulsipher was also ordained in 1838 but was released in 1862 because he “transcended the bounds of his priesthood in the ordinance of sealing,” according to church historian Andrew Jenson.
Perhaps the most dynamic leader of the group was Jedediah M. Grant, who was ordained in 1845 and served until he was called to the First Presidency in 1854. Benjamin L. Clapp was also ordained in 1845 but was rejected in 1852, reinstated in 1853, threatened with being dropped again in 1856, and finally excommunicated in 1859. Horace Eldridge replaced Jedediah Grant in 1854 and was included with most of the other presidents in a public criticism at the October 1856 conference when Brigham Young threatened to drop all of the leaders except his brother Joseph. This was at the height of the reformation when a number of leaders were publicly criticized and threatened. The leaders survived these threats and continued to prepare their members to be missionaries. Approximately 70 percent of all missionaries between 1860 and 1870 were Seventies.
Jacob Gates and John Van Cott, a cousin of Orson and Parley P. Pratt, were chosen to replace Benjamin L. Clapp and Zera Pulsipher, completing the roster of men who served as the seven presidents during these early years. Van Cott, although of Dutch extraction, had served two missions in Scandinavia and was looked upon as the Scandinavian representative in the church hierarchy.
The fifth and final quorum organized in the church was the Presiding Bishopric. According to Michael Quinn, “Of all the units of L.D.S. hierarchy, the historical development of this office has been the most complex and least understood.” This lack of understanding, particularly about the relationship of the Presiding Bishopric to the First Presidency, continued after the Saints arrived in the Great Basin. Newel K. Whitney functioned during the early to mid-1840s as General Bishop along with Vinson Knight and William Miller. When Knight died and Miller became disaffected while crossing the plains, [p.157] Whitney emerged as Presiding Bishop and was sustained as such in 1847.
Initially, Whitney served in the bishopric alone. But on 6 September 1850, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball were sustained as his counselors. Whitney died two weeks later, and the experiment of unifying the office of Presiding Bishop with the quorum of the First Presidency ended.
Edward Hunter replaced Whitney on 7 April 1851, serving without counselors until the following 8 September. At that time Young called Nathaniel H. Felt and John Banks as traveling presiding bishops under Hunter. A month later, Young called Alfred Cordon to be a “traveling bishop to preside over other bishops.” All of these men were sustained as “assistant presiding and traveling bishops among the people” in the April and October conferences of 1852 and also in April 1853. Despite these appointed assistants, Young and Kimball were, according to Young’s manuscript history, called as Hunter’s counselors on 11 April 1852 and were unanimously sustained by the conference.8
From October 1853 to October 1856, however, Hunter served without assistants or counselors being sustained with him at General Conference. Felt, Banks, and Cordon had all been released in October 1853. Leonard W. Hardy and Jesse C. Little were sustained as first and second counselors in the Presiding Bishopric at the October 1856 conference and continued to serve with Hunter through the 1860s.
Since the church was financed by tithes, and about 80 percent of tithing was contributed in “kind” or labor, the Presiding Bishopric had a major task in managing these products. The General Tithing Office and “Deseret Store” in Salt Lake City became the merchandising center of the territory and, as previously noted, played an important role in colonizing the region.
John Smith, Charles C. Rich, and John Young served as the presidency of the Salt Lake Stake from 3 October 1847 until 1 January 1849. Together with the high council, these men constituted the governing body of the church in the valley during the difficult months of early settlement. They not only presided in religious affairs but were required to make laws, to punish offenders, to settle disputes, [p.158] to regulate economic affairs, and to organize a military force to protect the settlements against Indian attacks. They proved to be effective leaders, even though apostles Parley P. Pratt and John Taylor felt that they had failed to create an atmosphere of harmony and confidence.
This stake presidency was broken up on 1 January 1849 when Young, Kimball, and Grant called on John Smith and ordained him Presiding Patriarch. Charles Rich was called to be an apostle, and John Young was ordained president of the High Priests. Smith was succeeded as stake president by Daniel Spencer, who was chosen on 12 February 1849. Five days later, Spencer helped to ordain David Fullmer and Willard Snow as counselors. Isaac Morley was chosen to head the high council. Brigham Young charged Spencer to be responsible for both the temporal and spiritual welfare of the Saints under the direction of the First Presidency and gave him to understand that he had the right to call on any member of his stake, apostle and prophet alike, to aid in building the kingdom. Spencer served as stake president until his death in late 1869. Between 1847 and 1869, nine stakes were organized. The longest tenure for any stake president was Daniel Spencer’s twenty years, while the shortest was Charles C. Rich’s four months.
One of the unique aspects of stake government was Brigham Young’s tendency to appoint members of the Quorum of the Twelve to serve as stake leaders as well. Lorenzo Snow, Ezra T. Benson, Charles C. Rich, Franklin D. Richards, Brigham Young, Jr., Orson Hyde, and Erastus Snow all served as area leaders. Young decided to end this practice just before his death in 1877.
Perhaps the most important and critical change in church organization involved the duties of bishops. During the Nauvoo period, the city had been divided into geographical units, called wards, and bishops had been appointed to preside over them. However, a bishop’s duties were primarily temporal. All members of the church in a geographic area, from various wards, met together for preaching services. This pattern was followed during the first years in the valley. Brigham Young, or another of the general authorities, was typically the speaker, and matters of concern to the community were usually discussed. Apparently, preaching services were held in the forenoon and afternoon, with the evening reserved for quorum meetings, high council trials, and other gatherings. These general meetings in the Bowery, Council House, or Tabernacle were held during most of these early years. However, ward bishops also evidently held preaching and sacrament services.
[p.159] At first, the city was divided into five wards. But on 16 February 1849, the valley was divided into four wards south of the city and east of the Jordan River, one ward west of the Jordan River, and three wards north of the Great Salt Lake and east of the Jordan River. Six days later, the city was divided into nineteen wards of nine blocks each. Edward W. Tullidge asserted, in his History of Salt Lake City, that “each of the nineteen wards developed … before the regular incorporation of the city, like so many municipal corporations, over which the bishops were as chief magistrates or mayors.”
Leonard J. Arrington, writing about the career of an important and influential Salt Lake bishop, Edwin D. Woolley, summarized the general and specific duties of the typical bishop: He “saw that the ward was fenced in to protect the garden and orchards in the ward from roving livestock”; that “a ward school was built and operated”; that a ward Sunday school was organized; and “supervised dances, musical, and theatrics each winter after the harvest.” He “introduced and directed programs, collected tithes and contributions, gave counsel, relayed doctrinal pronouncements and policy decisions, solicited volunteers for economic and gospel missions”; and “raised his ward’s quota of laborers on the public works, teamsters to ‘go east’ to pick up immigrants, laborers to work on temples, produce for various church causes, and cash to buy such items as telegraph wire.” He “performed marriages, conducted funeral services, promoted women’s work by organizing a ward Relief Society, and directed the work of what they called the Lesser Priesthood (Aaronic Priesthood).” He “counselled young people, old people, and in fact all members of the ward”; “directed the activities of the ward, both temporal and spiritual”; was “their representative in dealing with Church officials, city officials and territorial officials”; and their “advocate, defender, promoter.” Finally, he was “a mediator, arbitrator or conciliator. Any difficulties between neighbors or ward members which could not be settled by the parties concerned—and there were many—were to be settled by the bishop. He might conduct a bishop’s court in which testimony would be taken, statements and affidavits read, and the bishop would make a decision which would be binding upon the parties involved.”
Bishops were not paid. Instructing the bishops in 1856, Brigham Young acknowledged that they sometimes complained they had no time for their own family responsibilities. Specifically, some of them had said that they had to reserve time to go get wood and poles from the canyon, attend to their farm, and make repairs on their own houses. Young always insisted that their work as bishops came first.
[p.160] “Let it take up all your time,” he said, “and trust in God for a living.”
“If you do your duty,” he said, “the Lord will open up your way so you will be rewarded.”
Unfortunately, not all bishops lived up to their callings as indicated in Young’s sermon delivered on 15 June 1856:
I have proof ready to show that Bishops have taken in thousands of pounds of tithing which they have never reported to the general tithing office. We have documents to show that Bishops have taken in hundreds of bushels of wheat, and only a small portion of it has come into the general tithing office; they stole it to let their friends speculate upon. If anyone is doubtful about this, will you not call on me to produce my proof before a proper tribunal? I should take pleasure in doing so, but we pass over such things in mercy to the people.
This, of course, may be little more than typical Young rhetoric. Still, it should not be surprising that some bishops failed in their calling; what is impressive is that so many succeeded in light of their other duties and the problems they faced in supporting their own, often large, families. During the years 1847 to 1869, more than one hundred bishops were appointed, and they frequently served twenty years or more. Edwin Woolley, for example, was called to be bishop of the Salt Lake Thirteenth Ward in 1854 and served until his death in 1881, a period of twenty-seven years.
One of the difficulties bishops had to deal with was their relationship to priesthood quorums. For example, the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums, except the Seventies, were organized on a stake basis (as is the case in the Mormon church today) and held their own meetings. The bishop had no authority to deal with such quorums. The Seventies were organized as units of the church, had a wide organization, and were not subject to stake jurisdiction. Bishops were assigned to be in charge of the Aaronic Priesthood quorums and to serve as president of the Priests’ quorum, but even here there were some jurisdictional disputes and misunderstandings.
Only two of the church’s auxiliary organizations functioned during these two decades. The Sunday School was started by Richard Ballantyne in December 1849 in his own home with fifty children in attendance. The idea soon spread throughout the region, but each group operated independently. Not until 1872 did the church unify the activities of the separate groups with the Deseret Sunday School Union. The Sunday School was intended primarily for young people, and adult classes were not organized on a churchwide basis until the twentieth century.
[p.161] The second auxiliary organized during this period was the Women’s Relief Society. Based on the Nauvoo Female Relief Society of the early 1840s, the Women’s Relief Society was established in 1867 and presided over by Eliza R. Snow, one of the most influential women in pioneer Utah. Relief Society members aided the poor, avoided luxuries, assisted in the operation of cooperative stores, and supported home industry. They also encouraged the organization, beginning in 1869, of Retrenchment Societies among young, usually single, women. These societies were eventually grouped together and became known as the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association. Members promoted frugal, practical economic and cultural activities and advocated women’s suffrage and equal rights throughout the settlements.
After an initially unstable period following their arrival in the Great Basin, church leaders settled on a program of steady ecclesiastical development. The First Presidency assumed control of church affairs and governed the various settlements and missions through the leadership of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and, to some extent, the Presiding Bishopric. Stake presidencies and high councils supervised the members in the stakes; bishops exercised the most direct influence over the day-to-day lives of the pioneers. Eventually the general and local leadership stabilized, and the kingdom was ruled in an increasingly orderly fashion. [p.163]
1. Since Smith had not clearly designated a successor or given an apparently consistent formula for choosing a new leader, the church faced a serious crisis when its prophet was martyred. In fact, according to D. Michael Quinn, Joseph Smith had designated a number of possible successors at different times and suggested eight patterns for choosing a new leader. Young had directed the completion of the Nauvoo Temple, administered temple endowment and sealing rituals, and instructed Apostle Wilford Woodruff to obtain foreign copyrights to church publications in the “name of Brigham Young, President of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
2. Quinn suggests that the absence during the December 1847 meetings of dissident apostles Lyman Wight, William Smith, and John E. Page made it possible to secure a unanimous vote from the quorum. There is also evidence that both Parley P. Pratt and John Taylor, who were in the Salt Lake Valley, had previously expressed some opposition to the idea of reorganizing a First Presidency.
3. At least two subsequent attempts were made to deviate from this pattern—one in 1877, the other in 1887—but both were rejected by the majority of the Twelve. Several problems also developed in regards to seniority in the quorum. Prior to the October 1861 General Conference, Wilford Woodruff’s name appeared before John Taylor’s, since he was the older of the two. However, Taylor had been ordained an apostle four months prior to Woodruff. Young chose to reverse this order at the October conference, and Taylor’s name was placed ahead of Woodruff’s. Fourteen years later, and two years before Young’s death, Young again changed the order of the Twelve when he pointed out that both Orson Hyde and Orson Pratt had either been temporarily excommunicated or suspended from the quorum and had consequently lost their seniority. Taylor, Woodruff, and George A. Smith had been set apart as members of the quorum during Hyde’s and Pratt’s “brief and painful separations” and so were placed ahead of the two apostles, both of whom outlived Young and would probably have succeeded him as president if the adjustment had not been made.
5. Orson Hyde, assisted by George A. Smith and Ezra T. Benson, was “presiding over the Church in the Pottawattomie land”; Orson Pratt was in Europe; and Wilford Woodruff was in the North American British Provinces.
7. The office of Presiding Patriarch was the only hereditary office in the church and was confined to the descendants of Asael Smith, grandfather of Joseph Smith. In the three cases that follow, William Smith was a brother, “Uncle” John Smith an uncle, and John Smith a nephew to the prophet.
8. Quinn has written that Young and Kimball were apparently never presented at General Conference as counselors to Hunter, but Young’s manuscript history is clear. Hunter was also named at the time as assistant trustee-in-trust for the church.