Ep 86 – Talos’ Temple Crown
On this episode, Jo and friends have been busy for the first week of April 1841. We examine Jo’s enclave of Nauvoo through the eyes of the most pressing business to be handled through the April General Conference. Rigdon steps aside to make room for John Wreck-it Bennett to be Jo’s left-hand man, the magnitude of the Nauvoo Temple project is realized, and the leadership fills the pesky vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve and other prominent leadership bodies left by the deaths of David Patten and others. After that we jump into a new segment to talk about the larger scope of Mormon prophetic succession practices in light of the new leadership called to fill the vacancy left by Thomas Monson’s death.
Mormon history timeline
Book of the Law of the Lord
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
April of 1841 was abnormally busy for the Mormons and Joseph Smith. April 5th, Jo was sealed to his first polygamist wife in Nauvoo, Louisa Beaman, April 6th, the cornerstone ceremony for the Nauvoo Temple was held with the Nauvoo Legion out in full force, parading around town, and the rest of the week was soaked up by a major conference held after the 11th anniversary of the foundation of the Church of Christ. We’ve been covering certain aspects of this week for a number of episodes. Episode 77 was all about the Temple dedication ceremony, and from there back to episode 74 we’ve hit on small elements that are all congregating on this week in Mormon history.
In episode 74, we covered a significant portion of D&C 124, which was the first canonized revelation given in Nauvoo. It was a motherlode of a revelation, comprised of 145 verses in today’s D&C, and it touched on the creation of a number of committees, organizations, and specific directives for certain members of the Mormon elite and what they should do with their personal wealth. In that episode, we briefly touched on some reorganization of the leadership, so I’ll refer you back to 74 titled Foster Pulls a Pistol on Joseph Smith for a bit of backstory concerning what we’re about to discuss.
The church operated in semiannual blocks in Jo’s day, and to a certain extent it still does today. Whenever organizational changes or General Authorities are added or taken away from the Q70s up, the changes happen in the background all year, but are solemnized and created as church record in April and October during General Conference. For the second segment of this episode we’ll be discussing what this means in context of today’s church leadership and how it slightly differs from how Jo initially organized his hierarchy. The point is, in Jo’s church, leadership changes were called for and voted on during April and October conferences which lasted much longer than the weekend conferences that are held today.
The leadership in Nauvoo had been in a constant state of flux since the Mormons began moving into the Illinois area en masse from late 1838 on to where our historical timeline currently resides. The April 1841 conference included a lot of business from the previous 6 months which needed to be voted on and set into stone. We’ll be discussing a number of prominent names in this episode. With very few exceptions, these names will be the same names which constituted the leadership of the church when Jo and Hyrum were assassinated in June of 1844. I can’t stress enough how important many of these people were in the early church history, and we’re not even discussing the Quorum of the Twelve in large part today. We’ll be primarily focusing on the elites in Nauvoo, as the Q12 had yet to make it back to the states from their missionary trip in Europe.
We’ll spend the historical portion of today’s episode reading the minutes from the April 1841 conference. You guys must be fellow historical masochists like myself to find joy and pleasure in reading conference minutes, or else you wouldn’t be here. So, let’s dive right in and see what information can be garnered from this one conference spanning 5 days.
Beginning Wednesday, 7 April 1841, the conference convened in Nauvoo. The meeting was called to order and a dedicatory prayer was offered by William Law. The conference began with a powerful oration by Joseph Smith, recounting the struggles and prosperity of the Saints in every place the church had expanded to by that point.
Beginning on page 334 of V. 4 of the Dan Vogel History of the Church source and text critical edition, Jo begins by taking stock of the land and human resources the church had and had recently acquired. How great was the shadow cast by Talos?
“It is with unfeigned pleasure that they have to make known the steady and rapid increase of the Church in this State, the United States, and Europe. The anxiety to become acquainted with the principles of the gospel on every hand is intense, and the cry of ‘come over and help us,’ is reaching the elders on the wings of every wind; while thousands who have heard the gospel, have become obedient thereto, and are rejoicing in its gifts and blessings. Prejudice, with its attendant train of evils, is giving way before the force of truth, whose benign rays are penetrating the nations afar off.
The reports from the Twelve Apostles in Europe are very satisfactory, and state that the work continues to progress with unparalleled rapidity, and that the harvest is truly great. In the Eastern States the faithful laborers are successful, and many are flocking to the standard of truth.
Nor is the South keeping back. Churches have been raised up in the Southern and Western States, and a very pressing invitation has been received from New Orleans, for some of the elders to visit that city; which has been complied with. In our own state and immediate neighborhood, many are avowing their attachment to the principles of our holy religion, and have become obedient to the faith.
Peace and prosperity attend us; and we have favor in the sight of God and virtuous men. The time was, when we were looked upon as deceivers, and that Mormonism would soon pass away, come to nought, and be forgotten. But the time has gone by, when it was looked upon as a transient matter, or a bubble on the wave, and it is now taking a deep hold in the hearts and affections of all those who are noble-minded enough to lay aside the prejudice of education, and investigate the subject with candor and honestly. The truth, like the sturdy oak, has stood unhurt amid the contending elements, which have beat upon it with tremendous force. The floods have rolled, wave after wave, in quick succession, and have not swallowed it up.”
From there Jo goes on to publicly declare that members of this church will be famous to their posterity as Saints of God and virtuous men if they just suffer for a bit longer in this mortal coil. After that he, once again, praises the state legislature for incorporating Nauvoo and granting such a liberal charter to the Mormons. He goes on to iterate the importance of building the Nauvoo temple stating:
“In consequence of the impoverished condition of the Saints, the buildings which are in course of erection do not progress as fast as could be desired; but from the interest which is generally manifested by the Satins at large, we hope to accomplish much by a combination of effort, and a concentration of action, and erect the Temple and other public buildings, which we so much need for our mutual instruction and the education of our children…
We would call the attention of the Saints more particularly to the building of the Temple, for on its speedy erection great blessings depend. The zeal which is manifested by the Saints in this city is, indeed, praiseworthy, and, we hope will be imitated by the Saints in the various stakes and branches of the Church, and that those who cannot contribute labor will bring their gold and their silver, their brass and their iron, with the pine tree, and box tree, to beautify the same.
In conclusion we would say, brethren, be faithful, let your love and moderations be known unto all men; be patient, be mindful to observe all the commandments of your Heavenly Father, and the God of all grace shall bless you. Even so. Amen.”
Jo was no Hingepin Sidney Rigdon when it came to oratory, but he could rile up a crowd for general conference pretty well. Rigdon made a good mentor when it came to public speaking. With Jo’s speech and exhortation out of the way, the brethren could finally get to the necessary business they were there for in the first place.
First, let’s talk about one of the most important items of business in this conference, the Nauvoo Temple. From 339 of the Vogel HoC vol 4:
“President Joseph Smith made some observations respecting the duty of the several quorums, in sending their members into the vineyard, and also stated that labor on the Temple would be as acceptable to the Lord, as preaching in the world, and that it was necessary that some agents should be appointed to collect fund for building the Temple.
Resolved that John Murdock, Lyman Wight, William Smith, Henry W. Miller, Amasa Lyman, Leonard Soby, Gehiel Savage, and Zenos H. Gurley be appointed to travel and collect funds for the same…
The building committee were called upon to address the assembly. Elder Cahoon spoke at length on the importance of building the Temple, and called upon the Saints to assist them in their great undertaking. Elder Alpheus Cutler made some very appropriate remarks…”
The Mormons simply cannot function without the need to build a temple, and their fixation with the Nauvoo Temple served to be one of their greatest challenges. But you gotta admit, a Mormon colossus donning the modern-day Nauvoo Temple as a crown with tens of thousands of Mormons trailing in the wake of destruction would surely put the fear of God in the hearts of every damn Mobocrat and government official who dare oppose the will of the prophet.
Speaking of those who opposed or fell in line behind the prophet, we can see a brief window into somebody stepping aside when they were unable to fulfill their duties. I don’t think there’s any way to know exactly what happened behind the scenes with the next passage we’ll read, I don’t know exactly whose idea it was, but I know the effects of this decision.
The Temple dedication ceremony the previous day apparently took its toll on Hingepin Rigdon who had been in a very fragile state since his time in Liberty Jail during the winter of 1838-39. He decided to yield his position of third in command to Joseph to John C. Wreck-it Bennett.
From 336 in the Vogel HoC:
“President Rigdon arose and stated that, in consequence of weakness from his labors of yesterday, he would call upon General John C. Bennett to officiate in his place.”
Wreck-it Bennett was happy to hold the position of third in command to Jo while Rigdon recovered. I don’t know if Jo told Rigdon at some point, “Hey, look, you’re not feeling well, just give your seat up to Bennett, he’ll keep it warm for you while you recover, then he’ll give it back as soon as you ask for it.” Maybe Rigdon was fed up with Jo and was looking for his first possible out and used Bennett as his exit strategy. I don’t know how to interpret this, and I don’t think there is truly a way for historians to know for sure. Regardless of the inciting incident that put Wreck-it Bennett on Jo’s left hand, Bennett took to his new office like a trilobite to water.
“Gen. Bennett then read the revelations from “The Book of the Law of the Lord,” which had been received since the last General Conference, in relation to writing a proclamation to the kings of the earth, building a Temple in Nauvoo, the organization of the Church, &c…
General Bennett read the charters granted by the Legislature of this State, for incorporating “the City of Nauvoo,” “The Nauvoo Legion,” “the University of the City of Nauvoo,” “the Agricultural and Manufacturing Association,” and “the Nauvoo House Association.”
On motion, resolved that the charters now read be received by the Church.
General John C. Bennett then spoke at some length on the present situation, prospects, and condition of the Church, and remarked that the hand of God must indeed be visible, in accomplishing the great blessings and prosperity of the Church, and called upon the Saints to be faithful and obedient in all things, and likewise forcibly and eloquently urged the necessity of being united in all their movements; and before he sat down he wished to know how many of the Saints, who were present, felt disposed to continue to act in concert, and follow the instruction of the First Presidency; and called upon all those who did so, to arise on their feet—when immediately the Satins, almost without exception, arose.”
Look, these are the only surviving minutes from this meeting. But, given the general tenor and mood of the Saints from their independent reminiscences and journals, early Nauvoo years were a time of great apostasy to counterbalance the overwhelming zeal. There were plenty of members and even a few elites who weren’t quite so excited about everything they’d suffered through in the moves from Kirtland and Missouri, and needless to say, some murmurings, even among the Mormon elite, could be heard whispered over the silence of supplication to the Lord.
Previous to this, all major motions undertaken by the High Council required a vote of unanimity, but when conflicts between certain members of church leadership reach critical mass, a unanimous vote on anything becomes increasingly impossible. Jo responded by changing the voting requirements with the following proposition:
“President Joseph Smith declared the rule of voting to be, a majority in each quorum; exhorted them to deliberation, faith, and prayer; and that they should be strict and impartial in their examinations. He then told them that the presidents of the different quorums would be presented before them for their acceptance or rejection.”
After that it lists each presidency and the quorum they represented with Newell Whitney presenting the First Presidency of the Lesser Priesthood, President John A. Hicks presenting the Elders’ Quorum, Joseph Young presenting the Quorums of Seventies, Don Carlos Smith presenting High Priests’ Quorum, and Elias Higbee presenting the High Council. Each of the constituent presidents over each quorum voiced their accordance with the ruling body of the First Presidency comprised of by Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and Wreck-it Bennett as acting president until Hingepin Rigdon had recovered. Each president voiced their intention to fall in line behind the presidency, but then each group of presidents were presented to the bodies whom they represented to be sustained as the presidency of each respective quorum.
The bodies rejected a number of the participants and Bishop Newel K. Whitney moved their cases to be tried before their respective quorums at a later time. We’ll see if these various presidencies were ever successfully challenged, but I have my doubts as the names listed seem to be generally in line with how the presidency existed in Nauvoo at the time of Jo and Hyrum’s deaths, with a few minor exceptions of course.
Then the leadership decided to handle some business it had been putting off for quite some time by April 1841. Maybe you remember Captain Fearnought who recklessly charged into battle on Crooked River back in October of 1838 in Missouri before being shot by the Missouri militia and dying an excruciating death hours later…
From 338 of Vol. 4 Dan Vogel HoC:
“President Smith observed, that it was necessary that someone should be appointed to fill the quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the room of the late Elder David W. Patten; whereupon President Rigdon nominated Elder Lyman Wight to that office; which was unanimously accepted. Elder Wight stated that it was an office of great honor and responsibility, and he felt inadequate to the task; but inasmuch as it was the wish of the authorities of the Church, that he should take that office, he would endeavor to magnify it…
Resolved that James Allred be appointed to the office of High Councilor, in the place of Charles C. Rich, who had been chosen a Counselor to the President of this stake, and that Leonard Soby be appointed one of the High Council, in the room of David Dort, deceased.”
And just like that, General Lyman Wight, a Mormon elite from many moons ago was given the office of apostle in the place of a deceased man from the 1838 Mormon war in Missouri. Other vacancies were filled and some of the leadership was put on notice for not falling perfectly in line with the elite leadership.
So much of church organization had been a patchwork mess of disparate revelations and pieces hastily woven together to form some kind of coherent body. With each person passing away in the early Nauvoo years, and there were a lot of deaths leading to this point, each death popped another hole in the fragile tapestry.
It was only fairly recently that Jo had replaced most of the patchwork with a single revelation cobbling so much together, but each dissenter, of which there were plenty, tore away a little piece as they left, making the entire safety net of governing power held by the church look more like thinly sliced pieces of swiss cheese hurriedly sown together at the edges.
If you’re going to rule the world one day, you need a solid set of rules and loyal followers who will follow every word you say, as if it came from god himself. Who could Jo trust the most to never betray and always be loyal? D&C 124 offers some important insight. This revelation was read to the rest of the council and governing bodies of the church during this April conference, most of the information in it was already known, but there was some interesting information couched in the pages.
From D&C 124 starting vs. 15-16
“15 And again, verily 🍺 I say unto you, blessed is my servant Hyrum Smith; for I, the Lord, love him because of the integrity of his heart, and because he loveth that which is right before me, saith the Lord.
16 Again, let my servant John C. Bennett help you in your labor in sending my word to the kings and people of the earth, and stand by you, even you my servant Joseph Smith, in the hour of affliction; and his reward shall not fail if he receive counsel.
91 And again, verily 🍺 I say unto you, let my servant William be appointed, ordained, and anointed, as counselor unto my servant Joseph, in the room of my servant Hyrum, that my servant Hyrum may take the office of Priesthood and Patriarch, which was appointed unto him by his father, by blessing and also by right;
92 That from henceforth he shall hold the keys of the patriarchal blessings upon the heads of all my people,
93 That whoever he blesses shall be blessed, and whoever he curses shall be cursed; that whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
94 And from this time forth I appoint unto him that he may be a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church, as well as my servant Joseph;
95 That he may act in concert also with my servant Joseph; and that he shall receive counsel from my servant Joseph, who shall show unto him the keys whereby he may ask and receive, and be crowned with the same blessing, and glory, and honor, and priesthood, and gifts of the priesthood, that once were put upon him that was my servant Oliver Cowdery;”
This was Jo’s way of elevating his brother, Hyrum, to the level where he and Hyrum were essentially equals. He also endowed Hyrum with the power of patriarchal blessings, which only Joseph Sr., BDC, had done before his death back in late 1840. Now Hyrum and Jo were equals with Hyrum having the power of Patriarch of the church. This was the main problem when it came to the succession crisis after Jo’s death, he’d named upwards of 11 people to be successors, but Hyrum was the only one with an office equal to Jo and he should have been the right successor. But, Hyrum and Jo died at the same time, so any plans to have Hyrum be the Prophet Seer and Revelator upon Jo’s death were destroyed and too many questions were left behind. This revelation, D&C 124, was voted on and received as church canon at this April conference amidst all the trouble with evaluating loyalties of the various groups of leadership.
Stick around till the end of the episode to hear more on Hyrum Smith.
After this April 1841 conference, Jo had a few important pieces in place. The church had voted to accept the Nauvoo Charter and all associations and committees it created. They had a plan to collect money to finally get to work on the Nauvoo Temple, and now Hyrum was upgraded from being Jo’s shadow to being his right-hand man. Both would continue to rule the church as equals from this time forward. Jo had plans for the control panel and a copilot he could trust. On paper, Talos is starting to look pretty good.
From time to time, we run into a Mormon headline that’s too important or just too good to pass up. With a podcast devoted to Mormon history, it’s hard to jump back and forth from the 1800s to the modern day and keep everything straight. In light of the pressing need to discuss these stories and examine the impact they have on broader Mormonism, we’re debuting a new timetravelling segment called:
With the assumed risk of making this episode obsolete as soon as it hits the RSS feed, today we’re going to examine what’s going on with the leadership of the Brighamite LDS Church in January of 2018 with the death of President Thomas Monson. On Tuesday, 16 Jan, the Church held two separate press conferences a mere hour apart. Both were held to announce Russell Nelson’s ordination to the office of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator. He’ll be sustained to the position in the upcoming April General Conference, barring sudden death or mental incapacitation.
As it’s modernly practiced, when the new prophet comes into office, his first action is to name his councilors. For the majority of the 20th and 21st century, the two councilors are retained when the new prophet takes office, with a few notable exceptions. There is no divine decree explaining why the new prophets usually retain the old councilors, but it’s been the status quo for about a century so there is definitely precedent. The main reason, of course, is to have a smooth transition of leadership when the head honcho dies.
The average chapel-attending Mormon today won’t know the history of succession crises which have gripped the church since Bloody Brigham Young took the office. Most Mormons think that the system in place today of seniority rule is the same system which designated Brigham as the one true prophet after Joseph’s death. As with everything in Mormon history, the simplistic definition is, at best, woefully lacking, and at worst grossly inaccurate bordering on dishonest.
Let’s use our Mormon Chronopod to take a trip through Mormon history from the late 1840s to modernity in order to understand prophetic succession in context.
First off, Brigham Young crafted a coup when Jo died. We’ll get there in our historical timeline, but Brigham shouldn’t have been prophet for the main reason that nobody should have been prophet because Jo never bothered to designate one beyond his brother, Hyrum, who died the same day Jo did. The main point to take away here is that Jo always thought Mormonism would be a dynastic legacy, each generation being ruled by his descendants. Almost all of the Smith brothers were dead when Jo and Hyrum were shot and Joseph III wasn’t even a teenager yet, so Brigham slipped right into the vacuum left behind by Jo and took half the Mormons out to Utah away from the remaining Mormon churches in the Midwest.
Once Brigham took office he proceeded to rule for around 40 years. During Brigham’s reign in Utah, he put 3 of his own sons into the Q12. One of his sons, John Willard Young, was only 11 years old at the time he received his endowment and induction into the Quorum of apostles. It was very much in Brigham’s mind that Utah Mormonism would be a dynastic legacy as well. However, when Bloody Brigham croaked, much like his friend Joseph Smith, he didn’t leave any clear succession mechanisms in place either. It was clear that Brigham didn’t want Orson Hyde or Orson Pratt taking the mantle as he’d kept them on nearly seamless mission runs since they moved to Utah. Had Brigham’s Mormonism followed today’s rule of seniority, Orson Pratt or Orson Hyde were the last surviving apostles from the Jo Smith era, making them the rightful successors. Brigham wanted a son to rule, but they were overruled with infighting from other holdouts from the Jo days. It was left to John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and Lorenzo Snow to fight among themselves and the rest of the Q15 for who the rightful successor would be.
John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff ended up being the next prophets, somewhat organically evolving the seniority principle along the way. However, both of them also put their sons into the Quorum of apostles, likely with hopes that the Mormon church would be ruled by the Taylor or Woodruff dynasties. The office of Prophet and President of the LDS church, as it wasn’t a massive corporation at this time, was in a state of flux. There was a 3-year break of infighting between Brigham and Taylor before any consensus could be reached to elect Taylor. There was a 2-year break between Taylor and Woodruff for the same reasons among many other issues causing infighting like the first manifesto. Woodruff died in 1898, but during his entire presidency, Lorenzo Snow was working with the Q15 to curtail infighting and streamline the process of next president. Remember, Lorenzo Snow was one of the few remaining holdovers from the Joseph days who still lived in Utah at the end of the 19th century, along with his first counselor, George Q. Cannon.
Lorenzo Snow was an important prophet, even though he only spent from Sept 1898 to Oct 1901 as prophet, he retained George Q. Cannon as First counselor until his death in April 1901, at which point he promoted Hyrum Smith’s son, Joseph F. Smith from Second to First Counselor, and called Rudger Clawson as the new Second Counselor. The succession time from Woodruff to Snow was the first nearly seamless transition of less than one-months’ time, whereas it had been multiple years of fighting before any successor was named prior to Snow’s reign.
All the work Snow put in to create a streamlined succession process paid off with the election of Joseph F. Smith to office of prophet and president. Joseph F. Smith, descendant of Hyrum Smith, nephew of the founding prophet of the religion, wanted a dynastic rule and put his son, Joseph Fielding Smith into the Quorum of Apostles. Joseph Fielding Smith would be the only descendant of a prophet to become a prophet in the Brighamite LDS Church.
Following Joseph F. Smith’s death, Heber J. Grant seamlessly took the office of Prophet and ruled from 1918 to 1945. After Joseph F. Smith’s reign, George Albert Smith, a descendant of Joseph Smith’s cousin who was in Zion’s Camp back in 1834, took the office. He wasn’t very stable. He suffered from bouts of anxiety and depression. J. Reuben Clark and David McKay who were First and Second counselors to George Albert Smith essentially ran the Church when Smith was out for medical reasons. George Albert Smith passed away and David McKay took over the mantle of prophet naming J. Reuben Clark as his Second counselor. Clark took the office of first counselor in June 1959 when Stephen Richards died, and Hugh B. Brown was called as second counselor to McKay in 1961. Hugh Brown ascended to first counselor in 1963 with the death of Henry Moyle, and N. Eldon Tanner was called to Second Counselor.
Out of all the names discussed so far, Hugh B. Brown stands out as a bit of an anomaly. He was a liberal democrat in a largely conservative religious organization during the height of the civil rights movement. Hugh B. Brown viciously opposed the priesthood ban on blacks and thought the brethren would lift the ban in 1969 but was resoundingly proven wrong. Since his passing, a letter correspondence has emerged showing he had a number of faith crises, but still continued to follow the brethren. Hugh Brown was largely opposed by the rest of the Q15, he had very few friends in the group. One of his most vociferous enemies was Harold Lee, soon to be designated prophet. David McKay passed away in January of 1970. Joseph Fielding Smith, son of previous prophet Joseph F. Smith, grandson of Hyrum Smith, was next in line, but he was also 93 years old and in terrible health. Hugh B. Brown voiced his concerns that Joseph Fielding Smith shouldn’t be named as next prophet as he was in no condition to serve as prophet and president.
Due to his advocation for giving African-Americans the priesthood and his opposition to Joseph Fielding Smith being named prophet, Hugh B. Brown was the first member of the first presidency to not be retained when the new prophet took over since the reign of Joseph F. Smith in 1901 when he let go of Rudger Clawson. This was a major slap in the face of Hugh Brown. He was fit for his office, never had any issue with fulfilling his duties, but because of politics and infighting between him and Harold Lee among others, he was booted. He was the snowflake in a boardroom filled with firebreathing conservative sharknadoes of bigotry. Brown served the remainder of his apostleship in disgrace, never holding a prominent position beyond standard Q12 after that until his death. The political issues with Hugh Brown being let go from the presidency sparked some interesting discussions which evolved into later discussions had by Spencer Kimball and his Q15 to eventually lift the priesthood ban. The ban was lifted a mere 3 years after Brown’s death, so he never saw the church espouse his personal morality before his death. What a perfect fuck-you to one of the few people talking sense to the rest of the brethren at a time when they needed it the most. If they would have listened to Brown’s counsel, BYU would never have been boycotted, the Sao Paolo Brazil temple never would have been in jeopardy, and the church’s tax-exempt status never would have been threatened. Brown was basically defaced in the standard chapel-attending Mormon household from that point on.
Brown’s insight into Joseph Fielding Smith being unfit for service wasn’t treated very well either, even though he was right. Joseph Fielding Smith was given the office of prophet from Jan 1970 to July 1972, for most of it he was never seen and was bed-ridden. His duties as prophet fell directly to Brown’s most vicious opponent, Harold Lee, and N. Eldon Tanner. After Smith’s death in 72, Lee took the mantle naming Tanner and Marion Romney as his first and second counselors. Lee ran the church as president for a year, but he’d been running the church for nearly half a decade with his friend N. Eldon Tanner with Joseph Fielding Smith as his puppet.
After Lee died in 1973, Spencer Kimball took the mantle and made some important reforms to keep the church in business for the next few decades. It could be argued that in some ways the church today is still resting on the laurels of Kimball. Marion Romney and Gordon Hinckley would serve as first and second counselors to Kimball after N. Eldon Tanner’s death.
Then came Ezra Benson. Benson became prophet after Hugh B. Brown’s death, but while Brown was still an apostle, Ezra Benson and him were enemies just as much as he and Harold Lee were enemies, Hugh Brown had very few allies in the Q15. There were general conference talks in the mid-70s where Brown would take the stand and give an emotive speech and Ezra Benson would take the pulpit directly after him and call him Judas. It was Lee and Benson campaigning together with the older generation of apostles who got Hugh B. Brown kicked out of the first presidency. Benson ran the church with Gordon Hinckley and Thomas Monson as his counselors from 1985 to 1994, after which Howard Hunter took the office for a brief stint. The only casualty to the first presidency during this period was Marion Romney. Romney was first counselor to Spencer Kimball, but when Benson took over, Romney was in such ill-health that he was removed.
Marion Romney represents the last time that a member of the first presidency from a previous prophet was not retained by the successor, 37 years ago. There were only 2 times before that in the 20th century where a first or second counselor of the first presidency was essentially fired by the incoming prophet. The first was Rudger Clawson with Lorenzo Snow, and Clawson was fired for ecclesiastical matters, and the third was Marion Romney who was fired for purely medical reasons. Hugh B. Brown is the only guy who stands out in the last 100 years as being removed from the office of first presidency for being ideologically opposed to the prophet, and it happened nearly 50 years ago in 1970 because Brown was too friendly to black people.
Put a pin in Hugh B. Brown, we’ll come back to him.
Let’s take a slightly shorter leap into the past with talking about the prophet of my childhood, Gordon Hinckley. Hinckley took the office of President from Howard Hunter. Hinckley had served with Thomas Monson as councilors to Hunter and Ezra Benson. After Hunter’s death, Hinckley was first in line having been ordained an apostle back in October of 1961, Monson was called to apostleship just 2 years later. When Hinckley took over, he named Thomas Monson and James E. Faust as his councilors. David Bednar and Dieter Uchtdorf were called to office of FNG apostleship in October 2004 after the deaths of David Haight and Neal Maxwell. James E. Faust, then second councilor to Gordon Hinckley, died in 2007 and Henry Eyring was called to fill his position as second Councilor. Fast forward to one year later in February of 2008, Gordon Hinckley passed away and the office of Prophet and President of LDS corp passed to his first councilor, Thomas S. Monson. It wasn’t passed to Monson because he was first councilor in the presidency, but, in keeping with the rules, Monson had been an apostle since 1963 and had rightful claim to seniority. Monson retained Henry Eyring as councilor, promoting him from second to first, and took a gamble on the newest inductee to be his second councilor, Dieter Uchtdorf.
Uchtdorf didn’t grow up in America. He was born in modern-day Czech Republic to German parents. His father was a member of the Nazi army when Dieter was a but a wee little lad. Dieter was 5 when the Third Reich fell. His family fled to West Germany in the early 50s when it became too dangerous to live in the Soviet Union. He went into the Air Force soon after that and he’s been a pilot ever since. Uchtdorf doesn’t have the same culture and upbringing as his largely Utah-grown counterparts. Uchtdorf is seen as one of the few apostles who can appeal to the younger generation, even though he’s in his 70s like most the other Sr. apostles. He’s the guy who held up his iPhone when trying to explain how Joseph’s seer stone worked. He’s the same guy who said he drinks a diet soda that shall remain nameless. His stories about being a pilot, featured in almost every talk he’s given, are relatable and fun. Uchtdorf is one of the few who is slightly relatable to Mormons under the age of 60 and his international heritage has been viewed as progressive for the church. More importantly, Uchtdorf validated the concerns of those who’ve left the church in his 2013 General Conference talk. This was important to a lot of Mormon and, more particularly, exmormons who’ve been burned by church history.
Uchtdorf and Bednar were Hinckley appointees that will stick around for decades to come. Uchtdorf was born in 1940, Bednar, in 1952. These two Hinckley era apostles are going to have seniority sooner than we think because their next elder in line was appointed in 94 by Hunter, and that’s Jeffrey Holland. Holland is currently 12 years older than Bednar, and Bednar is currently the 3rd to youngest, with Gary Stevenson being a mere 3 years younger. I predict Bednar will be the 21st president, barring anything out of the ordinary, which will probably happen within the next 10-15 years, give or take a few with differing life expectancies.
Now, what happened in January of 2018? Russell Nelson was just ordained to the office of Prophet and President. He did something which hasn’t happened in recent Mormon history, he demoted Dieter Uchtdorf from second councilor to a regular member of the Q12 just like we discussed happened with Rudger Clawson, Marion Romney, and Hugh B. Brown. Contrary to what you may be reading online, the last time a member of the presidency was demoted back down to regular apostle was Marion Romney with the transition from Spencer Kimball to Howard Hunter. However, Marion Romney’s health was quickly declining near the end of Spencer Kimball’s reign in 1985. So, when Ezra Benson took over the office after Kimball’s death, he wasn’t going to elect an already dying man to be his counselor, so he opted to go with Gordon B. Hinckley and Thomas Monson, second and third in line to the office of prophet and spare Romney the brief time in the presidency.
This was the last time that a member of the presidency wasn’t retained when the office of President shifted, 32 years ago in 1985. But, Romney was removed for medical reasons. He was scarcely seen after Benson took office and died 3 years later in 1988. As of January 2018, Russell Nelson took the office and named Dallin Oaks and Henry Eyring as his counselors, Dieter Uchtdorf got the shaft and was removed from the first presidency.
Let’s go ahead and pull the pin back out of Hugh B. Brown from David McKay and Harold Lee era. Hugh Brown was a healthy guy who was removed from office in 1970 solely because he was too progressive and appealed to the younger generation and the Sr. apostles were ideologically opposed to him. It looks like the same thing happened with Uchtdorf 48 years later. If you watch the press conferences you’ll see small micromovements by Uchtdorf that paint a picture of a very disappointed man who was just demoted after a fight with his boss.
Who did Russell Nelson put in Uchtdorf’s place? Dallin H. (homosexual feelings are a controllable mental illness) Oaks. You can find a 2006 interview Oaks and Wickman had with a church public affairs committee member. In this talk you’ll find such horrible gems from Oaks as this:
We’re not talking about a unique challenge here. We’re talking about a common condition of mortality. We don’t understand exactly the ‘why,’ or the extent to which there are inclinations or susceptibilities and so on. But what we do know is that feelings can be controlled and behavior can be controlled. The line of sin is between the feelings and the behavior.
No, we do not accept the fact that conditions that prevent people from attaining their eternal destiny were born into them without any ability to control. That is contrary to the Plan of Salvation, and it is contrary to the justice and mercy of God…That includes resisting temptation. That includes dealing with things that we’re born with, including disfigurements, or mental or physical incapacities. None of these stand in the way of our attaining our eternal destiny. The same may be said of a susceptibility or inclination to one behavior or another which if yielded to would prevent us from achieving our eternal destiny.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: You’re saying the Church doesn’t necessarily have a position on ‘nurture or nature’
ELDER OAKS: That’s where our doctrine comes into play. The Church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction. Those are scientific questions — whether nature or nurture — those are things the Church doesn’t have a position on.
Let’s not forget that for thousands of years the institution of marriage has been between a man and a woman. Until quite recently, in a limited number of countries, there has been no such thing as a marriage between persons of the same gender. Suddenly we are faced with the claim that thousands of years of human experience should be set aside because we should not discriminate in relation to the institution of marriage. When that claim is made, the burden of proving that this step will not undo the wisdom and stability of millennia of experience lies on those who would make the change. Yet the question is asked and the matter is put forward as if those who believe in marriage between a man and a woman have the burden of proving that it should not be extended to some other set of conditions.
The rest of the interview is peppered with highly educated bigotry thinly veiled by flower wording and specific buzz words common to 2006, but as recently as the Oct 2017 conference Oaks spoke about the sanctity of marriage being between one man and one woman.
Let’s look at the presidency as it will be for the next year or two. President Nelson has his fair share of homophobic quotes and these were only a few tiny extracts from Dallin Oaks’ long rap sheet of homophobia. Henry Eyring seems to be the heartsell cry-voice placeholder just biding his time until he passes away. Next in line to be prophet after Nelson passes away is Oaks. Should Oaks survive Nelson, I’d put my money on Ballard or Holland taking their place, unless the brethren want to usher in the Bednar generation sooner and put him in as one of Oaks’ counselors. Given age expectancy, Jeffrey taffy-pulling dodo Holland will become the next prophet after Oaks. At that point, Uchtdorf will be next in line, but also in his mid to late 80s, while David there are no homosexual members of the church Bednar, next in line after Uchtdorf, will still be in his 70s, ready to lead the church for the next 20 years in further and further homophobic directions.
One aspect lost in all this is the presidency’s ability to appoint new apostles during their time. Each time an apostle dies, the presidency nominates the new appointee and the entire Q15 vote. If Nelson Oaks and Eyring tap into somebody like W. Christopher Waddell, he’s 58 right now, almost 2 decades younger than the average age of the apostles. On the other hand, they may tap L. Whitney Clayton from the presidency of the Seventy, who’s older than Bednar right now, and that guy will likely never become president. These apostolic appointments represent a 20-30 year game plan for the people who elect them. Then again, they may make a largely ceremonial appointment who has very little chance of becoming the president one day; someone who can appeal to a different demographic, but is still a trusted guy. How about Claudio R. M. Costa from Sao Paulo Brazil who’s been in the seventy for over 2 decades and is almost in his seventies. No danger of him being prophet, but that last name and his heritage will definitely appeal to Southern and Central American Mormons where the church could use an invigoration to their chapels attendance.
Predictions for apostles out of the way, the main takeaway I’ve pulled from looking into this since the announcements were made is that this current generation of church leadership has a sordid history with bigotry, specifically homophobia and the shit is not looking up anytime in the near future. Keep in mind, all the current Sr. apostles were born before WWII and grew up in a church that didn’t allow black people into their heaven. They don’t allow practicing gay people into their heaven right now. The next generation of the LDS church is only going to foster an even more nightmarish environment for LGBTQ people, especially those who are or will be teenagers in the coming decade. Life for gay people in the church is only going to get harder with the current leadership and the only possible ally the younger generation had was just demoted from the presidency because he was too progressive. Removing Uchtdorf is our dead canary. The church won’t be moving anytime soon when it comes to LGBTQ treatment. January 2018 shows us that the church isn’t interested in changing. This month is a dark time. Just like with Hugh B. Brown being demoted because he wanted to become more tolerant to black members, Uchtdorf was prominently demoted, likely for similar reasons when it comes to the church’s treatment of LGBTQ members.
After Hugh B. Brown was moved down to regular apostle from the presidency, it still took them almost another decade before they embraced civil rights, which only happened after Brown’s death. I hope the church isn’t another decade or the death of Uchtdorf away from softening their stance, but if history is an indicator of future events, when we look at the history of Hugh B. Brown compared to Dieter Uchtdorf, then I’m not very optimistic. Literally thousands of gay kids are going to kill themselves in the coming decade or two as the church continues to wax divergent from progressivism and acceptance.
One piece of the Mormon puzzle which we’ve yet to really examine and bring in properly to our timeline is Hyrum Smith. Comparatively speaking Hyrum is a bit of an enigma when it comes to Mormon history. He’s always overshadowed by his younger brother. Only one comprehensive biography has ever been written about Hyrum and the Hyrum Smith papers is a project the church is currently working on to shed a bit more light on his contribution to Mormon history.
He was Jo’s closest confidant. Once Alvin passed away in 1823, Hyrum took over as the eldest brother and emotional support for his younger siblings. If you watch the Mormon movies depicting Hyrum, you’ll see him throw Jo over his back and run through a field when the young child Jo was limping on crutches from his recent leg surgery.
He’s been present on the outskirts of our historical timeline since day one, but we’ve yet to focus on him at any level beyond just mentioning when Jo would send him on a mission or something to that effect.
We need to give Hyrum a proper NaMo Nickname for our timeline. Let’s get a little background to get the creative juices flowing. Hyrum was born in 1800 to the Smith family in Vermont, a mere 5 years older than his next youngest brother, Joseph. Possibly as an homage to Joseph Sr.’s dabbling in Masonry with his fellow fraternity of rodsmen, the initial spelling of Hyrum Smith was actually Hiram, the masonic spelling of the central character of the 3rd degree masonic ascendency ritual involving the allegory of Hiram Abiff.
Little is known of Hiram’s early history. He assisted Jo in the printing process of the BoM, running copies of the manuscript to and from the Grandin printing office for the last 6 months of 1829. From the foundation of the church, Hyrum was inextricably tied to Joseph. He’d become a member of the Canandaigua Masonic lodge in 1826 about the same time he and some of the other Smiths joined up with the Methodist church in Manchester. It was about this same time that Hiram began spelling his name Hyrum instead and most of his writings record it as such.
He was always a support for Jo. When Jo had something that needed to be done, Hyrum was there to pick up the slack. When Jo would go out partying, Hyrum was right there with him racing and flipping over horse carriages in a drunken stupor.
When collecting funds for the church, Hyrum was usually on the forefront of the effort, personally knocking on doors and asking members for money to build this temple or help to buy that printing press. Hyrum was there for Zion’s camp, for the Kirtland Safety Society. Hyrum attended most of the prayer meetings Jo held where a dozen or so guys would see angels after partaking of the lord’s sacrament. Every step of the way, Hyrum has been next to Jo, but this whole time we’ve only ever mentioned him as a backdrop character.
Let’s bring Hyrum out of the Jo’s shadow and into the harsh white-hot light of historical scrutiny by giving him his very own NaMo nickname.
Hyrum was the initial person to steal the chocolate-colored seer stone from Willard Chase, which they all found while they were digging a well on the Chase farm. Digging a well, treasure-digging, sometimes the only distinction between the two was whether they struck water or buried treasure first. Hiram “borrowed” the stone from Willard and when Willard went back to the Smith farm at a later time and accused Hyrum and Jo of stealing the precious seer stone, Hyrum viciously defended his brother’s and his own actions by calling Willard a liar for insinuating they would stoop so low as to steal a seer stone. That same stone was likely the stone Jo used to translate the BoM. If not for Hiram stealing it, the BoM might never have come to be. Paying homage to his namesake with some insider Masonry, why not Hycacia?
Hyrum was one of the main proponents and overseers of the Kirtland Temple. He was one of the first to break ground in digging the foundation, he oversaw collecting funds, he performed days’ worth of carpentry and masonry work during the construction process. You can even see the initials H. S. carved with a knife into the wood of the belfry tower of the Kirtland Temple and the people who take care of it think that H.S. is, indeed, our boy Hyrum Smith. Even if insignificant or unperceived, Hyrum always left his mark. For anyone who’s read Quinn’s Magic World View, Agla makes a pretty good name for Hyrum.
Hyrum was also on a mission to the Eastern states in 1837, likely collecting funds to bail the church out of debt from the KSS and temple project when his wife, Jerusha Barden, gave birth to his child and died from injuries sustained during childbirth in October 1837. Jo was quick to matchmake Hyrum out of his Widower depression by offering him Mary Fielding, to whom Hyrum was married a mere 2 months after the death of Jerusha Barden. Less than a year after that they had Joseph F. Smith, who would later become prophet of the Brighamite sect, born in Missouri in 1838. With as quick on the rebound as he was, maybe we should go with a much less esoteric of a name, Racquetball Hyrum?
Then there’s the little love triangle between Hyrum, Jo, and Emma. It was reported that when Jo and Hyrum’s bodies were returned to Nauvoo after Carthage that Emma ran to Hyrum’s casket first while Eliza Snow ran to Jo’s casket first, both women inconsolably sobbing at the loss of their true loves. His 3 other wives seemed just broken up about his death but would go on to marry other Mormon elites like Heber Kimball. Whether it was a rod cut from a witch hazel plant, an iron rod for constructing the temple, a hollowed-out wooden rod used to smoke tobacco and other narcotics, or the rod of nature Hyrum himself grew, he knew how to handle rods. Hyrum, the man of many rods. Hyrod, if you will.
Hyrum is a hard name to play with, but you guys are more creative than me. You know how to play along, you can vote on your favorite Hyrum Smith nickname of Hyrod, Racquetball, Agla, or Hycacia, or come up with a much better one by posting on Twitter with #NaMoNickname or on facebook and I’ll arbitrarily pick the winner from this terrible list or any that are proposed and plug whoever it is that’s our winner.
Big shoutout to Jonathan Tindell, not only for providing his voice for the intro for the past few weeks, but also for endearing our Mormon Titan with a perfectly fitting name of Talos. Be sure to give him a follow @secular_stories or Jonathan Tindell or Secular Stories on FB.
Some may view our Mormon dreadnought as a ham-fisted story-telling mechanism, or *gasp* an anachronistic construct superfluously added to an already complex history. While valid criticisms based on opinion, with what we have in store, you’ll have to trust me that the utility of Talos will outweigh the sheer stupidity of its existence.
124:103 And again, verily 🍺 I say unto you, if my servant Sidney will serve me and be counselor unto my servant Joseph, let him arise and come up and stand in the office of his calling, and humble himself before me.
104 And if he will offer unto me an acceptable offering, and acknowledgments, and remain with my people, behold 🍺, I, the Lord your God, will heal him that he shall be healed; and he shall lift up his voice again on the mountains, and be a spokesman before my face.
105 Let him come and locate his family in the neighborhood in which my servant Joseph resides.
Copyright Ground Gnomes LLC subject to fair use. Citation example: "Naked Mormonism Podcast (or NMP), Ep #, original air date 01/18/2018"