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Different Succession Claims: Other Mormon Groups

Yesterday was President Monson’s funeral.  When an LDS President dies, the First Presidency is dissolved.  Have you ever wondered why that is the case?  Historian John Hamer and apostle Lachlan MacKay of the Community of Christ will talk about why that happens in the LDS Church.  It’s a really interesting conversation as we discussion several succession claims.

John:  One of the last acts that Joseph Smith does before going to Carthage is he had given another one of these special blessings to Joseph III and several of these where Joseph had been prophesied at one point or another that he would be in his father’s role in being prophet, but he was what?  He was eleven?

Lachlan:  Eleven or eleven and a half.

John:  He’s eleven, so ok.  He wasn’t going to be the successor at that point.  What I argue, I think anyway, I think that the person who had the best claim at the point, in terms of both civil, and canon, which is to say church rules and law is Sidney Rigdon, who even though he’s been a little on the outs, he is still actively campaigning as the vice-presidential candidate in Joseph Smith’s U.S. presidential election.  So Joseph Smith then Sidney Rigdon; Sidney Rigdon is the only guy left in the First Presidency.

Even though in the LDS tradition, there is this idea that the First Presidency dissolves, and then the senior most apostle always succeeds, the only reason that is the idea is because they didn’t want to have Sidney Rigdon be in charge.  It doesn’t say that in the Doctrine & Covenants or anything like that.  There’s no canonical, there’s no canon law that says anything of the kind.  The First Presidency had been a completely distinct [quorum] in the early church tradition from the Twelve.

Lachlan:  There’s nothing that says it dissolves.

John: There’s nothing that says it dissolves and also not like the First Presidency is just like three more of the Twelve or something like that.  It’s a completely distinct [quorum.]  Anyway, so what I say is Sidney Rigdon is the last surviving member of the First Presidency and then according to the actual incorporation like we’re talking about the Church’s possession, William Marks had signed it over to Joseph Smith on behalf of the Church.  The Church is incorporated in the state of Illinois, and part of incorporation and the documents in Carthage, it says held by Joseph Smith as Trustee in Trust for the Church and my successors in the First Presidency.

Because of that, when Brigham Young does take over, he doesn’t create a new First Presidency; the Twelve just take over headquarters.  It’s one of the reasons why he is not able to get title to these temples is because James Strang knows about that because he has a lot of these guys in his group.  They know about this incorporation ruling.  This is really complicated details, but anyway, part of the idea of it is he charges that since he is the successor to the First Presidency, he has organized a new First Presidency.  This doesn’t in Brigham Young’s church until 1847, so he’s operating that way with the First Presidency, and so he says, “You don’t have a First Presidency. I have title to the Nauvoo Temple.  You’re trying to sell my temple.”

GT:  James Strang created a First Presidency and said that should be the successor?

John:  Yeah, he did that at that point.  But before that, I’ve got to dial it back.  The person who was the surviving member of the First Presidency then is Sidney Rigdon.  Sidney Rigdon gets outmaneuvered in this showdown between Brigham Young and Sidney Rigdon.  He gets kicked out of Nauvoo, or flees for his life and he goes back and reorganizes and creates a new headquarters of the church in Pittsburgh.  But at that point, he suffers one of these things that all kinds of schismatic Mormon Latter Day Saint heritage churches do which is, then they start asking themselves:  where did we go wrong?

We will also talk about some of the other leaders who wanted to take over leadership of the LDS Church in the early days.  There’s a lot more people than you may recognize.  I also encourage you to check out the video.  John was kind enough to share some slides about the Succession crisis, and I have included them in the video.  Don’t forget to check out our conversations with Greg Prince and Jim Vun Cannon on the Succession Crisis.  Check out our conversation…..

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The Strange Kirtland Temple Ownership Problems

Following the Kirtland Banking Crisis in 1838, Joseph Smith left town in the dead of the night.  The town of Kirtland was basically bankrupt.  Because of this, ownership of the temple was claimed by several people.  John Hamer and Lachlan MacKay will talk about Kirtland Temple ownership problems.  It’s a little bit like a soap-opera.   We’ll also hear an episode where people stormed the temple with guns and knives to try to take ownership of the temple.

Lachlan:  This is the one where Joseph Smith Sr. is at the pulpit on the west end.  The dissenters are concerned and hoping to take possession of the temple, and they stormed to the front with guns and knives drawn.  I think this is Oliver Huntington, one of the Huntington boys said, “Them that had chicken-hearts dove out the windows for safety.”

The police are called in to restore order.  They rush in and they knocked over a stove-pipe.  So I just imagine soot filling the room.  The best part is, after that chaos, they eject the belligerents and resume the services of the day.  {Everyone chuckles}

GT:  Really!  Wow.

Lachlan:  So I think that’s probably what you were referring to.

GT:  Yeah, it must have been quite a service!  {all chuckle}  We don’t talk about that in the LDS tradition very often.  I remember reading that somewhere and just going, “Wow!”

Lachlan:  I think one of them is even—they are walking from the front to the back, in some cases over the back of the pews, so stepping from pew-box to pew-box because the aisles are full of people, so they have to walk on the top of the pew-boxes to get up there.

We also talk about some other Mormon groups:  Strangites & Hedrickites and their involvement in Kirtland Temple ownership.  I also update our previous conversation with Dr. Richard Bennett about Brigham Young trying to sell the Kirtland Temple!  Was the Kirtland Temple turned into a sheep shed?  How did the Kirtland Banking Crisis affect ownership?  What else can we learn about the Kirtland Temple over the years?  Check out our conversation…..

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Comparing LDS and RLDS Temple Worship

In our next conversation, we’ll talk about differences in temple worship between the LDS Church and the RLDS Church.  (Note:  The Community of Christ has been historically known as the RLDS Church.)  Community of Christ Apostle, Lachlan MacKay and John Hamer (a Seventy) discuss the differences in temple worship between the two churches, and how the temple has evolved.

Lachlan:  Sure.  So Kirtland in the 1830s, it’s a house for public worship with a strong emphasis on empowerment, both spiritually and intellectually.  Two-thirds of Kirtland Temple was classroom space.  You would worship in the temple on Sundays, and you would go to school six days a week.  Kirtland High School met on the third floor.  Students ranged in age from six through adults, so it was the center of their community life.

My sense is that in Nauvoo the same was going to be true, but you did start to have to have, I believe, a receipt saying you were a tithe payer in order to gain access to the baptismal font, and they didn’t welcome non-members in the temple in Nauvoo while they were performing ordinances, but it was still a public building.  That receipt, I think, is what many generations later would become the idea of a temple recommend.

John:  This idea for the LDS tradition of having what constitutes temple work and everything like that, almost all of this is extremely different than what existed in Kirtland.  There’s no font, like you say, in the Kirtland Temple.  That’s something that begins in Nauvoo.  The same thing, the Endowment ceremony, and things like that is taking place after Joseph Smith had been exposed to Freemasonry and things like that so that also isn’t taking place, the whole liturgy and things like that in Kirtland.

I have a chart.  I’ll give it to you so you can splice it in if you want for the videos, but essentially where you take the spaces that exist, you’ve taken Kirtland, like what Lach is telling you about, the spaces of worship, the space for learning, the space for order, the church offices and things like that, you can see where they have that same major portion of the space is devoted to that in Nauvoo, but then there’s also the space for the baptism of the dead in the basement and there’s a space for endowments in the attic.

Then you go to Salt Lake, all of that is preserved so there’s a big solemn assembly hall and things like that in the Salt Lake Temple.  There are the offices for the apostles and things like that, but then when you get to the little temples that are in the LDS tradition, which might be what most Mormons in the Utah tradition are exposed to, they don’t have any of those things that are from the Kirtland period.  All they have is the basement and attic part of the Nauvoo Temple and that’s their whole experience.  So they go and that’s their temple experience.  They go to Kirtland and say, “What did these Reorganites do to the temple?  It’s not even—it’s so alien.”  That’s what Kirtland is!  But anyway, we’re each honoring different parts of the heritage.

We’ll also talk about baptism for the dead as well as vision of Elijah in 1836 in the Kirtland Temple.  It’s going to be a very interesting conversation.  I hope you check it out (as well as part 1 of our conversation)!