Jason W. Briggs
"History of the Reorganization"
(Salt Lake City: 1875-76)
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints;
The original organization began on the 6th day of April, 1830; was the work of years, by commandment, after a pattern. The Reorganization must needs be by a commandment also, and by the same pattern. It may be safely assumed that no important religious movement occurs without an inspiration that constitutes its life and power; and this is true of the renewal of the work and the bringing forth of the Reorganization.
In the general disorder and darkness that prevailed from the death of Joseph Smith, here and there appeared a gleam of light and hope, -- a manifestation of the Spirit that all was not lost, but that "truth should yet prevail." Many ran "to and fro" in the character of prophets, leaders and shepherds; and knowledge certainly increased; but too often at great expense to the learner, without a corresponding benefit. Among these appeared William Smith; who in the spring of 1850, called a Conference at Covington, Kentucky; from which time he visited many of the branches and scattered Saints, teaching "lineal priesthood" as applying to the Presidency of the Church; and thus disposing of all pretenders already arisen, or to rise out of the posterity of the original President of the Church. This principle, though pretty clearly shown in the books, had been almost entirely overlooked or forgotten by the Saints; but when their attention was thus called to it, many at once received it as the solution of the question of "Presidency." Wm. Smith taught also, in connection with this, that it was his right, as the only surviving brother of the former President, and uncle (and natural guardian), of the seed of Joseph, to stand, during the interim, as President, pro tem. And in this there seemed a general acquiescence on the part of the Saints among whom he labored; and he was so acknowledged, and began to organize, choosing Lyman Wight and Aaron Hook as Counselors, pro tem. to the President, pro tem., and Joseph Wood as Counselor and spokesman. Many branches, and nearly all the Saints in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin were identified with this movement, and among them was enjoyed a large measure of the spiritual gifts.
During the spring and summer of 1851, Palestine, in Lee County, Illinois, had been designated as a stake, and become the residence of Wm. Smith, Wood, Hook and others; and the two former had visited most of the branches in Wisconsin, among which was the one at Beloit, Rock County, Wisconsin. This branch was originally raised up by the labors and ministry of Jason W. Briggs, in 1843, who was their presiding Elder at the time of this movement. In all their public discourses, and most of their private instructions, they had uniformly condemned all the excesses known to exist among the different factions, and especially polygamy, with all its train of prerequisites and consequences. But in the course of their visit it transpired, that they not only believed in the principle of a plurality of wives, but were really in the practice of it stealthily, and under the strongest vows of secrecy. This created in some minds a terrible conflict between faith and infidelity. The case was this, here were these men ministering in the name of the Lord; baptism and the laying on of hands; and the gifts of the Spirit in prophecy, tongues, interpretation, healings, &c., followed according to the promise; and now it turned out that they had been, and still were, double-tongued, and practicing what the books declare "an abomination." The proof that such was the character of the men at the time, was full and positive; and at a conference held at Palestine, in October 6th of that year (1851), they threw off the mask, in a council called [the] Priests' Lodge, and confessed to the belief and practice of polygamy in the name of the Lord. Among those who attended that conference were James Blackeslee, Alva Smith, Edwin Cadwell, C. F. Stiles and E. R. Briggs, of Illinois; and Ira J. Patten, David Powell. Henry Lowe, John Harrington, John O'Neil and J. W. Briggs of Wisconsin.
The Latter named, upon returning to his home, perplexed with this intermingling of truth and falsehood; of right and wrong; light and darkness, sought unto God for its solution, in fervent and continued prayer. And --
"While pondering in my heart the situation of the Church, on the 18th day of November, 1851, on the prairie, about three miles northwest of Beloit, Wisconsin, the Spirit of the Lord came upon me, and the visions of truth opened to my mind, and the Spirit of the Lord said unto me, 'Verily, verily, saith the Lord, even Jesus Christ, unto his servant, Jason W. Briggs, concerning the church: -- Behold, I have not cast off my people; neither have I changed in regard to Zion. Yea, verily, my people shall be redeemed, and my law shall be kept which I revealed unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jr., for I am God and not man, and who is he that shall turn me from my purpose, or destroy whom I would preserve? Wolves have entered into the flock, and who shall deliver them? Where is he that giveth his life for the flock? Behold, I will judge those who call themselves shepherds, and have preyed upon the flock of my pastures. And because you have asked me in faith concerning William Smith, this is the answer of the Lord thy God concerning him: I, the Lord, have permitted him to represent the rightful heir to the presidency of the high priesthood of my church by reason of the faith and prayers of his father, and his brothers, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, which came up before me in his behalf; and to respect the law of lineage, by which the holy priesthood is transmitted, in all generations, when organized into quorums. And the keys which were taught him by my servant Joseph were of me, that I might prove him therewith. And for this reason have I poured out my Spirit through his ministrations, according to the integrity of those who received them.
"'But as Esau despised his birthright, so has William Smith despised my law, and forfeited that which pertained to him as an Apostle and High Priest in my Church. And his spokesman, Joseph Wood, shall fall with him, for they are rejected of me. They shall he degraded in their lives, and shall die without regard; for they have wholly forsaken my law, and given themselves to all manner of uncleanness, and prostituted my law and the keys of power entrusted to them, to the lusts of the flesh, and have run greedily in the way of adultery. Therefore, let the Elders whom I have ordained by the hand of my servant Joseph, or by the hand of those ordained by him, resist not this authority, nor faint in the discharge of duty, which is to preach my gospel as revealed in the record of the Jews, and the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants; and cry repentance and remission of sins through obedience to the gospel, and I will sustain them, and give them my Spirit; and in mine own due time will I call upon the seed of Joseph Smith, and will bring one forth, and he shall be mighty and strong, and he shall preside over the high priesthood of my Church; and then shall the quorums assemble, and the pure in heart shall gather, and Zion shall be re-inhabited, as I said unto my servant Joseph Smith; -- after many days shall all these things be accomplished, saith the Spirit. Behold, that which ye received as my celestial law is not of me, but is the doctrine of Baalam. And I command you to denounce it and proclaim against it; and I will give you power, that none shall be able to withstand your words, if you rely upon me; for my Spirit shall attend you.' And the Spirit said unto me, 'Write, write, write; -- write the revelation and send it unto the Saints at Palestine, and at Voree, and at Waukesha, and to all places where this doctrine is taught as my law; -- and whomsoever will humble themselves before me, and ask of me, shall receive of my Spirit a testimony that these words are of me. Even so. Amen.'"
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints;
During the remainder of the week it was noised about among the Saints that something of unusual interest was on foot, and on the Sunday following, November 24th, a full attendance was had of the Church at our meeting place, which was at the house of Mother Polly Briggs. The branch numbered something over thirty members, and nearly all were present. The presiding Elder preached as usual, but with unusual liberty; after which he read to the Church the communication received on the Monday preceding, and testified that he now saw light, where darkness had reigned before. But one or two instances of levity and incredulity was manifested. Unusual solemnity prevailed, and intense feeling showed itself in nearly every countenance. The meeting concluded with an appointment for the evening, at the house of Br. John A. Williams. This meeting was in the usual manner, and then declared open for general consultation and testimony. It soon took the character of an investigation; and many facts relative to the erroneous teachings of Wm. Smith and Wood were brought out. Ample opportunity for any to defend them was given, which was attempted by one or two; after which was an expression of sentiment respecting these men was suggested, and a motion made and duly seconded to withdraw the hand of fellowship from them. The vote was almost unanimous in the affirmative; only two voting against it.
The next few days was occupied by several brethren and sisters in copying the communication and sending it to all the places named; and subsequently to all the places known to them where plurality of wives or polygamy had been taught as a celestial law. Shortly after this a statement relative to the teachings and acts of Wm. Smith and J. Wood, signed by several of the members of the Branch, including all its officers, was sent to the several branches, including the one at Waukesha, and brethren Lowe, Harrington, Powell and J. W. Briggs met at the house of the latter for consultation.
After prayer, the gifts of tongues, interpretation, and prophecy were received, and increased light given, which determined the sending of Elders Lowe and Harrington to visit the branches eastward as far as Waukesha, and then northward to deliver the foregoing communication and statement, and to communicate to the saints in these regions the stand taken by the Church at Beloit, and the reasons for it, which was in effect this: A withdrawal of confidence in any and all organizations and pretended leaders, or successors to the presidency of the Church, entertaining a belief that the true successor of Joseph Smith would be his eldest son, who would in the "due time" of the Lord be called to act in that capacity, and for which we would wait; and in the meantime preach the gospel, baptize, and form branches, and nothing more. Such a position it was believed the only tenable one. And every day, and at every interview with each other, this view of the case became more apparent, and the resolution to pursue that course became stronger. Thus imbued, the two Elders mentioned went out, and the result was, wherever they went among Saints, who had been misled by one or another of the factions which had arisen, they infused the same spirit, and planted, under God, the same hope. The branches visited, were one called the Nephi branch, in Walworth County, one at Voree, and one in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. David Powell at first hesitating, to adopt the same course with the rest at the time, wrote a letter of inquiry to William Smith, asking explanations. The answer, as constituting the first studied attack upon the position assumed by the Saints in Wisconsin relative to the presidency, is here given.
"PALESTINE STAKE OF ZION,"Brother Powell. -- I have concluded to spend my Christmas in writing you a few lines. As to questions in regard to my right of standing as Joseph's successor, I reply, In my first step in acting as the representative of Joseph's son, the matter was not made plain to me then as it now is. The increase of light began small at first, and so increased by degrees until the full right of my authority was made known by revelation. Something over two years ago, or thereabout, it may not be so long; by references to the record I can ascertain the time exact. By reference to the enclosed drawing, you will get the idea perfectly. No. 1 is old Father Smith holding the Patriarchy ordaining his seven sons, Alvin, Hyrum, Joseph, Samuel, Ephraim, William and D. Carlos. On the second line, No. 2, you will see the places for six of the sons are blank, all being dead but William, who now stands as the only head of the Church, holding the patriarchy, and also the only person now representing the old patriarch, Father Smith. This of course makes William Smith the successor of Joseph Smith. Also on the third line, No. 3, is William's son, ordaining Joseph's and Hyrum's posterity. And as none of these are ordained as yet, who shall preside over the Church of God but William Smith, who was ordained before Joseph's death, Prophet, Seer, Revelator and Translator; thus keeping up a regular chain of priesthood, as you can see in the drawing. On line No. 2, you will see William ordaining his son as his successor in office. It is in this manner my inheritance is preserved unto my children, and thus answering to the revelation I have received of late on the subject. Should William have no son, he would have the power to ordain one of Joseph's sons, provided one of them came forward and claimed rights. But should William have a son, or sons, the right of Patriarchy, not by expediency, but by law, rests in his family, -- a stream can never rise higher than its fountain, consequently Joseph's children, (nor Hyrum's, nor any of the brothers), can not preside over William, nor over his sons. The question is again, Is the building greater than the builder? Neither Joseph nor Hyrum ordained their sons, and no one can ordain them now but William, or his (William's) successor in office. To this you will add, the position takes away rights from Joseph's children, and also from Hyrum's children. To this I reply it does not. For they have no right of office in the Church, no more than Tom, Dick or Harry; not until they have been ordained. It is the priesthood after the order of Melchisedec, which is after the order of the Son of God, that is handed down from Father to Son; not the offices of Prophet, Patriarch, Apostle, High Priest, Elder, Priest, Teacher and Deacon. This the error of Jason (J. W. Briggs), as well as many others that have fallen. They do not make the proper distinction between the orders of priesthood, (there being two orders, the Aaronic and the Melchisedec; see sec. 3, on Priesthood), and the different offices of these two priesthoods. The ORDER of priesthood, (not offices), is handed down from father to son. The offices are ordained by those holding authority, as the Holy Ghost shall direct; see sec. 2, par. 12, page 96. But the two orders of priesthood, meaning the Aaronic and the Melchisedec, is handed down from father to son, according to the flesh, &c., &c. A great ado is made over the blessing put upon Joseph's posterity. Now read the promised blessing, revelation of 1841, and you will see two things only mentioned; first, an inheritance for Joseph's children, in the Nauvoo house; second, the blessing upon Joseph's head that his children shall be blessed as Abraham's seed was. And to all this I have not the least objection. The Nauvoo House is not finished yet, and no prospects that it ever will be, at least not for many years to come. And then you will discover by the drawing, that should the time ever come that Joseph's children, or children's children, desired a place in the church of God, the authority to ordain them to the various offices in the Church is preserved unto William Smith and his posterity forever. It is in this way you will discover that the promise made to Joseph is fulfilled upon the head of his posterity; being ordained one an Elder, one an High Priest, and so on; holding a right of priesthood, (not of office), according to the flesh. If the right of office, as Jason affirms, is handed down from father to son, then Joseph would have four prophets in his family, and Hyrum three patriarchs and Samuel two High Priests, and D. Carlos none, his children all being girls. But Paul says, 'Not all apostles, not all prophets;' consequently it is the order of priesthood that is the inheritance, and not the grades of office, as I have previously stated. Jason makes an utter great blunder on the spokesmanship. No priesthood is taken from Hyrum's children; it is the office of spokesman conferred on Br. Wood. Jason makes another brush at the order, by placing the spokesman of the prophet in front, and Christ on the right hand of the Father. Will Jason tell us where Brother Wood (Joseph Wood) will be seated after his work is done? And as to certain parts of that celestial law, it was referred to future generations. If Brother Wood has done wrong, Jason should have given him the extent of the rule, if he repents. -- Read revelation of February, 1831, sec. 13, par. 7; consequently, Jason's revelation to cut off, is premature. Without applying the rule I however deny all such charges. God is on our side. WM. SMITH, President.
"Dec. 25th, 1851.
That "celestial law" referred to by William, is a pretended revelation to him, authorizing polygamy, apportioning the number of wives according to grade of office in the Church, from half a dozen to several hundred. It repudiated Gentile marriages. I have seen it, and of course know what it contained.
Even before this letter was received, Br. Powell had heartily entered into the compact to work for the restoration of the original faith of the Latter Day Saints, as taught in the books; and wait upon God in respect to the "presidency."
Letters having been sent to the Saints, at Beloit, (at one time called the Lehi Branch, but at this time called the Newark Branch), from Wm. Smith, denying that which had been charged upon him in the counsel of November 24th, and stigmatizing them as slanderous, and containing the proceedings of a council at Palestine, on December 3d, 1851, (near Amboy, Lee County, Illinois), at which J. W. Briggs was cut off, &c. This called out the statement from the members of the branch; from which we extract the following:
"We, the undersigned members of the Lehi Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in Rock County, Wisconsin, having withdrawn all fellowship from Wm. Smith and Joseph Wood, we deem it our duty to warn and forewarn all men, and especially all Saints, of their wiles. For from our acquaintances we know, in part, and from reliable evidence, believe them guilty of teachings and practices against morality and hospitality, violating herein both the law of God and man, -- base and hypocritical beyond any with whom we have had the misfortune to be acquainted."
This statement was signed by eleven members of the branch, including all its officers. About the tenth of February, 1852, J. W. Briggs visited the branches eastward, who had now become identified with the movement, and on February 15th, the foregoing statement in full, was read to the branch at Waukesha and the following action taken:
"Resolved that this branch do fully concur in the above statement. Albert White, presiding elder; Henry Moon, clerk of Branch. Waukesha, Wis., February 15th, 1852."
Returning to Beloit, Br. Powell called upon J. W. Briggs, with a letter from Henry H. Deam, living near Yellowstone, Lafayette County, Wisconsin, where a branch had been raised up by Zenas H. Gurley and H. P. Brown, who acknowledged James J. Strang, where Br. Gurley then resided. Upon consultation it was agreed that a letter should be written to those two brethren, and on the 19th of February Br. Powell started to visit them, and carried the letter and a copy of the communication of November 18th.
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints;
"When I found Br. Deam, he did not fight your letter or revelation, as he was evidently tired of Strang's rule, as he was hunting up testimony about the one-eyed prophet, but fell in with it. Then we counseled what was the best way to save Br. Gurley and the branch he presided over, from the evils of Strangism. Knowing he had great influence in the branch, we thought proper to labor with him privately, and on February 23d we went to see him and laid the matter before him as plain as we could; but he could not see it as we did. We went to work digging. (Br. Gurley was engaged with a Mr. Newkirk also in mining), close by, and saw him almost every day for two weeks; still he did not yield the point. At length I became impatient, and went to Br. Gurley and told him if he did not go to preaching and expose Strangism, I would do it. His reply was, 'If you do, I will give you an all-to-pieces whipping.' I said, my shoulders are broad and I had rather take your whipping than to go away and not warn the people.' He went with me back where I had left Mr. Deam; and finally, before I left him, he promised me he would get his Book of Doctrine and Covenants and go to preaching lineal priesthood. On these conditions I left him, and went to Wingville, where I found Br. John Cunningham. And from there to Potosi and British Hollow, in Grant County, (Wisconsin ) where I found Br. Samuel Blair, and Br. Ethan Griffith. The result was, they all came into the church; and I returned to Yellowstone about the first of June. And Br. Gurley had turned the whole branch. He did not lose a member, and there was great rejoicing in the branch, to think that God was going to call upon one of the seed of Joseph Smith. I was then on my way back to Beloit, to attend the first Conference held by the Reorganized Church; if you remember Br. Gurley came with me. Yours in the faith of the Gospel, "DAVID POWELL."
The interval between Mr. Powell's departure from the Yellowstone Branch, about April 6th, and his return about the first of June, is marked by a complete revolution in the branch, through the joint labors of Brn. Deam, Gurley and Newkirk. It was in the family of the latter that the first answers were given through the gifts relative to the movement going on; which is here given in Br. Gurley's own words.
"A few days after we had entered into this covenant, while Br. Newkirk was in secret prayer, the Holy Spirit rested upon him; he arose and spake in tongues, and started homeward, speaking in tongues and praising God. His wife heard him, and met him, and shortly afterward she received the same gift and blessing. These gifts were the first fruits of the reformation," (in that branch.)
In speaking of an outpouring of the Spirit a few days after this, in which his own family were partakers, he says:
"It appeared to rue that the entire room was filled with the Holy Spirit. Shortly after I requested them all to join with me in asking the Lord to tell us who the successor of Joseph Smith was? I felt anxious to know, that I might bear a faithful testimony. We spent a few moments in prayer, when the Holy Spirit declared, 'The successor of Joseph Smith is Joseph Smith, the son of Joseph Smith, the prophet; it is his right by lineage, saith the Lord your God.'"
Immediately after this, Br. Gurley writes a letter to J. W. Briggs in the fullnes of his joy, in which he says, "We have received evidence of your revelation," and proposed that we should call a conference to meet on the first of June. After some correspondence with different branches, it was settled to meet in conference on the 12th of June, at the Newark Branch, in the town of Beloit, Wis. The Saints in union with the movement were notified; and when the time arrived a goodly number had gathered, and gave proof of the deep rooted conviction that the hand of the Lord was upon them to accomplish his own work; but the extent of the work was but imperfectly known. For the legality of the conference, however, the law requiring "the Elders of this Church" to meet in Conference once in three months, or from time to time, was the warrant; since the entire movement from the first was based upon the rejection of all organizations and leaders, and the belief that God would, "in his own due time" raise up a successor and re-establish his Church, which time was believed to be close at hand.
On the first and part of the second day of the conference, a general survey of the condition of things relative to the Church, its rejection, and the numerous false shepherds that had arisen, was taken by Z. H. Gurley, S. H. Briggs, A. White, D. Powell, J. W. Briggs, and others, who addressed the conference. After which the following resolutions were offered, and severally discussed, and unanimously adopted, to-wit:
Resolved, That this Conference regard the pretentions of Brigham Young, James J. Strang, James Collen Brewster, and William Smith and Joseph Wood's joint claims to the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as an assumption of power, in violation of the law of God; and consequently we disclaim all connection and fellowship with them.
Resolved, That the successor of Joseph Smith, Junior, as the Presiding High Priest in the Melchisedec Priesthood, must of necessity be of the seed of Joseph Smith, Junior, in fulfillment of the law and promises of God.
Resolved, That as the office of First President of the Church grows out of the authority of the Presiding High Priest in the high priesthood, no person can legally lay claim to the office of First President of the Church, without a previous ordination to the presidency of the high priesthood.
Resolved, That we recognize the validity of all legal ordinations in this Church, and will fellowship all such as have thus been ordained, while acting within the purview of such authority.
Resolved, That we believe that the Church of Christ, organized on the 6th day of April, A. D. 1830, exists, as on that day, wherever six or more Saints are organized, according to the pattern in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.
Resolved, That the whole law of the Church of Jesus Christ is contained in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Book of Doctrine and Covenants.
Resolved, That in the opinion of this Conference, there is no state in which the Saints on this continent are commanded to gather at the present time; but that the Saints on all other lands are commanded to gather to this land, preparatory to the reestablishment of the Church in Zion; when the scattered Saints of this land will also be commanded to gather and return to Zion, and to their inheritances, in fulfillment of the promise of God: and it is the duty of the Saints to turn their hearts and their faces towards Zion, and supplicate the Lord God for such deliverance.
Resolved, That we will, to the extent of our ability and means, communicate to all the scattered Saints the sentiments contained in the foregoing resolutions.
Resolved, That this Conference believe it the duty of the Elders of this Church, (who have been legally ordained), to cry repentance and remission of sins to this generation, through obedience to the gospel, as revealed in the record of the Jews, Book of Mormon, and Book of Doctrine and Covenants; and not faint in the discharge of duty.
After which in pursuance to the 8th resolution, it was motioned, seconded and carried unanimously, that a committee of three be appointed to write a pamphlet, (based upon the foregoing resolutions), entitled, "A Word of Consolation to the Scattered Saints." Whereupon Elders Jason W. Briggs, Zenas H. Gurley, and John Harrington were appointed said committee.
This closed the business of the Conference, and after some desultory remarks and exhortations from Br. Z. H. Gurley and others, it adjourned on the evening of June 13th, after a session of two days, to meet at the Yellowstone Branch of the Church, in Lafayette County, Wisconsin, on the 6th of October following.
The position taken by this Conference was, it must be seen, an anomalous one. All similar assemblages or bodies convened and acted under the call of a leader or head; but this acknowledged none. Others were the results of a professed head, This was a preceding, or preparatory to an expected head; and the epithet of being "a headless body" was freely cast at the brethren. Yet to them was visible the tokens of divine care, which, like the cloud of the size "of a man's hand" to the ancient prophet, confirmed their faith, that what had been promised would surely be fulfilled, in "the due time of the Lord." And they were determined to wait and prepare for that "time,"
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints;
"But let us return to the rejection of the Church at Nauvoo, or the stake; this event (though disallowed by most) produced all the phenomena characteristic of such a calamity: aside from the suffering consequent upon the breaking up, and scattering abroad, pretenders began to arise, to allure the unwary into their fatal meshes, the devices of Satan, to which the Saints had subjected themselves by turning from the Law of God. From the foregoing, it must follow, that the rejection of the only stake to which the Saints might gather, and the organizations belonging thereto, the assumption of authority by the traveling high council, thus destroying the connection and harmony between all the quorums, in short; since the coup d'etat of Brigham Young in the government of the Church, a loose rein has been given to the ambitious, and that example has furnished a powerful stimulus, to go and do likewise. Hence the list of such pretenders has increased rapidly, and perhaps is not yet full: we say, it must follow, that during this reign of confusion, consequent upon this captivity, there was no call, in the very nature of the case, for a successor to Joseph, either a Presiding Elder in the Church, or Presiding High Priest over the Priesthood: and there has been none.
Now, let us notice the manifestation of that blindness that prevailed in that day that God took away the two principal shepherds in one day. There was one member of the quorum of the First Presidency left, to whom belonged the right of presiding, by virtue of his authority as a Counsellor. But he, claiming his right by virtue of something else, or attempting to get that right under cover of some performance unknown to the law of God, was rejected by the voice of the people. But in doing so, they undoubtedly deprived him of that to which he was clearly entitled by his ordination: and conferred it upon the traveling high council: who, could only in the absence of the entire quorum of the First Presidency preside, or at least one of that quorum, viz., the President, and then, as an Apostle -- as one of the traveling high council, and not as the successor of Joseph. Now let us examine the order of presidency in the Church. Suppose the First President is absent, who presides in council or in conference? The Counsellors, both, or either of them. And why? Because they are the highest authority present. True. Then here is the key to unlock the whole secret of the Presidency of the Church. Hear it then! The highest authority presides always. Hence, if the entire quorum of the First Presidency is absent, the President of the Twelve must preside, pro tem., or as representative, by virtue of his ordination to the Apostleship, and not as the legitimate President. And in the absence of the President of the Twelve, either of the Twelve, or in the absence of that whole quorum, the President of the high Priests' Quorum will preside, and so on down to the Priest and Deacon; but each in his turn, must preside by virtue of that authority which he holds by actual ordination. Hence if one of the Twelve, being the highest authority present, is called to preside, he can do nothing not authorized by his ordination. That is, they cannot administer an ordinance while thus presiding, that they could not previously; for instance, the Twelve are not authorized to ordain a Bishop to the Church, nor do I presume they ever, as Apostles only, thought of doing any thing of the kind; but when they assumed to preside as president of the Church, they ordained Bishops, which was clearly in violation of the law. Hence the only legitimate Presidency in the Church, since the death of Joseph, has been representatives of the rightful heir, or true successor."
The following resolution was then offered, to-wit:
"Resolved, That in the opinion of this conference, the one holding the highest priesthood in the Church is to preside, and represent the rightful heir to the presidency of the high priesthood, in a presiding capacity."
This, after a thorough discussion upon the principle involved, in all its visible bearings, was unanimously adopted, and all seemed smooth in that direction; but when the attempt was made to designate who it was that held the highest office in the priesthood, and was entitled to be thus sustained as a presiding authority, new difficulties arose. For it was found that there were among us those who had received ordinations prior to the breaking up of the Church and in the different factions, to the Apostleship, as High Priests, Presidents of Seventy, Seventy, and even as princes. It will be readily seen that in the question then raised was involved the legal character of the work. Upon this point we shall state the ground taken, and why taken. All ordinations not within the limits of the law were ignored, and all within that limit were recognized. This excluded all above an High Priest, who being the highest recognized, was sustained as the presiding authority, as defined above. At this conference the gifts were abundantly enjoyed, and the Saints were greatly strengthened and assured of the triumph of the work of restoration to the old paths. Also, during these meetings we were forewarned of the war between the South and the North, its sanguinary character and its extent; also, the success of the North was portrayed in all the vivid exactness of the subsequent history of the civil war. It was at this conference that the so-called revelation on polygamy, purporting to have been given to Joseph Smith nine years previous, made its appearance for the first time; the effect of which, and the discussion upon that subject will be seen hereafter.
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints;
Most of the Elders had families and were poor, and during the winter preached mainly in their several localities. Br. Z. H. Gurley visiting Wingville and the Blue Mounds settlement, where several united with the Church; among whom was George White, John Cunningham, of the former place, and Daniel D. Rasey, of the latter, who became a zealous in borer in that region of country.
Shortly after the conference, while the subject of polygamy was being discussed in connection with the revelation brought forward by Brigham Young, at Salt Lake, the August previous, and had just reached us by a reprint in the Seer, by O. Pratt, it was signified through the gifts that the Church should meet in fasting and prayer to receive instruction. This was done January 9th, 1853, and among other testimonies received, was the following upon this subject:
"Polygamy is an abomination in the sight of the Lord God. It is not of me; I abhor it, as also the doctrines of the Nicolaitanes, and the men, or set of men, who practice it, I judge them not, I judge not them who practice it, their work shall judge them at the last day; be ye strong, for ye shall contend against this doctrine. Many will be led into it honestly, for the devil will seek to establish it and roll it forth to deceive. They seek to build up their own kingdoms to suit their own pleasure; but I countenance it not, saith God, I have given my law, I shrink not from my word. My law is given in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants; but they have disregarded my law, and trampled upon it and counted it a light thing, and obeyed it not; but my word is the same yesterday as to-day and forever.
"As you have desired to know of me concerning the pamphlet, it is written in part but not in plainness; it requires three more pages to be written, for it shall go forth in plainness combating this doctrine, and all who receive it not, it shall judge at the last day. Let this be the voice of the Lord in the pamphlet, for it shall go forth in great plainness, and many will obey it and turn unto me, saith the Lord."
This testimony was given in the name and by the authority of the Holy Spirit, and written at the time, in answer to the prayers, with fastings, of the whole Church assembled. It agrees with the law of the Church to which it appeals; and, like that of November 18th, 1851, condemns polygamy, and showed to the Saints that the so-called revelation authorizing polygamy, was not, and could not be from God. In compliance with the above instruction, an article was written against it, to be added to the pamphlet; and as being the first publication of the Reformation, it is here given, written by J. W. Briggs as chairman of the committee, and added to the pamphlet as follows;
"We cannot forego this opportunely to raise our voice against an evil which has well nigh completed the overthrow of the Church: -- which Sampson like hath lain hold upon the very pillars of society. And instead of order, it has produced anarchy; instead of union, division; in short, instead of confidence and love, distrust and hatred. We refer to the system of spiritual wifery, taught by Brigham Young, to the 'plurality' doctrines of James J. Strang, and William Smith, and his joint occupant, called 'Spokesman.' These systems though unlike each other, are all known as a system of polygamy; under which they themselves take shelter; hence we will not treat of them under their proper names, but under the less offensive or semi-logical one, viz; Polygamy. Whence came the practice, and where is the warrant for it? The first we hear of it is from the lips of Lamech, a son of Cain, who owns himself deserving of seventy-fold greater punishment than Cain himself. We conclude, therefore, that none will quote Lamech as a justifying precedent; but we insist that the father of the system gives it its character. His shedding blood was but a type of what belongs to, or, must accompany the system; since male and female come into the world about equal, and God having stamped upon man, (His own views), 'that it is not good to be alone;' hence of course, if one, (like Lamech), secures one or two additional wives, he must either persuade that number of men that it was 'good to be alone,' or, he must kill them off. It seems he chose the latter, which no doubt was the easiest. It is admitted that examples preach more powerful than words. Now let no man working by a pattern, presume to be wiser than him who gave the pattern. When God made man, seeing it was not good for him to be alone, He gave him a help-meet in one wife, and ONE only. Here is an example of the first organization of society. Now for the precept in conformity with this example. The law of nature is the voice of God; and in this case, cannot be misunderstood: nature echoes the revealed word of God, that it is not good for man to be alone, and nature provides one help-meet for each, and no more. Thus the example teaches that one woman is made for one man, and nature cries only one. We are all well aware that it was practised by better men than Lamech -- by Patriarchs and Prophets; at which time it was also written, 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;' which the gospel revealed in a different light, saying, 'resist not evil.' Polygamy was, perhaps, like their mode of revenge, and many other things, suffered, because of the hardness of their hearts; but was not so from the beginning; nor to be, after the true light shined forth. Agreeing with this last supposition it is remarkable that of all the nations that practice polygamy but a single one acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, and they practically reject the Gospel.
"If it be a said that the law of Moses provided for Polygamy, we answer it also provided for choosing a King, which God had forbidden. If David, the man after God's own heart, be appealed to, we refer to the word of God in his case. The Book of Mormon, Jacob 2:6: 'Behold David and Solomon, had truly many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.' It is then commanded that they, the Nephites, should have but one wife, and concubines none. Alma in effect declares the same. See pages 323 and 4.
"Some may say, that this was a law to the Nephites, but not to us. Let us see. In Doc. and Cov., sec. 4, par. 1, it says, 'The word of the Lord concerning his Church.' Hear what the Lord says to the church. In par. 8, the whole church is condemned for unbelief and treading lightly the commandment. Then it is said: 'And they shall remain under this condemnation, until they will repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon, and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written.' Here the church is required not only to say (they believe it) but to obey what is written in it. See, also, section 13, par. 5, 'And again the Elders, Priests, and Teachers of this church, shall teach the principles of my Gospel, which are in the bible, and the Book of Mormon, and they shall observe the covenants and church articles to do them.' We have already seen what is written in the Book of Mormon, on this subject. Let us now examine the Covenants, and Church Articles. See sec. 65, par. 3: 'For marriage is ordained of God unto man, wherefore it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh.' Sec. 13, par. 7: 'Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and cleave unto her and none else. ' See Church Article, sec. 101, par. 2: 'You both husband and wife, observing the legal right mutually agree to be each others companion, belonging to this condition; that is, keeping yourselves wholly for each other, and from all others during your lives.' Such is the marriage covenant recognized by the church. See par. 4: 'We (the whole church in general assembly) declare that we declare that one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.' See Sec. 13, par. 16: 'Thou shalt take the things which thou has received * * * for a law, to be my law, to govern my church, and he that doeth according to these things shall be saved, and he that doeth them not, shall be damned if he continues.
"We demand of all who have been called Latter Day Saints, do you believe these things? If you do not, you ought at once to renounce the same. But if you acknowledge the authority of the book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants, (or either of them), then know that Polygamy is forbidden of God, and this interdict, is directed to us, who have known the mighty power of God in establishing the authority of this, his word; and whoever transgresses and repenteth not, shall receive according to the law. Hear it, Oh, ye deceivers, and deceived together: 'He that receiveth my law, and doeth it, the same is my disciple, and he that saith he receiveth it, and doeth it not, the same is not my disciple and shall be cast out from among you.' D. C. 61: 2. ' I come quickly, and ye shall see that my law is kept.' -- 61: 3. 'These words are given unto you, and they are pure before me; wherefore, beware how you hold them, for they are to be answered upon your souls, in the day of judgment, even so. Amen.'
Herein, brethren, we have shown in a few words what the law of God is on this subject, and we call upon you both far and near to obey it, lest ye be found fighting against God, and receive of his wrath in the day of his indignation. Let those who have offended in this matter, know, that the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherouely; yet she is thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.' MaI. 2:14.
"To those calling themselves Latter Day Saints at Salt Lake, we commend the latter, and the following quotations: Ezra 10:14, 'Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all them which have strange wives in our cities come at, appointed times, and with them the Elders of every city, and the Judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us,' (and separate yourselves from the strange wives), and return with weeping and with supplication to the law of God. And he that scattered Israel in wrath, will gather them in mercy, and keep them as a shepherd doth his flock. Behold this shall go forth as a restorer of paths to walk in, and a swift witness against him that giveth not heed to the words which the Lord and his spirits hath spoken."
The pamphlet of twenty-four pages was printed immediately after, and circulated as widely as possible. The numerous testimonies respecting organizing awakened considerable discussion among the Elders, who, but for those manifestations of the Spirit, were willing to continue as they then stood until the Lord should call upon whom he would, and restore the presidency of the Church by revelation, according to the order contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. Nor could it be seen by any how, or by what authority we could organize. If it has since been questioned by many not connected with the work, it was then questioned by those soon to be the first actors in it. They were not willing to assume or usurp, and thus far the way had been clear; and while many things had been given through the gifts, in no instance were these instructions contrary to the books, but continually referred to them. And the Reorganization is as willing to be tested upon its authority, as its doctrine; and its best vindication is the statement of facts relative to it.
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints;
This which seemed to give sufficient light to move understandingly upon the assembling of the conference of April 6th, 1853, it was found that we were not yet prepared, for it was not determined who was the greatest, that the conference might be organized; and, moreover, few could appreciate the instruction given, and still more knew nothing of it till then, and their minds were turned towards the books to assert in the manner to proceed. The choice of a presiding officer lay between High Priests and Seventys, (President of Seventy), and upon this, and questions relating to organization, two whole days were spent in continuous discussion, in council, with a temporary president; at the close of which a final vote was called to determine between a High Priest and a Seventy to preside over the Conference, with the following result: nine to nine, there being present nineteen Elders, including two High Priests. J. W. Briggs, one of them, was finally chosen president of the conference, and an appeal to heaven as agreed upon in solemn prayer on the evening of April 7th. This meeting is memorable in the history of the Reorganization. It was at this meeting that an exhibition of power, light, and unity of spirit, above any ever before witnessed among us. Tongues were spoken and interpreted; hymns sung in tongues and the interpretation sung; prophecy and visions were exercised here for the first time to the writer. Many sang in tongues in perfect harmony at once, as though they constituted a well practiced choir. Angels appeared and were seen by some, and testimony of their presence given by others affirming one of them to be the recording angel, who exhibited a partially unrolled parchment as an unfinished record upon which we were assured should be recorded the act we were called to perform in the Reorganization of the Church, confirmation of the foregoing revelation of the 20th of March, given, enjoining obedience to the same. The evident proofs of divine direction were so strong, that doubt disappeared, while the light was so clear to all that diversity of opinion ceased, and the whole people were truly of one heart and one soul. And on the next morning, at the opening of the session, the revelation of March 20th was presented to the Conference, and accepted as such by unanimous voice; after which the following persons were chosen as the three to select the seven to be ordained into the Quorum of twelve apostles. Cyrus Newkirk, Ethan Griffith and William Cline, who selected the following seven persons, who were accepted by the conference, and ordained according to the instructions previously given, viz: Zenas H. Gurly, Jason W. Briggs, Henry H. Deam, Reuben Newkirk, John Cunningham, George White, and Daniel D. Rasey. The ordinations look place in the afternoon session, on the 8th, in the following order: Henry H. Deam was first ordained by Jason W. Briggs, (the president of the conference), assisted by Zenas H. Gurley and Reuben Newkirk; then Henry H. Deam, assisted by Zenas H. Gurley and Reuben Newkirk, ordained Jason W. Briggs; then Jason W. Briggs, assisted by Henry H . Deam and Reuben Newkirk, ordained Zenas H. Gurley; and then Jason W. Briggs, assisted by Henry H. Deam and Zenas H. Gurley, ordained the other four of the seven chosen. At this same session of conference, Samuel Blair was chosen Church Recorder, and J. W. Briggs, Church Historian.
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints;
The closing of this conference was by a general testimony meeting, in which the various gifts were abundantly poured out; and a special charge given the seven who had been ordained into the Quorum of the Twelve, to take the oversight of the flock in the fear of the Lord, and an impressive warning against becoming heady, with an emphatic reinforcement of the precept, "He that exalteth himself shall be abased." That false spirits, false prophets, and false christs were in the world, and should come among us to deceive, and some should follow them; but that the organization should remain. That the acts of the conference were recorded in heaven, and the faithful should realize all the promises that had been made from the beginning.
On the last day of this conference the seven who had been ordained apostles met to choose a president of the quorum. It was proposed by J. W. Briggs, that the rule of courtesy should govern our choice; that is, that the oldest man among them should preside. Zenas H. Gurley being the oldest man, refused. It was then proposed (by the same) that the next oldest should preside, to which H. H. Deam being that one, refused, and both alleging that the rule of courtesy should only apply to pro tem. presidents, in the absence of the permanent one, and not to an original choice, it was then moved by them both that J. W. Briggs be the President of the Quorum, which was so voted. The attendance at this conference was large, and deep interest prevailed throughout.
It had been declared through the gifts that the various organizations of Latter Day Saints, under the lead of J. J. Strang, J. C. Brewster, Baneemy, Alpheus Cutler, Lyman Wight, Sidney Rigdon, Brigham Young, and others, together with some yet to arise, should one after another come to naught, and cease to be. And during the summer the elders came in contact with many of them, which served to put to the test their foundations and our own also.
Having stated the facts relative to the first acts, thus far in reorganizing the church, it is proper to give the ideal or theory upon which these acts were justified in the minds of those who performed them; for they were none of them accidents, but deliberative, and it must be conceded, were consistent with themselves.
1st. It was affirmed that the church had been disorganized, or rejected as a church, but not as individuals.
2d. That those individuals not rejected were entitled to ask and receive what related to them as their duty.
3d. That these individuals, among whom were many elders, in seeking to know their duty were taught of the Lord and commanded to reorganize, or begin to set in order the church.
4th. That in the discharging this duty the Presidency was left to be filled as provided by the law in the case out of our reach, to be filled by calling one forth to whom the promise pertained.
5th. That as a preparation to that, the calling into power those whose duty it should be to ordain him.
6th. The highest authority for the time presiding and representing the Presidency of the Church.
And in justification of the course taken, and the principles involved, on "the question of authority," we have ever courted, and still do, investigation in the rigid character of the facts in the first organization. Here they are: Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ordained to the lesser priesthood by an angel; then by this authority and a commandment, they on the sixth day of April ordained each other elders, and this eldership ordained high priests and apostles, and this high priesthood ordained, by commandment, the President of the High Priesthood, the highest office in the church; so that the alleged lesser ordained the greater, is common to both the first organization and the Reorganization he same class of facts justify both or condemn both.
But this stream, rising higher than its fountain, is only seeming, not real. By what authority, according to the law of the church, is anyone ordained? Answer. -- "By the power of The Holy Ghost which is in the one who ordains him." Instead of this then being the stream, it is the fountain itself, from which flows the stream or authority of both priesthoods, from its highest to its lowest offices. Moreover, all ordinations are performed in the name and authority of the church, and is therefore the act of "the Spirit and the Bride." So that in addition to the authority which its adherence to truth guarantees, the Reorganization is technically right, and on legal grounds invulnerable; before which all the factions have melted away save the one -- and they dare not assail it, but always "decline."
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints;
BELOIT, Rock County, Wis.,
April 24th, 1854.
Brother John E. Page: -- Supposing that ,you are already aware of the manifestations of Heaven in behalf of Zion in our midst, I will not revert to them prior to the last (April) Conference, in this letter. At that conference an organization was commenced according to a pattern revealed at the opening of this dispensation -- given and confirmed at that time by indubitable evidence -- by the Holy Ghost, that we might in legal unity labor for Zion and her captive sons and daughters, who, as the ancient prophet says, are scattered upon every mountain and high hill -- by the agency of false and wicked shepherds; but God has pledged his word to search after them, and to feed them -- with knowledge and understanding -- that they may discern between the evil and the good, between the clean and the unclean. This he has done by dispelling the mists of darkness which have hitherto (to many) concealed the "rod of iron," and left those who once would fain have plucked out their eyes for the cause -- to wander in a maze of doubt -- whirling in interminable eddies between hope and despair -- to murmur against God. But the illumination of the Spirit of truth reduces this restless and unquiet and spirit -- willing to justify self and arraign the goodness, and even the justice of God -- to the deepest humility; showing that we went into darkness by letting go the rod of iron, and the difficulty such have suffered, in returning to it, is answerable upon their own heads. Having turned from the "narrow way" to another broad with privileges, many have sought to return but are not able -- not able because they would return as martyrs because of other men's sins -- and not as chastened and humbled for their own sins. The word of God to us is his law, is that alone by which we are to be "preserved" and "perfected," and that law has been disregarded, and hence "destruction" and imperfection have reigned. And for this reason God has, in his own wisdom, moved upon some of the feeblest of all the captives, to raise their voice and cry, "Return, return to the law of God and be healed;" and to re-establish the order revealed in the beginning.
At the Conference we came before the Lord (like Ezra and his companions from the captives -- Ezra 8: 21) with fasting and prayer, "to seek of him a right ,way," and received directions as follows:
"Let the greatest among you preside at the conference. Let the conference appoint three men, who shall select seven to be Apostles, and let the president of the conference assisted by two others ordain them. Let the Apostles choose twelve men, and ordain them to be a high council," &c. (I quote from memory). The other quorums were referred to as things already understood, with an injunction to do according to the pattern. We accordingly set to work by this pattern. Seven were chosen and ordained Apostles. And in behalf of my brethren of that quorum and the church, I write this letter, and ask you as freely and candidly to examine this matter, and communicate to us, your mind in this regard, as the Holy Spirit shall lead you, when you lay it before the Lord and seek His guidance. The President of that Quorum we recognize as the highest authority among us, and the "legal representative" of the rightful heir to the Presidency of the Priesthood and the Church, (by the voice of the same), as you will have learned by the pamphlet which I sent you. And a quorum of Seventies commenced, of between twenty and twenty-five, a part of whom were already Seventies; the rest were then ordained, and when the number reaches seventy, seven presidents will be chosen from among them, according to the law. This is a faithful sketch of our proceedings, which, by the testimony of the Holy Ghost and heavenly visions at the time, we are assured is sanctioned, and recorded in heaven. With sentiments of brotherly regard, and fellowship with all the captives and fellow laborers for the salvation of Israel and the redemption of Zion, I subscribe myself,
Yours in the faith of the Son of God,
J. W. BRIGGS.
Elder Page did not reply to this letter, at least none was received. Though this letter was sufficient to base upon it a report that we had applied to Elder Page to take the Presidency of the Church, to escape the opprobrium of being a headless body. Numbers were added to the church during the summer and autumn, throughout the branches and fields of labor. And at the October Conference of this year, (1853), missions were appointed as follows:
Samuel Blair to Pennsylvania; Albert White to Eastern Wisconsin; H. H. Lowe to Northern Wisconsin; Benj. Tatum to Ohio; Ephraim Demmons to Northern New York; Thos. Carrico to North-western Illinois; Z. H. Gurley and Daniel B. Razey to Springville and Western Wisconsin; H. H. Deam and Geo. White to Green Co., Wisconsin and vicinity; J. W. Briggs to Southern Wisconsin, and charged with the duty of writing and publishing a pamphlet to spread the light, and the views entertained by the church.
During the autumn and winter there were some strange manifestations of a spirit hitherto but little known among us, and caused no little trouble. It was in prophecy and tongues, Sometimes boisterous, and accusation began to be made against different persons through the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and interpretation; and this in public meeting. At this many were terrified; not knowing what moment they might be publicly accused by the Holy Ghost; while some who had thus been accused protested in the most solemn manner their innocence. These things occurred mainly in the Zarahemla Branch. There was much discord and differences of opinion respecting these manifestations, some of which were as follows: When the spirit moved to speak by way of rebuke, accusation, or chastisement of a brother or sister, the speaker would not only name the accused and point to them, but would frequently while speaking approach and cuff them over the head and various parts of the body; -- castigating them in the name of God. Those cases, however, generally occurred in special meetings appointed through the zeal of those so gifted, and not in the regular meetings. The whole branch was in doubt what to do. Many believed the spirit was false but many others thought it the Holy Ghost. The resident elders were mainly young members; hence the timidity in meeting the case. But a solution came in due time and doubt respecting its real character was entirely removed, by the Spirit itself, in the following manner. One speaking by it, accusing another in the severest language, and demanding instant confession, which was at once proffered, though the offence complained of was trivial, but the speaker by the Spirit commanded the confessing one, to get upon their knees to them. While another one was by the spirit moved to bark like a wolf.
The spirit was rebuked and all were satisfied and peace restored. And from that time the spirit that became a public accuser of individual members, has been generally regarded as a false spirit. And that tongues spoken were not necessarily the word of the Lord as had been largely believed; but that though the gift was of God; but might be exercised either under the influence of the Holy Spirit, by one's own spirit, or a false spirit. Hence the sentiments spoken would be, of God, of themselves, speaking out of their own hearts, or false, by a false spirit. Thus the admonition "try the spirits" was pressed upon us.
About this time another cause of trouble showed itself; which subsequently was believed to be due to a similar spirit to the one above referred to. Bro. H. H. Deam conceived the idea that the expected son of Joseph, had neglected to comply with the will of Goo, and had forfeited the right, and that it was our privilege and duty to go forward and fully organize. Such was the force of his reasoning that numbers were inclined to the same view, while others were in doubt, and all were disturbed. About the middle of January, (1854) , Br. Deam went to see J. W. Briggs, at Beloit, to confer upon the subject. The consultation lasted two days, during which he urged his views at length, and late at night of the second day he proposed that he (J. H. Briggs) should be sustained by himself and all who he had influence with, as the president, who, with his two counsellors would constitute the legitimate presidency of the church. "Let this position be taken," he said, "and we will carry the whole church, except Bro. Gurley and a few of his personal friends and they will soon fall in too."
Whether this was a temptation, or how strong it was, matters very little except to the one tempted, so we pass it, and state the conclusion of this council, which was, that Elder Deam should not teach, or take any step looking to any change in the organization, only in concert with the brethren of the Quorum of the Twelve, and especially with Elder J. W. Briggs. This was urged by the latter and agreed to, and Elder Deam returned to Zarahemla.
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints;
"A Testimony of the Holy Spirit, given at Beloit, Wisconsin, January 29th, 1854, concerning the Saints at Zarahemla: -- Ye ask truly, but ye ask amiss; cleanse ye yourselves of all bitterness and come before me as one man, and prove me hereby, saith the Lord, by the voice of his Spirit; and lo! I will scatter the darkness, and thy watchmen, Oh! mine Israel, shall see eye to eye, and this remnant shall arise out of obscurity and out of darkness. Uphold the first elder, or senior, by your faith and prayers, and I will give you knowledge and strength, even hidden wisdom, concerning this remnant, of whom I have spoken in days of old, whom I have appointed to speak comfort unto the captives, and give them bread and water in their journey. Therefore seek the preparation, for that which I have promised, even power over false spirits and disease; and if you seek it in unity, with all your hearts, I will bless the sacrifice, and you shall have peace and joy, beyond that which you have before tasted in Zarahemla."
At the April Conference following, it was resolved, unanimously, after some discussion, that manifestations of the Spirit, in any wise relating to the church as a body, should be written and submitted to a body of high priests before circulating or teaching them to the church, and only then on their being approved. This precautionary measure against imposition through spiritual gifts has been questioned, and sometimes ridiculed, as an attempt to bind the Spirit, or dictate to, or control the gifts. But the obvious sense of the measure, and the principle involved in it is, to discriminate between that which is genuine and that which is counterfeit, and the same necessity still exists; and the judges in the case as undefined in fact, now as they were then. It is the providence of the assembly of the quorums, as such, to so act.
A degree of peace and harmony followed this conference and the elders did considerable labor, which was blessed with numerous additions to the church: among these Bro. Samuel Powers, who for some years had been an outside believer. In July of this year, Aaron Smith, the first convert to James J. Strang and one of his chief witnesses and counsellor, came to Zarahemla and united with the church by baptism, at which time the question of re-baptism was first prominently brought forward. It happened that a very general attendance of the church at Zarahemla, and the surrounding branches were present, among whom were Brn. Z. H. Gurley, Deam, Cunningham and J. W. Briggs, of the Twelve, and Ethan Griffith, of Potosi. It was urged by some that we should begin anew, and all be baptized, and thenceforward make it a test of fellowship. Elders Deam, Cunningham and Griffith favored this, and the latter, together with Bro. Aaron Smith, just received, urged it with great vehemence. On the other hand, Elders Z. H. Gurley and J. W. Briggs took the ground that where the evidence of a legal baptism once having been received, and in the absence of evidence of expulsion or apostasy, it was not admissible to require a re-baptism, to be identified with the Re-organization, but that in such cases it was optional with the persons themselves -- a matter of conscience with them alone. This latter view, had been acted upon generally up to that time, but it was affirmed; and became a ruling precedent thenceforward. But from this day, it became the occasion of schism.
At this point the divergence began; which developed the "Deam party," between this and the October Conference, they had taken steps to organize according to the plan proposed by H. H. Deam, in the January previous, as related in the last chapter. Their platform, so to speak, had but two planks in it, -- "re-baptism" and a "perfect organization," of the first presidency. The former they made a test, and accomplished the latter by making H. H. Deam president, and Aaron Smith the first of two councillors; and they held a separate conference on the sixth of October.
This was the darkest time that had arisen since the restoration had commenced, and threatened its progress, if not its ruin. Under these auspices the October conference of 1854 met, was very well attended, at which the position occupied upon those points were re-examined and re-affirmed, and the schismatics disfellowshiped as a body, and H. H, Deam and J. Cunningham were expelled from the Quorum of the Twelve.
Numerous manifestations of the Spirit were received, approving the work, and testifying that this last schismatic organization, together with the others that had arisen elsewhere; should "cease to exist," should "utterly dissolve," etc. At this conference an individual presented himself for baptism, stating that he came to us as Jesus went to John, -- the greater to the lesser, -- that he was "the second coming of Christ," -- the Elijah of scripture, and Gabriel. He wore a "leather girdle," and carried in his hand an "iron rod; with the latter he was going to "break in pieces the nations." H. H. Deam had of late assumed the Prophet office, and here was one calling himself Christ, fulfilling predictions made, as related in a previous chapter.
Elder Jason W. Briggs