Just 9 days prior to Joseph Smith’s death, he sent a letter to James Strang. Strang believed that this letter showed Joseph’s intentions that Strang would be the next prophet of the church. This letter was originally published in a pamphlet by Strang’s followers known as “The Diamond.” I have always wanted to read the actual letter, and I received an email from Tim Hansen, a high priest in the Strangite church with a copy of the letter. He graciously said I could re-print it here, and also noted that it is available as a PDF on their website, along with the rest of “The Diamond”.
THE LETTER OF APPOINTMENT, TAKEN FROM THE DIAMOND. JAMES J. STRANGS TESTIMONY OF LETTER RECEIVE AND HIS ORDINATION.
The Appointment of a Successor and a Place of Refuge.
Letter of Joseph Smith to James J. Strang
Nauvoo, Ill., June 18th, 1844.
My Dear Son:–Your epistle of May 24th, proposing the planting a Stake of Zion in Wisconsin, and the gathering of the Saints there, was duly received, and I, with most of the brethren whose advice I called in, were of opinion that you was deceived by a spirit not of this world, great but not good. Brother Hyrum, however, thought otherwise, and favored the project, not doubting it was of God. I, however, determined to return you an unfavorable answer for the present. But, Oh! the littleness of man in his best earthly state! Not so the will of the Almighty. God hath ruled it otherwise, and a message from the throne of grace directed me as it hath inspired you, and the faith which thou hast in the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel, hath been repaid to thee a thousand fold, and thou shalt be like unto him; but the flock shall find rest with thee, and God shall reveal to thee his will concerning them.
I have long felt that my present work was almost done, and that I should soon be called to rule a mighty host, but something whispers me it will be in the land of spirits, where the wicked cease from troubling and the bands of the prisoner fall off. My heart yearns for my little ones, but I know God will be a father to them, and I can claim face to face the fulfillment of promises from him who is a covenant-keeping God, and who sweareth and peformeth and faileth not to the uttermost.
The wolves are upon the scent, and I am waiting to be offered up, if such be the will of God, knowing that though my visage be more marred than that of any, it will be unscarred and fair when archangels shall place on my brow the double crown of martyr and king in a heavenly world.
In the midst of darkness and boding danger, the spirit of Elijah came upon me, and I went away to inquire of God how the Church should be saved.
I was upon the hill of the Temple. The calm father of waters rolled below, changeless and eternal. I beheld a light in the heavens above, and streams of bright light illuminated the firmament, varied and beautiful as the rainbow, gentle, yet rapid as the fierce lightning.
The Almighty came from his throne of rest. He clothed himself with light as with a garment. He appeared, and moon and stars went out. The earth dissolved in space. I trod on air and was borne on wings of Cherubim’s. The sweetest strains of heavenly music thrilled in my ear, but the notes were low and sad as though they sounded the requiem of martyred Prophets.
I bowed my head to the earth and asked only wisdom and strength for the Church. The voice of God answered, My servant Joseph, thou hast been faithful over many things and thy reward is glorious; the crown and sceptre are thine, and they wait thee. But thou hast sinned in some things, and thy punishment is very bitter. The whirlwind goeth before, and its clouds are dark, but rest followeth, and to its days there shall be no end. Study the words of the vision for it tarrieth not.
And now behold my servant James J. Strang hath come to thee from far for truth when he knew it not, and hath not rejected it, but had faith in thee, the Shepherd and Stone of Israel, and to him shall the gathering of the people be, for he shall plant a stake of Zion in Wisconsin, and I will establish it; and there shall my people have peace and rest and shall not be moved, for it shall be established on the prairie on White River, in the lands of Racine and Walworth; and behold my servants James and Aaron shall plant it, for I have given them wisdom, and Daniel shall stand in his lot on the hill beside the river, looking down on the prairie, and shall instruct my people, and shall plead with them face to face.
Behold my servant James shall lengthen the cords and strengthen the stakes of Zion, and my servant Aaron shall be his counselor, for he hath wisdom in the gospel, and understandeth the doctrines, and erreth not therein.
And I will have a house built unto me there of stone, and there will I show myself to my people by many mighty works, and the name of the city shall be called Voree, which is, being interpreted, garden of peace, for there shall my people have peace and rest and wax fat and pleasant in the presence of their enemies.
But I will again stretch out my arm over the river of waters, and on the banks thereof shall the house of my choice be. But now the city of Voree shall be a stronghold of safety to my people, and they that are faithful and obey me I will there give them great prosperity, and such as they have not had before; and unto Voree shall be the gathering of my people, and there shall the oppressed flee for safety, and none shall hurt or molest them.
And by this shall they know that I have spoken it; the people there and the owners of the land shall show kindness to them, for great calamities are coming on the church, and such as have not been, and if they scatter, the ungodly of the world shall swallow them up, but if they gather to my city of Voree there will I keep them under the shadow of my wings, and the cities from whence my people have been driven shall be purged with a high hand, for I will do it, and my people shall be again restored to their possession; but dark clouds are gathering, for the church is not yet wholly purged.
And now I command my servants, the Apostles and Priests and Elders of the Church of the Saints, that they communicate and proclaim this, my word, to all the saints of God in all the world, that they may be gathered unto and round about the city of Voree and be saved from their enemies, for I will have a people to serve me.
And I command my servant Moses Smith, that he go unto the saints with whom he is acquainted, and unto many people, and command them in my name to go unto my city of Voree, and gain inheritances therein, and he shall have an inheritance therein, for he hath left all for my sake; and I will add unto him many fold if he is faithful, for he knows the land and can testify to them that it is very good.
So spake the Almighty God of heaven. Thy duty is made plain, and if thou lackest wisdom, ask of God, in whose hands I trust thee, and he shall give thee unsparingly, for if evil befall me thou shalt lead the flock to pleasant pastures. God sustain thee.
As you can imagine, there have always been questions about the authenticity of the letter. While most experts agree that the postmark on the letter is genuine, (italics edited on Mar 2, 2011) The University of Michigan has a manuscript written by Charles Eberstadt claiming that Joseph’s signature is a forgery. (Yale University actually owns the letter.) However, I want to set aside these questions and focus on the letter itself. Whether or not the letter is genuine, it seems to me that Joseph was merely establishing a stake in Voree. In the beginning of the letter, Joseph refers to Strang’s previous epistle “proposing the planting a Stake of Zion in Wisconsin.” Later in the letter Joseph says Strang “shall plant a stake of Zion in Wisconsin”.
It seems to me that Strang is reading more into this letter than it actually says. I’m having a hard time reading this and assuming Joseph is appointing Strang as the head of the church, but rather as the head of a stake in Voree. In my mind, the story of and angel visiting Strang and appointing him as prophet, and his translations of the Voree plates and the Brass Plates are much more persuasive pieces of evidence than this letter. What do you make of the Letter of Appointment?
[…] priest in the Strangite church with a copy of the letter. He graciously said I could re-print it on my website, and also noted that it is available as a PDF on their website, along with the rest of an early […]
2 things stick out to me in support of the letter appointing Strang to be the next prophet.
1. Joseph is looking for a way to save the church.
2. That Strang is to lead the flock to Voree if something happens to Joseph.
There is also a couple of things that call into question the authenticity of the letter.
1. John Hamer brought up the prophetic nature of the letter which is problematic from a historian view point, although Joseph has made prophetic statements regarding his pending death, prior to this letter.
2. I will take that a bit further though. Joseph’s statement in the letter was:
“…for if evil befall me thou shalt lead the flock to pleasant pastures.”
This statement is troubling to me because something is missing.
1. It seems a more likely statement would have been that if something were to happen to him (Joseph) that Hyrum would lead the people to Voree where Strang had established a Stake in Zion.
2. “…for if evil befalls me and Hyrum, thou (Strang) shalt lead the flock…”
The only time Hyrum is mentioned in this prophetic letter is in support of Strang, which I find a little Strange.
Michael Quinn discusses many scenarios for the saints, though I’m not sure how credible every piece of information is. I did a post on the Nauvoo Expositor in 2009:
I think it is important to keep this other information in mind while reading this letter. After the expulsion from Missouri, Bushman and Quinn state that Joseph was against Mormons coming together in large groups. But after Nauvoo began to be successful, it seems he changed his mind. With the tumult of problems multiplying in Nauvoo, such as talk of revoking the Nauvoo charter, it seems to me that Joseph was scouting for several places to go as Quinn noted above. Voree easily could have been one of several places. Strang was from the Voree area, and was an advocate. I think Hyrum was probably keeping his options open, and convinced Joseph to let Strang keep trying. In hindsight, Strang did build a nice settlement in Voree, and later Beaver Island, Michigan, so he had good leadership qualities.
In the event of the problem with the Nauvoo charter, it was probably good to have settlements in many dispersed areas: Texas, Oregon, Wisconsin, etc. So I see this letter as a small part of a grander scheme. Strang obviously wasn’t part of these deliberations that Quinn refers to, and I’m sure wasn’t aware of the missionary/ambassador missions to England and France.
Seems contradictory to other statements concerning the church and the Rocky Mountains.
Glenn, I’m not sure if you’re aware that the Rocky Mountains were not necessarily on Joseph’s radar, despite the Standard of Truth declaration. Michael Quinn makes some interesting points about Oregon, Texas, and other places. You might want to check this link: http://www.mormonheretic.org/2009/05/10/the-nauvoo-expositor-a-different-perspective/
I am vaguely aware of those assertions by Quinn. I had read some about them years ago, but never gave it much credence. I have been trying in vain to find a statement by Eliza R. Snow giving her reaction to Joseph Smith’s proposal that she become one of his plural wives. He told her that he could not publicly acknowledge her as his wife until they migrated to the mountains. I don’t have the quote at hand and cannot recall if it was the western mountains or Rocky mountains. If anyone has knowledge where I can access that text, I would appreciate the information.
Okay, I was wrong about it being Eliza R. Snow. It was Lucy Walker. And the wording was “beyond the Rocky Mountains”
“As you can imagine, there have always been questions about the authenticity of the letter. While most experts agree that the postmark on the letter is genuine, Yale University claims that Joseph’s signature is a forgery. However, I want to set aside these questions and focus on the letter itself. Assuming the letter is genuine…”
You know what they say about assuming.
An independent group of handwriting experts came to the conclusion that the signature on the Letter of Appointment was genuine (See THE TEACHINGS OF A MORMON PROPHET p. 250-263.)
Could you please cite references to Yale University’s claims that Joseph’s signature on the Letter of Appointment was a forgery?
*Strang, James J. (1854), Delivery of the Letter of Appointment. The Prophetic Controversy: A Letter from James Strang to Mrs. Corey, St. James, pp. 32-34.
*Quinn, D. Michael (1994). The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, pg. 210. See also Eberstadt, Charles, “A Letter That Founded a Kingdom,” Autograph Collectors’ Journal (October, 1950): 3â€“8.
* Jensen, Robin Scott (2005). Gleaning the Harvest: Strangite Missionary Work 1846-50. Provo, Utah, BYU Press, pg. 6, note 17. Retrieved on 2007-10-30.
From J Nelson Sebright at By Common Consent
What MH posted is nothing more than anti-Mormon rhetoric. Many anti-Mormons have done simular things when it comes to Joseph Smith Jr. That is, they will use hearsay (like what MH did by quoting J Nelson Sebright By Common Consent), leave out information that wouldn’t go good with their points of view, quote other anti-Mormons without verifying sources, distort information and use jargon most can’t understand.
Again, could you please cite references to Yale University’s claims that Joseph’s signature on the Letter of Appointment was a forgery? I would like to investigate this claim to see if there is any truth to it.
Rick, perhaps the letter is legitimate–I don’t know. I appreciate the reference to your book “Teachings of a Mormon Prophet”, and I would like to read it, but I haven’t found it on Amazon. Can you tell me how to obtain the book?
Since you asked for references, I posted them. Read any of the books I referenced by Jensen or Quinn. They are much more expert on this subject than I. I will note that Sebright did say that he was not able to verify the veracity of CP Barnes’ testimony. You asked for references so I gave them to you. I’m not interested in attacking Strangite claims.
Remember, the purpose of this post was to examine what the letter said, and I purposely sidestepped the issue of authenticity, only noting briefly that there has been 150 years of controversy, and noted the postmark has been declared authentic.
I know you’re mainly interested in my Strangite posts here, but truth be told, I examine many controversial topics: the Spaulding Theory, evolution, female healing practices, polygamy, whether the Gospels are reliable, whether the Exodus happened, whether Moses plagiarized the 10 commandments from Hammurabi, etc. I believe it is working through controversial (some say anti-Christian or anti-Mormon) claims that we can get closer to real truth. Truth be told, I generally come down on the side of the faithful, though I wouldn’t call my beliefs are 100% orthodox. I acknowledge when there are problems with faithful claims, and I try to distinguish between polemical and legitimate “anti-mormon or anti-christian” attacks.
Rick, a while back I posted a post titled Interview with the Community of Christ/. It’s been one of my most popular posts, and clears up misconceptions about the RLDS church. Would you be interested in doing something similar for the Strangite Church?
Concerning the book The Teachings of a Mormon Prophet, See http://www.amazon.com/James-Strang-Teaching-Mormon-Prophet/dp/B0006DYAKM/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1298880724&sr=1-11
I obtained a copy through an inter library loan at my local library.
MH wrote: “Remember, the purpose of this post was to examine what the letter said, and I purposely sidestepped the issue of authenticity, only noting briefly that there has been 150 years of controversy, and noted the postmark has been declared authentic.”
Okay, but lets not assume that the Signature on the Letter of Appointment is genuine. Scientific research has been conducted on the letter. When you posted “Yale University claims that Joseph’s signature is a forgery” you needed to cite quotations in order for other researchers to verify those claims. You didn’t do that. Not only does that make the researchers job more difficult, it is nothing more than rhetoric; in my view, anti-Mormon rhetoric. Whenever you quote something like “Yale University claims that Joseph’s signature is a forgery.” You need to lead the researchers to that university’s study.
MH posted: “Rick, a while back I posted a post titled Interview with the Community of Christ/. It’s been one of my most popular posts, and clears up misconceptions about the RLDS church. Would you be interested in doing something similar for the Strangite Church?”
No thanks. You might contact Tim Hansen or who claims the office of High Priesthood, or go to the other Strangite church located at strangite.org and ask one of their priests to join in a debate. Please let me know if you get anyone from either church to have a debate. Then I would be glad to join in.
The Letter of Appointment clearly states that James J. Strang would be like Joseph Smith Jr. who was “the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel.” And to make this even more clear, the letter goes on state that Joseph Smith Jr. was the “the Shepherd and Stone of Israel.”
The Letter of Appointment states clearly states that James J. Strang would be like Joseph Smith Jr., who was “the Shepherd and Stone of Israel” “…a message from the throne of grace directed me as it hath inspired you, and the faith which thou hast in the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel, hath been repaid to thee a thousand fold, and thou shalt be like him…”
The Letter of Appointment states clearly states that Joseph Smith Jr. was the Shepherd and Stone of Israel “…And now behold my servant James J. Strang hath come to thee from far for truth when he know it not, and hath not rejected it but had faith in thee, the Shepherd and Stone of Israel, and to him shall the gathering of the people be…”
Rick, I’ll fix the opening post for accuracy. The University of Michigan has a manuscript by Charles Eberstadt that discusses the forgery allegation. See http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=genpub;idno=ard9128.0001.001
I read what Charles Eberstadt wrote about the forgery allegation. The author stated that he examined the signature on the Letter of Appointment, and came to the conclusion that it was not Joseph Smith’s. He stated that he compared the signature with other known signatures of Joseph Smith’s before making his conclusion. Well, I have done the same, and came to the conclusion that it was genuine. Is his opinion better than mine?
Again, an independent group of handwriting experts came to the conclusion that the signature on the Letter of Appointment was genuine (See THE TEACHINGS OF A MORMON PROPHET p. 250-263.)
To me, the problem is one of ambiguity. The letter can be interpreted in several different ways. It is not a straight forward anointing, else there would be no controversy.
About anything you read can be interpreted in different ways by those who read it.
It is the Letter of Appointment. Not the Letter of anointing.
On the twenty-seventh day of June, 1844, James J. Strang was anointed by an angel:
3. And the Angel of the Lord stretched forth his hand unto him and touched his head, and put oil upon him and said, Grace is poured upon thy lips, and God blesseth thee with the greatness of the Everlasting Priesthood. He putteth might, and glory, and majesty upon thee, and in meekness, and truth, and righteousness will he prosper thee.
4. Thou shalt save his people from their enemies when there is no arm to deliver, and shall bring salvation when destruction walketh in the house of thy God. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore thy God hath anointed thee with oil and set thee above all thy fellows.
Rick, I’ve been curious to learn the scholarly treatment of this letter. I think you’ve convinced me to dig deeper and find out more about this. I’m still trying to hunt down this book you’re referencing. When I get it, I’ll see if I can publish all the known information about the handwriting here on my blog for a more concise treatment. (There’s certainly an abundance of information about the postmark.) I haven’t been able to find anything that discusses the forgery issue in great detail, but I do think that you’re minimizing Eberstadt’s paper short. He discusses the block lettering, signature, and paper in more detail than you discussed in comment 14.
I agree with you that the letter is not clear and can be interpreted many ways. I’ve said before that an angelic appearance trumps the letter.
Rick, if Strang was appointed and then anointed as you describe, doesn’t it trouble you that the Strangite group has decreased in number while the Brighamite group has increased in number? Granted, neither are rolling forth to cover the earth, but the Brighamites seem to be rolling a bit better.
There are more than one Strangite groups, or churches. One Strangite church has its website located at strangite.org, the other Strangite church has its website at http://www.churchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaintsstrangite.com/. They are separate groups, or churches. That is, neither church recognizes the priesthood authority of the other group, or church (For more information on this subject, see http://groups.yahoo.com/group/strangitemormon/message/43 and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/strangitemormon/message/44.)
No, it doesn’t trouble me that the Strangite groups have decreased in number while the Brighamite group has increased in number. The Catholic church baptizes more people into its church each year than the Brighamite church has members.
It is my belief, based upon scripture, that the all the prophets of the Brighamite church from Brigham Young to this present day were/are false, and that Jesus Christ foretold of their coming:
“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” (Matt.
24: 11 )
MH wrote: “…but I do think that you’re minimizing Eberstadt’s paper short. He discusses the block lettering, signature, and paper in more detail than you discussed in comment 14.”
I remember watching BYU TV, and I think it was the series on the Joseph Smith Papers that I first heard of this assertion of “block lettering” having been used in the Letter of Appointment. That is when I came up with the term “institutionalized anti-Mormon rhetoric.” Institutionalized anti-Mormon rhetoric is when anti-Mormon rhetoric is being published through an established institution, like the institution named after the false prophet, and exceedingly wicked man, Brigham Young.
The Brighamites have all the money. Remember the golden rule, “those who have all the gold rule.”
Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, told why the Smith family decided to follow James J. Strang in the following letter, which was dated May 11, 1846:
“My Dear Son-For so I must call you; as the church has passed through much affection, and it pains my heart that it should suffer more. The Twelve (Brighamites) have abused my son William, and trampled upon my children, and have also treated me with contempt. Now mark it, these men are not right. God has not sent them to lead this kingdom. I am satisfied that Joseph appointed James J. Strang. It is verily so. Now, Brother Reuben, I exhort you for the love you have for the truth, to hear my voice, and warn the saints concerning these things, and your reward shall be doubled in the heavenly world.
This from your mother, Lucy Smith, “Mother in Israel.”
“This is to certify that we, the undersigned. members of the Smith family, fully accord with the sentiments expressed above.
I guess that I should have taking the time to explain a little better.
If you would notice Lucy wrote “…I am satisfied that Joseph appointed James J. Strang…” The Letter of Appointment was one of the reasons why she must of thought that Joseph appointed James J. Strang.
William Smith, Joseph Smith’s brother and one of the Twelve Apostles at the time of Joseph’s death, wrote:
“I have, since I returned to Nauvoo last, been apprised for the first time of an appointment made by brother Joseph to James J. Strang. On hearing this I took pains to gather all the evidence that could be adduced, to see if there was any foundation at all for the claims of Mr. Strang. I called in to see Sister Emma to inquire concerning the appointment. Sister Emma says that Joseph received a letter from Mr. Strang. Hyrum was present, and he called in John P. Green; at first Joseph thought all was not right, but Hyrum thought otherwise. They talked over matters awhile and came to the conclusion that Joseph would write a letter; so Joseph and Brother Green went out for that purpose.”
The following was extracted from the Diamond, a publication published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints:
“…Immediately after the martyrdom of Joseph, John Taylor, Willard Richards and William W. Phelps took a kind of temporary direction of that affairs of the church, instruction the saints to wait patiently the hand of the Lord; assuring them that he had not left them without a shepherd, and that all things would be made known in due season. To every question of the saints, who is the prophet replies were made in substance that the saints would know in due season, but that nothing could be done till the Twelve got home, because the appointment of a prophet and the directions for salvation of the church of the church from the perils they were in was contained in sealed packages directed to them. Orson Hyde and others of the Twelve who were then in the east stated in public congregations in New York, Philadelphia and others cities that Willard Richards had written to them that the appointment of a prophet was left with him under seal, to opened on the return of the Twelve. This assertion was so often made that the whole church were daily expecting to hear a new prophet proclaimed. On the eighth of August, 1844, when Sidney Rigdon endeavored to obtain authority to lead the church, John P. Green, marshal of the city of Nauvoo, told them “they need not trouble themselves about it for Joseph had appointed one James J. Strang, who lived up north, to stand in his stead.” The sudden death of John P. Green immediately after this declaration (under very extraordinary circumstances) left Willard Richards and John Taylor sole repositors of all documents on this subject except this letter. They had simply to suppress documents in their hands to set themselves up in power, or overthrow themselves and their pretensions by publishing them…” (Diamond p. 6-7)
The Letter of Appointment fulfilled the following revelations given through Joseph Smith Jr.
The President of the church, who is also the President of the council, is appointed by revelation. (D&C 102:9)
Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you while thou art in this world, neither in the world to come; nevertheless through you shall the oracles be given to another, even unto the church. (D&C 90:3-4.)
You make a convincing argument, but I can’t help but notice the supposition.
I agree the timing of the death of Green raises eyebrows, but there is no proof he was murdered as you imply. Prove Green’s murder and your case becomes extremely compelling. Without proof, the claim holds no more weight that Rigdon’s or Brigham’s.
Aren’t there also journal entries stating that Joseph’s son was to be the next prophet? I can’t remember fully, but it seems there was something to this affect.
If the body of John Green was exumed, and it was proved he was murdered, what would it prove to you?
Sidney Rigdon was one of the three First Presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at the time of the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Brigham Young was an Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at the time of the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. James J. Strang was ordained by an angel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at the time of the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Who do you think held more weight?
There are no journal entries stating that Joseph’s son was to be the next prophet that I am aware of.
The following revelation given to James J. Strang November 6, 1846 was in reguards to Joseph’s son:
4. And thou shalt take my servant Joseph Smith, the son of the prophet Joseph, who was slain by the hands of wicked men for he hath been consecrated unto me in his infancy, and thou shalt anoint him with oil, and shall lay thy hands upon him, and ordain him, and shall set him in the Presidency as one of the First Presidents of my church. For he is filled with the Holy Ghost, and with wisdom and my covenant with his father will I keep with him and with his posterity after him, if they serve me.
5. And I will exalt him in strength, and might and majesty, and he shall be President and Patriarch, in the true Israel of faith in these last days even as was my servant Hyrum, whose blood with the blood of my servant Joseph crieth unto me for vengeance continually.
6. And in his youth my servant William Marks shall assist him and uphold him, and be in all things a coadjutor unto him in the First Presidency of my church. Let my servant William therefore take heed unto his ways that he give unto him wise counsel, and build him up in righteousness, and hold up his hands and admonish him of every evil; for if he do this, my arm shall sustain him forever, and my grace shall be sufficient for him in the day when all mine come unto me. Yea, I will do good unto him both in this world and in that which is to come; and will remember his posterity after him forever, because he showeth kindness unto the fatherless. And the voice of my servant Joseph shall be witness unto me against the nations.
7. And his mother Emma shall be a counselor unto him, for I am with her and have delivered her from the hands of her enemies, that I may exalt her to stand in her lot among the Saints in my holy place. See loveth him tenderly, and because she hath set her heart to righteousness, and resisteth evil doers, therefore shall she watch over him, and in life or in death shall she observe his ways to do good unto him, She hath been faithful unto me in many perils, and in much tribulation; therefore will I remember her in the days to come. She shall abide in her standing, and the holy unction which hath been placed upon her shall not depart from her. Amen.
Well Brigham Young was more than an Apostle, he was the Senior Apostle (president), which was his claim to the presidency. Sidney Rigdon was the only surviving member of the First Presidency, which was his claim. James Strang claimed ordination by an Angel, but no witnesses and a letter of appointment that sounds more like an appointment as Stake President than Prophet.
Personally, looking at these 3 choices, I would say Rigdon had the best argument, and Strang, the weakest.
Remember the Letter of Appointment states clearly states that James J. Strang would be like Joseph Smith Jr., who was “the Shepherd and Stone of Israel”
“…a message from the throne of grace directed me as it hath inspired you, and the faith which thou hast in THE SHEPHERD, THE STONE OF ISRAEL, hath been repaid to thee a thousand fold, and thou shalt be like him…” (Letter of Appointment)
The Letter of Appointment states clearly states that Joseph Smith Jr. was the Shepherd and Stone of Israel
“…And now behold my servant James J. Strang hath come to thee from far for truth when he know it not, and hath not rejected it but had faith in thee, THE SHEPHERD AND STONE OF ISRAEL, and to him shall the gathering of the people be…” (Letter of Appointment)
Can you find anything in the scriptures that gives the senior Apostle the right to the office of First Presidency?
The Apostles William Smith, Lyman Wight, and John E. Page all
objected to the leadership of Brigham Young. Lyman Wight went to
Texas. John E. Page and William Smith joined with James Strang.
27. And every decision made by either of these quorums must
be by the UNANIMOUS voice of the same; that is, every member
in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to
make their decisions of the same power or validity one with
Because the Twelve Apostles were not UNANIMOUS in their leadership,
they lost any authority that they might otherwise have had to lead the
After Joseph Smith was killed, the Apostles immediately returned to
Nauvoo and began to take control of the church, even above Sidney
Rigdon, who was a member of the First Presidency.
The leadership crisis in the church in 1844 was a serious
doctrinal issue which ought to have been resolved by the High Council,
not by the Twelve Apostles:
2. The high council was appointed by revelation for the
purpose of settling important difficulties which might arise
in the church, which could not be settled by the church or
the bishop’s council to the satisfaction of the parties.
It is true that the Twelve Apostles could act as a traveling High
Council, D&C 102:30, 107:23-24,33-38. But in Nauvoo, the standing
High Council had jurisdiction.
You will not find much in the documentary History of the Church about
the High Council. This is the result of the Apostles having usurped
the authority of the High Council as well as the authority of the
First Presidency. So the importance and even the existence of the
High Council has been minimized in history. But here is one excerpt
which lists the membership of the High Council in 1842: History of the
Church, Volume 5, Pages 15-17. Note that these were NOT the Twelve Apostles.
If the matter of Joseph Smith’s June 18, 1844 revelation appointing
James Strang as his successor, and James Strang’s own revelation and
ordination by angels, had been given a proper hearing, with the
opportunity for all witnesses to present their testimony, and had been
decided in the proper way by a decision of the High Council, then the
subsequent history of the Church might have been quite different.
Instead of having a proper hearing so that James J. Strang could explain his side of the story, the Brighamites simply placed an add in the news paper they controlled:
Times and Seasons, Volume 5, Page 631
September 2, 1844
TO THE SAINTS.
Whereas Elders James J. Strang and Aaron Smith have
been circulating a “revelation,” (falsely called) purporting
to have been received by Joseph Smith on the 18th of June,
1844: and through the influence of which they have attempted
and are attempting to establish a stake, called Voree, in
Wisconsin Territory, thereby leading the saints astray:
therefore, the said James J. Strang and Aaron Smith are cut
off from the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
this 26th day of August, 1844.
By order of the Council of the Twelve.
W. RICHARDS, Clerk.
It is an absurdity for any member of the church to be “cut off” without
a regular trial in which the accused has the right to appear in his
“In all cases the accuser and the accused shall have a
privilege of speaking for themselves before the council,
after the evidences are heard and the councilors who are
appointed to speak on the case have finished their remarks.” (D&C 102:18)
Without being given the privilege of presenting a defense, the
decision of any Council or Court against an accused person is null and
void. What the Brighamites did in pretending to “cut off” James J. Strang from
the church, was utter usurpation of authority and total disregard for proper
procedure. Yet to this day, BYU TV, which is owned by the Brighamites, still publish this rhetoricâ€“Institutionalized anti-Mormon rhetoric. They took control of the media after the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and still dominate it today.
The following “Gentile” news paper article may be little off topic, but it demonstrates what independent observers reported in that era:
We learn that on Monday last a very serious row occurred in Nauvoo, between the followers of the Twelve and those of the Wisconsin Prophet.
As our readers are already informed, the new Prophet has made considerable inroads into the Church at Nauvoo. Lately he obtained a new Revelation in relation to the succession, and sent some Messengers to the Holy City to read it to the people. This they attempted on Monday last, but were surrounded by a mob who attempted to drive them from the city–Whereupon a row ensued, in which clubs were used freely. The Twelveites gained the victory and drove their opponents from the ground. (Burlington Hawkeye Burlington, Ia. Feb. 12, 1846.)
In my opinion, you shouldn’t have to bully, deceive, force, steal or convince the people that you are the prophet. Either you are the prophet or you are not. All the men you mention seem to fall in the bully/convince/etc. category. They all campaigned for the position as if the opinion of the people was what mattered. For this reason, I personally don’t believe any of them were the prophet.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound
doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to
themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and
shall be turned unto fables.”(2 Timothy 4:3-4)
So I take it you are ok with campaigning for a calling from God?
[…] James J. Strang’s 6/18/1844 letter (Purportedly from Joseph Smith)- Transcript […]
[…] really enjoyed the presentation by Bill Shepard. He is a Strangite, and former president of the John Whitmer Association. He has a forthcoming book called Lost […]
[…] that led Joseph to come to Kirtland. I really enjoyed the presentation by Bill Shepard. He is a Strangite, and former president of the John Whitmer Association. He has a forthcoming book called Lost […]
[…] came from Winsconsin, and Joseph asked him to return and organize the church there. Strang has used the letter to claim that Joseph intended Strang to lead the church, and Strang also claims that on the night of Joseph’s death, an angel came to him and […]
This letter can only be a revelation appointing James as Joseph’s successor. Firstly, only Joseph would write “you WAS deceived,” not an educated lawyer like James, who would be embarrassed by that, like he was embarrassed by the post script “write me from time to time,” which James would not likely include if he was writing after Joseph’s death, and which he left off in his pamphlets. It seems Joseph had a good idea his time was soon, but did not know it was in 9 days.
Emma recalled him writing the letter in the presence of his brother Hyrum and that it was of some importance, but did not know what. Interestingly, at this time period, Joseph was evading the law and there was political chaos in Nauvoo. It would be strange indeed that Joseph would take the time to write a letter to James at this time unless it was of some importance.
But look at the letter.
“…a message from the throne of grace [A revelation] directed me as it hath inspired you, and the faith which thou hast in the Shepherd [Joseph Smith, prophet], the Stone of Israel, hath been repaid to thee a thousand fold, and thou shalt be like unto him [a prophet]; but the flock shall find rest with thee [Joseph’s flock], and God shall reveal to thee his will concerning them[only a prophet can receive revelation for the entire flock].
“In the midst of darkness and boding danger, the spirit of Elijah came upon me, and I went away to INQUIRE OF GOD HOW THE CHURCH SHOULD BE SAVED.”
“to him shall the gathering of the people be”
“And now I COMMAND my servants, the APOSTLES and Priests and Elders of the Church of the Saints, that they communicate and proclaim this, my word, to ALL the saints of God in all the world, that they may be GATHERED unto and round about the city of VOREE and be SAVED from their enemies”
“…for if evil befall me thou shalt lead the flock to pleasant pastures.” [James replaces Joseph].
The idea that this letter is only regarding the planting of a stake in Zion comes from the line “…he shall plant a stake of Zion in Wisconsin…” with the unstated assumption that this was all he would do, or that this calling invalidates the calling of a prophet. Only a prophet can open a stake of Zion. Planting the stake was what he is said to do in addition to being called a prophet, but the letter clearly addresses all the people of the church and says they may be gathered there. We know the intention of God through Joseph was to one day reclaim Missouri and all the other stakes, and no matter what, Voree could only ever be a stake because God would not change Zion itself from Missouri to anywhere else.
Therefore it makes sense that Voree would be referred to as a stake of Zion the New Jerusalem, and that James, a prophet and replacement of Joseph would open it, because that is what the job of a prophet is – to gather the people to Zion to live the United Order. Enoch established the City of Enoch, which was a communistic society that practiced “The United Order of Enoch,” Melchizedek was the prophet king/patriarch who ruled over Salem (peace, as in Voree, Garden of Peace), Moses was the prophet king who led the Israelites to the promised land to establish Jeru-salem, or the city of peace, Christ was the King of Kings and established a kingdom among his disciples who “shared all things in common” and Joseph established Zion the new Jerusalem and was crowned king, with James establishing Voree, the Garden of Peace. Notice a pattern?
In 1956, Donna West Falk obtained photostats of three letters that the Illinois Historical Library assert are definitely Joseph Smith’s and presented them with a photostat of the Letter of Appointment to the handwriting firm of Tyrell and Doud for analysis, a firm recognized as authorities in court rooms across the country. The letters studied were: A) A four page letter addressed to Horace H. Hodgekiss, Esg., dated Nauvoo Oct. 25, 1841 (exhibit A), B) A four page letter addressed to Smith Tuttle, Esq., dated Nauvoo, Ill. Oct. 9, 1841 (exhibit B), C) A three page letter addressed to H. R. Hodgekiss, Esq., dated Nauvoo, May 13, 1842 (exhibit C) and D) The Letter of Appointment addressed to James J. Strang, dated Nauvoo, Ill. June 18, 1844 (exhibit D). None of the three appear to match, consistent with Smith’s use of scribes for official letters.
[…] prophet on the night of Joseph Smith’s death. There’s also kind of a letter of ordination. That is a little bit disputed. But at any rate, James Strang started what he called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day […]