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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

First Solemn Assembly of the Church Held on This Day in 1844

Hello again, everyone! In their "History Revisited" series, the Church News shared this article about how the Church's very first Solemn Assembly (a setting which, as we know, features voting by quorums and groups) on this day in 1844. I want to talk about the significance of that first event, but perhaps some historical background would be helpful.

In the early 1840s, with Church members having relocated from Missouri to Illinois, they were enjoying a period of prosperity in the city of Nauvoo. The foundations for a temple had been laid, and all seemed to be going well. In 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith had even launched a campaign for the presidency of the United States, in which he had promised that his administration would be fair to all, but particularly towards those who had been oppressed and persecuted, as the Saints in Nauvoo had.

There were a few problems which led to the martyrdom of Joseph Smith on June 27, 1844. First, members disaffected by a misunderstanding of the doctrine of plural marriage had again tried to overthrow the Prophet and to take over the leadership of the Church. When those efforts proved to be unsupported by the bulk of Church membership, those responsible were disfellowshipped and/or excommunicated. Among those of that description was William Law, Second Counselor in the First Presidency.

Additionally, with the members of the Quorum of the Twelve having been sent out on missions for the primary purpose of garnering interest for the Prophet's run for the presidency, and with even some of the Prophet's friends turning against him, Sidney Rigdon abruptly left the body of the Church, and relocated with his family to Philadelphia.

This was in direct disobedience relating to guidance from the Lord, which is confirmed by recorded revelation in Doctrine & Covenants 124:108, in which we read: "If my servant Sidney will do my will, let him not remove his family unto the eastern lands, but let him change their habitation, even as I have said."

Some have put forth the theory that Brother Rigdon relocated so he could be Joseph Smith's presidential running mate, since a president and vice president cannot be drawn from the same state, but this revelation proves otherwise. And, in point of fact, in a gathering of Church members and leaders in 1843, the Prophet recommended to the Church that Sidney Rigdon should not be upheld or sustained as his First Counselor. The Saints were willing to give Brother Rigdon the benefit of the doubt, however, to which Joseph responded, "I have thrown him off my shoulders, and you have again put him on me. "You may carry him, but I will not." This was an indication that the Prophet had lost all confidence in his counselor.

Additionally, at some point, the Prophet had met with the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and had stated: "Where I am not, there is no First Presidency over the Twelve."

With the Twelve out campaigning for the Prophet's US presidential bid, that left the Saints largely without any other major leadership in Nauvoo when he was arrested and taken to Carthage. As soon as word spread of the Prophet's martyrdom, both Sidney Rigdon and the ten members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles headed back home.

Brother Rigdon was the first to arrive, and made the determination to set a conference for August 8, for the purpose of advancing himself as the one who should succeed the deceased Prophet and his brother Hyrum as the guardian of the Church, with his argument being that his status as the Prophet's First Counselor should trump any other consideration. But historical records also show that he may have intended to try and get the Church to decide the question before the Twelve arrived and could do anything about it.

The gathering was set for August 8, and Rigdon stated his case to the membership of the Church. Unexpectedly, during his remarks, Brigham Young, who was President of the Quorum of the Twelve and who had staunchly stood by Joseph through the persecutions, trials, and apostasy in Missouri, and who had continued to defend him against claims that he was a fallen prophet, even when William Law, his brother, and others had tried to wrest control of the Church from the Prophet.

Brigham Young spoke for just a few minutes, then announced that the discussion on this matter would continue after a recess of about an hour or two, and he indicated that all Church members would then be seated by quorums and groups, which meant he would be calling for a sustaining vote.

When the deliberations resumed, Brigham Young made the argument that Brother Rigdon was a counselor to the Prophet for only as long as the Prophet was alive, and that if he wanted to continue to be a spokesman for the Prophet, he would need to go through the veil as the Prophet had. He also made a compelling argument which included the fact that the Quorum of the Twelve were under the direction of the First Presidency for only as long as the President of the Church was alive.

He also noted that, if Hyrum Smith had not been with Joseph at the time he was martyred, he would have rightly been appointed as Joseph's successor, since he was the Assistant President of the Church. With both having been martyred, he went on to say, Brother Rigdon had no claim whatsoever to the Presidency of the Church.

In the course of those remarks, as he continued to speak, many in attendance recorded that he had both the voice and appearance of the Prophet Joseph Smith. This was a clear enough indicator to all in attendance of what needed to happen, and a vote was unanimously cast that the members of the Quorum of the Twelve should assume the leadership of the Church. On that same day, Brother Rigdon, who did not accept the Church's decision, was excommunicated.

And although it would be around 3.25 years before the next Church president (Brigham Young) was formally sustained along with two members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to serve as the new First Presidency, this first Solemn Assembly set the tone for how Church leadership would transition after the passing of each Church president.

As we also were reminded earlier this year, for the first three transitions from one prophet to another which occurred, there was traditionally a space between several months to a few years before the new Church president was sustained. But that process changed when, prior to his death, 4th Church president Wilford Woodruff took President Lorenzo Snow aside and advised him to not wait, as had been done previously, but to immediately reorganize the First Presidency. President Woodruff told President Snow to regard this as a revelation.

Since then, the longest period in which the apostles led the Church following the death of a Church president has always been less than two weeks. Until President Monson passed away earlier this year, the longest apostolic interregnum had been the 11-day span between when Wilford Woodruff passed away and when President Snow was ordained. After President Monson's January 2 death, it was 12 days before President Nelson's ordination.

My point in mentioning all of this is to demonstrate that none of the successions to the presidency of the Church would have been possible had it not been for that first historical precedent established 174 years ago today, when the Church unanimously voted to sustain the idea that the Quorum of the Twelve takes charge when a prophet passes, and that the President of that Quorum is the rightful successor to the deceased Church president.

I hope the analysis I have done here has been helpful to at least some of you. That does it for this post. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. If you enjoyed what you read here and would like to do so, please feel free to subscribe to stay informed of new content. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

President Nelson to Visit the Pacific Northwest in September

Hello again, everyone! I am pleased to pass along to you all today this press release from Mormon Newsroom, which details plans that President and Sister Nelson have made to visit two cities in the Pacific Northwest in September. President Nelson's Second Counselor, President Eyring, will accompany them.

The purpose of that trip will be to hold two devotionals, which is detailed further here. The first will be held on September 15 in Seattle Washington, and, since it will be held at Safeco Field. With a capacity seating of almost 48,000, that will give President Nelson an opportunity to address the largest gathering of Church members to date.

Then, the following day, the Nelsons and President Eyring will cross the Canadian border to address a congregation at the Langley Events Centre. Langley is a suburb of Vancouver. It appears that both devotionals will be held at 6:00 PM local time.

This will be the fourth major trip President and Sister Nelson have taken in what, by that time, will be the first 8 months of President Nelson's prophetic administration. As I am sure you all will recall, the Nelsons were joined by Elder and Sister Holland for a Worldwide Ministry Tour in which they visited Africa, Europe, and Asia.

Then in June, President and Sister Nelson were joined by Elder and Sister Rasband as they visited Edmonton, Calgary, and Raymond Alberta. Later this month, the Nelsons will return to Canada, accompanied by Elder and Sister Andersen, with stops planned in Winnipeg Manitoba, Montreal Quebec, and Hamilton Ontario.

And now, we have this planned trip. This development suggests a few things: First of all, President Nelson is fulfilling his promise to be out among the people for as long as he can be. Second, President Nelson is following the tradition of rotating through having different apostles accompany him on such trips. And finally, with the apostolic traveling companions he has had, he is taking time to demonstrate to his fellow Brethren how a prophet ministers to the one.

Some have said that Elder Holland could potentially become President of the Church himself in the coming years, which makes sense, since he is currently the 4th in seniority among the 15 current apostles, but is the 7th oldest. It is a little more difficult for now to determine whether or not President Eyring or Elders Andersen or Rasband might become President of the Church.

This is because President Eyring is the 5th in apostolic seniority but is the 4th oldest current apostle. Elder Andersen is 10th in apostolic seniority currently and is also the 10th oldest current apostle. And Elder Rasband is the 11th in apostolic seniority at present but is the 9th oldest current apostle.

I have previously offered my opinion that, whether or not President Oaks ever becomes Church president (which will depend on if he outlives President Nelson, who is almost 8 years older), it is almost certain that Elder Holland and Elder Bednar (who is the 7th in apostolic seniority but is the 11th oldest currently-serving apostle) will more than likely serve as Church presidents in the future.

That said, the Lord controls both the process of succession, so nothing may be off the table in the coming days in terms of which of the other 14 apostles might potentially go on to serve as Church presidents. The Lord is very much at work with the day-to-day administration of His Church, to say nothing of the way He is clearly sustaining the Brethren He has called to be our prophets, seers and revelators at this time.

One thing is certain: With President Nelson having made known his plans to take this fourth trip at around the same time he will be marking 8 months as Church president, I have no doubt he will continue to make such trips, and that he will also rotate his companions for such trips among the apostles (with perhaps special focus for trips in the near future on having new apostolic companions until he has rotated through each of the other 14 apostles). I continue to monitor all such news and will bring word of those to you all as I become aware of it.

In the meantime, I also wanted to announce that, if all goes well, I am hoping to post later today with my updated annotated list of locations around the world that may have a temple announced in October. If not today, then that will likely occur tomorrow, after I publish a post in honor of Elder Andersen, who will observe his 67th birthday then.

Stay tuned for all of that. That does it for this post. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. If you enjoyed what you read here and would like to stay informed of newly-added content, please feel free to subscribe. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.