Joseph, Brigham and the Twelve: A Succession of Continuity

The tragic murder of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum in June 1844 sent shockwaves through Nauvoo. Despair and bewilderment combined with pervasive sorrow as the reality of the calamity settled over the city. Some, fearing that the internal dissension that had contributed to the Prophet’s death would intensify, must have wondered whether the Church could survive. A visitor to Nauvoo a few months later, however, would have encountered not chaos and confusion, but harmony and optimism. He would have seen the Saints, under new leadership, purposefully pushing forward the “measures” of their deceased prophet with more energy and intensity that even before. What had happened to the crisis? How had potential disaster been avoided? In John Fullmer’s view, Joseph Smith had prepared for his death. What actually occurred in succession—and why—has been much discussed but little understood.

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