The Gathering of the Twelve Apostles from the East to Nauvoo: Preliminary Meetings Looking to the Settlement of the Question of the Presidency of the Church
“Thursday, August 1, 1844.—The brethren of the Twelve arrived in Chicago in the evening, and tarried over night at the Lake Street house.
Political Election in Hancock, Co., Illinois.
Friday, 2.—A meeting of the citizens of Hancock county was held at the grove, west of the Temple. Great excitement prevailed through the county. The mob party were determined to elect officers who would screen the murderers of Joseph and Hyrum Smith and exterminate the Mormons.
The meeting resolved to support candidates who were in favor of preserving order and enforcing the laws. The following candidates were agreed upon:—Miner 1 R. Deming, sheriff; Daniel H. Wells, coroner; George Coulson, commissioner; J. B. Backenstos and A. W. Babbitt, representatives.
Movements of Brigham Young.
President Young and company took stage at seven a.m., for Galena; passed over delightful country, but very bad roads; had to walk over mud holes and bad places, and had to carry poles or rails on their backs to pry out the stage coach.
Movements of Sidney Rigdon.
Saturday, 3.—Elder Sidney Rigdon arrived at Nauvoo from Pittsburgh.
Elders Parley P. Pratt, Willard Richards and George A. Smith invited President Rigdon to meet in council at eight o’clock tomorrow morning, which he agreed to.
Brigham Young as Oxteamster—Anecdote.
The Twelve continued their journey through the day and night by stage. While upon their journey they overtook a company of Norwegians who were traveling with ox teams, and heavily loaded wagons, one of which was stuck fast in the mud, blocking up the road, while several of them were whipping the oxen and bawling to them in the Norwegian language, which seemed to frighten the oxen, but they were unable to move the wagons on.
After sitting and looking at them a moment, President Young got out of the coach and stepped up, and took the whip out of the hands of one of the Norwegians, telling them all to stand out of the way.
He then talked to the oxen in a tongue which was not understood by Norwegians or English, and touching them lightly with the whip, they instantly pulled the wagon out of the mud and continued the journey, much to the astonishment of the Norwegians and the surprise and amusement of the passengers on the stage.
Sunday Service at Nauvoo—Sermon of Sidney Rigdon.
Sunday, 4.——Elders Parley P. Pratt, Willard Richards and George A. Smith met in council, and waited an hour for Elder Rigdon, who excused himself afterwards by saying he was engaged with a lawyer.
10 a.m. Meeting at the stand. Elder Rigdon preached from the words, ‘For my thoughts are not as your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.’ He related a vision which he said the Lord had shown him concerning the situation of the church, and said there must be a guardian appointed to build the church up to Joseph, as he had begun it.
He said he was the identical man that the ancient prophets had sung about, wrote and rejoiced over, and that he was sent to do the identical work that had been the theme of all the prophets in every preceding generation. He said that the Lord’s ways were not as our ways, for the Lord said he would ‘hiss for the fly from the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria,’ and thereby destroy his enemies; that the time was near at hand when he would see one hundred tons of metal per second thrown at the enemies of God, and that the blood would be to the horses’ bridles; and that he expected to walk into the palace of Queen Victoria and lead her out by the nose, when none would have power to say, ‘why do ye so?’ and if it were not for two or three things which he knew, this people would be utterly destroyed, and not a soul left to tell the tale.
Parley P. Pratt’s Comment on Rigdon’s Sermon.
Elder Parley P. Pratt, in referring to the remarks of Brother Rigdon, on a subsequent occasion, said, ‘I am the identical man the prophets never sang nor wrote a word about.’
Appointment Attempted to Choose a “Guardian” for the Church.
Public service meeting continued; afternoon: Elders Murdock and Rich preached. Elder William Marks, president of the stake, gave public notice (at the request of Elder Rigdon), that there would be special meeting of the church at the stand, on Thursday, the 8th inst., for the purpose of choosing a guardian, (President and Trustee) .
Elder Thomas Grover proposed waiting to examine the revelation.
Elder Marks said President Rigdon wanted the meeting on Tuesday, but he put it off till Thursday; that Elder Rigdon was some distance from his family, and wanted to know if this people had anything for him to do; if not, he wanted to go on his way, for there was a people numbering thousands and tens of thousands who would receive him; that he wanted to visit other branches around, but he had come here first.
Elder Rich called upon William Clayton, and said he was dissatisfied with the hurried movement of Elder Rigdon. He considered, inasmuch as the Twelve had been sent for and were soon expected home, the notice for meeting was premature, and it seemed to him a plot laid to take advantage of the situation of the saints.
President Young and his associates arrived at Galena at eight o’clock this morning (August 4th), nearly exhausted with fatigue, having traveled 48 hours without stopping, except to take meals and change horses, distance about 160 miles.
From the Millennial Star:—
Mark of Respect Shown By the Latter-Day Saints in Liverpool for the Martyrs
‘On Sunday, August 4th, very numerous congregations attended at the Music Hall, the majority of the saints in deep mourning, whilst the platform or raised gallery, where the priesthood sat, was handsomely decorated with black drapery. We would suggest to the saints generally, as far as their means will allow them, to pay respect to the memory of our lamented brethren.
Monday, 5.——Elders Parley P. Pratt, Willard Richards, John Taylor, George A. Smith, Amasa Lyman and Bishop Whitney, waited upon Elder Rigdon in the morning. He said he would meet them in council at Elder Taylor’s after dinner.
The Agitation of Sidney Rigdon.
They accordingly met in council, and when Elder Rigdon came in, he paced the room and said, ‘Gentlemen, you’re used up; gentlemen, you are all divided; the anti-Mormons have got you; the brethren are voting every way, some for James, some for Deming, some for Coulson, and some for Bedell; the anti-Mormons have got you, you cannot stay in the county, everything is in confusion, you can do nothing, you lack a great leader, you want a head, and unless you unite upon that head you are blown to the four winds, the anti-Mormons will carry the election—a guardian must be appointed.’
Elder George A. Smith said, ‘Brethren, Elder Rigdon is entirely mistaken, there is no division; the brethren are united; the election will be unanimous, and the friends of law and order will be elected by a thousand majority. There is no occasion to be alarmed. President Rigdon is inspiring fears there are no grounds for.’
Results of the Election.
The result was that it was one of the most unanimous elections held in Nauvoo, as there were only five opposition votes polled in the city, and in the county the majority for the law and order candidates was over one thousand, notwithstanding the anti-Mormons smuggled a great many votes from other counties.
Elder Rigdon said he did not expect the people to choose a guardian on Thursday, but to have a prayer meeting and interchange of thought and feeling, and warm up each other’s hearts.
Jesse Price made the following affidavit:—
Affidavit of Jesse Price Before Aaron Johnson—Murderous Intentions of William Law
‘State of Illinois, County of Hancock, ss.
On the 5th day of August, 1844, personally appeared before me, Aaron Johnson, justice of the peace in and for said county, Jesse Price; and after being duly sworn according to law, deposeth and saith, that on or about the 18th of April, 1844, in the city of Nauvoo, county aforesaid, William Law said, ‘I put pistols in my pockets one night, and went to Joseph Smith’s house, determined to blow his infernal brains out, but I could not get the opportunity to shoot him then, but I am determined I will shoot him the first opportunity, and you will see blood and thunder and devastation in this place, but I shall not be here;’ and deponent saith not further.’
The following letter was sent to Dr. Richards:—
Letter of Joseph M. Cole—Election Returns Threatened
‘La Harpe, August 5, 1844.
Brother Richards,—I hasten to inform you that intelligence has arrived in this place today, by several persons, that the mobocrats at Carthage have concocted a plan to intercept the returns of the election at Nauvoo, and destroy them before they arrive at Carthage. The information is of such a nature that I deemed it necessary that you should be informed of the same, that you may act accordingly.
Joseph M. Cole.’
President Young and the Apostles with him went on board the steamer St. Croix at Galena, for Nauvoo. They started in the afternoon.
Elder Kimball recorded the following dream:—
Elder Heber C. Kimball’s Dream.
‘I dreamed of speaking before a large congregation on the policy of the nation and the policy of our religion. I said that Joseph the Prophet had laid the foundation, and we would have to carry out his measures. Joseph was there and heard all I said and sanctioned it. All seemed perfectly natural.’
Tuesday, 6.—Elders Parley P. Pratt, Willard Richards, John Taylor, George A. Smith and Bishop Whitney met in council at Elder Taylor’s.
Actitivies of Elder Willard Richards.
From the death of Joseph until the arrival of President Brigham Young and the Twelve, Elder Willard Richards was the principal counselor of the saints in Nauvoo, and had scarcely a moment’s rest. He answered the calls and inquiries of hundreds of the brethren, and was engaged every day until a late hour, or until exhaustion compelled him to lie down.
The following is extracted from Elder Woodruff’s Journal:—
‘We (the brethren of the Twelve returning to Nauvoo) stopped at various places while going down the Mississippi, among others, the town of Burlington, after which we prepared our minds to once more behold the city of Nauvoo and embrace our families and friends.
We were landed at the upper stone house at eight in the evening, and were welcomed with joy by all the citizens we met. We hired a coach, and I accompanied my brethren to their families, after which I was conveyed to my own, and truly felt to rejoice to once more meet with my wife, children and friends. Thus it is with me, I have spent but one summer either at home or with the body of the church for the last ten years, as my lot has been cast abroad in the vineyard most of the time.
When we landed in the city a deep gloom seemed to rest over the city of Nauvoo, which we never experienced before.’
Majority of the Twelve in Council—Nauvoo.
Wednesday, 7.—Elders Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith and Lyman Wight met in council with Elder Taylor at his house. They found him recovering from his wounds received at the massacre of the Prophets.
The Twelve felt to rejoice at having the privilege of again meeting in council together, after having passed through such trying scenes, and to be welcomed by the saints who considered it very providential for the Twelve to arrive at this particular juncture, when their minds were agitated, their hearts sorrowful, and darkness seemed to cloud their path, feeling like sheep without a shepherd, their beloved Prophet having been taken away.
Meetin of Church Authorities at Nauvoo.
4 p.m.—Meeting of the Twelve Apostles, high council and high priests at the Seventies’ Hall.
President William Marks prayed.
President Brigham Young called upon President Rigdon to make a statement to the church concerning his message to the saints, and the vision and revelation he had received.
President Rigdon said:—
‘The object of my mission is to visit the saints and offer myself to them as a guardian. I had a vision at Pittsburgh, June 27th. This was presented to my mind not as an open vision, but rather a continuation of the vision mentioned in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. 2
The Proposition of Elder Rigdon to Become “Guardian” to the Church.
It was shown to me that this church must be built up to Joseph, and that all the blessings we receive must come through him. I have been ordained a spokesman to Joseph, and I must come to Nauvoo and see that the church is governed in a proper manner. Joseph sustains the same relationship to this church as he has always done. No man can be the successor of Joseph.
The kingdom is to be built up to Jesus Christ through Joseph; there must be revelation still. The martyred Prophet is still the head of this church; every quorum should stand as you stood in your washings and consecrations. I have been consecrated a spokesman to Joseph, and I was commanded to speak for him. The church is not disorganized though our head is gone.
We may have a diversity of feelings on this matter. I have been called to be a spokesman unto Joseph, and I want to build up the church unto him; and if the people want me to sustain this place, I want it upon the principle that every individual shall acknowledge it for himself.
I propose to be a guardian to the people; in this I have discharged my duty and done what God has commanded me, and the people can please themselves whether they accept me or not.’
President Brigham Young said;—
Attitude of Brigham Young—The Twelve Hold the “Keys”.
‘I do not care who leads the church, even though it were Ann Lee; but one thing I must know, and that is what God says about it. I have the keys and the means of obtaining the mind of God on the subject.
I know there are those in our midst who will seek the lives of the Twelve as they did the lives of Joseph and Hyrum. We shall ordain others and give the fullness of the priesthood, so that if we are killed the fullness of the priesthood may remain.
Joseph conferred upon our heads all the keys and powers belonging to the Apostleship which he himself held before he was taken away, and no man or set of men can get between Joseph and the Twelve in this world or in the world to come.
How often has Joseph said to the Twelve, ‘I have laid the foundation and you must build thereon, for upon your shoulders the kingdom rests.’
The Twelve, as a quorum, will not be permitted to tarry here long; they will go abroad and bear off the kingdom to the nations of the earth, and baptize the people faster than mobs can kill them off. I would like, were it my privilege, to take my valise and travel and preach till we had a people gathered who would be true.
My private feelings would be to let the affairs of men and women alone, only go and preach and baptize them into the kingdom of God; yet, whatever duty God places upon me, in his strength I intend to fulfill it.
I want to see this people, with the various quorums of the priesthood, assembled together in special conference on Thursday 3 next at 10 a.m.’
Which was carried unanimously by vote.”
2. Undoubtedly Elder Rigdon referred to the continuation of the “Vision” of The Three Glories, now published in section 76 of the current edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, though what the connection could be is difficult to see.
3. In the previous publication of this historical item (Millennial Star, vol. 25, p. 216) the language is “I want to see this people with their various quorums of the priesthood assembled together in special conference on Tuesday next.” This would have brought the meeting on Tuesday the 13th of August. Evidently the word “Tuesday” was a misprint and should have been, as changed above in the text, “Thursday”, which was the day following the council meeting and as a matter of fact it was the next day following, August 8th, that the general public meeting of the church with the quorums assembled in their order to settle this matter of the presiding council in the church that the meeting was held. B. H. R.