The Mormon Succession Crisis of 1844

Categories: Nauvoo Period
Journal: 16:2
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As President of The Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints since its establishment in 1830, Joseph Smith, Jr., had been the apex of a pyramid of ecclesiastical leadership, but to many people he was viewed as though he were the keystone of the existence of Mormonism. In this view, as the removal of the keystone from an arch causes the arch to collapse, it was assumed that the entire LDS Church would collapse if at Smith’s death the role of the president were not filled properly and to the satisfaction of the general membership. A small group of men, most notably the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, had received private instruction from Joseph Smith in the spring of 1844 concerning the proper mode of succession. These private instructions, however, were unknown to the general membership of the LDS Church. This article explores a succession crisis among the Latter-day Saints when Joseph Smith was murdered by a mob on 27 June 1844.