All Mormon churches accept Joseph Smith as a Prophet of God. After the murder of Joseph, several have presumed to stand as his successor. Every latter day saint should consider very carefully the claims of every man to this office. There can be only one true Prophet of God. The divine authority of each church depends on the validity of that claim.
The first claim was made by James J. Strang. The same hour of Joseph’s murder–400 miles away–he claimed to have been ordained, the same as Joseph, as First President under the hands of angels. A letter from Joseph appointing James as his successor arrived later by regular mail.
Two and half months later, Brigham Young claimed Joseph would have no successor; and claimed the twelve apostles would stand at the head. Three and half years later, he reversed his position; and by the vote of man was elected to be their First President. He was neither appointed by Joseph, nor ordained according to the law of God. They settled in the Great Salt Lake Valley. “5 Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. 6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. 7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.” (Jer. 17)
Sixteen years later Joseph Smith III accepted an appointment by two apostate Strangites to stand at the head. This group was originally known as the Reorganized church. In 1985, it divided into one group that follows the original organization, and another which changed their name to the Community of Christ and joined World Council of Churches and National Council of Churches. Their headquarters is in Independence, Missouri.
These are the only three groups that will be discussed on this page. The laws on prophetic succession apply to all.
SECCESSION IN THE PRIESTHOOD
ONLY A FEW
Before considering this section, it is important to note that it is doctrine that is being addressed and not the personal works that a person does during mortal life. No people on earth is deprived of good and honorable men/women. It is entirely probable that there are many, of other faiths, that have done as many/more honorable works as our own people. We must be careful, though, to separate the works of man from the word of God. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26)
The other day two Utah Mormon elders stopped by the house; proselyting from door to door. What a marvelous work and sacrifice these young men are making. That does not assure them of eternal life (Celestial Glory). They spoke of having the spirit. My Baptist neighbors speak of the same. Only if they know God, obey the gospel, their priesthood is valid, and their commission legitimate will their works be counted in the Book of Life. If their progenitors (specifically Brigham Young) violated the succession of the priesthood, their spiritual works are as dead as if done by any heretic. I will not cease, though, to honor their mortal efforts. My hope is they will either understand the truth they hear, or be counted among the honorable men of the earth, spoken of by Joseph Smith, and inherit the Terrestrial Glory.
SUCCESSION IN THE PRIESTHOOD
The first and most important difference between Mormon groups is in their claims to succession in the priesthood. All Mormon groups believe that authority from God is necessary to have a valid priesthood. “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” (Heb. 5:4) As they teach different doctrines, only one can be true. There can be only one that is called of God. “And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” (Matt. 12:25) “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (1 Cor. 14:33)
“The person who is called of God and has authority from Jesus Christ to baptize, shall go down into the water with the person who has presented himself or herself for baptism, and shall say, calling him or her by name: Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” (D&C 20:73)
Only one that has been called of God, ordained under the hands of one holding that priesthood, and commissioned to that specific work can claim to be acting “in the name of” (authority) of God. There are to be many in the last days that preach without authority from God. “3 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; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Tim. 4)
“14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10)
“1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 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; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Tim. 4)
All Mormons accept Joseph Smith as a prophet of God and the revelations and commandments given through him as from God’s own lips. “For his [Joseph’s] word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.” (D&C 1:5) These commandments are contained in the book Doctrine and Covenants (D&C). As the Utah edition of the Doctrine and Covenants is the most widely used, all quotations will be referenced to that edition.
Joseph Smith claimed to have been ordained under the hands of angels (Peter, James, and John) who held the office of first degree Apostle and Lawgiver during life. This office is singular. There can be only one that holds this office, in the flesh, on the earth. This office is also referred to as the first President over the church.
“91 And again, the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses- “92 Behold, here is wisdom; yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church.” (D&C 107)
“1…thou [Joseph] shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ.” (D&C 21)
On May 15, 1829, Joseph was ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood (priesthood of life) by John the Baptist, who held the same degree of priesthood [priest] during life. “1 Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.” (D&C 13)
He was then ordained to the Melchisedec Priesthood (priesthood of an endless life) and to the office of Prophet, Apostle, and Lawgiver by Peter, James, and John who held that same priesthood during life after the crucifixion of Christ. “1 Behold, there shall be a record kept among you; and in it thou shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Being inspired of the Holy Ghost to lay the foundation thereof, and to build it up unto the most holy faith. 3 Which church was organized and established in the year of your Lord eighteen hundred and thirty, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April. 4 Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; 5 For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith. 6 For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.” (D&C 21)
Joseph was the first person ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood and the first to be ordained to the Melchisedec Priesthood in the last days. He was the only person ordained to the office of first degree Apostle and Lawgiver. Only such a Lawgiver has authority to receive revelations and commandments from God for the church. The Church of Christ can have only one head.
The Church of Christ was compared to a body in the New Testament, “13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?…27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?” (1 Cor. 12)
These officers were to be a part of the church, body of Christ, in all ages. “11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists [high priests]; and some, pastors [elders] and teachers; 12 FOR the perfecting of the saints, FOR the work of the ministry, FOR the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 TILLwe all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”(Eph. 4)
Joseph had given the law of God on prophetic succession– as related to him and his successor. If he was a true prophet, prior to his death he would appoint his successor (not twelve).
“18 And I have given unto him the keys of the mystery of those things which have been sealed, even things which were from the foundation of the world, and the things which shall come from this time until the time of my coming, if he abide in me, and if not, another will I plant in his stead.” (D&C 35. Utah)
“7 For I have given him the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed, until I shall appoint unto them another in his stead.” (D&C 28) Not twelve.
“4 But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead. 5 And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments; 6 And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me.” (D&C 43)
Neither Brigham Young, nor Joseph Smith’s son were appointed by Joseph Smith and neither claimed ordination to the prophetic office at the hands of angels. These were the two basic requirements for anyone to make a claim as Joseph Smith’s successor. “1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” (John 10)
The twelve Apostles, with Brigham Young as their president, had no authority over the Church in Zion. Their mission (and commission) was to the nations of the world. Their jurisdiction was valid only “under the direction of the Presidency.”
“33 The Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and secondly unto the Jews.” (D&C 107)
“27 Therefore, see to it that ye trouble not yourselves concerning the affairs of my church in this place, saith the Lord. 28 But purify your hearts before me; and then go ye into all the world, and preach my gospel unto every creature who has not received it; 29 And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not, and is not baptized, shall be damned. 30 For unto you, the Twelve, and those, the First Presidency, who are appointed with you to be your counselors and your leaders, is the power of this priesthood given, for the last days and for the last time, in the which is the dispensation of the fulness of times.” (D&C 112)
There are three tests given in the law of God to weigh the claims of a successor to Joseph:
(1) Appointment. The only person claiming to have been called through Joseph was James J. Strang. Joseph Smith’s last revelation was given on June 18, 1844, appointing James J. Strang as his successor. “…to him [James] shall the gathering of the people be…if evil befall me [Joseph] thou shalt lead the flock.” (The Letter of Appointment and commentary by James is in the “Prophetic Controversy“) This letter was open for examination during the life of James and is in Yale University. In over a hundred and fifty years all evidence proves this letter was authentic. If it was not authentic, Joseph was a false prophet; as he was clearly to “another;” and there has been no other claim to being called according to the revelations of God.
(2) Ordination. At the very moment of Joseph’s death in Carthage, four hundred miles away in Burlington, Wisconsin, James J. Strang claimed to have been ordained under the hands of angels. His ordination, from church records, is in “Prophetic Controversy.” James was a self-educated man and was an attorney at the time of his calling. It would have been utterly ridiculous for him to claim ordination as Joseph’s successor (which could bring him only persecution) over a week before knowledge of Joseph’s death arrived in Burlington (June 27). He was the only man even claiming such an ordination.
(3) Works. James J. Strang was the only person to continue the work of the dispensation. He published hundreds of pages in Church journals, wrote numerous Scriptural articles, gave twelve revelations, and translated and published the Book of the Law of the Lord (stick of Judah in Jer. 37). In all of this work none of his teachings were found to be contrary to the teachings of Scripture. On July 9, 1856, he gave his life for as a witness for the kingdom of Heaven.
In 1855, James J. Strang wrote, “As First President, I have regularly presided over the Church and took the direction of its affairs in all the world, according to the law of God.
“As prophet, I have foretold in the name of God, the ills that were coming on men, and directed all who received the word of the Lord how and where to come out from among the wicked, that they receive not of their plagues.
“I have obtained covenants and promises of God and at his hand obtained an everlasting inheritance for the Saints, which I have divided among them by lot, without cost or price. God is our God and we are his people forevermore.
“As a Seer, I have seen the visions of the Almighty, and as a Revelator have received knowledge of his purposes and commandments, and made them known among the children of men. As a translator, I have brought forth hidden treasures, and revealed the old record to all who love the truth, and seek unto it. The visions of the past and the hidden lore of future ages are laid by the side of present hopes and future knowledge.
“As an apostle I have borne a faithful testimony of the kingdom and the coming of the Lord Jesus. I have fought a good fight. I have kept the faith. I have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God. In the treasure-house of the Almighty there is laid up for me a crown of glory richer than all diadems of earthly kings.
“Of all that dwell on earth, God has made me the most happy. From men I fear no evil. May God bless you abundantly with the same blessings, and especially with the love of the truth. Truly and sincerely, JAMES J. STRANG.”
Brigham Young as Successor. The law of God was specific on the manner of being called to the prophetic office. “9 The president of the church, who is also the president of the council, is appointed by revelation, and acknowledged in his administration by the voice of the church.” (D&C 102) The president of the church must be called by revelation and ordained at the hands of angels; as only one holding this priesthood can ordain another.
Brigham Young did not assume the presidency of the church upon Joseph’s death. He was acknowledged only as the president of the twelve Apostles. The twelve, though, were not called to head the church. Their sole authority was to carry the gospel to the nations of the world and not to govern. The quorum of the twelve form only “a quorum” with authority equal to the three presiding high priests quorum and not equal to the first President. “23 The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world–thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling. 24 And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned.” (D&C 107)
God appointed them only to take the gospel to the nations of the world. “27 Therefore, see to it that ye trouble not yourselves concerning the affairs of my church in this place, saith the Lord. 28 But purify your hearts before me; and then go ye into all the world, and preach my gospel unto every creature who has not received it.” (D&C 112)
After Joseph’s death, at a special meeting on August 8, 1844, Brigham Young gave an epistle, “Let no man presume for a moment that his [Joseph’s] place will be filled by another; for, remember he stands in his own place, and always will; and the TWELVE APOSTLES of this dispensation stand in their own place and always will, both in time and eternity, to minister, preside and regulate the affairs OF THE WHOLE CHURCH.” (Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, p. 618) By what revelation were they called to such authority? The only Lawgiver they recognized was dead.
At a general conference on Oct. 7, 1844, Brigham Young was sustained ONLY as the president of the twelve Apostles. “Elder W. W. Phelps moved that we uphold Brigham Young the president of the quorum of the Twelve, as one of the Twelve and the first presidency of the church…carried unanimously.” At a general conference on April 6, 1845, “Elder George A. Smith move, that we acknowledge President Brigham Young as the president of the quorum of the Twelve apostles to this church and generation. Carried unanimously.” Thirteen persons were sustained as members of the twelve Apostles. At a general conference on October 6, 1845, “Father John Smith, the President of the stake, then arose and presented the TWELVE as the PRESIDENTS of the WHOLE CHURCH; which was seconded and carried unanimously. It was then moved, that Brigham Young be continued and sustained as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; seconded and carried unanimously.”
Joseph had previously given a commandment that only a prophet appointed by him, and ordained by the command of God, could give commandments to the church. “1 O hearken, ye elders of my church, and give ear to the words which I shall speak unto you. 2 For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church, through him whom I have appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations from my hand. 3 And this ye shall know assuredly–that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me. 4 But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead. 5 And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments; 6 And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, THAT YOU MAY KNOW THEY ARE NOT OF ME.” (D&C 43) As God knew of the coming death of Joseph, He also knew of the usurpation of the twelve.
Brigham Young was not elected to the Presidency on December 24, 1847, at a general conference at winter headquarters in Council Bluffs, “Still the church was rolling on rapidly, and now, at this period of the church THEY HAD TO SELECT A FIRST PRESIDENCY and they would admit the first argument of the apostates (vix., that the organization was not complete) was correct…It was moved and seconded that Brigham Young should be our First President. It was carried unanimously.”
In 1844, Brigham Young assumed no greater role than president of the twelve Apostles. Then, realizing that James J. Strang had been appointed by Joseph Smith and properly ordained as President of the Church, three years later and by a vote of the people, he assumed the Presidency of the church. We have only to consider Brigham Young’s own statements of his holding such an office.
Brigham Young said, “Who ordained me to be the First President of this church on earth? I answer, it is the choice of this people, and that is sufficient.” (Millennial Star, Vol. 16, p. 442)
“I do not profess to be a prophet. I never called myself so; but I actually believe I am, because people are all the time telling me that I am.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 5, p. 177)
“I will say that I never dictated the latter part of that sentence. I make this remark because those words in that connection always made me feel as though I am called more than I am deserving of. I am Brigham Young, an apostle of Joseph Smith, and also of Jesus Christ. IF I have been profitable to this people I am glad of it. The brethren call me so; and if it be so, I am glad.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 5, p. 296)
“A person was mentioned to-day who did not believe that Brigham Young was a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator. I wish to ask every member of this whole community, if they ever heard him profess to be a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, as Joseph Smith was?…Who ordained me to be First President of this Church on earth? I answer, It is the choice of this people, and that is sufficient.” “The brethren testify that Brother Brigham is Brother Joseph’s legal successor. You never heard me say so. I say I am a good hand to keep the dogs and wolves out of the flock.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p. 320)
“The brethren testify that Brother Brigham is Brother Joseph’s legal successor. You never heard me say so. I say I am a good hand to keep the dogs and wolves out of the flock.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 8, p. 69)
“It has been remarked sometimes, by certain individuals, that President Young has said in public that he was not a prophet nor the son of a prophet.” “The brethren testify that Brother Brigham is Brother Joseph’s legal successor. You never heard me say so. I say I am a good hand to keep the dogs and wolves out of the flock.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 166)
Joseph Smith’s son. The Reorganized Mormon church, now with headquarters in Independence, Missouri, sustained Joseph Smith’s son as his successor. In1856, eleven years after Joseph Smith’s death, Jason W. Briggs and Zenos H. Gurley went to young Joseph and encouraged him to take up the claim to be his father’s successor in the prophetic office on the basis that he was Joseph’s son. He replied, “Will I ever have anything to do with Mormonism? If so, how and what will it be?” Young Joseph was accepted as Joseph Smith’s successor after Mr. Gurley gave this revelation: “The successor of Joseph Smith is Joseph, the son of Joseph the Prophet. IT IS HIS RIGHT BY LINEAGE saith the Lord your God.” They (holding no such office) ordained young Joseph to be their prophet, seer, and revelator and President of their Church. All who took an active part in this ordination were apostates from the Church under James J. Strang; except one and he had been baptized by one of them. Young Joseph said, in 1883, “He [his father] could not ordain and induct a successor while himself lived.” Yet in 1885, Elder Whitehead of the Reorganized Church said, forty-one years after the death of Joseph Smith, “he saw Newell K. Whitney, Hiram Smith, and Joseph Smith anoint and ordain Young Joseph a prophet, seer and revelator in 1844, in a room over Joseph’s store in Nauvoo.”
The succession of young Joseph Smith to the Presidency, by right of lineage, violates the rules for holding the Presidency. First, he was not appointed by revelation through his father to hold that office. “9 The president of the church, who is also the president of the council, is appointed by revelation, and acknowledged in his administration by the voice of the church.” (D&C 102)
“4 But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead. 5 And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments; 6 And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me.” (D&C 43)
The revelations to appoint young Joseph would have to have come through his father by revelation. Instead, it came 12 years after the death of his father; through Zenos H. Gurley who held no such office; but was only an apostate from the Church administered by James J. Strang.
Second, he was not ordained by one holding at least as high a priesthood. “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” (Heb. 5:4) Joseph claimed to be ordained at the hands of Peter, James, and John who held the same prophetic office during life. Jason W. Briggs, Zenos H. Gurley, and the others participating in their ordination held no such priesthood.
James J. Strang wrote, “He who is not appointed according to the law of the church, is not appointed at all, and the vote of all the members of the church that a particular man shall hold a particular office in the church, will not make it so when that is not the regular mode of appointment.” (Voree Herald, Feb. 1846, Vol. 1, No. 2)
Neither Brigham Young, nor young Joseph Smith were called by revelation through Joseph Smith to the Presidency. Neither Brigham Young, nor young Joseph Smith were ordained to the Presidency at the hands of angels. As only one on the earth (in the flesh) can hold this office, the ordination must be performed by angelic administration.
James J. Strang had considerable support as Joseph’s successor. John Hajicek (www.mormonism.com), a professional Mormon historian, recently wrote, “Apostles John E. Page and William Smith, and former apostle William E. McLellin, all sustained James Strang. Apostle Lyman Wight may also have supported him. George Adams was a special apostle in Nauvoo, an assistant to the first presidency, and became the counselor to James; as did the president of the Nauvoo stake. James was also sustained by the president of the high priests’ quorum, several presidents of seventy, the elders’ quorum president in Nauvoo, the area presidents in Wisconsin, the patriarch of the church, and many other general authorities; plus the mother, wife, sisters, and brother of Joseph Smith; and every living Book of Mormon witness except one.”
The great importance of succession in the priesthood rests with the authority to perform ordinances of the gospel “in the name” (authority) of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It is a certain that when one usurps the priesthood of God, he becomes unholy, and the Lord will not hold him guiltless. Brigham Young is still honored as a prophet of God among Utah Mormons. Their priesthood is dependent upon Brigham Young’s claim and their assertion. When the Jews rebelled against the priesthood of God, the dispensation was given to the Gentiles. When the former day saints failed to remain faithful, the priesthood was withdrawn. If Brigham Young was not called and ordained according to the pattern established by God, he, and all who supported him, rebelled against God, lost their priesthood, and all has been vain. The same scenario exists for Joseph Smith’s son. The office of Lawgiver does not go by lineage.
All people are viewed alike in the eyes of God. Four things separate the opportunities afforded to men. First, Scripture teaches that we existed first as spirits before the foundation of the world. We must accept judgment according to our works in that first estate. For that reason not all men are afforded an opportunity to hear the gospel of Christ while in the flesh and fail in the opportunity to inherit the Celestial Glory immediately after the judgment of man at the end of the Millennium.
Second, men are judged according to their faith in, and knowledge of, God. During this mortal life an opportunity is not afforded to every person due to their errors during the first estate. It would not be justice for God to reward the righteous equally with the unrighteous. “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” (Eph. 1)
Third, men are judged according to their obedience to the gospel of Christ. Again, not all men are afforded an opportunity to hear the gospel of Christ in the flesh. Even of those that hear the gospel, many do not have the individual qualities of independent reasoning to accept the gospel. Many are simply followers. How simple the gospel of Christ! It had to be so simple that it could be preached to “every creature.” Cannot even the most simple minded count to four on one hand? “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6) “38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2) “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)
First, faith. Second, repentance. Third, baptism by water. Fourth, baptism by fire (laying on of hands to receive the Holy Ghost). This is only the beginning. It is much harder to remaine faithful and in obedience to the law of God the rest of our lives, “he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” (Matt. 10:22) “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:14) “7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” (Rev. 21)
Accept for the limitations imposed on the opportunities we are afforded, all men/women are judged the same and are treated the same by the law of God. “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” (Rom. 10:12) Therefore, there is no difference between either white and black, red and yellow, or any other color or national origin.
It was a doctrine of the Utah Mormon church not to ordain blacks. Civil discrimination acts have limited the extent to which this doctrine could be applied after 1964. It has been said the first black was ordained in 1967. It might more appropriately be asked how many missions are sent to blacks and how many are being ordained today.
There has never been any discrimination among the followers of James J. Strang. Blacks were called to the priesthood during the administration of James. Bro. Strang, “remarked that the impression had gone forth that a colored man could not hold the priesthood, which was not true. The fact that color was a curse was no bar. Who is there that does not labor under a curse? Death is the fate of all men, and is a curse incurred by sin. Pres. Strang proposed by revelation that Bro. Walker (colored) be ordained an Elder, which was concurred in unanimously.” (Gospel Herald, Nov. 15, 1849, Vol. 4, No. 85, p. 182/770)
The Utah Mormons teach that women are spiritually inferior to men and therefore cannot hold the Melchisedec Priesthood. Again, there is no justification for such discrimination. “And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.” (Judges 4:4) “So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her.” (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chron. 34:22) “My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.” (Neh. 6:14) “And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the LORD to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz.” (Isa. 8:3)
The priesthood of God is not given by man; but, is called of God. Women have been primarily involved with the maintenance of the home; but, that does not limit their right to be called of God to the priesthood. There has been many women called, especially to the office of teacher, among the followers of James J. Strang. Why should a woman be less qualified to teach than a man? The law of God remains, that no person may be called to the priesthood by the will of man. “Thou shalt not take upon thyself the honour of the Priesthood; neither shalt thou confer this honour on any but him whom the Lord thy God shall call.” (Book of the Law, p. 163) “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” (Heb. 5:4)
Only A Few
The only seemingly legitimate question concerning the followers of James J. Strang is their numbers. There are only a few remaining. When James J. Strang was killed in 1856, the twelve Apostles understood the law of God that third degree Apostles officiate in their office only under the direction of the first Presidency.
The last Apostle, L. D. Hickey, died in 1897. As Apostles must be called by direct revelation and not by either the will, or vote of man, the highest office remaining was that of high priest. The office of priest in the Melchisedec Priesthood includes the degrees of high priest and elder. An elder has authority to preach the gospel and administer its saving ordinances. As long as one elder remains, that has been “called of God, as was Aaron,” the kingdom of Heaven remains open to those seeking baptism by water and the Spirit.
Scripture teaches us that after the Gentiles receive the gospel dispensation in the last days they would reject it, again. Jesus even gave the date. When the disciples asked concerning His return, they were told it was not the time and season for them to know; but, to concern themselves with the destruction that should soon come upon Jerusalem. When they saw Jerusalem circled by the Roman army they were to “flee to the mountains.” There is no record of how many may have obeyed the command. Jesus told them that, “they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24)
Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman Army and from that day has been “trodden down of the Gentiles.” In 1949, the Jews laid claim to half of the city. After the six day war in 1967, they once again controlled the city of Jerusalem and “the times of the Gentiles” was fulfilled (or ended). Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:32) All things, including the tribulations and destructions of the last days and the second coming of Christ, are to happen before that generation (which were men in 1967) would pass away. The comet that marked the birth of Abraham (comet Hale-Bopp) returned in 1997; after over four thousand years. A coincidence? The comet was extremely rare; as it had three tails. There are three divisions to the House of Israel: the kingdom of Israel (9 1/2 tribes), the kingdom of Judah (2 1/2 tribes), and the kingdom of Joseph (of whom the Native Americans are a remnant). We stand on the doorstep of the greatest events that have transpired on the face of the earth.
Joseph Smith was clear in his teachings that the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times was to be given first to the Gentiles and then to the House of Israel. “The last shall be first, and the first last.” The dispensation could not return to the House of Israel until the Gentiles rejected the priesthood and gospel. In the Dispensation of the Meridian of Time (which Jesus opened), the Gentiles did not receive the gospel until after the Jews had rejected the priesthood and crucified Christ. “5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 10) After his crucifixion, Jesus commanded, “14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. 15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16)
Joseph revealed that the dispensation which he opened was the last time the gospel would be taken to the Gentiles. The two phases of the last dispensation was a subject that concerned many; but, like those that were aware of their fate before them, they continued faithful to the end. “For behold, the field is white already to harvest; and it is the eleventh hour, and the last time that I shall call laborers into my vineyard.” (D&C 33:3; 39:17; 88:84; 90:2; 95:4;) “Wherefore, labor ye, labor ye in my vineyard for the last time– for the last time call upon the inhabitants of the earth.” (D&C 43:28)
Joseph Smith’s teachings agree completely with the teachings of Jesus that the Gentiles would again reject the gospel and then within a generation His people would be gathered. “Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts! For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, THEY WILL DENY ME.” (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 28:32) “They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, THEY HAVE ALL GONE ASTRAY SAVE IT BE A FEW, who are the humble followers of Christ.” (2 Nephi 28:14) Only a few– not millions! Isaiah also wrote of, “a very small remnant.” “15 For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen [gentile]: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. 16 For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.” (Obadidah)
Joseph revealed the conditions that would cause the end of the Gentile dispensation. “28 And when the times of the Gentiles is come in, a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fulness of my gospel; 29 But they receive it not; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men. 30 And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (D&C 45) Verse 28 spoke of the return of the gospel to the Gentiles. Verse 29 foretold they would turn from revelation (establish a priesthood by the will of man) and would teach for doctrine the precepts of man. Verse 30 told that in that generation the times of the Gentiles would end.
“Again it is written, he said, [Luke 21:24] Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. We need not quote every passage that alludes to the second coming of the Savior, for it is so plainly foretold by almost all the prophets, that a child cannot mistake, even the generation when the Lord may be looked for. For as it is written: [Acts 1:11] Ye men of Gallilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven: So also, when you hear of wars and rumors of wars; when pestilence begins to spread over the whole earth; when famine and other troubles try men’s souls, and when, as the Book of Mormon says, the fullness of the gospel goes to the Gentiles, and the remnants of Joseph begin to know that they are the covenant people of the Lord, watch, for the hour is near, when Jesus will drink of the fruit of the vine, new with his disciples in his Father’s kingdom.” (Times and Seasons, Vol. 1, p. 30)
Only a few? Is that not what Jesus told of His true followers? “13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. 15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matt. 7) “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 22:14)
And “few there be that find it,” “a very small remnant”! Not millions! “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world FOR A WITNESS unto the nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt. 24:14) Jesus gave a the warning that there would be many false prophets who would “come in sheep’s clothing.” “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” (Matt. 24:5) The “sheep” (those within the brethren) are those pretending to hold the priesthood; when in fact they are usurpers and deceivers of many.
Joseph gave another key to understanding the desolation of the priesthood during the Gentile dispensation. “Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.” (D&C 13) Why was only the Aaronic priesthood promised to continue until the dispensation turned over to the House of Israel?
The Lord revealed that before Joseph should die, he would appoint “another” as his successor. Anyone else pretending to stand in the priesthood of God “are not of me.” “4 But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead. 5 And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments; 6 And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me.” (D&C 43)
Sadly there remains only a few followers of James J. Strang. Maybe this is one of the strongest witnesses of truth. There have always been only a few at the turn of world events. Which is better: a few real sheep, or many wolves in sheep’s clothing?
There were eight souls that survived the last destruction that came upon the earth. There was only Lot and his two daughters that escaped from Sodom. When the disciples of Christ gathered after His death “the number of names together were about an hundred and forty.” (Acts 1:15) Even of those who are members of the kingdom of Heaven as Christ’s return, only half will be found worthy. They will cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us.” But, Jesus will answer, “Verily I say unto you, I know you not.” (Matt. 25:11, 12)
John E. Page, an Apostle of James J. Strang, understood that when the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled that only a few would remain. “When we pore over the sacred volume, called the ‘holy Bible,’ we are very much interested with the exactness with which the inspired prophets have foretold future events: then when we pore over the pages of profane history, detailing to us the events that have past, we see such an unjarring harmony existing between the things foretold and the events that have transpired in the past history of the world, we are double astonished that any person of even common intelligence should be in any degree skeptical to the scriptures.
“The 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, alone, contains matter enough foretelling events that should take place in future (from the days of Moses) with Israel of such a nature that if fulfilled, as we now find they have been in the past history of that people, to forever fix our faith on a sure basis that Moses was a prophet of the living and true God. Moses told Israel that, on certain conditions, they should be ‘left few in number, and be scattered among all nations and kingdoms of the earth.’ the condition in which we now find them.
“There is one particular worthy the notice of the candid Bible reader, which is this,–Every event that is foretold by the prophets that has been fulfilled, has taken place just in time to perfectly harmonize the events that had past and the events that were yet to transpire in future, and that too in a literal sense.
“We give a few specimen examples when the time came for the things to transpire with the kings of Israel that the Lord told the prophet Samuel. 1 Sam. 8, so it took place with those kings as the Lord had said. When the time came for the house of Israel to be captivated by the Assyrians, so it took place, as the Lord had said by the prophets. When the time came for the house of Judah to be captivated by the Chaldeans of Babylon, so it transpired–When the 70 years of bondage were fully accomplished, and the time came for the Jews to return and build Jerusalem, so it took place, as the Lord had said by the prophets. When Daniel’s 70 weeks had nearly come to a close, and the time came that the “Messiah should be cut off,” so it happened. But preparatory to the event, the 53 chapter of Isaiah must also be fulfilled to the literal letter of the word concerning the Messiah.
“When the time came for Titus, the son of Vespasion of Rome, to captivate the Jews and prepare the way for the scattering of the Jews among all nations in the four corners of the earth, so we find them scattered at this day; and we pity the person who has audacity and ignorance enough to say that they (the Jews) will not be gathered from the four corners of the earth to the land of Palestine, as the prophets have foretold in a literal sense.
“One thing demands our most serious attention. Which is this–in every identical case in time past when the time had fully come for any great and important event to transpire with old Israel or the ancient Christian church, there were only few, very few indeed, who were prepared in their faith and looking for the event to bid it a hearty welcome, as fulfilling the word of the Lord as spoken by the prophets, who ‘spoke as they were moved by the holy ghost.’–While the great mass of the people being filled with the spirit of self-conceit, were always prepared to cry out delusion! delusion and raise the hue and cry against him who pleaded the word of the Lord to the letter. But man that had the faculty to spiritualize or cut or carve the word down to a signification that best suited the popular taste of the people, and make it signify something congenial to the speculative interest of the great mass, he was the man that was worthy of their attention and support.
“But still the potent arm of the Lord has thus far sustained the veracity of his word, being neither flattered or bribed to forfeit his word–has borne it out triumphantly through every emergency to the confounding of the proud skeptic and the rebellions of the wicked.
“When the time came that the cup of iniquity of the antediluvians was full to the brim, the flood was sent to destroy the people and show them that God was not to be mocked with impunity, and ‘only few, that is eight souls, were saved.’
“When Sodom, Gomorrah, Adma and Zeboim were fully ripe with wickedness God showed them that his potent arm still lived, and rained a storm of fire and brimstone on the cities and destroyed them all except Lot and his two daughters–few indeed. If the doctrine of universal salvation is true in that case, the sin of Sodom only the better and quicker prepared the great mass of the people for a sudden transport to heaven in a chariot of flaming fire and brimstone; while the prophet Lot and his two daughters were worthy of the administration of the angels of God, yet being not so well prepared for the sudden exit, were left to be more fully prepared to enjoy the favor which had just been rained down on their neighbors.
“We call the attention of our readers to the history of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus of Rome, as given by Flavius Josephus, Book 6 of ‘the Jewish war.’ In this war and the captivity of the Jews in the year A. D. 70, was fulfilled the prophecy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Moses and all the rest of the sacred writers foretold that event. Some millions of Jews perished in the siege, and Jerusalem has been trodden down of the gentiles from that day to this. Who can read the history of the roman war with the Jews and not be constrained to cry out in his heart, oh man! or oh nation!! what art thou when thou has lost favor with thy God and left to thyself? Surely, then, thy destruction is inevitable.
“Will our contemporaries, the ‘Universalists,’ tell us that the antediluvians, the Sodomites, the Jews at the destruction of Jerusalem, and all those nations spoken of in 11 and 12 chapters of Ezekiel, were immediately transported to the heaven of bliss and unsullied glory, when, by the bosom of God’s judgments, they were cut off by wholesale from the face of the earth? We now leave the past and take a look into future time, leaving ourself to be dictated entirely by the sacred volume, (the Bible) Isaiah 24 We are told that ‘the earth shall be burned, and few men left.’–Malachi 4:1. We are told that the ‘proud and all that do wickedly shall be burned up; that they shall not be left neither root or branch.’ Surely such an event has not yet transpired. Malachi intimates that there are some “righteous” left. Isaiah says they are ‘few.’ Paul says this shall take place when the ‘Lord shall descend in flaming fire.’ 2 Thes. 2:7,8, also 1 Thes. 4:14-17. If, then, the Lord Jesus is to ‘take vengeance on all that do not obey his gospel,’ we ask where is that people on the earth that embrace in the theory of their faith/gospel as Jesus Christ preached it? We, fearless of successful contradiction, say emphatically, and we really mean what we say, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the only church on earth that receives the gospel theory in all its doctrine and principles, as Jesus and the apostles preached it. Leaving every person to form his own practical character, with the theory of the true gospel in his hand. Isaiah has told us the reason why the earth is to be burned and few men left, was, because the inhabitants of the earth had ‘transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances and broken the everlasting covenant.’ (gospel)
“Who, that is sincere, candid and reads his bible with care, and has his eyes open to the events that take place in the religious community, but what can see that unless the God of heaven bursts the veil and covering that is now cast over the understanding of all nations of the religious world, that his and all future generations are lost! lost!! lost!!! to all intents and purposes equal to the antediluvians, Sodomites or the Jews who were destroyed at Jerusalem. Yes, Jesus said, ‘as it was in the days of Noah and Lot, so should it be in the days of him coming.’
“When we compare the sayings of the prophets with past events, we find too much evidence of the truth of the prophets to prove infidel to them; and as the 28th chapter of Deut. has proved true with Israel, we are warranted to believe that the ten first verses of the 30th chapter will also prove true in connection therewith to the ‘full destruction of all nations but Israel.’ Read Jer. 30:10,11, also xlvi. 27,28. and this is to be effected by the same ‘curses’ that anciently fell on Israel as delineated in Deut., 28th chapter.”
“O thou proud gentile! dost thou not know that thou hast the same God to deal with that the Jews have? Take heed, then, that thou dost not fall by the same example of unbelief that the Jews did.–Thou gentile, ‘thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.’ If the Jews fell through apostasy, so wilt thou if thou dost not repent–As the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah, so mayest thou; the same God will judge thee.” (Zion’s Reveille, Aug. 5, 1847, p.134)
“Therefore, do not continue to be curious about how the ungodly will be punished; but inquire how the righteous will be saved, those to whom the age belongs and for whose sake the age was made.” (2 Esdras 9:13)