Refuge in the Mountains from the Civil War

After war had raged for nearly a year, President Young acknowledged that the Saints were much better off in the West: “Had we not been persecuted, we would now be in the midst of the wars and bloodshed that are desolating the nation, instead of where we are, comfortable located in our peaceful dwellings in these silent, far off mountains and valleys. Instead of seeing my brethren comfortably seated around me to-day, many of them would be found in the front ranks on the battle field. I realize the blessings of God in our present safety. We are greatly blessed, greatly favored and greatly exalted, while our enemies, who sought to destroy us, are being humbled.” 3 In Journal of Discourses, 10:38–39

Early Utah Saints Called to Repentance

The most dramatic religious event of the 1850s was the reformation of 1856–57. While the new communities were being settled, many members of the Church had drifted into spiritual lethargy as they struggled to survive on the frontier. During their first decade in the West, most Saints had concentrated on temporal affairs and had often neglected individual spiritual matters. The need for a reformation became especially apparent in 1856 when the effects of rapid immigration into Utah and the severe drought and grasshopper plague of 1855 combined to threaten the economic stability of Utah. Many Saints wore threadbare clothing and were on the verge of starvation. Church leaders taught that these conditions had come about partly because of the Saints’ laxity in keeping the commandments. 35

35. Previous six paragraphs derived from Allen and Leonard, Story of the Latter-day Saints, pp. 272, 275–79.

In 1856 the First Presidency commenced a reform movement. Leaders traveled throughout the territory preaching repentance with unprecedented fervor. Second Counselor Jedediah M. Grant in particular stirred many congregations with his enthusiastic sermons. Special reformation missionaries preached and called upon congregations to repent. Block teachers took a list of questions about moral behavior into the homes. Saints everywhere were called upon to rededicate themselves to the Lord and his commandments through rebaptism. Church leaders led the way. Elder Wilford Woodruff characterized the reformation: “The spirit of God is like a flame among the Leaders of this people and they are throwing the arrows of the Almighty among the people. JM Grant is pruning with a sharp two edged sword and calling loudly upon the people to wake up and repent of their sins. The Elders who have returned are full of the Holy Ghost and power of God.” 36

The reformation had a positive effect upon the Saints. Religion and moral practices once again took prominence in their lives. They demonstrated by rescuing the stricken handcart companies that they truly cared for each other and could successfully organize to meet emergencies. By the summer of 1857, ten years after first entering the Great Basin, the Church was on a strong footing and was accomplishing the things it was restored to the earth to do.

Questions
TO BE ASKED THE
LATTER DAY SAINTS.

Have you committed murder by shedding innocent blood, or consenting thereto?
Have you betrayed your brethren or sisters in anything?
Have you committed adultery, by having any connection with a woman that was not your wife, or a man that was not your husband?
Have you taken and made use of property not your own, without the consent of the owner?
Have you cut hay where you had no right to, or turned your animals into another person’s grain or field, without his knowledge and consent?
Have you lied about or maliciously misrepresented any person or thing?
Have you borrowed anything that you have not returned, or paid for?
Have you borne false witness against your neighbor?
Have you taken the name of Deity in vain?
Have you coveted anything not your own?
Have you been intoxicated with strong drink?
Have you found lost property and not returned it to the owner, or used all diligence to do so?
Have you branded an animal that you did not know to be your own?
Have you taken another’s horse or mule from the range and rode it, without the owner’s consent?
Have you fulfilled your promises in paying your debts, or run into debt without prospect of paying?
Have you taken water to irrigate with, when it belonged to another person at the time you used it?
Do you pay your tithing promptly?
Do you teach her family the gospel of salvation?
Do you speak against your brethren, or against any principle taught in the Bible, Book of Mormon, book of Doctrine and Covenants, revelations given to Joseph Smith the Prophet and the Presidency of the Church as now organized?
Do you pray in your family night and morning and attend to secret prayer?
Do you wash your body and have your family do so, as often as health and cleanliness require and circumstances will permit?
Do you labor six days and rest, or go to the house of worship, on the seventh?
Do you preside over your household as a servant of God, and is your family subject to you?
Have you labored diligently and earned faithfully the wages paid you by your employers?
Do you oppress the hireling in his wages?
Have you taken up and converted any stray animal to your own use, or in any manner appropriated one to your benefit, without accounting therefore to the proper authorities?

In answer to the above questions, let all men and women confess to the persons they have injured and make restitution, or satisfaction. And when catechizing the people, the Bishops, Teachers, Missionaries and other officers in the Church are not at liberty to pry into sins that are between a person and his or her God; but let each person confess to the proper authority, that the adversary may not have an opportunity to take advantage of human weaknesses, and thereby destroy souls.

Brigham Young Sees a Vision of the Salt Lake Valley

The advance company of pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley on 22 July 1847 and immediately set up a crude irrigation system to flood the land and prepare for planting. On 24 July, Brigham Young and the rear company arrived at the mouth of Emigration Canyon. Wilford Woodruff drove President Young in his carriage. They looked to the future as they gazed over the valley. Wilford Woodruff wrote, “Thoughts of pleasing meditations ran in rapid succession through our minds while we contemplated that not many years that the House of GOD would stand upon the top of the mountains while the valleys would be converted into orchard, vineyard, gardens and fields by the inhabitants of Zion and the standard be unfurled for the nations to gather there to.” Brigham Young said he was satisfied with the appearance of the valley as a “resting place for the Saints and was amply repaid for his journey.” 21

On a later occasion, Wilford Woodruff explained that when they came out of the canyon he turned the carriage so that President Young could see the whole valley. “While gazing upon the scene before us, he was enwrapped in vision for several minutes. He had seen the valley before in vision, and upon this occasion he saw the future glory of Zion and of Israel, as they would be, planted in the valleys of these mountains. When the vision had passed, he said, ‘It is enough. This is the right place. Drive on.’” 22

22. In “Pioneers’ Day,” Deseret Evening News, 26 July 1880, p. 2.

Brigham Young Confirms His Vision upon Arrival in the Salt Lake Valley

The advance company of pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley on 22 July 1847 and immediately set up a crude irrigation system to flood the land and prepare for planting. On 24 July, Brigham Young and the rear company arrived at the mouth of Emigration Canyon. Wilford Woodruff drove President Young in his carriage. They looked to the future as they gazed over the valley. Wilford Woodruff wrote, “Thoughts of pleasing meditations ran in rapid succession through our minds while we contemplated that not many years that the House of GOD would stand upon the top of the mountains while the valleys would be converted into orchard, vineyard, gardens and fields by the inhabitants of Zion and the standard be unfurled for the nations to gather there to.” Brigham Young said he was satisfied with the appearance of the valley as a “resting place for the Saints and was amply repaid for his journey.” 21

On a later occasion, Wilford Woodruff explained that when they came out of the canyon he turned the carriage so that President Young could see the whole valley. “While gazing upon the scene before us, he was enwrapped in vision for several minutes. He had seen the valley before in vision, and upon this occasion he saw the future glory of Zion and of Israel, as they would be, planted in the valleys of these mountains. When the vision had passed, he said, ‘It is enough. This is the right place. Drive on.’” 22

22. In “Pioneers’ Day,” Deseret Evening News, 26 July 1880, p. 2.

The Mantle Falls on Brigham Young

The Mantle Falls on Brigham Young

Thursday, 8 August 1844, 22 stands as one of the most important days in the history of the Restoration. On that day a miracle occurred before the body of the Church—Brigham Young was transfigured before the people, and the succession crisis of the Church was resolved. A special meeting to choose a guardian was held that morning at ten o’clock in the grove, according to the arrangements of William Marks. Sidney Rigdon spoke for an hour and a half about his desires to be the guardian of the Church, but he awakened no emotion and said nothing that marked him as the true leader. Brigham Young told the audience that he would rather have spent a month mourning the dead Prophet than so quickly attend to the business of appointing a new shepherd. 23 While he was speaking, he was miraculously transfigured before the people.

People of all ages were present, and they later recorded their experiences. Benjamin F. Johnson, twenty-six at that time, remembered, “As soon as he [Brigham Young] spoke I jumped upon my feet, for in every possible degree it was Joseph’s voice, and his person, in look, attitude, dress and appearance was Joseph himself, personified; and I knew in a moment the spirit and mantle of Joseph was upon him.” 24 Zina Huntington, who was a young woman twenty-one years old at that time, said “President Young was speaking. It was the voice of Joseph Smith—not that of Brigham Young. His very person was changed. . . . I closed my eyes. I could have exclaimed, I know that is Joseph Smith’s voice! Yet I knew he had gone. But the same spirit was with the people.” 26

George Q. Cannon, then a boy of fifteen, declared that “it was the voice of Joseph himself; and not only was it the voice of Joseph which was heard; but it seemed in the eyes of the people as though it was the very person of Joseph which stood before them. . . . They both saw and heard with their natural eyes and ears, and then the words which were uttered came, accompanied by the convincing power of God, to their hearts, and they were filled with the Spirit and with great joy.” 27 Wilford Woodruff testified, “If I had not seen him with my own eyes, there is no one that could have convinced me that it was not Joseph Smith speaking.” 28

In view of these statements, Brigham Young’s own record of the events that day is especially meaningful: “My heart was swollen with compassion towards them and by the power of the Holy Ghost, even the spirit of the Prophets, I was enabled to comfort the hearts of the Saints.” 29 The meeting was then dismissed until 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

At 2 P.M. thousands of Saints gathered for what they knew would be a significant meeting. With the quorums of the priesthood seated in order, Brigham Young spoke frankly about the proposed guardianship of Sidney Rigdon and his alienation from Joseph Smith during the previous two years. He boldly prophesied, “All that want to draw away a party from the church after them, let them do it if they can, but they will not prosper.” 30

President Young continued, and then turning to his main point declared,

“If the people want President Rigdon to lead them they may have him; but I say unto you that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have the keys of the kingdom of God in all the world.

“The Twelve are appointed by the finger of God. Here is Brigham, have his knees ever faltered? Have his lips ever quivered? Here is Heber and the rest of the Twelve, an independent body who have the keys of the priesthood—the keys of the kingdom of God to deliver to all the world: this is true, so help me God. They stand next to Joseph, and are as the First Presidency of the Church.” 31

He pointed out that Sidney could not be above the Twelve because they would have to ordain him to be President of the Church. Brigham urged everybody to see Brother Rigdon as a friend and stated that if he were to sit in cooperation and counsel with the Twelve, they would be able to act as one. Following President Young’s two-hour speech, talks were delivered by Amasa Lyman, William W. Phelps, and Parley P. Pratt; each eloquently contended for the authority of the Twelve.

Brigham Young then arose and asked the basic question: “Do you want Brother Rigdon to stand forward as your leader, your guide, your spokesman. President Rigdon wants me to bring up the other question first, and that is, Does the church want, and is it their only desire to sustain the Twelve as the First Presidency of this people?” The vote was then taken, and all hands went up. Brigham then asked, “If there are any of the contrary mind, every man and every woman who does not want the Twelve to preside, lift up your hands in like manner.” No hands went up. 32

32. In History of the Church, 7:240.

Joseph Smith prophesied that one day Brigham Young would preside over the Church. 11

11. See Brigham Young, “History of Brigham Young,” Millennial Star, 11 July 1863, p. 439.

Sidney RIgdon Aspires to the Presidency of the Church

Sidney Rigdon (1793–1876) was called to serve as a counselor to Joseph Smith in the First Presidency. He was a gifted orator and a spokesman for the Prophet on many occasions. Several of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants deal with Sidney Rigdon.

Sidney avoided meeting with the four Apostles who were already in Nauvoo, choosing instead to speak to the assembled Saints at the grove on Sunday, 4 August. He asserted that he had received a vision:

“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.” 13 Elder Parley P. Pratt later remarked that Sidney Rigdon was “the identical man the prophets never sang nor wrote a word about.” 14

14. In History of the Church, 7:225.

Sidney Rigdon was invited to make a statement about his vision and revelations. He 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 [the day of the Martyrdom]. 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 [referring to the vision he and Joseph Smith had experienced that is recorded in D&C 76 ].” 18 He went on to say that no one could take the place of Joseph as the head of the Church and that he, as the designated spokesman for the Prophet, should assume the role of guardian of the Church. Wilford Woodruff recorded in his journal that Sidney’s statement was a “long story. It was a kind of second class vision.” 19

19. Wilford Woodruff Journals, 7 Aug. 1844; punctuation and capitalization standardized

Six Hour Fast & Testimony Meetings

In the early days of the church in Kirtland, fasst & testimony meetings lasted six hours:

The first Thursday of each month was fast day. In meetings that often lasted six hours, the Saints sang, prayed, bore their testimonies describing divine manifestations in their lives, and exhorted each other to live the gospel. Eliza R. Snow fondly remembered these gatherings as “hallowed and interesting beyond the power of language to describe. Many, many were the pentecostal seasons of the outpouring of the spirit of God on those days, manifesting the gifts of the Gospel and the power of healing, prophesying, speaking in tongues, the interpretation of tongues, etc.” 28

28. Nicholas G. Morgan, comp., Eliza R. Snow, an Immortal: Selected Writings of Eliza R. Snow (Salt Lake City: Nicholas G. Morgan, Sr., Foundation, 1957), p. 63.