I spent the better part of last Sunday mildly, but not unexpectedly peeved at Brigham Young.  It is not that I don’t have some respect for him as a leader and a strong personality who accomplished many positive things.  My “relationship” with Brigham is very nuanced and complicated.

Reading the History of the Church, Volume 2, in preparation for completing the latest chapter of my book, I came across a passage that didn’t sit so well with me and prompted me to pull up the Joseph Smith Papers online to look at the original manuscript.  And there it was right in front of my face—19 additional words that completely changed the meaning of what Joseph said to the Twelve in a special council meeting with them held on Saturday, January 16, 1836.

The original manuscript says this:

“…also the 12 are not subject to any other than the first presidency; viz. myself, S. Rigdon and F.G. Williams—”

Pretty straightforward, right?  These comments came about largely due to a controversy in which the Twelve felt slighted because in a recent assembly they had been placed below the high councils of Kirtland and Zion in their seating assignments (sounds like the apostles of old arguing over who is the greatest in the kingdom, doesn’t it?)  In the meeting Joseph explained to them that there were practical considerations as to why they were seated in the way that they were—there was not insult intended, and that they (the Twelve) were only subject to the oversight and control of the First Presidency consisting of Joseph and his two counselors, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams.

Here is where Brigham’s sleight-of-hand comes into play with his 19 additional words which I highlight in bold (you will notice some changes in punctuation as this is now taken directly from Vol. 2 of the History of the Church):

“…also the Twelve are not subject to any other than the first Presidency, viz., “myself,” said the Prophet, “Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams, who are now my Counselors; and where I am not, there is no First Presidency over the Twelve.”


By adding those words Brigham has completely changed the power structure of the Church and attributed it to the Prophet Joseph.  Of course, as the man who ran Sidney Rigdon out of town following the martyrdom, Brigham had to degrade any claim to authority held by the only man left in that quorum and elevate the Twelve above all else. And as we know, he succeeded in doing so and duping the saints into voting for a strong leader instead of a prophet.

Yet, the scriptures clearly teach that the First Presidency hold the keys of the kingdom and that even one remaining member can reconstitute the quorum if necessary.

In speaking to Frederick G. Williams in Section 81 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord states:

“Listen to the voice of him who speaketh, to the word of the Lord your God, and hearken to the calling wherewith you are called, even to be a high priest in my church, and a counselor unto my servant Joseph Smith, Jun.; unto whom I have given the keys of the kingdom, which belong always unto the Presidency of the High Priesthood;” 

The Lord also states in D&C 90:6 that Sidney and Frederick “are accounted as equal with thee (Joseph) in holding the keys of this last kingdom.”  The First Presidency is special.   It is not an extension of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles where the senior guy becomes the next president / prophet.

D&C 102 is not a revelation from the Lord, but as a canonized Church policy makes clear that either of the two counselors may step in as presiding High Priest when the others are absent:

“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 [note the bit about being appointed by revelation, not seniority].

And it is according to the dignity of his office that he should preside over the council of the church; and it is his privilege to be assisted by two other presidents, appointed after the same manner that he himself was appointed.

And in case of the absence of one or both of those who are appointed to assist him, he has power to preside over the council without an assistant; and in case he himself is absent, the other presidents have power to preside in his stead, both or either of them.

Not much ambiguity there.

Now on to my second discovery.  In reading through the version of Section 110 contained in Volume 2, I decided again to read the original version which is written in the third person.  The version in our scriptures has been changed to the first person.  There I noticed words of the Lord that were TAKEN OUT of the original record.  The original reads as follows:

“Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have already been endowed and shall hereafter be endowed in this House.

Brigham and his co-conspirators removed the words in bold!

But why?  Why would they feel the need to eliminate those words.  I believe for two reasons.

1- The appearance of the Lord and three prophets as recorded in Section 110 was the end of the great endowments in the Kirtland Temple.  Nothing even approaching the spiritual outpourings at that time have been experienced since.  Those words point to a future fulfillment (in the third watch) which challenges directly Brigham’s claim to the fulness of the gospel.  We have documented that future work extensively in previous blog posts.

2- By the time Brigham became aware of this vision —sealed up in Joseph’s journal and undiscovered until a decade after Joseph’s death—the Kirtland Temple was no longer in the hands of the Brigham faction of the church.  The Reorganized Church owned the Temple (still do) and Brigham likely wanted to downplay anything that had to do with the Kirtland Temple because he was full steam ahead on building temples to administer the masonic endowments that were part of turning the saints over to Satan for a period of chastisement.

Whatever the reasons, I think the Lord looks askance at anyone who would change His words for their own benefit.

You may have been a great leader, Brigham. But your changes to history are appalling.

Shame on you.

You’re one of the reasons why we Keep Searching.