Friday, May 25, 2012

Brigham Young's James Jesse Strang Revelation

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 J. James Strang
Two months after Joseph Smith's death,  James Jesse Strang claimed that days before Joseph Smith's murder, Joseph had appointed Strang his successor. 

Strang made claims similar to Smith, including translating plates with a Urim and Thummim and receiving angelic visitations.  Even though Strang was a relative newcomer to Mormonism  (baptized February 25th, 1844 by Joseph Smith) his charismatic claims made him a viable contender with Brigham Young to succeed Joseph Smith.  As Mormons began taking Strang’s claims seriously, Young provided a revelation to a questioning bishop and delivered "an entire blowing up" of Strangism in the Nauvoo temple.  The following provides background to Brigham Young’s James J. Strang Revelation.

Upon Strang's August 5th, 1844 succession announcement, his Michigan branch president excommunicated him. Later that month the Quorum of the Twelve privately excommunicated him, and he would be excommunicated a third time during a confrontation in the Nauvoo temple shortly after Brigham Young's revelation. 

Strang's movement temporarily won over prominent Mormons such as Book of Mormon witness Martin Harris, Joseph Smith's mother Lucy Mac Smith and his brother William Smith. Not only was William Joseph’s only surviving brother, he had been an apostle and the church patriarch, making him a viable candidate to succeed Joseph Smith. Strang’s momentum grew and by January 1846, talk of Strang as the possible leader of the church had spread throughout Nauvoo. On January 23rd, William Clayton noted many saints in northern Illinois  and Nauvoo were being influenced by Strang.

[Bishop] R[euben] Miller reports that [J. J.] Strang is making heavy breaches in the church, and drawing many after him. In one place 30 families have left the church and gone with him. It is also rumored that many of the saints here are full of Strangism and talking [hard] in his favor ... [some] openly advocating his rights to the presidency. I read a copy of a letter purporting to be wrote by President Joseph Smith on the 18th June 1844 in which he appoints Strang as his successor. The letter is a base forgery and is well calculated to deceive the simple minded and unfaithful. [Clayton]

Young gave a letter to Miller instructing him to threaten excommunication to any who followed Strang. The next day Young contrasted non-Mormons with followers of Strang. He said he preferred to go west with non-Mormons (whom he usually castigated) over his rivals for church leadership.

  ... should any want to go with us-- that are not members let them have the privilege & bid them welcome-for I consider every man that is a true republican- as Bone of my Bone of my Bone & flesh of my flesh & if any one wishes to follow Sidney [Rigdon,] Wm [William] Smith J. J. Strang I say go away & will all cut them off from the church & let them take their course for salvation- I know where the Power of the Priesthood lies ...  [Young]

A week later, Young described the distraught Bishop’s desire for a revelation about Strang.

  ... yesterday [January 30] I had some conversation with Rubin [Reuben] Miller of Norway- he being considerably bewildered by Strang[‘s] new- fangled Revelation- rendered him almost devoid of Reason although apparently honest in what he was doing - & said that the word of the Lord would- be decidedly satisfactorily to him…

Young then obliged Miller with the following revelation:

thus saith the Lord unto Reuben Miller through Brigham Young- that Strang is a wicked & corrupt man & that his revelations are as false as he is - therefore turn away from his folly- & never let it be said of Reuben Miller- that he ever was led away & entangled- by such nonsense

Then an angry Young left Miller, noting "I left him my time being to precious- to be spent in hearing and even talking about-such trash---." Miller followed Strang for a period of time, publishing tracts and serving as Stake President, but eventually followed Brigham Young west. [Anderson]

Two days later, Young was again frustrated with Strang. After Orson Pratt and Brigham Young had addressed the congregation in the temple, a follower of Strang spoke out wanting the congregation to investigate Strang's claim to the presidency of the church. Calling Strang's missionary an "apostate," Young noted:

 … after holding his claims to the Presidency forth to the assembly which was that Jo- gave him (Strang) the Keys & rights of Presidency over the church by a letter directed to him from Jo Smith previous to his Martyrdom & so on- all of which was a simple fabricating thing-- without the least shadow of evidence to sustain all his- position-  …

Brigham Young and Apostle Orson Hyde "gave Strangism an entire blowing up" after which an "action" was taken against Strang "who had been cut off Previously- for attempting to palm of[f] a deception- upon the church by his Pretended Revelation." Young also took action against the disrupter. The excommunications were "Sanctioned by a hearty Amen- The meeting closed at 3 O clock."

Not one to be easily ruffled, Young returned to the temple that evening, "took some refreshments" and by candlelight attended "to the adoption of persons into my Family."  By 8:33 PM, Young had 48 men sealed to him.  [Young,  Gordon]


  • [Clayton] - George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle; The Journals of William Clayton, Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, Salt Lake City, 1995
  • [Young] - 'Lieut. Genl Brigham Young's Journal 1844', typescript, church archives
  • [Anderson] - Anderson, Richard Lloyd, "Reuben Miller, Recorder of Oliver Cowdery's Reaffirmations," BYU Studies (1968) 8:3
  • [Gordon] -   Irving, Gordon, "The Law of Adoption: One Phase of the Development of the Mormon Concept of Salvation", BYU Studies (Spring 1974) 14 (3): 291-314