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Brigham Young chosen to lead Mormon Church

June 20, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

After Joseph Smith, the founder and prophet of Mormonism, and his brother, Hyrum, were murdered by an angry mob in an Illinois prison six weeks earlier, Elder Brigham Young is chosen to be the Mormon Church’s next leader.

The decision, made in Nauvoo, Ill. on the Mississippi River, was not without conflict. Sidney Rigdon, then 53, Smith’s first counselor in the First Presidency and a long-time Mormon leader who had been with the church almost since its origins, wanted the role.

Pleading his case to the gathering of saints, which numbered 6,000 by some accounts, his stance was made without consulting the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, one of the governing bodies of the church, who were still traveling from across the nation to gather at Nauvoo. As the lone survivor of the First Presidency, Rigdon submitted, he was the rightful leader to succeed Smith.

As Rigdon, a highly regarded orator and preacher, prepared to call for a vote, Young, then 43, a former carpenter from Vermont turned president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dismissed Rigdon’s claim to the leadership. Young argued the quorum’s power and authority equaled that of the First Presidency, and one of its members should lead the church.

Young’s speech, in which, by some accounts, he “transfigured” into Smith, sounding and looking just like the slain prophet, won him the vote. Facing repeated conflict, he soon relocated his group of Latter-day Saints to Utah, arriving in Salt Lake City on July 24, 1847, and was officially ordained the second president of the Mormon Church in December 1847.

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