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Brigham Young appearing as Joseph Smith

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I've heard this story many times growing up in the church to show how BY was meant to be Joseph's successor but how reliable are the accounts from which he have it?

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There were a lot of accounts of this incident, and some are more reliable than others. See this article.

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I've heard this story many times growing up in the church to show how BY was meant to be Joseph's successor but how reliable are the accounts from which he have it?

The best assemblage of such accounts was published a few years ago, and you can examine them for yourself.

John W. Welch, ed., Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820-1844 (BYU Press/ Deseret Book, 2005).

One account not included in that book was told of one of my female ancestors, who was only 4 years old at the time. Those around her at the time recalled later that she was on the shoulders of her uncle so that she could see Brother Brigham. He mother was present as well. As Brigham began to speak the 4-year-old said "Look, Mommy, it's Brother Joseph!"

Over 70% of all Mormons went West with Brother Brigham.

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I understand most of the evidence of this was from journal accounts and no accounts were recorded until many years latter of the incident. Nothing from contemporary journals of the time mention the incident. There were even members who were not there at the time saying they had witnessed it.

Did it happen? Perhaps, but I doubt it, there is enough evidence to make it another questionable story just like sisters grinding up their china to make the temple sparkle which never happened.

http://www.holyfetch.com/talk_faves/BY_is_Joseph.html

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The best assemblage of such accounts was published a few years ago, and you can examine them for yourself.

John W. Welch, ed., Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820-1844 (BYU Press/ Deseret Book, 2005).

One account not included in that book was told of one of my female ancestors, who was only 4 years old at the time. Those around her at the time recalled later that she was on the shoulders of her uncle so that she could see Brother Brigham. He mother was present as well. As Brigham began to speak the 4-year-old said "Look, Mommy, it's Brother Joseph!"

Over 70% of all Mormons went West with Brother Brigham.

One of my Nauvoo Great-Great Grandfathers wrote of it, years later, in an offhand way . . . "And I was there when . . .."

Not included in the book either and would probably rate as "not so reliable" because of the passage of 30-odd years.

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What? No ground up china in sparkling temple walls? Another faith-promoting story, dashed into myth....

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I seem to remember reading a quote from Brigham where he seemed to suggest that such a thing did not happen.

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I seem to remember reading a quote from Brigham where he seemed to suggest that such a thing did not happen.

I wonder how he would even know!

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I've heard this story many times growing up in the church to show how BY was meant to be Joseph's successor but how reliable are the accounts from which he have it?

There was an active thread on this subject here on this board back in 2009.

I invite everyone to take a look before we go over too much already-plowed ground here.

There was a yet-earlier thread about it also, but alas, it disappeared when the board changed its name, and links to it no longer work.

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I understand most of the evidence of this was from journal accounts and no accounts were recorded until many years latter of the incident. Nothing from contemporary journals of the time mention the incident. There were even members who were not there at the time saying they had witnessed it.

Did it happen? Perhaps, but I doubt it, there is enough evidence to make it another questionable story just like sisters grinding up their china to make the temple sparkle which never happened.

http://www.holyfetch.com/talk_faves/BY_is_Joseph.html

Before dismissing it, you and others would be well-advised to read the book chapter cited above and the associated BYU Studies article. In short, the lack of contemporary journal entries is not a compelling argument for concluding it is not factual.

And the incident is still recounted as part of the authoritative curriculum of the Church. See the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith manual used two years ago in priesthood quorum and Relief Society meetings.

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I seem to remember reading a quote from Brigham where he seemed to suggest that such a thing did not happen.

Unless you can provide a cite, I wouldn't believe that to be the case.

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Here's Van Wagoner's take in his Sidney Rigdon bio:

While accounts of this purported transformation were not written until the Utah period, retellings in a variety of forms exist in more than two dozen other sources. Eliza Ann Perry Benson reminisced that the Saints arose "from their seats enmass" exclaiming "Joseph has come! He is here!"94 While Eliza Ann Haven Westover, writing in 1918, remembered that "hundreds witnessed the [transfiguration], but not all that were there had that privilege." Apostle Orson Hyde, foremost in exaggeration, did not even arrive in Nauvoo until 13 August, yet he left two elaborate personal reminiscences of the "transfiguration." When Young began to speak that morning, Hyde recalled in 1869, "his words went through me like electricity." Hyde added for special emphasis, "it was not only the voice of Joseph Smith but there were the features, the gestures and even the stature of Joseph before us in the person of Brigham." Eight years later, Hyde declared in general conference that as soon as Young opened his mouth "I heard the voice of Joseph through him."

The best known account of the "transfiguration," thought by many to have been written in 1846, is George Laub's diary reference which reads: "Now when President Young arose to address the congregation his voice was the voice of Bro. Joseph and his face appeared as Josephs face & Should I not have seen his face but herd his voice I should have declared that it was Joseph." Unfortunately this small tan-colored leather diary, which has misled many scholars, is a copy of the original by Laub himself, with additions.

When 8 August 1844 is stripped of emotional overlay, it was the force of Young's personality that swayed the crowd. George Miller, also present at the gathering, would later recall nothing supernatural. Young made a "long and loud harangue," Miller later wrote, for which I "could not see any point in the course [p.344] of his remarks than to overturn Sidney Rigdon's pretensions." Rigdon himself, in an 6 December 1870 letter to Brigham Young, accused him of duplicity:

O vain man! Did you suppose that your hypocritical and lying pretene that the spirit of Joseph Smith had [e]ntered into you, was going to prevail with God and man. You knew you lied when you made that pretene. Your ignorance was such that you did not know that there were those living who knew that there never was[,] is[,] nor will be[,] such a metamorphosis on this earth as you wickedly, heaven enduringly pretended had taken place with you.

Apostles Brigham Young, Kimball, Richards, and Woodruff, all of whom made 8 August 1844 entries in their diaries, are silent as to any epiphany. Neither Nauvoo newspaper, the Times and Seasons nor the Nauvoo Neighbor, mentions such wonders. The assertive 1844 and 1845 accounts of Jedediah Grant and Orson Hyde, specifically written to refute Rigdon's succession claims, say nothing about a miraculous event, which, had it occurred, would have been their most compelling evidence.

Most convincing is the fact that on 8 August 1844 the congregation sustained a committee rather than an individual to run the church. They confirmed the collective Quorum of the Twelve as their presiding authority, not Brigham Young. Young's ascent to the presidency was no ceremonial stroll, as could be expected had the transfiguration been a reality. His emergence as the dominant, incontestible Mormon guiding force was not complete until late 1847, after the pioneer trek west. Even then there was some opposition to his singular leadership from within the Twelve itself. Particularly outspoken were Wilford Woodruff, Orson Pratt, and to a lesser degree Amasa Lyman. Woodruff went so far as to say that if three were taken out of the Twelve it would be like "severing the body in 2." If the Twelve surrendered its power "unto [three]," he added, "I sho[ul]d be totally opposed to it." Pratt's viewpoint was that the "head of the church consists of the Apostleship united together."

The paramount question regarding the "transfiguration" is why so many otherwise honorable, pious people retrospectively remembered that they experienced something they probably did not. A rational and comprehensible explanation can perhaps be found in what psychologists call "scenario fulfillment," a phenomenon whereby one sees what one expects, especially retrospectively. Memory is more than direct recollection. It springs from tales harbored in the common fund which may then effect a re-shaping of a community's sense of itself. Joseph Smith had truly ushered in an age of miracles and wonder. Every streaking meteor in the heavens seemed to portend marvels for the Mormon masses. Viewed in the vague afterlight of the Utah period, the fact that Brigham Young had simply bested Sidney Rigdon, toe to toe, man to man, was not definitive enough to nurture and sustain the post-martyrdom Mormon psyche as a myth could. Thus nineteenth-century Latter-day Saints collectively and unwittingly began to interpret as [p.345] miraculous what in 1844 had simply been a turf battle and a changing of the guard. That pious folklore lives on and on by the force of parrot-like iteration and re-iteration in present-day Mormondom. [p.352]

Richard S. Van Wagoner, "Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess", p.344

I have to admit I am inclined to doubt that such a transformation occurred based on the lack of contemporary accounts. Had such an event occurred, I would expect it to have played a prominent role in the arguments over succession immediately following the meeting, and to have it publicly acknowledged as one of the evidences for Brigham Young's (and the Q12's) authority for succession. Succession was something people were obviously talking (and probably arguing) about quite a bit, so how could such a miracle not evident itself in the conversation at some point?

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Here's Van Wagoner's take in his Sidney Rigdon bio:

I have to admit I am inclined to doubt that such a transformation occurred based on the lack of contemporary accounts. Had such an event occurred, I would expect it to have played a prominent role in the arguments over succession immediately following the meeting, and to have it publicly acknowledged as one of the evidences for Brigham Young's (and the Q12's) authority for succession. Succession was something people were obviously talking (and probably arguing) about quite a bit, so how could such a miracle not evident itself in the conversation at some point?

Maybe it did and people just didn't write it down, they probably had other things to worry about, or they did write it down and it got lost or whatever, who knows! I would be interested too to know what leaders of the schisms were present at the meeting and I wonder if they were in tune to see anything?

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Here's Van Wagoner's take in his Sidney Rigdon bio:

I have to admit I am inclined to doubt that such a transformation occurred based on the lack of contemporary accounts. Had such an event occurred, I would expect it to have played a prominent role in the arguments over succession immediately following the meeting, and to have it publicly acknowledged as one of the evidences for Brigham Young's (and the Q12's) authority for succession. Succession was something people were obviously talking (and probably arguing) about quite a bit, so how could such a miracle not evident itself in the conversation at some point?

What Cinepro doesn't mention is that Van Wagoner's arguments are answered quite well by Lynne Watkins Jorgensen in the book chapter from Opening the Heavens cited in one of the above posts.

Those who do not have access to this book can read a nearly identical BYU Studies article by Jorgensen here. It's a PDF file that can be downloaded for free.

In short, there are a number of reasonable explanations why people experiencing this manifestation might not have recorded it until later.

Add on: Here is a copy-and-paste from the PDF file of a relevant excerpt. Unfortunately, in copying from a PDF, the punctuation and capitalization do not come through, and I don't have time just now to go through and clean it up. So reading it will be a bit like deciphering a pioneer journal, but I think it can be read easily enough.

Or, one can just go to the link, download the PDF, and read the article in its entirety.

The spiritual witness received at the august conference was

of such magnitude that believers were willing even eager to fol-

low brigham young and the twelve .

However for one hundred

and fifty years scholars have searched for a witness account writ

ten on the same day as the mantle experience 55

15

if the experience

was so intense and life changing56

changing51 for followers of the prophet

joseph why were none of the accounts that record the miracle

written on the day of the manifestation or shortly thereafter it is a

question that unfortunately cannot be answered definitively

A partial explanation may be that for the nauvoo citizens of

1844 and 1845 life was chaotic and dangerous the citizens were

stunned by events and some did not have the luxury of good

health time money or even access to writing materials 57

17

after the

death of joseph and the acceptance of the leadership of brigham

and the twelve the saints primary goals were to feed their fami-

lies and to finish the nauvoo temple as quickly as possible58

possible58

a charge repeatedly given by joseph smith and then amplified

by brigham young 59 in fact judge william hyde recorded that

brigham young spoke in the afternoon session of the august 8

meeting concerning the need to finish the nauvoo temple 60

the urgency expressed by young motivated the nauvoo

saints to complete as much of the temple in the next eighteen

months as had been accomplished in the previous three years

161

61

he organized the brethren into work crews and continued to com-

mit the sisters to contribute a penny a week for glass and nails

furthermore brigham put the missionary work in order studied

joseph smiths plan for an expansion of gathering places and vig-

orously pushed industrial development and construction numer-

ous new frame and brick homes as well as the seventies hall were

erected in the next year 62

61

additionally the nauvoo saints were threatened by mobs and

other lawless citizens and the stresses that led to the murders of

mantle of the prophetjoseph

prophet joseph 137

joseph and hyrum immediately reappeared leading to the aban-

donment of nauvoo by 1846 grief and depression followed the

martyrdom and recurring diseases such as malaria and cholera

were both endemic and virulent in this river town even during the

best of times which deterred record keeping 63 bloody flux sum-

mer sickness typhoid and tuberculosis are all named in the records

of the city after josephs death in addition to the normal child-

hood diseases of the nineteenth century that were often fatal 64

thirteen year old george washington bean summed up the

years following the prophets death as being filled with hardships

such as scurvy and blackleg he was forced to grow up fast dur-

ing this season I1 managed most of the family business as most of

my folks were ill

165

65

161

caroline barnes crosby verified that persecu-

tion continued all around us the brethren were obliged to be on

guard all the time the sickly season soon commenced I1 was sick

several weeks 66

16

one of the brethren on guard was appleton milo

harmon who wrote

they arose in mob and broke open the jail and killed joseph and

hyrum and severely wounded elder john taylor on the 27th day of

june 1844 during this time I1 was serving as policeman on almost

constant duty night and day and in so doing exposed myself to wet

and cold and soon after was taken sick with chills and fever and for

three months was very sick in fact the sickest I1 ever was in my life

my recovery was but slowly 67

17

emily smith hoyt explained that she was often sick two or

three months at a time and her life despaired of by her friends her

husband was in even worse health 68 in such an atmosphere jour-

nal keeping was simply not a priority for people who were trying

to survive and still accomplish the lords work in his journal

joseph grafton hovey recorded

the people said let the lord god of israel choose then the twelve

did explain the subject and made it as clear as the noon day sun of

their power and authority given them by joseph have not time and

space to write all the particulars for I1 do work hard on the temple

of the lord cutting and sawing stone and I1 do get so fatigued when I1

leave my labors that I1 have not much courage to write my life 69

19

additionally most of the ordinary folk did not keep records

diary entries if kept at all were generally logs or daybooks

daybooks most

138 byustudies

BYU Studies

members even those few who kept journals were very circum-

spect and may have been uncomfortable with writing about sacred

spiritual and emotional events as many are today 70

71

one early saint

recorded her feelings about a vision she had experienced years

before she spoke or wrote of it

when a true spirit makes known anything to you in the daytime we

call it a vision if it is a true spirit it will never leave you every partic-

ular will be as plain fifty years hence as now I1 said to myself then my

vision I1 saw in kentucky when I1 thought I1 could almost see zion

was a true vision though I1 did not know what to call it and seldom

ever spoke of it for I1 thought it was given to me for my own benefit 71

others may have not fully

folly appreciated the pivotal importance of

the meetings of that day and of the mantle experience until later in

their lives because of the very personal nature of a spiritual experi-

ence some saints may have been reluctant to record their impressions

in a letter to elder george S gibbs benjamin E johnson explains

so deeply was I1 impressed with what I1 saw and heard in the transfig-

uration

uration that for years I1 dared not tell what was given me of the lord

to see but when in later years I1 did publicly bear this testimony I1

found that others had testified to having seen and heard the same

but to what proportion of the congregation that were present 1I

could never know but I1 do know that this my testimony is true 72

by the time they recorded their experiences the churchs

churche progres-

sion under president youngs leadership and the accounts of others

who had attended the meeting had helped to validate their experi-

ence and testifying to its reality had become an honorable activity

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There were even members who were not there at the time saying they had witnessed it.

It could be that some of them experienced it on different occasions than others.

Spiritual experiences, though they can be similar, might be tailored to individual needs and occur at different times.

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I read through the linked threads and...

Uncle Dale. That guy was entertaining.

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Fiction

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Fiction

At least 121 written journal entries or recollections from witnesses contradict you. See the book chapter/article by Jorgensen.

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At least 121 written journal entries or recollections contradict you. See the book chapter/article by Jorgensen.

Now, now, lets not get all "show me the evidence" in light of his compelling argument.

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Fiction

So you have no trouble with early LDS angelic manifestations, the golden plates, the Book of Mormon witnesses, the heavenly visions of Joseph Smith - but when it comes to Brigham Young and everything since, it's all fiction?

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So you have no trouble with early LDS angelic manifestations, the golden plates, the Book of Mormon witnesses, the heavenly visions of Joseph Smith - but when it comes to Brigham Young and everything since, it's all fiction?

Yep. (I was going to expound but why waste my time?)

When ETB warned of the evils of socialism, pride in the church, and the continuing condemnation for treating lightly the Book of Mormon, I believe he was spot on. So it isn't ALL bad. wink.gif

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Maybe it did and people just didn't write it down, they probably had other things to worry about, or they did write it down and it got lost or whatever, who knows! I would be interested too to know what leaders of the schisms were present at the meeting and I wonder if they were in tune to see anything?

Sure, there are countless "maybe's".

The biggest problem in this, as with so many other stories that rely on older memories, is that peoples' memories are much, much more fluid that we realize, and it's quite common for people to have firm memories of events that didn't happen.

For example, in 1977 during the editing of "Star Wars", George Lucas removed some scenes from early in the film showing Luke Skywalker talking with some friends and viewing the space battle in the opening scenes through binoculars from the planet's surface. When the novelization, radio drama, and comic books of the movie came out, they still included these scenes, and even included pictures from the excised footage.

Star Wars Deleted Scene 2

Star Wars Deleted Scene 3

Due to the timing of the edits, there is just no possible way that anyone could have seen these scenes in movie theaters when they saw Star Wars in 1977. They weren't there. But to this day, you can find people who will insist they they saw them. They will invent theories about the edits being made after the film's release, or special screenings or prints that left them in as a longer "director's cut". But those scenes were there!

But it's been fairly well documented that these scenes just couldn't have been in any public screening. What has probably happened is that people saw the movie, but then read the books or comics and saw the pictures of the deleted scenes and their memories incorporated those scenes into their memories of the theater. And they firmly, totally believe they saw them, and will argue the point until they're blue in the face.

Things like this happen all the time, and it's important to remember how malleable our memories can be. So while it's great that dozens or hundreds of people may have recalled some sort of miracle years later, and that might be evidence of a true miraculous transformation having occurred, we should also consider other influences that might help people remember having seen something that isn't quite what they actually saw.

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Sure, there are countless "maybe's".

The biggest problem in this, as with so many other stories that rely on older memories, is that peoples' memories are much, much more fluid that we realize, and it's quite common for people to have firm memories of events that didn't happen.

For example, in 1977 during the editing of "Star Wars", George Lucas removed some scenes from early in the film showing Luke Skywalker talking with some friends and viewing the space battle in the opening scenes through binoculars from the planet's surface. When the novelization, radio drama, and comic books of the movie came out, they still included these scenes, and even included pictures from the excised footage.

Star Wars Deleted Scene 2

Star Wars Deleted Scene 3

Due to the timing of the edits, there is just no possible way that anyone could have seen these scenes in movie theaters when they saw Star Wars in 1977. They weren't there. But to this day, you can find people who will insist they they saw them. They will invent theories about the edits being made after the film's release, or special screenings or prints that left them in as a longer "director's cut". But those scenes were there!

But it's been fairly well documented that these scenes just couldn't have been in any public screening. What has probably happened is that people saw the movie, but then read the books or comics and saw the pictures of the deleted scenes and their memories incorporated those scenes into their memories of the theater. And they firmly, totally believe they saw them, and will argue the point until they're blue in the face.

Things like this happen all the time, and it's important to remember how malleable our memories can be. So while it's great that dozens or hundreds of people may have recalled some sort of miracle years later, and that might be evidence of a true miraculous transformation having occurred, we should also consider other influences that might help people remember having seen something that isn't quite what they actually saw.

Very interesting! Nerd, for knowing all that stuff about Star Wars! I am not a scifi guy whatsoever, I haven't even played a video game since 1991

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Sure, there are countless "maybe's".

The biggest problem in this, as with so many other stories that rely on older memories, is that peoples' memories are much, much more fluid that we realize, and it's quite common for people to have firm memories of events that didn't happen.

For example, in 1977 during the editing of "Star Wars", George Lucas removed some scenes from early in the film showing Luke Skywalker talking with some friends and viewing the space battle in the opening scenes through binoculars from the planet's surface. When the novelization, radio drama, and comic books of the movie came out, they still included these scenes, and even included pictures from the excised footage.

Star Wars Deleted Scene 2

Star Wars Deleted Scene 3

Due to the timing of the edits, there is just no possible way that anyone could have seen these scenes in movie theaters when they saw Star Wars in 1977. They weren't there. But to this day, you can find people who will insist they they saw them. They will invent theories about the edits being made after the film's release, or special screenings or prints that left them in as a longer "director's cut". But those scenes were there!

But it's been fairly well documented that these scenes just couldn't have been in any public screening. What has probably happened is that people saw the movie, but then read the books or comics and saw the pictures of the deleted scenes and their memories incorporated those scenes into their memories of the theater. And they firmly, totally believe they saw them, and will argue the point until they're blue in the face.

Things like this happen all the time, and it's important to remember how malleable our memories can be. So while it's great that dozens or hundreds of people may have recalled some sort of miracle years later, and that might be evidence of a true miraculous transformation having occurred, we should also consider other influences that might help people remember having seen something that isn't quite what they actually saw.

This is very interesting.

So what you seem to be telling us is that the fans did in fact see the scenes in question -- they just didn't see them in the movie. But having actually seen them, they "retrofitted" them into their memories of the movie.

Got it.

And so the parallel to this case is -- what, exactly? That maybe people thought they had seen Brigham appear as Joseph on August 8, 1844, but it might really have been some other date?

Regards,

Pahoran

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It's not that people would wait years before mentioning a transformation that causes me to question it—it's that people who did mention the speech at the time made no mention of a transformation. I also don't buy the idea that they wouldn't mention it in their accounts because it would have been too sacred to share. Some later accounts say hundreds jumped to their feet in shock and exclamation. The event would have been no secret, and why would anyone consider such an amazing, public sign—one that people did not hesitate to shout about at the moment it occurred—to suddenly be unfit for sharing later that day, or in the following days (especially when there was so much discussion about who should lead the Church)?

Another thing that raises a red flag for me is how a great many of the later accounts use the same phrase, "the mantle of Joseph," when describing the transformation. It seems like a catch-phrase. It would not be difficult to imagine a sermon or two about the mantle of Joseph resting on Brigham that day, whether meant supernaturally or not, and to have it then become a supernatural event in many people's minds.

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