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Radio Free Mormon: 16: Apostolic Coup-D- Etat

Today we delve into the process by which Apostles became the ruling body in the LDS Church.  The different leadership bodies, who had a higher authority and stewardship, what happened at Joseph Smith’s death, who he had appointed as his successor, and how the Quorum of the twelve removed every other possible contender to take leadership upon Joseph’s death.



32 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 16: Apostolic Coup-D- Etat”

  1. RFM…wow. The Q12 changing history?…adding lines and making deletions?

    That is just wrong. Its like….telling lies?…

    1. The current LDS power structure rests on a shaky foundation. It’s strength depends on the members not asking how it is the apostles came to have absolute control.

      Once the members understand an apostolic coup d’-etat has taken place, the power wielded by the apostles over the members may be substantially reduced.

      1. If that is so….Who’s to navigate the Ship? Considering that the Church is an International Church now and that is engaged in a large number of projects per year…. WHO IS to keep the lights on or should the Church revert to the 19th Century Church? Should it not be an International Church? Should it be a loose confederation of pastors a la Pentecostal [who allegedly speak in tongues, hear revelations and fly on private jets a la Creflo or Steen]or a more structured Church a la Methodist?

        1. Who’s to navigate the Ship? …….. Christ
          Should it not be an International Church? that seems like an extreme position to insist the data leads to.
          fly on private jets …… our team does that already and when they fly commercial they go first class…. nothing less than the best.
          more structured Church a la Methodist? you can be more structured than mormonism? wow…. call me impressed

          1. The Methodist Church is fairly structured Church. Kanon wise they’re as good as the LDS and offshoots. But they do not have the leadership structure of the LDS Church, and by that I don’ necessarily mean kanon wise. Instead they rely on a council type structure. Without a doubt there are influential pastors within the council but is not as vertical as the LDS. Which comes to the matter of the podkast Bill…..Were u not implying that a council like structure should have elected the successor to JS? Second Question. paraphrasing Bob Dylan… Has anybody seen JC lately? [other than Denver, of course] 😉

        2. It is not being put forth that there should not be an entity to direct “the ship”
          It is more about the corruption of the process & of the leadership of that time and day that is in GREAT question.
          This is a very interesting & eye opening podcast.

      2. Either you believe Jesus Christ is at the head of this church and he makes his will know through His appointed leaders or not. If your testimony is that the leadership should be assigned by men instead of by the person who is in charge, then your faith has failed you . The gospel of Jesus Christ is true or it isn’t. Up to each one of us to decide. I’m my opinion

  2. Dear RFM,

    Thank you for this most interesting post. You have a talent for taking the confusion out of documents which can be interpreted into many varying conclusions.

    I have long noticed that the LDS church seems to be mirroring the US gov’t in how power has been usurped from the people to a ruling kingship.

    Tinglingly anticipating part 2.

    1. I think you have anticipated an analogy I plan to use in part 2 comparing the LDS Church power structure with the U.S. Government.

      I will give it a go here.

      Imagine that the President and Vice-President of the U.S. were assassinated and the Legislature took over those positions by filling the slots with Senators. (Even though the Constitution in this analogy says nothing about who should lead in such an eventuality.)

      After having taken control of the Executive Branch, the Legislature does away with the Judiciary by the simple expedient of failing to appoint any new justices and letting them die out.

      Would any American feel duty bound to support such a government?

      Would the failure to support such a government make somebody “un-American”? Or, heaven forbid, “anti-American”?

      Would such a government have legitimate power to discipline any American who refused to recognize its arrogated power?

      Just a few questions I want to explore in part 2.

      Thanks for listening!


      1. Either you believe Jesus Christ is at the head of this church and he makes his will know through His appointed leaders or not. If your testimony is that the leadership should be assigned by men instead of by the person who is in charge, then your faith has failed you . The gospel of Jesus Christ is true or it isn’t. Up to each one of us to decide. I’m my opinion

  3. I laughed out loud at ‘the testimony of the earthquake’ as I visualized a group of head-hunters in Borneo witnessing an eclipse of the sun, and surmising that the god’s had spoken that their medicine man was indeed powerful in ways mere humans could not comprehend. hehe

    1. This is an interesting story I have been aware of for some time.

      I have learned in the last few weeks though that a lot of Mormons have not heard of it.

      But you are right–it is a strange story where an earthquake is alleged to have happened and everybody “in the neighborhood” somehow seems to know exactly where it came from–Orson Hyde’s house where the apostles are meeting.

      That is different from any earthquake I have experienced. I usually have to wait for the news to find out where the epicenter was located.


  4. Dear RFM,

    Near the end of this podcast you talk about how BY had to dismantle the various quorums, and therefore diminish their authority. Being female, I also must note that BY dismantled the Relief Society which was just beginning to come into its own. He reconstitutes it some years later with Eliza Snow as a VERY restricted president of that organization. Seems kinda suspicious to me. No one was allowed to challenge BY nor his power and authority.

    1. You are right that the ever-diminishing role of the Relief Society is part of the pattern. I am not very well acquainted with this part of LDS history, except that I am aware that the fatal mistake RS leaders made was to ask the male leaders for permission to continue to do the things they had been doing; and the answer kept coming back “no.”

      In other words, the RS ended up yielding authority to their male counterparts by the simple method of asking for permission. As soon as they asked for permission, they tacitly acknowledged that the permission to do such things came from the current apostolic leadership.

      Which meant that the apostles were to a large extent given authority over the Relief Society by the Relief Society itself.

      There are probably some lessons from this we all could learn.

  5. Gale,…I just read your post, and it is VERY interesting to me. RFM…if you ever consider it,…would be interesting to have a podcast on the changing role or women, especially with regards to when women gave blessings with laying on of hands. Anything along those lines. Also, the really sexist nature of the LDS church would be interesting.

    My $0.02

    1. I have a few more subjects in the queue for upcoming episodes, but will definitely give this some thought.

      I put together a few notes on the subject some years back and it may be time to bring them out and dust them off for public consumption.

      Thanks for the idea!


  6. Nice work RFM.

    Please continue to share that which you know and consider yourself an expert on the subject. It must have been very time consuming to compile all the info you put into that last post.

    Your credibility with me is very high.
    As with everything in Mormon Discussion Podcast.

    I think we need to remain credible witnesses no matter what version of truth we testify to… Sadly, only the awaken will listen and give any credence to what you have spoken on this episode.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, David. I did put an awful lot of time and work into research for this podcast (and part 2 coming up later) and I am glad it shows.

      You are right. It is very important to me to be as accurate as possible in the things I say. If I should get anything wrong, I am hopeful that listeners will bring it to my attention so that, if nothing else, I can correct the record in the comments section, which I have done on at least one prior occasion.

      My goal isn’t to destroy the LDS Church (regardless of what some may think), but only to be as factually accurate as I can be on the subject.

      Thanks for your comments!


  7. Love your podcasts!
    Great insight on the gaps between prophets deaths and organization of the new presidencies. From what I have read I was under the impression that the gaps were due to the Twelve dragging their feet because these time periods were the only instances when the Twelve had any decision making power. Once a new president was sustained he pretty much called all the shots and the Twelve were powerless. They relished these moments of not having a supreme leader so delayed the next sustaining as long as possible. Perhaps it was some of that as well as not being comfortable with the unauthorized reorganization as you proposed. Any thoughts?

  8. Great podcast. Lots of interesting information and connections. A bit of other information…at the time of the martyrdom, Hyrum Smith was an associate president of the church appointed by Joseph as seen in D and C 124:94-95. It appears Joseph had appointed someone who would take the leadership of the church in his absence whether that absence was created by his death OR by his moving on, for example, to more involvement in the Council of Fifty. It is not clear that Joseph ever intended to be a lifelong President.

  9. This is really interesting. One thing I would like to clarify, though, as I understand it, is your statement about Brigham Young changing the way seniority in the Quorum is determined to deny Orson Hyde the Presidency. I think BY changed the rules so that if any member had left the Church or been disciplined, then reinstated, their seniority in the Quorum was forfeit. I also read that a change was made by the Quorum after BY died that significantly changed seniority rules. Previously it had been determined by length of ordination to the Apostleship, and this is where it gets interesting. Brigham Young had ordained his son John W. Young as an Apostle at the age of eleven (and one or two of his brothers, I believe). Evidently this was an attempt by Young to create a dynasty of Church governance by the Young family, since being ordained as a child would put John at the top of the seniority list by the time BY passed away. However, John Young was a wash-up, who wasted a lot of his father’s money (and the Church’s money) on failed business ventures and was something of a ladies man back east. Towards the end of BY’s life, he came back to Utah and was called by BY as an extra counselor in the First Presidency. However, after BY died, the Quorum changed the way seniority is calculated to “years served in the Quorum of the Twelve” , rather than by years since ordination as an Apostle. Since John had not actually served in the Quorum, he was disqualified from consideration. He went back to New York and eventually died nearly penniless working as an elevator operator at a hotel. Have you heard of John W. before? Fascinating figure.

  10. Losing a balance of power means we get policies like the Nov 5 exclusion policy. There isn’t a council existent in the church now who can evaluate the decisions of the first presidency and quorum of the twelve and out a stop to so horrific a policy decision.

  11. Terrific post!
    I think that it is interesting that today, the quorum of the 12 is also used to circumscribe the authority of the first presidency. When Ezra Taft Benson became president many feared that he would impose his political views on the Church. He had been fiercely anti-communist and very outspoken on the subject as a member of the quorum of the 12, under the David O McKay administration. However, today all decisions made by the first presidency must be ratified by the 12 and all decisions by the 12 must be unanimous. Effectively, the quorum of the 12 can muzzle a president who is a loose cannon (as long as he adheres to their internal rules, which he has lived under for 30-40 years while a member of the quorum). That’s why although he frequently spoke his mind as an individual apostle, once Ezra Taft Benson became president of the Church, he said very little on the subject. I think that members are encouraged to see this as some sign that once the “mantle” of leadership falls upon the president of the Church, they are directed by the spirit to constrain themselves, when in fact, I think it is an artifact of the politics of the two quorums, which act as a single quorum of 15, rather than two separate but equal quorums.

  12. Hi! I am curious as to your identity, I do thank you for your presentations, I find them educating and somewhat entertaining.

    I think you made a minor error in your presentation regarding Orson Pratt’s aversion to reorganizing the new first presidency.

    You reason along the lines of “how is it that we need a majority of the quorum to vote in favor of a proposal in order for it to pass, but now only the first presidency themselves can decide”. I believe the order as set out in D&C 107:27 is that ALL members of the quorum of the twelve need to agree in order to make ANY decision, it’s not a majority vote.

    However, if the entire quorum can not convene, it is enough with a majority to meet up (D&C 107:28), but all present will still need to sustain.

  13. RFM or Bill, what do you make of the wording in verse 24 of 107 that it says the 12 are equal in power and authority to the first presidency but in verse 26 it just says that the 70 article in authority, it does not mention power. Is that an important distinction?

  14. I realize this is years later and no one might notice (it’s a great presentation so hopefully I’m wrong!) but there’s more to the story of Lorenzo Snow’s visitation by Jesus. The church only publishes part of the story that benefits what it wants people to know. There’s more that he told his granddaughter that it fails to mention, and for that reason I think it’s more than apocryphal.

    Notice Jesus appeared to him in the hallway, not the altar where he’d been praying. Lorenzo, disappointed by not receiving an answer at the altar, left, and that’s when Jesus appeared. He made a point of telling him that His appearance was NOT of an official nature, because the church had rejected Him. His appearance was PERSONAL to Lorenzo, in which case He answered Lorenzo’s urgent question.

    So Jesus really wanted someone to know that due to the church’s rejection of His leadership He would not respond to Mormon leadership in any official way. The heavens were closed in that regard. Lorenzo had apparently made great effort to repent in preparation of supplicating the Lord so his personal worthiness entitled him to a response.

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