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ANNVER - I was just wondering about the gap between the prophet Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, i've heard that when the prophet
died his son and Brigham Young said talks in front of a congregation, and when they saw and heard him talk they chose him to be the next
prophet just cause he sounded like the prophet Joseph? how is this doctrinally correct for the members to choose the new prophet when that
same way back then don't happen now? even though J/Smith wrote in a diary who he wanted as his Succesor,
JOEL - Actually, Brigham Young was not chosen by the congregation, but the incident you refer to was a confirmation to the people that Brigham Young was the right person to fill the leadership position of the church. The matter involving succession of the presidency following the death of Joseph Smith was not very clear in the minds of the early saints. There were several who were claiming that they should be appointed president including Brigham Young, Joseph Smith III(the prophet's son), Sidney Rigdon, James J Strang, and a few others. The result of this confusion was the creation of several off-shoots of the main church, each with their own "prophet". The details of all that happened
during this time has filled many books. However, a scripture in the D&C explains how the authority to lead the church should pass on to the Twelve Apostles upon the disorganization of the First Presidency:
"And they (that is the Twelve) form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three Presidents previously mentioned.
The Seventy are also called to preach the Gospel and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles and in all the world. Thus differing from other officers in the Church in the duties of their calling.
And they form a quorum equal in authority to that of the Twelve special witnesses or Apostles just named."
In other words when the First Presidency is disorganized, the Twelve Apostles being equal in authority to the First Presidency, automatically become the presiding quorum of the Church until the presidency is again organized, and during that time they are virtually the Presidency of the Church—the presiding quorum.
There are a few quotes form early church leaders that indicate that it would be the Quorum of the Twelve that would assume leadership on the death of the prophet.
Orson Hyde said the following:
"Brother Joseph said some time before he was murdered, 'If I am taken away, upon you, the Twelve, will rest the responsibility of leading this people, and do not be bluffed off by any man. Go forward in the path of your duty though you walk into death. If you will be bold and maintain your ground the great God will sustain you.'" (Times and Seasons 5:650.)
Heber C. Kimball said:
"Joseph has passed behind the vail and he pulled off his shoes, and some one else puts them on, until he passes the vail to Bro. Joseph. President [Brigham] Young is our president, and our head, and he puts the shoes on first. If Brother Hyrum had remained here, he would have put them on. Hyrum is gone with Joseph and is still his counsellor. The Twelve have received the keys of the kingdom and as long as there is one of them left, he will hold them in preference to any one else." (Times and Seasons 5:664.)
Brigham Young, president of the Twelve said:
"Joseph told the Twelve, the year before he died, 'there is not one key or power to be bestowed on this church to lead the people into the celestial gate but I have given you, showed you, and talked it over to you; the kingdom is set up, and you have the perfect pattern, and you can go and build up the kingdom, and go in at the celestial gate, taking your train with you.'" (Millennial Star 10:115.)
Because of the above statements and instructions from God in D&C 107 it was already clear to most of the saints that Brigham Young, who was president of the quorum of the Twelve, was to be the next leader of the Church. This was confirmed to them in the meeting you mentioned shortly after Joseph Smith's death when Brigham rose to speak. Dozens later testified that Joseph's spirit or mantle seemed to rest on Brigham, transforming him to look or sound like the deceased leader.
A. William Watkins declared:
"The darkness was soon dispelled, for Brigham Young explained before the people on that day, the order of the Priesthood. He was filled with the power of the Holy Ghost. He stood before the people as the Prophet Joseph Smith often had done and we heard the voice of the true shepherd, for he spoke with the voice of Joseph. His manner and appearance were like unto Joseph's and it was manifested to all those present upon whom the responsibility rested to carry on the work of God and lead the Saints." (William Watkins diary)
From Benjamin F. Johnson:
"I jumped upon my feet, for in every possible degree it was Joseph's voice, and his person, in look, attitude, dress and appearance was Joseph himself, personified; and I knew in a moment the spirit and mantle of Joseph was upon him. . . . I saw in the transfiguration of
Brigham Young, the tall, straight and portly form of the Prophet Joseph Smith, clothed in a sheen of light, covering him to his feet; and I heard the real and perfect voice of the Prophet, even to the whistle, as in years past caused by the loss of a tooth said to have been broken out by the mob at Hyrum." (Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life's Review)
Helen Mar Whitney attested:
"I can bear witness with hundreds of others who stood that day under the sound of Brigham's voice, of the wonderful and startling effect that it had upon us. If Joseph had risen from the dead and stood before them, it could hardly have made a deeper or more lasting impression. It was the very voice of Joseph himself. This was repeatedly spoken of by the Latter-day Saints." (Helen Whitney, "Scenes in Nauvoo," Woman's Exponent 11 (1882): 130)
Even with all this Brigham Young did not call himself the prophet of the church, out of respect to Joseph Smith. It wasn't until three years later that a First Presidency was organized with Brigham Young ordained as President.