The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power


A study of how events and doctrines were retroactively added into the Mormon cannon of scripture and doctrinal practice, and the inevitable bureaucratization of Mormonism that followed.

December, 1994


Converts to Joseph Smith’s 1828 restoration of primitive Christianity were attracted to the non-hierarchical nature of the movement. It was precisely because there were no priests, ordinances, or dogma that people joined in such numbers. Smith intended everyone to be a prophet, and anyone who felt called was invited to minister freely without formal office.

Not until seven years later did Mormons first learn that authority had been restored by angels or of the need for a hierarchy mirroring the Pauline model. That same year (1835) a Quorum of Twelve Apostles was organized, but their jurisdiction was limited to areas outside established stakes (dioceses). Stakes were led by a president, who oversaw spiritual development, and by a bishop, who supervised temporal needs.

At Smith’s martyrdom in 1844, the church had five leading quorums of authority. The most obvious successor to Smith, Illinois stake president William Marks, opposed the secret rites of polygamy, anointing, endowments, and the clandestine political activity that had characterized the church in Illinois. The secret Council of Fifty had recently ordained Smith as King on Earth and sent ambassadors abroad to form alliances against the United States.

The majority of church members knew nothing of these developments, but they followed Brigham Young, head of the Quorum of the Twelve, who spoke forcefully and moved decisively to eliminate contenders for the presidency. He continued to build on Smith’s political and doctrinal innovations and social stratification. Young’s twentieth-century legacy is a well-defined structure without the charismatic spontaneity or egalitarian chaos of the early church.

Historian D. Michael Quinn examines the contradictions and confusion of the first two tumultuous decades of LDS history. He demonstrates how events and doctrines were silently, retroactively inserted into the published form of scriptures and records to smooth out the stormy, haphazard development. The bureaucratization of Mormonism was inevitable, but the manner in which it occurred was unpredictable and will be, for readers, fascinating.

D. Michael Quinn (Ph.D., history, Yale University) is an Affiliated Scholar at the University of Southern California’s Center for Feminist Research. He has been a full-time researcher and writer, a professor of history at Brigham Young University, and a visiting professor of history (2002-03) at Yale. His accolades include Best Book awards from the American Historical Association and the Mormon History Association.

His major works include Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, Elder Statesman: A Biography of J. Reuben Clark, the two-volume Mormon Hierarchy series (Origins of Power, Extensions of Power), and Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example. He is the editor of The New Mormon History: Revisionist Essays on the Past and a contributor to American National Biography; Encyclopedia of New York State; Fundamentalisms and Society: Reclaiming the Sciences, the Family, and Education; the New Encyclopedia of the American West; Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America’s Western Past; and others.

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9 reviews for The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power

  1. Vern Anderson, Associated Press

    Mormons today may not recognize the contradictory, sometimes violent early church of their ancestors that is depicted in a new history, a book based in part on documents the church now keeps locked up.

    “Nineteenth century Mormonism was not polite,” unlike the more outwardly congenial 20th century faith, says author D. Michael Quinn. Indeed, the rough-and-ready frontier Mormonism described in Quinn’s 720-page The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, bears about as much resemblance to the modern church as a prickly pear to a hothouse orchid.

    The contrast helps explain the discomfiture of later generations of Mormon leaders with aspects of the early church founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith. Quinn details how that unease led to official doctoring of the historical record after Smith’s death in 1844.

    “I don’t see it as insidious,” said Quinn, a Yale-trained historian. “I see it as their way of trying to make sense to an audience (in Utah) that has come to expect certain fundamentals. And those fundamentals are absent in the early documents, so they just reintroduced them.” Quinn’s book, more than half of which is notes and appendices, is based on 30 years of research in Mormon history. And for 15 of those years, Quinn enjoyed free access to the vast archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since 1986, however, church leaders, unhappy with the secular bent of the so-called New Mormon History, have sharply restricted access.

    “My experience in the early 1970s was like a kid in a candy store. Every day was Christmas,” Quinn recalled. “I had no idea at the time I would be the only outside researcher who ever saw these documents. Years later, I saw that was the case.” Church spokesman Don LeFevre said Friday he had not read Quinn’s book and therefore could not comment on either its contents or the way they were researched.

    Quinn said what he found in the documents, and in many other archives, were the ingredients for a “warts and all” revisionist history that startlingly supplements the sanitized official accounts—designed to be faith-promoting—that are familiar to most Mormons.

    For example:

    * Smith organized the church in 1830 without the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood, or “higher priesthood,” which he did not receive until more than a year later. Traditional accounts claim an 1829 restoration.

    * In attempting to establish his kingdom of God, Smith embraced a set of what Quinn calls “theocratic ethics” that placed Mormon priesthood authority above civil law. At times, primarily after Smith’s death, those ethics sanctioned public denials of actual events, counterfeiting and stealing from non-Mormons, threats and physical attacks against dissenters, killing and castration of sex offenders, murdering of anti-Mormons and bribery of government officials.

    * Smith was acquitted in 1837 of conspiring to murder anti-Mormon Grandison Newell, even though two of his supporting witnesses, both apostles, acknowledged Smith had discussed with them the possibility of killing Newell.

    * Some historians have argued that Smith was unaware of the secret “Danite” band of up to 1,000 Mormon men who threatened dissenters with death and burned and stole from non-Mormon Missourians in 1838. In fact, Smith sanctioned and had general oversight over the Danites, repudiating them only after their leader testified against Smith in court.

    * Three months before his death, Smith organized under vows of secrecy the Council of Fifty, trusted followers who elected him Mormonism’s theocratic “king.” When Smith, as mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, authorized destruction of the anti-Mormon Nauvoo Expositor newspaper—an act that led to his assassination—he did so out of fear his kingship was about to be exposed, according to Quinn.

    * When he entered jail in Carthage, Illinois, the Mormon prophet was sick at heart, beset by anti-polygamy dissenters and perhaps fearful he had become a fallen prophet. The secret of his kingship had been betrayed and Smith had gone to Carthage, he told a confidant, “contrary to the council of the spirit & I am now no more than any man.”

    Still, he was not a willing martyr, as traditionally believed. The day of his death he issued orders that the Mormons’ Nauvoo Legion attack Carthage and free him. But to avoid a bloody civil war, the legion’s commander refused. That afternoon, Smith and his brother Hyrum were shot to death by a mob that stormed the jail.

    In an extraordinary sermon in 1858, Brigham Young, Smith’s eventual successor, said that if the church founder had obeyed the spirit of divine revelation, he never would have gone to Carthage. Young, who idolized Smith, said that “never for one moment did [Smith] say that he had one particle of light in him after he started back from Montrose [Iowa] to give himself up in Nauvoo.” Quinn offers other evidence that Smith’s final days were spent in an agonizing reappraisal.

    “During the last days of his life, Smith’s words and acts suggested that he was willing to forsake all the secret developments of Nauvoo—polygamy, the [temple] endowment ceremony and the Council of Fifty,” Quinn wrote.

    “To Young and others this must have seemed like a surrender of sacred principles.” Quinn is a seventh-generation Mormon and former missionary and Brigham Young University professor. But he was excommunicated from the church in 1993 after publishing a paper in which he contended Smith had given women the priesthood, but subsequent leaders had excluded them. Quinn still considers himself a believer, but knows mainstream Mormons will not be scrambling to purchase his book, published by Signature Books, or a companion volume planned for 1997.

    He is no novice in the role of historian bearing troubling tidings to the faithful. “There are times when there are no best feet to put forward,” Quinn says of some of the documentary record. “It’s uncomfortable. It’s queasy. But it’s what was there.”

  2. Benchmark Book News

    This noted historian’s long-awaited and fascinating first volume of an in-depth study of the early top LDS leadership will arouse much interest and its share of controversy. Never before has anyone explored so thoroughly the background of Mormon priesthood and the nature and development of the individuals and quorums who became leaders of the Church.

    In his usual meticulously researched and detailed way, Quinn discusses priesthood, and the presiding quorums, the political and religious kingdom, the 1844 succession crisis, and the nature of apostolic succession. Extensive footnotes, which occupy a solid fourth of the book, flesh out of the details of these topics. Appendices, which fill another third of the book, cover the LDS general officers up to 1847, Mormon security forces (including the Danites), the “anointed quorum,” the Council of Fifty, and selected chronology of events in the Church up to 1847 where the book ends.

    A number of noted historians and authors have commented on Quinn’s book. Clyde Milner says that “Quinn’s . . . is the work of a vigorous scholar thoroughly aware of the historical record.” Brigham Madsen describes it as “intensively interesting . . . balanced and honest” and based on research “deep, comprehensive, and massively documented.” Martha Bradley summed up the reaction of many scholars with this observation about the book saying it “is a monumental undertaking. Its contribution and influence will be felt and debated for many, many years to come.”

    Quinn’s “warts and all” approach may disturb some, but the book is still a ground-breaking work that merits fair-minded study by anyone seriously interested in early Mormon history.

  3. Klaus J. Hansen, Church History

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with a worldwide membership of over nine million, is the largest and most influential of a number of Mormon denominations that trace their origins to founder Joseph Smith, Jr. A major reason for the success of the church is its hierarchical structure. Headed by a “Prophet, Seer and Revelator,” who as “President” is assisted by two counselors, the quorum of the “First Presidency” stands at the pinnacle of a hierarchy of “general authorities” and lay members heading local congregations. Few believing Mormons are aware that this hierarchy is the result of dramatic changes and often contentious historical evolution, ably traced by Michael Quinn in this impressively researched study. As Quinn demonstrates, a major reason why Mormons are unaware of these changes is that custodians of the historical record have consistently revised it to fit new realities after the fact.

    According to Quinn, Mormonism began as “a private religious awakening in a single family” (p. 1) in the 1820s, attracting a number of followers because of its nonhierarchical emphasis on the priesthood of all believers. Even after the official founding of a “church” in 1830 the new religion grew rapidly because it lacked the structure, the dogma, and the ritual of most traditional Christian denominations. Yet by 1835 church doctrine called for the restoration of primitive Christianity with its attendant offices. By the early 1840s the church was lead by five “quorums,” far exceeding primitivist precedents. This rapid evolution of structure and authority left many early converts bemused, leading to dissension and defection. Another consequence was that areas of competence and lines of authority overlapped, leading to competition and confusion.

    As long as Joseph Smith was alive, his prophetic authority and charisma, paradoxically, helped contain chaos and disorder—though in the end his death at the hands of a mob in 1844 was the result of forces he himself had helped unleash. Not anticipating his martyrdom, Smith had left confusing and contradictory information regarding his successor, with numerous individuals and several of the quorums claiming the right to church leadership—deftly sorted out by Quinn. As head of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Brigham Young was in a position of power to claim leadership for that group, although historical evidence makes it clear that the claims of other individuals and groups were equally if not more plausible. Possessing an unbeatable combination of forcefulness and shrewdness, Young was able to assert himself in his position as head of the Twelve, insisting on maintaining Smith’s most controversial innovations, especially the theocratic kingdom and polygamy. In time, he was able to establish a separate quorum of the First Presidency, though not without strong opposition from some apostles. Thus, at this death in 1877, succession was not nearly the problem that it had been in 1844. Still, it took three years before the apostles finally agreed on the principle of seniority as the basis for succession—a basis on which the hierarchy has operated ever since, though not without some difficulties because longevity, as Quinn points out, at times has led to physically or mentally impaired leaders at the helm.

    Michael Quinn argues that compared to the incredibly complex, contradictory, enigmatic personality of Joseph Smith, the histories of “institutions like the Mormon hierarchy are relatively easy to describe and understand” (p. 262). This becoming modesty belies the incredible complexity of the institutional history of Mormonism that requires not only dogged, determined, painstaking pursuit of elusive sources, but also the linkage of these into a coherent and intelligible whole. Architect Mies van der Rohe remarked that “God is in the details.” Those who know Michael Quinn will understand that it applies to this magisterial work as a double entendre.

  4. John L. Brooke, Journal of American History

    D. Michael Quinn’s The Mormon Hierarchy is intended to be a definitive history of the power structure of the Mormon church from 1830 through the mid-1840s. Massively documented, his text is supported by nearly four hundred pages of notes and appendixes. The appendixes alone—including lists and biographical sketches of church officials, membership in the paramilitary Danites and the theocratic Council of Fifty, lists of secret Holy Quorum meetings, and a detailed chronology—will ensure that specialists will consult this book for years to come. Quinn’s analysis falls into three broad categories: structure, theocracy, and crisis. His first two chapters detail the origins and evolution of the nature of authority in the Mormon “restoration” and its manifestation in five priestly quorums. Chapters 3 and 4, which may be of the greatest interest to nonspecialists, present Quinn’s analysis of the theocratic trajectory of early Mormonism from 1834 to 1844. Challenging historians who argue that Mormons were moderates working within an American consensus, Quinn marshals powerful evidence detailing the emergence of Mormon military and political structures, their relationship to priestly quorums and temple endowments, and their role in Joseph Smith’s truncated 1844 campaign for president. Quinn’s analysis of “theocratic ethics” will be of particular interest to those pondering the question of Mormon nation-building. Chapters 5, 6, and 7, discussing the succession crisis following Smith’s assassination and the subsequent institutionalization of prophetic succession, will generate some controversy within the church. Here Quinn directly challenges various official histories, arguing that the twelve apostles led by Brigham Young, formed as a traveling council governing missionaries, never had authority to appoint a first presidency. Thus he describes the rise of Brigham Young to the head of the church as a raw power struggle with the Nauvoo High Council, determined by Young’s mobilization of the secret second anointings and by his sheer charisma. His final chapter reviews the ongoing problem of the automatic succession of senior apostles to the leadership of the church.

  5. B. Carmon Hardy, Pacific Historical Review

    In this first volume of his long-anticipated study of the Mormon hierarchy, Michael Quinn provides a detailed history of the beginning of Mormon patterns of authority through 1844. The book contains an unmatched account of the shifting, evolving conceptions of Mormon leadership (extending its analysis of some issues to the present), and the influence of exigency on ecclesiastical form. Employing the encyclopedic style characteristic of all his writings, Quinn’s narrative moves the reader to agreement with most of his conclusions by dint of the enormous quantity of materials cited. Not only is the text heavily documented, but every notation also amounts to a near-exhaustive bibliographical essay. Nearly two-thirds of the book consists of such references, of illustrations, seven appendices, and a twenty-four page index.

    Quinn shows earliest Mormonism to have been more fluid and egalitarian than it eventually became. The more centralized, sometimes secret array of councils and quorums that existed by the time of Joseph Smith’s death in 1844 was the product not only of restorationist claims but also of conflict, revelation and, occasionally, retrospective alterations of earlier documents. The license taken by Mormon leaders in amending historical records to justify new policies is one of the most disturbing discoveries in the book. Such activities were congruent with what Quinn calls “theocratic ethics,” the assumption that truth can be sacrificed in behalf of a higher principle—a resort the hierarchy employed in connection with subjects like the Danites (a protective and sometimes avenging militia) and, of course, polygamy.

    Other important contributions of the book include its evidence of the extensive overlap of Mormon membership in organizations like the Missouri Danites, Free Masonry, and the Council of Fifty with their common oaths of secrecy and theocratic aspirations; the serious nature with which Smith pursued his ultimately unsuccessful candidacy for the presidency of the United States in 1844, involving diversion of church missionaries from religious to political proselyting activities; and the compromised, ambiguous arguments made by all claimants wishing to succeed the prophet. Quinn’s exploration of the crisis of leadership following Joseph Smith’s assassination is the most searching ever made—revealing, among other things, the possibility that one of Smith’s brothers, Samuel, may have been poisoned as a victim of the nasty struggle among disputants. The author provides an excellent overview of events involved in the emergence of Mormonism’s two, best-known divisions: the “Reorganized” branch which rallied around the prophet’s son, Joseph Smith III, and those who followed Brigham Young to the Great Basin.

    While the work does not ignore polygamy, in my view it deserves yet more attention as a reason for opposition to the prophet. Quinn gives the impression that Smith’s theocratic pretensions were the primary cause for dissent from his leadership in Nauvoo. I would also like to have seen more consideration given the intensely patriarchal formulations of Mormon control. While modest, largely ritualistic gestures of female empowerment occurred, Mormon leaders were, if anything, more devoted to masculine authority at home and church than most Americans of the day. But these are differences of emphasis only and, like the few errors that appear in the text (most notably accreditation of the forged Jonathan Dunham document on page 373, note 193), they in no way diminish the luster of Quinn’s achievement. No student of the Mormon experience, including church officers responsible for preparing descriptions of hierarchical lineage, can afford to ignore this impressive account. It will remain a commanding source on the origin of Mormon authority structures for years to come.

  6. Timothy E. Fulop, Religious studies Review

    Quinn is one of the most stimulating revisionist historians of Mormonism who judiciously challenges the notion that Mormonism developed in a smooth and progressive fashion. Examines the crucial early years of Mormonism and seeks to understand how Joseph Smith’s radically democratic restoration movement of 1828 became a highly authoritarian and hierarchial movement after his martyrdom in 1844. Concludes that Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles presided over the bureaucratization of Mormonism and in the process quietly revised the historical and doctrinal records in order to downplay the haphazard egalitarian spontaneity of early Mormonism. A fine study of power and development in a new religious movement with over four hundred pages devoted to documentation and appendices.

  7. Mike Hoey, Restoration: The Journal of Latter Day Saint History

    In the introduction Dr. Quinn states “For most Mormons this book should be informative without being disturbing.” This is idealism at best! The evidence in this book effectively rips to shreds any bit of exclusive authority that the church proclaims to possess.

    The first chapter traces the evolution of authority starting with the fathers of the first and second elders, Joseph Smith, Sr., and William Cowdery, in Vermont during the early 1800s. During this period in the history of the United States, it was not unusual for people to believe in and use divining rods, seer stones, amulets, talismans and other implements of folk magic to receive gifts from beyond the natural world. To them they were connecting with God and it was good. Quinn notes that institutional religion was a minority experience, while folk religion was the experience of 80% to 90% of Americans until the mid-nineteenth century.

    The concept of the “church” underwent a metamorphosis as complete as the butterfly. The caterpillar stage being the fellowshipping in the New York branches and later at Kirtland, with the cocooning stage related to the gathering in Jackson County. The church matured in the form of the city of Nauvoo. In 1828 Joseph Smith Jr. received a communication that stated, “Behold this is my doctrine. Whosoever repenteth and comes unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me: he is not of my church” (UDC 10.67-68; RDC 3.16a-b). Members were fellowshiping and receiving spiritual manifestations individually and collectively. They appeared to be content.

    By 1831 Joseph had received communications to perfect the family arrangement that Sidney Rigdon had supervised (UDC and RDC sections 41-58, parts of those sections). Up to 10 groups had established themselves according to the law of consecration.

    With the troubles in Jackson County and the disastrous Zion’s Camp expedition, the church members abandoned this communal lifestyle by 1834. As the lines of authority became formalized, most of the egalitarian nature and charismatic luster of the first few years were displaced by conformity and obedience. Quinn finishes chapter one by describing the various developments in the concept of “authority.”

    The second chapter delineates the five Presiding Priesthood Quorums. Theocratic beginnings as discussed in chapter three serve as a link to the Nauvoo experiment by showing the experience various saints were accumulating in Kirtland and Missouri. The kingdom of God in Nauvoo, Illinois is reviewed in chapter four. It reveals the evolution of Joseph Smith’s thinking as in this city he wore many hats. He was land developer, General of the Legion, Chief Justice of the Municipal Court, Mayor (replacing John C. Bennett) and above all Prophet to the church.

    This was Mormonism coming out of its cocoon stage, establishing a beachhead from which to take over all the world. Starting with the charter granting the City of Nauvoo autonomy and ending with Smith’s bid for the United States Presidency and his martyrdom. Quinn skillfully fills in the details including the connections with the Masonic Lodge and the ceremonies that have come to be associated with the Mormon version of the temple.

    The Grand Council, or Council of Fifty’s, role is described and their attempt to function as a state within a state is shown by sending ambassadors to countries such as France and Russia. The early 1840s provided opportunities for men such as Smith to get national press coverage for seemingly minor events. This and the persecution of the Saints led to a progressively higher degree of secrecy in regard to these activities.

    It is interesting to note that when Joseph Smith ran for President of the United States, he had a campaign force which was comprised of the twelve apostles and all of the missionaries (including extras for this mission). He had given up spreading the gospel in favor of handing out fliers about his presidential platform, “Views of the Power and Policy of the Government of the United States.” Even though this force only totaled between 500 and 800, it was huge in relation to the number of members in the church (approximately 24,000 to 30,000).

    Chapter five covers the 1844 succession crisis and the twelve apostles. It also talks about the reorganization of the church under Brigham Young in which he established martial law in Nauvoo and encouraged the departure of those who dissented from his view. For those dissenters tactics used against them included “Aunt Peggy’s Privy Council” and the “Whistling and Whittling Brigade.”

    In chapter six, Quinn goes into depth about other succession options that came forth through different men that claimed the right to lead the church. These included David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, Lyman Wight, Alpheus Cutler, James J. Strang, William Smith, and then Joseph Smith Jr.’s sons, Joseph III and David Hyrum.

    One of the best parts of the book is found in Appendix #7, “selected chronology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints 1830-47.” In 45 pages Quinn effectively encapsulates the significant events of those 17 years. The facts and Quinn’s interpretations seem to open up a Pandora’s box for those who have an insatiable curiosity for mankind’s experiences with God and the Spirit.

  8. John Butler, Nova Religio

    The Mormon historian, D. Michael Quinn, best known for his influential book, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (1987), here offers a detailed explanation of emerging Mormon institutional power from the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830 to Joseph Smith’s assassination in 1844 and Brigham Young’s subsequent assumption of Mormon leadership.

    This is one of the most fascinating stories of institutionalization within new religious movements anywhere, and Quinn gives us an exceptionally close reading. The essential story is relatively simple. The Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, gave frequently contradictory “revelations” about both religious offices and his (or God’s) preference for Smith’s succession. Although this confusion produced nagging difficulties within Mormonism before 1840, a major crisis erupted when vigilantes assassinated Smith in 1844.

    Who now would lead the movement? Smith had confused the issue in three ways. First, Smith failed to plan for his death despite the violence that surrounded the Mormons. Second, Smith sometimes indicated that he favored patrilineal succession by brothers or sons, perhaps not surprising in a society increasingly fixated on race and genealogy. Third, Smith sometimes indicated that leadership would go to different individuals in whom he saw prophet-like qualities. Yet Smith also entrusted considerable authority to institutional bodies after 1830, such as the “Quorum of Twelve Apostles,” “The Holy Order,” or the “Council of Fifty.”

    The result was a fierce struggle for power at Smith’s death. A dozen men or more claimed Smith’s favor through one sign or another. Amidst intrigue, schisms, bribery, and even murder, Brigham Young emerged as the Mormons’ principal leader, in part because Young successfully negotiated the authority of the Quorum and Council, a testament to Smith’s perhaps unwitting foresight in institutionalizing authority, but also to the continuing importance of charismatic leadership in the movement.

    The Mormon Hierarchy gives non-Mormon specialists little quarter. Quinn establishes the factual record through immense documentation and highly detailed narratives (395 pages of notes and appendices compared to 263 pages of text). This may be advisable given Quinn’s revisionist interpretation, which stresses confusion and conflict where modern church leaders emphasize historical explicitness and order. Still, greater clarity about the general lines of interpretation, comparisons with other religious movements, and more extended dialogues with broader accounts of early Mormon history, such as Jan Shipp’s Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition (1985), would have won the book a wider audience. Notwithstanding these shortcomings, The Mormon Hierarchy offers a unrivaled factual account of Mormonism’s transformation from cult movement to church, one of the most fascinating stories in modern American religion, and perhaps, in religious history generally.

  9. Dean C. Jesse, Journal of Mormon History

    Few historians have been in a better position to study the Mormon past than D. Michael Quinn. With degrees in English and history, including a doctorate at Yale, employment in the LDS Church Historical Department and wide-ranging access to its holdings, a dozen years of teaching history at BYU, and painstaking research in seventy-five repositories (he lists them), Quinn has spent a substantial part of his life studying Mormon history. This book and a second volume to follow are the outgrowth of research that led to a master’s thesis, continued through a doctoral program, and is the crowning accomplishment of thirty years’ work.

    Quinn’s attention to source material goes beyond the usual historical treatise. More than half of the volume (422 pages out of 685) consists of notes and appendices. The first 263 pages are divided into seven chapters. Chapter one, “The Evolution of Authority,” focuses on the development of the concepts of authority, Church, and priesthood. Chapter 2, “The First Five Presiding Priesthood Quorums,” reviews the origin and evolution of the First Presidency, presiding patriarch, Quorum of the Twelve, the seventy, and the presiding bishopric. Chapter 3, “Theocratic Beginnings,” traces the development of theocratic power beyond strict ecclesiastical functions. Chapter 4, “The Kingdom of God in Nauvoo, Illinois,” chronicles the “advancement of Mormon theocracy within a public, civil framework” at Nauvoo, Illinois. Chapter 5, “The 1844 Succession Crisis and the Twelve,” addresses the emergence of the Twelve as the presiding quorum of the Church after the death of Joseph Smith. Chapter 6, “Other Succession Options,” continues the discussion of the previous chapter. Chapter 7, “The Nature of Apostolic Succession,” conveys the concept of apostolic succession from the time of Brigham Young to the present day.

    Seven appendices follow, giving extensive biographical information about federal officers of the Church, 1830-47; Mormon “security forces,” 1833-47; a partial list of Danites, 1838; meetings and initiations of the “Anointed Quorum,” 1842-45; members of the Council of Fifty, 1844-45; and a “selected chronology” of LDS Church history from 1830-47.

    Quinn’s study is forceful, his prose articulate. Voluminous notes give the impression of thorough research. The main contributions, as I see them, lie primarily in his treatment of the development of the Church’s presiding quorums, succession issues that followed the death of Joseph Smith, and biographical data on Church leaders—topics dealt with in Quinn’s earlier works. He dates the beginnings of the First Presidency in 1832, a year earlier than was previously thought, and restores Jesse Gause to his place as the initial first counselor in the presidency (pp. 40-42). He also dates the inception of the office of presiding patriarch in 1834, a year later than early lists (pp. 46-47), and points out that John Young was ordained a patriarch to his family three months before Joseph Smith, Sr., was ordained patriarch of the Church, and for almost three years Young was the only other patriarch of the Church (pp. 48-51). Quinn also clarifies the nature of the office of bishop in the beginning years of the Church, concluding that while Edward Partridge was the Church’s first bishop, there was no presiding bishop until Newel K. Whitney was sustained to that position in April 1847 (pp. 69-76).

    Though the reader will not always agree with Quinn’s interpretations and treatment of events, his abundant source references indicate the research path one must tread in order to offer credible alternatives in a major study of early LDS Church history.

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