Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » I Have More Questions, 1930

I Have More Questions, 1930

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 23, 2012

Apostle John A. Widtsoe answered the Saints’ questions in the Millennial Star of 1930:

Question: Under what authority did Brigham Young become the lawful successor of Joseph Smith, the Prophet?

The twelve Apostles “form a quorum, equal in authority and power” to the First Presidency. this doctrine was given by revelation through Joseph Smith, the Prophet, on March 28th, 1835. (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 107:23, 24.)

This authority of the quorum of Twelve Apostles was frequently referred to by the Prophet. For example, on January 16th, 1836, he said, “I next proceeded to explain the duty of the Twelve, and their authority which is next to the present presidency.” (History of the Church, Vol. 2, 373.) On August 16th, 1841, he said, “The time had come when the Twelve should be called upon to stand in their place next to the First Presidency.” (Times and Seasons, Vol. 2, p. 521.) He also said to the Twelve Apostles: “Now, if they kill me, you have all the keys, and all the ordinances, and you can confer them upon others, and the hosts of Satan will not be able to tear down the Kingdom as fast as you will be able to build it up; and upon your shoulders will the responsibility of leading this people rest.” (Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, p. 654.)

Since the Twelve Apostles stand next to the First Presidency, whenever the First Presidency is disorganized, the Twelve Apostles must assume the responsibility of leading the Church and of again organizing it, under revelation, according to the pattern set by the Lord.

The Counselors in the Presidency lose their presiding authority when the President of the Church dies. This was made clear by the Prophet Joseph Smith, who said on January 16th, 1836: “The twelve are not subject to any other than the First Presidency and where I am not, there is no First Presidency over the Twelve.” (History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 374.)

That this order of authority was well understood by the twelve, before the martyrdom, is shown by the fact that the two Apostles who alone were in Nauvoo at the time of the death of the Prophet, took charge of affairs, communicated the sad news to the world and wrote an epistle of unusual beauty for the guidance of the Saints in Europe.

That the people also understood this order and procedure is evident by their action in sustaining in open and general conference, on August 8th, 1844, and at the following October general conference, the Twelve Apostles as the presiding authority of the Church, against the claims of others, ambitious for influence and office.

Question: How large a proportion of the membership of the Church followed Brigham Young to the West?

At the time of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, the membership of the Church in the city of Nauvoo and its neighbourhood, numbered not to exceed 20,000 souls. This is based upon the best available authorities, which have not been questioned. These people formed the bulk of the Church membership in America, for all the American Saints had been requested by the Prophet to gather in or near Nauvoo.

Practically all the faithful members of the Church in America had obeyed this counsel.

The census reports of 1850, three years after the migration westward, confirmed by reliable historical data, show that the population of Utah was 11,380, all “Mormons,” with 7,828 at Kanesville, Iowa, on the way to Utah, or a total of 19,208 members, to which should be added the population of several temporary settlements of Saints who were moving westward. There had been no special proselyting done in America during these trying years; there had been little emigration; thousands had died from exposure and toil while crossing the plains; the natural increase alone had maintained the numerical strength of the Church.

Practically all the members of the Church in America, ninety per cent. or more, followed Brigham Young westward. those who remained were the weak in faith, who could not bear the thoughts of the hardships of the perilous journey, or those who, by sinful lives, had lost the spirit of the work and were in a state of apostasy. many of those who remained behind were among the secret enemies of the Prophet, whose evil plans led to his martyrdom.

Question: What proportion of our income should be given as tithing?

The wage earner should give one-tenth of the wages received; the business man one-tenth of his earnings; and the farmer one-tenth of the increase from his flocks and produce of his land. In other words, the income represented by the labour or good fortune of every tenth day, belongs to the Lord.

This interpretation is fully borne out by the revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, which declares that the Saints “shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever.” (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 119:4.) The word interest clearly means the revenue obtained from a person’s labour, skill or investment, for that is a person’s income. this has been the interpretation from the days of the Prophet. It is not new. for example, in the building of the Nauvoo Temple, the people were called upon to erect the structure with the tithing of the people. Many documents dealing with the subject of tithing were then sent out. In an epistle dated October 12th, 1841, in the life-time of the Prophet, the official statement is made that “the brethren generally are giving one-tenth part of their time, or one-tenth part of their income, according to circumstances.” (Millennial Star, Vol. 2, p. 120.) that is, the recognized principle of tithe paying was followed by the Saints of that early day. This interpretation of the divine requirement was the one followed by ancient Israel and really needs no present elucidation.

Any other interpretation of the practice of paying tithes is contrary to the word of the Lord. whoever teaches that tithing should be paid only upon the “surplus,” whatever that may mean, is teaching a false doctrine. the words of the Lord are plain to the understanding.

Thousands of latter-day Saints bear witness to the blessings that follow the honest payment of the tithe to the Lord.

Question: Is it proper to allow a person to be baptized with a rubber bathing cap over the head to keep the hair from becoming wet?

The prescribed form of baptism is symbolic of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ; and also of the cleansing effect of obedience, comparable to the cleansing of the body by the washing of water. The symbolism is not complete unless the body is fully immersed and completely touched by the water. Bathing caps should not be worn when the ordinance is administered. Any departure from this rule must be authorized by the Mission President.



  1. That answer about how many Saints went to Utah seems… fishy. I’m curious, are there any other/better estimates of that number?

    Comment by E. Wallace — February 23, 2012 @ 8:18 am

  2. I also had questions about the percentage who came West. There were already some in California, and I believe Lyman Wight had led a group to Texas, who were not yet considered apostate. Wasn’t there also a group of converts from the South in Colorado somewhere? There were also branches in various East Coast cities, as well.

    those who remained were the weak in faith, who could not bear the thoughts of the hardships of the perilous journey, or those who, by sinful lives, had lost the spirit of the work and were in a state of apostasy. many of those who remained behind were among the secret enemies of the Prophet

    That statement seems a bit harsh. No allowance for illness, poverty, or other circumstances?

    Comment by kevinf — February 23, 2012 @ 10:10 am

  3. Also groups in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, if I recall. If you weren’t on the Mormon trail, I guess that was proof that you were living “a sinful life.” I wonder if that’s Bro. Widsoe’s conclusion, or Bro. Brigham’s.

    Comment by The Other Clark — February 23, 2012 @ 10:26 am

  4. Bathing caps pop up in the various missionary handbooks and general instruction books of this time. Must have been fairly common of a problem.

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 23, 2012 @ 10:30 am

  5. I don’t have it handy, but in Joseph Smith III, Roger Launius explains that there were a significant number of Mormon congregations throughout the midwest, virtually none of which followed Brigham west. Leaders of those branches formed the core of the Reorganized Church until JSII came of age and they were able to convince him to take over. Widtsoe seems to dismiss anybody not gathered at Nauvoo before he even gets to the “weak in faith” criticism.

    Comment by Last Lemming — February 23, 2012 @ 10:51 am

  6. er.. JSIII came of age. Sorry

    Comment by Last Lemming — February 23, 2012 @ 10:51 am

  7. So very many of the Saints who intended to go west never made it past Iowa, either. I think this is a case of Elder Widtsoe assuming way too much from a single datapoint (the 1850 census), as well as the LDS worldview of the time. As with many questions in this series, the questions and answers reflect more what was on the minds of church members of a past era than they do on what we would ask or how we would answer today.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 23, 2012 @ 11:12 am

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