In commemoration of the anniversary of the 1844 transfiguration of President Brigham Young, we are excited to offer the following free audio download! Special thanks to Casey Wayman for narrating this selection of eye-witness accounts!
I “[jumped] to my feet, expecting Joseph the Prophet was speaking”
There was a great multitude attending the meeting, more than one half the crowd could not find seats, and stood on their feet. Never were so many at one meeting that I ever saw. I was sitting down and could not see the speakers on the stand. I was listening very attentively, so that I could hear every word.
I heard a voice speaking, I was surprised, and jumping to my feet, expecting Joseph the Prophet was speaking, having heard him often in public and private, so that I was quite acquainted with his voice. This was a strong testimony that the Twelve Apostles were the rightful leaders of the church and that the mouth of Joseph had fallen on Brigham Young. (Autobiography of William Adams, typescript, HBLL.)
The “first thing I saw was Joseph as plain as I ever saw him in my life”
About a month after Joseph’s death Sidney Rigden set up his claim as guardian of the Church, saying that he was not of age to do business for itself being only about 14 years old and as he was next in authority to Joseph, it was his duty to act as guarding until the church was 21.
On the 5th of August 1844, a special meeting was appointed for the church to come together to hear what he had to say on the subject. He did not occupy the stand where Brigham and some of the rest of the 12 were but he stood in a wagon with some of his supporters in another part of the congregation, and occupied the time in the forenoon and ordinarily was very eloquent and pleasing speaker but at that time he made a very feeble effort. In the afternoon President Young replied to what had been said and when he arose to speak I was sitting holding down my head reflecting upon what had been said by Rigdon when I was startled by hearing Josephs’s voice. He had a way of clearing his throat before he began to speak by a peculiar effort of his own, like Ah Hem, but it had a different sound from him to anyone else, I raised my head suddenly and the first thing I saw was Joseph as plain as I ever saw him in my life, he was dressed in a light linen suit with a light leghorn hat such as he used to wear in the warm weather and the first words he said were right here in the authority to lead this church, at the same time striking his hand on his bosom and went on to utter several sentences in Joseph’s voice as clear and distinct as I ever heard Joseph speak and his gestures and appearance were perfect. This was testimony sufficient for me where the authority rested.1
“it was marvelous and a [miracle] wrought by the Power of God”
The next day President Brigham Young arived in Nauvoo with some of the other apostles from a Mission to the Eastern States And Called a meet- ing and invited Sidney Rigdon to the Stand and in the presance of the assembled thousands of the Saints Said to Sidney Now if you have any thing to say you have the apertunity and you can take the stand[.] But Sidney declined and kept his seat. President young then arose and took the stand his face and Countinence having the apearanc[e] of Joseph his voice and words were the familiar voice and Words of our martered prophet so much so the Who[l]e Congregation was fully satisfied that the mantle of the Prophet Joseph had fallen on him and some of the saints realy Believed it was in reality the Prophet himself[.] Well do I remember the feelings that possesed my Breast at that time I knew it was Brigham Young and being familiar with the Countinance voice and the maner of the Speech of the Prophet Joseph Smith I also knew the mantle of the prophet had fallen on Brigham and it was marvelous and a mericle wrought by the Power of God in the Sight and hearing of the Whole multitude that they might never doubt that Brigham was the Chosen leader of the Church. (Lewis Barney)
“I could hardly make myself believe that the Prophet had not himself returned”
This morning, at the Presiding Bishop’s Office, after reading what purported to be an appeal to the Latter-day Saints by Frederick J. Smith in regard to the successor of the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr., I had occasion, in conversa- tion with Bishop O. P. Miller to refer to my experience in Nauvoo, Illinois some time after the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and upon his request, I made the following statement:
This to my mind was one of the most critical periods in the history of the Church. A number of persons claimed the legal succession, and to have this authority, among them Sidney Rigdon, James J. Strang, Aaron and Moses Smith and others. The occasion that I now refer to was a general meeting of the Latter-day Saints, soon after the return to Nauvoo of President Brigham Young and other members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, from their missions. The meeting had been called to order, and after the usual opening exercises President Brigham Young arose to address the assembly.
At that time I was not acquainted with President Young, but his voice, manner, expression, and in fact, his personal appearance was so strikingly that of the martyred Prophet, that I rose from my seat, as did hundreds of others, to look at the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. The likeness was so marked that I could hardly make myself believe that the Prophet had not himself returned; not that there was a resemblance between the two men. I am not going to say why this was other than I received it, as an evidence to the people that God had chose Brigham Young as successor to the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. There were dozens, even hundreds of others, who were impressed just the same as I was at that time, and I have heard many, many who are now gone make similar statements or expressions to that I am here making.
(signed) R. T. Burton
“It was Joseph’s voice and Joseph’s gestures”
That week, Brigham Young and others of the 12 came to the city. On the Sunday following, Brigham and a portion of the Twelve presented them- selves in our congregation. He said he had not come to electioneer, nor set up any particular claim, but to do his duty, and it was for the people to judge between truth and error. Before he had spoken many sentences, I discovered that it was the voice of Joseph, and had I have been where my eyes could not have beheld him, I should have believed that Joseph had been speaking. It was Joseph’s voice and Joseph’s gestures through the entire discourse, I became perfectly satisfied that it was the voice for me to follow in connection with the majority of the brethren. (Anson Call)
“If Joseph had risen from the dead . . . the effect could not have been more startling”
It was the first sound of his voice which the people had heard since he had gone east on his mission, and the effect upon them was most wonderful. Who that was present on that occasion can ever forget the impression it made upon them! If Joseph had risen from the dead and again spoken in their hearing, the effect could not have been more startling than it was to many present at that meeting. It was the voice of Joseph himself; and not only was it the voice of Joseph which was heard; but it seemed in the eyes of the people as though it was the very person of Joseph which stood before them. A more wonderful and miraculous event than was wrought that day in the presence of that congregation we never heard of. The Lord gave His people a testimony that left no room for doubt as to who was the man He had chosen to lead them. They both saw and heard with their natural eyes and ears, and then the words which were uttered came, accompanied by the convincing power of God, to their hearts, and they were filled with the Spirit and with great joy. There had been gloom, and, in some hearts probably, doubt and uncertainty; but now it was plain to all that here was the man upon whom the Lord had bestowed the neces- sary authority to act in their midst in Joseph’s stead. (George Q. Cannon, Juvenile Instructor, Oct. 29, 1870, 174–75)
“he spoke with the voice of Joseph Smith”
I attended the funeral of the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum Smith. I was also present at the meeting held in the grove at Nauvoo August 8, 1844, when Sidney Rigdon made the claim that it was his right to assume the lead- ership and presidency of the church. I saw Brigham Young stand up and speak to the people, and he spoke with the voice of Joseph Smith. I further testify that I was well acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith and heard him speak many times. Among the many sermons I heard him preach was at the funeral of King Follett. I also heard him deliver his last adieu to the Nauvoo Legion. As to Brigham Young, I know of a surety that he spoke with the voice of Joseph Smith, and I was convinced then and never doubted during all the intervening years that passed that Brigham Young was cho- sen and ordained of God to lead the church. (Robert Crookston)
“That is the voice of the true shepherd—the chief of the Apostles.”
Come the 24th when I arived at Nauvoo I saw thare was a gertherin [gathering] of the Saints at the Stand as I drew nere I saw Mr. Sidney Rigdon [a]ddressing the Congregation I listened a few minits and Said in my hart it was not the vois of the trew Sepherd. (Jacob Hamblin, Journal 8, typescript, microfilm, Church Archives.)
At Nauvoo I found Sidney Rigdon busy among the Saints, trying to establish his claim to the presidency of the Church. He was first Counselor to the Prophet Joseph at the time of the latter’s death. The Church was four- teen years old, and he claimed that it was its privilege and duty to appoint a guardian; and he wished the people to sanction his guardianship. I was much dissatisfied with the course he was taking, and, as I could not sustain him, I felt to leave Nauvoo for a season. I went into the country, where I had left my wife and two children with my sister Melissa. . . . On the 8th of August, 1844, I attended a general meeting of the Saints. Elder Rigdon was there, urging his claims to the presidency of the Church. His voice did not sound like the voice of the true shepherd. When he was about to call a vote of the congregation to sustain him as President of the Church, Elders Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt and Heber C. Kimball stepped into the stand. Brigham Young remarked to the congregation: “I will manage this vot- ing for Elder Rigdon. He does not preside here. This child” (meaning him- self) “will manage this flock for a season.” The voice and the gestures of the man were those of the Prophet Joseph. The people, with few exceptions, visibly saw that the mantle of the prophet Joseph had fallen upon Brigham Young. To some it seemed as though Joseph again stood before them. I arose to my feet and said to a man sitting by me, “That is the voice of the true shepherd—the chief of the Apostles.” (Jacob Hamblin)
“I saw in him the look of Joseph, and the voice of Joseph”
Altho only a boy, I saw the mantle of the Prophet Joseph rest on Brigham Young; and he arose lion-like to the occasion, and lead the people forth. . . . I remember Sidney Rigdon in his great desire to become Guardian of the Church. But I had seen the Prophet [Joseph] proclaim these words before the people, “I have carried Sidney Rigdon long enough—I now throw him from my shoulders. If my brother Hyrum wishes to pick him up and carry him, he may—I carry him no longer.” I saw Brother Brigham Young, of the Quorum of the Twelve, arise before the people—and I saw in him the look of Joseph, and the voice of Joseph; and it seemed to me that he was as tall as Joseph too. I knew that the mantle of Joseph had fallen on Brigham. I had heard the Prophet say from the frame that he threw the furtherence of this Church and Kingdom upon the shoulders of the Twelve; that they should bear and send this Gospel to every nation under heaven. (Mosiah Hancock)
“the whole crowd without exception manifested their approval”
They [the Apostles] returned to Nauvoo as soon as they heard; and on the 8th of August an assembly was held in Nauvoo to organize things for the future, and to bring into effect the measures arranged through Joseph Smith; but primarily for the apostles to stand in their proper place at the head of the church on earth, in the absence of their former leaders. There were between twelve and fifteen thousand Saints gathered there. . . . Brigham Young, Orson Hyde, P. P. Pratt, and others addressed the crowd warmly and effectively, so that everyone perceived that the mantle of the prophet had truly fallen on the apostles; and the whole crowd without exception manifested their approval of the apostles as leaders of the church by raising their right hand. (Dan Jones)