This address was delivered 8 August 1844 in Nauvoo, Illinois after the martyrdom of The Prophet Joseph Smith. It was perhaps the most important in President Young’s long and illustrious career. In it, he refuted Sidney Rigdon’s call for a “guardian” to be called to preside over the Church. President Young put forth the position of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and most importantly, the mantle of Joseph’s leadership was both seen and heard to descend up him as he took the form and the voice of the deceased Prophet. . . For the first time in my life, for the first time in your lives, for the first time in the kingdom of God in the 19th century, without a Prophet at our head, do I step forth to act in my calling in connection with the Quorum of the Twelve, as Apostles of Jesus Christ unto this generation—Apostles whom God has called by revelation through the Prophet Joseph, who are ordained and anointed to bear off the keys of the kingdom of God in all the world. This people have hitherto walked by sight and not by faith. You have had the Prophet in your midst. Do you all understand? You have walked by sight and without much pleading to the Lord to know whether things were right or not. Heretofore you have had a Prophet as the mouth of the Lord to speak to you, but he has sealed his testimony with his blood, and now, for the first time, are you called to walk by faith, not by sight. The first position I take in behalf of the Twelve and the people is, to ask a few questions. I ask the Latter-day Saints: do you, as individuals, at this time, want to choose a Prophet or a guardian? Inasmuch as our Prophet and Patriarch are taken from our midst, do you want some one to guard, to guide and lead you through this world into the kingdom of God, or not? All that want some person to be a guardian or a Prophet, a spokesman or something else, signify it by raising the right hand. (No votes). When I came to this stand I had peculiar feelings and impressions. The faces of this people seem to say, we want a shepherd to guide and lead us through this world. All that want to draw away a party from the church after them, let them do it if they can, but they will not prosper. If any man thinks he has influence among this people to lead away a party, let him try it, and he will find out that there is power with the Apostles which will carry them off victorious through all the world, and build up and defend the church and kingdom of God What do the people want? I feel as though I wanted the privilege to weep and mourn for thirty days at least, then rise up, shake myself, and tell the people what the Lord wants of them; although my heart is too full of mourning to launch forth into business transactions and the organization of the church, I feel compelled this day to step forth in the discharge of those duties God has placed upon me. I now wish to speak of the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
FINAL PUBLIC SERMON. (President Joseph Smith read the 3rd chapter of Revelation, and took for his text 1st chapter, 6th verse—”And hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father: to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”) It is altogether correct in the translation. Now, you know that of late some malicious and corrupt men have sprung up and apostatized from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they declare that the Prophet believes in a plurality of Gods, and lo and behold! we have discovered a very great secret, they cry—”The Prophet says there are many Gods, and this proves that he has fallen.” It has been my intention for a long time to take up this subject and lay it clearly before the people, and show what my faith is in relation to this interesting matter. I have contemplated the saying of Jesus (Luke 17th chapter, 26th verse) –“And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man.” And if it does rain, I’ll preach this doctrine, for the truth shall be preached. I will preach on the plurality of Gods. I have selected this text for that express purpose. I wish to declare I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods. It has been preached by the Elders for fifteen years. I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods. If this is in accordance with the New Testament, lo and behold! we have three Gods anyhow, and they are plural: and who can contradict it?
Brigham Young had just learned that the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies were stranded in the High Plains of Wyoming facing starvation and death with an early onset of winter. In this discourse, delivered at the Bowery (the second erected by the Saints after their arrival in the valley), he issued a sterling call for mules, horses, wagons, teamsters, and flour to leave Salt Lake within twenty-four hours to facilitate their rescue. . . I will now give this people the subject and the text for the Elders who may speak to-day and during the Conference, it is this, on the 5th day of October, 1856, many of our brethren and sisters are on the Plains with hand-carts, and probably many are now seven hundred miles from this place, and they must be brought here, we must send assistance to them. The text will be–to get them here! I want the brethren who may speak to understand that their text is the people on the Plains, and the subject matter for this community is to send for them and bring them in before the winter sets in. That is my religion; that is the dictation of the Holy Ghost that I possess, it is to save the people. We must bring them in from the Plains, and when we get them here, we will try to keep the same spirit that we have had, and teach them the way of life and salvation; tell them how they can be saved, and how they can save their friends. This is the salvation I am now seeking for, to save our brethren that would be apt to perish, or suffer extremely, if we do not send them assistance.
The King Follett (or Follet) Discourse is considered a milestone in the development of LDS thought and theology. It was delivered as the funeral sermon for Elder King Follett, who had been killed when a load of stones, being lifted from a well, fell and crushed him. As it happened, the accident occurred just before the Fifteenth Annual General Conference (April 1844) and the Prophet Joseph Smith took the Conference as the occasion to deliver the sermon before about twenty thousand Saints. Although modern transcription technologies were not available at the time, the copy below is as reported by Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, Thomas Bullock and William Clayton. It is thought to be essentially correct, is accepted by the Church, and is copied from the History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 302-317. . . Beloved Saints: I will call [for] the attention of this congregation while I address you on the subject of the dead. The decease of our beloved brother, Elder King Follett, who was crushed in a well by the falling of a tub of rock, has more immediately led me to this subject. I have been requested to speak by his friends and relatives, but inasmuch as there are a great many in this congregation who live in this city as well as elsewhere, who have lost friends, I feel disposed to speak on the subject in general, and offer you my ideas, so far as I have ability, and so far as I shall be inspired by the Holy Spirit to dwell on this subject. I want your prayers and faith that I may have the instruction of Almighty God and the gift of the Holy Ghost, so that I may set forth things that are true and which can be easily comprehended by you, and that the testimony may carry conviction to your hearts and minds of the truth of what I shall say. Pray that the Lord may strengthen my lungs, stay the winds, and let the prayers of the Saints to heaven appear, that they may enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, for the effectual prayers of the righteous avail much. There is strength here, and I verily believe that your prayers will be heard. Before I enter fully into the investigation of the subject which is lying before me, I wish to pave the way and bring up the subject from the beginning, that you may understand it. I will make a few preliminaries, in order that you may understand the subject when I come to it. I do not calculate or intend to please your ears with superfluity of words or oratory, or with much learning; but I calculate [intend] to edify you with the simple truths from heaven.
John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat, wrote Joseph Smith in 1842 to request information about the Church for a friend who was writing a history of New Hampshire. The “Wentworth Letter” was written by the Prophet Joseph Smith in response to this inquiry. The letter contains a brief History of the Church to 1842, including the key events in the restoration of the gospel. It states that the purpose of the Church is to take the gospel to every nation and prepare a people for the Millennium. The letter also describes concisely the origin, contents, and translation of the Book of Mormon. It concludes with thirteen doctrinal statements that have since become known as the Articles of Faith and are published in the Pearl of Great Price (HC 4:535-41). The contents of this letter were published March 1, 1842, in the Nauvoo Times and Seasons. There is no evidence that Wentworth or his friend, George Barstow, ever published it. In response to other inquiries in 1844, Joseph Smith sent revised copies of this letter to several publishers of works about various churches and religious groups. It has been published several times over the years. . . At the request of Mr. John Wentworth, Editor, and Proprietor of the “Chicago Democrat,” I have written the following sketch of the rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-Day Saints, of which I have the honor, under God, of being the founder. Mr. Wentworth says, that he wishes to furnish Mr.Bastow, a friend of his, who is writing the history of New Hampshire, with this document. As Mr. Bastow has taken the proper steps to obtain correct information, all that I shall ask at his hands is that he publish the account entire, ungarnished, and without misrepresentation.