The smooth transition that we all currently take for granted following the death of the President of the Church, has not always been so. Much of the way we do things now has slowly been worked out over time. Consequently (and inspired by Justin’s fine post), I thought a nice potpourri of succession history would be nice.
First up is a figure (PDF here) based on Andrew Ehat’s seminal master’s thesis (see below). This Venn Diagram is a visual condensation of Ehat’s work. Basically of three categories that Ehat saw as necessary for church governance (i.e., membership in the Anointed Quorum, Council of Fifty, and being a general authority), only certain members of the Quorum of the Twelve fit the bill. Some might contest the appellation of “general authorities,” as somewhat question-begging, but I tend to think it works pretty well. I do, however, think that the diagram is missing a circle for polygamists, which was quite important to this time.
Beyond that, the following are the most commonly referred to scholarly treatments on succession of the Church Presidency. For the 1844 succession and in spite of some flaws, I still love Ehat’s work (though it is only available from the BYU, USU and UU special collections). The papers that treat the latter periods are all important and interesting. Enjoy!
D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Succession Crisis of 1844,” BYU Studies 16 (Winter 1976): 187-233.
Ronald Esplin, “Joseph, Brigham and the Twelve: a Succession of Continuity,” BYU Studies 21 (Summer 1981): 301-341.
Gary Bergera, “Seniority in the Twelve: The 1875 Realignment of Orson Pratt,” Journal of Mormon History 18 (Spring 1992): 19-58.
Ron Walker “Grant’s Watershed: Succession in the Presidency, 1887-1889,” BYU Studies 43, no. 1 (2004), 195-229.
Todd M. Compton “John Willard Young, Brigham Young, and the Development of Presidential Succession in the LDS Church.” Dialogue 35 (Winter 2002): 111-134.
Steven Heath, “Notes on Apostolic Succession,” Dialogue 20 (Summer 1987): 44-57.
Books and Theses
Andrew F. Ehat, “Joseph Smith’s Introduction of Temple Ordinances and the 1844 Mormon Succession Question” (MA thesis, Brigham Young University, 1982).
D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), specifically, 143-262.
D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997), specifically, 21-65.
Irene Bates and E. Gary Smith, Lost Legacy: The Mormon Office of Presiding Patriarch (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003), ch. 4, and pp. 140-3 and 162-5.
Thomas G. Alexander, Mormonism in transition: a history of the Latter-Day Saints, 1890-1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996), 116-7.