Joseph, the Keys, and the Twelve

Joseph, the Keys, and the Twelve July 20, 2023


The barn near Park City
The iconic McPolin Farmstead in Park City, Utah
(Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph)


New just yesterday on the website of the Interpreter Foundation:

Conference Talks: In the Visions of the Night: The Human Brain and Divine Revelation, originally presented by Brant A. Gardner on Saturday, 12 March 2016, at the 2016 Second Interpreter Science & Mormonism Symposium: Body, Brain, Mind, and Spirit.




Hal Boyd is always interesting, and this recent article for the Deseret News especially caught my notice:  “The winds of change: The Middle East is in the midst of a generational sea change. Could that mean more freedom and religious tolerance?”

Let us pray!


And here’s another article that I think worth calling to your attention:  “How will religion fare as liberal arts education shrinks in the United States of America?”


It’s a really good question:  “After all of the miracles he has seen in his life, why doesn’t Indiana Jones truly believe?”


Distant shot of new Nauvoo Temple
The rebuilt Nauvoo Illinois Temple stands on the site where the first one was built in the late 1830s and early 1840s.
(Photo from


As I’ve been telling you to the point of (your) boredom, the Interpreter Foundation is now moving forward with a film project — presumably, as with our “Witnesses” effort, divided into theatrical movie, docudrama, and short features, though things always evolve and change along the way (as, in fact, the “Witnesses” project did) — that we’re terming “Six Days in August.”  It will focus on the succession crisis following the murder of Joseph and Hyrum, on the confrontation between Sidney Rigdon and the Twelve, and on the preparation of the Twelve to assume leadership of the Church.  Important materials in support of our approach include (but are far from exhausted by) the following, which are cited from Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, “The Prophet’s Final Charge to the Twelve, 1844” (

At an important meeting that occurred in the spring of 1844, Joseph addressed the Twelve and gave them their “last charge.”  Years later, he commented on that event:

I, Wilford Woodruff, being the last man living in the flesh who was present upon that occasion feel it a duty I owe to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to the House of Israel, and to the whole world to bear this my last testimony to all nations, that in the winter of 1843–4, Joseph Smith, the Prophet of God, called the Twelve Apostles together in the City of Nauvoo, and spent many days with us in giving us our endowments, and teaching us those glorious principles which God had revealed to him. And upon one occasion he stood upon his feet in our midst for nearly three hours declaring unto us the great and last dispensation which God had set His hand to perform upon the earth in these last days. The room was filled as if with consuming fire; the Prophet was clothed upon with much of the power of God, and his face shone and was transparently clear, and he closed that speech, never-to-be-forgotten in time or in eternity, with the following language:

“Brethren, I have had great sorrow of heart for fear that I might be taken from the earth with the keys of the Kingdom of God upon me, without sealing them upon the heads of other men. God has sealed upon my head all the keys of the Kingdom of God necessary for organizing and building up of the Church, Zion, and Kingdom of God upon the earth, and to prepare the Saints for the coming of the Son of Man. Now, brethren, I thank God I have lived to see the day that I have been enabled to give you your endowments, and I have now sealed upon your heads all the powers of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods and Apostleship, with all the keys and powers thereof, which God has sealed upon me; and I now roll off all the labor, burden and care of this Church and Kingdom of God upon your shoulders, and I now command you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to round up your shoulders, and bear off this Church and Kingdom of God before heaven and earth, and before God, angels and men; and if you don’t do it you will be damned.”

And the same spirit that filled the room at that time burns in my bosom while I record this testimony, and the Prophet of God appointed no one else but the Twelve Apostles to stand at the head of the Church and direct its affairs.  (James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 3:134; see Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Steven C. Harper, “‘This Is My Testimony, Spoken by Myself into a Talking Machine,’” BYU Studies 45, no. 2 (Spring 2006): 112–16.). [514-515 and 523 note 58]

To which Dr. Holzapfel adds this further item in support:

There is another important source about this monumental gathering which may be the earliest written document describing the meeting. Although it is unknown exactly when it was composed, it could have been written as early as September 1844. Speaking of the meeting, the Twelve recalled, “Joseph Smith seemed somewhat depressed in Spirit, and took the liberty to open his heart to us concerning his presentiments of the future.” The document then records what the Prophet said on that occasion. Joseph told the Twelve, “The Lord bids me hasten the work in which we are engaged.” The Prophet did not want the “keys and powers” to “be lost from the earth” so he placed them on the heads of the Twelve: “Upon the shoulders of the Twelve must the responsibility of leading this church henceforth rest until you shall appoint others to succeed you. Your enemies cannot kill you all at once and should any of you be killed you can lay your hands upon others and fill up the quorum. Thus can this power and these keys be perpetuated in the earth.”  (Draft Declaration of the Twelve Apostles, ca. September 1844, reporting March 1844 meeting of Twelve, in Brigham Young Papers, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.)  (516 and 523 note 59)

Were Brigham Young and the other members the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles the legitimate and authorized successors to Joseph Smith in Church leadership?  Other claimants to that leadership have, of course, denied that they were.  And lately I’ve heard even some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints deny that the Twelve legitimately succeeded Joseph.  I will confess that this has shocked me and left me somewhat dismayed.   It should surprise nobody that, via its “Six Days in August” project, the Interpreter Foundation will come down forthrightly and unambiguously on the side of the Quorum of the Twelve as the proper and legitimate heirs to the Prophet Joseph Smith.


Posted from Park City, Utah



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