The relationship between Joseph Smith and Brigham Young was, at times, tumultuous. The two were key figures in the early years and assembly of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).
Joseph Smith, who founded the LDS Church in 1830, led the organization through its early years and oversaw the publication of the Book of Mormon, the church’s sacred scripture. However, his leadership was not without controversy, and he faced significant opposition from both within and outside the church.
Why Did Smith & Young Have a Falling Out?
Brigham Young, one of Smith’s closest associates, emerged as a leading figure in the LDS Church after Smith’s death in 1844. Young, who had been ordained as an apostle of the church, was appointed to succeed Smith as the president of the LDS Church and led the church through a period of significant expansion and growth.
Despite their close association, Smith and Young experienced a significant falling out in the years leading up to Smith’s death. According to some accounts, the two men disagreed on a number of key issues, including the direction of the church and Smith’s decision to introduce a practice known as “plural marriage,” or polygamy.
Once Young became the president of the LDS Church and began to publicly teach and defend the practice of polygamy.
The Argument Over Plural Marriage (Polygamy)
It is not clear exactly why Smith and Young disagreed about polygamy, but it is possible that Young came to believe in the practice as a way to strengthen the church and its members. Some historians have suggested that Young saw polygamy as a way to increase the number of children born to church members, as well as a way to unite the church and its members in a common cause. Others have argued that Young saw polygamy as a way to protect and provide for the women and children in the church, many of whom had been widowed or otherwise left without male support.
Regardless of the reasons for their disagreement, it is clear that polygamy played a significant role in the relationship between Smith and Young, and it remains a controversial and divisive issue within the LDS Church to this day.
Emma Smith & Brigham Young: A Cold Relationship
The issue of whether or not to practice polygamy also created a strain in Joseph Smith’s marriage to his wife, Emma Smith. With Young being in favor of the practice and Emma being opposed, a natural tension was born. What drove the wedge deeper was that other influential and respected figures, like Orson Pratt, was also initially opposed plural marriage and voiced his opposition with fever.
Emma was fiercely loyal to her husband and may have felt that polygamy was a betrayal of their marriage and their commitment to each other.
Another reason Emma may not have liked Young is that he played a key role in the succession crisis that followed Joseph Smith’s death in 1844. Emma was deeply devoted to her husband and may have felt that Young and other church leaders were not acting in the best interests of her husband or the church.
Brigham Young’s Controversial Succession To Prophet and President
After Smith’s death, Young was chosen to lead the church because he was one of Smith’s closest associates and had been ordained as an apostle of the church, a position of leadership and authority within the organization.
Young was not the only person who was considered as a potential successor to Smith. After Smith’s death, there was a succession crisis within the LDS Church, as several different individuals and groups claimed the right to lead the organization.
Some of the individuals who were considered as potential successors to Smith included:
- Sidney Rigdon, who was a member of the First Presidency, the highest governing body of the LDS Church. Rigdon claimed the right to lead the church based on his position as Smith’s first counselor.
- James Strang, who claimed to have a letter from Smith appointing him as the successor to Smith’s presidency. Strang founded his own church, known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite), and attracted a small following.
- William Smith, the younger brother of Joseph Smith. William Smith claimed the right to lead the LDS Church based on his relationship to Joseph Smith and his position as an apostle of the church.
Ultimately, Young emerged as the leader of the LDS Church after a series of meetings and debates among church leaders and members. Young was able to unite the church and bring stability to the organization, and he is remembered as one of the most influential leaders in the history of the LDS Church.
Despite their differences, Young remained loyal to Smith and was deeply saddened by his death. After assuming leadership of the LDS Church, Young worked to unite the organization and move it forward, and he is remembered as one of the most influential leaders in the history of the LDS Church.