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Conflict in the Quorum: Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, Joseph Smith


In a recent article on John Taylor’s ascension to the LDS presidency, Patrick A. Bishop criticized my use of a source in Conflict in the Quorum.1  Specifically, he asserted that I misrepresented Brigham Young’s April 1861 statement regarding seniority in the church hierarchy. According to Young, “The oldest man—the senior member of the first Quorum[—]will preside, each in his turn, until every one of them has passed away.”2 Bishop contended that “this quotation, however, is taken out of context … The context of this talk … was the Quorums of the Seventy and not the Quorum of the Twelve.”3

Bishop makes two mistakes. First, I drew in large measure on the earlier pioneering work of Reed Durham and Steven Heath.4 They were the first to point out, as I noted,5 that Young’s views evolved over time, shifting from chronological age (up to April 1861) to the date of one’s ordination to the apostleship (beginning six months later in October 1861).

Second, the official report of General Conference for April6 makes it clear that in the midst of his remarks on the Seventies, Young digressed to talk explicitly about seniority in the Twelve. In a portion of his remarks which Bishop failed to quote in full, Young said:

Brother Orson Hyde is the senior man in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, of those first chosen into that Quorum. This calls him, by his age, to be the President of that Quorum. Now, I will go a step further for your consideration. The oldest man—the senior member of the first Quorum[—]will preside, each in his turn until every one of them has passed away. The next Quorum that comes into action may take the senior man for a president, but not until the first Quorum is gone. Brother Orson Hyde and brother Orson Pratt, senior[,] are the only two that are now left in the Quorum of the Twelve that brother Joseph Smith selected. Perhaps there are a great many here who never thought of these ideas, and never heard anything said about them.

For Young, at least in April 1861, an apostle’s chronological age was the determining factor in establishing seniority in that Quorum of the Twelve as originally constituted by Joseph Smith.

  1. Patrick A. Bishop, “Precept upon Precept: The Succession of John Taylor,” Champion of Liberty: John Taylor (BYU Religious Studies Center, 2009), 233-71.
  2. See Conflict, 262.
  3. Champion, 241.
  4. Reed Durham and Steven Heath, Succession in the Church (Bookcraft, 1970), 64-67.
  5. Conflict, 262n4.
  6. Millennial Star, 23:370.