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Remembering Nauvoo

Museum Treasures

This artifact is not currently on display.

A young English girl named Ann Eckford created this cross-stitch sampler of the Nauvoo Temple sometime between 1846 and 1849, probably as part of her formal education. At that time, most girls received an education that included embroidery both as a practical skill and as a way to reinforce moral virtues.1

Young Miss Eckford created this design based on a commemorative plate known as the Twigg plate, which was commissioned by a British missionary and produced in England in 1846.2

Both the plate and the sampler represent some of the “growing pains” in Latter-day Saint history, when policy and procedure were still unestablished. Around the edges of the plate and sampler are the names of Church leaders, but notice that there is no prophet and no First Presidency listed. The names represent the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with Brigham Young listed as President.

Twigg plate, 1846.

After the death of Joseph Smith in 1844, there was some confusion about who should lead the Church. Sidney Rigdon, who had served as Joseph’s first counselor but had become alienated from Joseph by the time of the martyrdom, claimed that he should be appointed “guardian” of the Church.3 The rest of the Quorum of the Twelve, however, were not convinced. Brigham Young said:

“I do not care who leads the church, . . . but one thing I must know, and that is what God says about it. I have the keys and the means of obtaining the mind of God on the subject. . . .

“Joseph conferred upon our heads all the keys and powers belonging to the Apostleship which he himself held before he was taken away, and no man or set of men can get between Joseph and the Twelve in this world or in the world to come.

“How often has Joseph said to the Twelve, ‘I have laid the foundation and you must build thereon, for upon your shoulders the kingdom rests.’”4

On Thursday, August 8, 1844, a special meeting was held to determine whether the Church would be led by Sidney Rigdon or by the Quorum of the Twelve. Sidney Rigdon pled his case for an hour and a half. When he was finished, Brigham Young spoke. While he was speaking, some members of the congregation saw him miraculously transfigured so that he sounded like the Prophet Joseph Smith.5 One witness, Zina Huntington, recorded, “President Young was speaking. It was the voice of Joseph Smith—not that of Brigham Young. His very person was changed. . . . I closed my eyes. I could have exclaimed, I know that is Joseph Smith’s voice! Yet I knew he had gone. But the same spirit was with the people.”6 Wilford Woodruff, who later served as President of the Church, testified, “If I had not seen him with my own eyes, there is no one that could have convinced me that it was not Joseph Smith speaking.”7

When the vote was taken, all in attendance voted to follow the Quorum of the Twelve.8 Brigham Young retained his place as senior Apostle and President of the Quorum. Three years later, Brigham Young was sustained as President of the Church, and the First Presidency was reestablished.9

Similar gaps in the Presidency of the Church occurred after the deaths of Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff. In each case, the Church was led by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles until a new First Presidency was called. Before his death, Wilford Woodruff instructed Lorenzo Snow, who was President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the time, that the Lord desired to have the First Presidency reorganized soon after the death of the prophet. This policy has been followed to this day.10

Footnotes

[1] “The A, B, C’s of Schoolgirl Samplers: Girls’ Education and Needlework from a Bygone Era,” Valerie J. Davis, Milwaukee Public Museum, accessed Dec. 15, 2014, mpm.edu.

[2] “Nauvoo Temple Plate,” history.lds.org.

[3] “The Twelve to Bear Off the Kingdom,” Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual, 2nd ed. (Church Educational System manual, 2003), 289–91.

[4] History of the Church, 7:230; “The Twelve to Bear Off the Kingdom,” 291.

[5] “The Twelve to Bear Off the Kingdom,” 291–93.

[6] “The Twelve to Bear Off the Kingdom,” 291–92.

[7] “The Twelve to Bear Off the Kingdom,” 292.

[8] “The Twelve to Bear Off the Kingdom,” 293.

[9] “The Twelve to Bear Off the Kingdom,” 334–36.

[10] Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1992), “Succession in the Presidency,” 3:1420–21.