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John Taylor is the “One” Man 

          A few weeks after the death of Brigham Young in October General Conference, John Taylor was sustained as President of the Quorum of the Twelve, the presiding apostle on earth. The next day he taught: “You voted yesterday that the Twelve should be Prophets, Seers, and Revelators...  this is embraced in the Apostleship, which has been given by the Almighty, and which embraces all the keys, powers and authorities ever conferred upon man.”[1]

          At that same conference, Apostle George Q. Cannon explained:

          Every man who is ordained to the fullness of Apostleship,[2] has the power and the authority to lead and guide the people of God whenever he is called upon to it, and the responsibility rests upon him...  And while it is the right of all the Twelve Apostles to receive revelation, and for each one to be a Prophet, to be a Seer, to be a Revelator, and to hold the keys in the fullness, it is only the right of one man at a time to exercise that power in relation to the whole people, and to give revelation and counsel, and direct the affairs of the Church... It is governed by men who hold the keys of the Apostleship, who have the right and authority.  Any one of them, should an emergency arise, can act as President of the Church, with all the powers, with all the authority, with all the keys, and with every endowment necessary to obtain revelation from God, and to lead and guide this people in the path that leads to the celestial glory; but there is only one man at a time who can hold the keys, who can dictate, who can guide, who can give revelation to the Church.  The rest must acquiesce in his action, the rest must be governed by his counsels, the rest must receive his doctrines.[3]   

Two years later John Taylor remarked: “We are going to go on with our temples and administer in them in the name of the Lord.  We shall enter therein and be baptized for the living and the dead and stand as saviors upon Mount Zion.”[4]

          It took over three years for the First Presidency to be reorganized, then George Q. Cannon was called as First Counselor in the First Presidency.  Regarding the apostolic succession at the time of Brigham Young’s death, he reflected: “In various ways God sustained [Brigham Young] to the time of his death.  All the authority, all the power, all the keys, and all the blessings that were necessary for the guidance of this people he held.  He held them as his fellow-servants, the Apostles, held them; only he, being the senior, had the right to preside, and did preside, God sustaining him in so doing.”  President Cannon went on to explain: “Then when he died there was no need for any peculiar or overpowering manifestation, such as was witnessed when the Prophet Joseph died, because the authority of the Priesthood was recognized, and among the Twelve there was no dissent.  We all knew the man whose right it was to preside, there being no doubt upon this matter.  We knew he had the authority.  We knew that there was only one man at a time upon the earth that could hold the keys of the kingdom of God, and that man was the presiding Apostle.”[5]

          While publicly President Taylor was defiant and resistant to compromises with federal authorities, privately he was more conforming. In his personal correspondence, John Taylor often reflected this sentiment: “If a man enter into the everlasting covenant with one wife, with full purpose of heart to keep the commandments, and through circumstances is deprived of going further, he may be justified.”[6]  In another letter he wrote: “Circumstances do not always place it in the power of man to enter into this Covenant, and these matters are left with the Lord to adjust.”[7]

          As D. Michael Quinn concluded: “Despite the almost universal historical view that John Taylor refused to compromise the practice of plural marriage, he actually promoted an undercurrent of compromise throughout his entire presidency.  Although he gave encouragement, revelation, and an ultimatum for presiding officers of the Church to be polygamists, more than a third of president Taylor’s appointments as General Authorities were monogamists, including two of his sons.”[8]       

          President Taylor went into hiding in 1885 and would not live to see a resolution to the “polygamy question.”  Just as the political storm clouds darkened, John Taylor passed away on the “underground,” 25 July 1887. 


[1]   JD 19:124, 7 October 1877.

[2]   Some fundamentalist leaders have taught there are two levels of apostleship, one that contains a “fulness” and one that is less.  See Truth  4:132, 175.  Rulon C. Allred, Treasures of Knowledge, 1:108-09.  If different levels of apostleship exist, it appears that no one prior to Joseph Musser ever mention two distinct levels.  Neither is their any record of a man being ordained to anything less than a “full” apostleship.  Brigham Young taught: “The keys of the eternal Priesthood, which is after the order of the Son of God, are comprehended by being an Apostle.  All the Priesthood, all the keys, all the gifts, all the endowments, and everything preparatory to entering into the presence of the Father and of the Son, are in, composed of, circumscribed by, or I might say incorporated within the circumference of, the Apostleship.”  (JD 1:134-35.)

[3]  JD 19:234-35, 8 October 1877.

[4]  JD 21:167.

[5]  JD 23:364, 29 October, 1882.

[6]  Letter dated 26 January 1881, Taylor and Taylor, John Taylor Papers, 2:177.  In Brian Stuy, Collected Discourses 2:xxii.

[7]  Letter dated 19 January 1883, CD 2:xxii; Bishop, 1886 Visitation of Jesus Christ, 30-31.

[8]   Quinn, “New Plural Marriages,” 31.