Issue #7 - June 2002
Recently, the Remnant Church announced the selection and ordination of Frederick Neils Larson as the President of the High Priesthood and the Church. Brother Larson is a descendant of Joseph Smith the Seer through the lineage of his mother Lois Smith Larson, daughter of Frederick Madison Smith. Brother Larson is being heralded by the Remnant Church as the "One Mighty and Strong" offering stability and strength to the traditional Saints who have been meeting in exile for several years. One must ask, however, is the appointment of Brother Larson in harmony with the traditional teachings and testimony of the Reorganized Church?
At the initial conference of the Reorganization in June 1852, several resolutions were considered and passed. A committee was appointed to write a pamphlet on the basis of these resolutions, for circulation, entitled, "A Word of Consolation."1 One of these resolutions stated: "Resolved, that, as the office of First President of the Church grows out of the authority of the Presiding High Priesthood, no person can legally lay claim to the office of First President of the Church, without a previous Ordination to the Presidency of the High Priesthood."2 The appointment of Brother Larson is in conflict with this resolution which is part of the organic law of the Church. Not only must the successor be an heir by lineage, but he must be named by the previous prophet/president of the Church as long as the previous prophet/president is living, regardless if he is in transgression or not.3
In the before mentioned pamphlet, "A Word of Consolation" a distinction was made between priesthood and the birthright, or the right to rule or lead. The birthright was declared to be a Patriarchal or Prophetic Priesthood. This priesthood of necessity was to be handed down by lineage from father to son according to the order of the Son of God. Joseph Smith, Jr., was an heir to this birthright and received the Priesthood by virtue of his lineage from his father, reaching back to Joseph of Egypt. Following the death of the Seer, the Latter-day Church was rescued through this Priesthood to which belong the blessings, prerogatives, and powers, called the birthright, with the coming of Joseph Smith III. Now Brother Larson has declared himself to be the possessor of this priesthood with the right to lead the Church, thus supplanting Wallace B. Smith as the rightful heir of the chosen seed to whom the promises were made.
Several years ago Brother R.V. Hopkins, who served under appointment as Pastor of Independence Stake with special attention on the Stone Church, had an experience regarding succession in the Presidency with particular insight relative to the lineage of F. M. Smith. He says:"Some few years after the experience of seeing Joseph III in vision, I had a manifestation which was not clear to me. I had it when I was pastor in Zion before 1925. I did not get the interpretation of it completely until Brother Elbert gave the message of inspiration designating Israel Smith to be leader of the church.
"I saw the Auditorium with its unfinished walls as it was at the 1946 Conference. On the rostrum were the three chairs of the presidency, all vacant. That is what happened when Fred M. died. The people waited. Then I saw Fred M. appear behind the chair at the left, not at the center where the president usually sits but standing behind the chair at the left, waiting to ordain, seemingly, one to take his place. And then I saw coming down the aisle the one they were waiting for. He was sick and weak and could hardly walk. He was thin and emaciated, almost skin and bones. He came and sat down in the seat and Fred M. stood above him, with the virility of the strength he had before he got sick. As he started to lay his hands on his head, he said, 'I cannot ordain this man; he is dead.' As he said those words, that old man who sat in that chair seemed to be Fred M. himself. Elbert appeared in the center chair where the president sits, and Fred M. fell into Elbert's arms.
"I told the experience to Elbert years ago and neither one of us could understand the meaning entirely. I did not grasp the meaning of it until the 1946 Conference, although I knew Brother Elbert would have something very important to do in the church.
"A few years ago he was on the verge of a breakdown and called me to administer to him at his house on Walnut Street. He thought his work was about done. When our nerves get us down, it seems like the end of everything. I said, 'Brother Elbert, your work is not done. You have an important task in this church yet, and you are going to live to complete it'. Elbert, for a short duration of time, occupied the prophetic presidency, and called the president. It was his right, having been called, and at the instigation of the Twelve having been requested to pray to the Lord for light.
"After Fred M.'s death, I related this vision to a friend and said, 'I cannot understand the meaning, that Fred M. would die and fall into Elbert's arms,' and in that second, there came to me the light of understanding. It referred to the end of his personal lineage. He had no son, and the power of any of his lineage to give revelation had ceased. I think the old man represented that. The lineage died with him, but the lineage of the Prophet remains, and the seed of the first prophet leads this church."4
As enticing as a new prophet to lead the Church may be, the Saints would do well to remember that the promises of the Lord are as a nail fastened in a sure place for those who wait with patience, for the Lord to redirect the Church according to His divine law.
1The History of The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Vol.3:213
3Doctrine and Covenants Section 43:1-24The Saints' Herald, 24 May, 1954