The Transfiguration of President Brigham Young on August 8th 1844

Being a Review of a Paper Written by Richard S. Van Wagoner

Transfiguration of Brigham Young




In 1995 Richard S. Van Wagoner, who is a Mormon author, released a paper on the 8th August 1844 Transfiguration of President Brigham Young. Wagoner’s paper was published in the Winter 1995 issue of Dialogue Magazine (Vol. 28, No. 4). The Transfiguration occurred during the Succession Crisis between Sidney Rigdon and President Young, and MANY, MANY, MANY accounts have been passed down to us by EYE WITNESSES who both SAW and HEARD this MOMENTOUS EVENT at the time it occured. However Wagoner utilizes the theories of so called “Social Scientists” in order to debunk and explain away these testimonials, and thereby reduces them to ABSOLUTE ZERO in historical value, and in the end he declares the whole event to be nothing but a “Mormon Myth”.

Wagoner’s greatest argument in support of his conclusions, is based on his claim that there were no accounts of the Transfiguration which were written down at the time it occurred. In continuing Wagoner turned a blind eye to some of his sources, and altogether failed to recognize others for what they most obviously are. For example even though Wagoner had access to President Young’s personal diary, and even though he referred to President Young’s entry for that day in his paper, yet he failed to recognize that President Young made direct reference to the Transfiguration and the appearance of “the Spirit of the Prophet”. On top of this, three days later, President Young wrote a letter to his daughter, who as of then was living in Massachusetts, wherein he referred to the appearance of the “Spirit of the Prophet”.

In adding to all this, of late there have been certain Mormon Fundamentalists who have taken up with Wagoner’s perspective, and who for this and other reasons have decided to throw President Young, together with the Quorum of the Twelve, under the Bus.

This then is the focus of this issue of Doctrine of the Priesthood, to Critique Wagoner’s paper where it concerns the Question of the Transfiguration, together with a Critical Look at what he said regarding Rigdon’s right to Succession, as opposed to President Young, and the Quorum of the Twelve. On top of this there will also be a response to the relevant claims of some Mormon Fundamentalists.


Benjamin F. JohnsonPATRIARCH BENJAMIN F. JOHNSON: 1 ¶ And I do further bear this as a testimony faithful and true, to the Church and to all the world — 2 That at a conference of the whole Church at Nauvoo, subsequent to the Prophet’s death and return of the absent Apostles — 3 That I sat in the assembly near to President Rigdon, closely attentive to his appeal to the conference, to recognize and sustain his claim as “Guardian for the Church.” . . . And as he closed his address and sat down my back was partly turned to the seat occupied by APOSTLE BRIGHAM YOUNG and other APOSTLES — 5 When suddenly and as from HEAVEN, I heard the voice of the PROPHET JOSEPH that thrilled my whole being. 6 And QUICKLY TURNING AROUND, I saw in the TRANSFIGURATION of BRIGHAM YOUNG the TALL, STRAIGHT and PORTLY FORM of the PROPHET JOSEPH SMITH, clothed in a SHEEN of LIGHT, covering him to his feet. 7 And I HEARD the REAL and PERFECT VOICE of the PROPHET even to the WHISTLE, as in years past caused by the loss of a TOOTH, said to have been BROKEN out by the MOB at Hiram [Ohio]. (Unpublished Revelations Vol 1, 3rd Ed. Part 70, p. 171–172)



We need to remember when considering the 1844 Succession Crisis, that only the initiates knew of the HOLY ORDER and KINGDOM of GOD or COUNCIL of FIFTY. So by and large, for the average member of the Church, the Succession Crisis was about who would replace the Prophet as PRESIDENT of the CHURCH, and not about the next PATRIARCH, PRIEST and KING over the KINGDOM of GOD. And yet this notwithstanding, there is not to be found in the record, so much as one speech that was given, that discussed SUCCESSION in the PRIESTHOOD from the PERSPECTIVE of the 107TH SECTION of the Doctrine and Covenants. Of course we know why this was so, because the initiates were talking about something else — something that the General members of the Church knew nothing of…

Brigham and Joseph Transfiguration


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  • What was the Prophet’s last conversation with Emma before he went to Carthage and died?
  • Who was Benjamin F. Johnson and what pertinent direction did Joseph Smith give him?
  • What is “APOSTOLIC INTERREGNUM” and why is it important to the context of this matter?
  • What are the Times of the Gentiles, the Times of Israel, and the Patriarchal Priesthood, and how do they relate to each other?
  • What were the options for Succession?
  • What was the Transfiguration of Brigham Young and just who witnessed it?
  • … and many more!

Eliza R. Snow wrote a poem in honor of President Young, wherein she referred to the Mantle of Joseph falling upon Brigham. This poem was published in the Times and Seasons on the 15th of February 1845. In poetic style, Eliza R. Snow alluded to the TRANSFIGURATION of PRESIDENT YOUNG, and how the MANTLE OF JOSEPH fell upon BRIGHAM, stating in the process that the same SPIRIT that INSPIRED the PROPHET JOSEPH SMITH’S heart, was now INSPIRING PRESIDENT YOUNG’S heart. Finally she correlated the SPIRIT of TRUTH” as referred to in John chapter 15 verse 26, with the SPIRIT of the PROPHET JOSEPH SMITH, and then affirmed that that same “GREAT SPIRIT of TRUTH” which directed the Prophet’s heart will now direct President Young in all his ways. Consider the following snippets of this poem {the whole of which can be found in the pdf}:

Like ELISHA of old, when ELIJAH fled

. . . . .

Thou hast gain’d, like ELISHA, a rich behest,
For the MANTLE of JOSEPH seems to REST Upon THEE,
while the SPIRIT and POW’R DIVINE,

[i.e. the Spirit of Joseph is now Inspiring Brigham,]

. . . . .

The GREAT SPIRIT of TRUTH [i.e. the Spirit of Joseph], will direct thy ways;
Generations to come, will repeat thy praise—

. . . . .

“To President Brigham Young,” Eliza R. Snow,
Times and Seasons, Vol. V1, No. 3, Whole No. 111,
February 15, 1845, (Nauvoo, Illinois), 815.

Read "The Transfiguration of Brigham Young" for 
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