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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was originally founded by Joseph Smith believed to be a prophet of God. After his death he was followed by Brigham Young and after Brighams death it was followed by John Taylor.

This pattern of a prophet dying and then a new one being called appears to be repeated again and again in the LDS church.

What is the usual process that is followed for calling a new prophet?

How is the decision made and by whom?

Were there any prophets called by a different process or unusual circumstances?

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The Church had been initially organized in 1830 with Joseph Smith as the first Elder and Oliver Cowdery as the second. In 1832, Joseph Smith organized a First Presidency and appointed two counselors. One of these was Sidney Rigdon, The other was excommunicated in 1833 and his replacement disappeared about 1837. Oliver Cowdery had been appointed Assistant President; when he was excommunicated in 1838, Joseph Smith's brother Hyrum Smith was appointed to the position. Other counselors had been appointed, but most of these had either died or left the church.

Following the death of Joseph Smith, it was not entirely clear who should lead the church. One of the two principal claimants at a Church conference called within a few months was Sidney Rigdon, who made a claim based on his long service as counselor to and spokesman for Joseph Smith, although he had become somewhat disassociated from the main body of the Church. The other was Brigham Young, who claimed that the office of leadership should have gone to Hyrum Smith who had been killed along with Joseph, but that the next highest authority was the Twelve apostles, of which he was the senior and president. The conference accepted the leadership of the apostles, and rejected that of Sidney Rigdon. Three years later, in 1847 after returning from the pioneering expedition to the Salt Lake Valley to Iowa where most of the members of the Church were in temporary quarters, Brigham Young proposed reorganization of the First Presidency, with himself as the President of the Church.

Since that time, established practice and doctrine has it that the President of the Church is the supreme authority in the Church, below Christ himself. He is assisted by two (or occasionally more) counselors whom he selects. These form a First Presidency and are the highest governing body.

The next highest body is the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. When a President of the church dies, the First Presidency is dissolved and the counselors resume whatever position they had prior to their call to the First Presidency. They have almost always been apostles and members of the Quorum of the twelve Apostles, but there have been a few exceptions. The twelve apostles are then the interim highest governing body, until such time as they, after prayer and by revelation, decide to reorganize the First Presidency. The man chosen as President of the Church has always been the senior living apostle (as determined by continuous length of service). It would be a major departure from the established order for anyone else to be named.

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An important thing to recognize in attempting to properly and fully address this question is there is a distinction between the offices of responsibility of the Lord's Anointed Prophet and the President of the Church. They are entirely separate hats, so to speak.

Joseph Smith Jr. was one person who wore both hats. Prior to the organization of the church body, there was a priesthood body organized as well. Even though people could be members of both bodies, they are indeed distinct bodies. Entrance into these bodies is a process of entering into the associated covenants. There are distinctly different covenants involved when a person becomes a member of the church and when a person joins the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood bodies.

Joseph Smith Jr. was the president of both the masculine priesthood body as well as of the feminine church body. The masculine priesthood body was called for in Section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants and it was called the School of the Prophets and its president was the Lord's Anointed Prophet. This is more precisely understood as the individual to whom God would give the gift to receive the oracles.

This office of Lord's Anointed Oracle is the same as was anciently held by Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and so on. This is the body of authority that has responsibility over the kings and the priests. This is why Jesus came to John the Baptist in order to have his right to be revered as a King and a Priest recognized and to receive his anointing as such. A similar relationship existed between Jethro and Moses as well.

This office of Lord's Anointed is not something that man has any say in whatsoever. God only ever has one man serving in this capacity at a time. And, it is whoever God calls and speaks to. It is upon the people to hear the words spoken through the oracle and to get their own witness or confirmation that God is speaking through them. This is why under the ancient law if a man presumed to do this and was found to be deceived and/or dishonest in the matter the punishment was very severe. Also, once a man served in this capacity he would remain such for all the remainder of his life and often times there would be specific instructions from God on who the successor would be. In other cases there wouldn't be any successor because of the unrighteousness of the people and/or the oracle.

Where things became to appear that the office of the president of the churh and the office of the Lord's Anointed Prophet were one and the same is from DC 90:3-5 where Joseph Smith Jr. is told who the successor to hold the oracle shall be. He was told the oracle would go to another, even the church. So, rather than being given to an actual individual, the oracle would go to the body of the church collectively. Therefore, so long as it remained worthy of the gift, the president of the church would also be the successor to the office of the Lord's Anointed Prophet and be the oracle. Therefore, upon the passing of Joseph Smith Jr., the process the church uses to call a new church president is also the defacto process by which the oracle would be passed on.

The basis upon which a new presiding high priest is selected to become the president of the church is that he is "chosen by the body" and "upheld by the faith, confidence and prayers" of the saints. In other words, it was the body of high priests who gathered together and held some kind of a convention to determine how this was done. Apostolic seniority was the process decided upon by the body of priesthood brethren and so this is what has been used ever since to determine who the new president of the church would be, which also had ramifications upon who the oracle would be as well. Therefore, not only was Brigham Young the rightful president of the church, he was also the rightful successor of the office of Lord's Anointed Oracle.

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