On the morning of April 4, Joseph Smith and his mother crossed the Mississippi with an old friend of the family, James Gifford. Although the skiff was small, the day cold and rainy, and the passage rough, the difficulties did not deter Young Joseph Smith from an avowed purpose. He was enough the son of his father, and of his mother also, to adhere to a chosen purpose in spite of obstacles. Arriving in Amboy, they were ushered into a prayer meeting at the home of Stephen and Experience Stone. As they came into the little gathering the entire assembly, as if moved by one common impulse, arose and stood weeping for joy. Joseph spoke briefly, saying that if the same Spirit that prompted his coming should prompt his reception, he was "with them."
The next day conference met in a rented meeting place, known as Mechanics Hall. The morning was devoted to organization and preaching. At 1:30, the long-expected hour having arrived, Joseph Smith came forward, and Zenas H. Gurley, Sr., who had waited so long and so earnestly for this day, spoke with voice choked with emotion:
"I present to you, my brethren, Joseph Smith."
Acknowledging the introduction, the young man said:
I would say to you, brethren, as I hope you may be, and in faith I trust you are, as a people that God has promised his blessings upon, I came not here of myself, but by the influence of the Spirit. For sometime past I have received manifestations pointing to the position which I am about to assume.
I wish to say that I have come here not to be dictated by any men or set of men. I have come in obedience to a power not my own, and shall be dictated by the power that sent me.
God works by means best known to himself, and I feel that for some time past he has been pointing out a work for me to do.
For two or three years past deputations have been waiting on me urging me to assume the responsibilities of the leadership of the church, but I have answered each and every one of them that I did not wish to trifle with the faith of the people.
I do not propose to assume this position in order to amass wealth out of it, neither have I sought it as a profit.
I know opinions are various in relation to these matters. I have conversed with those who told me they would not hesitate one moment in assuming the high and powerful position as the leader of this people. But I have been well aware of the motives which might be ascribed to me--motives of various kinds, at the foundation of all which is selfishness, should I come forth to stand in the place where my father stood.
I have believed that should I come without the guarantee of the people, I should be received in blindness, and would be liable to be accused of false motives. Neither would I come to you without receiving favor from my Heavenly Father.
I have endeavored as far as possible, to keep myself unbiased. I never conversed with J. J. Strang, for in those days I was but a boy, and in fact am now but a boy. I had not acquired a sufficient knowledge of men to be capable of leading myself, setting aside the leading of others.
There is but one principle taught by the leaders of any faction of this people that I hold in utter abhorrence. That is a principle taught by Brigham Young and those believing in him. I have been told that my father taught such doctrines. I have never believed it and never can believe it. If such things were done, then I believe they never were done by Divine authority. I believe my father was a good man, and a good man never could have promulgated such doctrines.
I believe in the doctrines of honesty and truth. The Bible contains such doctrines, and so does the Book of Mormon and the Book of Covenants, which are auxiliaries to the Bible. I have my peculiar notions in regard to revelations, but am happy to say that they accord with those I am to associate with, at least those of them with whom I have conversed. I am not very conversant with those books [pointing to a volume before him], not so conversant as I should be and will be. The time has been when the thought that I should assume the leadership of this people was so repulsive to me, that it seemed as if the thing could never be possible.
The change in my feelings came slowly, and I did not suffer myself to be influenced by extraneous circumstances, and have never read the numerous works sent me which had a bearing on this subject for fear they might entice me into wrong doing. It is my determination to do right and let heaven take care of the result. Thus I come to you free from any taint of sectarianism, taints from thoughts of the varied minds I have come in contact with; and thus hope to be able to build up my own reputation as a man.
It has been said that a Mormon elder, though but a stripling, possessed a power unequalled by almost any other preacher. This arises from a depth of feeling and the earnestness with which they believe the doctrines they teach; and it is this feeling that I do not wish to trifle with. . . . .
Should you take me as a leader, I propose that all should be dealt by in mercy, open as to Gentile or Jew, but I ask not to be received except as by the ordinances of the church.
Some, who had ought to know the proprieties of the church, have told me that no certain form was necessary in order for me to assume the leadership--that the position came by right of lineage, yet I know that if I attempted to lead as a prophet by these considerations, and not by a call from heaven, men would not be led to believe who do not believe now. And so I have come not of my own dictation to this sacred office.
I believe that we owe duties to our country and to society, and are amenable to the laws of the land, and have always considered it my duty to act upon this principle; and I do say that among the people where I live I have as many good and true friends as I could desire among those of any society.
The people of Hancock County have been strongly anti-Mormon, and there I know of no enemies. I have been engaged in business with anti-Mormons, I have mingled with them, and have not only been obliged not to make any remarks which might give offense, but also to smother my own feelings, if I had any. I hold no enmity to any man living who has fought this doctrine, nor do I know any who hold enmity towards me. I hope there are none.
In conclusion, I will come to you if you will receive me, give my ability, and the influence my name may bring, together with what little power I possess, and I trust by your prayers and faith to be sustained. I pledge myself to promulgate no doctrine that shall not be approved by you or the code of good morals. . . .
I do not care to say any more at present, but will simply add that if the same Spirit which prompts my coming, prompts also my reception, I am with you.1
At the conclusion of this address, a motion was made by Isaac Sheen that Brother Joseph Smith be received as Prophet, Seer, Revelator, and successor to his father. A wave of assent swept the house, after which Emma Smith Bidamon, widow of Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, was received into fellowship on her original baptism. Young Joseph was then ordained President of the High Priesthood under the hands of Zenas H. Gurley, William Marks, Samuel Powers, and William W. Blair.2 Elder Gurley, his face lighted with pleasure, brought to a close the period of waiting by saying:
"Brother Joseph, I present this church to you in the name of Jesus Christ."
And the young man answered with his characteristic sincerity:
May God grant in his infinite mercy that I may never do anything to forfeit the high trust confided to me. I pray that he may grant to us power to recall the scattered ones of Israel, and I ask your prayers.
The selection and ordination of Joseph Smith overshadowed all other activities of this conference, nevertheless important selections were made to fill other positions in the growing movement. The Standing High Council was reorganized with twelve high priests, Isaac Sheen was ordained president of the high priests' quorum, and five of seven presidents of seventy were selected and ordained on that memorable April 6. Two other presidents of seventy were selected to be ordained later. Next day Israel L. Rogers was ordained Bishop of the church. Before the conference closed, quorums of elders, priests, teachers, and deacons had been organized, their officers ordained, and missions assigned.
1 The True Latter Day Saints' Herald, Volume 1, number 5, pages
2 The probability is that the ordination prayer was by Zenas H. Gurley, Sr. Isaac Sheen, who was editor of the Herald in 1860, wrote to George P. Dykes in December 26, 1868, and said that he forgot to say who the spokesman was, but that he had no design in the matter, and the omission having never before been called to his mind, he could only say, "I think that Zenas H. Gurley was the spokesman. . . . This I know, that when I moved before that conference that Brother Joseph be ordained President of the High Priesthood, I did it with an overflowing inspiration of the Holy Ghost. I know that he was called of God to that office, and I presume that many of the Saints who were there had the same evidence. After the conference voted unanimously, that he should be ordained. I led in prayer for him, his brethren, and mother, and the oppressed of Utah, and the Holy Spirit promoted me therein powerfully." From Sheen's Letter, an 8-page pamphlet. Date and place of publication not given, but probably Plano about 1869.