How Well Do You Know Mormon Church Leaders of the Past?

Last month (March 2011) Ensign magazine included a challenge titled “How Well Do You Know Our Church Leaders?” It consisted of 15 details from the lives of the 15 current Prophets, Seers and Revelators of the LDS Church. Readers were invited to match the names with the facts.

The Ensign challenge included things like figuring out which leader once raised rabbits or worked on an oyster boat. The lives of LDS leaders throughout the history of the Mormon Church reflect much more interesting details than those included in the Ensign article. So I here add my own version of “How Well Do You Know Mormon Church Leaders of the Past?” See if you can match the following eight names of early Church leaders with events or other details from their lives. Answers and references follow, but see how well you can do without peeking.

  1. Apostle Jedediah Grant
  2. Apostle Amasa Lyman
  3. Apostle Franklin D. Richards
  4. President Sidney Rigdon
  5. President Joseph Smith
  6. Apostle* David Whitmer
  7. President Wilford Woodruff
  8. President Brigham Young

A. When returning to Salt Lake City after a mission, this leader and his travelling companions overtook the Willie Handcart Company, stopping for a night to encourage the pioneers. After promising that they would all end their journey in the “Valleys of the Mountains with strong and healthy bodies,” this leader asked Captain Willie for “fresh meat” and took the Company’s fattest calf.

B. This leader was sealed to four hundred unmarried women ancestors in a single day.

C. He accused his wife of attempting to murder him by putting poison in his coffee.

D. This Mormon leader said he received a revelation from God telling him to separate himself from the Latter-day Saints because they had “gone deep into error and blindness.”

E. Speaking of the sinful actions of some Latter-day Saints, this leader publicly called for a place to be designated where the blood of covenant-breakers could be shed.

F. According to the Law of Adoption practiced in the early Mormon Church, this man was sealed to someone who was later convicted of mass murder.

G. In a fiery and memorable sermon, this leader declared a “war of extermination” against non-Mormons.

H. Hosting and participating in séances and automatic writing, this Mormon leader fully embraced the “spiritualist underground” operating all throughout Utah.

* While not usually listed among LDS apostles, D&C 18:9, Brigham Young, and Larry Porter writing for the Ensign, all indicate that David Whitmer was called as an apostle.



A. 3, Roberts, Devils Gate: Brigham Young and the Great Mormon Handcart Tragedy, 162-164; B. 7, Van Wagoner & Walker, A Book of Mormons, 399; C. 5, Newell & Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 164; D. 6, Whitmer, An Address To All Believers in Christ, 27; E. 1, Journal of Discourses 4:49-50; F. 8, Van Wagoner & Walker, A Book of Mormons, 156; G. 4, LeSueur, The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri, 50-51; H. 2, Avery, From Mission to Madness, 186-188.

Good friend Mike Tea has also compiled a version of the Ensign challenge. Take a look at The Mormon Chapbook.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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15 Responses to How Well Do You Know Mormon Church Leaders of the Past?

  1. f_melo says:

    I only got one right… what a shame. Maybe i wasn´t that good of a mormon for not noing my history, maybe that´s why i left 😉

  2. falcon says:

    Well this was really informative and entertaining but, I must add, not really "faith promoting" so not really useful and should be avoided………………..because it will, if you are Mormon, make you feel bad!
    BTW, if it makes you feel bad, does that mean it's not true?

  3. Kate says:

    I only got 3 right. Sometimes what I learn in mormon history makes my skin crawl. I don' t think that I would have been a very good mormon back then. Can you imagine sitting in the Tabernacle and listening to someone like Brigham Young speaking from the pulpit? I wonder how many would stay mormon if Brigham Young was the prophet speaking today.

  4. Brian says:

    Dear Kate,

    That is a good point you make. Imagine if the current leader was like Brigham Young?

    When LDS people are shown the teachings of their early leaders, they react in various ways. Often:

    1. In surprise
    2. In anger (at the person showing them the teaching)
    3. In denial (it must be something made up)

    Though the reaction varies, its meaning does not:

    1. They don't know what their leaders taught
    2. They don't believe what their leaders taught

  5. wyomingwilly says:

    The first one ("A") was familiar because I referenced this Apostle ( Franklin Richards) in how LDS
    are set up to being misled by their leaders. According to one handcart captain , Apostle Richards
    prophecised in God's name that these LDS travelers would arrive safety in Salt Lake City. Yet many
    perished. This speaks volumes on why LDS should not put so much trust in their feelings(personal
    revelation) and it also speaks volumes on how Mormon leaders have not always been reliable spiritual
    guides. Mormons take seriously the promise by their leaders that they won't be misled, but that
    is simply false, whether we're talking in a physical context or in a spiritual context. ww

  6. Mike Thomas says:

    Hang on a minute! Poison in his coffee? What was he doing drinking coffee? Is this the Word of Wisdom or the Word of Whimsy?

  7. falcon says:

    OK you guys, lets be fair here. None of this means that the church isn't true. Let me repeat that, none of this means that the church isn't true, none of this means that the church isn't true, none of this means that the church isn't true, look into my eyes, deeper, deeper, your eyelids are getting heavy, you are feeling sleepy, you cannot keep your eyes from closing, good………………… when I snap my fingers you will wake-up and you will repeat…………..none of this means the church isn't true. I'm going to count backwards now 10, 9, 8…………………………………………..

  8. Kate says:

    While I was waiting for my confirmation letter out of the LDS church I happened across this website and I think you may find it interesting. I was flabbergasted to say the least. It's speaking to those who are having issues with mormonism and gives some very interesting advice to those who are thinking about leaving. I especially loved the advice given on how to handle a temple interview. Anyways, check it out!

  9. wyomingwilly says:

    What do the Mormon people actually know about their leaders ? Not enough of the really important things.
    Given the authoritative structure of the Mormon church it is'nt easy to know what is really going on with
    it's leaders. Mormons are counseled to " follow the prophet ", that "unquestioning obedience" to the Lord
    is measured by your submission to the prophet. This results in , unquestioning faith in all the doctrines
    of the "restored" gospel , This arrangement is a recipe for spiritual deception.

  10. falcon says:

    The "I feel it so it must be true because that's the Holy Ghost speaking to me" scenario in Mormonism is what keeps the questioning or wavering Mormon in the fold. It's when the questioner comes to the point where they begin to question this "technique" for determining truth that the avalanche begins. Because without the "feeling" why would anyone stay in Mormonism? Now that "feeling" could also be fear or a sense of foreboding. Fear is a great motivator in that fear of loss is a greater (motivator) than the desire for gain.
    What does someone gain when they leave Mormonism? Right off the top they gain freedom. That's a scary thing for some people because now they don't have the structure of the organization or the leaders at the top telling them what to do. Now they are true free agents to choose how, when, where and why they will order their lives.
    The most obvious gain, however, is that a person now discovers who God really is and what the pathway to salvation is according to His dictates and not that of a false religious group.

  11. wyomingwilly says:

    I got to thinking about how much sincere Mormons are counseled to submit to their leaders.
    Relying on their testimony , an inner conviction that these men are trustworthy in their role as
    authoritative spiritual guides. There have been just to many instances in Mormon history that
    would reject all this however. Did sincere Mormons know that joseph Smith was secretly after
    women even marrying many of them? Did sincere Mormons know that some of their leaders
    were facilitating plural marriages after promising the U,S. government in 1890 that this practice
    was longer to be practiced by LDS ? What about the money ? Do mormons today know how
    much their leaders are given financially ? Where does the money go ? [ part 1 ]

  12. wyomingwilly says:

    [ part 2 ]
    What about Elder Paul Dunn ? A General Authority, who became a role model for many LDS
    as a inspirational speaker sharing about events in his life. Then a reporter did an extended
    research into his claims and found that many things that he had testified to was actually just
    made up by him, they were'nt true at all. Did Mormons know this about him ? What about Elder
    Richard Lyman, an apostle who for years secretly carried on in adultery and yet year after
    year he was sustained in General Conference by all sincere Mormons. Mormons by their
    personal revelation, by an inner conviction , were convinced he was doing a faithful job !
    Because of the way Mormons have been led to believe they need a "living prophet" in order to
    know the truth about God , and to establish a correct relationship with Him, have been thus
    misled by false prophets and apostles. Mormons don't know vital things about their leaders.

  13. wyomingwilly says:

    [ part 3 ]
    But why don't sincere Mormons know much about their leaders, or even worse, why don't many
    mormons seem to care that their leaders have taught some false doctrine on fundamental issues?
    The key to understanding this has been explained by Elder Robert Oaks : " For us to believe 'all
    things' means to believe the doctrine of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as well as the words
    of the Latter-day prophets. It means to successfully erase our doubts and reservations. It means
    that in making spiritual commitments, we are prepared to hold nothing back. "

    God help those precious Mormons who have erased any doubts about "following the prophet".
    May they come to their senses . Jesus said "Beware" of false prophets.

  14. Kate says:


    This comment is so true. The one thing that was really shocking for me and hard to grasp at first was the simplicity that is in Christ. Mormonism is definately not simple. Feels good to be FREE!!!

  15. Strong Tower says:

    Jeremiah 17:9 – The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

    Because the wicked always have some excuse to defend their doings he shows that their own lewd imaginations deceive them and bring them to these hardships: but God will examine their deeds by the malice of their hearts, 1Sa 16:7,1Ch 28:9,Ps 7:10,Jer 11:20,10:12,Re 2:13.

    Psalm 146:3 – Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.

    From the Geneva Study Bible

    Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

    That God may have the whole praise: in which he forbids all vain confidence showing that by nature we are more inclined to put our trust in creatures, than in God the Creator.

    God’s Word is truth..and if you compare it with your leaders, they cannot stand against it. You are responsible and accountable to God if you choose to follow anyone whose teachings are not biblical. In Christ’s love…

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