On 27 June 1844, Joseph Smith was assassinated, leaving behind several claimants to leadership with no clear process for selecting a successor. Using archival data, we reconstruct the complex network of relations that existed among 76 members of the early LDS Church hierarchy. This includes a mapping of formal ties within and between priesthood quorums as well as family and marriage ties. Drawing on Burt’s theory of structural holes and other formal methods of social network analysis, we examine the underlying structural factors that contributed to the resolution of the succession crisis. While Brigham Young was only one of several potential successors, our analysis uses formal models to evaluate his ability to gain control of the structure, eliminate contenders by restructuring the formal and informal network of relations to his advantage, and eventually to emerge as the new prophet and president of the Church.
Joseph West, D. Michael Quinn