BRIEF HISTORY: “Joseph Smith Jr. appointed James J. Strang to be his successor with a document that survives at Yale University. Scholars have determined that it has an authentic postmark ‘Nauvoo, June 19, 1844’ on an envelope addressed in the same hand as the whole document. The envelope is block-printed in a style strikingly similar to that occasionally used by Hyrum Smith’s scribe, but is probably in the rare printing of Joseph Smith Jr. himself. The text of the document matches the language, style, and passion of Joseph Smith Jr. The letter convinced John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Martin Harris, Hiram Page, John E. Page, William McLellin, William Smith, Emma Smith, the sisters of Joseph Smith, William Marks, George Miller, and an array of other scribes and family members who would have known Joseph Smith Jr.’s style. Joseph Smith Jr. had written revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants that said he alone had the keys to receive revelations for the church, and indicated that he would eventually appoint another in his stead. James J. Strang announced that he had been ordained by angels in the same hour that Joseph Smith Jr. was killed, but he and Smith were two hundred miles apart. James J. Strang translated metallic plates and eleven witnesses signed testimonies that they saw the plates—none ever denied their testimony.” -from the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly called Strangites. [source]
COMMENTARY: Most Mormons today don’t know about James Strang or that the church he founded still has believing members. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints based in Salt Lake City presents to its members only a single succession story after Joseph Smith’s death: that of Brigham Young. While James Strang continued Joseph’s legacy with revelations, translations, and visions, Brigham Young didn’t claim any of those things. If the only reason members believe that Brigham Young truly was the successor of Joseph Smith is that they are not presented any other options, I think their faith is based on false pretenses. But what do I know? I’m just another apostate.