Lyman Wight

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Lyman Wight
President of the Church of Christ[1]
1844 – 1858
Predecessor Joseph Smith
Successor None
Reason Succession crisis
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 8, 1841 (1841-04-08) – December 3, 1848 (1848-12-03)
Called by Joseph Smith, Jr.
End reason Excommunicated for apostasy
Latter Day Saint Apostle
April 8, 1841 (1841-04-08) – December 3, 1848 (1848-12-03)
Called by Joseph Smith, Jr.
Reason Replenishing Quorum of the Twelve[2]
End reason Excommunicated for apostasy
at end of term
Charles C. Rich, Lorenzo Snow, Erastus Snow, and Franklin D. Richards ordained[3]
Personal details
Born (1796-05-09)May 9, 1796
Fairfield, New York, United States
Died March 31, 1858(1858-03-31) (aged 61)
Mountain Valley, Texas, United States

Lyman Wight (May 9, 1796 – March 31, 1858) was an early leader in the Latter Day Saint movement. He was the leader of the Latter Day Saints in Daviess County, Missouri in 1838. In 1841, he was ordained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. After the death of Joseph Smith, Jr. resulted in a succession crisis, Wight led his own group of Latter Day Saints to Texas, where they created a settlement. While in Texas, Wight broke with other factions of Latter Day Saints, including the group led by Brigham Young. Wight was ordained president of his own church, but he later sided with the claims of William Smith and eventually of Joseph Smith III. After his death, most of the "Wightites" (as members of this church were called) joined with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Early life[edit]

Lyman Wight was born to Levi Wight Jr. and Sarah Corbin in Fairfield, New York. He fought in the War of 1812. on January 5, 1823, he married Harriet Benton in Henrietta, New York. Sometime around 1826 he moved to Warrensville, Ohio, and was baptized into the Reformed Baptist (later Disciples of Christ or Campbellite) faith by Sidney Rigdon in May 1829. In February 1840 he united with Isaac Morley and others in forming a common stock utopian society in Kirtland, Ohio.

Service in the church[edit]

He was baptized by Oliver Cowdery in 1830. He was ordained a high priest in June 1831. He claimed to have seen Jesus Christ. Shortly afterwards, he went to Missouri, and later Cincinnati, Ohio to preach. There he baptized over 100 people.

Jackson County conflict and Zion's Camp[edit]

With many of his converted people, he went to settle in Independence, Missouri, to build the "City of Zion". The Mormons in Jackson County were at odds with their non-Mormon neighbors, who resorted to vigilantism to drive the church from the county. In one scuffle with a vigilante group, Wight outran them on bare horseback by jumping over a ditch that they could not jump.

On July 23, 1833, Wight signed an agreement with the vigilantes which specified that the Latter Day Saints would leave Jackson County by 1834. The saints were driven out anyway into neighboring Clay County. The church membership called on several elders to go up to Kirtland to tell Joseph Smith about the events. When the elders refused, Lyman stepped forward to make the journey, despite his wife being ill with a three-day old child and only three days of food. Parley P. Pratt also volunteered to go with Wight.

He arrived in Kirtland, Ohio on February 22, 1834. Two days later he and Pratt testified about the conflict in Missouri to the newly formed high council. This led to the organization of Zion's Camp. Joseph sent out men, two by two, to recruit volunteers. Lyman left on April 21 with Hyrum Smith to recruit from the northwest. Recruitment was difficult, as many people did not want to leave their homes to defend someone else's. Hyrum and Lyman recruited about twenty individuals, including Hosea Stout, who was not a Church member but was impressed with their preaching. They met with the main company on June 8 at the Salt River in Missouri, bringing the total to 207 men, 11 women, 11 children, and 25 wagons.

Lyman tolerated the conditions of the rest of the company including the eating of moldy and rancid food, under the promises from Joseph Smith that they would not be afflicted by it. After a 900-mile march, the members of the camp reached Missouri where they were smitten with cholera. They were then discharged without having accomplished their goal of returning the Latter Day Saints to Jackson County. At the end of Zion's Camp, Lyman Wight wrote up the discharge orders, and remained in Missouri according to Joseph's command.

Itinerant preaching[edit]

For the remainder of 1834, he worked making bricks in Missouri, and built a large brick house for Colonel Arthur of Clay County, employing several others, including Wilford Woodruff.

In 1835, he was encouraged to travel to the temple at Kirtland. While on the journey, he preached. He stopped by Richmond, Indiana. He knew that people in the area were antagonistic towards the church, yet he made an appointment to preach at the courthouse. At the appointed time, he went to the courthouse. People with tar and feathers filled the room, ready to lynch him. The event is described thus:

He preached about two hours, reproving them most severely for their meanness, wickedness and mobocratic spirit. At the close of the meeting he said, "If there is a gentleman in this congregation, I wish he would invite me to stay with him overnight." Whereupon, a gentleman stepped forward and tendered him an invitation, which he willingly accepted. His host said, "Mr Wight, it is astonishing how you have become so well acquainted with the people here, for you have described them very correctly." He was kindly entertained and furnished with money in the morning to aid him on his journey.

Mormon leader in Daviess County[edit]

Residence of Lyman Wight at Adam-ondi-Ahman in 1838 (lean-to on the end of building is not part of the original residence)

Staying the winter in Kirtland, Lyman set out to return to Missouri in 1836. In 1837, David W. Patten accused him of teaching false doctrine, for which he was tried before the high council in Far West. Being found guilty, he made the necessary acknowledgments.

Settling near the Grand River in Daviess County, Missouri on about February 1, 1838, Lyman Wight built a house and later a ferry which became known as "Wight's Ferry". On May 19, 1838, Joseph Smith, Jr. paid a visit to Lyman's home and ferry, and used his home as the headquarters during his visit. It was from his house that Smith received revelation about Adam-ondi-Ahman and foretold the future gathering there.

On June 28, 1838, at a conference of local church members, Joseph Smith organized a stake at Adam-ondi-Ahman with Joseph's uncle John Smith as president, and Reynolds Calhoon and Lyman Wight as counselors. With the organization, members began settling in the area, including new members and refugees from Kirtland, Ohio.

Wight had also become a Colonel in the 50th regiment of the Missouri Regiment, in the state militia, under the command of General H. G. Parks. By end of June, he was also head of the Danite organization in Daviess County. Between his several roles, Wight became the preeminent leader of the Latter Day Saints in Daviess.

The Mormon War[edit]

In the summer of 1838, the troubles of the Mormon War began with events on the Gallatin Election Day Battle. In response, Wight armed over 150 men at this time to defend the Latter Day Saints in Daviess. Lyman Wight was accused, along with Joseph Smith, of organizing an army and threatening and harassing various old settlers of Daviess County. Joseph and Lyman agreed to hold trial to ease the tensions in the area. On September 7, 1838, they were tried before Judge Austin A. King. The judge ordered them to stand trial before the circuit court on bail of $500.

After the trial, emotions did not abate on either side. The Mormons and non-Mormons in Daviess engaged in non-fatal conflicts. Non-Mormon vigilantes from other counties came to Daviess and began to harass the Latter Day Saints in outlying areas, burning their homes and looting their property. Refugees began pouring into Adam-ondi-Ahman, seeking protection. The Mormon response was to call up armed volunteers from Caldwell County. Combining with the Daviess men, the Mormons split into three groups and raided the chief non-Mormon settlements. Wight led the raid on Millport. The old settlers and their families fled and Wight and his men looted their property and burned their homes to the ground (Baugh, pp. 86–87).

Following these actions, the Battle of Crooked River took place. Joseph Smith advised every church member to go to Adam-ondi-Ahman or Far West for protection and strength. When Far West fell under siege after the Missouri Executive Order 44, Lyman Wight organized members in Adam-ondi-Ahman to assist them. No battle took place, however, as Wight and the other Mormon leaders were arrested by the state militia and the Mormon militia subsequently surrendered.

While in custody of the state troops, Lyman endured the mockery and vulgarity of the troops, lying in the ground in the rain. A court martial which might have led to Wight's execution was averted by General Alexander William Doniphan of Clay County who challenged the legality of any such court. Instead, Wight and the other leaders were tried in the civil courts. Wight and other leaders were allowed to escape from jail during their transfer to Boone County on April 16, 1839.

Nauvoo era[edit]

Lyman Wight was ordained an apostle on April 8, 1841 by Joseph Smith to replace David W. Patten, who died in the Battle of Crooked River in 1838. Wight and George Miller became co-responsible for a common-stock, religious cooperative company/church mill and logging town in the wilds of Wisconsin. Much lumber for the Nauvoo Temple and the Nauvoo House were floated down the Mississippi River from the several Mormon mills in the area.

Succession crisis and Wightite colonization in Texas[edit]

During the succession crisis after the death of Joseph Smith, Wight felt compelled to follow the orders Joseph Smith had given him to found a safe haven for the Latter-day Saints in the Republic of Texas. Wight moved a group of Latter Day Saints there and eventually founded several communities on the central Texas frontier. The first Mormon temple west of the Mississippi was built at Zodiac, Texas, about three miles from Fredericksburg. Sealings, ordinations, washing and anointings, and adoptions were performed in this temple by the Wightites.

Brigham Young tried to get Wight to join the main body of Mormonism (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Utah Territory) several times, but Wight refused each time. Wight was eventually excommunicated in December 1848; his most prominent follower, Bishop George Miller, was also disfellowshipped. Most of the anger between Wight and Young seemed to weigh heavily on Wight.[citation needed]

Wight later recognized William Smith as the president of the Latter Day Saints for a short time and served as a counselor in William's short-lived First Presidency. After 1849, Wight wrote and stated that he believed the prophetic mantle of church leadership should fall on the shoulders of Joseph Smith's sons. By then he had no use for Brigham Young, William Smith, and James Strang as pretenders, in his mind, as successors to Joseph Smith. In 1851, after the Pedernales River overflowed its banks and destroyed Zodiac, the colonists moved to Burnet County, establishing Mormon Mill.

Wight died on March 31, 1858 with a small remnant of his colony in a few miles from San Antonio. Wight's group had been trekking for Jackson County, Missouri, where he wished to rejoin the remainder of the Mid-Western Saints. He was buried in his temple robes at the Mormon cemetery at Zodiac, which no longer exists. The only remaining material infrastructure of the colony is the Morman Mill cemetery near Hamilton Creek, about fifty miles east by north of Fredericksburg.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Historical magazine, and notes and queries concerning the antiquities, history, and biography of America 3, London: C. Benjamin Richardson: Trübner & co., 1959, p. 12, retrieved July 26, 2010 
  2. ^ The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had not had twelve members since 1837-09-03, when Luke S. Johnson, John F. Boynton, and Lyman E. Johnson were disfellowshipped and removed from the Quorum. Since that time, William E. M'Lellin and Thomas B. Marsh had been excommunicated and removed from the Quorum; David W. Patten had been killed; and John Taylor, John E. Page, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, and Willard Richards had been added to the Quorum. Wight's addition to the Quorum brought the membership in the Quorum of the Twelve to twelve members again.
  3. ^ Four new apostles were ordained to bring the Quorum to twelve members after Wight's excommunication and the reorganization of the First Presidency under Brigham Young.


Further reading[edit]

  • Wight, Jermy Benton (1996). The Wild Ram of the Mountain: The Story of Lyman Wight. J.B. Wight. ISBN 978-0-9651163-7-4. 

External resources[edit]

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints titles
Later renamed: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1844)
Preceded by
Willard Richards
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 8, 1841–3 December 1848
Succeeded by
Amasa M. Lyman