On the one hand history shows us that the sense of religious community is strong enough that many would have stayed together.
On the other hand there have been some huge schisms in our religion (death of Joseph Smith JR is the major one) and so it's likely that the church would have been fragmented.
However, even with fragmentation, I personally don't think things would be different today. We all seem to think that the saints all followed Young out West, most took one of several easier paths, William Strange being what seems like the most popular path for people to follow. He revealed another book of scripture, which unlike the Book of Mormon didn't stand to criticism and a "witness" later broke and revealed the forgery. So this successor didn't do much in terms of moving things forward although he had the benefit of riches, education, and not having to cross the country to continue his practices. However today few LDS members even know his name, and unless your keen enough to realize that the name of the church has a hyphen in it (which is to distinguish us from the latter day saints which was the name Strange also claimed, thus we are the latter-day saints) there is little trace of the large group.
My point is, there is a destiny beyond man, a destiny that mobs couldn't destroy then and those who argue can't destroy now. Go back in time, all things being equal, and you've got a massive growth rate of the LDS church while the other groups are tiny - if left to the genius of men there would be other LDS groups as large and as well known as ours.
In the end, it would have been fine - we would have had another chapter in church history (and many would follow another path), but the destiny of the church would have been the same.
I also wonder if there was not some divine intervention keeping the other names from being sent or if they were in hiding. Did you know that the apostles never all appear together in our day? Even in conference, there is always one who is assigned to be in the tabernacle or assembly hall of JSMB, the church does that so that if something drastic and terrible ever happened there wouldn't be a succession issue in the future, not because the church couldn't handle it, but look at the souls of 14,000,000 people and what might happen if a large part of us went after another leader in another schism.
· 9 years ago