On August 3, 1844, Sidney Rigdon—the first counselor in the First Presidency of the Church— returned from Pittsburgh to Nauvoo, Illinois, fully expecting to become the next leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He related to the Saints a vision he had been given in which Jesus revealed that he was the identical man prophesied by the ancients to come forth in the last days to perform the identical work that Joseph Smith had.
Ridgon called for the Saints to choose their new leader at a meeting a few days later. The ten members of the Twelve Apostles, who had been away on missions, returned to Nauvoo just in time. On August 8, Brigham Young was addressing the gathered Saints when a miracle occurred. Many witnessed that Young became transfigured into having the exact appearance and voice of the prophet Joseph Smith.
At this, the gathered saints voiced their support for the Twelve Apostles to be the ruling body over the Church with Brigham Young as their president. Over the next weeks, Rigdon refused to recognize the authority of the Apostles, and was therefore excommunicated the following month. He returned to Pittsburgh where he established the Church of Christ with its own priests, prophets, apostles, and even kings.
A charismatic recent convert named James Strang was even more bold. He produced a letter he claimed was written by Joseph Smith, Jr., designating him as the prophet's rightful successor. Three former members of the Twelve Apostles became his followers, including the prophet's brother William Smith. The Strangites gathered to Beaver Island on Lake Michigan where Strang was crowned "king of the kingdom".