The Church and the Priesthood

Ogden Kraut

Pioneer Publishing
1067 E. Cumorah Dr
Genola, UT  84655

April 2002


      Priesthood could be considered a theological enigma–a subject of many definitions and interpretations. Catholic and Protestant churches say it existed anciently but admit they do not have it now. Even the Latter-day Saints have tendered a variety of interpretations and explanations.

Questions continue to arise on how it is given, who has it and how it functions. Can a man who is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hold the Priesthood? Is it possible for members of the Church to lose the Priesthood and still be a member of the Church? Can a man be excommunicated and still hold Priesthood? Can Priesthood exist outside the jurisdiction of the LDS Church? These questions continue to plague Church members and non-members alike.

Paul the Apostle said, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (I Cor. 15:19) Similarly, in our dispensation if Fundamentalist Mormons learn that Priesthood cannot operate outside the bounds of the Church, they will be “of all men most miserable.” Approximately 30,000 Fundamentalist Mormons, with thousands already dead, and many thousands more being born, all believe in a Priesthood that can function both in and out of the LDS Church. It is a very critical issue, for both members and non-members, especially if Church leaders claim they have the power to cause someone to lose their power in the Priesthood.

In a day when church seems to hold more importance than Priesthood and leaders declare they are more to be followed than are Gospel principles, much more clarification is needed. Thus, it is hoped that this publication will help answer more questions than it will create.

–The Author



[7]                               Chapter 1


                              WHAT IS PRIESTHOOD


The subject of the priesthood is one that seems to be forgotten, looked over, or passed by, by most of this generation; and indeed has been by many generations past with very few exceptions. (Times and Seasons 4:9, editorial)


Priesthood is a powerful influence, an unbelievable authority from God to man, and an awesome power. Jesus used it to heal the sick, to give sight to the blind, to feed thousands on a mountainside, to walk on water, and to change water to wine. With this power He commanded the elements and raised the dead. He did everything that could be required of a Priesthood holder. He lived His life as a true representative of His Father.


But in spite of all these demonstrations of Priesthood power, He was rejected and ultimately crucified. Although He was the great High Priest of His Father, the devil nevertheless had strong influence in his life through the weaknesses of the people. Though Christ was without sin, they cast stones at Him; though He showed them love and righteousness, they returned hatred and opposition. Regarding Priesthood power, He set the example for all others to follow.


In The Holy Priesthood, vol. 1 (page 15), this author lists what the Priesthood is and is not. By way of review these two lists are included here, since a common understanding of Priesthood is essential before reading this book.



Priesthood is–

  1. invisible, God-like power
  2. power to act in the name of God
  3. perfect system of government
  4. authority to officiate in ordinances
  5. government of God—on earth or in heaven
  6. a means of teaching and administering the laws of God
  7. a vehicle of giving service to others
  8. a tremendous responsibility; an “onerous duty”
  9. power to build up the Kingdom of God
  10. the law by which worlds are created
  11. controlled only on the principles of righteousness
  12. the greatest power and authority on earth, with Christ as the file leader


Priesthood is not–

  1. dominion, control, or power over others
  2. a means of giving orders without free agency
  3. title, position and wealth for personal benefit
  4. men following men and trusting in the arm of flesh
  5. becoming one with Babylon
  6. incorporating with the state and nation
  7. obeying man’s law in preference to God’s law


It seems that the more one studies the subject of Priesthood, the more questions arise, such as: *


  1. Does the Priesthood serve the Church or does the Church serve the Priesthood?
  2. Which has the right and power to control the other?
  3. When a man is excommunicated for sin, does he lose the Priesthood then or when he sinned?


* Note: The terms “Priesthood” and “Church” mentioned here refer to the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood and to the LDS Church.



  1. Can Priesthood exist outside the Church?
  2. Can Priesthood function in ordinance work outside of Church jurisdiction?
  3. Can the Church operate without Priesthood?
  4. How and when does a Church lose Priesthood?
  5. What is the mission of the Church?
  6. What is the mission of the Priesthood?
  7. Is there a difference between the Gospel of the Kingdom, the Gospel of the Church and the Gospel of the Priesthood?
  8. If the Church compromises or rejects eternal doctrines and beliefs because of persecution, does that affect their Priesthood?
  9. Is Priesthood confined to race?
  10. Which should come first: Church or Priesthood?
  11. In case of apostasy, how does it affect Priesthood? the Church?
  12. Do spiritual gifts originate within the Church or the Priesthood?
  13. In the analogy of a man driving a car, which one would represent the Priesthood? the Church?
  14. If the Church loses Priesthood, would it generally come from outside or inside influences?
  15. Is the Gospel more important to the Church than the Priesthood?
  16. If a man loses his Priesthood, does it affect his position in the Church?
  17. If a man is excommunicated from the Church, does it affect his Priesthood?
  18. What causes a man to lose his Priesthood?
  19. How does a man know when he has lost his Priesthood?
  20. Can a man receive the Priesthood if the words of conferral vary?
  21. When is it evident that the Church has Priesthood?
  22. When is it evident that the Church has lost Priesthood?


  1. When spiritual gifts and powers are evident, are they fruits of the Church, the Priesthood or the Gospel?
  2. Are Priesthood powers intended more for the Church or the individual?
  3. Of the 11+ million Mormons, who are the few that are the “chosen?”


These questions will be discussed in the following chapters, with the hope of providing a better understanding of Priesthood powers.


Every man who holds the Priesthood must expect opposition equal to the power of that Priesthood. The world may temporarily bask in its pleasures, peace and prosperity, but the Priesthood holder is in for temporary trouble, trials and testing. Jesus said, “I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34), because it is a spiritual battle between Christ and the devil. And, like most battles, they result in victory for some and defeat for others.


Bearing the Priesthood is indeed a two-edged sword: providing either great blessings or great condemnations. By comprehending this gift and responsibility from God, man can better magnify this calling.



[11]                              Chapter 2


                            PRIESTHOOD IN THE PAST


And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you. and I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people. (Lev. 26:11-12)


To better understand the nature and power of the Priesthood, let us go back to the beginning of time when great prophets possessed and demonstrated the attributes of this High and Holy Priesthood.


It is the Melchizedek Priesthood that holds the keys of the mysteries of the revelations of God; that unlocks and unfolds the secret purposes of Jehovah, and through which the children of men are enabled to come into the presence of the Most High; and without it no man can see the face of God and live. (Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, 4:25)


All the great prophets were blessed with that same Priesthood:


Enoch, in possession of this Priesthood “walked with God” and was translated by faith: for “it came to pass that Zion was not, for God received it up into his own bosom; . . .” (P of GP, Moses 7:69)


Noah had the same Priesthood, and hence God spoke to him, and told him to build an ark, revealed unto him the pattern and dimensions, and made known unto him the destruction that was coming on the earth.


[12]  Melchizedek and Abraham also possessed the Priesthood, and hence “the Lord appeared unto him [Abraham] . . . as he sat in the tent door. . . .” (Gen. 18:1), and the Lord conversed with Abraham and revealed unto him His purposes.


Moses also had the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the Lord spoke unto him out of the burning bush; told him to go to Egypt and deliver the Israelites; and manifested his power in their behalf, through the instrumentality of Moses. God afterward appeared to Moses and also the seventy elders of Israel upon the mount, and “they saw the God of Israel . . . and did eat and drink.” (Ex. 24:10-11)


There were individual prophets among them who had the Priesthood, and testified of great events; yet they “sought what the spirit within them did signify” when it testified concerning “the coming of Christ and the glory that should follow….” (See Times and Seasons 4:25.)


The Holy Priesthood was repeatedly demonstrated in the life of father Abraham. Referring to this, the Prophet Joseph stated:


Abraham says to Melchizedek, I believe all that thou hast taught me concerning the Priesthood and the coming of the Son of Man; so Melchizedek ordained Abraham and set him away. Abraham rejoiced, saying, Now I have a priesthood. (TPJS, pp. 322-323)


In this statement, Joseph Smith makes some significant clarifications on the nature of Priesthood:


  1. Abraham was not born with the Priesthood; it was given to him by Melchizedek.
  2. Abraham had to learn and be taught about the Priesthood and Jesus Christ, the coming Messiah.


  1. Abraham did not hang around Melchizedek and attend a Sunday School class, nor “follow his living prophet.” Rather Melchizedek sent him away to exercise his Priesthood by fulfilling a mission and laboring as God would instruct.
  2. Abraham rejoiced because he had the Priesthood, rather than just an office in the Church.
  3. Abraham went forth under the direction of God. He was guided where to go, what to say and whom to marry. God appeared to him from time to time, and he became known as the “friend of God.”


The life of Abraham was an open demonstration of the Priesthood.


We also learn that Abraham achieved the fullness of the Priesthood in his lifetime. The Prophet Joseph stated that “Those holding the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings.” (TPJS, p. 322) Abraham received a urim and thummim to learn greater things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. He fulfilled the duties of a Priesthood Patriarchal order with over 300 members in his family circle. He became so worthy and righteous that the Lord revealed the following about him:


Abraham received all things, whatsoever he received, by revelation and commandment, by my word, saith the Lord, and hath entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne. (D & C 132:29)


We don’t know whether or not Abraham and many of the Old Testament prophets ever had a church, but we do know that they held the Priesthood. Furthermore, it was this Priesthood that made it possible for them to walk and talk with God. The Prophet Joseph declared that, “All the prophets [14] had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself.” (TPJS, p. 181) However, today most churches, orders, synagogues and parishes do not demonstrate any evidence that they are blessed with the Holy Priesthood. They may have started out with that power, but it takes only a short time for an organization—political, religious or economic–to change its original purpose and beliefs.


The early Christian church established by the Savior Himself was no exception to this falling away. It did not fall into apostasy all at once; it was a gradual process. Dr. James E. Talmage noted that, “It is now our saddening duty to consider the decline of spiritual power within the Church, and the eventual apostasy of the Church itself.” (The Great Apostasy, Talmage, p. 13) The falling away of the Priesthood from the Church was evident by its gradual and “eventual” disappearance.


It is important to note that as the Christian church grew in prosperity, it dwindled in spirituality. With all its expansion and worldly power, it gradually lost the power of the Priesthood. And, what is worse, the leaders of the Church didn’t realize it. This should be a serious warning to those in our own dispensation!



[15]                              Chapter 3


                        PRIESTHOOD OUTSIDE THE CHURCH


Wherefore, I will that all men shall repent, for all are under sin, except those which I have reserved unto myself, holy men that ye know not of. (D & C 49:8)


Today there are many dangers and threats against the Holy Priesthood involving both men and the Church. Both can make seemingly insignificant yet serious mistakes which, as a result, can lead them into darkness.


The Lord has frequently found it necessary to take special means to protect His Priesthood. One of these has been to have the Priesthood function outside of and separate from the general body of the Church. Even though today some claim that this is not possible, this chapter will discuss seven examples where Priesthood authority was evident and operated outside the body of the Church:


  1. Moroni
  2. John, the Baptist/Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery
  3. Peter, James and John
  4. John, the Revelator
  5. The Three Nephites
  6. The “Other Sheep”
  7. More “Other Sheep”



  1. Moroni


Latter-day Saints refer to Moroni as an angel. In mortality he was a great Nephite prophet, leader and historian who lived about 1400 years ago. The spiritually gifted Bishop John H. Koyle stated that Moroni was caught by the Lamanites near Alpine, Utah, and tortured to death. Regardless of how he died, we know that he did die and that as a resurrected being, he appeared to Joseph Smith on September 21, 1823.


Moroni had a mission to instruct and reveal to Joseph Smith the location and importance of an ancient record that he himself had deposited in a hill near Joseph’s home. Moroni visited Joseph for four consecutive years, teaching, instructing and helping the young man to prepare for the work of translation of these ancient records. Moroni was a prophet, holding the higher Priesthood, yet he was doing this missionary work seven years before the latter-day church was organized. This shows that immortal, resurrected beings, who previously held the Holy Priesthood in mortality, can still be involved in Priesthood work on earth. The Priesthood has functioned between mortals and immortals and will continue to do so, with or without a church.


Apparently, Moroni did not get his Priesthood from any church; rather, he earned that privilege and responsibility when he lived on earth. When he appeared to Joseph Smith, there was no true church on earth with the Holy Priesthood. Moroni was using his Priesthood in a way that all Priesthood holders should: to carry out the work of the Lord. Moroni was being directed through the powers of heaven by revelation, not by a church, for the Lord has said, “The rights of the Priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven.” (D & C 121:36)



  1. John, the Baptist


On May 15, 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery stood on the banks of the Susquehanna River near Harmony, Pennsylvania, and were visited by John, the Baptist. He said he had come to restore the Priesthood of Aaron. He placed his hands on their heads and said,


Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins: . . . (D & C 13:1)


Now this John had literally lost his head nearly 2000 years previously, but appeared to Joseph Smith as a resurrected being. There are three important things we learn about John, the Baptist, in this passage:


  1. He held the Priesthood before the LDS Church was organized.
  2. He conferred the Aaronic Priesthood on both Joseph and Oliver before the LDS Church was organized.
  3. He was doing Priesthood ordinance work without the supervision of Church “leaders.”


John Taylor explained:


He [J. Smith] was informed there had to be a certain ordinance attended to, viz., baptism. And as John the Baptist had held the keys of that Priesthood, in generations gone and past, he was sent to confer upon him and upon Oliver Cowdery what is known as the Aaronic Priesthood, which authorized them to baptize each other for the remission of sins. And this heavenly messenger did come and did so ordain them, . . . (JD 19:152)


[18]  Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the Aaronic Priesthood nearly a year before the Church was organized on April 6, 1830. At that time, May 15, 1829, they were commanded to baptize each other, which shows that Priesthood ordinances were being performed before the Church was organized. From this sequence of events, we learn that–


  1. Priesthood existed before the Church.
  2. It was Priesthood power and authority that organized the Church; the Church did not organize the Priesthood.
  3. Joseph and Oliver performed ordinances before the Church was organized.
  4. Priesthood has greater authority than the Church.


According to Brigham Young, it was through the power of the Aaronic Priesthood that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized:


He [J. Smith] went and preached to his father’s house, and to his neighbors, and it was four or five years before he got the six members that composed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when it was first organized on the 6th of April, 1830. This was a slow business, but at last he organized the Church, for the Lord had revealed to him the Aaronic priesthood upon which the Church was first organized; after that he received the Melchizedek priesthood, when the Church was more fully organized. (JD 10:303)


The angelic manifestation of John, the Baptist, is according to the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood:


The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, . . . (D & C 107:20)


[19]  Through this angelic ministration, two men were ordained to the offices of priests and elders, neither of which was yet a part of any restored church. The office of elder meant something different then than it does in today’s LDS Church. (See Mormon Hierarchy, Origins of Power, Michael Quinn, p. 28.)


  1. Peter, James and John


Peter, James and John represented the first presidency of the church that Jesus established in the meridian of time. Although that primitive church still exists, the Priesthood was lost centuries ago, and for that reason had to be restored.


. . . Joseph went on to state that “In Coalville he and Oliver were under arrest on charges of deceiving the people and in court he stated that the first miracle done was to create this earth. About that time his attorney told the court that he wanted to see Mr. Smith alone a few moments. When alone Mr. Reed said that there was a mob in front of the house and hoisting the window, Joseph and Oliver went to the woods in a [few] rods, it being night, and they traveled until Oliver was exhausted and Joseph almost carried him through mud and water. They traveled all night and just at the break of day Oliver gave out entirely and exclaimed, `O, Lord, How long Brother Joseph, have we got to endure this thing?'”

Brother Joseph said that at that very time Peter, James, and John came to them and ordained them to the Apostleship.

They had 16 or 17 miles to travel to get back to Mr. Hales, his father-in-law, and Oliver did not complain any more of fatigue. (History of the Life of Oliver B. Huntington, p. 6)


According to Oliver B. Huntington, this heavenly manifestation apparently occurred on the morning of July 6, 1830–exactly three months after the organization of the Church. As [20] previously mentioned, the Church was organized by the power and authority of the Aaronic Priesthood rather than the Melchizedek.


  1. John, the Revelator


One of Christ’s original twelve apostles had the experience of not being subject to death and has been living more in a state of mortality than immortality. A conversation between Christ and Peter describes John’s condition:


Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?

Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? (John 21:20-23)


Additional information about John was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith. After one of his inquiries to the Lord, Joseph was given a copy of a record made on parchment by John himself:


And the Lord said unto me: John, my beloved, what desirest thou? For if you shall ask what you will, it shall be granted unto you.

And I said unto him: Lord, give unto me power over death, that I may live and bring souls unto thee.

And the Lord said unto me: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, because thou desirest this thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory, and shalt prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people.

[21]        And for this cause the Lord said unto Peter: If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? For he desired of me that he might bring souls unto me, but thou desiredst that thou mightest speedily come unto me in my kingdom.

I say unto thee, Peter, this was a good desire; but my beloved has desired that he might do more, or a greater work yet among men than what he has before done.

Yea, he has undertaken a greater work; therefore I will make him as flaming fire and a ministering angel; he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth.

And I will make thee to minister for him and for thy brother James; and unto you three I will give this power and the keys of this ministry until I come.

Verily I say unto you, ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both joy in that which ye have desired. (D & C 7:1-8)


John, the Revelator, was given a mission to teach the Gospel, to prophecy and to lead people into the Church, both in his day and in ours. He has continued to live while Christ’s original church turned into the Catholic Church, during the Reformation and the Restoration, and he still performs the tasks of his mission, discouraging as conditions may be. He has never reported to the Church or to the “general authorities” for any duties or assignments. If we were to ask him why not, he would probably respond, “What is that to thee?” He still continues his missionary labors and does everything but the ordinances. He continues using his Priesthood outside of the jurisdiction of the Church.


  1. The Three Nephites


Jesus gave a special power and mission to three of His Apostles on this continent when He visited them shortly after His resurrection, as recorded below:


[22]        And when he had spoken unto them, he turned himself unto the three, and said unto them: What will ye that I should do unto you, when I am gone unto the Father?

And they sorrowed in their hearts, for they durst not speak unto him the thing which they desired.

And he said unto them: Behold, I know your thoughts, and ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved, who was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me.

Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven.

And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father. (3 Nephi 28:4-8)


It is interesting to note that these three would never die until the Savior would come in His glory. They are more mortal than immortal, because when the Savior comes in His glory, they will be changed from “mortality to immortality.”


These three could not be killed. Even when they were thrown in pits or furnaces or were cast into dens of wild beasts, no harm came to them. They have gone forth in their ministry teaching and preaching. Mormon, who lived 400 years later, said, “I have seen them, and they have ministered unto me.” (3 Nephi 28:26) He noted that they would also travel among both the Jews and the Gentiles in our day.


The ministry of these three is not much different from that of the missionaries of the LDS Church. They teach, preach [23] and do wonderful acts of kindness and give help to many people. They are more on the side of being mortal, and they have never lost their Priesthood. But they do not function as members of any current LDS ward, nor do they check in at Church headquarters for directions or assignments in the use of their Priesthood.


  1. The Other Sheep


When Jesus was teaching the Jews, he mentioned some “sheep” whose identity they didn’t understand:


I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10:14-16)


Later, to the Nephites, he said:


This much did the Father command me, that I should tell unto them:

That other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

And now, because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they understood not my word; therefore I was commanded to say no more of the Father concerning this thing unto them.

But, verily, I say unto you that the Father hath commanded me, and I tell it unto you, that ye were separated from among them because of their iniquity; therefore it is because of their iniquity that they know not of you.

[24]        But behold, ye have both heard my voice, and seen me; and ye are my sheep, and ye are numbered among those whom the Father hath given me. (3 Nephi 15:16-24)


Jesus did not come over to this continent just to visit or make an impressive appearance. His object was to bring the people the Gospel and to give righteous men the Priesthood.


And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am. (3 Nephi 12:1)


These men received “power and authority” to baptize, which came with the Aaronic Priesthood; then they received the authority to baptize them with “fire and the Holy Ghost” which came with the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood.


Some have questioned whether these 12 men were actually ordained as Apostles because they were called “disciples.” Some of the early Church leaders have acknowledged they were definitely apostles. For example, according to Joseph F. Smith:


The Melchizedek Priesthood was confirmed upon the Nephite disciples upon this continent, after His resurrection and ascension on high. These He made [25] His Apostles, to bear witness of Him upon both hemispheres and to all the world; and doubtless the Savior conferred this Priesthood upon other disciples whom He chose from among the “other sheep” of whom He spoke to the Nephites, whose records are yet to come forth to bear witness of Him, in the due time of the Lord. (Gospel Doctrine, Jos. F. Smith, p. 190)


Further proof can be found in the fact that the Savior walked and talked with these disciples and was touched by them, thus qualifying them as genuine witnesses or “apostles” of Jesus Christ.

On this continent, the Twelve whom Jesus selected were given authority to teach believers and prepare them to receive baptism and the Holy Ghost. The Twelve Disciples were told to perform their ministry the same as the Twelve who were with Him in Jerusalem. He admonished them, for example, to “take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.” (3 Nephi 13:25) They were to travel without purse or scrip. (Compare Matthew 10 and D & C 84.)


Jesus also gave them instructions on establishing His Church. It is said, “they who were baptized in the name of Jesus were called the church of Christ.” (3 Nephi 26:21; 27:21) This was after the time that they inquired as to what the name of His Church should be. (3 Nephi 27:8)


In summary, then, regarding His “other sheep:”


  1. Jesus appeared to these “other sheep” on this continent and taught them the Gospel.
  2. He gave them the Melchizedek Priesthood so they could perform Gospel ordinances.


  1. He set twelve men apart as Apostles with corresponding authority and qualifications.
  2. He established His church among them.


It is evident, then that Jesus conferred Priesthood on men in Jerusalem as well as men on this continent. He also had two churches operating on the earth at the same time with two quorums of Twelve Apostles.


  1. More “Other Sheep”


The Savior included a surprising announcement in His message to the Nephites. In addition to those Nephite sheep, He talked of the need for Him to visit still “other sheep:”


And verily, verily, I say unto you that I have other sheep which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about whither I have been to minister.

For they of whom I speak are they who have not as yet heard my voice; neither have I at any time manifested myself unto them.

But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd; therefore I go to show myself unto them. (3 Nephi 16:1-3)


Jesus did not specifically identify these other sheep, nor did He describe their location. The only thing we can be sure of is that He went to some other people, some other place, and manifested Himself to them. It has been speculated that He visited the Lost Tribes of Israel. Undoubtedly, they, too, received the Priesthood, the Gospel and the Church because He said, they “shall be numbered among my sheep.”





For about 2000 years immortal, resurrected and translated beings have been teaching the Gospel and administering ordinances by conferring Priesthood on mortals. Mortal men also used this same Priesthood to administer ordinances even before there was an organized church.


There were two or more locations on the earth where Priesthood was functioning simultaneously without each other’s knowledge. There were also two or more churches on the earth at the same time with two or more quorums of apostles.



[28]                              Chapter 4




The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets, . . . (TPJS, p. 206)


The Old Testament records that the Lord has frequently sent prophets to help guide the people back into His presence. But unfortunately, many prophets came that the Lord did not send, and utter confusion about true and false prophets has continued ever since. The Prophet Joseph clearly explained that, “The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets.” (TPJS, p. 206) So it is critical for us to learn to determine the difference. This chapter will discuss the distinguishing characteristics of both false and true prophets.


Detecting False Prophets


One of the keys in detecting false prophets lies in the nature of their appearance. They do not have an appearance of their own; rather, they try to copy-cat the true prophets. Jesus gave us this warning sign:


Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (Matt. 7:15)


[29]  In other words, when you look at a band of sheep, they all visibly appear to be sheep. However, if there is a wolf among them, he will have a sheep’s skin to make himself appear to be one of the sheep. There is nothing wrong in this if he just wants to tag along with the rest of the crowd. But beware if he assumes the lead and the flock follow him, as sheep are inclined to do. The wolf could lead them right into a pack of other wolves, and then it would be too late for the sheep to recognize the deception.


How then can we recognize a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Upon close examination one can observe that he walks a little differently from the sheep; he does not sound the same; and his teeth are shaped a little differently. In the same way, by very close observation, a false prophet can be distinguished from a true prophet. Our ultimate destiny depends on our making these important distinctions. This section provides a compilation of numerous keys, observations, and means of detecting wolves among the sheep.


  1. They speak well of you.
  2. They pervert the Gospel.
  3. They introduce heresy into the Church.
  4. They oppose true prophets.
  5. They select only some commandments.
  6. They contradict the Lord’s teachings.
  7. They appoint themselves as prophets.
  8. They emphasize following the brethren.
  9. They try to make prophets out of “good men.”
  10. They set up pseudo prophets.
  11. They receive no revelations or visions from God.
  12. They do not preach Gospel fulness.
  13. They are part of a great apostasy.
  14. They become spiritually “unrefreshed.”


  1. They exhibit no gifts of the Spirit.
  2. They support false doctrines and ordinances.
  3. They lead others away from the true Gospel.
  4. They do not have the Spirit of the Lord.
  5. They reject true prophets.
  6. They teach heresies.
  7. They do not prophesy truth.
  8. They are worldly.


  1. They speak well of you.


Harold B. Lee: “There is yet another strangely significant mark of the true church to which the Master referred when He said: `If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.’ (John 15:19) Sad but true, the true followers of Jesus Christ have always been a persecuted people by those of the world who know not Christ nor His teachings. By contrast the Master warned: `Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.’ (Luke 6:26) Search the history of the Church of Jesus Christ in this day and you will find clearly a parallel for that of which Jesus spoke.” (Stand Ye in Holy Places, p. 315)


  1. They pervert the Gospel.


Hugh Nibley: “But we are told not only of one but explicitly of two ways in which the ancient church was to make its exit. For far more numerous than those true saints who were to give their lives as witnesses were those who were to succumb to the blandishments of false teachers. The fate of the vast majority of Christians was not to be overcome by a frontal attack–true martyrs were relatively few–but to be led astray by perverters. The spoilers do not destroy the vineyard, but [31] `seize the inheritance’ for themselves; we read of betrayal, disobedience, corruptions; of deceivers, perverters, traitors; of wresting the scriptures, denying the gifts, quenching the Spirit, turning love into hate, truth to fables, sheep to wolves; of embracing “another gospel,” and so forth. The offenders are not pagans but loudly professing Christians. As, once the prophets are dead, everyone paints their tombs with protestations of devotion, so `when the master of the house has risen up and shut the door,’ shall the eager host apply for admission to this company–too late. The apostasy described in the New Testament is not desertion of the cause, but perversion of it, a process by which `the righteous are removed, and none perceives it.’ The Christian masses do not realize what is happening to them; they are `bewitched’ by a thing that comes as softly and insidiously as the slinging of a noose. It is an old familiar story, . . .” (Mormonism and Early Christianity, pp. 171-172)


  1. They introduce heresy into the Church.


Milton R. Hunter: “As time went on, and as Paul the Apostle and others of the great prophets had predicted, heresies crept into the Christian Church. False teachings and false doctrines came into Christianity. Especially is this true toward the end.” (Conf. Rept., Oct. 1951, p. 140)


  1. They oppose true prophets.


Joseph Smith: “My enemies say that I have been a true prophet. Why, I had rather be a fallen true prophet than a false prophet. When a man goes about prophesying, and commands men to obey his teachings, he must either be a true or false prophet. False prophets always arise to oppose the true prophets and they will prophesy so very near the truth that they will deceive almost the very chosen ones.” (TPJS, p. 365)



  1. They select only some commandments.


  1. Eldon Tanner: “I thought how true, and how serious when we begin to choose which of the covenants, which of the commandments we will keep and follow. When we decide that there are some of them that we will not keep or follow, we are taking the law of the Lord into our own hands and become our own prophets, and believe me, we will be led astray, because we are false prophets to ourselves when we do not follow the Prophet of God. No, we should never discriminate between these commandments, as to those we should and should not keep.” (Conf. Rept., Oct. 1966, p. 98)


  1. They contradict the Lord’s teachings.


Harold B. Lee: “There are certain outward marks of the true church which one must observe. First, one must apply the simple test of the Master: `Beware of false prophets. . . . Ye shall know them by their fruits. . . .’ (Matt. 7:15-16) False teachers teach falsehood and their works are evil. True teachers teach and live righteously and will not teach doctrines contradicting the teachings of the Lord given directly by Him, to us, or by revelation through His prophets.” (Stand Ye in Holy Places, p. 313)


  1. They appoint themselves as prophets.


Hugh Nibley: “The ancient and valuable Didache, which revolutionized the study of church history after its discovery in 1883, gives–among its most valuable contributions to a very obscure field of study–priceless information on the nature of priesthood and prophecy in the early church. On one subject in particular it is clear and specific–the tests for distinguishing between a true and a false prophet, for in those early days [33] there were still prophets, both true and false, in the church. If anyone who claimed to be a prophet attempted to teach anything of his skill to another, he was not a true prophet, the saints were advised. Prophecy is a direct gift from God; it cannot be conveyed from one man to another; it cannot be transmitted through any courses of instruction.” (The World and the Prophets, Didache XI, 11-12)


  1. H. Roberts: “From this second letter [of Paul], also, we learn that there were many in the Church at large who corrupted the word of God; * * * that there were those, even in the ministry, who were `false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.’ (II Cor. 11:13)” (DHC I:xliv)


  1. They emphasize following the brethren.


Neal A. Maxwell: “Following the Brethren can be more difficult when in some settings wolves are sent among the flock. False prophets will arise, enticing some to follow them, and by their evil works they deceive careless observers into discounting any and all who claim to be prophets.” (All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, p. 115)


  1. They try to make prophets out of “good men.”


Hugh Nibley: “Even good, devout, sincere men and women can be false prophets. We can illustrate this point by recalling the attitude of Socrates toward his friends Gorgias, Protagoras, and other great Sophists. He respected and admired them for their powerful minds, their moral fervor, and their sincere desire to improve the character and the minds of youth. Yet for all that, these men were, in Socrates’ opinion, [34] dangerous deceivers, all of them, for they were teachers of false doctrine. Socrates did not consider himself qualified to guide the lives of his fellows; all his life he sought for one so qualified–what he was looking for was a prophet, as Professor Jaeger has indicated in the case of his disciples–and when he insisted that he had never found such a man, and that those who thought themselves most qualified were even less worthy than he, his boldness cost him his life. His pupil Plato poked fun at the way the Sophists accepted the worshipful adulation of the multitude and of their disciples, for nothing disturbed him more than the incurable tendency of the schools to make false prophets out of good men. By his standard we still live in a world of false prophets.” (The World and the Prophets, pp. 254-255)


  1. They set up pseudo prophets.


Hugh Nibley: “The scriptural term “pseudo-prophet” designates one who is not a prophet, but who occupies the place that rightly belongs to a prophet, regardless of whether he has been put there by himself or by his followers. Fool’s gold, the glittering yellow pyrites that one finds sometimes on the beach, is so called not because it pretends to be gold, but because fools take it for gold. A pseudo-prophet is one to whom foolish people accord the obedience and attention due only a true prophet, whether he or they actually take him for a prophet or not.” (The World and the Prophets, p. 254)

* * *


Items No. 11 to 22 come from Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who explained some of the most numerous and critical attacks against false prophets and their doctrines. For example:


False prophets–the curse and scourge of the world! How awful and awesome and evil it is when one [35] pretends and professes to speak for God in leading men to salvation, but in fact has a message that is false, a doctrine that is not true, and a prophecy that will not come to pass. (The Mortal Messiah, Bk. 2, p. 168)


In another of his books, The Millennial Messiah, Elder McConkie filled several pages with descriptions of false prophets. Some of his comments are worth noting here:


“What are false prophets? They are teachers and preachers who profess to speak for the Lord when, in fact, they have received no such appointment.

They are teachers of religion who do not receive revelations.

False prophets are false teachers; they teach false doctrine.

In a confrontation with Alma, Korihor wrote these words: `The devil hath deceived me; * * * I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.’ (Alma 30:53)

True prophets speak with one voice, false prophets with many voices.

If there are false Christs, there are false witnesses of these Christs. It is `as with the people, so with the priest.’ (Isa. 24:2)

False prophets worship false gods and teach others so to do.

Paul tells us that the great apostasy before the Second Coming would result `because they received not the love of the truth,’ and `God shall send them (or, better, allow them to have) strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, . . .’ (2 Thes. 2:10-12)

[36]  `. . . their mouth speaketh great swelling words, (how great their sermons are!) having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.’ (Jude 1:16)

Men can obey their counsel and still live after the manner of the world.

In the vision that opened our dispensation, we also hear the Divine Voice say with reference to the corrupt professors that `they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, . . .’ (P of GP, Jos. Smith 2:19; Isa. 29:13)

`The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.’ (2 Tim. 4:3-4)

If the Lord sends his servant to preach saving truths, should it come as any surprise to find ministers of Satan teaching damning lies? What a terrible thing it is to teach false doctrines that lead men carefully down to hell!

Just as some shall gain eternal life by worshipping the true and living God, so shall others inherit eternal damnation by worshipping false gods.

True prophets teach the true doctrines; false prophets teach heresies.

False prophets teach with their learning rather than by the power of the Holy Ghost.

In the true Church, prophets and preachers speak by the power of the Holy Ghost. `If ye receive not the Spirit, ye shall not teach.’ (D & C 42:14)

False prophets prophesy falsely. The primary sin of false prophets is false teaching. `A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so. . . .’ (Jer. 5:30-31)

[37]  False prophets perform false ordinances that have no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection.

False prophets do not receive revelation, see visions, entertain angels, and see the face of God.

Prophets who do not prophesy, seers who do not see the future, ministers who receive no revelation, teachers who are lost in a mist of darkness!” (taken from The Millennial Messiah, pp. 70 – 84)

* * *


From some of McConkie’s other publications, we continue with 12 additional indications that can be used in determining false prophets:


  1. They receive no revelations or visions from God.


“Whenever the Lord has had a people on earth, they have received revelation from appointed prophets, apostles, and seers. If at any time they ceased to receive revelation, they ceased to be the Lord’s people. This has been the unvarying course from Adam to the present moment. The receipt of revelation is one of the chief identifying characteristics of the true saints; where there are saints there is revelation, and where there is no revelation, the saints of the Most High cease to exist among men. In the same sense, where there is revelation, there is the true church and kingdom of God on earth, and where there is no revelation–coming from apostles, prophets, and seers–there the true church is not. The true church receives revelation. . . .” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 477)


“`Ye shall know them by their fruits,’ Jesus said. By their fruits–their words, their acts, the wonders that they do–these things shall separate true prophets and teachers from false ones. Do they receive revelations and see visions? [38] Does the Holy Ghost speak by their mouth?” (The Mortal Messiah, vol. 2, p. 170)


  1. They do not preach the Gospel fullness.


“All other would-be servants are false ministers, false apostles, false prophets. Such do not preach the fulness of the everlasting gospel in all its glory, beauty, and perfection; such cannot perform the ordinances of salvation….” (Ibid., vol. 4, p. 88)


  1. They are part of a great apostasy.


“To a greater or lesser extent these false theories are accepted and taught in every sectarian church in Christendom. They are interwoven in nearly every article found in the Bible dictionaries commonly used by sectarian Christians. They are part and portion of the promised universal apostasy which the prophets specified would prevail in the last days. Occasionally some of these views are even found in the true Church and creep into lessons and class discussions. In the final analysis they are doctrines of the devil, doctrines which destroy faith and prevent acceptance of the full gospel of salvation.” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., p. 354)


  1. They become spiritually “unrefreshed.”


“[Joseph] Smith was the prophet of the latter days. All spiritual things must be accepted by faith. But in the process of gaining faith, those who are wise will taste the fruits of those who profess prophetic insight. Those who partake of the fruits of true prophets will find them sweet, full of flavor, delicious to the taste, and desirable to the soul, while those who seek nourishment from the fruits of false [39] prophets will remain unrefreshed spiritually. The fruit they eat will be bitter to the taste; it will be as wormwood in their bellies, and from it they will gain none of the sustenance needed for the long journey back to the presence of the Lord.” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 15)


  1. They exhibit no gifts of the Spirit.


“Just as there are false teachers, false religions, false prophets and false Christs, so there are false gospels. Paul proclaimed that all who preached any gospel except that received `by the revelation of Jesus Christ’ should be accursed. (See Gal. 1:6-12.) And the revealed test whereby the true gospel may be identified is that revelations, visions, miracles, signs, apostles, prophets, and all the gifts of the Spirit will always be found in connection with it. (See Mark 16:14-20.) Where these signs are found, there is the gospel of Christ; where these signs are not found, there the gospel of Christ is not.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 334)


  1. They support false doctrines and ordinances.


“There are different churches because there are different doctrines. No two churches espouse and expound the same plan of salvation. If all men believed the same doctrines, all would belong to the same church. The mere existence of a false church of itself requires the support of false doctrines, false ordinances, false teachers, false prophets. In the very nature of things, a false church, in an attempt to survive, must oppose the truth as it is found in the true Church, and this includes opposition to true doctrine, true ordinances, true teachers, and true prophets.” (The Promised Messiah, p. 34)



  1. They lead others away from the true Gospel.


“In practical effect it is the same whether we are dealing with false gods (and their priests) who may lead ancient Israel away from the worship of the true Jehovah, or false Christs (and false teachers) who may lead us away from true religion.” (Ibid., p. 323)


  1. They do not have the Spirit of the Lord.


“Just as there are false prophets and false Christs, so there are false teachers and false preachers. (See Words of Mormon, vs. 15-16.) Anyone who professes to preach the gospel but who does not have the Spirit, and who does not teach the true principles of salvation, and who is not a legal administrator endowed with power from on high, is a false preacher.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 704)


  1. They reject true prophets.


“In the very nature of things persecution of true prophets includes the acceptance of false prophets. It is a philosophical impossibility to reject truth without accepting error, to depart from true teachers without cleaving to false ones, to reject the Lord’s ministers without giving allegiance to those who follow the other Master.” (The Promised Messiah, p. 37)


“Is their doctrine true and sound and in harmony with all that is found in Holy Writ? Do they enjoy the gifts of the Spirit, so that the sick are healed under their hands? And does the Lord God give his Holy Spirit to attest the truth of their words and to approve the acts that they do? Without true prophets there is no salvation; false prophets lead people astray; men choose, at the peril of their salvation, [41] the prophets whom they follow.” (The Mortal Messiah, vol. 2, pp. 170-171)


  1. They teach heresies.


“In the true gospel sense, any opinion or doctrine in opposition to the revealed word of the Lord as recorded in the standard works of the Church and as taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an heresy. The issue is not how many people may believe a teaching; it is whether the doctrine is true or false. (2 Pet. 2:1) The whole Christian world, in the days of the Prophet, believed falsely that God was a mystical spirit essence that filled the immensity of space and was everywhere and nowhere in particular present–all of which proved only that they were all heretics, that the apostasy was universal. Heresy is false doctrine.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 352)


  1. They do not prophesy truth.


“True religion provides for a revelation of future events by prophets sent of God. False religions–whose ministers have no communion with Deity–frequently imitate the true practice by engaging in divination.” (Ibid., p. 202)


  1. They are worldly.


“But then, false prophets are of the world; they follow the practices of the world; they teach what the carnal mind desires to hear; they are loved by the world.” (The Mortal Messiah, vol. 2, pp. 168-169)


* * *


[42]  A false prophet may have a false priesthood, or he may pervert the true priesthood. In any case these signposts should help us detect those who do not have the true Priesthood.


Detecting True Prophets


Now let us consider the other side of the coin and try to determine who is a true prophet. Learning the signposts of a true prophet is as easy as merely reversing those of a false prophet. For example:


  1. They speak against the wicked.
  2. They defend the gospel fullness.
  3. They oppose false prophets.
  4. They sustain all the commandments of God.
  5. They proclaim all of Jesus’ teachings.
  6. They prophesy, have true revelations and visions.
  7. They follow the living Lord.
  8. They are appointed by the Lord.
  9. They may not be educated.
  10. They are spiritual.
  11. They enjoy spiritual gifts.
  12. They do not change the ordinances.
  13. They are not worldly.
  14. They sustain the dead prophets and their teachings.
  15. They are filled with the spirit of the Lord.
  16. They do not boast of their calling.
  17. They have power in the Priesthood.


Unfortunately, there have always been more false prophets than true ones. In ancient Israel false prophets were in serious danger as there was a capital law against them:


[43]        But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. (Deut. 18:20)


The problem then, and now, is that nearly everyone is confused over which is which. To help prevent us from being led astray or being deceived, here are a few guidelines:


Were your faith concentrated upon the proper object, your confidence unshaken, your lives pure and holy, every one fulfilling the duties of his or her calling according to the Priesthood and capacity bestowed upon you, you would be filled with the Holy Ghost, and it would be as impossible for any man to deceive and lead you to destruction as for a feather to remain unconsumed in the midst of intense heat. (Brigham Young, JD 7:277)


What is the reason we do not always comprehend things right? Because, in many instances, we give way to temptation. We let our old prepossessions, feelings, and influences, by which we have been governed heretofore, predominate over the Spirit of God, and we fall into error and darkness; and “If the light that is within us becomes darkness, how great is that darkness!” (John Taylor, JD 6:106)


I have often said to the Latter-day Saints–“Live so that you will know whether I teach you truth or not.” Suppose you are careless and unconcerned, and give way to the spirit of the world, and I am led, likewise, to preach the things of this world and to accept things that are not of God, how easy it would be for me to lead you astray! But I say to you, live so that you will know for yourselves whether I tell the truth or not. That is the way we want all Saints to live. (Brigham Young, JD 18:248)


A man who has a family, and who has been ordained to the Priesthood, can have the light of [44] God to guide him in the interests of his family, that he may know how to rule and conduct all things properly in that household. . . . (Charles W. Penrose, JD 22:72)


History has shown us that these false prophets do not usually show up first and then later true prophets come along and take their place. Rather, both exist at about the same time. The Prophet Joseph stated that, “False prophets always arise to oppose the true prophets.” (TPJS, p. 365) It is understandable that when a true prophet is in existence, that false prophets will rise up to contradict and oppose him and try to change his teachings.


As soon as Joseph Smith was killed, many false teachers and “prophets” arose to lead the people away from his teachings. This greatly bothered Apostle Orson Hyde, and he diligently prayed about it. In April of 1846 he received a revelation with a magnificent and profound message:


In my meditations this morning, the Spirit of the Lord came upon me, and I was moved to write:

And being grieved in my spirit on account of false pretenses by evil designing persons to gain power, and lead away the flock of God, it whispered [to] me and said:

Evil men, ambitious of power, must needs arise among you, and they shall be led by their own self-will and not by me. Yet they are instruments in my hands, and are permitted to try my people, and to collect from among them those who are not the elect, and such as are unworthy of eternal life.

Grieve not after them, neither mourn nor be alarmed.

My people know my voice and also the voice of my spirit, and a stranger they will not follow;

Therefore such as follow strangers are not my people. (Unpublished Revelations, vol. 1, comp. by Fred Collier, pp. 104-105)


[45]  Reverend Billy Graham is recognized by the majority of Americans as one of the most respected, honored and spiritual man in America. But do they know who is truly inspired of the Lord? Common consent does not always represent the voice of God. On the other hand, mobs, ministers, governors, presidents and the majority of Americans thought Joseph Smith was a false prophet. When God makes a man a prophet with the Priesthood, he can be known only by the Spirit of the Lord within us. However, merely ordaining or sustaining a man to be a prophet does not necessarily make him one.


John Taylor often quoted a popular saying of the French people:


We talk sometimes about vox populi, vox Dei–the voice of the people is the voice of God; yet, sometimes it is the voice of the Devil, which would be more proper by vox populi, vox diaboli; for the voice of the people is frequently the voice of the Devil. In the first place, it should be the voice of God, and then the voice of the people. (JD 7:326)


One very important distinction between false and true prophets is that a false prophet will try to persuade people to follow him, while a true prophet teaches people to follow God and His revelations. But people, like sheep, have a stronger tendency to follow the tangible and visible—i.e., other mortals.


A man who believes in following and trusting the “arm of flesh” does not magnify his own Priesthood. In fact, a man who believes in following someone else has no need of the Priesthood for anyone can do that. Repeatedly the scriptures warn us, “that cursed be the man that trusteth in man.” (2 Nephi 4:34)


[46]  A man who puts that much trust in someone else can easily be deceived. Brigham Young said:


. . . if you depend entirely upon the voice, judgment, and sagacity of those appointed to lead you, and neglect to enjoy the Spirit for yourselves, how easily you may be led into error, and finally be cast off to the left hand. (JD 8:59)


A man who instructs others to follow a false prophet does injury to his own Priesthood and salvation as well as the salvation of others, and he will eventually be held accountable. Even the man who persistently and exclusively follows a true prophet can become darkened in his mind, for the Prophet Joseph said, “if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall—that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, . . .” (TPJS, p. 238)


The Holy Ghost is given to man as a guide and a revelator. If we do not heed those promptings, we have no need of the High Priesthood.



[47]                              Chapter 5


                                1886 to 1889:

                        A CRITICAL TIME FOR THE SAINTS


Leading up to 1886


Since the time of Joseph Smith’s first vision in 1820, the powers of the adversary have intensified against the restored Gospel. Ministers have spewed out their religious poison against it; members of the media have written lies in order to sell more publications; and the government has passed laws and more laws to “exterminate the Mormons.”


The most controversial doctrine and practice that has caused the greatest furor has been plural marriage. The LDS Church officially accepted plural marriage as a tenet of their faith in 1852. On that occasion Orson Pratt delivered the first public sermon on the subject, appropriately entitled “Celestial Marriage.” He began by saying:


It is quite unexpected to me, brethren and sisters, to be called upon to address you this forenoon; and still more so, to address you upon the principle which has been named, namely, a plurality of wives. (JD 1:53)


However, he was up to the job, and his powerful sermon covered over 12 written pages in the Journal of Discourses. It stands today as one of the finest speeches upon that subject. Two excerpts are included here:


[48]        In reply we will show you that it is incorporated as a part of our religion, and necessary for our exaltation to the fulness of the Lord’s glory in the eternal world. Would you like to know the reasons? Before we get through, we will endeavour to tell you why we consider it an essential doctrine to glory and exaltation, to our fulness of happiness in the world to come. (JD 1:54)


What does the Lord intend to do with this people? He intends to make them a kingdom of Kings and Priests, a kingdom unto Himself, or in other words, a kingdom of Gods, if they will hearken to His law. There will be many who will not hearken; there will be the foolish among the wise, who will not receive the new and everlasting covenant in its fulness; and they never will attain to their exaltation; they never will be counted worthy to hold the sceptre of power over a numerous progeny, that shall multiply themselves without end, like the sand upon the sea shore. (JD 1:65)


Thus, it was taught that in order for a man to be exalted in the Celestial Kingdom, he must comply, or at least be willing, to live that principle. The Saints voted to accept the revelation, now contained in Section 132 in our Doctrine and Covenants, as a doctrine of the Church.


There on the 29th of August, 1852, the revelation on Celestial Marriage, first recorded from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith on July 12th, 1843, was read to the assembled Saints and sustained by the uplifted hands of the large congregation as a doctrine of their faith and a revelation from the Almighty. (Whitney’s History of Utah, 1:493)


However, the doctrine of plural marriage immediately created opposition both from within and without the Church. Many members in England left the Church; nevertheless, the doctrine continued as a tenet of the faith for nearly 40 years, in spite of the opposition.


[49]  During the crucial 1880’s, it appeared that the LDS Church would have to give up one of its most important Priesthood laws–plural marriage. Opposing forces were increasing their pressure to discontinue its practice. Honored Priesthood leaders were being hunted down like wild animals. It was like a sport with rewards offered for their capture. Public announcements and posted reward notices provided the incentive for even fellow Saints to catch polygamists. One such notice offered reward for the arrest of two members of the First Presidency:


$800 REWARD!

                         To be Paid for the Arrest of

                                 John Taylor


                               George Q. Cannon

                    The above Reward will be paid for the

                      delivery to me, or for information

                       that will lead to the arrest of

                                 JOHN TAYLOR,

                     President of the Mormon Church, and

                              GEORGE Q. CANNON,

                              His Counselor; or

                   $500 will be paid, for Cannon alone, and

                               $300 for Taylor.

               All Conferences or Letters kept strictly secret.

  1. H. GILSON

                  22 and 23 Wasatch Building, Salt Lake City.


[50]  Leading Church authorities were searching for some kind of relief from the storm that threatened themselves, their families and property. Their prime objective seemed to be achieving peace with the government. Prayers were offered to the Lord for guidance, and He answered with revelations to John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff–but not advising concession or compromise. What they expected was not what they received. The Saints were not to abandon the ship, but rather to set the sails. It appeared to be a repeat of the Old Testament battle cry–the Lord would fight their battles if they remained faithful!


The Lord knew the outcome and made it known there was more to this complex issue than just men having a few wives. It was a Priesthood issue involving laws, covenants, free agency and eternal destinies. Opportunities and options faced the Saints, and the final decision was theirs. The Lord would force no one in this matter. These were tough times for tough people.


The Events of 1886


Since its inception with Joseph Smith, plural marriage had been secretly taught and practiced by selected Church leaders. There were many ongoing meetings, ordinances and revelations that occurred without public knowledge. This secrecy was especially necessary during the 1870’s to 1890’s because of government opposition and persecution. Among the most secret was a meeting held in 1886, which was not publicly exposed until nearly 20 years later. Basically the story is contained in a 1912 signed statement by Lorin C. Woolley:


Statement of Facts


In the latter part of September, 1886, the exact day being not now known to me, President John Taylor [51] was staying at the home of my father, John W. Woolley, in Centerville, Davis County, Utah.

At the particular time herein referred to, President Taylor was in hiding (on the under-ground). Charles H. Bearrell (sic) and I were the “guardsmen” on watch for the protection of the President. Two were usually selected each night, and they took turns standing guard to protect the President from trespass or approaching danger. Exceptional activity was exercised by the U.S. Federal Officers in their prosecutions of the Mormon people on account of their family relations in supposed violation of the Federal Laws.

Soon after our watch began, Charles H. Bearrell (sic) reclined on a pallet and went to sleep. President Taylor had entered the south room to retire for the night. There was no door-way entrance to the room occupied by President Taylor, except the entrance from the room occupied by the guardsmen. Soon after 9 o’clock, I heard the voice of another man engaged in conversation with President Taylor, and I observed that a very brilliant light was illuminating the room occupied by the president. I wakened Bearrell (sic) and told him what I had heard and seen, and we both remained awake and on watch the balance of the night. The conversation was carried on all night between President Taylor and the visitor, and never discontinued until the day began to dawn–when it ceased and the light disappeared. We heard the voices in conversation while the conference continued and we saw the light.

My father came into the room where we were on watch, and was there when President Taylor came into the room that morning. As the President entered the room he remarked, “I had a very pleasant conversation all night with the Prophet Joseph.” At the time President Taylor entered the room his countenance was very bright and could be seen for several hours after. After observing that someone was in conversation with the President, I went out and examined all of the windows, and found them fastened as usual.

[52]        The brethren were considerably agitated about this time over the agitation about Plural Marriage, and some were insisting that the Church issue some kind of edict to be used in Congress, concerning the surrendering of Plural Marriage, and that if some policy were not adopted to relieve the strain the government would force the Church to surrender. Much was said in their deliberations for and against some edict or manifesto that had been prepared, and at a meeting that afternoon, at which a number there were present and myself, I heard President Taylor say: “Brethren, I will suffer my right hand to be cut off before I will sign such a document.”

I, Lorin C. Woolley, of Centerville, Utah, do hereby certify, that I have carefully made and read the foregoing statement of facts and the same is true to the best of my knowledge. Dated this 6th day of October, 1912.

(signed) Lorin C. Woolley

(The Polygamy Story: Fiction and Fact, J. Max Anderson, pp. 2-3)


It is interesting to note how John Taylor’s attitude changed overnight concerning the proposed manifesto. He went to bed the night before not sure one way or the other about this manifesto, but when he spoke to his associates the next morning, he was adamantly against it. Truth magazine continues the account:


After that he talked for about an hour and then sat down and wrote the revelation which was given him by the Lord upon the question of Plural Marriage. . . . Then he talked to us for some time, and said, “Some of you will be handled and ostracized and be cast out from the Church by your brethren because of your faithfulness and integrity to this principle, and some of you may have to surrender your lives because of the same, but woe, woe, unto those who shall bring these troubles upon you.” * * *

[53]        He then set us apart and placed us under covenant that while we lived we would see to it that no year passed by without children being born in the principle of plural marriage. We were given authority to ordain others if necessary to carry this work on, they in turn to be given authority to ordain others when necessary, under the direction of the worthy senior (by ordination), so that there should be no cessation in the work. He then gave each of us a copy of the Revelation. (Truth 2:219)


The actuality of this September 1886 meeting continues to be questioned, but the revelation of 1886, after much controversy, has finally been proved to be genuine after sufficient evidence was brought forth–such as a copy in John Taylor’s own handwriting:


My Son John: You have asked me concerning the New and Everlasting Covenant and how far it is binding upon my people. Thus saith the Lord: All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name, unless they are revoked by me or by my authority, and how can I revoke an ever-lasting covenant; for I the Lord am everlasting and my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated, nor done away with, but they stand forever.

Have I not given my word in great plainness on this subject? Yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my laws and the keeping of my commandments, and yet have I borne with them these many years; and this because of their weakness, because of the perilous times, and furthermore, it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regards to these matters. Nevertheless, I the Lord do not change; my word and my covenants and my law do not.

And as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph: All those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey the law. And have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham’s seed and would enter into my glory, they must do the works of Abraham?

[54]        I have not revoked this law, nor will I, for it is everlasting, and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof; Even so, Amen. (Revelations 1880-1890, Pioneer Press, pp. 54-55)


This document, if authentic, must be considered one of the major documents in Church history. To summarize its contents:


  1. It was considered as a revelation, not as a manifesto or an official declaration.
  2. It contains the words “thus saith the Lord,” which identifies its source as being the Lord Himself.
  3. The question asked of the Lord was “how far it [plural marriage] is binding upon my people,” meaning that it was not a personal revelation but for His people.
  4. The response was, “all commandments that I give must be obeyed by those” who claim to be the Lord’s people.
  5. The Lord says He cannot revoke an everlasting covenant, thus indicating that the people cannot revoke one either.
  6. “They stand forever” means a very, very long time–not just for 40 years.
  7. Great numbers of His people have been negligent in keeping His laws and commandments, and this condition has not changed in our day.
  8. Men should use their free agency in these matters; the Lord would not force any doctrine upon them.
  9. The Lord does not change, nor do His everlasting covenants and laws.
  10. Anyone wanting to enter into the glory of the Lord must obey His “law” [of plural marriage].
  11. If you are Abraham’s seed, you will do the works of Abraham [plural marriage].
  12. God had not revoked this law nor would He do so in the future.


[55]  After establishing such a strong position, how could the Lord later claim that He was now going to revoke His law and commandment; that He had changed His mind and no one needed to obey His everlasting covenant; that it was no longer necessary to do the works of Abraham; that all those who wanted to enter into His glory did not have to obey the conditions thereof anymore! God’s position was clear: His eternal law would remain in tact, but the Saints had their free agency as to whether or not they would obey it.


History has shown that more and more of “His people” have been “negligent” in obedience to His eternal laws and commandments. They choose to ignore the importance of living that Priesthood law. From Joseph Smith to Wilford Woodruff, every Church President testified that plural marriage was the fulness of the celestial marriage covenant. It was a Priesthood law and the Church could vote to accept or reject it as a tenet of the Church.


There was only a relatively small percentage of the Saints who remained steadfast in their support of the principle and who were determined not to give it up. They supported John Taylor in his belief that “there will always be somebody left to carry on the work.” (Des. News, Feb. 25, 1885)


The words of Nephi should remind us of the importance of obeying all of God’s commandments:


And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. (1 Nephi 3:7)


[56]  In referring to the appearance of both Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ to John Taylor in 1886, one may ask, “Why did Joseph Smith and Jesus have to appear? Isn’t the revelation enough to keep that law on the books of the LDS Church? To begin with, we are in Joseph Smith’s dispensation, and any major changes or modifications must receive his approval or disapproval. Secondly, the Savior must appear to grant permission for any changes or alterations in His own church.


After this revelation of 1886 was given by the Lord to John Taylor, he was instructed to appoint a few men to continue to keep plural marriage alive. These men could be considered as more of His “other sheep” which the Shepherd considered as part of His flock. If the Master thus selects certain people to do His bidding, the President of the Church cannot very well rescind the order.


If this whole story were a fabrication, it has failed to meet the requirements of other frauds. There are common motives in the commission of most crimes, as well as in the establishment of many worldly churches, groups or phony business schemes. Let’s briefly apply some of these motives to those who were a part of this 1886 experience:


  1. Profit. None of the individuals involved in 1886 made a living or even an income from their appointment—nor did they collect tithing unto themselves.
  2. Power and authority. None of them received additional authority or claimed to be “prophets, seers and revelators,” as many other impostors have done.
  3. Popularity. Instead of receiving recognition by announcing this great manifestation to the world, they kept it secret for many years.
  4. Organization. The original men appointed by John Taylor did not set up another church or group so they could preside over a large congregation.


  1. A larger stewardship. None of them, as a result, collected a large number of wives. On the other hand, they were criticized by some anti-Fundamentalists for not having enough.


Thus, the usual motives are not evident among the men that John Taylor called to keep alive the Priesthood law of plural marriage.


The whole experience of September 1886 provided a way for the Lord to prepare His faithful Saints to live the Gospel in its fulness.


President Taylor said that the time would come when many of the Saints would apostatize because of this principle. He said “one-half of this people will apostatize over the principle for which we are now in hiding, yea, and possibly one-half of the other half.” He also said the day will come when a document similar to that then under consideration would be adopted by the Church, following which “apostasy and whoredom would be rampant in the Church.” (Truth magazine 2:218)





(picture of John Taylor)








[58]  President Taylor’s statement that “many of the Saints would apostatize because of this principle” came to pass just a year later. On June 30, 1887, a convention was held for the purpose of creating a constitution in the event Utah became a state. Although not the first effort in this direction, it was significant because of the willingness of the Mormons themselves to forbid polygamy and punish those who lived it.


Orson F. Whitney said that “The movement was especially notable from the fact that it was proposed by the Mormons—the Gentiles refusing to take any part in the proceedings.” (History of Utah 3:583) The convention continued for a week, until July 7th. As a result, a constitution was framed and adopted, including the following provision:


Section 12 (of Article XV). Bigamy and polygamy being considered incompatible with a republican form of government, each of them is hereby forbidden and declared a misdemeanor. Any person who shall violate this section shall, on conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, and by imprisonment for a term of not less than six months, nor more than three years, in the discretion of the court. (History of Utah, Whitney, 3:584)


The election occurred on Monday, the 1st of August [1887]. The count of the votes cast showed the following result:

For the Constitution..  13,195

Against the Constitution..   502

(Ibid., p. 585)


The Saints had spoken! John Taylor’s prophecy was already being fulfilled. The vote demonstrated a ratio of 27 to 1 against plural marriage. The Saints had reversed their position in 35 years. Church law was conceding to gentile law. We can only assume what John Taylor’s reaction to this vote would have been, as he had died on July 25th, one week earlier.


[59]  This manifestation of feelings against plural marriage by the Mormons occurred one year after the 1886 manifestation and three years before the Manifesto of 1890.


Laws and Lawyers–Judges and Juries


Leading up to the 1890 Manifesto, more and more federal laws were passed against polygamists and polygamy. It became a clash of legality vs. freedom. Church property was seized, including the temple, for which the Saints paid monthly rent to the government in the amount of $400. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of property and land were confiscated by the government, much of which has never been returned. But it was all “legal” according to the law—much the same as the crucifixion of Christ was all “legal” according to their law.


However, just because someone makes a law, it does not necessarily mean it is a good one. Adolf Hitler bombed, burned and murdered millions of people, all according to Nazi law. Stalin and Mao Tse Tung raped, robbed and slaughtered millions of people and were acting within Communist law.


American jurisprudence has not fared very well either. If anyone doubts it, they need only review the treatment of our country toward the American Indians, the black race, the Chinese and the Mormons. The basis for criminal law can be reduced to three main categories: protection to persons, property, and reputation. Law and governments are there for the purpose of protection, not destruction.


More significant is the fact that human law should not exceed the jurisdiction of God’s laws. Quoting from two wise and respected, politically knowledgeable men:



Thomas Jefferson:

(author of Declaration of Independence)


The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such actions only as are injurious to others. (Review of the Decision of Supreme Court of U.S. in George Reynolds vs. United States, p. 19)


William Blackstone:

(author of legal guidebook, Blackstone’s Commentaries; well respected by those in the legal profession)


If ever the laws of God and men are at variance, the former are to be obeyed in derogation of the latter; that the law of God is, under all circumstances, superior in obligation to that of man. (Blackstone’s Commentaries, 16th ed., p. 58)


Because of the apparent Mormon desire, prior to 1890, to obey God’s laws over man’s laws, the gentiles realized that their threats, mobs and anti-polygamy laws could not destroy the Mormons–so it was decided to destroy their system. It would take an army of lawyers, judges, marshals and politicians, but they were determined to do the job at all costs. If they could establish stronger laws against the Mormons, they would then be considered as lawbreakers, even though the laws would be unconstitutional, biased and un-Christian. The gentiles would strike first at plural marriage–an action they knew the modern Christians would support.


The worst, most unconstitutional and unreasonable law that Congress ever conceived was the Edmunds-Tucker Act, which became law on March 3, 1887. It included the following stipulations:



  1. It dissolved the corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a legal entity.
  2. It made husband and wife competent witnesses.
  3. It caused forfeiture and escheatment of all Church property, both real and personal, in excess of $50,000 to the Federal Government, the property to be disposed of and the proceeds to be used for the benefit of the district schools of Utah.
  4. It dissolved the Perpetual Emigrating Company and escheated its resources to the Federal Government, to be disposed of and used as were those of the Church.
  5. It prohibited the chartering of any corporation similar in nature or intent to the Perpetual Emigrating Company.
  6. It abolished woman suffrage in Utah.
  7. It disinherited polygamous issue.
  8. It provided for complete disfranchisement of polygamists by test oath: (a) they could not vote; (b) they could not sit on juries; (c) they could not hold public office.
  9. It placed all law enforcement officials, judicial officers and militia personnel under the direction of the Utah Commission or other federal appointees.
  10. It suspended territorial school laws.
  11. It required certification and registration of all marriages in the probate court.

(Des. News, March 3, 1887)


The Edmunds-Tucker Act was just what the national politicians had desired. It would give them control over Mormon land, buildings and money. The day after the death of President John Taylor, government lawyer, George S. Peters, commenced suit to confiscate all Church property over $50,000, which was estimated to total over three million dollars. U.S. Marshal Frank Dyer began taking over all the assets. Historian H. H. Bancroft made the following comment about this legislation:


[62]        Both of these measures were sufficiently ill-advised and rank, perhaps among the clumsiest specimens of legislation as yet devised by man; but it remained for the Edmunds Bill to cap the climax of absurdity. (Bancroft’s History of Utah, p. 683)


Political pressure continued to mount and once again Church leaders asked their president, now Wilford Woodruff, to petition the Lord for an answer to their problems, hoping the Lord might have changed His mind. And once again the Lord answered. The account of the circumstances follows:







(picture of Wilford Woodruff)








Church attorneys asked the First Presidency how proper it would be to make statements in court about the endowment ceremony and about instructions that had been given discontinuing the solemnization of plural marriages. The question was taken to President Woodruff, who made it a matter of prayer, and on 24 November 1889, he dictated the following revelation to his clerk, L. John Nuttall:

[63]        “Thus saith the Lord to my servant Wilford, I the Lord have heard thy prayer and thy request, and will answer thee by the voice of my Spirit. Thus saith the Lord, unto my servants, the Presidency of my Church, who hold the keys of the Kingdom of God on the earth, I the Lord hold the destiny of the Courts in your midst, and the destiny of this nation, and all other nations of the earth in mine own hands; all that I have revealed, and promised and decreed concerning the generation in which you live, shall come to pass, and no power shall stay my hand. Let not my servants who are called to the Presidency of my Church, deny my word or my law, which concerns the salvation of the children of men. Let them pray for the Holy Spirit, which shall be given them, to guide them in their acts. Place not yourselves in jeopardy to your enemies by promise; your enemies seek your destruction and the destruction of my people. If the Saints will hearken unto my voice, and the counsel of my servants, the wicked shall not pre-vail. Let my servants, who officiate as your Counselors before the Courts, make their pleadings as they are moved upon by the Holy Spirit, without any further pledges from the Priesthood, and they shall be justified. I the Lord will hold the Courts, with the officers of government, and the nation responsible for their acts towards the inhabitants of Zion. I, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, am in your midst. I am your advocate with the Father. Fear not little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. Fear not the wicked and ungodly. Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of me; also those revelations which I have given to my Servant Joseph, and to all my Servants since the world began, which are recorded in the records of divine truth. Those revelations contain the judgments of God, which are to be poured out upon all nations under the heavens, which include great Babylon. These judgments are at the door, they will be fulfilled as God lives. Leave judgment with me, it is mine saith the Lord. Watch the signs of the times, and they will show the fulfillment of the words of the Lord. Let my servants call upon the Lord in mighty prayer, retain the Holy Ghost as your [64] constant companion, and act as you are moved upon by that spirit, and all will be well with you. The wicked are fast ripening in iniquity, and they will be cut off by the judgments of God. Great events await you and this generation, and are nigh at your doors. Awake, O Israel, and have faith in God, and His promises, and He will not forsake you. I, the Lord will deliver my Saints from the dominion of the wicked, in mine own due time and way. I cannot deny my word, neither in blessings nor judgments. Therefore let mine anointed gird up their loins, watch and be sober, and keep my commandments. Pray always and faint not; exercise faith in the Lord and in the promises of God; be valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ. The eyes of the Lord and the Heavenly Hosts are watching over you and your acts. Therefore be faithful until I come. I come quickly, to reward every man according with deeds done in the body. Even so. Amen.” (Messages of the First Presidency, Prof. James R. Clark, 3:175-176)


To recap the important information in this revelation–


  1. The Presidency of the Church should NOT deny the Lord’s law.
  2. They should make no promises to the gentiles.
  3. The wicked would not prevail.
  4. No further pledges should come from the Priesthood.
  5. The courts and government officers would be held responsible for any acts against Zion.
  6. The Lord could not deny His word or law.
  7. The Saints should keep the commandments of God and have faith in His promises.


Nowhere in this revelation does the Lord indicate that He was going to revoke the law or instruct the Saints to compromise with their enemies. There is no hint of abandoning plural marriage. This revelation was given so the Saints would continue steadfast in keeping the Lord’s law of plural marriage–and not succumb to the laws of the land against it.


[65]  According to Abraham Cannon, this revelation was interpreted correctly by the Saints. He recorded in his journal:


The answer came quick and strong. The word of the Lord was for us not to yield one particle of that which He had revealed and established. We are promised redemption and deliverance if we will trust in God and not in the arm of flesh. It sets all doubts at rest concerning the course to pursue. (Abraham Cannon Journal, Dec. 19, 1889)


In the midst of all this persecution, imprisonment and confiscation of property, the Lord never gave the Saints any indication that they should surrender to their enemies. However, a few months later they would again clamor for temporal relief. It would come, but under the most controversial of circumstances.



[66]                              Chapter 6


                             MAN-MADE MANIFESTOS


They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones. They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee. (Ps. 83:3-5)


The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. (Ps 2:2-3)


In 1890 the LDS Church, its members and the Priesthood experienced perhaps their greatest trials and testing. But in this life good and evil are continually pitted against each other. The world appears to be a great theatrical stage where universal powers are reaching out for the souls of men. It is not just a battle of armies and navies, but a contest of simple principles. The battle reaches from the throne of kings down to the secret and sacred chambers of the heart. It is an eternal conflict drawing men towards celestial light or the depths of darkness.


If God has apostles, missionaries and a priesthood, so does the devil. Once again they were to meet in a clash–not of arms but of principles. Once again these were “the times that tried men’s souls.” Some of the faithful were sent to prison, [67] while others compromised. A few even turned against their beliefs and became informants and persecutors. It was a time of decision on all levels–a time when the Church leaders felt they had to make some official declaration in an effort to bring temporal relief.


On December 2, 1889, an Official Declaration was issued by the Church relative to an Idaho Test Oath Law which was unconstitutional but upheld by the Supreme Court. It was signed by the First Presidency and published in the Deseret News, December 21, 1889.


On December 12, 1889, a second Official Declaration was issued on the subject of blood atonement. Professor James R. Clark explained:


“This Official Declaration was a direct out-growth of the testimony and accusations made in the… cases before Judge Anderson. The Presidency and the Twelve considered the matter when it was decided as the mind of the Council that the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles get up a manifesto on this subject, such a one as all can sign.”

The declaration brands as false any claims that the LDS Church believed in or practiced “blood atonement.”

The Declaration or “Manifesto” was dated Dec. 12, 1889, and was published in the “Evening Deseret News.” (Messages of the First Presidency, vol. 3, p. 183)


The following is a photocopy of the December 12, 1889, Official Declaration, showing part of pages 1 and 3.


[68]                            OFFICIAL DECLARATION.


                  SALT LAKE CITY,

                                    December 12th, 1889.



      In consequence of gross misrepresentations of the doctrines, aims and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called the “Mormon” Church, which have been promulgated for years, and have recently been revived for political purposes and to prevent all aliens, otherwise qualified, who are members of the “Mormon” Church from acquiring citizenship, we deem it proper on behalf of said Church to publicly deny these calumnies and enter our protest against them.

      We solemnly make the following declarations, viz.:

      That this Church views the shedding of human blood with the utmost abhorrence. That we regard the killing of a human being, except in conformity with the civil law, as a capital crime which should be punished by shedding the blood of the criminal, after a public trial before a legally constituted court of the land.

      Notwithstanding all the stories told about the killing of apostates, no case of this kind has ever occurred, and of course has never been established against the Church we represent. Hundreds of seceders from the Church have continuously resided and now live in this Territory, many of whom have amassed considerable wealth, though bitterly hostile to the “Mormon” faith and people. Even those who have made it their business to fabricate the vilest falsehoods, and to render them plausible by culling isolated passages from old sermons without the explanatory context, and have suffered no opportunity to escape them of vilifying and blackening the characters of the people, have remained among those whom they have thus persistently calumniated until the present day, without receiving the slightest personal injury.

      We denounce as entirely untrue the allegation which has been made, that our Church favors or believes in the killing of persons who leave the Church or apostatize from its doctrines. We would view a punishment of this character for such an act with the utmost horror, it is abhorrent to us and is in direct opposition to the fundamental principles of our creed.

      The revelations of God to this Church make death the penalty for capital crime, and require that offenders against life and property shall be delivered up to and tried by the laws of the land.

      We declare that no Bishop’s or other courts in this Church claims or exercises the right to supersede, annul or modify a judgment of any civil court. Such courts, while established to regulate Christian conduct, are purely ecclesiastical, and their punitive powers go no further than the suspension or excommunication of members from Church fellowship.

      That this Church, while offering advice for the welfare of its members in all conditions of life, does not claim or exercise the right to interfere with citizens in the free exercise of social or political rights and privileges. The ballot in this Territory is absolutely untrammeled and secret. No man’s business or other secular affairs are invaded by the Church or any of its officers. Free agency and direct individual accountability to God are among the essentials of our Church doctrine. All things in the Church must be done by common consent, and no officer is appointed without the vote of the body.

      We declare that there is nothing in the ceremony of the Endowment, or in any doctrine, tenet, obligation or injunction of this Church, either private or public, which is hostile or intended to be hostile to the Government of the United States. On the contrary, its members are under divine commandment to revere the Constitution as a heaven-inspired instrument.

      Utterances of prominent men in the Church at a time of great excitement have been selected and grouped, to convey the impression that present members are seditious. Those expressions were made more than thirty years ago, when through the falsehoods of recreant officials, afterwards demonstrated to be baseless, troops were sent to this Territory and were viewed by the people, in their isolated condition, fifteen hundred miles from railroads, as an armed mob coming to renew the bloody persecutions of years before.

      At that time excitement prevailed and strong language was used; but no words of disloyalty against the Government or its institutions were uttered; public speakers confined their remarks to denouncing traitorous officials who were prostituting the powers of their positions to accomplish nefarious ends. Criticism of the acts of United States officials was not considered then, neither is it now, as treason against the nation nor as hostility to the Government. In this connection we may say that the members of our Church have never offered or intended to offer, any insult to the flag of our country; but have always honored it as the ensign of laws and liberty.

      We also declare that this Church does not claim to be an independent, temporal kingdom of God, or to be an imperium in emperio aiming to overthrow the United States or any other civil government. It has been organized by divine revelation preparatory to the second advent of the Redeemer. It proclaims that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Its members are commanded of God to be subject unto the powers that be until Christ comes, whose right it is to reign.

      Church government and civil government are distinct and separate in our theory and practice, and we regard it as part of our destiny to aid in the maintenance and perpetuity of the institutions of our country.

      We claim no religious liberty that we are unwilling to accord to others.

      We ask for no civil or political rights which are not granted and guaranteed to citizens in general.

      We desire to be in harmony with the Government and people of the United States as an integral part of the nation.

      We regard all attempts to exclude aliens from naturalization, and citizens from the exercise of the elective franchise, solely because they are members of the “Mormon” Church, as impolitic, unrepublican, and dangerous encroachments upon civil and religious liberty.

      Notwithstanding the wrongs we consider we have suffered through the improper execution of national laws, we regard those wrongs as the acts of men and not of the Government; and we intent, by the help of Omnipotence, to remain firm in our fealty and steadfast in the maintenance of constitutional principles and the integrity of this Republic.

      We earnestly appeal to the American press and people not to condemn the Latter-day Saints unheard. Must we always be judged by the misrepresentations of our enemies, and never be accorded a fair opportunity of representing ourselves?

      In the name of justice, reason and humanity, we ask for a suspension of national and popular judgment until a full investigation can be had and all the facts connected with what is called the “Mormon” question call be known. And we appeal to the Eternal Judge of all men and nations to aid us in the vindication of our righteous cause.





Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.











  1. W. MERRILL,
  2. H. LUND,


Members of the Council of the Apostles.


      JOHN W. YOUNG,




[69]  A few months later came a third Official Declaration or manifesto from the LDS Church. This one pertained to plural marriage. All three of these manifestos were intended to soften the prejudice and persecution from a hostile nation.


In 1887 the United States carried out an astonishing act. A nation founded upon the principle of religious freedom, which had enshrined that principle in its Constitution’s Bill of Rights, passed a law that dissolved a church.

The Edmunds Act of 1882 took direct aim at ending polygamy, and the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887 went far beyond authorizing “polyg hunts;” it set out to destroy the church’s temporal kingdom. (Mormon America, R. J. Ostling, p. 76)


Thus, a terrible burden was placed on the shoulders of President Wilford Woodruff. The U.S. Government had become a vicious mob and was stealing, destroying and throwing good men into prison. The vast majority of the Mormon people were opposed to living plural marriage, but were suffering because of the actions of a small minority. In this quandary, Woodruff tried to find a satisfactory solution; however, most of the answers were not supportive of the Priesthood and its laws.


A few months previously, the Lord had revealed to Pres. Woodruff:


Let not my servants who are called to the Presidency of my Church, deny my word or my law, which concerns the salvation of the children of men. (“My Kingdom Shall Roll Forth,” LDS manual, p. 58; also Messages of the First Presidency, 3:175)


Thus, Woodruff was caught between the U.S. Government and most Church members on one side and the word of God, the Priesthood and the polygamists on the other. Some type of compromise seemed inevitable, and he presented such to the Quorum of the Twelve:


[70]        Although Wilford Woodruff had been a vocal opponent to any form of concession with the Government concerning plural marriage during the Taylor administration, when the leadership of the Church fell on him as senior Apostle, he began to seek avenues of compromise. During the next three years, he would present to the Quorum on at least two occasions drafts of documents that would relinquish plural marriage. Both were soundly rejected by the rest of the Quorum of the Twelve. (Collected Discourses, Brian Stuy, vol. 2, xxiii-xxiv)


Wilford Woodruff also had admitted:


After I became President of the Church, I did not advocate the practice of this principle among our people, for that was what I saw before me, and it was upon that ground that I issued the manifesto. . . . I believe it was my duty and the duty of our people to obey the law. (Deseret News Weekly, Oct. 20, 1891)


President Woodruff was also caught between the loud clamor of the people and his own silent conviction of the truthfulness of this marriage covenant. This was God’s covenant, a spiritual contract that should not be broken. Once the Saints had entered into such eternal covenants, they should not look back. Lot’s wife taught us that! Reverend George Peters, author of a three-volume set on the theocratic kingdom, wrote a precious gem that should be an anchor to our souls:


Any theory, inference, or doctrine which militates against the covenants is not only open to grave suspicion, but must be rejected, no matter by whom presented or however eloquently urged. God cannot, does not, contradict Himself. (Theocratic Kingdom, Peters, 3:565)


[71]  A similar test had been experienced by President John Taylor five years before:


There had been some talk about President Taylor issuing a revelation abolishing that system of marriage. When a revelation of that kind is given, it will be when the Lord has no use for the Latter-day Saints…. (Des. News, April 6, 1885)


Until now there had been no literal shots fired and no one had been killed, but Brigham Young hadn’t been that concerned if it were to happen, for he commented:


Suppose that the wicked kill us, who cares? They never will kill any but what it will swell the kingdom a little faster. (JD 4:374)


Under such stressful conditions, Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto of 1890–in actuality a press release–with the hope it would have peaceful results:



To Whom It May Concern:

      Press dispatches having been sent for political purposes, from Salt Lake City, which have been widely published, to the effect that the Utah Commission, in their recent report to the Secretary of the Interior, allege that plural marriages are still being solemnized and that forty or more such marriages have been contracted in Utah since last June or during the past year, also that in public discourses the leaders of the Church have taught, encouraged and urged the continuance of the practice of polygamy–

      I, therefore, as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do hereby, in the most solemn manner, declare that these charges are false. We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice, and I deny that either forty or any other number of plural marriages have during that period, been solemnized in our Temples or in any other place in the Territory.

      One case has been reported, in which the parties allege that the marriage was performed in the Endowment House, in Salt Lake City, in the spring of 1889, but I have not been able to learn who performed the ceremony; what ever was done in the matter was without my knowledge. In consequence of this alleged occurrence the Endowment House was, by my instructions, taken down without delay.

      Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.

      There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy; and when any Elder of the Church has used language which appeared to convey any such teaching he has been promptly reproved. And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.

                        (signed) WILFORD WOODRUFF

                        President of the Church of Jesus

                        Christ of Latter-day Saints.


[73]  Important ideas to point out regarding this Manifesto are–


  1. It was addressed, “To Whom It May Concern.” We must decide who that might be. Was it the government, the Church, individual Church members, lawyers or the gentiles? It didn’t say.


  1. It began as an answer to, and was mostly concerned with “press dispatches.” It appears to be written for them.


  1. Woodruff said, “I deny that either forty or any other number of plural marriages have during that period been solemnized in our Temples or in any other place in the Territory.” He knew, however, that these marriages were still being performed in Canada and Mexico.


  1. Then because someone had performed a plural marriage in the Endowment House, he said, “In consequence of this alleged occurrence, the Endowment House was, by my instructions, taken down without delay.”


  1. Since Congress had forbidden plural marriages, Wilford Woodruff declared his “intention to submit to those laws,” which he disregarded seven years later when he was sealed to the Palestinian lady lecturer, Ms. Lydia Mountford.


  1. Wilford Woodruff personally said he would “submit to those laws,” and would “use my influence with the members of the Church . . . to have them do likewise.” This was his “influence,” rather than God’s “revelation.”


  1. When any Elder of the Church used language to encourage the practice of plural marriage, “he has been promptly reproved.”



  1. When Woodruff said, “there is nothing in my teachings” or in any others that would “encourage polygamy,” it announced the end of the era of celestial marriage within the Church.


  1. Then, in conclusion, he said, “I, [Wilford Woodruff, not the Lord] now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.”


  1. A prophet of God will always tell you to obey the laws of God regardless of any other laws, rules or codes. Prophets do not advise people to disobey the laws of God so they can be convenienced by the laws of man.


Since the Manifesto of 1890 was a decisive factor in Priesthood authority existing outside the LDS Church organization, we need to learn more about this important document. Thus, the following issues will be discussed in more detail:


  1. Who wrote the Manifesto?
  2. Was the Manifesto a revelation?
  3. Did the Manifesto really stop plural marriage?
  4. One plural marriage manifesto–or many?
  5. Comparisons and Contradictions
  6. The Manifesto in Retrospect


  1. Who wrote the Manifesto?


If the Manifesto was actually a revelation from God, then we would know that the law of plural marriage was not an eternal one–that it could be revoked and is not necessary for exaltation. In that case, Fundamentalist Mormons would have no grounds for living plural marriage today. Furthermore, we would know that it is not an eternal Priesthood law.


[75]  However, if the Manifesto is not a revelation from God, then there must be evidence to prove it. A thorough study of the Manifesto is vital to correctly understanding Priesthood today. First of all, let’s determine its source of authorship. There is no reference made about God in the text; it does not say, “Thus saith the Lord;” and it is signed by only one person–Wilford Woodruff, although according to the following information he did not write it either.


Shortly after the turn of the 19th century, a missionary serving in England and Wales by the name of Thomas J. Rosser had an experience that indicated the true authorship of the Manifesto. In a letter to Robert C. Newson of Salt Lake City, dated August 4, 1956, Rosser related the following account:


* * * Then I went back to Bristol, [England], my headquarters, to a conference, which was held Sunday, May 24, 1908. On Monday morning, the 25th, our Conference Priesthood Meeting was held, which lasted four hours and a half. After the preliminary exercises, President Charles W. Penrose asked if any of the brethren had any questions on their minds, and if so, to present them now before he delivered his message to us.

Up went my hand.

“All right,” he said.

“President Penrose,” I said, “I have heard much discussion on the principle of plural marriage, some saying that it is withdrawn from the earth and that the Manifesto was a revelation from God. Dear President, what about this case?” Then I related to him the testimony of the sister, which is written above, and then I asked him, “Why should she receive this testimony if God has withdrawn the principle from the earth, and the Manifesto is a true revelation from God?”

President Penrose then rose to his feet, scratched the side of his head with his right hand for a moment or so, then stretched out his right hand toward us and [76] said: “Brethren, I will answer that question, if you will keep it under your hats. I, Charles W. Penrose, wrote the Manifesto with the assistance of Frank J. Cannon and John White. It’s no revelation from God, for I wrote it. Wilford Woodruff signed it to beat the Devil at his own game. Brethren, how can God withdraw an everlasting principle from the earth? He has not, and can not, and I testify to you as a servant of God that this is true.”

The reason this statement is given is because I have heard so much discussion as to whether or not the Manifesto of 1890 is a revelation from God, and so I wish to relate herewith the understanding given to us at the Bristol Conference by President Charles W. Penrose on May 25th, 1908.

Sincerely, your brother,

O/S Thomas J. Rosser

(Entire letter is quoted in The Holy Priesthood, Kraut, 6:264-265)


The LDS Church responded to this information by saying that they had no record of Rosser or Penrose being in Wales in May, 1908. However, the Wales meeting had been moved to Bristol according to the following report recorded in the Millennial Star:


The Bristol semi-annual conference was held May 24th [1908], in the Wolseley Hall, Eastville, Bristol. There were present President Charles W. Penrose, President C. G. Jarman and twenty-four traveling elders of the Bristol conference. After singing and prayer, President Jarman gave all present a hearty welcome. Expressed his appreciation at seeing so many saints and friends present from the outlying districts. * * * Elders R. J. Walker, Thomas J. Rosser, Frank I. Hill and John H. Bawden gave reports of their respective branches. The reports were very encouraging. (Mill. Star 70:348)


[77]  Elder George Reynolds also gave his testimony that he, too, helped draft the Manifesto. His statement was presented in the Smoot Hearings in Washington, D.C. in January 1904:


The Chairman. I do not know but I may have misunderstood. I understood this manifesto was inspired.

Mr. Reynolds. Yes.

The Chairman. That is your understanding of it?

Mr. Reynolds. My understanding was that it was inspired.

The Chairman. And when it was handed to you, it was an inspiration, as you understand, from on high, was it not?

Mr. Reynolds. Yes.

The Chairman. What business had you changing it?

Mr. Reynolds. We did not change the meaning.

The Chairman. You have just stated you changed it.

Mr. Reynolds. Not the sense, sir; I didn’t state we changed the sense.

The Chairman. But you changed the phraseology?

Mr. Reynolds. We simply put it in shape for publication–corrected possibly the grammar, and wrote it so that–

The Chairman. You mean to say that in an inspired communication from the Almighty the grammar was bad, was it? You corrected the grammar of the Almighty, did you? (Reed Smoot Hearings 2:52-53)


Later in his testimony he identifies two others who helped author the Manifesto:


Mr. Worthington. You said something about helping to write the manifesto. Will you explain that?

Mr. Reynolds. President Woodruff wrote it in his own hand–and he was a very poor writer, worse, I [78] believe, than Horace Greeley–and he gave it into the hands of three of the elders to prepare it for the press. I was one of those three.

Mr. Worthington. Who were the three?

Mr. Reynolds. C. W. Penrose, John R. Winder, and myself. (Ibid., 2:269)


Thus, according to the above two separate accounts, there were at least six brethren who assisted in writing the Manifesto: Wilford Woodruff, Charles W. Penrose, Frank J. Cannon, John White, John R. Winder, and George Reynolds. Isn’t it amazing that so many men would be required to improve on a “revelation” from the Lord before it could be presented to the Saints for their vote?


It was often brought up that the Manifesto was only a “trick to beat the devil at his own game.” This was mentioned first by Pres. Charles Penrose in his Bristol missionary conference. It also came up in the Smoot Hearings in 1904-05. According to Professor Wolfe from Provo:


Mr. Wolfe. There was a meeting in the Brigham Young Academy, in Provo, Utah, that was addressed by B. F. Grant, a brother of Apostle Heber J. Grant. At that meeting Apostle John Henry Smith was present.

The Chairman. On what date was that? what year?

Mr. Wolfe. I don’t remember the year. It was in the late nineties, probably.

Mr. Carlisle. It was after the Manifesto?

Mr. Wolfe. Yes, sir; it was after the Manifesto. On my way home I walked several blocks with B. F. Grant and Apostle Smith, and on the way we were talking about the conditions existing, and President Smith used these words to me: “Brother Wolfe, don’t you know that the Manifesto is only a trick to beat the devil at his own game?” (Ibid., 4:13)


[79]  Does this sound like a description of a revelation from God?


The Salt Lake Tribune of January 16, 1906, exposed this same plot behind the Manifesto. The headlines read: “Manifesto Only Trick to Beat Devil at Own Game.” Church schemers decided on a political Manifesto with the Federal Government to “beat them at their own game.” They conceived the idea that if they made a polygamy concession with the Government, they could then obtain statehood. As a state they would introduce a law that would provide protection for those living plural marriage.


Utah gained its statehood and finally introduced a bill which would allow the religious practice of plural marriage in the state. Senate Bill No. 113 was introduced on March 6, 1901, by Abel John Evans. It was to amend Section 4611 of the Revised Statutes of Utah. But the governor, Heber M. Wells, a product himself of plural marriage, vetoed the bill with the excuse that it offered the polygamists only “a false hope of protection.”


So that ray of hope behind issuing the Manifesto was shattered within five years. Instead of laws being amended or instigated by the state for the protection of polygamists, the laws became worse, and in 1934 plural marriage was made a felony.


Thus ended the trick “to beat the devil at his own game.” Instead the devil used the Mormons themselves to win it for him. A bill to protect polygamists was never again presented for passage.



  1. Was the Manifesto a Revelation?


There are certain criteria that can be used in determining whether or not something is a revelation from God. Probably the easiest one to recognize is when it contains the words, “Thus saith the Lord.”


In the Doctrine and Covenants there are 64 “thus saith the Lord” revelations. The rest may be revelations, but should more correctly be considered pronouncements or statements. The Bible has over 450 “thus saith the Lord” revelations immediately identifying the true Author of the statements. For over a century historians have looked, without success, for indications that the Manifesto could be considered a revelation from God.


On the other hand, there are several indications that it was written by man. In the 1890 Manifesto Wilford Woodruff used such terms as:


“I, therefore, as President of the Church . . .”

“I deny. . .”

“I have not been. . .”

“My instructions. . .”

“I hereby declare. . .”

“I preside. . .”

“My associates. . .”

“I now publicly declare that my advice is. . .”


Then to top it off, he signed it with his own signature. Thus, to determine the true source of the Manifesto is very simple. It came from Wilford Woodruff. It could not be any clearer than if it began by saying, “Thus saith Wilford Woodruff.”


[81]  A comparable “declaration” (or “press release”) was issued several years later–in 1978. This declaration on Blacks receiving the Priesthood, began by saying, “Dear Brethren,” and continued with “we have witnessed,” “has inspired us with a desire,” “we have pleaded long and earnestly,” “we declare with soberness,” and concluded with “sincerely yours,” and signed by the First Presidency. The authorship is clear! Church members were asked to vote on “this revelation,” even though a “thus saith the Lord” revelation was not produced to support it.


In contrast, the Church does not recognize the 1886 “Thus saith the Lord” revelation to John Taylor for the following reasons:


  1. Church leaders claim it is not in the LDS archives.
  2. The Saints never voted to accept or adopt it.
  3. Church leaders and the majority of the Saints chose to be at peace with the government and fellow citizens.


It is interesting to note that in 1933 Heber J. Grant issued the following “official statement” concerning the 1886 revelation:


It is alleged that on September 26-27, 1886, President John Taylor received a revelation from the Lord, the purported text of which is given in publications circulated apparently by or at the instance of this same organization [polygamists].

As to this pretended revelation it should be said that the archives of the Church contain no such revelation; nor any evidence justifying a belief that any such revelation was ever given. From the personal knowledge of some of us, from the uniform and common recollection of the presiding quorums of the church, from the absence in the Church Archives of any evidence whatsoever justifying any belief that such a [82] revelation was given, we are justified in affirming that no such revelation exists.

Furthermore, so far as the authorities of the Church are concerned and so far as the members of the Church are concerned, since this pretended revelation, if ever given, was never presented to and adopted by the Church or by any Council of the Church . . . the said pretended revelation could have no validity and no binding effect and force upon Church members, and action under it would be unauthorized, illegal, and void. (“Official Statement,” Church Section, Des. News, June 18, 1933)


As a sidelight, the author called the LDS Archives and asked for a copy of the “revelation” on which the Official Declaration of 1978 was based. He was told that there is no revelation on record other than the published statement itself. Thus, using the same criteria for the 1890 and 1978 declarations as that which Grant imposed on the 1886 revelation, any “action under it would be unauthorized, illegal, and void,” because the “archives of the Church contain no such revelation.” Furthermore, because of the “absence in the Church archives of any evidence whatsoever justifying any belief that such a revelation was given, we are justified in affirming that no such revelation exists.”


So according to the criteria established by President Heber J. Grant, the Official Declarations of both 1890 and 1978 are “unauthorized, illegal and void,” as many Fundamentalist Mormons have already suspected.


President Woodruff claimed that the Lord told him what to do–to present the Manifesto to the Saints for a vote, which he did. That is the proper order of the Church. The members can vote for or against a particular doctrine or policy, since the Lord will not force the Saints to live plural marriage or any other doctrine against their will.


[83]  Returning to the question, “Was the Manifesto a revelation?” the answer became a little more clear in December 1891, when some gentiles told the Mormon leaders they should send a petition for amnesty to the government because they had compliantly issued the Manifesto. Church leaders responded and sent a petition to President Harrison, stating:


To be in peace with the government, and in harmony with their fellow citizens who are not of their faith, and to share in the confidence of the government and people, our people have voluntarily put aside something which all their lives they have believed to be a sacred principle. (Smoot Hearings 1:18)


This statement that they “voluntarily put aside. . . a sacred principle” does not specify that it was a commandment from God, but a free choice of the Church members. It was so stated and signed by the Church Presidency and all of the Apostles.


  1. Did the Manifesto stop plural marriage?


In the book entitled The Life of Joseph F. Smith by Joseph Fielding Smith, it lists the names of 14 children born to Joseph F. and five of his wives after the Manifesto. However, he was not an exception because hundreds of Saints–in Utah, Canada and Mexico–continued bearing and raising children by plural wives, and many took new wives as well.


Another leading Church apostle was exposed by the Salt Lake Tribune on September 9, 1899. Heber J. Grant confessed in court to living with his three wives and paid a $100 fine. The following picture appeared in the newspaper:









[84]                 (picture of Heber J. Grant in court)








Then on October 8, 1910, the Salt Lake Tribune (known for its anti-polygamy position) listed names of 200 “new polygamists,” six of whom were members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. This list follows–with names of apostles in caps:


Aldridge, Isaac   Bentley, Joseph C.

Allred, Calvard   Black, David

Anderson, Alfred  Black, Morley

Badger, Rodney C. Bloomfield, John

Barlow, Israel, Jr.     Bowman, Henry C.

Brown, Ezriah           Brainholt, Chris.

Becraft, John           Brandley, Theodore

Beesley, Fred           Brown, Orson P.

Bench, Ephraim          Brown, Richard D.

Bennion, Heber          Buckholt, William

Bennion, Israel   Butler, Elder

Bennion, S. R.          Call, Anson B.


Call, Willard           Jarvis, Samuel

CANNON, A. H.           Johansen, Jens

Cannon, Angus J.  Johnson, Benjamin

Cannon, George M. Johnson, David

Cannon, Hugh J.   Johnson, Heber

Cannon, John M.   Johnson, J. Francis

Cannon, Lewis M.  Johnson, Obiah

Carroll, James          Johnson, William D.

Carroll, Thomas   Jolly, Haskell S.

Carroll, Willard  Jones, Daniel B.

Chamberlain, Thos.      Jorgensen, J. S.

Cheney, Frank           Kelsch, Louis B.

Clark, Arthur           LeBaron, Don

Clayson, Nathan   Lemmon, Peter

Cluff, Benjamin   Lewis, Walter

Cluff, Hyrum            Lillywhite, Chas. W.

Cordon, Joseph          Longhurst, Warren

Cordon, Louis P.  Lyman, Walter C.

COWLEY, MATHIAS F.      McCall, Robert

Cox, Amos               Miller, Reuben

Dean, Joseph H.   McClellan, Chas. E.

Dennis, Israel F. McClellan, George

Done, Abraham           McGregor, D. A.

Done, Elder       Memmott, J. W.

Driggs, Appollos  Merrill, Albert

Drochet, Peter          Merrill, Chas. G.

Durfey, M.        Morrell, Joseph

Eager, John       Morris, Robert

Eager, Joseph           Michelson, Maurice

Eccles, David           Muir, Daniel

Eccles, Elder           Musser, Joseph W.

Ellison, E. P.          Nagle, Bishop

Emmett, James           Nagely, George

Eyring, Ed        Nagely, James

Farr, Winslow           Nagely, John

Goslin, Peter           Newton, Samuel

Grant, Joseph H.  Nielsen, Carl

Grace, Isaac H.   Ockey, William

Hague, Elder            Payne, Edward

Hurst, Walter           Peterson, Franz

Hardy, John       Pierce, Brigham

Hardy, Abel       Pratt, Helaman

Harmer, Lorin           Pratt, Rey L.

Hart, Arthur W.   Parkinson, Geo. C.

Haws, George M.   Raymer, W. H.

Haymore, F. D.          Rich, Ben E.

Hickman, Francis  Richardson, Edmund

Hickman, Josiah E.      Richens, Parley

Higgs, Alpha J.   Robinson, John (1)

Hilton, Thomas          Robinson, John (2)

Hyde, Ezra T.           Robison, Joseph E.

Humphrey, John A. Romney, George S.

James, Joseph           Romney, Miles A.

Jameson, Alex.          Romney, Miles P.

Jarman, Charles   Romney, Thomas

Richens, Orson

Regis, Wm. G.

Rintch, James

Sanders, Peter


Sears, Wm. G.           Tenny, Levi

Sessions, Byron   Thomas, Elder (1)

Sherwood, Robert  Thomas, Elder (2)

Silver, John            Thurber, Albert

Silver, Joseph          Thurber, Allen D.

Skousen, Daniel   Thurber, Joseph

Skousen, James          Todd, Donald M.

Steed, Walter           Turley, Ed

Skousen, Peter          Turley, Ernest

Smaley, John            Turley, Joseph

Smith, Isaac            Wall, Frank W.

Smith, Jesse M.   Walser, J. J.

Smith, Jesse M., Jr.Walser, J. J., Jr.

Snarr, Daniel           Whetten, John T.

Spencer, Elder          Whipple, Chas

Spilsbury, Alma P.      Wilson, David

Spilsbury, David  Wilson, Guy C.

Steele, M. M.           Wilson, Lycurgus F.

Stevens, Alma           Woods, Jonathan

Stevens, John           Woolfenden, Chas.

Stevens, Joshua   Wood, Edward J.

Stohl, John       Willey, D. O.

Stowell, Brigham  WOODRUFF, A. O.

Stringham, Bryant Wrathall, James

Summerhays, J. W. Watson, Hugh

Tanner, Joseph M. Young, Newell K.

Tanner, Henry S.  Young, Brigham, Jr.

Taylor, Alonzo          Young, Don Carlos

Taylor, E. L.           Young, Royal B.

Taylor, Frank Y.  Young, William

Taylor, Guy       Zundell, Abraham




Most new plural marriages after the Manifesto were performed in Canada and Mexico, with some in the United States or at sea beyond the national boundary. These sealings were performed by such leaders as George Q. Cannon, Joseph F. Smith, John W. Taylor, Anthony W. Ivins, Matthias F. Cowley, and John Henry Smith, as well as by others outside of the Quorum.* These ordinances were generally performed very secretly; for instance, a “recommend” was often written in code, as the following letter exemplifies.


* Note: For more proof of post-Manifesto plural marriage, the author recommends Michael Quinn’s article, “LDS Church authority and New Plural Marriages, 1890-1904, Dialogue 18:1, Spring 1985, pp. 9 to 105.


[87]                           Pioneer Electric

                            Power Company of Utah


Office of the President & Treasurer

                        Salt Lake City, Utah Feb. 1st/98


Dear Brother Anthony:

      I take the liberty of introducing the Bearer to you. He expects to visit your country to attend to some business there, and I think, stranger as he is, you can be of service to him. Whatever aid you can render him will be appreciated by

                              Your Brother,

                              Geo. Q. Cannon



A coded recommend letter from George Q. Cannon to Anthony W. Ivins in Mexico to authorize him to perform a plural marriage.



  1. One Plural Marriage Manifesto–or Many?


On April 6, 1904, Joseph F. Smith issued what later became known as the “second Manifesto.” This was also an Official Declaration without any revelation supporting it. Since the first Manifesto was apparently not very effective, they issued another. In fact, there was an intermittent stream of “little manifestos” in support of the more significant ones.


A third “major Manifesto” came on June 17, 1933, issued by the First Presidency (Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles Nibley) as an “Official Statement,” again without the backup of a heavenly revelation. There was a constant barrage of announcements to emphasize to Church members that it was their “duty” to inform on anyone they thought might believe, teach or practice plural marriage.


We have been, however, and we are entirely willing and anxious too that such offenders against the law of the State should be dealt with and punished as the law provides. We have been and we are willing to give such legal assistance as we legitimately can in the criminal prosecution of such cases. We are willing to go to such limits not only because we regard it as our duty as citizens of the country to assist in the enforcement of the law and the suppression of pretended “plural marriages,” but also because we wish to do everything humanly possible to make our attitude toward this matter so clear, definite, and unequivocal as to leave no possible doubt of it in the mind of any person. (Messages of the First Presidency 5:292-293)


Those holding Church leadership positions increasingly fought against plural marriage instead of teaching and practicing it. But the Prophet Joseph Smith had said:


Where there is no change of Priesthood, there is no change of ordinances. (TPJS, p. 308)


[89]  Conversely, then, if there is a change in ordinances, there is a change, or loss, of Priesthood.


  1. Comparisons and Contradictions


During the years leading up to the 1890 Manifesto, many justifications for political compromise were presented by Church leaders and members alike. But for every one they thought up, God had already countered with one of His own. Consider the following comparison quotes on seven issues:


  1. Compromise
  2. Temples
  3. Unanimous vote?
  4. The wisest course
  5. Leading people astray
  6. Power and dominion
  7. Continuing importance of plural marriage


  1. Compromise


“. . . the God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do; and when the hour came that I was commanded to do that, it was all clear to me. I went before the Lord, and I wrote what the Lord told me to write (the Manifesto). . . . I leave this with you, for you to contemplate and consider.” (“Excerpts from Three Addresses by Pres. Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto,” Doc. & Cov., 1981 ed., p. 293)


“Let not my servants who are called to the Presidency of my Church deny my word or my law, which concerns the salvation of the children of men. Place not yourselves in jeopardy to your enemies by promise. Let my servants who officiate as your counselors before the courts make their pleadings as they are moved upon by the Holy Spirit, without any further pledges from my Priesthood. (1889 Revelation to W. Woodruff, Mess. of First Pres., Clark, 3:176)



  1. Temples


“Yes, I saw by vision and revelation this Temple in the hands of the wicked. I saw our city in the hands of the wicked. I saw every temple in these valleys in the hands of the wicked. I saw great destruction among the people. All these things would have come to pass, as God Almighty lives, had not that Manifesto been given.” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p. 214)


“Zion shall prevail against her enemies. My people shall not be hindered in building of my temples unto my Holy Name, if they will hearken unto my voice and do as I command them.” (1880 Revelation to Wilford Woodruff, vs. 37 & 40, Revelations 1880-1890, Pioneer Press, p. 13)


  1. Unanimous vote?


“When that Manifesto was given, they accepted it. Why? Because they had the Spirit of God for themselves; they knew for themselves it was right. It was passed, also, before ten thousand Latter-day Saints, and there was not a solitary hand raised against that edict.” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p. 214)


“At a century’s distance it is difficult to ascertain precisely what the strength of the vote was. The official report in the Deseret News, and accounts given since in publications of the church, say that approval of the Manifesto was unanimous. Statements in other accounts, also friendly to the church, describe the vote as `near unanimous.’ * * * while we know of one confirmed contrary vote, there is evidence that some refused to vote either way, including at least one of the general authorities. This was Brigham H. Roberts, who, reflecting on the propriety of presenting the Manifesto in [91] conference at all, said: `During the Conference I saw that movements were on foot to have the whole people support it, a proceeding I viewed with alarm. When the crisis came I felt heart-broken but remained silent. It seemed to me to be the awfulest moment in my life, my arm was like lead when the motion was put; I could not vote for it, and did not.'” (Solemn Covenant, B. Carmon Hardy, p. 135)


  1. The wisest course


“The question is this: Which is the wisest course for the Latter-day Saints to pursue–to continue to attempt to practice plural marriage, with the laws of the nation against it . . . or, after doing and suffering what we have through our adherence to this principle to cease the practice and submit to the law, and doing so leave the Prophets, Apostles and fathers at home. . . .” (Address, Doc. & Cov., current edition, p. 292)


“For my Priesthood, whom I have called and whom I have sustained and honored, shall honor Me and obey My laws, and the laws of My Priesthood, saith the Lord.” (Oct. 13, 1882, Revelation to John Taylor, Mess. of First Pres. 2:347)


  1. Leading people astray


“I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me nor any other man who stands as the President of this Church, to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God.” (Wilford Woodruff–History of His Life and Labors, Matthias F. Cowley, p. 572)


“. . . and if He should suffer him [Joseph Smith] to lead the people astray, it would be because they ought to be led astray. If He should suffer them to be chastised, and some of [92] them destroyed, it would be because they deserved it. . . .” (Brigham Young, JD 4:297-298)


  1. Power and dominion


“It is not wisdom for us to make war upon sixty-five millions of people. It is not wisdom for us to go forth and carry out this principle against the laws of the nation and receive the consequences.” (Wilford Woodruff— . . ., Cowley, p. 571)


“And you shall be my people and I will be your God; and your enemies shall not have dominion over you, for I will preserve you and confound them, saith the Lord, and they shall not have power nor dominion over you; . . .” (Oct. 13, 1882, Revelation to John Taylor, Mess. of First Pres., 2:347)


  1. Continuing importance of plural marriage


“We [John Nuttall] received a telegram from Prest. Woodruff containing a declaration or manifesto from him in regard to recent report of the Utah Commission on the subject of Polygamous Marriages & of the preaching of that doctrine by the Church Authorities, in which he denies their statements and declares himself as willing to obey the laws of the nation on that subject & to advise the members of the church to do likewise, etc. Bro. Caine made arrangements to have the declaration or manifesto published in the `Evening Star’ & `Critic,’ and to have it printed in a circular letter or pamphlet for distribution to the President, Cabinet, Senate & House of Reps and other leading men.” (Diary of L. John Nuttall, Thurs., Sept. 25, 1890)


“The reason why the Church and Kingdom of God cannot advance without the Patriarchal Order of Marriage is that it [93] belongs to this dispensation, just as baptism for the dead does, or any law or ordinance that belongs to a dispensation. Without it the Church cannot progress. The leading men of Israel who are presiding over stakes will have to obey the law of Abraham or they will have to resign.” (Wilford Woodruff— . . . , Cowley, p. 542)


  1. The Manifesto in Retrospect


LDS Church Historian, Leonard Arrington, provided a little-known insight into the Manifesto, wherein he states that national and Church leaders made an agreement, or “compact:”


National leaders and church leaders are said to have entered into a “compact.” We do not know whether such a “compact” was actually made, but at least the agreement and actions which it is said to have involved did take place. In the supposed “compact,” national leaders are said to have promised statehood for Utah provided three things were done: (1) plural marriage was abandoned; (2) the church political party was dissolved; and (3) the church dissolved its relations with the economy. Plural marriage, of course, was abandoned with the Manifesto of 1890; the Peoples’ party was dissolved in 1891, and the people were divided between Republicans and Democrats; and the church began to take steps to withdraw from many of its economic activities. (“Religion and Economics in Mormon History,” Leonard J. Arrington, BYU Studies, 3:31-32)


Detrimental results followed their agreement to comply with these three compromises: (a) when plural marriage was abandoned, the Mormons reverted back to the Roman law of monogamy with its divorces, mistresses, prostitution and immoralities; (b) when the United Order was dissolved, the Saints were then encumbered with debts, mortgages, the IRS [94] and taxation; (c) when the Kingdom of God was abolished, the Saints were thrown into the wonderful world of Democrats, Republicans, political corruption, a million laws, abandonment of the Constitution and the loss of freedom.

In retrospect, it could be said that the Manifesto had a greater effect on living the United Order and organizing the Kingdom of God than it did on plural marriage. Why? Because plural marriage is flourishing today among thousands (more than at the time of the Manifesto), but the United Order and the Kingdom of God are phantoms of the past. But after all, this is what the gentiles really wanted all along:


The lawmakers were not so forthcoming about their own religious bigotry: their aim was to destroy the church’s economic and political power, and bigamy was their tool. (Enc. of Mormonism, 1:52)


It is generally believed by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that their Church holds “all the keys” of the Priesthood. This theory has been purported by two Mormon authors, Brian Hales and Max Anderson, in their books, The Priesthood of Modern Polygamy and The Polygamy Story: Fiction and Fact. They refer to D & C 132:7, in which the Lord reveals that there is only one man with that authority. Here the Lord said, “I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days.” This can mean two things: (1) the “one man” is always the president of the Church, or (2) the “one man” is Joseph Smith, as it is clearly written. This means Joseph Smith could pass on authority and keys to others, and still retain all the keys and the right of being the “one man” presiding over this dispensation. It states that Joseph holds them “in the last days,” undoubtedly meaning in this dispensation. Just because he is a dead prophet, does not mean he has lost the presiding keys or authority. As we are told, he is yet working with this people.


[95]  Hales and Anderson promote the idea that “the one man [holding all the keys] is and has always been the Senior Apostle and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (Priesthood of Modern Polygamy, p. 10) However, after the Manifesto, the sealing keys seemed to have been lost within the Church. From their own mouths they have testified that they no longer hold those keys. President Heber J. Grant claimed:


No man upon the face of the earth has any right or any authority to perform a plural marriage, and there are no plural marriages today in the Church of Christ, because no human being has the right to perform them. (Gospel Standards, H. J. Grant, p. 150)


If there is “one man” who was supposed to hold that power in the “last days” and now “no man upon the face of the earth has any right or any authority to perform a plural marriage,” what are we to conclude? Have the last days passed by? Is the “one man” dead? Is there no way to live this eternal principle? Couldn’t that “one man” have delegated sealing keys to others?


It seems that Pres. Heber J. Grant testified that since he did not hold keys of sealing, he assumed no one else did either.


Going back to the time of the 1890 Manifesto, no one can blame Wilford Woodruff for desiring some kind of relief from government oppression. The Church sent missionaries, appealed to the press, defended themselves in courts, published literature, sent representatives to Washington, etc. But relinquishing plural marriage seemed to be the only ticket for relief. The major reasons they gave for the Manifesto were–



  1. To stop the persecution
  2. To regain their real estate
  3. To permit Mormon immigration again
  4. To return the temples
  5. To prevent long and expensive legal defenses
  6. To release men from prison
  7. To return Church leaders from the underground
  8. To resume ordinance work in the temples
  9. To stop paying rent to the Government for Church buildings
  10. To make peace with the nation and the world.


Noble reasons every one! But no matter how reasonable this all sounded, there was one serious thing wrong with it. The Lord had told them repeatedly not to give up plural marriage. That alone should outweigh all the reasons man can devise. But because the Church gave it up as a Church law, did not mean that plural marriage was not still a law of the Priesthood, to be lived outside the Church. According to Apostle Franklin D. Richards, it continued to be a matter of free agency:


If all Israel will not be sanctified by the law which their Moses [Joseph Smith] first offers them, they will peradventure receive a law of ordinances administered to them, not according to the power of an endless life. (JD 1:321)


When the Saints raised their hands to sustain the Manifesto, they, as did the children of Israel, traded higher Priesthood laws for lesser ones. Also similar to the children of Israel, they traded the government of God for the government of Babylon and became “hewers of wood and drawers of water” in the gentile kingdom.


[97]  A major catastrophe occurred with the announcement of the Manifesto. Up to that time, it had been taught that living plural marriage was essential to exaltation. With the acceptance of the Manifesto, it meant that from then on, no one in the Church was to obey this critical law. There had been no revelation from God saying that this law had been changed. The Mormons simply gave up plural marriage thinking that it now had nothing to do with their exaltation.


We should also consider this: if it is incorrect doctrine, then it was also wrong for the previous 40 years and the Church finally got set in order in 1890. On the other hand, if it were an eternal revelation from God and a law for admission into the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, then the Manifesto is a farce and meaningless to those who continue to defend it in theory and practice. Whatever man may think of the Manifesto, good or bad, apparently the Lord didn’t approve of it. From the time Wilford Woodruff put his signature on that document and the people voted to accept it, the Lord has given no more “thus saith the Lord” revelations to the LDS Church.


No matter how many explanations and excuses the Mormons offered for compromising with the Manifesto, non-Mormons, who didn’t even believe in plural marriage, wondered at their justification for giving it up. For instance, the Catholic Church printed the following in their encyclopedia:


One reason given for the persistent hostility to the Mormons was the dislike caused by the acrimonious controversy over polygamy or plural marriage. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, claimed to have received a revelation and a command ordering him to re-introduce plural marriage and restore the polygamous condition tolerated among the pre-Judaic [98] tribes. Polygamy now became a principle of the creed of the Latter-day Saints, and, though not enforced by the laws of the Mormon hierarchy, was preached by the elders and practiced by the chiefs of the cult and by many of the people. The violation by the Mormons of the monogamous law of Christianity and of the United States was brought to the attention of Congress, which prohibited under penalty of fine and imprisonment the perpetuation of the anti-Christian practice, refusing, however, to make the prohibition retroactive. The Mormons appealed to the Supreme Court, which sustained the action of Congress, and established the constitutionality of the anti-polygamy statutes. The Latter-day Saints, strangely enough, submitted to the decrees of Congress, unwittingly admitting by their submission that the revelation of their founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, could not have come from God. If the command to restore polygamy to the modern world was from on High, then, by submitting to the decision of the Supreme Court, the Mormon hierarchy reversed the apostolic proclamation and acknowledged it was better “to obey man than to obey God.”


What a poor example was set for other world religions when the grand compromise of 1890 was issued! Since the gentiles will criticize the Saints for both living and not living these principles, it seems the safest course to pursue is to obey God’s laws rather than man’s laws.



[99]                              Chapter 7




I am the Lord thy God, and will give unto thee the law of my Holy Priesthood, as was ordained by me and my Father before the world was. (D & C 132:28) [Then follows the law pertaining to plural marriage.]


Today there are approximately 30,000 Fundamentalist Mormons who believe in plural marriage. They have faith that by righteously obeying that law, they will receive corresponding blessings in the hereafter. Thus, they defend and obey the law of plural marriage even though they know it is against the laws of the LDS Church, the state and the nation. Many of these people were formerly active and loyal members of the Church, holding positions in their wards and stakes; yet they are willing to suffer excommunication, condemnation and alienation from church, family and friends because of their firm religious convictions. They believe plural marriage is a Priesthood law that can be lived outside of and separate from the corporate LDS Church.


Using the words of early general authorities and other prominent Saints, several (20) questions are briefly answered in this chapter showing that plural marriage is an eternal Priesthood law. It is just one of several doctrines and laws that the Church can vote to accept or reject, but that does not change their eternal nature.



  1. When, why and for whom did God first introduce plural marriage?


“Plurality is a law which God established for his elect before the world was formed, for a continuation of seeds forever.” (Heber C. Kimball, Mill. Star 28:190)


  1. Was plural marriage instituted solely for the purpose of taking care of widows or surplus women, as some have supposed?


“We have been taught . . . that plural marriage is as much a part of our religion as faith, repentance and baptism.” (John Taylor, The Life of John Taylor, B. H. Roberts, p. 357)


  1. Is a monogamous temple marriage the same as celestial marriage?


“The marriage of one woman to a man for time and eternity by the sealing power, according to the law of God is a fulfillment of the celestial law of marriage in part. . . . But this is only the beginning of the law, not the whole of it.” (Joseph F. Smith, JD 20:28)


“He [Byron Sessions, Bighorn Stake President] said that he had had a dream in which he and his wife were taken beyond the veil. A messenger, or guide, met them there and gave them a view of the marvelous workings and conditions that prevail in the place of departed and righteous spirits. They finally came to a stairway that led to the upper story of a large building. A guard was standing here, and this is what he said: `This is as far as you can go as man and wife; you can go in separately, but your status as man and wife ends at this place.’


[101] Brother Sessions asked why this was the case, as they had been sealed in the temple, and fully expected to remain together through eternity. The guide said, `You have not obeyed all the conditions of the law by which men and women are sealed for eternity. Because of this, your union must cease at death, and you will not be allowed to proceed further as man and wife.’


He began to weep, and was weeping when he awoke. His wife, who was lying beside him was also crying, and he said, `Ida, what is the matter?’ She answered, `I have just had a dream and I am glad it was only a dream.’ Their dreams were identical.”


(Note: Byron Sessions later took another wife; he also was set apart in his stake to keep plural marriage alive.)

(Taken from the pamphlet, “An Open Letter to All Latter-day Saints on Plural Marriage,” by Price Johnson, pp. 15-16)


  1. Is plural marriage the same as celestial marriage?


“Joseph [Smith] received a revelation on celestial marriage. You will recollect, brethren and sisters, that it was in July, 1843, that he received this revelation concerning celestial marriage. * * * The people of God, therefore, have been commanded to take more wives.” (Brigham Young, JD 16:166)


  1. Is plural marriage the same as the patriarchal order of marriage?


“Father Abraham obeyed the law of the patriarchal order of marriage. His wives were sealed to him for time and all eternity, and so were the wives of all the Patriarchs and Prophets that obeyed that law.” (Wilford Woodruff, JD 24:244)



  1. Is plural marriage the same as the new and everlasting covenant of marriage?


“The revelation commanding the principle of plural marriage, given by God through Joseph Smith, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in its first paragraph, has the following language: `Behold I reveal unto you a new and everlasting covenant; . . .'” (Brigham Young, Mill. Star 40:227)


  1. Is plural marriage an optional choice for Mormons?


“If the `Mormons’ were ever so unwilling to become polygamists, they have no choice in the matter. God has commanded and they must obey. If there was not a single word or example to be found in the Bible in its favor, still they must observe its practice. It is in no sense optional with them. It is as much an integral part of their faith as baptism for the remission of sins, or the laying on of hands for the bestowal of the Holy Ghost.” (Amos Milton Musser, Asst. Church Historian, (1830-1909), Mill. Star 39:407, Apr. 1877)


  1. Was plural marriage an “incident,” as James E. Talmage stated?


(Oct. 1865) “The doctrine of polygamy with the `Mormons’ is not one of the kind that in the religious world is classed with `non-essentials.’ It is not an item of doctrine that can be yielded, and faith in the system remain. * * * The whole question, therefore, narrows itself to this in the `Mormon’ mind. Polygamy was revealed by God, or the entire fabric of their faith is false. To ask them to give up such an item of belief, is to ask them to relinquish the whole, to acknowledge their Priesthood a lie, their ordinances a [103] deception, and all they have toiled for, lived for, bled for, prayed for, or hoped for, a miserable failure and a waste of life. * * * inasmuch as polygamy is, in `Mormon’ belief, the basis of the condition of a future life, it [Congress] asks them to give up their hopes of salvation hereafter.” (Brigham Young, Mill. Star, 27:673-674)


  1. Is plural marriage a temporary or an eternal principle?


“A key: Every principle proceeding from God is eternal and any principle which is not eternal is of the devil.” (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 181)


“The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and strengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on celestial and plural marriage. But we have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction.” (Joseph Smith, Contributor 5:259)


  1. What are the consequences of rejecting plural marriage?


“If we do not embrace that principle [plural marriage] soon, the keys will be turned against us.” (Wilford Woodruff–History of His Life and Labors, Matthias F. Cowley, p. 542)


“Many of this people have broken their covenants . . . by finding fault with the plurality of wives and trying to sink it out of existence. But you cannot do that, for God will cut you off and raise up another people that will carry out His purposes in righteousness, . . .” (Heber C. Kimball, JD 4:108)


[104] “Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned.” (Brigham Young, JD 3:266)


“The great question is this–will we unite with the plurality order of the Ancient Patriarchs, or will we consent voluntarily to be damned to eternal celibacy?” (Samuel Richards, Mill. Star 15:226)


“A violent and vicious attack is being made upon the doctrine and practice of Patriarchal marriage. Those who have practiced this principle are assailed with a ferocity never before known. Those who make the attack perhaps hope to drive the people of God to renounce the doctrine and promise not to obey the revelation. Vain and delusive hope! Unless the Saints apostatize, such an action on their part is impossible. By doing so, they would deliberately shut the door of the Celestial glory in their faces. They would say by that action, “We do not have the valor necessary to sustain us in our striving for the celestial glory, and we, therefore, are content to enter a terrestrial or telestial glory.” To comply with the request of our enemies would be to give up all hope of entering into the glory of God, the Father, and Jesus Christ the Son. This is the price which the Saints are asked to give for the world to cease their attacks upon them! Is it not a costly bargain which they are asked to make? To barter off all hope of eternal felicity with wives and children in the celestial presence of God and the Lamb for the miserable favor of the world! So intimately interwoven is this precious doctrine with the exaltation of men and women in the great hereafter that it cannot be given up without giving up at the same time all hope of immortal glory.” (Juvenile Instructor 20:136, May 1, 1885)



  1. If the Church rejects the law of plural marriage, should that put an end to plural marriages?


“Suppose a law is promulgated before the Latter-day Saints, and the Church, in the exercise of the liberty which God has conferred upon them, rejects it, the question is then asked, what remains? The truth remains. The action of the Church has not affected it in the least. The truth remains just as true as if the Church had accepted it.” (B. H. Roberts, Imp. Era 8:363)


  1. What would happen if the First Presidency and the Apostles all agreed to reject plural marriage?


“You might as well deny `Mormonism,’ and turn away from it, as to oppose the plurality of wives. Let the Presidency of this Church, and the Twelve Apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice that they will oppose that doctrine, and the whole of them would be damned.” (Heber C. Kimball, JD 5:203)


  1. Can the Church and Kingdom advance without plural marriage?


“The reason why the Church and Kingdom of God cannot advance without the Patriarchal Order of Marriage is because it belongs to this dispensation, just as baptism for the dead does. . . .” (Wilford Woodruff–. . . , Cowley, p. 542)


  1. Can the Church exist in its fullness without plural marriage?


“I bear my testimony that it is a necessity, and that the Church of Christ in its fullness never existed without it.” (George Teasdale, JD 25:21)



  1. Should a monogamist preside over God’s Priesthood?


“For it is not meet that men who will not abide my law [plural marriage] shall preside over my priesthood.” (Revelation to John Taylor, Oct. 13, 1882, recorded in Revelations 1880-1890, Pioneer Press, p. 35)


  1. If most of the Saints had been living plural marriage, would they have issued the Manifesto?


“If we had obeyed that command and revelation [on plural marriage] given through President Taylor, there would have been no Manifesto.” (Apostle Matthias F. Cowley, Smoot Hearings, 1:8, Jan. 28, 1901)


  1. Should we obey man’s laws when they conflict with God’s laws?


“Any man who says that he really and firmly believes a certain law of God binding on him, and who will not obey it in preference to a conflicting law of man or a decision of a court, has either an unsound mind or a cowardly soul, or is a most contemptible hypocrite.” (quoting Joseph Smith, Des. News, July 6, 1886)


  1. Should the Church have sacrificed plural marriage to gain statehood?


“Now then, it is said that this [plural marriage] must be done away before we are permitted to receive our place as a State in the Union. * * * If we are not admitted until then, we shall never be admitted.” (Brigham Young, JD 11:269)



19.In order to associate with other polygamists in heaven, do you have to live plural marriage yourself?


(Feb. 1857) “Do you suppose that Joseph and Hyrum and all those good men would associate with those ancient worthies, if they had not been engaged in the same practices? They had to do the works of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in order to be admitted where they are;–they had to be polygamists in order to be received into their society.” (Heber C. Kimball, JD 4:224)


  1. Does the Lord have more than one wife?


“When the law of celestial marriage was first whispered to him, he opposed it, exclaiming, `It is of the devil!’ But God knew his heart and in open day a messenger from heaven, with three women clothed in white raiment, stood before him several feet from the ground, and addressed him thus: `You never can receive a full and complete salvation in My Kingdom unless your garments are pure and white and you have three counselors like me.’ Thus he was convinced and he subsequently married five wives, and he became the father of 50 children.” (Bishop Abraham Hunsaker, 1812-1889, LDS Biog. Enc., Andrew Jensen, 3:415)


* * *


Note: For more information on plural marriage being essential for exaltation, refer to the book, An Essential for Exaltation, Anne Wilde, Pioneer Press, SLC, 1998.)


[108] In conclusion, one more question should be answered: Is plural marriage more under the jurisdiction of the Church or the Priesthood? Since D & C Section 132 contains the revelation on plural marriage, it should provide the answer. Note the frequency that certain terms are used in that important scripture:


  1. Law 44 times
  2. Covenant and commandment 30 times
  3. Priesthood       14 times
  4. Keys 6 times
  5. Church 0 times


This should tell the story in and of itself. The first four items pertain to the Priesthood more than to the Church, while in this entire revelation, the word “Church” is not even mentioned once! Surely if plural marriage were primarily the responsibility and jurisdiction of the Church, the Lord would not overlook the word entirely!


Thus, it can be concluded that plural marriage is governed by His law, His covenants, His Priesthood and His keys. The Church and its members have their free agency to accept or reject it, just as they do with all other laws and commandments of the Priesthood.


The following chapter will discuss 20 Priesthood doctrines and principles that do not depend upon the LDS Church for their existence.



[109]                             Chapter 8




Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles. (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 308)


Why was it that the Lord did not restore the Gospel and Priesthood to one of the many churches already in existence? The answer is probably because He knew the ministers and their congregations would not accept them. This is evidenced by the fact that after Joseph Smith established the Priesthood with its doctrines and ordinances, other churches combined to oppose him and the restored Gospel. However, preserving and maintaining these Priesthood laws and ordinances have proved to be just as difficult as restoring them.


When the U.S. Constitution was originally adopted, a lady asked Benjamin Franklin what they had given to the people. He responded, “A Republic–if you can keep it!” Undoubtedly the Prophet Joseph Smith felt the same–that he had given the Saints the fullness of the gospel and the authority of the Priesthood, but could they keep it?


A church should be subordinate to Priesthood authority, but unfortunately churches have a tendency to expect the Priesthood to function only within their framework. The [110] important question is, “Can men within the Church make significant changes in Priesthood laws and ordinances and still possess the Priesthood?


This chapter contains criteria on 20 different doctrines and principles that will show their close connection to the Priesthood–as compared to the LDS Church. Information provided on these important Gospel subjects will show that Priesthood laws remain the same whether or not the LDS Church changes or rejects them.


  1. The LDS Church–an Appendage of the Priesthood
  2. Common Consent
  3. Missionary Work
  4. Garment of the Priesthood
  5. Gifts and Powers of the Priesthood
  6. Ordinances of the Priesthood
  7. Rebaptism
  8. Conferring and Ordaining to Priesthood
  9. Celestial Plural Marriage
  10. Babylon vs. Zion
  11. United We Stand; Divided We Fall
  12. The Persecuted and the Persecutors
  13. Deceptions and Delusions
  14. Race Restrictions
  15. Use or Lose Keys of Priesthood
  16. The LDS Church and the Kingdom of God
  17. Kings and Queens
  18. The First and Second Comforter
  19. The Redemption of Zion

20    The Only True God



  1. The LDS Church–an Appendage of the Priesthood


Creationists and evolutionists continue to argue about which came first–the chicken or the egg. But historians do not have that same problem regarding the Church and the Priesthood. It is an established historical fact that the Priesthood existed before the Church and was actually the power and authority that created the Church, rather than the Church creating the Priesthood.


We could compare it to the Church as an automobile and the Priesthood as the builder of the automobile. That which is created is not greater than the creator. Further, the Lord explained:


The offices of elder and bishop are necessary appendages belonging unto the high priesthood. (D & C 84:29)


All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood. [referring to Melchizedek Priesthood] (D & C 107:5)


Professor Sidney B. Sperry described these appendages as “attachments or adjuncts” (D & C Compendium, p. 557), which indicates that the Church is merely an attachment to the Priesthood.


Daniel Webster defined appendage as “any subordinant or external organ or part, such as a branch of a tree or the tail of a dog.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary)


Thus, all Church offices and auxiliaries are merely appendages or attachments to the Priesthood because the Priesthood is the greater power. Charles Rich added that [112] “pertaining to sealings and endowments, we understand that the Priesthood is greater than the Temple. . . .” (JD 19:163) Thus it follows that since the Church is created by the Priesthood, it, too, is an appendage of the Priesthood.


We live in a day when LDS Church membership is considered to be more important and greater than the Priesthood. Men worry more about Church membership than they do about Priesthood laws and principles, which should be their utmost priority. Why would men compromise and make concessions which would jeopardize their Priesthood? Simply because they place Church position above Priesthood authority and erroneously think that Priesthood is an appendage to the Church.


President J. Reuben Clark made a very important clarification on this subject when he said, “The Priesthood is essential to the Church, but the Church is not essential to the Priesthood.” (Imp. Era 39:134) He infers that the Church cannot exist without the Priesthood, but the Priesthood, being the greater of the two, can exist without the Church. According to the Prophet Joseph:


Now the great and grand secret of the whole matter, and the summum bonum of the whole subject that is lying before us, consists in obtaining the powers of the Holy Priesthood. (D & C 128:11)


And from Heber C. Kimball:


We receive the Priesthood and power and authority. If we make a bad use of that Priesthood, do you not see that the day will come when God will reckon with us, and he will take it from us and give it to those who will make better use of it. (JD 6:125)


[113] Thus, when there is a discrepancy or conflict between the laws of the Church and the laws of the Priesthood, it is a much wiser choice to follow the Priesthood rather than one of its appendages.


  1. Common Consent


According to revelations from God, the LDS Church is to be governed and controlled by the vote of its members. Officers are to be voted upon before they take office. In April 1830, the Lord clearly explained:


No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church; . . . (D & C 20:65)


And three months later the Lord further stated that “all things” must receive the vote of the people–which would include doctrines, revelations, etc.:


And all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith. (D & C 26:2; see also 28:13)


As an example of this procedure, let’s review the history of the Articles of Faith. In March of 1842 Joseph Smith responded to a letter written to him by John Wentworth, the editor and owner of the Chicago Democrat. Wentworth wanted to know a brief history and the beliefs of the Mormons. Included in Joseph’s lengthy response were what has become known as the Articles of Faith, which has become the most published document of beliefs of the Mormons. Millions of copies of these Articles have been published in a variety of formats. However, it wasn’t until General Conference of October 1890 that they were actually voted upon and adopted as official doctrine of the Church.



Monday, October 6, 1890. Bishop Orson F. Whitney first read the Articles of Faith, which included a declaration by church members that they believed in “obeying, honoring and sustaining the law.” While the Articles had been a part of Mormon theological literature for half a century, it seemed a convenient time to sustain them as the official rule of conduct for the church. This was done on a motion by Apostle Franklin D. Richards. (Solemn Covenant, B. Carmon Hardy, p. 135)


Ironically, at the same conference plural marriage was voted out, while just 38 years before (1852) it had been voted and sustained as a true doctrine of the Church. Hence, both good and bad men, true and false doctrines, can be accepted or rejected by the vote of Church members.


All things in the Church must be done by common consent. This makes the people, men and women, under God, the rulers of the Church. The responsibility and work of the Church are not only for, but by, the people as a whole. (Priesthood and Church Government, John A. Widstoe, p. 234)


Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained the consequences of common consent:


There is, of course, the democratic principle of common consent whereunder the people may accept or reject what the Lord offers to them. Acceptance brings salvation; rejection leads to damnation. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, McConkie, 1:538)


  1. H. Roberts concurred and further explained:


Suppose a law is promulgated before the Latter-day Saints–a revealed principle of truth is submitted for their acceptance–and then, in the exercise of that liberty, which God has conferred upon His Church, they reject it. The question is then asked, “What remains?”


Why the truth remains! The action of the church has not affected that in the least. It is just as true as if the Church had accepted it. Our acceptance or rejection does not make or mar the truth; it simply determines our own relationship to that truth. If we reject the truth, the truth still remains. * * * Human conduct does not affect the truth. (Defense of the Faith and the Saints, Roberts, 2:518)


And also from Elder Roberts:


. . . and if they reject it, the truth still remains; and it is my opinion that they would not make further progress until they accepted the rejected truth. . . . (Imp. Era 8:363)


In the common consent process, however, if someone casts a negative vote against any of the Church general authorities or their programs, it could lead to serious questioning, threats, being escorted from the Tabernacle and/or being required to sign a test oath. Joseph Musser wrote of such repercussions:


Why vote at the conferences if one is compelled to vote affirmatively? If all things are to be done “by common consent,” how then can a few be singled out and forced to sign a statement of acceptance, without qualification or explanation? The present attitude of the leaders is that of the modern “gangster,” “you may use your inalienable right to vote as you see fit, but you must vote for me.” (Truth 1:135)


Unfortunately, those who have voted for eternal and unchangeable principles, ordinances and laws of the Priesthood and would not compromise, have been excommunicated from the LDS Church. Church members find themselves in a precarious position: Do they sustain the Gospel of the Priesthood or the Gospel of the Church? One cannot help but [116] wonder what would have happened if by common consent, Church members had voted not to make changes in doctrine and ordinances.


In our eleventh Article of Faith we claim the privilege of worshipping God “according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege”–except if you are a Mormon and voice a negative vote!


Church members can vote by common consent for changes in ordinances and doctrines and policies, and the majority vote will stand. However, a man holding the Holy Priesthood has no voting privileges for or against Priesthood laws and ordinances that are eternal and authored by God Himself. He must conform to these Priesthood laws or else prove unworthy of the Priesthood and risk the loss of it. Therein lies a significant difference between common consent in the Church and pre-determined, eternal Priesthood laws.


  1. Missionary Work


When Jesus began His ministry, He called others to go with Him as missionaries. He told them, “Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey.” (Matt. 10:9-10) Luke recorded, “And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; . . .” (Luke 9:3) These were Christ’s instructions to His Twelve Apostles (Luke 9:1) as well as to the Seventy (Luke 10:1), who were to be the missionary force of the church. These missionaries were sent “two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.” (Luke 10:1)


In our dispensation, as the first LDS Elders began returning home from their missions in April of 1832, the Prophet Joseph received a revelation (D & C 84) that [117] seemingly consisted of two parts: the first on the Holy Priesthood and the second on missionary work. However, the introductory paragraph for that section states, “The Prophet designates it a Revelation on Priesthood,” which essentially means that both parts pertain to the Priesthood. From verses 6 to 42 it discusses the Holy Priesthood, and from verse 61 to the end (v. 120), it specifically discusses missionary work. In this revelation, the Lord re-instituted the program of traveling without purse or scrip as did the ancient Apostles.


Therefore, let no man among you, for this commandment is unto all the faithful who are called of God in the church unto the ministry, from this hour take purse or scrip, that goeth forth to proclaim this gospel of the kingdom.” (D & C 84:86)


Thus, from 1832 until after the turn of the century this Priesthood law and procedure was also the established rule of the LDS Church.


Why was missionary work without purse or scrip the accepted way of the Lord? Apostle George Q. Cannon beautifully answered this question:


Every young man who goes out–as in the case of our young men who are constantly going–goes without purse or script. What is the result? They have to feel after God. If they want a pair of pantaloons, they have to ask God to obtain them. If they want a meal of victuals, they have to exercise faith on this account. In sending out my sons to preach the Gospel, or having them go, I would not give them one dollar to go with; and while I am on this subject I will say, the father who gives his sons money to go and preach the Gospel, does them the greatest injury he can do. I would not do it if I had millions at my disposal. I would not give them a dollar. Let them go out and feel after [118] God, and obtain a knowledge of God, through faith and through mighty prayer. When a man is hungry; when a man is without friends; when a man has no place to sleep, he will, if he believes in God, and His gifts, be certain to go to Him and ask Him to furnish that which he needs, and when his prayers are answered he has greater faith next time. (George Q. Cannon, JD 24:345-346)


Gradually, however, parents began sending a little money to their sons in the missionfield. Then came programs for the Elders Quorums to set up missionary funds to assist the missionaries. Eventually rules were instigated that new missionaries had to have a certain amount of money to enter the missionfield and also have proof that he could be sustained by a specific amount of money while he was a missionary. What a complete change in the financial arrangements for missionaries!


Traveling without purse or scrip became a lost part of the past. To recap its history and significance:


  1. It was practiced at the time of Christ and was restored in our dispensation in the very same manner and with the same word expressions.
  2. It was included in the D & C with other items that pertained to Priesthood work. It was given to the LDS Church as a Priesthood law.
  3. The Lord said it was to be instituted “from this hour forth” without any indication that it should be changed or discontinued. He never gave a revelation changing or stopping its practice.
  4. It was not given by way of preparatory instruction, an experimental effort, or because they were too poor to go any other way. The Lord said it was a “commandment,”–a perpetual, unchangeable law of the Priesthood.


[119] Nevertheless, this “commandment” and “Priesthood law” has been changed by the Church to be more accommodating and fit into their modern program, instead of the Church conforming to this unchangeable law of the Priesthood.


  1. Garment of the Priesthood


Ancient Israel had “holy garments,” and Jesus and His Apostles also referred to them. It appears that the Gospel of the Priesthood should be accompanied by garments of the Priesthood. Although the Catholic Church has apostatized from many gospel principles, they still retain vestiges and imitations of the originals. For instance, the priests’ garments and robes are modified, colored and styled differently, but they still bear a significance symbolizing sacred Priesthood ties.


Protestant churches abandoned the idea of the Priesthood and a Priesthood garment, along with other principles and ordinances, when they rejected Catholicism. For nearly 2000 years there was no true Priesthood nor Priesthood garment. Early Christian prophets had foretold of this apostasy, but prophesied there would be a “restitution of all things.” The Prophet Joseph Smith, along with restoring the Gospel, the temples and Priesthood authority, also restored the holy Priesthood garment. Its style and symbolic markings were specifically given by revelation.


However, in a few years members began to change and alter their Priesthood garments. This caused President Joseph F. Smith to declare:


In order that such people may imitate the fashions, they will not hesitate to mutilate that which should be held by them the most sacred of all things in the world. . . . They should hold these things that God [120] has given them sacred, unchanged and unaltered from the very pattern in which God gave them. Let us have the moral courage to stand against the opinions of fashion and especially where fashion compels us to break a covenant and so commit a grievous sin. (Imp. Era 9:813)


However, “opinions of fashion” eventually won, and in 1923 an announcement was made to Church members that a new modified garment would be permitted. It was not a stern rule, a commandment or based upon revelation, but it was a welcomed option for most of the wearers.


The change in style is permitted for various good reasons, chief among which are promotion of freedom of movement in the body and cleanliness. Formerly the sleeves were long, reaching to the wrists. * * * Permission is therefore granted by the first presidency to shorten the lower garment. Also buttons are permitted to take the place of the tie-strings. * * * Such alterations are optional with each individual, and by no means compulsory, church officials desire it under-stood. (S.L. Tribune, June 4, 1923)


Ten days later (June 14, 1923) the First Presidency sent out a letter addressed, “Dear Brethren,” stating that “after careful and prayerful consideration it was unanimously decided that the following modifications may be permitted, . . .” They also advised the “brethren” to “remember that the garment is the emblem of the Holy Priesthood designed by the Lord as a covering for the body, . . .” It was signed by H. J. Grant, Charles W. Penrose and A. W. Ivins.


This was just one of many Gospel changes that increased after the 1890 Manifesto, and many justifications were given, such as that provided by Apostle Stephen L. Richards:


I hold it entirely compatible with the genius of the Church to change its forms of procedure, customs, and ordinances in accordance with our own knowledge and experience. (S.L. Tribune, April 10, 1932)


There is nothing wrong with changing Church procedures, policies and customs, but to try to change eternal laws of the Priesthood is ludicrous. This was the argument presented in the councils of Catholicism down through the centuries, but we call their changes apostasy. It is difficult to see any distinction!


The history of the Priesthood garment in the LDS Church paints a clear picture:


  1. There was just one “revealed” pattern that existed for nearly 100 years.
  2. Then an abbreviated and modified pattern was provided as an option for wearing outside the temple, often referred to as the “street garment.” Thus, either garment could be worn outside the temple, but only the Priesthood garment inside the temple.
  3. Then came the option to wear either pattern inside the temple.
  4. Then came a directive stating that the old pattern could not be worn outside or inside the temple.
  5. An order was made that the old style garments would no longer be manufactured.
  6. Anyone wearing the old style garment was considered an apostate.


This gradual change in the Priesthood garment was obviously not the result of a revelation or a series of revelations from God, but rather because of personal convenience and popular demand.


[122] The LDS Church has the right to make a “street” garment if they so desire. It was optional with the leaders and members alike and was proper under the rules of voting by common consent. However, as part of the Priesthood laws and ordinances, this garment cannot be changed or altered. According to Brigham Young–


Is there a single ordinance to be dispensed with? Is there one of the commandments that God has enjoined upon the people that He will excuse them from obeying? No, not one, no matter how trifling or small in our own estimation. No matter if we esteem them non-essential, or least or last of all, the commandments of the House of God, we are under obligation to observe them. (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 341)


As with other ordinances and doctrines, the Church has the right to change the temple garment, but upon making those changes it ceases to be a Priesthood garment, and becomes a garment for the LDS Church.


  1. Gifts and Powers of Priesthood


When the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored in this dispensation, it brought back all the gifts, powers and blessings that had been enjoyed by the former-day Saints at the time of Christ. In the seventh Article of Faith, Joseph Smith claimed, “We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.” He also stated:


It is not to be wondered at that men should be ignorant, in a great measure, of the principles of salvation, and more especially of the nature, office, power, influence, gifts, and blessings of the gift of the Holy Ghost. (TPJS, p. 242)


[123] The Prophet also explained–


We believe that the Holy Ghost is imparted by the laying on of hands of those in authority, and that the gift of tongues, and also the gift of prophecy are gifts of the Spirit, and are obtained through that medium; . . . (TPJS, p. 243)


The gifts of the Spirit are obtained through the medium of the Holy Ghost which comes from “those in authority,” or in other words, those with priesthood authority. Thus, the gifts of the spirit are obtained through Priesthood power–not through the Church organization.


What are these gifts? Paul the Apostle listed nine of them in his letter to the Corinthians. (See I Cor. 12.) Moroni mentions a similar list of ten gifts. (See Moroni 10.) When the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation in 1831 on this subject, he listed 13 gifts, which are recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants:


For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.

To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.

To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.

And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.

And again, it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be [124] of God, that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal.

And again, verily I say unto you, to some is given, by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom.

To another is given the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge.

And again, to some it is given to have faith to be healed;

And to others it is given to have faith to heal.

And again, to some is given the working of miracles;

And to others it is given to prophesy;

And to others the discerning of spirits.

And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues;

And to another is given the interpretation of tongues.

And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.

And unto the bishop of the church, and unto such as God shall appoint and ordain to watch over the church and to be elders unto the church, are to have it given unto them to discern all those gifts lest there shall be any among you professing and yet be not of God. (D & C 46:11-27)


The gift and power of revelation to guide the Church is most vital for its existence. The true Church of God must have guidance from God with “thus saith the Lord” communications. George A. Smith admitted–


The very moment that revelation to this Church through our Prophet and Presidency ceases to be communicated unto us, and we adopt any series of books, whether the writings of Joseph or the writings of any other man, or all the writings and revelations that ever have been given, and say, This much we receive, and no more, then we are as dead as the lifeless corpse; we cut off the channel of revelation, and the light and the communication between us and eternal happiness; we cut asunder the thread of light, [125] and we are in darkness and adrift at sea, without a compass to guide us, like any other religious denomination. (JD 6:160-161)


It is interesting to compare the evidence of these gifts as displayed by both leaders and members in the early years of the church with the lack of such gifts in the Church today. The Prophet Joseph explained that–


Because faith is wanting, the fruits are. * * * A man who has none of the gifts has no faith; and he deceives himself, if he supposes he has. Faith has been wanting, not only among the heathen, but in professed Christendom also, . . . (TPJS, p. 270)


Let us consider the evidence of those Priesthood gifts among LDS Church members in recent decades. For instance, when did anyone in the Church witness the gift of tongues and the interpretation thereof? (And this does not mean just being able to learn a foreign language rapidly.) The Prophet Joseph said the “The gift of tongues is the smallest gift perhaps of the whole, . . .” (TPJS, p. 246) So if we do not have the least of the gifts, something must be seriously wrong.


Since these gifts come from the Holy Ghost and the Holy Ghost is manifested through the power of the Priesthood, where does that put the Church in relationship to the gifts and powers of the Priesthood?


  1. Ordinances of the Priesthood


The Lord has instituted certain ordinances for His people to obey. By definition, an ordinance is “an established religious rite, a statute enacted by a legitimate governing authority.” (Intern’l Standard Bible Enc. 3:614) This is an excellent definition because it encompasses three essential [126] components: a rite, a statute, and authority. Very few religions of the world subscribe to all three of these requirements and many modern Christians don’t either.


The Prophet Joseph Smith emphasized the importance of ordinances:


All men who become heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ will have to receive the fulness of the ordinances of his kingdom; and those who will not receive all the ordinances will come short of the fullness of that glory, if they do not lose the whole. (TPJS, p. 309)


He added that specific ordinances “belong to the priesthood.” And also–


If there is no change of ordinances, there is no change of Priesthood. Wherever the ordinances of the gospel are administered, there is the Priesthood.” (TPJS, p. 158)


Therefore, all ordinances not administered by the Priesthood are ineffectual both in mortality and in the world to come. Furthermore, Gospel ordinances that are changed are no longer considered ordinances of the Priesthood, though they may still be Church ordinances and recognized by the LDS corporate church.


Over time, it seems to be the nature of mankind to make changes in their religions, their governments and their standards and morals. Unfortunately these changes also occur in the ordinances of the Lord. The Prophet Joseph warned:


Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles. * * *


If a man gets a fullness of the priesthood of God, he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord. (TPJS, p. 308)


Again and again he emphasized the importance of maintaining all Priesthood ordinances without changes:


. . . the Gospel has ordinances, and if so, had it not always ordinances, and were not its ordinances always the same? (TPJS, p. 59)


He [God] set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever. (TPJS, p. 168)


In recent times an editorial in the Church News elaborated on the constant and unchangeable nature of the Gospel and its ordinances:


One of the most important things we may learn about our religion is that God is unchangeable, the same yesterday, today and forever. By this we may know that the principles of salvation will always remain the same, and that we need not be disturbed by “new ideas” or “modern innovations” in the Gospel which may come our way. The Gospel cannot possibly be changed. The heaven we hope to achieve is eternal and unchangeable. Therefore, to bring the same human nature to the same goal, regardless of the time in which a person lives, requires the same steps and procedures. For that reason the saving principles must ever be the same. They can never change. (Church News, editorial, June 5, 1965, p. 16)


If there is any question as to whether or not ordinances in the LDS Church have changed, consider how extensively the following 12 ordinances have been revised or relinquished since the Church was organized in 1830:


Baptism (and rebaptism)


Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost

Membership in the Church

Ordinations to Church offices

Conferring the Priesthood

Baptism for the dead

The temple endowment

Second anointing

Ordaining kings and queens

Eternal marriage ceremony

Entering consecration/united order


Joseph Smith warned what would happen if the ordinances were changed in any way:


. . . the ordinances must be kept in the very way God has appointed; otherwise their Priesthood will prove a cursing instead of a blessing. (TPJS, p. 169)


Because of the Church’s altering and eliminating many of the Priesthood ordinances over the years, it is evident that there is a distinction between changeable Church ordinances and eternal, unchangeable Priesthood ordinances.


  1. Rebaptism


Nearly all Mormons are aware of the doctrine and necessity of baptism. Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) However, few Church members today realize that rebaptism was an important doctrine taught and practiced from the commencement of the Church until the turn of the century.


[129] The primary purposes of baptism are to “enter into the kingdom of God,” to bind a covenant and for the remission of sins. However, there were many other reasons why members wanted to be rebaptized:


Joining the Church

. . . Joseph Smith and those who had been baptized prior to April 6, 1830, were again baptized on the day of the organization of the Church. (Des. News, March 30, 1935, p. 6)


Renewal of covenants

. . . he [Brigham Young] now proposed to them a solemn renewal of their covenants to righteousness, a new avowal of their acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ by baptism, President Young himself to set the example. * * * This procedure, however, must not be regarded as casting any doubt upon the validity of their original baptism, or repudiation of it as a sacrament. It was only to make more solemn the renewal of covenants with God. (CHC 3:286-287)


Entrance into the Salt Lake Valley

I will here state that Martin Harris, when he came to this Territory a few years ago, was rebaptized the same as every member of the Church from distant parts is on arriving here. That seems to be a kind of standing ordinance for all Latter-day Saints who emigrate here, from the First Presidency down; all are rebaptized and set out anew by renewing their covenants. (Orson Pratt, JD 18:160)


Entering the United Order

On January 2, he (John Bushman) was baptized into the United Order by Wm. H. Winn and confirmed by Israel Evans, same day. This was the instructions from the Church Authorities, that all renew their covenants and work in the United Order. (John Bushman Diary, p. 31)


[130] Remission of sins

I was baptized first in 1832, and I was baptized the next time when I came out here to Utah. I was baptized first for the remission of sins. Was baptized the second time for the same thing. I came out here in 1847 and was rebaptized then. When I came out here I was baptized again renewing my covenants and also for the remission of sins that I might have committed in taking this long and tedious journey through all these mountains and canyons. (Joseph C. Kingsbury, Temple Lot Case, p. 340)


Because of lost records

The purpose of rebaptism, as before mentioned, was not just for the individuals who had lost their records. Although many records were lost, the purpose of rebaptism at this time was for a renewal of covenants and remission of sins. (Rebaptism, Ogden Kraut, p. 24)


Entering marriage

It was customary in those days to be rebaptized before being married. This young couple adhered to that practice, though one foot of ice in Big Creek had to be broken in order to do so. (Life of George F. Richards, p. 8)


Reinstatement into the Church

. . . This Council was called to re-consider the case of Orson Pratt, who had previously been cut off from the quorum of the Twelve for the neglect of duty; and Amasa Lyman had been ordained an Apostle in his place. I told the Council that as there was not a quorum present when Orson Pratt’s case came up before them, that he was still a member, that he had not been cut off legally, and I would find some other place for Amasa Lyman to which the Council agreed. President Young said there were but three present when Amasa was ordained. I told them that was legal when no more could be had. * * *

At three o’clock, Council adjourned to my house, and at four I baptized Orson Pratt and his wife, Sarah Marinda, and Lidia Granger in the Mississippi River, [131] and confirmed them in the Church, ordaining Orson Pratt to his former office and standing in the Quorum of the Twelve. (“History of Joseph Smith,” Mill. Star 20:423)


After fornication

Nov. 27th, 1889 (at Fillmore) –two young unmarried people have committed fornication. Bro. Kelly (1st counselor in Stake Pres.) was told that on asking forgiveness, they should be permitted to receive rebaptism and not be cut off; but where persons thus sin who have received their endowments, they must be excommunicated. (Abraham Cannon Journal, p. 197)


To fulfill all righteousness

I will refer again to the brethren and sisters who have lately come over the plains. My counsel to them today is, as it has been on former occasions to all who have come into these valleys, go and be baptized for the remission of sins, repenting of all your wanderings from the path of righteousness, believing firmly, in the name of Jesus Christ, that all your sins will be washed away. If any of you inquire what is the necessity of your being baptized, as you have not committed any sins, I answer, it is necessary to fulfill all righteousness. (Brigham Young, JD 2:8)


For a spiritual revival

Now it was almost a general thing through England that the Saints were being rebaptized, for they had many and mostly become old and cold and it required a renewal of covenants and fresh works together with more faith and diligence, to give the work new impetus and revive the dropping spirits of the Saints and the work generally. (Oliver Huntington Diary, Feb. 7, 1847, p. 114)


My advice to you is, go and be baptized for the remission of sins, and start afresh, that temptation may not overcome you again; pause and reflect, that you be not overcome by the evil one unawares. (Brigham Young, JD 1:324)


[132] Brigham Young’s advice regarding rebaptism as a Priesthood law is just as applicable and important today as when he first gave it:


In the first place, if you were rebaptized for the remission of sins, peradventure you may receive again the Spirit of the gospel in its glory, light and beauty; but if your hearts are so engrossed in the things of this world, that you do not know whether you want to be rebaptized or not, you had better shut yourselves up in some canyon or closet, to repent of your sins, and call upon the name of the Lord, until you get His spirit, and the light thereof. . . . (JD 1:324)


Since it is obvious that we commit many more sins after we turn eight years old than before, rebaptism is a significant and beautiful ordinance. The Lord seemed to recognize its importance because many spiritual gifts attended this ordinance.


But as essential as it is, the ordinance of rebaptism didn’t last long in the LDS Church. In the October conference of 1897, an announcement was made to diminish the popular practice of rebaptism. George Q. Cannon, counselor in the First Presidency, declared:


We hear a good deal of talk about rebaptism, and the First Presidency and Twelve have felt that so much rebaptism ought to be stopped. (Conf. Rept., Oct. 1897, p. 680)


The practice was gradually discontinued altogether. Rebaptism was no longer a privilege, an option or a requirement. It was forbidden within the Church–thus discontinuing another doctrine of the Priesthood.



  1. Conferring and ordaining to Priesthood


Priesthood has been defined as the authority to act in God’s name, which entails officiating in the ordinances and operations of the Gospel. Joseph Smith said that Priesthood “is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation and every important matter is revealed from heaven.” (TPJS, pp. 166-167)


The Church, on the other hand, is the organization through which this authority, or Priesthood, can function in an orderly manner.


However, obtaining the Priesthood and obtaining an office in the Church are two different procedures. For instance, we don’t ordain a man to an office in the Church and suppose he has obtained the Priesthood.


There is a definite set of words to be used for baptism (See D & C 20:73) and for the Lord’s Supper (See D & C 20:77-79). The Prophet Joseph explained, “There are certain key words and signs belonging to the Priesthood which must be observed in order to obtain the blessing.” (TPJS, p. 199) When John the Baptist gave the Priesthood to Joseph and Oliver, he used certain key words. According to Joseph Smith, John the Baptist said:


Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, . . . (DHC 1:39)


Joseph added that,


The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist. . . . (DHC 1:40)


[134] Then, according to Oliver Cowdery, “when we received under his hand the Holy Priesthood as he said, `Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer this priesthood and this authority, . . .'”


Brigham Young had been counseled by Joseph Smith as to the difference between conferring Priesthood and ordaining to an office in the Priesthood or Church. Said Brother Brigham:


The Prophet came to us many times, saying, “Brethren, you are going to ordain Seventies. Do not forget to confer the High Priesthood upon them and to be one of the Seventy Apostles.” That was my language in the ordination of the Seventies, and that is the way I ordain them now. (Des. Weekly News 26:274)


John Taylor was questioned as to the appropriate wording and he responded by saying he wasn’t sure, but if there was any question over someone being ordained, then do it over. However, in 1881 he was assured of “conferring” Priesthood first because he mentioned the word six times in one paragraph. (See JD 26:106)


This procedure of first conferring Priesthood and then ordaining to an office was followed from 1830 to 1921. At that time an official statement was issued by the First Presidency (under Heber J. Grant) changing the wording. They felt that they had been making a mistake by giving everyone the Priesthood since everyone in the Church functioned under the authority and keys of President Grant’s Priesthood. The missionary handbook contained the wording as changed on April 26, 1921:


[135]                          ORDAINING TO THE

                            MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD


            Calling the candidate by name–“By (or in) the authority of the holy priesthood and by the laying on of hands, I (or we) ordain you an Elder (or whatever the office may be) in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and confer upon you all the rights, powers, and authority pertaining to this office and calling in the holy Melchizedek Priesthood, in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.”

            Such words of blessing as the spirit may dictate may be included.


Missionary Handbook, 1946, p. 141


However, 36 years later the question was brought up again to President David O. McKay. He evidently thought the wording was incorrect and changed it back, as follows:


(Use full name) by the authority of the Holy Priesthood in us vested, we lay our hands upon your head and confer on you the Priesthood of Melchizedek, and ordain you an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and bestow upon you all the rights, powers and authority pertaining to this office and calling in the Melchizedek Priesthood, and we do this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


This wording has been used since April 1957.


[136] There is no office in the Church that possesses equal or greater authority than the Priesthood itself. No office gives authority to the Priesthood; rather all offices receive their authority from the Priesthood. The tail does not wag the dog.


Some say this is a “distinction without a difference” and that “either will do” and consider this a small technicality; however many Supreme Court cases are won or lost by a small but important technicality. It is important to remember that no one can receive the authority of the Priesthood by merely being appointed to an office which is an appendage of the Priesthood.


We must believe that either a mistake was made for nearly 100 years and then corrected, or that it was correct at first and then was incorrectly changed.

Because of this change, serious problems have resulted: (1) During the 36 years when men were given offices in the Church without first having Priesthood conferred, did they actually receive the Priesthood? (2) Can they pass on Priesthood authority or just ordain to an office? (3) How many thousands of men today hold merely an office in the Church without actual Priesthood authority?


President John Taylor is attributed to have made the following prophetic statements regarding Priesthood:


“I would be surprised if ten percent of those who claim to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood will remain true and faithful to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, at the time of the seventh president and that there would be thousands that think they hold the priesthood at that time, but would not have it properly conferred upon them.” (John Taylor, quoted in Lorin C. Woolley Statement, Sept. 22, 1929)


President John Taylor spoke of the time when the Constitution of the United States would hang as by a thread; the fullness of the Priesthood would also hang by a thread. (Truth magazine 15:40)


In 1901 President Joseph F. Smith clearly explained the proper procedure for conferring Priesthood:


Conferring the Priesthood. The revelation in Section 107, Doctrine and Covenants, verses 1, 5, 6, 7, 21 clearly points out that the Priesthood is a general authority of qualification, with certain offices or authorities appended thereto. Consequently the conferring of the Priesthood should precede and accompany ordination to office, unless it be possessed by previous bestowal and ordination. Surely a man cannot possess an appendage to the Priesthood without possessing the Priesthood itself, which he cannot obtain unless it be authoritatively conferred upon him.

Take, for instance, the office of a deacon: the person ordained should have the Aaronic Priesthood conferred upon him in connection with his ordination. He cannot receive a portion or fragment of the Aaronic Priesthood, because that would be acting on the idea that either or both of the (Melchizedek and Aaronic) Priesthoods were subject to subdivision, which is contrary to the revelation.

In ordaining those who have not yet received the Aaronic Priesthood, to any office therein, the words of John the Baptist to Joseph Smith, Jr., and Oliver Cowdery, would be appropriate to immediately precede the act of ordination. They are:

“Upon you my fellow servants [servant], in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron.”

Of course, it would not necessarily follow that these exact words should be used, but the language should be consistent with the act of conferring the Aaronic Priesthood. (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pp. 136-137)


[138] In referring to both wordings, George Q. Cannon was of the opinion that it didn’t matter which was used:


“I confer upon you the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordain you an Elder, or, I ordain you an Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood, or whatever the office conferred may be. * * * Consequently, we are of the opinion that both are acceptable to Him. . . .” (Gospel Truths, Cannon, 1:237)


However, Cannon gave another answer without knowing it when he said, “A stream cannot rise higher than its fountain. In the affairs of the Kingdom of God a man cannot bestow that which he has not received.” (Ibid., 1:237)


The Lord has said that all the offices in the Church are appendages to the Priesthood. (See D & C 107:5) Therefore, Priesthood is not an appendage to the offices of the Church. Many ancient prophets held the Priesthood without being an Elder in a church. The Priesthood can create an elder, but an elder cannot create Priesthood.


Keeping in mind the period of time when there was no conferral of Priesthood (1921 to 1957) in the LDS Church, consider the years that our current First Presidency and Twelve Apostles were born. Do a little simple math and add 20 years on to the date of their birthdays, which would probably be the earliest time of their ordination, and it is evident that all of them (with one possible exception) fall into the critical time period when Priesthood conferral was non-existent. Hence, it is possible that all of the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles are without any Melchizedek Priesthood.


[139]                  Members of the First Presidency


Name                          Birthdate


Gordon B. Hinckley            June 23, 1910

Thomas Monson                 Aug. 21, 1927

James Faust             July 31, 1920


Quorum of Twelve Apostles

Boyd Packer             Sept. 10, 1924

Tom Perry                     Aug. 5, 1922

David Haight                  Sept. 2, 1922

Neal Maxwell                  July 6, 1926

Russell Nelson                Sept. 9, 1924

Dallen Oaks             Aug. 12, 1932

Russell Ballard         Oct. 8, 1926

Joseph Wirthlin         June 11, 1917

Richard Scott                 Nov. 7, 1928

Robert Hales                  Aug. 24, 1932

Jeffrey Holland         Dec. 3, 1940

Henry Eyring                  May 31, 1933


  1. Celestial Plural Marriage


Early in the Bible it was recorded that some men had more than one wife, but it was first demonstrated in the life of Abraham. The scriptures have clearly pointed to Abraham as the “friend of God” and the “father of the faithful;” in other words, he was held up as an example for others to follow. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was also an excellent example, as Martin Luther noted:


Therefore Sarah is deservedly held up by Peter (I Peter 3:5-6) as a pattern for the entire female sex. (Luther’s Works 3:44)


[140] With the restoration of the Gospel, we learn that plural marriage was a spiritual law of the Priesthood and that Abraham was commanded to obey it:


God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law, . . . Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it. (D & C 132:34-35)


And in our dispensation, the Lord has given us the same commandment:


Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham; enter ye into my law and ye shall be saved. (D & C 132:32)


The revelation on celestial plural marriage contained in D & C Section 132 contains a great deal of important information on the subject. Interestingly, it repeats key words several times in conveying the message:


Abraham           22 times

Commandment 8 times

Law               44 times

Priesthood  14 times


Early brethren obeyed the “law” as a Priesthood law long before it became accepted by the LDS Church.


One of the reasons these men lived plural marriage even though the Church had not yet accepted it, was explained years later by Joseph F. Smith


Some people have supposed that the doctrine of plural marriage was a sort of superfluity, or non-essential to the salvation or exaltation of mankind. In [141] other words, some of the Saints have said, and believe, that a man with one wife, sealed to him by the authority of the Priesthood for time and eternity, will receive an exaltation as great and glorious, if he is faithful, as he possibly could with more than one. I want here to enter my solemn protest against this idea, for I know it is false. There is no blessing promised except upon conditions, and no blessing can be obtained by mankind except by faithful compliance with the conditions, or law, upon which the same is promised. The marriage of one woman to a man for time and eternity by the sealing power, according to the law of God, is a fulfillment of the celestial law of marriage in part–and is good so far as it goes–and so far as a man abides these conditions of the law, he will receive his reward therefor, and this reward, or blessing, he could not obtain on any other grounds or conditions. But this is only the beginning of the law, not the whole of it. Therefore, whoever has imagined that he could obtain the fullness of the blessings pertaining to this celestial law, by complying with only a portion of its conditions, has deceived himself. He cannot do it. (JD 20:28)


Church leaders were told that they must live this law or the “keys” would be turned against them. Joseph left no doubt about its importance:


The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and strengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on celestial and plural marriage and the same God commanded me to obey it.

But we have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction. (Contributor 5:259)


At this time the LDS Church was publicly declaring that plural marriage was not a part of their teachings or practices, which was true. Yet many men and women were living that principle quietly and separately from the Church.


[142] In 1852, the Church finally voted to accept the doctrine of plural marriage as a tenet of their religion. In 1890, nearly 40 years later, the Church voted to abandon the doctrine. For the next 14+ years many Mormon men continued to take plural wives outside the jurisdiction of the United States in Mexico, Canada and on the high seas. Because of this, the following two questions have been asked repeatedly:


  1. Why did many Church leaders live plural marriage several years before the Church accepted it as a doctrine?


  1. Why did many Church leaders live plural marriage for several years after the Church renounced it with the Manifesto?


The answer to both questions is simple: the law of monogamy was preferred as a doctrine for the Church, but plural marriage remained as an eternal law of the Priesthood.


For over 14 years after the Manifesto, much confusion existed among those in Church leadership positions. Men continued living plural marriage as a law of the Priesthood, regardless of problems with government or church. For the same reasons people are living plural marriage today–in obedience to an eternal, unchangeable law of the Priesthood.


  1. Babylon vs. Zion


The word Babylon has been given many definitions in both ancient and modern times. It has been referred to as–


  1. A great and ancient city
  2. An evil empire
  3. A wicked, apostate government
  4. Worldly and spiritual wickedness 5.An evil latter-day international world government


[143] The Lord told the Latter-day Saints:


Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon. (D & C 133:14)


To understand Babylon you need to understand its opposite–Zion. All the opposite definitions of Zion describe Babylon, i.e., the impure in heart, rebellious, wicked, corrupt, lustful, apostate and hostile. Dr. Hugh Nibley explained:


Babylon is just as pure in its way as is Zion; it is pure evil–for even good, when it becomes contaminated and perverted, becomes an evil. The main thing is that Babylon and Zion cannot mix in any degree; a Zion that makes concessions is no longer Zion. (“What is Zion?– A Distant View,” Nibley, p. 5)


Conversely, if we could convert and change Babylon to righteousness, then it would become a Zion. However, it is impossible to convert the great and evil international Babylon which is to “become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, . . .” (Rev. 18:2) It is for this reason the Lord said, “I will not spare any that remain in Babylon” (D & C 64:24); “Go ye forth of Babylon” (1 Nephi 20:20); “Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity” (Jer. 51:6).


According to Joseph Smith the commandment to come out of Babylon has been given to every dispensation where the Gospel has been taught. However, around the turn of the 20th century, new programs and instructions were given to Church members advising them to remain in Babylon. Some of the most startling were–


[144] Joseph Fielding Smith:

. . . our building of foreign temples is to encourage the saints to stay in their own countries. (Church News, Oct. 17, 1936)


John A. Widtsoe:

The time of gathering is past. We now live in the time of scattering. We want to scatter our people over the face of the earth that we might leaven the whole lump. (Truth magazine, Sept. 1952, p. 103)


Bruce R. McConkie:

We are now in a new era of church growth and development. * * * We are becoming a world church. * * * every nation is the gathering place for its own people. (Church News, Sept. 2, 1972)


But what did the Lord say about this?


He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad. (Luke 2:24)


Scattering the Saints among Babylon is now a doctrine of the Church, but gathering them out of Babylon is a doctrine of the Priesthood. The Prophet Joseph explained further:


It was the design of the councils of heaven before the world was, that the principles and laws of the priesthood should be predicated upon the gathering of the people in every age of the world. (TPJS, p. 308)


Continuing, Joseph said that even the Savior had trouble teaching His people to gather out of Babylon:


Jesus did everything to gather the people, and they would not be gathered, and He therefore poured out curses upon them. (TPJS, p. 308)


[145] Thousands of Saints who had fortunately disregarded Church leaders’ advice to stay in Europe, were saved from the ravages and death of both World War I and World War II. Certainly if there are temporal blessings attached to obeying laws of the Priesthood, then there must be spiritual blessing to be enjoyed now and in the hereafter.


  1. United We Stand; Divided We Fall!


Most of today’s Christians have overlooked one of the most important doctrines of the New Testament–or they just don’t choose to believe it. Jesus tried to teach the people how to live in harmony both spiritually and temporally; but even after 2,000 years, they have still failed to achieve it. We easily recall the great outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost as recorded in the second chapter of Acts, but we seem to forget other passages from that chapter. For example, it states that “all that believed were together, and had all things common, . . .” They “sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” (Acts 2:44-45) This was a prominent Gospel doctrine taught by Christ to His Christian followers.


This principle of “all things in common” prevented men from getting very rich and others from being very poor. Jesus always condemned the rich, and this principle would save them from that evil, and at the same time would eliminate extreme poverty. When Christ came to the American continent, He sent out disciples to preach the Gospel, and–


. . . the people were all converted unto the Lord . . . both Nephites and Lamanites, . . . and every man did deal justly one with another. And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor. . . . (4 Nephi 2-3)


[146] They completely accepted and embraced that important Christian principle, and enjoyed the fruits of “peace in the land.” (v. 4)


In 1830, when the Gospel was restored to Joseph Smith, again the Lord said, “Be one; and if ye are not one, ye are not mine.” (D & C 38:27)


But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. (D & C 49:20)


This is an indictment against the rest of the world, including other Christians–that they are sinning because they do not have “all things in common.”


In another revelation given February 9, 1931, (D & C Section 42) the Lord outlined several basic rules on how to live a United Order. Then again in 1834 He said:


Or in other words, if any man among you obtain five talents [dollars] let him cast them into the treasury; or if he obtain ten, or twenty, or fifty, or an hundred, let him do likewise;

And let not any among you say that it is his own; for it shall not be called his, nor any part of it.

And there shall not any part of it be used, or taken out of the treasury, only by the voice and common consent of the order. (D & C 104:69-71)


The Lord called this “the law of my gospel.” (D & C 104:18) It must be a Priesthood law, too, because the Lord also said it was “to be a united order, and an everlasting order for the benefit of my church [if they choose to accept it], and for the salvation of men until I come. (D & C 104:1)


[147] The Mormons were able to live that law of the Gospel for only a short time in both Ohio and Missouri. They did not obey it during the six years of residence in Nauvoo. Thus, what was revealed as an “everlasting order” lasted only a few years in the LDS Church.


After the Saints arrived in Utah, it was several years before they tried it again. Over 100 united orders were set up, but most of them lasted only about six months.


History has shown that the Mormons, like the ancient Israelites, were often punished by persecution because of their disobedience. They were driven out of Ohio, then Missouri and Illinois–and into the wilderness. They were instructed to live these laws of the Gospel so they could build the New Jerusalem, but after 150 years it has still not been accomplished. Joseph Smith had warned the Saints:


Speculative schemes are being introduced. This is the way of the world. Babylon indeed, and I tell you in the name of the God of Israel, if there is not repentance, . . . you will be broken and scattered from this land. (Edward Stevenson Autobiography, p. 40)


Today Mormonism thrives on the money system of Babylon, more so than ever before. Utah is known as the most speculative state of the Union. We have both extremes of rich and poor within the Church. Unfortunately, this is acceptable according to the laws of the Church, but it is in opposition to the laws of the Priesthood.


Brigham Young said the Saints had not yet even learned the a,b,c’s of the United Order and building the Kingdom of God.



Could our brethren stay in Jackson County, Missouri? No, no. Why? They had not learned “a” concerning Zion; and we have been traveling now forty-two years, and have we learned our a, b, c? “Oh,” say a good many, “I think we have.” Have we learned our a b ab? Have we got as far as b a k e r, baker? Have we got through our first speller? Have we learned multiplication? Do we understand anything with regard to the building up of the kingdom? I will say, scarcely. * * *

When are the Latter-day Saints going to be prepared to receive the kingdom? Are we now? Not at all! (JD 15:4)


Dr. Hugh Nibley said that Brigham Young University was established for the purpose of teaching the Saints to avoid the economic system of the world and get back to cooperating and living the United Order:


When the United Order was dissolved in 1834, it was through no pressure from outside but because of greed and hypocrisy (“covetousness, and with feigned words,” D & C 104:4 & 52) within the Church. Brigham Young revived it again–the Brigham Young Academy at Provo was founded for the explicit purpose, in his words, of countering “the theories of Huxley, of Darwin, or of Miall and the false political economy which contends against cooperation and the United Order. (Approaching Zion, Nibley, p. 170)


Today BYU teaches whole programs on world economics and finances but very little, if anything, about the United Order.


  1. The Persecuted and the Persecutors


People can be innocent of any crime but still suffer from great persecution. Even the Savior Himself suffered intense persecution in His short life. It is usually the result of [149] intolerance and ignorance as in the case of the early Mormon Saints. Brigham Young explained:


Although there was so much opposition and persecution carried on against the Saints in Missouri, I never knew a Latter-day Saint who broke a law while I was there; and if the records of Clay, Caldwell or Daviess Counties were searched, they could not find one record of crime against one of our brethren, or even in Jackson County, so far as I know. (Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1801-1844, p. 33)


In order to gain a better understanding of reasons and conditions surrounding persecution, once again let’s look to some early authorities and scriptures for answers to pertinent questions. It is interesting to note that the LDS Church has made every effort to avoid persecution in the past 100+ years–even to the point of compromising their obedience to Priesthood laws.




Brigham Young: The rise of the persecutions against the Church was in consequence of the doctrines of eternal truth taught by Joseph. Many knew by this experience. Some lost their husbands, some lost their wives, and some their children through persecution, and yet we have not been disposed to forsake the truth and turn and mingle with the gentiles. (Brigham Young Addresses 1:151)


George Q. Cannon: Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? * * * It is an evidence, an infallible evidence, of truth to have persecution accompany it. (JD 20:333)


John Taylor: There is still that same spirit of antagonism existing between truth and error. . . . Let a man join this Church. . . that man will be despised, [150] as sure as Jesus was. . . . When he became a servant of God, the powers of darkness were let loose upon him; men began to persecute him and speak evil of him, and his name was cast out as evil. This is the lot of every man that receives the truth–I don’t care where he comes from. (JD 7:195)




You will never find a people of God who have the truth persecuting another people. If they were to do so, they would cease to be the people of God. It is the characteristic of the Church of God always that it never condescends to persecution. (Des. Evening News, July 11, 1885)




Luke: Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.

Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23)


Brigham Young: The devil has marshaled his forces to obliterate the work of God. but it is too late in the day, gentlemen. Persecution only gave Joseph Smith power and popularity. Persecution against this people only lifts them up. (Manu. Hist. of B.Y. 1847-1850, p. 221)


Brigham Young: Joseph could not have been perfected, though he had lived a thousand years, if he had received no persecution. If he had lived a thousand years, and led this people, and preached the Gospel without persecution, he would not have been perfected as well as he was at the age of thirty-nine years. You may calculate, when this people are called to go through scenes of affliction and suffering and are [151] driven from their homes, and cast down, and scattered, and smitten, and peeled, the Almighty is rolling on his work with greater rapidity. (Discourses of B.Y., p. 351)


The Lord: And all who suffer persecution for my name, and endure in faith, though they be called to lay down their lives for my sake, yet shall they partake of all this glory. Wherefore, fear not, even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full. (D & C 101:35-36)




Brigham Young: The only way to destroy this people is to foster them with kindness and get the elders of Israel to lock arms with the devil and to walk into corruption, and they would be induced to walk into every dissolute hole on the earth, and the Priesthood would be taken away. (Manu. Hist. of B.Y., p. 221)


Brigham Young: There is nothing that would so soon weaken my hope and discourage me as to see this people in full fellowship with the world, and receive no more persecution from them because they are one with them [a condition which the present leaders boast of as now having been accomplished]. In such an event, we might bid farewell to the Holy Priesthood with all its blessings, privileges and aids to exaltations, principalities and powers in the eternities of the Gods. (JD 10:32)


* * *


The fullness of the Gospel contains all the doctrines and ordinances of the Holy Priesthood. This marks the difference between the Joseph Smith Gospel of Christ and the teachings of other modern churches. When Mormonism becomes like other churches because they have abolished the distinguishing features of the fullness of the Gospel, then persecution will cease–but so will power in the Priesthood.


[152] One of the most powerful speeches ever delivered by Joseph Smith was his last one before the Nauvoo Legion on June 18, 1844, wherein he spoke of persecution of the Saints:


It is thought by some that our enemies would be satisfied with my destruction; but I tell you that as soon as they have shed my blood, they will thirst for the blood of every man in whose heart dwells a single spark of the spirit of the fullness of the Gospel. The opposition of these men is moved by the spirit of the adversary of all righteousness. It is not only to destroy me, but every man and woman who dares believe the doctrines that God hath inspired me to teach in this generation. (DHC 6:498)


Where are the people today who have a “single spark of the spirit of the fullness of the Gospel?” Who are the ones meeting opposition? Who have the spirit of the adversary against them? Who believe in the doctrines that God inspired Joseph Smith to teach to this generation? Compare these with the people who now live among the riches of Babylon, who promote the ways of the world, and who teach against “the doctrines God inspired” Joseph Smith to teach to this generation.


Over 100 years ago those living the fullness of the Gospel were persecuted mainly by those outside the Church. Now, ironically, those who live the fullness of the Gospel are persecuted by those inside the Church–and they are eventually forced out of the Church.







[153]                       (picture of prisoners)


Persecuted for polygamy

(Taken from My Kingdom Shall Roll Forth,

LDS Church manual, 1979, p. 56)










  1. Deceptions and Delusions


As Jesus reached the end of His ministry, He took His disciples up on the mountain to foretell the dangers that would come to the Saints in the last days. When asked what would be the sign of His second coming, He answered:


Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (Matt. 24:4-5; see also Mark 13:5-6)


For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matt. 24:24)


[154] There are very, very few who can be considered as the elect, and if the elect are almost deceived, then all the rest of the world will certainly be deceived.


In order to deceive mankind, the devil frequently camouflages things with an attractive appearance, such as in the case of the story of Snow White and the wicked queen.











(picture of Snow White and wicked witch)


“Here, take one of my lovely apples.”










The apple was a genuine apple. It looked delicious and it probably even tasted great. The deception was so cunning that it was undetectable–at least at first. The lesson to be learned is that even though something appears to be fine, in reality it may not be. We have been warned that all is not well in Zion–even if on the surface it appears to be.


[155] In the latter days many people will confess that Jesus is the Christ, but will teach false and deceiving doctrines. A precaution to keep from being deceived is to return to the original laws and teachings of the Priesthood. That which is contrary to scripture and the true prophets can be like a poison apple. Though it may sound correct and those in current leadership positions declare something to be correct, one needs to check beneath the “attractive” surface to find out the heart and truth of the matter.


Hundreds of different ministers and churches are declaring to be the true church. Which is the correct one? How do you detect a true minister of Christ from a false one? Who are the true prophets of God?


We live in a day of many types of deceptions. It is a day in which God said He would send strong delusions. And why? Because, as Paul says, “they received not the love of the truth.” (II Thes. 2:10)


But God also provided an “iron rod,” which was the “word of God,” a true guide available to the Saints through the Holy Ghost and the Holy Priesthood to protect us against the deceptions and delusions of today.


  1. Race Restrictions


Among ancient Israel the Lord performed miracles, spoke from the heavens and protected them from their enemies. Israel enjoyed the powers and blessings of the Holy Priesthood as God had selected their race to administer His laws and ordinances. This would be so until the end of time.


We can assume that members of the House of Israel were selected and commissioned with that great responsibility while they were yet in the pre-mortal world. Prophets were [156] selected from this particular lineage from the days of Adam to the present.


Jesus chose Twelve Apostles to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, and they were given the Priesthood for the upbuilding of the Church and Kingdom. Their mission was to help gather the twelve tribes of Israel, not any other nations or races. In one instance a “woman of Canaan” [usually referring to the black race] came to Jesus to have Him heal her daughter, but He responded with a rather harsh statement:


I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (But she again pleaded:) Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and cast it to dogs. (Matt. 15:24-26)


The Canaanite, or Negro race, was not supposed to benefit from the powers and blessings of Priesthood. He told His disciples to “go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 10:6) James, following these instructions, wrote a letter which began—“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” (James 1:1)


James was commencing his work with a letter to all the house of Israel, not to all the inhabitants of the world. The same calling and message was to go out in the latter days as well.


With the restoration of the Gospel, Joseph Smith wrote, “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes.” (10th Article of Faith; see also D & C 110:11) The Lord also explained:



The order of this priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made. (D & C 107:40)


Joseph respected the Negro race and said, “The slaves in Washington are more refined than the President.” (Mill. Star 20:278) However, he saw the difficulties between them and the white race and said:


Had I anything to do with the Negro, I would confine them by strict law to their own species, and put them on a national equalization. (TPJS, p. 270)


Then Joseph told the missionaries they could “baptize them by the consent of their masters, but not to confer the Priesthood upon them.” (L. John Nuttall Journal, May 31, 1879)


On another occasion Joseph said, “the Negro has no right nor cannot hold the Priesthood.” (Mormonism and the Negro, John Stewart, p. 10) Abraham Smoot also reported that Joseph told him, “I could baptize them by consent of their masters, but not to confer the Priesthood upon them.” (Ibid., p. 11)


After the Saints arrived in Utah, Pres. Brigham Young stated:


The Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the Priesthood nor his seed, until the redemption of the earth. If there never was a prophet, or apostle of Jesus Christ that spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called Negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are; I know that they cannot bear rule in the Priesthood. . . . (Brigham Young Addresses, 2:77)


[158] Then Brigham Young explained the serious consequences for those holding the Priesthood who tried to give the Priesthood to the blacks.


The blood of Judah has not only mingled almost with all nations, but also with the blood of Cain, and they have mingled their seed together; these Negro Jews may keep up all the outer ordinances of the Jewish religion; they may have their sacrifices, and they may perform all the religious ceremonies any people on earth could perform, but let me tell you, that the day they consented to mingle their seed with Canaan, the Priesthood was taken away from Judah, and that portion of Judah’s seed will never get any rule or blessings of the Priesthood until Cain gets it. (Teachings of Brigham Young, Collier, 3:45-46)


From these teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, we learn that the blacks will not have the right to the Priesthood until after all the white race have had an opportunity to accept or reject it. However, in 1978 Church members voted on an “Official Declaration” giving the Priesthood to the Negro race—once again resulting in a clash between the laws of the Priesthood and the laws of the Church.


  1. Use or Lose Keys of Priesthood


The Jews, Catholics, Protestants and Mormons all have conflicting ideas on the definition and application of the term keys of the Priesthood. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most important religious concepts.


The Prophet Joseph Smith once said, “. . . it is necessary to know who holds the keys of power, and who does not, or we may be likely to be deceived.” (TPJS, p. 336) He was speaking of Priesthood keys.


[159] In trying to better understand the word keys in this context, compare them with a large ring of keys used by maintenance men to open doors, vehicles, tools boxes, safes, gates, etc. Simply said, keys of the Priesthood are given as a means to open and have access to various functions of the Priesthood.


President Joseph F. Smith provided a simple but concise explanation of both Priesthood and its keys:


The Priesthood, in general, is the authority given man to act for God.

The power of directing these labors constitutes the keys of the priesthood.

A distinction must be carefully made between the general authority, and the directing of the labors performed by that authority. (Imp. Era 4:230)


The president of the Church has all the keys pertaining to the offices and officers of the Church, with the following exceptions:


  1. A man holding the Priesthood may have revelation and keys to govern his own family; these keys are not given to the president of the Church.
  2. A Priesthood holder may be given inspiration in the areas of science, mysteries of heaven, or a special work not connected to any office of the Church.
  3. Men may be called to function in some work outside of the body of the Church.
  4. The Church president does something serious enough that causes him to lose the right to use those keys.


Regarding Item No. 3, there was a revelation and a work assignment given to a man named Jesse Knight. He was shown three things: (a) the Gospel of Jesus Christ was true; [160] (b) there was a rich deposit of ore in a mountain near Eureka, Utah; and (c) he was called to retrieve that ore and use it for good causes. Jesse found the ore, saved the credit of the Church, saved BYU, sent out missionaries, and provided employment for many depressed people. These things happened in the 1890’s and the question may be asked why the Lord directed him instead of Church President Wilford Woodruff. It shows that God may choose different men in many ways to assist in His work with Priesthood and keys of revelation.


In recent years men have claimed that the Priesthood and its keys had been taken away and that they themselves had a revelation giving them the right to restore them again. But the Holy Priesthood given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery has never been entirely taken from the earth:


The priesthood which God has restored, the authority by which men can administer in the ordinances of God—that priesthood shall never be taken from the earth. (George Q. Cannon, JD 20:250-251)


. . . and by faith the gospel has been restored to the earth, with the gifts and powers of the holy Priesthood, with the promise that it shall never be taken from the earth. (Orson Pratt, JD 25:146)


But can this Priesthood authority and its keys be used outside of the LDS Church? This situation came up at the time Sidney Rigdon wanted to become the “guardian” over the Church. Rigdon wanted to change the organization and doctrines of the Church, but Brigham Young advised the members:


Does this church want it as God organized it? Or do you want to clip the power of the priesthood, [161] and let those who have the keys of the priesthood go and build up the kingdom in all the world, wherever the people will hear them? * * * Joseph . . . committed into their [the Twelve] hands the keys of the Kingdom in this last dispensation for all the world; don’t put a thread between the Priesthood and God. (DHC 7:235)


It is clear that those holding the keys of the Priesthood have the obligation to teach the Gospel and build up the Kingdom, but Church leaders have the right to choose how they will use or lose those keys.


  1. The Kingdom of God


Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33)


If we are to seek for this Kingdom first above all else, we certainly need to know what it is. The Kingdom of God has been defined as many things: heaven, the Holy Spirit, the Gospel and more commonly the LDS Church.


The scriptures and Joseph Smith had a much different interpretation from these. In the Old Testament, Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great image of a man made of iron, brass, clay and gold. (See Dan. 4.) They represented various governments of men with leaders such as presidents, governors, princes, counselors, and captains. (See Dan. 6:7.) Daniel even described God’s government that would be set up in the latter days.


A government consists of four elements: (1) a king or leader, (2) a territory, (3) subjects, and (4) laws. This was a description of the Kingdom of God to be restored in the latter [162] days. In 1830 Joseph Smith restored the Church (religious), but in 1844 he organized the Kingdom of God (political).


On March 11, 1844, Joseph Smith organized a body of men as the nucleus of the new government. A popular name used to designate this body of men was the “Council of Fifty.” This name is derived from the number of men composing the initial organization during the lifetime of Joseph Smith. (Joseph Smith and World Government, Hyrum Andrus, pp. 2-3)


This organization of men was a well-kept secret, even among the Mormons. According to Brigham Young–


We are asked, Is the Church of God, and the Kingdom of God the same organization? And we are informed that some of the brethren hold that they are separate.

This is the correct view to take. The Kingdom of God is a separate organization from the Church of God. There may be men acting as officers in the Kingdom of God who will not be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. * * * The Kingdom of God when established will not be for the protection of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints alone, but for the protection of all men, whatever their religious views or opinions may be. (DHC 7:382)


Elder George Q. Cannon clearly answered the questions of who, what and why there was such an organization as the Kingdom of God. It was this group of men that planned, organized and led the pioneers out of Nauvoo and into the Great Basin. They set up a political legislature and military force. They established roads and proposed the State of Deseret.


[163] Because of persecution and prosecution from the United States Government, this Kingdom organization gradually died out, and contemporary Church leaders have since adopted the interpretation that the Kingdom of God is the same as the LDS Church.


Thus, the LDS Church and the Kingdom of God were actually two separate entities, organized at two different times, with two different bodies of leading men, and with two different purposes. Both of these organizations were established as appendages of the Priesthood.


  1. Kings and Queens


The Bible mentions the word kings over and over again. For example, God told Father Abraham that he would be the father of kings. (Gen. 17:6) The kings that God speaks of are not necessarily the kings of the world, but rather those like king David, Solomon and even the King of kings, Jesus Christ. Even Jesus ordained some of His disciples “Kings and priests unto God.” (Rev. 1:6) From this we learn that kings and priests are Priesthood titles and offices.


Such kings, ordained by the Lord, were not overlooked by Joseph Smith; after all, the Kingdom of God and the keys of the Kingdom were also given to him. Men with these titles are given responsibilities to function in both the religious and political realms of God’s kingdom. The Prophet Joseph explained:


Those holding the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings. (TPJS, p. 322)



Here, then, is eternal life–to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, . . . (TPJS, p. 346)


It follows naturally that along with those ordained as kings, there must be queens. The ordination of both kings and queens was necessary to fulfill this ordinance. Fanny Stenhouse recorded:


. . . we two wives were anointed in like manner, and ordained Queens and Priestesses, to reign and rule with our husband over his kingdom in the celestial world. (An Englishwoman in Utah, p. 321)


Professor Hyrum Andrus explained the obligation of these queens and priestesses:


A priestess is a female priest–one who exercises priestly rights and powers by virtue of the priesthood. In this context, a queen is a woman with a political status and power in the home, within the patriarchal order of the priesthood. (Doctrines of the Kingdom, Andrus, p. 411)


The ordinations of both kings and queens were once a very important and popular part of temple work, but in recent years they have become practically non-existent. During the days of Joseph Smith there were as many as 16 members in a week receiving this great blessing. Since the turn of the century they have continually dropped. Apostle George F. Richards, president of the Salt Lake Temple, wrote:


The records show that there have been 32,495 such blessings [second anointings of kings and queens] administered in the Church and that during the last 12 years there have been but eight administrations. (George F. Richards Journal, Dec. 1942)


[165] It appears that the Church is administering too many first anointings in proportion to second anointings. During the administration of Heber J. Grant there were many years when no such ordinances were performed.


With a membership of over 11 million, it seems strange that perhaps only a few dozen have received the fullness of their temple ordinances. The wording in the first anointing sets the stage for a person to receive the completion of that ordinance. Are there so few Church members worthy to receive the fullness of their endowments?


John Taylor reminded the Saints in his day what their objective should be:


Have you forgot[ten] who you are, and what your object is? Have you forgot[ten] that you profess to be Saints of the Most High God, clothed upon with the Holy Priesthood? Have you forgot[ten] that you are aiming to become Kings and Priests to the Lord, and Queens and Priestesses to Him? (JD 1:372)


Today the Church seems to be comfortable without experiencing the last half of that Priesthood ordinance; however, that does not mean it is no longer a valid ordinance, or that it should be totally disregarded. The Church has its own endowment ceremony and the Priesthood has its own. The Prophet Joseph said:


Have we not learned the Priesthood after the order of Melchizedek, which includes both Prophets, Priests and Kings: see Rev. 1 Chap. 6th v., and I will advance your Prophet to a Priest, and then to a King–not to the Kingdoms of this earth, but of the Most High God. See Rev. 5 Chap., 10th v.–“Thou hast made us unto our God, Kings and Priests, and we shall reign on the earth.” (TPJS, p. 318)


[166] While attaining the offices of “king” and “queen” is a major Priesthood achievement and ordination, the Church has nearly abolished them.


  1. The First and Second Comforters


Jesus talked about two Comforters, calling them the First and the Second Comforters. Joseph Smith went even further and identified them:


Joseph Smith speaks of two Comforters;–the first is the Holy Ghost, the second is the Son of God himself.” (Doc. of Sal., Jos. F. Smith 1:55)


When we are baptized, we’re told that the First Comforter, or Holy Ghost, will attend us; but we seldom hear anything about the Second Comforter. The First Comforter prepares us to receive the Second. Joseph Smith said:


The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. * * *

Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, . . . and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions–Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn. (TPJS, pp. 150-151)


The ancient Saints had glorious manifestations, and Joseph said His blessing was available to the Saints in the latter days as well. In a revelation to him, the Lord said, “Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, . . .” (D & C 88:68)


[167] Brigham Young wished that the Saints could witness these things.


I wish that every man would live so that he could have communion with angels–so that Jesus would come to visit him. I wish I could see this people in such a position; but there is yet too much sin in our midst. (JD 5:258)


Such manifestations have even less chance of happening now than they did in the days of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Nevertheless, there is still the responsibility given to men to seek for this marvelous blessing of the Second Comforter.


In 1835 Joseph Smith was given a revelation to call and ordain 12 men to be Apostles of Jesus Christ in these latter days. When they were set apart, they were given a special charge by Oliver Cowdery, who was the spokesman:


You have been indebted to other men, in the first instance, for evidence; on that you have acted; but it is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven for yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God. That is more than the testimony of an angel. When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out; although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from heaven.

Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face. Strengthen your faith; cast off your doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid His hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same. (DHC 2:195-196)


[168] In those early days of the Church there were many accounts of Saints having visions, talking to angels and seeing the Lord. It was an evidence that the Lord was pleased with them. Many men qualified as apostles or witnesses of Christ, and one instance should be mentioned here that happened in the School of the Prophets in 1833:


At one of these meetings after the organization of the school, [the school being organized] on the 23rd of January, 1833, when we were all together, Joseph having given instructions, and while engaged in silent prayer, kneeling, with our hands uplifted each one praying in silence, no one whispered above his breath, a personage walked through the room from East to West, and Joseph asked if we saw him. I saw him and supposed the others did, and Joseph answered that is Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother. Afterward Joseph told us to resume our former position in prayer, which we did. Another person came through; He was surrounded as with a flame of fire. I experienced a sensation that it might destroy the tabernacle as it was of consuming fire of great brightness. The Prophet Joseph said this was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I saw Him.

* When asked about the kind of clothing the Father had on, Bro. Coltrin said: I did not discover His clothing for He was surrounded as with a flame of fire, which was so brilliant that I could not discover anything else but His person. I saw His hands, His legs, His feet, His eyes, nose, mouth, head and body in the shape and form of a perfect man. He sat in a chair as a man would sit in a chair, but this appearance was so grand and overwhelming that it seemed I should melt down in His presence, and the sensation was so powerful that it thrilled through my whole system and I felt it in the marrow of my bones. The Prophet Joseph said: Brethren, now you are prepared to be the apostles of Jesus Christ, for you have seen both the Father and the Son, and know that They exist and that They are [169] two separate Personages. (S.L. School of the Prophets Minute Book, 1883, reprinted by Pioneer Press, pp. 54-55)


In Church history records there is a noticeable decline in spiritual manifestations. In the first 50 or 60 years of the Church, the members were more faithful and closer to the Lord than most Saints are today. After 1890 both lay members and apostles have been more obedient to the laws of the land than to the laws of the Priesthood. Unfortunately, the result has been a loss of experiences with both the First and Second Comforters.


  1. The Redemption of Zion


The word Zion is mentioned 188 times in the Doctrine and Covenants–more than once for every section. Orson Pratt said it was the theme upon which all the prophets spoke. It was a major objective for the restoration of the Gospel, and it was an important goal for Saints to achieve.


So, what and where is Zion? What is the redemption of Zion? Ask these questions to today’s Mormons and most of them will struggle for the correct answers. An excellent definition has been given by the Lord Himself:


And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. (Moses 7:18)


To further describe the people of Zion:


  1. When a people are of one heart, they are those who “draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (Matt. [170] 15:8) Rather, they are a people who strive to obey the commandment to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, . . .” (Matt. 22:37)


  1. Those people who are of one mind are those who are obeying the same laws and principles and have similar objectives and goals. Simply said, they all think alike.


  1. The people who dwell in righteousness lie in a society that does not need to have prisons, criminal lawyers, policemen, and thousands of laws to keep them honest and fair. Babylon exemplifies wickedness and confusion, but in Zion there is righteousness and order.


  1. The people who do not have any poor among them must all be wealthy. A fair distribution of this world’s material goods and money would make everyone financially well off. It is in Babylon that both extremes exist–the very rich and the very poor.


There are thousands of religious orders in the world, but do any qualify as a place that could be called Zion?


The Latter-day Saints failed to establish Zion in Ohio, Missouri, Illinois or in Utah. In fact, they seemed to get a little further away from Zion with each move they made. The Mormon people today are more involved in a Babylon society than in a society that could be called Zion. They rarely even mention the word Zion, except when referring to certain business establishments that bear that name. For example, Zions Bank has listed 183 telephone numbers; but by calling them, it is doubtful anyone could explain much about the real Zion.


Zions Bank is merely enabling people to go into debt, bondage and poverty. Its principles allow some people to [171] become richer and others to get poorer–the same as with all banking systems. They are owned by the richest people in the world–and it’s easy to see how they got that way.


Neither the LDS Church, the city of Salt Lake, nor the state of Utah represent Zion today. The Lord has told us that the redemption of Zion will take place in the land of Missouri, but the Mormons have been buying land and settling nearly everywhere in the world but there. He wants us to build a temple in Zion, but we have been building temples–big, little and mini–everywhere but in New Jerusalem. He has asked us to get out of Babylon, but we seem to have moved into it faster than members of any other church in the world. When will the Saints be worthy and ready to redeem Zion and fulfill God’s commands regarding it?


What has happened to Mormonism? We have been busy bartering. We have traded principles, doctrines, ordinances and laws of the Priesthood for those of the world. While gaining wealth, honor, and fame, we have lost Zion in the process.


  1. The Only True God


The restoration of the Gospel would not have been complete without revealing the identity and character of the true God of heaven. For until our dispensation, Joseph Smith said, “There are but a very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God.” (TPJS, p. 343) That fact is still true, as people are inclined to cling to their old traditions, customs and superstitions. Even Jesus noted the disbelief among the people regarding Deity and said, “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship.” (John 4:22)


[172] The God of the High Priesthood as revealed through Joseph Smith is different from the being or entity worshipped by other world churches. The key to that knowledge is essential, for Jesus said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)


Apostasy began within the early Christian church while the Apostles were still alive and continued for nearly 2000 years. No doctrinal concept has had such a confusing and mysterious history as that of the true identity of God.


So what kind of God appeared to Joseph Smith? Surely he must have accurate information since he claimed to have seen the Father and the Son. As Mormons, we believe he was indeed a witness and testator of Deity. According to the report of Joseph’s vision:


When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other–This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! (P of GP, J.S. 2:17)


The fact that God was a personage had already been established in Genesis when God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26) However, until the restoration, further details about the true God were somewhat clouded in mystery. But God revealed to Joseph Smith:


For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times. (D & C 124:41)


[173] And the Prophet Joseph repeated the same idea:


There are many things which belong to the powers of the Priesthood and the keys thereof, that have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world; they are hid from the wise and prudent to be revealed in the last times. (DHC 4:209-210)


Elder B. H. Roberts identified one of these hidden truths: “As for the story of the rib, under it I believe the mystery of procreation is hidden.” (Cont. 10:265) Brigham Young revealed further information: “When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, . . .” (JD 1:50) He was explaining that God came into the garden of Eden with a celestial, resurrected body to become Adam, or the first man on our earth. And he described further the importance of their mission:


Adam and Eve had the privilege to continue the work of progression, consequently came to this earth and commenced the great work of forming tabernacles for those spirits to dwell in. * * *

Adam was an immortal being when he came on this earth . . . and had begotten all the spirits that was (sic) to come to this earth, and Eve our common Mother who is the mother of all living, bore those spirits in the celestial world. (L. John Nuttall Journal 1:19)


In 1852, when Brigham’s announcement of Adam’s coming to earth as a resurrected being was made, it was a shock to the LDS people–not to mention the rest of the world. Eliza R. Snow, one of Joseph Smith’s wives, helped Edward Tullidge publish a book stating the importance of this announcement:


When Brigham Young proclaimed to the nations that Adam was our Father and God, and Eve, his [174] partner, the Mother of a world–both in a mortal and celestial sense–he made the most important revelation ever oracled to the race since the days of Adam himself. (Women of Mormondom, p. 196)


So the great mystery regarding the true identity of God began to unravel. As part of the eternal plan, God (Michael) chose to come down to earth and become an “Adam” or “first Man,” and proceeded to populate it with His own spirit children.


Did Joseph Smith ever teach such an exalted position for Adam? The answer can be found in the following compilation of Joseph’s teachings:


“The Priesthood was first given to Adam.”

“He obtained the first Presidency.”

“He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed.”

“He is Michael the Archangel.”

“He was the father of all living.”

“To him was given the dominion.”

“When they [the keys] are revealed from heaven, it is by Adam’s authority.”

“He presides over the spirits of all men.”

“All that have had the keys must stand before him in this grand council.”

“The Son of Man stands before him.”

He holds “the keys of the universe.”

He is “head of the human family.”

Through him, “Christ has been revealed.”

“The dispensations of all the times have been and will be revealed through him since the beginning. . . .”

He will “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him.” (TPJS, p. 157, 167-168)


[175] With these remarks, Joseph Smith ascribed powers, keys and authority to Adam that even Jesus had not yet achieved. He thus described Adam as God without actually saying it directly.


Continuing with Joseph Smith’s King Follett discourse:


What kind of a being is God? Does any man or woman know? Have any of you seen him, heard him, or communed with him? Here is the question that will, peradventure, from this time henceforth occupy your attention. The Scriptures inform us that “This is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”

If any man does not know God, and inquires what kind of a being he is,–if he will search diligently his own heart–if the declaration of Jesus and the apostles be true, he will realize that he has not eternal life; for there can be eternal life on no other principle. (TPJS, pp. 343-344)


Technically speaking, Adam was not God; God became Adam for 930 years; then, as Michael, He regained His exalted position over the earth instead of upon it.


This new “revelation” caused some to apostatize; but many members considered it to be the answer they had been searching for. Through the years, however, opposing voices increased–beginning with mere whispers but gaining in volume and intensity–until the entire idea of the “Adam-God doctrine” was totally rejected by the LDS Church, as outlined below:



Pres. George Q. Cannon said that it was not necessary that we should endorse the doctrine that some men taught that Adam was the Father of Jesus Christ. (Charles Walker Journal 2:741)


[176] 1895

Cease troubling yourselves about who God is; who Adam is, who Christ is, who Jehovah is. For heaven’s sake, let these things alone. (Wilford Woodruff, Mill. Star 57:355)



But though we look upon Adam as a God, we worship the same God that Adam worshipped in the garden of Eden. (Anton H. Lund, Mill. Star 64:742)



Speculations as to the career of Adam before he came to the earth are of no real value. (Jos. F. Smith, A. H. Lund, C. W. Penrose, Imp. Era 15:417)



Those who peddle the well worn Adam-God myth, usually charge the Latter-day Saints with believing that. . . . (Evidences and Reconciliations, Widtsoe, combined edition, p. 68)



Lashing out at persons who expound the belief that Adam is the God of this world, Elder Hunter stated that such doctrine is false and impossible and must be destroyed. (Provo Daily Herald, Mar. 22, 1949, p. 9)


Instead of trying to understand the process of man’s creation and the progression of Gods, such concepts were considered “impossible” and something that should be “destroyed.” Thus, another great doctrine of the Priesthood was buried with the other so-called mysteries.


* * *


From these 20 themes regarding Church and Priesthood, we notice that these laws, ordinances and doctrines belong to the Priesthood. As such, they cannot be altered or destroyed. [177] However, the LDS Church can accept or reject them, depending on the vote of its members. People who refuse to abandon the laws of the Priesthood may continue to hold the Priesthood; by choosing to obey other laws and ordinances, the Church leaders and members can lose the Priesthood. But this condition is not new; it has been repeated over and over throughout the history of the world.



[178]                             Chapter 9




In simple terms, communication includes a connecting, sympathetic relationship, while excommunication involves a disconnection or exclusion. In a Latter-day Saint context, some have thought that excommunication results in some terrible curse or judgment that befalls those cut off from the Church. However, when someone is excommunicated for a gross sin, that person has already incurred a severe judgment, for he has already lost his Priesthood because of his actions, and his excommunication has nothing to do with that loss.


Most churches, notably Christian and Jewish, have a ceremonial program for the punishment of their members. The type of punishment depends on the seriousness of the sin. When greater offenses have been committed, individuals are removed from the general membership of the church. Thus, they are “excommunicated,” “cast out” or “cut off.” Just as a man might have an arm or leg cut off or separated from the body, so is a member separated from the body of the church.


Cutting off. In the Old Testament a penalty or form of punishment used primarily, though not exclusively, for various offenses against the ceremonial laws. The agent of the “cutting off” was either God or the community. (Wycliffe Bible Dictionary, p. 412)



Excommunication. This is the judicial exclusion of unrepentant sinners from the rights and privileges of the communion of saints carried out by a local congregation. The ultimate purpose is to bring the offender to a realization of the seriousness of his offense and to lead him to repentance. It also removes offense from the church.

Excommunication was used already in the time of the apostles. The primitive church continued the practice. (Wycliffe Bible Dictionary, p. 561)


Most Bible scholars consider the Biblical terms of “cut off,” “cast out,” and “excommunicated” to mean the same. The separation ceremony of cutting off a person may originate from the community, the church or the Lord Himself. In any case, it is a form of punishment to encourage repentance by the victim and a forgiveness by those who cut him off.


Whether or not this desired effect becomes an actuality is difficult to determine for not much has been written on the subject of excommunications. On a broad scale, we don’t know how people feel or the physical or spiritual consequences of being “cut off.” Does a person feel worse, about the same, or is it possible for him to feel better?


We will quote here from two prominent LDS sources that describe what happens to those who are excommunicated: The LDS Reference Encyclopedia (Brooks) and Mormon Doctrine (McConkie).


In the first source, author Melvin Brooks thinks that a person who is excommunicated would have his name removed from “one of the `books of life:'”


When a person has fallen from virtue, and fails to repent, or is advocating false principles which mislead others and cause their apostasy, he is liable to [180] excommunication. If he should be excommunicated, his name is taken or deleted from the Church record, which is one of the “books of life” spoken of in Revelation 20:12. His priesthood, if he has any, is of no efficacy and is lost.

Upon repenting, he must be judged and allowed admittance only by that tribunal that took his membership from him. Then, if he is to return to the Church, he must be baptized and confirmed.

The priesthood may again be restored to him depending upon his worthiness to receive the same. (LDS Reference Enc., Melvin R. Brooks, 1:126)


On the other hand, Brigham Young made it clear that everyone is recorded in the “Book of Life” and would remain there unless they “sin unto death,” which is the fate of the sons of perdition who return to native element:


You know that it used to be a great saying, and I might say worthy of all acceptation, among the Methodists, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” Their names were always there, and never will be blotted out, though they may be up and down, warm, hot, and cool, and though they may sin to-day, and to-morrow repent of it, but their names will remain in the Lamb’s Book of Life until they sin the sin unto death. And when their names are once blotted out they will never be written there again; they will then be numbered with those who will cease to increase, cease to learn, to multiply, and spread abroad. (JD 3:208)


Now look upon the opposite side of these principles. Suppose you say, “We will give up the pursuits of our holy religion. We are not Latter-day Saints. Let us go and seek after the things of the world, speculate, get unto ourselves riches, turn away from our duties, neglect the things pertaining to our salvation, . . . I tell you the result of that course. You would cease to increase in all the attributes of excellence, glory, and eternal duration, from that very [181] moment. So soon as you conceive such ideas, they find a soil within you prepared to nurture them, and it brings forth their direful effects; from that very moment you cease to increase. The opposite principle seizes you, fastens itself upon you, and you decrease, lessen, diminish, decay, and waste away in quality, excellence, and strength, until your organization becomes extinct, oblivion covers you, your name is blotted out from the Book of Life, from the heavens, from the earth, and from under the earth, and you will return, and sink into your natural element, which cannot be destroyed, though many read the Bible as conveying such an idea, but it does not. (JD 1:118)


In the second source, Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated that anyone excommunicated would lose “every blessing of the gospel” and would be “delivered unto Satan:”


Whenever, as is presently the case, there is a separation of Church and state, then the highest punishment which the Church can impose upon its members is excommunication. This consists in cutting the person off from the Church so that he is no longer a member. Every blessing of the gospel is thereby lost, and the excommunicated person is “delivered unto Satan.” {1 Tim. 1:20; Matt. 18:15-19; 1 Cor. 5:1-5} (Mormon Doctrine, McConkie, p. 240)


There are many people who are excommunicated from the LDS Church who feel that they did not deserve that kind of treatment. They argue that their punishment was unfair. Some have been excommunicated for such trifles as a belief in something controversial. Others are cut off for defending and following the teachings of former prophets. Some are cast out because of the personal opinions or particular bias of a bishop or stake president. This is not new, because many times it came to the attention of Brigham Young:



How many there are who come to me to find fault with, and enter complaints against, their brethren, for some trifling thing, when I can see, in a moment, that they have received no intentional injury! They have no compassion on their brethren, but, having passed their judgment, insist that the criminal shall be punished. And why? Because he does not exactly come up to their standard of right and wrong! They feel to measure him by the “Iron Bedstead principle”– “if you are too long, you must be cut off; if too short, you must be stretched.” Now this is the height of folly. I find that I have enough to do to watch myself. It is as much as I can do to get right, deal right, and act right. If we all should do this, there would be no difficulty, but in every man’s mouth would be “May the Lord bless you.” (JD 1:6)


However, Brigham Young was very clear on some of the reasons for excommunication. For example, he said that if an Elder of the Church would “use the name of the Lord God in vain,” he should be cut off. (JD 6:286) He thought that anyone who refused to pay tithing should also forfeit their Church membership. (JD 10:283) He also warned the sisters to “cease trading with any man . . . who does not belong to the church,” or they might be cut off. (JD 12:315) He also stated that things were more lenient then than they had been earlier.


I have told you my mind, you can now do as your own minds shall dictate, if you think proper, and be responsible for the same. I have frequently thought, what would be the consequence in this community, were we to be as strict now, as the authorities of the Church once were? For it used to be, if a man did not obey counsel after it was given him, he was cut off from the Church. Do you not think we are lenient, easy, and forgiving? Let us be kind to each other, and cultivate the spirit of peace, and seek diligently to know the will of God. (JD 1:78)


[183] Where much is given, much is required, and in those early days of the Church, God gave great manifestations and revelations and thus expected a great deal from the members in return. In 1864 George A. Smith gave an illustration of this principle:


It was at the same Council [June 1833] that Daniel Copley, a timid young man, who had been ordained a Priest, and required to go and preach the Gospel, was called to an account for not going on his mission. The young man said he was too weak to attempt to preach, and the Council cut him off the Church. I wonder what our missionaries now would think of so rigid a discipline as was given at that time thirty-one years ago, under the immediate supervision of the Prophet. (JD 11:8)


Members who commit heinous sins are already cut off from the Spirit of the Lord even before they are brought to a Church trial. They generally continue to go downhill and fall into darkness, while those who are unjustly excommunicated feel no effect of it.


Persons sometimes say that they have enjoyed the spirit of the work as much since they were cut off as while they were in the Church. Have they enjoyed the Spirit? Yes. Why? Simply because they were wrongfully cut off. They were cut off in such a way that it did not take the Spirit of God from them. And the reason why they were cut off was because they did not come up to the particular standard of perfection of those who dealt with them, or they did not come up to their feelings. (Francis M. Lyman, Mill. Star 24:100)


President Joseph F. Smith added even more information in the following reference:

[184] Several examples have occurred in the history of the Church where men through transgression, duly proved and decided upon by the constituted authorities, have been stopped from acting in the Priesthood, which is just as effectual as taking away their Priesthood would be, if it were possible; but this has taken no ordination from them, and if in such cases the transgressors should repent and make complete and satisfactory restitution, they would still hold the same Priesthood which they held before they were silenced, or stopped from acting. A person once ordained a bishop, an elder, or high priest, continues to hold those offices. A bishop is still a bishop though he may remove to another ward, or for other reason temporarily lose his calling. But in case he is wanted to act in a new office, or place, and the proper authorities call him to act, it is not necessary to re-ordain him a bishop; he would only need to be set apart for his new calling. So with other officers in the Priesthood, once having received the Priesthood, it cannot be taken from them, except by transgression so serious that they must forfeit their standing in the Church. But, as stated, their right to officiate, may be suspended or stopped. The Lord can take away the power and efficacy of their ordinations, and will do so if they transgress. No endowments or blessings in the House of the Lord, no patriarchal blessings, no ordination to the Priesthood, can be taken away, once given. To prevent a person for cause from exercising the rights and privileges of acting in the offices of the Priesthood, may be and has been done, and the person so silenced still remain a member of the Church, but this does not take away from him any Priesthood that he held. (Joseph F. Smith, Imp. Era 11:465-466)


President Smith here reiterated the fact that only sin can take away a man’s blessings, promises and priesthood. Just because a man is cut off because of a personal grudge of a bishop does not take away his Priesthood. A stake president may excommunicate a man for erring in doctrine, but in reality [185] it may be the stake president who has erred in the doctrine. Today several are excommunicated for believing and promoting the teachings of the early Church leaders, but in reality it has no effect on their Priesthood. Others are excommunicated because they do not have a testimony that the president of the Church is a prophet, seer and revelator, but this does not jeopardize his Priesthood, nor is it a sin. Excommunication should be only for those who commit very grievous sins.


Who, then, has the authority or responsibility to try someone for committing sins? The answer is the bishop of the ward in which the offense has been committed. When a law of the Gospel is broken, then the offenders may be subject to a trial–no matter who has committed the transgression. According to Brigham Young–


In the capacity of a Bishop, has any person a right to direct the spiritual affairs of the kingdom of God? No. In that capacity his right is restricted to affairs in a temporal and moral point of view. He has a right to deal with the transgressor. I do not care what office a transgressor bears in the Church and kingdom of God, if he should be one of the Twelve Apostles, and come into a Bishop’s neighborhood, and purloin his neighbor’s goods, defile his neighbor’s bed, or commit any breach of the moral law, the Bishop has a right to take that man before himself and his council, and there hold him to answer for the crime he has been guilty of, and deal with him for his membership in the Church, and cut him off from the Church to all intents and purposes, to all time and eternity, if he will not make restitution and sincerely repent. “What! One of the Seventies?” Yes. “One of the High Priests?” Yes. “One of the Twelve Apostles?” Yes, anybody that happens to come into his neighborhood and transgresses the moral law. (JD 9:91)


[186] Excommunication is a two-edged sword. It is a serious matter for both the person who is cut off as well as for those who administer the excommunication. The order of these councils was much more strict anciently than in our day, for the Prophet Joseph noted:


. . . in ancient days councils were conducted with such strict propriety, that no one was allowed to whisper, be weary, leave the room, or get uneasy in the least, until the voice of the Lord, by revelation, or the voice of the council by the Spirit, was obtained, which has not been observed in this Church to the present time. It was understood in ancient days, that if one man could stay in council, another could; and if the president could spend his time, the members could also; but in our councils, generally, one will be uneasy, another asleep; one praying, another not; one’s mind on the business of the council, and another thinking on something else. (TPJS, p. 69)


All this brings us to some very critical questions regarding those involved in excommunications. What happens to a person who is excommunicated unjustly? What happens to the bishop or stake president who unjustly cuts a person off from the Church? We know that correct judgment can be influenced by bias, prejudice and emotions. When bad judgment results in an excommunication, real judgment will be more serious for the “excommunicater” than the “excommunicatee.”


For members of the early Christian church, excommunication was the punishment for those who were sinful, corrupt and wicked. It was a just and fair result of their wrongdoings. Later church leaders themselves became corrupted by riches, pride and the honors of men, and so new standards for excommunication were set. Anyone who did not totally agree with the church, its leaders or doctrines was [187] excommunicated. Those members who supported the early teachings of Christ rather than the more modern versions of the Gospel were considered rebellious and wicked and were cut off the church. The “wicked” began to excommunicate the righteous. This reversal has unfortunately been repeated many times in the history of Christianity.



[188]                             Chapter 10




The early Christian Church had many of the same similarities as the Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days:


  1. The Priesthood
  2. A church organization
  3. Laws, ordinances and principles
  4. Good and bad members
  5. Baptism into and excommunication out of the church


The doctrines taught by Christ were often controversial, because they pertained to the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood–rather than the lesser or Levitical Priesthood. Jesus would not have upset the leaders at that time if He had taught the same things they were promoting. But, to them He was teaching dangerous new doctrines.


Toward the end of His life Jesus defended His teachings before the high priest, Caiaphas:


Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.

Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. (John 18:20-21)


[189] Many must have been impressed with His teachings, for it is written that “he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.” (Luke 4:15) However, he didn’t impress the leaders of the church because apparently there was a difference in their methods of teaching, for it was said:


And they [the people] were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. (Mark 1:22)


And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? What new doctrine is this? (Mark 1:27)


But Jesus refused to take any credit for these things, and He responded, “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.” (John 7:16) Then He followed this with the admonition, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17)


The synagogue referred to here was one of the old Mosaic churches, organized at the time of Moses. They functioned under the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood because the people were not worthy of the High Priesthood. Joseph Smith explained:


Answer to the question, Was the Priesthood of Melchizedek taken away when Moses died? All Priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away; but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. (TPJS, pp. 180-181)


Jesus was a Rabbi in their church, but He was trying to teach principles of the Higher Priesthood. Those same [190] principles had been rejected by the children of Israel under Moses, and once again they were rejected by the contemporary leaders of Christ.


And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him, And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him. (Luke 19:47-48)


The following account describes more about the conflict and controversy:


Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43)


To recap:


  1. Many of the chief rulers believed in Jesus,
  2. But the Pharisees did not.
  3. People dared not confess a belief in Jesus
  4. Because of their fear of being excommunicated.


It is a strange paradox that the common people seemed to have a better discernment of Christ and His teachings than did the church leaders who wanted him excommunicated and destroyed. Even though they could find no sin in Him, they hated His doctrines of the High Priesthood.


Thus, eventually Jesus faced the councils of the church and was punished according to their corrupt laws rather than the laws of God. Even though the Jews considered Jesus the least of all, He was really the greatest:



Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matt. 11:11)


Joseph Smith explained the meaning of this passage in Matthew:


Second question:–How was the least in the kingdom of heaven greater than he?

In reply I asked–Whom did Jesus have reference to as being the least? Jesus was looked upon as having the least claim in God’s kingdom, and [seemingly] was least entitled to their credulity as a prophet; as though He had said–“He that is considered the least among you is greater than John–that is I myself.” (TPJS, p. 276)


The Pharisees were the first to reject Jesus, but gradually other jealous leaders convinced their followers to do the same. In one instance a whole town rejected Christ as soon as He arrived?


And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts. And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. (Matt. 8:34 and 9:1)


Persecution gained momentum against Jesus because of the leadership of the blind and prideful Pharisees. The tide soon turned against His disciples as well, as the next chapter will discuss.



[192]                             Chapter 11




Jesus predicted that His disciples would be separated from “their company” and their names would be “cast out . . . as evil.” (Luke 6:22) He warned them of what they should expect from the Pharisees–and that they would eventually be excommunicated:


These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. (John 16:1-3)


The fact that the Pharisees did not “know” Jesus and the Father seems to be a major reason for their persecuting Christ’s disciples. Jesus once prayed, “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee. . . .” (John 17:25) When He had previously talked about the day of judgment, he said, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:23) However, in the Inspired Translation it reads, “And then will I say, Ye never knew me: depart from me ye that work iniquity.” (I.T. Matt. 7:33)


The Lord has revealed how men can come to “know God,” and it can be achieved only through the Melchizedek Priesthood:



The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church–

To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. (D & C 107:18-19)


Even though the King James translators of the Bible softened the terms in several places to make the words “put out,” “separate” and “cast out” sound like they were escorted to the door of the synagogues and bodily thrown out, more recent scholars have revealed that these original Greek words mean no less than “excommunication.”


It is not uncommon in business, politics and religion, that when an individual has strong differences in beliefs from those in authority over him, he is cast out by his superiors. Jacob mentioned this in the Book of Mormon:


. . . we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, . . . (Jacob 7:26)


Later Alma described a similar situation among the poor people in his time:


Behold, what shall these my brethren do, for they are despised of all men because of their poverty, yea, and more especially by our priests; for they have cast us out of our synagogues which we have labored abundantly to build with our own hands; . . . and we have no place to worship our God; and behold, what shall we do? (Alma 32:5)


[194] Then Alma answered and explained why these excommunications had occurred:


Behold I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only?

And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week?

I say unto you, it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues, that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn wisdom; for it is necessary that ye should learn wisdom; for it is because that ye are cast out, that ye are despised of your brethren because of your exceeding poverty, that ye are brought to a lowliness of heart; for ye are necessarily brought to be humble.

And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved. (Alma 32:10-13)


These people were not excommunicated because of wickedness. In fact, the prophet Alma had more success among those that were “cast out” than those that remained in their synagogues. These people were cast out because they were poor, which indicates that the leaders wanted only the rich, the learned and the honored of society to be in high and official positions in their church. In other words, the rich wanted to associate only with the rich.


The Apostles of Christ were undoubtedly all excommunicated and eventually killed. They suffered because of their excommunication–as good people usually do. As someone once said, “It hurts your pride even if you’re thrown out of a saloon!”


However, Christ reassured His disciples–



Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from among them, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy; for behold your reward shall be great in heaven; for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23)


It appears that reproach, persecution, and excommunication were not unusual among the ancient prophets, the disciples of Christ and even with Jesus Himself.



[196]                             Chapter 12


                            THE EXCOMMUNICATION OF

                        JESUS CHRIST AND HIS BELIEVERS


When Jacob gathered his 12 sons together to give them their patriarchal blessings, he prophesied what would happen to their descendants down to the last days. In the blessing for Judah and his tribe, he declared, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh (the Savior) come; . . . (Gen. 49:10)


To Moses was given the task of giving the Priesthood (sceptre) and its higher laws, but the people did not qualify. So Moses established a church with the Aaronic Priesthood and its lesser laws. The Jews (descendants of Judah) maintained both the Priesthood, its principles, ordinances and church down to the time that the Savior (Shiloh) came to earth.


Jesus was born and raised in this church and soon became a full-fledged Rabbi with all their rights and privileges of teaching the Gospel. Jesus, however, was blessed with such wisdom and understanding that even at age 12 He confounded the wisest of the Pharisees on Priesthood issues.


When He began to teach the laws of the higher Priesthood, he was rejected and “cast out” of the synagogues. This story of Christ’s rejection is told in the King James version of the Bible, but it is told better in some of the other versions. For example, note Daniel’s prophecies of this from three different Bible versions:



And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself; . . . (King James Bible, Daniel 9:26)


After the sixty-two sevens, the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. (New Inter-national Bible, Daniel 9:25)


. . . seven of those seventy will pass till the appearance of one anointed, a prince; then for sixty-two it will remain restored, rebuilt with streets and conduits. At the critical time, after the sixty-two have passed, the anointed prince will be removed, and no one will take his part. (Oxford Study Bible, Daniel 9:25, p. 926)


Some Bibles actually translate the original Greek words into the English word “excommunication” pertaining to Jesus and His disciples. Most of the people lived in fear of the Pharisees, knowing that they, too, might be “cast out” or excommunicated from the church.


Jesus was already a marked man when He was born in the meridian of time. Many innocent children were murdered in Herod’s effort to kill Him. Not only was He persecuted, smitten and tried by the law of the gentiles, He was also rejected “of His own.” These were times that tried men’s souls, and it was also a trial of the fullness of the Holy Priesthood.


As a Rabbi, Jesus held a very high position in the community and was a master teacher in all the synagogues. But knowing well the verses in the Old Testament and teaching higher principles did not fare well with others who became envious and jealous of this teacher. They cared less for Him when He chastised them for quoting but not living the commandments and laws of the Priesthood. They finally turned against Him when He was teaching in one of the synagogues. The story is recorded:



And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. * * *

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,

And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, … (Luke 4:16-21; 28-29)


The Pharisees and chief priests became violently opposed to Jesus, and some of the instances of opposition were mentioned by Matthew. They said–


He “casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.” (9:34)

He was called “Master of the house Beelzebub.” (10:25)

He was “gluttonous and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.” (11:19)

“This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.” (12:24)

“They were offended in Him.” (13:57)

“The Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying.” (15:12)

“He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes.” (16:21)

“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him.” (19:3)


“When the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, . . . they were sore displeased.” (21:15)

“When the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, … (21:45-46)

“Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.” (22:15)

“The chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, . . . consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him.” (26:3-4)

“Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; . . .” (26:59)


In addition, John wrote about other charges and opposition that Jesus suffered:


“He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (1:11)

“Therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus. . . because he had done these things on the sabbath day.” (5:16)

“He would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.” (7:1)

“No man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.” (7:13)

“Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.” (7:30)

“Ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.” (8:37)

“Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” (8:48)

“Then they took up stones to cast at him.” (8:59)

“For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy. (10:33)

“If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” (11:48)


“The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” (19:7)


The Jews tried every possible way to trap or condemn Jesus–everything from eating with dirty hands to talking to harlots. When they finally got him before a trial, they confessed, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15), and committed themselves to the laws of the land rather than the laws of God.


Any man being charged with all these allegations by the councils of the Pharisees and the chief priests would not be able to remain long in the membership of their church.

There is a story related in chapter nine of the Book of John that gives us a good insight into the subject of excommunication. The following account is a modern version taken from The Living Bible, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois. This version was also published by Coverdale House Publishers in London, England.


As he was walking along, he saw a man blind from birth.

“Master,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it a result of his own sins or those of his parents?”

“Neither,” Jesus answered. “But to demonstrate the power of God.” All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent me, for there is little time left before the night falls and all work comes to an end. But while I am still here in the world, I give it my light.”

Then he spat on the ground and made mud from the spittle and smoothed the mud over the blind man’s eyes, and told him, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam” (the word “Siloam” means “Sent”). So the man went where he was sent and washed and came back seeing!


His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Is this the same fellow–that beggar?”

Some said yes and some said no. “It can’t be the same man,” they thought, “but he surely looks like him!”

And the beggar said, “I am the same man!”

Then they asked him how in the world he could see. What had happened?

And he told them, “A man they call Jesus made mud and smoothed it over my eyes and told me to go to the Pool of Siloam and wash off the mud. I did, and I can see!”

“Where is he now?” they asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied.

Then they took the man to the Pharisees. Now as it happened, this all occurred on a Sabbath. Then the Pharisees asked him all about it. So he told them how Jesus had smoothed the mud over his eyes, and when it was washed away, he could see!

Some of them said, “Then this fellow Jesus is not from God, because he is working on the Sabbath.”

Others said, “But how could an ordinary sinner do such miracles?” So there was a deep division of opinion among them.

Then the Pharisees turned on the man who had been blind and demanded, “This man who opened your eyes–who do you say he is?”

“I think he must be a prophet sent from God,” the man replied.

The Jewish leaders wouldn’t believe he had been blind, until they called in his parents and asked them, “Is this your son? Was he born blind? If so, how can he see?”

His parents replied, “We know this is our son and that he was born blind, but we don’t know what happened to make him see, or who did it. He is old enough to speak for himself. Ask him.”

They said this in fear of the Jewish leaders who had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be excommunicated. * * *


So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “Give the glory to God, not to Jesus, for we know Jesus is an evil person.”

“I don’t know whether he is good or bad,” the man replied, “but I know this: I was blind, and now I see!”

“But what did he do?” they asked. “How did he heal you?”

“Look!” the man exclaimed. “I told you once; didn’t you listen? Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

Then they cursed him and said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know God has spoken to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t know anything about him.”

“Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He can heal blind men, and yet you don’t know anything about him! Well, God doesn’t listen to evil men, but he has open ears to those who worship him and do his will. Since the world began, there has never been anyone who could open the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he couldn’t do it.”

“You illegitimate bastard, you!” they shouted. “Are you trying to teach us?” And they threw him out.

When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and said, “Do you believe in the Messiah?”

The man answered, “Who is he, sir, for I want to.”

“You have seen him,” Jesus said, “and he is speaking to you!”

“Yes, Lord,” the man said, “I believe!” And he worshipped Jesus.

Then Jesus told him, “I have come into the world to give sight to those who are spiritually blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.” (John, chapter 9)


As an interesting sidelight, from J. R. Dummelow Bible Commentary 1:790, it elaborates:



(Verses 13-34:) This whole section illustrates the incredible blindness of the Pharisees, who can see nothing in this unique sign, except the technical breach of the sabbath, of which they suppose Jesus to have been guilty.

(Verse 14:) The conduct of Jesus was illegal in two ways: (1) It was forbidden to render medical aid on the sabbath, unless there was imminent danger of death; (2) there was a special provision against applying saliva to the eyes on the sabbath day. (Verse 17:) He is a prophet. This view, if accepted, would remove the difficulty about the sabbath day, for it was generally supposed that prophets had authority over the sabbath law. (Verse 22:) Put out of the synagogue, i.e., excommunicated.


It is interesting to compare John 9:22 from the King James Bible with that passage from four other Bibles:


These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. (King James Bible)


His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed him to be Christ should be excommunicated. That was why the man’s parents said, “He is of age, ask himself.” (James Moffatt Bible)


His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews who had already agreed that anybody who admitted that Christ had done this thing should be excommunicated. It was this fear which made his parents say, “Ask him, he is a grown-up man.” (Phillips Modern English Bible)


His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews who had already agreed that anybody who admitted that the man was Christ should be [204] excommunicated. It was this which made his parents say, “Ask him, he is a grown-up man.” (J. B. Phillips Modern English New Testament)


His parents gave this answer because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jewish authorities had already agreed that anyone who acknowledged Jesus as Messiah should be banned from the synagogue. That is why the parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” (New English Bible)


Note the use of the term “excommunicated” or “banned” in the above four Biblical passages. It was common for Bible scholars to interpret this passage from John as referring to excommunication. Several excepts from Bible commentaries will further prove that this is the case:


New Commentary on the Whole Bible

The healed man’s condemnation of the Pharisees’ irrational rejection of Jesus (9:30-33) proved too much for them to take, so they excommunicated (lit., “de-synagogued”) him from the synagogue with a curse about his presumed guilt from birth.


Adam Clark’s Commentary

(Adam Clark was a learned English Biblical scholar, renowned for his profound understanding of the Bible.)

Put out of the synagogue. that is, excommunicated–separated from all religious connection with those who worshipped God. (Vol. 1:557)


Peak’s Commentary on the Bible

The [blind] man, with growing boldness, expresses his surprise that the religious leaders of the nation should be so ignorant about one to whom God has given such power. Even the unlearned know that God does not favour sinners, but only His true worshippers. At this retort they degenerate into mere abuse and drive the man out, an action which the author probably interprets as excommunication, in the light of later history.


[205] Layman’s Bible Book Commentary

The reason for the parents’ strange reaction was that the Jewish leaders had already decided that anyone confessing Jesus as the Messiah would be excommunicated from the synagogue.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary

If any should own himself a disciple of Jesus, he should be deemed and taken as an apostate from the faith of the Jewish church, and a rebel and traitor against the government of it, and should therefore be put out of the synagogue, as one that had rendered himself unworthy of the honours, and incapable of the privileges, of their church; he should be excommunicated, and expelled [from] the commonwealth of Israel.

Note: The church’s artillery, when the command of it has fallen into ill hands, has often been turned against itself, and ecclesiastical censures have been made to serve a carnal secular interest. It is no new thing to see those cast out of the synagogue that were the greatest ornaments and blessings of it, . . . (5:1017)


Holman New Testament Commentary

If this portion of chapter 9 ended at verse 21, we could see a normal parental reaction spoken in truth and frankness. But John wanted his readers to know there was a motivating fear–the pressure of excommunication. He also explained that already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue. Many interpreters suggest that since we know Christians worshipped in synagogues in the Book of Acts, John must have been reading back into the text the rulings of a later day. But that may be attributing more to the text than John intended. Remember, he was not concerned with formal rulings of the Sanhedrin but the hostility of religious leaders.

I agree with Borchert: “From my perspective, therefore, the statement as contained in 9:22 would be reflective of the hostile context in the time of Jesus. [206] After all, Jesus was indeed regarded as an enemy by the Jewish authorities.” (Borchert, p. 320)

From our modern perspective we can hardly imagine the horror of excommunication in Jesus’ time. Such a ban would curse these people forever from the religious life of their community. The defense of an unknown prophet, even one great enough to heal their blind son, hardly seemed worth such a risk. To avoid such punishment, the parents threw the burden of proof back on their son.


Pulpit Commentary

. . . that if any man should confess that he was Christ (“he” is remarkable–it shows how full the thoughts of the evangelist were of the Personality of Jesus), he should be put out of the synagogue; or, become unsynagogued.


Matthew Pool’s Commentary

The reason why his parents answered so very warily, and avoided saying anything to the Pharisees’ third question, which probably they could not do of their particular personal knowledge, was, that they were afraid of the rulers of the Jews. Solomon saith, “The fear of man bringeth a snare” (Prov. xxix 25); it is often a temptation to men to deny the truth, or, at least, not to own and confess it when God calls to them for a public owning and confession of it: but nothing of that nature appeareth in this case; for it doth not appear that his parents were present when Christ wrought this great miracle; which if they were not, they were not obliged to tell the Pharisees what themselves had only received by rumour and hearsay: so that their answer seems but a prudential answer, to avoid an eminent danger. For they were not ignorant of a decree made by the Jewish Sanhedrin, That if any did publicly say, or declare, that Jesus was Christ, he should be excommunicated; for that is meant by being put out of the synagogue. (9:327)


[207] Zondervan’s Bible Commentary (New International Version)

The evidence was still insufficient to remove the objections of “the Jews” (a phrase here synonymous with “the Pharisees”). They proceeded to query whether the man really had been born blind; for if he had not been blind from birth, the miracle could be disputed. They also interrogated his parents, who, fearing excommunication from the synagogue, evaded the issue by stating that their son was an adult capable of answering for himself.


Bible Exposition Commentary

What lay behind all of this questioning and these furtive replies? The fear of the people. We met it at the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:13), and we shall meet it again at our Lord’s last Passover (John 12:42). These people were seeking the honor of men and not the honor that comes from God (John 5:44). To be sure, it was a serious thing to be excommunicated from the synagogue, but it was far more serious to reject the truth and be lost forever.


Jamieson, Fancott and Brown’s Commentary

They [the parents] prevaricated, however, in saying they “knew not who had opened his eyes,” for “they feared the Jews” who had come to an understanding (probably after what is recorded {ch. 7:50, etc.} but by this time well known), that whoever owned Him as the Christ would be put out of the synagogue–i.e., not simply excluded, but excommunicated.


Believers Bible Commentary

Verse 22 explains the timidity of the parents. They had heard that any man confessing that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. This excommunication was a very serious matter for any Jew.


Bible Knowledge Commentary

But the parents . . . were afraid to hazard any opinions about the cure or the Healer. The Pharisees [208] and other Jewish authorities (the Jews) had already … decided that Jesus was not the Messiah. Those who held such a heresy would be excommunicated from the synagogue.


The Homiletic Commentary (Rev. Frank Scott)

The Jews had agreed, etc.–The Sanhedrin had not likely come openly to this agreement. They would have found opposition in their own ranks. A party of the leading sect had done so, however (Acts xxiii 20).

Put out of the synagogue.–Publicly excommunicated from participation in all religious privileges for a time, or for life.


The Desire of the Ages (Ellen G. White)

(Ellen White, a Bible scholar and prolific author and defender of the Seventh-Day Adventists, explained that although the blind man was excommunicated for believing in Christ, he was later rewarded with “a higher revelation.”)

The [blind] man had met his inquisitors on their own ground. His reasoning was unanswerable. The Pharisees were astonished, and they held their peace, spellbound before his pointed, determined words. For a few moments there was silence. Then the frowning priests and rabbis gathered about them their robes, as though they feared contamination from contact with him; they shook off the dust from their feet, and hurled denunciations against him–“Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us?” And they excommunicated him. (The Desire of Ages, p. 428)


Note: It is obvious from John’s record that the blind man was excommunicated from the Church of Moses. If they cut him off the church for defending Jesus, there must have been many others who were excommunicated for the same reason.


Albert Barnes Commentary

(Albert Barnes explained that there were two kinds of punishment for offenders: one a sort of disfellowshipment and the other an excommunication.)


Put out of the synagogue. This took place in the temple, or near the temple. It does not refer, therefore, to any immediate and violent putting forth from the place where they were. It refers to excommunication from the synagogue. * * *

Among the Jews there were two grades of excommunication; the one for lighter offenses, of which they mentioned twenty-four causes; the other for greater offenses. The first excluded a man for thirty days from the privilege of entering a synagogue, and from coming nearer to his wife or friends than 4 cubits. The other was a solemn exclusion forever from the worship of the synagogue, attended with awful maledictions and curses, and an exclusion from all intercourse with the people. This was called the curse, and so thoroughly excluded the person from all communion whatever with his countrymen, that they were not allowed to sell to him anything, even the necessaries of life (Buxtorf). It is probable that this latter punishment was what they intended to inflict if anyone should confess that Jesus was the Messiah. (9:281)


Mormon Scholar, Daniel Ludlow

“He should be put out of the synagogue” is the equivalent of “he should be excommunicated from the Church.” (The Four Gospels, p. 396)


Mormon Scholar, Bruce R. McConkie

  1. Put out of the synagogue. Excommunicated. (Doc. N.T. Commentary, 1:481)


Noted scholar, Dr. John Lightfoot, agrees that in translation from the original Greek and Hebrew, the word “excommunication” should be used in many Bible passages rather than “cast out,” etc.



Ver. 22: [***] He should be put out of the synagogue.] So chap. xvi. 2: [***] Granting that this is spoken of excommunication, the question may be, Whether it is to be understood of the ordinary excommunication, that is, from this or that synagogue; or the extraordinary, that is, a cutting off [***]  from the whole congregation of Israel.

            “Whoever is excommunicated by [***], the president of the Sanhedrim is cut off from the whole congregation of Israel:” and if so, then much more if it be by the vote of the whole Sanhedrim. And it seems by that speech, [***], they cast him out, ver. 34, that word [***], out, was added for such signification.

            [***] represents various Greek and Hebrew characters

                       (Commentary on the N.T. from the

                         Talmud and Hebraica, 3:344)


It is important to keep in mind the definition and close relationship of these terms for later discussions on this topic.


If Christ’s disciples and believers were threatened with excommunication, then certainly Christ Himself must have also feared for His church membership, even though He was a Rabbi. The Jewish leaders would not cut off members from the church for believing in Jesus and then still keep Him in the Church.


The popularity of Jesus was a thorn in the side of the Pharisees. It was not only the common folks that believed in Him, but even many community leaders:


Many of the rulers of the Jews became convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. However, they did not dare to share their conviction with the others lest they be excommunicated. (Zondervan N.I.V. Commentary; see also Zondervan Enc. of the Bible 2:422-423.)



However, even many of the Jewish leaders believed him to be the Messiah but wouldn’t admit it to anyone because of their fear that the Pharisees would excommunicate them from the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43, Living Bible)


The fact that Jesus was excommunicated can be evidenced by reviewing the following scriptural passages:


  1. People were afraid to say anything positive about Jesus for fear of being cut off or cast out of the synagogues. (John 9:22)
  2. Jesus warned His disciples that they would be excommunicated for believing and following Him. (John 16:2)
  3. The Pharisees warned the people that if they believed in Jesus, they would be excommunicated. (John 12:42)
  4. The ancient prophets who foretold so many things about Jesus also mentioned that the Messiah would be cut off. (Daniel 9:26)
  5. If the Pharisees tried to throw him off a cliff, they would have first tried to destroy his reputation by excommunication. (Luke 4:29)
  6. By their trying to stone him to death indicated that they were trying to enforce all of the ancient laws against Him. They would not have neglected the first and obvious punishment of casting out or excommunication. (John 10:31)
  7. Since they brought Jesus up to the Sanhedrin Council and the Roman Court to be tried for capital crimes, they would not have neglected to first try to save the reputation of the Church by excommunicating Him. (John, chapter 18)
  8. They excommunicated the blind man for his testimony of Jesus, so why would they neglect to cut off Jesus who bore testimony of Himself? (John 9:34)


  1. The Pharisees met in council and discussed every way to get rid of Jesus, including how to destroy him. Would they have overlooked the excommunication process? (Matt. 12:14)
  2. There is no significant sorrow, trial or offense that would come to the people that Jesus had not experienced Him-self. Thus, excommunication would have undoubtedly been one of them. (John 18:4)


In this chapter we have seen how the self-righteous Pharisees hunted down anyone who believed in Jesus or His teachings. They would “cut off,” “cast out,” or excommunicate them from the synagogues. Even those who just believed in His miracles were threatened with excommunication.


Jesus had also promised His disciples that they would be excommunicated from the church, but that they should not sorrow over it but rather rejoice. He told His disciples that “they shall put you out of the synagogues,” and “separate you from their company” and “cast out your name as evil.” The disciples would not be above their Master.


They not only “cast” Jesus out of the synagogue, but tried to cast him off a cliff. Another way they tried to reject Him was to stone Him to death. As John said, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (John 1:11) But Jesus had to descend below all things so He could rise above them all.


In cases of excommunication among the early Christians, it resulted in the victims being shunned by the church, the community, their friends and their families. They were banned from work and social functions and were prevented from purchasing necessities. They were classed as apostates and evil people. Christ and His disciples endured these conditions because of their faith in the fullness of the Gospel.


[213] To summarize this chapter:


  1. The Mosaic church operated under the authority of the Levitical Priesthood, and Christ held the office of Rabbi in that church. However, Joseph Smith said, “All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself.” (TPJS, p. 181) Jesus had received that Priesthood from His Father, and therefore possessed the highest Priesthood authority.


  1. Jesus attempted to teach higher laws of this higher Priesthood, and also performed miracles demonstrating the power that He had with God. These two factors caused both fear and envy among the chief priests and Pharisees. (See Matt. 27:18 & Mark 15:10.)


  1. The Jews excommunicated Jesus for teaching and living the doctrines of the higher Priesthood while they themselves were living on only a Levitical Priesthood level. Thus, Levitical Priesthood holders were incorrectly attempting to excommunicate a Melchizedek Priesthood holder.


  1. Jesus, His disciples and all others from then on who believed in Him were excommunicated from the synagogue. Jesus had to teach, live and administer the higher ordinances outside of the Mosaic church of the Jews.


  1. The Mosaic church did not become Christian. Rather Christianity began outside of and separate from the Jewish church.


  1. Essentially the higher principles of the true church and the fullness of the Gospel were considered as an apostate religion.



  1. This pattern has occurred repeatedly–both in ancient and latter days.


The following table provides an interesting comparison between the Mosaic church that existed among the Jews at the time of Christ and the Church of Christ:


Church of Moses                     Church of Christ

Had a temple                        Had no temple

Had Aaronic Priesthood              Had Melchizedek Priesthood

Had lower church laws               Had higher laws and ordinances

Were persecutors                    Were persecuted

Taught “milk” doctrines             Taught “meat” doctrines

Allowed scattered membership        Taught gathered members, as hen

Shut up the Kingdom of God          Proclaimed the Kingdom of God

Loved the upper most seats          Cast out of synagogue seats

Omitted the weightier laws          Lived the higher laws

Lived in extortion and excess       Lived in poverty and meekness

Had appearance of righteousness     Were called apostates

Trusted in men                            Trusted in God

Had one talent (wife)               Had several talents (wives)

Tithed even the spices              Lived the United Order


As we begin the next chapter on latter-day excommunications, many similarities in our time will be obvious.



[215]                             Chapter 13


                         LATTER-DAY EXCOMMUNICATIONS


During the first three centuries following Christ’s death the Christians were nearly exterminated. Between the reign of Nero and Diocletian there were approximately ten major waves of persecution, the last ending shortly after 306 A.D. So successful had been the destruction of the Christians that Diocletian was praised on two monuments or pillars in Spain. One was inscribed, “For having extended the Roman Empire in the east and west, and for having extinguished the name of Christians, who brought the Republic to ruin.” And on the other, “For having everywhere abolished the superstition of Christ.” (Milners Church History 2:6)


Finally between 326 – 330 A.D. the great Roman Emperor Constantine brought the Christians and Romans together. This was an improvement for the pagan Romans but a catastrophe for the Christians. The Christian church exploded in numbers, became popular and ultimately became rich. These three elements were the deadly seeds of apostasy and worldly approval that quickly took over the church. High positions in the church were coveted–bought, bribed and blackmailed. Some church leaders were even murdered to provide a better chance for someone else to be Pope. Other office holders were eliminated to make room for ambitious office seekers. The Popes soon gained political as well as religious powers. Excommunications became more and more popular, not because of sin, but because of threats and [216] opportunity seekers. Thousands upon thousands became victims of prison, torture and horrible death. It was centuries before Christianity finally crept out of the Dark Ages into the light of a reformation–and even later, a restoration.


In the early years of the LDS Church people were excommunicated for sin. Those who were doing the excommunicating sometimes thought that minor infractions were classified as sins, but they were chastised by the Prophet Joseph. One example was the case of Elder Pelatiah Brown. Joseph Smith remarked:


I will endeavor to instruct you in relation to the meaning of the beasts and figures spoken of. I should not have called up the subject had it not been for this circumstance. Elder Pelatiah Brown, one of the wisest old heads we have among us, and whom I now see before me, has been preaching concerning the beast which was full of eyes before and behind; and for this he was hauled up for trial before the High Council.

I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.

The High Council undertook to censure and correct Elder Brown, because of his teachings in relation to the beasts. Whether they actually corrected him or not, I am a little doubtful, but don’t care. (DHC 5:340)


There are several messages conveyed in the above situation:


  1. A man’s membership in the Church should not be taken away because he errs in doctrine.


  1. This Church should not be like the Methodist and put a man out of the church for disbelieving the church creeds.
  2. If a man errs in doctrine, it does not prove he is not a good man.
  3. Joseph and members wanted the liberty of thinking and believing as they pleased.
  4. The High Council tried to censure and correct Elder Brown on doctrine, but the Prophet doubted if they actually corrected him.


Today, most people in the LDS Church, like the Catholics, consider excommunication the worst thing that could ever happen to an individual. The Saints erroneously are told that it puts them in hell; the devil has total power over them; it nullifies the blessings of their endowment; and they lose their Priesthood. However, there are limits to the power of excommunication, as Apostle Charles Penrose explained:


This Church is a church of liberty; that is, within the lines of the law. If people take the liberty to do wrong, to transgress the laws of God, to do that which is impure, they can be disfellowshipped–cut off the Church; and that is the full extent of the power of penalty in this Churchthe power of excommunication, withdrawing fellowship, making a person not a member; that is the extreme penalty of the laws of the Church of Christ–excommunication. (JD 24:310)


In reality, members who commit heinous sins are already cut off from the Spirit of the Lord even before they are brought to a church trial. These are those who usually continue to go downhill and fall into darkness, while those who are unjustly excommunicated feel no effect of it.


Persons sometimes say that they have enjoyed the spirit of the work as much since they were cut off as while they were in the Church. Have they enjoyed the [218] Spirit? Yes. Why? Simply because they were wrongfully cut off. They were cut off in such a way that it did not take the Spirit of God from them. And the reason why they were cut off was because they did not come up to the particular standard of perfection of those who dealt with them, or they did not come up to their feelings. (Francis M. Lyman, Mill. Star 24:100)


With the continual changing of official LDS Church doctrine, history has shown that a person can be excommunicated for both belief and disbelief in the same doctrine–depending on the decade of time–i.e., the Adam-God doctrine and plural marriage. For example, during his 30+ years as Church President, Brigham Young repeatedly spoke of Michael/Adam as being the God of this world. In 1852, he specifically said, “When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, . . . . He is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.” (JD 1:50) This became a very popular doctrine; and when someone voiced a strong objection to it, they were brought to trial. In 1862, Apostle Francis M. Lyman admitted: “I have heard of a man who was cut off because he would not believe that Adam was our Father and God. (Mill. Star 24:100)


How ironic that a man was excommunicated 140 years ago for NOT believing that Adam was God, while today they are excommunicated because they DO! If they excommunicate people for their belief in the true identity of Adam, then perhaps it would be a good idea to excommunicate any who believe in evolution since it usually incorporates the denial of the existence of Adam or God.


In the early days of the Church the leaders taught that a man must live plural marriage to receive the fullness of exaltation. However, today if you even teach it as a true doctrine, you will be excommunicated.


[219] The Federal government began a series of persecutions and prosecutions for 30 years against the Mormons. They fined and imprisoned men for exercising their Constitutional right to worship according to the dictates of their conscience. Finally in desperation the Church decided to make some compromises with the Government. Two apostles, John W. Taylor and Matthew Cowley, were selected as scapegoats and dropped from the Quorum of Twelve for living plural marriage. John W. Taylor, who was also excommunicated from the Church, was never formally reinstated. He was primarily the first “Fundamentalist Mormon” excommunicated for living a true principle 16 years after the Manifesto.


With the changing of doctrines and ordinances, the reasons for excommunication went beyond individual sin. They included the refusal to give up the original Gospel as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith! Apostasy had a new meaning. In the “1998 Church Handbook of Instructions for Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics,” apostasy was defined as follows:


Apostasy: As used here, apostasy refers to members who:


  1. Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.
  2. Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishops or higher authority.
  3. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or higher authority.

In such cases, excommunication may be necessary if repentance is not evident after counseling and encouragement. * * *

Total inactivity in the Church or attending or holding membership in another church does not constitute apostasy. (pp. 95-96)


[220] From this official guide book of instructions, we learn that the following are reasons given for excommunication:


  1. Acting in opposition to the Church or its leaders
  2. Teaching doctrines not approved of in our time
  3. Believing such early Church teachings as plural marriage


On the other hand, the same handbook states that the following should not be considered as apostasy or grounds for excommunication:


  1. Being totally inactive
  2. Attending meetings in another church
  3. Joining another church


Merely attending another church may be for a variety of reasons. However, membership in another church usually means you no longer believe in the LDS Church, its leaders or its doctrines. It entails acceptance of the doctrines of another church and giving service and tithes to them. It certainly indicates that you believe in their priesthood, authority and ordinations. So how can it make sense that all of this does not constitute apostasy, yet advocating plural marriage and other early Church doctrines does? Maybe the question should be asked, “Apostasy from what–the Church or the Priesthood?


The Lord told Joseph Smith that all other churches were “an abomination in His sight,” and that “they teach for doctrines the commandments of men.” (P of GP, Jos. Smith 2:19) Even though their ordinations and administrations are without legitimate authority, the handbook states that joining them is not apostasy. However, if you believe the doctrines and laws of the Priesthood that were revealed to Joseph Smith, that is apostasy?


[221] Suppose a member of the LDS Church were to join the Catholic Church, meaning that person no longer had a belief in the gospel restoration, the Book of Mormon, or the mission of Joseph Smith. Catholicism requires baptism into their church, taking their sacraments, recognizing the pope as infallible, reciting prayers to the “Holy Mother of God,” and using beads at the stations of the cross. How can the Priesthood of God still be in effect within the person who sanctions the rituals and creeds that God has called “an abomination in His sight?” Conversely, how can a person who still believes in the doctrines and teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young be guilty of apostasy? Apostasy from an “apostate” church perhaps!


Somehow we are misunderstanding the concept, the power, and the blessings of the Holy Priesthood and misinterpreting the meaning and reasons for apostasy and excommunication.


When a man joins another church, is he breaking a previous religious covenant? How much power in the Priesthood does a man have while attending and supporting another church? How much inspiration and revelation will he receive through his attendance in a church that the Lord has labeled as exercising priestcraft rather than the Holy Priesthood? It’s no wonder that Isaiah prophesied of great judgments in the last days:


The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word.

The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the word languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.

The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.


Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left. (Isaiah 24:3-6)


But we can take comfort in other words from Isaiah:


Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed. (Isaiah 66:5)


In these latter days the Lord said He would do some excommunicating of His own:


But wo unto them that are deceivers and hypocrites, for, thus saith the Lord, I will bring them to judgment. * * * The hypocrites shall be detected and shall be cut off, either in life or in death, even as I will. (D & C 50:6 & 8)


According to Mosiah Hancock, the Prophet Joseph Smith foresaw this hypocritical and materialistic condition arise among Church leaders and as a result the “excommunication” of true followers:


The next day the Prophet came to our home and stopped in our carpenter shop and stood by the turning lathe. I went and got my map for him. “Now,” he said, “I will show you the travels of this people.” He then showed our travels through Iowa, and said, “Here you will make a place for the winter; and here you will travel west until you come to the valley of the Great Salt Lake! You will build cities to the North and to the South, and to the East and to the West; and you will become a great and wealthy people in that land. But, the United States will not receive you with the laws which God desires you to live, and you will have to go to where the Nephites lost their power. * * *


The government will not receive you with the laws that God designed you to live, and those who are desirous to live the laws of God will have to go South. You will live to see men arise in power in the Church who will seek to put down your friends and the friends of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Many will be hoisted because of their money and the worldly learning which they seem to be in possession of; and many who are the true followers of our Lord and Savior will be cast down because of their poverty. (Mosiah Hancock Journal, Pioneer Press, p. 19)


In closing this chapter, let’s compare two similar scenarios: the first is the actual account recorded in Luke; the second is a somewhat light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek, modern rendition of the same passage:


Early Christian Parable


  1. And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he [Jesus] taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders,
  2. And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?
  3. And he answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer me:
  4. The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?
  5. And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not?
  6. But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet.
  7. And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was.
  8. And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. (Luke 20:1-8)


But they cut Him off anyway!


[224]                         Modern-day Parable


  1. And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as a Fundamentalist Mormon taught the people in the ward, and preached the Gospel, the stake president and the bishop came upon him with the elders,
  2. And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?
  3. And he answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer me:
  4. The teachings of Joseph Smith, were they from heaven, or of men?
  5. And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not?
  6. But and if we say, Of men; all the people will hate us: for they be persuaded that Joseph Smith was a prophet.
  7. And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was.
  8. And the Fundamentalist Mormon said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.


But they cut him off anyway!



[225]                             Chapter 14




And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62)


We have seen how mortal, immortal and resurrected beings can function with Priesthood outside of the organization of the Church. We have reviewed how Jesus established a church in Jerusalem with the Priesthood. He then established another church existing simultaneously on the American continent also with Priesthood. Then He went to some “other sheep” whom He was going to bring “into the fold,” which undoubtedly had a church and priesthood. This was a demonstration that at least three churches were operating at the same time with priesthood authority without the supervision of any particular central church.


Then after the Church of Jesus Christ was established, there was an apostasy. Why? Because the church changed Christ’s doctrines, laws and ordinances to conform with the laws of man.


Even though the Christian church grew in great numbers and became very prosperous, without the high priesthood they could no longer obey or perform higher Priesthood ordinances.


[226] Many other churches were formed without true Priesthood because the original church had lost it. As a result, false prophets and false doctrines increased.


We have discussed at least 20 Priesthood laws and ordinances that must be present in the Church or else it loses its power and authority of the high Priesthood. During the 1886 period, men were authorized to teach, live and perpetuate the higher principles of the Melchizedek Priesthood because Church members and leaders had rejected them.


A series of manifestos and compromises by the Church allowed it to prosper temporally but not advance spiritually.


The reasons and conditions for the excommunications of Jesus and His disciples are similar to the conditions that exist in the latter days–i.e., not complying with the edicts of existing Church leaders.


Jesus and His disciples could be considered as the Fundamentalists of their age. The established church of Moses considered them apostates and excommunicated them whenever they were discovered. But Jesus rejoiced that God had revealed these doctrines to “babes” and had hidden them from the “wise and prudent.”


In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. (Luke 10:21)


Solomon said:


The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: [227] and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath been already of old time, which was before us. (Eccles. 1:9-10)


History just keeps repeating itself. Isn’t there sufficient evidence to show that we have repeated the conditions of the primitive church when the unjust were excommunicating the just? Haven’t we also exchanged our trust in the Lord for trust in the arm of flesh?


Those who bear and honor God’s Holy Priesthood should distance themselves from those who might have a negative influence upon them. Politicians, socialites, businessmen or religious leaders who might lead others astray can be a serious danger to the welfare or even salvation of the Saints of God. Jesus warned us of these very things.


Both Matthew (18:8-9) and Mark (9:42-50) record Christ’s commentary about parts of the body (the hand, foot and eye) which may cause offenses, and His solution to the problem was to “cut it off,” “cast it from thee, and “pluck it out.” In each case, it refers to a definite separation. These parts of the body can be compared to members of the Church. (Paul also used this same terminology in I Cor. 12:14-22.) The best translation of this analogy is recorded in Joseph Smith’s Inspired Translation of the Bible:


Therefore, if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; or if thy brother offend thee and confess not and forsake not, he shall be cut off. It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to go into hell.

For it is better for thee to enter into life without thy brother, than for thee and thy brother to be cast into hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.


And again, if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; for he that is thy standard, by whom thou walkest, if he become a transgressor, he shall be cut off.

It is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched.

Therefore, let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or not trusting another.

Seek unto my Father, and it shall be done in that very moment what ye shall ask, if ye ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive.

And if thine eye which seeth for thee, him that is appointed to watch over thee to show thee light, become a transgressor and offend thee, pluck him out

It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God, with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

For it is better that thyself should be saved, than to be cast into hell with thy brother, where their worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9:40-48)


Carrying this further and more specifically, the hand could be interpreted as a brother in the Church; the foot could be the bishop or stake president; and the eye may be a prophet, seer and revelator that is to give light and see for you.


There is an interesting Priesthood paradox existing in Mormonism today. Some male Church members have committed sins grievous enough to lose their Priesthood, but yet they still have their membership. On the other hand, others who didn’t deserve it have been unjustly excommunicated. Thus, many men in the Church think they have Priesthood but don’t, while others who have been excommunicated still hold the Priesthood separate from the Church.


Another questionable Priesthood issue is that for over 30 years Priesthood members were given an office in the Church but yet Priesthood was never conferred upon them. [229] Who knows how many thousands of male members, including LDS leaders, think they hold the Priesthood, but hold only an office in the Church! And those since 1957 think they have been conferring Priesthood on others when, in reality, their own Priesthood is in question. And furthermore, how effective are the baptisms, endowments and marriages performed by those same males?


We live in a time of spiritual darkness, for all things are out of order, and God’s house is no exception. The restoration of the Gospel and the Priesthood should have been a leaven to the world, but instead the world has been a leaven to the Church. For the Lord said:


Darkness covereth the earth, and gross darkness the minds of the people, and all flesh has become corrupt before my face.” (D & C 112:23)


Instead of following the King of Kings, we have followed the kings of the earth. At Christ’s crucifixion, the Jews cried out, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15), and today we seem to be saying, “We have no king but Bush,” for we honor the laws of the land more than the laws of God.


How and when will all this end? The Lord has seen our day and into the future and has promised us that eventually it will all be straightened out. There will be a day when He will come “to set in order the house of God” (D & C 85:7), and all these errors will be corrected. He said that, “they who are not apostles and prophets shall be known” (D & C 64:38), because an apostle and a prophet must hold the Melchizedek Priesthood. The restructure of Church membership and Priesthood will take place from Church President down to Deacon.


As mortals subject to sin, we need to first recognize our personal and religious mistakes, and then take every [230] opportunity to correct them. We need to remember that we cannot look to men for salvation but only to the Lord–no longer trusting in the arm of flesh.


Occasionally, Jesus has walked and talked with man on the earth, and He has promised to do so again. He has a destiny with man to be seated on the throne in the New Jerusalem temple. He will meet with all the faithful for He has promised:


I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, . . . [and also] with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world. (D & C 27:5 & 14)


These will be the “elect” who honored and obeyed the Holy Priesthood and its laws–whether or not they were present in the LDS Church–and were not deceived. We alone make that decision for ourselves.


Now the great and grand secret of the whole matter, and the summum bonum of the whole subject that is lying before us, consists in obtaining the powers of the Holy Priesthood. (D & C 128:11)