Holy Priesthood Vol. 1


Ogden Kraut

March 1992

John saw the angel having the holy priesthood who should preach the everlasting gospel to all nations, – God had an angel, a special messenger, ordained, and prepared for that purpose in the last days – woe! woe! be to that man, or set of men, who lift up their hands against God and his witness in these last days …” (Words of Joseph Smith p. 366)


Priesthood! What does it mean? Many books, pamphlets, and articles have been written on the subject, and perhaps it’s been the topic for thousands of sermons; yet it still seems to be a vague and misunderstood subject.

No one can fully understand all of the characteristics and blessings of the Priesthood while in mortality. It may take a whole lifetime of study and inspiration to gain even a relatively deep understanding of this most important topic. And its real significance will not come from books, but rather in the practicing of its principles and the performing of its ordinances.

In trying to gain a better understanding of Priesthood, it helps to study the lives of the great prophets who have preceded us and see how they used their Priesthood and learn from the example they set for us to follow.

Within the universe there are two super powers–two competing governments, and these two kingdoms represent two different priesthoods. In mortality we are confronted with both of them and we are here to learn the difference and make a choice. But this is a very difficult decision because one is masquerading as the other.

This book is the first in a series on the subject of Priesthood. Subsequent books will discuss such subjects as Women and the Priesthood, The 1978 Official Declaration, Loss of Priesthood, Keys of Priesthood, Church Organization, Kingdom of God, etc. It is hoped that each volume will provide a better understanding of this great blessing from God, and instill a greater desire to live worthy enough to enjoy the blessings of the Holy Priesthood.


[7]                               Chapter 1


Many different descriptions have been given of the Priesthood, but still we have only a limited understanding of it. Brigham Young defined it as an “invisible, almighty, God-like power,” (JD 3:259) and later “a perfect order and system of government”. (JD 13:242). These are only a couple of many  descriptions of this most important feature of the Gospel.

The Priesthood is often referred to in the Doctrine and Covenants  as “the authority” to officiate in ordinances and in the duties of the Church. (See D & C  20:58, 73; 68:8, 19; 84:21; 107:8, 24; 113:8; 121:37; 124:128.) That authority is limited only to the laws, ordinances and principles of those Priesthoods, yet the Melchizedek is the greater authority and is “the highest and holiest Priesthood.” The Prophet Joseph explained:

All other Priesthoods are only parts, ramifications, powers and blessings belonging to the same, and are held, controlled, and directed by it.

He further explained:

The Melchizedek Priesthood comprehends the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood, and is the grand head, and holds the highest authority which pertains to the priesthood, and the keys of the Kingdom of God in all ages of the world to the latest posterity on the earth; [8] and is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation and every important matter is revealed from heaven. * * * It is the channel through which the Almighty commenced revealing His glory at the beginning of the creation of this earth, and through which He has continued to reveal Himself to the children of men to the present time, and through which He will make known His purposes to the end of time. (TPJS, pp. 166-67)

John Taylor also explained Priesthood authority:

The question, “What is priesthood?” has often been asked me. I answer, it is the rule and government of God, whether on earth, or in the heavens; and it is the only legitimate power, the only authority that is acknowledged by Him to rule and regulate the affairs of His kingdom. When every wrong thing shall be put right, and all usurpers shall be put down, when he whose right it is to reign shall take the dominion, then nothing but the Priesthood will bear rule; it alone will sway the sceptre of authority in heaven and on earth, for this is the legitimacy of God. (JD 1:224)

Wilford Woodruff affirmed:

. . . in fact what is the Priesthood? It is the authority of God in heaven to the sons of men to administer in any of the ordinances of His house. (JD 16:266)

Men generally have an ambition to rule and hold control over their fellow men. It seldom matters how they can gain such a power, but rarely is it for the benefit of mankind—-usually it’s for the benefit of the individual. Men have gained power to rule over others by lying, stealing and killing. Every legitimate and illegitimate means of grasping for power has been used. By the sword and gun powder men have cut and blasted their way to thrones and governments, usually for the purpose of gaining money, fame and power.

[9]           All power is not immediately derived from the same source, but all legitimate right of Government is in the Priesthood of God. Tyrants and usurpers, under the titles of emperors, kings, and presidents, have dominion upon the earth, which has been obtained, and is maintained, by the sword and by blood, all of which is a usurpation of power, gained by might, and not by right. (Mill. Star 14:593)

The secular history of man is an abominable trait of blood and carnage left by men in the pursuit of power over other men. Also the records of sacred writ are abundant with the sad story of men who rejected the rightful powers of the Priesthood because it would not satisfy their craving for vain authority.

A true man of God would despise the idea of making anyone his slave. A man who honors his Priesthood seeks to exalt and uplift others to the same rights that he enjoys. The power and authority of Priesthood are given simply to teach and administer the laws of God.

So great is the responsibility of a man with the Priesthood, that his life should be a continuous mission of service to others. For the Master of all power once said, “whosoever  will be chief among you,  let him be  your servant . . . ,” and speaking of Himself he explained that He came to “minister and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:27-28)

Joseph Smith exhorted the few men who bore the Priesthood to “waste and wear out our lives” (D & C 123:13) in the service of others. So it is little wonder that His servants who bear His Priesthood should pursue a similar course. The Prophet Joseph warned:


[10]         There are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it. (D & C 123:12)

The Priesthood is to bring light and truth to all who live in darkness. It is not a power to be used over others, but rather in the service of others. Usually the greater man’s authority to rule over people, the greater their abuse of it.  Men in high positions are often the most uninformed of righteous rules and laws. This is also true of some men who hold the Priesthood, as S. W. Richards explained:

Some have supposed that the more authority men have in the kingdom of God, the greater is their liberty to disregard His laws, and that their greatness consists in their almost unlimited privileges, which leave them without restrictions; but this is a mistaken idea. Those who are the greatest in authority, are under the greatest restrictions; the law of their sphere is greater than that of those who are less in power, and the restrictions and penalty of that law are proportionately great; therefore they are under the greater obligation to maintain the virtue of the law and the institutions of God, otherwise confidence could not be reposed in them, but distrust and evil surmisings would be the result; disaffection would be found lurking in every avenue of society, and by thus severing the cords of union, it would prove the destruction of many people. (Mill. Star 14:596)

The Prophet Joseph, in his dealings with the Saints, learned of men’s weakness regarding Priesthood authority, and made this important observation:

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. [11] Hence many are called, but few are chosen. No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned. (D & C 121:39-41)

Divine authority is one of those powers that does not need sanction, license or legalization from the offices of men. Exposed or unexposed, approved or disapproved, it is still Divine authority. It is the Holy Priesthood and it should operate in the manner that God would operate it, with or without the approval of men.

Indeed, few men recognize the Priesthood or respect it. The Jewish and Roman Empires were unaware, ignorant or outright rebellious against Christ and tried to destroy both Him and His Priesthood.

Holding the Priesthood is a responsibility that requires preparation by those who would desire to receive it. Precious perfume would be wasted by putting it in a rusty can riddled with holes; so, too, the Priesthood would soon dissipate in the hands of someone who would disgrace it.

God uses His Priesthood in a most holy and righteous manner. Likewise, His servants are required to use it in the very same manner. Just bearing the Priesthood will not give a man the blessings of heaven. If a man expects to receive Priesthood blessings, then he must be worthy and prepare himself to receive them.

Moreover, if we succeed in fixing upon the minds of our readers the importance of preparation, we shall have accomplished our design. It is time the Saints should thoroughly understand this important law, and especially should it be stamped on the hearts of the Priesthood. This is indeed important, for that law is a [12] fundamental one in the whole economy of God and the plan of salvation. To the mind of an enlightened Saint, the building-up of the kingdom no longer resembles the building of castles in the air, but is a reality that has to be prepared for and worked out. Such a one will look at his exaltation as a ladder which he has to ascend, and his future glory and position as something for which he has to be fitted and qualified.

Whatever might have been their past views, henceforth let all make preparation the basis of their every hope, every action, and everything which they expect to be. If any man expects to be wise and full of the knowledge and revelations of eternity, let him seek for wisdom, store his mind with knowledge, and live in communion with the Spirit. Does he expect to be enlarged and to comprehend the purposes of God? Then let his mind grow and his soul delight in the works of God. Does he expect increase to be his portion and eternal riches his treasure? Then let him sow the seeds of good works, and lay up for himself treasures in heaven. If he expects to be great, let him prepare for greatness. If he looks forward for position, let him qualify himself for that position. Does he anticipate becoming a ruler among the nations? Then let him become a ruler indeed, and prepare himself to sit in the seat of government. Does he look forward to be numbered among the saviors upon Mount Zion? Then let the spirit of salvation grow within him and the principles of salvation be illustrated in his works. If he anticipates being crowned as king and priest of the Most High, let him magnify his present calling and prove himself worthy of that high honor. Does he expect to be among the Gods? Then let him cultivate the disposition and quality of God. (Mill. Star 20:714)

Brigham Young seems to emphasize the fact that the Priesthood is bound up in celestial law. These Priesthood powers are sometimes openly manifest or may be hidden from the eyes of the world; but wherever they are found, they are always based on righteous laws. And those who bear the Priesthood will always abide by the same laws, principles, and [13] ordinances. Both man and God must honor and obey those laws or their Priesthood will diminish and lose its power and authority. The following two quotes from Brigham Young express this very well:

When we talk of the celestial law which is revealed from heaven, that is, the Priesthood, we are talking about the principle of salvation, a perfect system of government, of laws and ordinances, by which we can be prepared to pass from one gate to another, and from one sentinel to another, until we go into the presence of our Father and God. This law has not always been upon the earth; and in its absence, other laws have been given to the children of men for their improvement, for their education, for their government, and to prove what they would do when left to control themselves; and what we now call tradition has grown out of these circumstances. (JD 2:139)

If anybody wants to know what the Priesthood of the Son of God is, it is the law by which the worlds are, were, and will continue for ever and ever. It is that system which brings worlds into existence and peoples them, gives them their revolutions. (JD 15:127)

The objective of Priesthood is to build and govern the dominions of God. As Brigham Young said, “The Priesthood of the Son of God in its operations comprises the Kingdom of God.” (JD 11:249) It is obvious that the function of Priesthood is to act in all the sacraments and ordinances of the Church, but it is also the principle power and influence that governs all things. God builds and governs everything in the universe by the power and authority of the Priesthood.

The greatest authority on earth is not invested with those who wear the robes of judges, or the uniforms of the generals, or the crowns of national rulers and dictators. It is vested in the worthy Priesthood holder that magnifies this power in righteousness.


[14]         The Lord has said that Priesthood has continued through the lineage of Israelites and “has been hid from the world.” (D & C 86:9) The Priesthood is for those who bear it in humility, without show or pretense, as Hugh Nibley beautifully describes:

Is not the priesthood everything? Not on this earth. On this earth it is nothing, and as soon as we try to use it for any kind of status, power, rule, or authority, it automatically cancels out. * * * One cannot give orders to another by the priesthood. One cannot use it to acquire prestige, fame or wealth. Far from impressing one’s fellow men, it is held in derision by them. The moment one tries to make honor or glory or exercise dominion by the priesthood, “amen to the priesthood of that man”—-it automatically becomes null and void. * * * Though some may find it hard to believe, I find no cause for boasting in my priesthood—-nothing is easier than conferring it upon one, but that is only the beginning; for it to be a real power requires a degree of concentration, dedication, and self-discipline which few ever attain to, and for the rest priesthood is not a blessing but a terrible risk. The priesthood is not a badge of office to be worn as a feather in a cap. (Nibley, Sunstone, Dec. 1990, p. 11)

The greatest power on earth is held by the apparent weak men on earth. Through sweat, suffering, trials and poverty, many great works of the Priesthood are brought about. Even though the efforts of these few might seem insignificant, the Lord has said, “Ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” (D & C 64:33) Therefore, “Let no man count them as small things; for there is much which lieth in futurity, pertaining to the saints, which depends upon these things.” (D & C 123:15)

In summary, then, let’s briefly itemize what Priesthood is and is not:


[15] 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 principle 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

Hopefully, this chapter has provided a little clearer view of what the Priesthood of God actually is. Now let’s go on to the names, types, and levels of Priesthood.



[16]                              Chapter 2




Old Testament Priesthood

The Priesthood came to this earth with Adam. In fact, it originated on this earth with its creation, as the Prophet Joseph Smith explained:

The Priesthood was first given to Adam; he obtained the First Presidency and held the keys of it from generation to generation. He obtained it in the Creation, before the world was formed, as in Genesis 1:26-28. He had dominion given him over every living creature. (TPJS, p. 157)

The Prophet often spoke of Adam and Priesthood rights and callings that were given to him. In another sermon the Prophet remarked:

Commencing with Adam, who was the first man, who is spoken of in Daniel as being the “Ancient of Days”, or in other words, the first and oldest of all, the great, grand progenitor of whom it is said in another place he is Michael, because he was the first and father of all, not only by progeny, but the first to hold the spiritual blessings, to whom was made known the plan of ordinances for the salvation of his posterity unto the end, and to whom Christ was first revealed, and through whom Christ has been revealed from heaven, and will continue to be revealed from henceforth. Adam holds the keys of the dispensation of the fullness of times; i.e., the dispensation of all the times have been [17] and will be revealed through him from the beginning to Christ, and from Christ to the end of the dispensations that are to be revealed. (TPJS, pp. 167-68)


From Adam the Priesthood continued through the lineage of his sons in the form of a Patriarchal Priesthood—-from father to son and so on down. According to George Q. Cannon:

Adam, our first great progenitor and father, after the fall, received this Gospel, and he received the Holy Priesthood in all its power, and its keys and ordinances. He sealed these blessings upon his sons, Seth, Enos, Jared, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Enoch and Methuselah. All these men received this high and holy Priesthood. (JD 16:264)

And this Priesthood shall prevail in spite of the failures of men:

And thus all things were confirmed unto Adam by an holy ordinance, and the Gospel preached, and a decree sent forth, that it should be in the world until the end thereof; and thus it was. (Moses 5:59)

Now this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also. (Moses 6:7)

The Prophet Joseph said that “there has been a chain of authority and power from Adam down to the present time.” (TPJS, p. 169)

There is a genealogical lineage in blood ancestry which has been one of the most important works and concerns of the Israelitish people; but more than that, there should be a Priesthood line of authority that binds men together. Said Brigham Young:


[18]         There must be this chain in the Holy Priesthood; it must be welded together from the latest generation that lives on the earth back to Father Adam, to bring back all that can be saved and placed where they can receive salvation and a glory in some kingdom. This Priesthood has to do it; this Priesthood is for this purpose. (JD 13:280)

Adam taught the gospel to his children for nearly a thousand years—-that’s a lot of teaching and a lot of children! He also bestowed all of the rites and ordinances upon his children. (See D & C 107:40-52.) As previously mentioned, some of those children ordained were Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Methuselah, and Lamech.

Paul the Apostle gives an interesting view of some of those great men when he wrote,

“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and by it he being dead yet speaketh.” (Heb. 11:4)

The Prophet asked:

How doth he <Abel> speak? Why, he magnified the Priesthood which was conferred upon him, and died a righteous man, and therefore has become an angel of God by receiving his body from the dead, holding still the keys of his dispensation; and was sent down from heaven unto Paul to minister consoling words, and to commit unto him a knowledge of the mysteries of godliness. (TPJS, p. 160)

Enoch, who lived for 365 years, magnified his calling in the Priesthood, and it is written that he “walked with God”. The Prophet Joseph said that God “reserved unto Himself, that he should not die” and “appointed unto him a ministry unto [19] terrestrial bodies, of whom there has been but little revealed.” Enoch was also appointed the “presidency of a dispensation”. The Prophet further adds:


He is a ministering angel, to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation, and appeared unto Jude as Abel did unto Paul; therefore Jude spoke of him. * * * Paul was also acquainted with this character, and received instructions from him. (TPJS, p. 170)

Since Enoch was righteous enough to come into the presence of God and walk with him, it must be a condition and a right that is available to all men, by keeping the commandments and honoring the Priesthood. But unfortunately, most men on earth alienate themselves from the Priesthood. The Prophet further comments on this:

He <God> selected Enoch, whom He directed, and gave His law unto, and to the people who were with him; and when the world in general would not obey the commands of God, after walking with God, he translated Enoch and his church, and the Priesthood or government of heaven was taken away. (TPJS, p. 251)

Another great patriarch holding the keys of the Priesthood was Lamech. He was the father of Noah, who also honored the Priesthood and fulfilled a mission of righteousness. By this time the Gospel had little effect upon the children of men for apostasy and rebellion had great sway, and their thoughts were evil continually.

The descendants of Adam soon began to exercise their free agency, some for, and many against, the Great Plan. Cain, a son of Adam, exercised his free agency in the murder of his brother Abel. As time went on, large numbers departed from the truth concerning [20] man’s place in the universe as taught by Adam, and refused to accept the Gospel. Almost concurrently with the establishment of the Church in the first dispensation there was, therefore, a first apostasy. It is ever so, it has ever been so, and ever will be so, that in a world of intelligent beings possessing free agency, some will accept and others will reject truth. (Rational Theology, Widtsoe, p. 55)

From the beginning of time, the Priesthood has been brought by heavenly messengers, either to restore it or to instruct those who already had it. Angels have appeared to confer the Priesthood whenever it had been lost on earth so that the ordinances of the Gospel might continue to be given to righteous men and women. The Priesthood is a link between heaven and earth, both by revelation and by the administration of its ordinances.

It is not known how many men and women at various times have received such visitations, but it is probable that many, even when the Church has not been organized, have received and used the truths of life as embodied in the Great Plan. (Rational Theology, p. 56)

At the time of Noah the inhabitants of the earth were rebellious against the Gospel and the Priesthood, and the consequence was their destruction. He was another first to the human race just as Adam was. He possessed the keys of the Priesthood and keys of his dispensation so they could continue down to successive generations.

The Priesthood descended down to Melchizedek, a great “High Priest after the Most High.” There is a mistranslation in the epistle to the Hebrews, which makes it sound as though he was a man who had never been born and would never die. The correct translation is:


[21]         For this Melchizedek was ordained a priest after the order of the Son of God, which order was without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life. And all those who are ordained unto this Priesthood are made like unto the Son of God, abiding a priest continually. (Heb. 7:3, Insp. Trans.)

Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem (later called Jerusalem) and was known for his righteousness. Alma testified of his power among men:

But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the High Priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.

Now, there were many before him, and also there were many afterwards, but none were greater; therefore of him they have more particularly made mention. (Alma 13:18-19)

It is regrettable that the scriptures give us so little information about Melchizedek. He was a monumental figure and a model example of the power and majesty of the Priesthood.

To understand the nature of the Priesthood, one must understand its order and functions. From the Inspired Translation come the following descriptions of Melchizedek and his Priesthood after that order:

Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child, he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.

[22]         And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an High Priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch.

It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God.

And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.

For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course.

To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to His will, according to His command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.

And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.

And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and he was called the prince of peace.

And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world;

And hath said, and sworn with an oath, that the heavens and the earth should come together; and the sons of God should be tried so as by fire.

And this Melchizedek, having thus established righteousness, was called the king of heaven by his people, or, in other words, the king of peace. (Gen. 34:26-36, Insp. Vers.)


[23]         So well did Melchizedek honor the Priesthood that it was named after him. An explanation was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith:

There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood. Why the first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest. Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God. But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood. (D & C 107:1-4)

The Priesthood can be traced from Adam down to Moses, as recorded in modern scripture. Moses received it—-

. . . under the hand of his father-in-law, Jethro;

And Jethro received it under the hand of Caleb;

And Caleb received it under the hand of Elihu;

And Elihu under the hand of Jeremy;

And Jeremy under the hand of God;

And Gad under the hand of Esaias;

And Esaias received it under the hand of God.

Esaias also lived in the days of Abraham, and was blessed of him—-

Which Abraham received the Priesthood from Melchizedek; who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah;

And from Noah till Enoch, through the lineage of their fathers;

And from Enoch to Abel, who was slain by the conspiracy of his brother, who received the Priesthood by the commandments of God, by the hand of his father Adam, who was the first man—-

Which Priesthood continueth in the church of God in all generations, and is without beginning of days or end of years.

[24]         And the Lord confirmed a Priesthood also upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations, which priesthood also continueth and abideth forever with the Priesthood which is after the holiest order of God. (D & C 84:6-18)

Thus, the Priesthood came from Adam down to Abraham by right of lineage or “seed”. He received the promise, or right, to possess the Priesthood, as described in the Pearl of Great Price:

But the records of the fathers, even the patriarchs, concerning the right of Priesthood, the Lord my God preserved in mine own hands; therefore a knowledge of the beginning of the creation, and also of the planets, and of the stars, as they were made known unto the fathers, have I kept even unto this day, and I shall endeavor to write some of these things upon this record, for the benefit of my posterity that shall come after me. (Abraham 1:31)

And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of god, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.

It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundations of the earth to the present time, even the right of the first-born, on the first man, who is Adam, our first father, through the fathers, unto me.

I sought for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God unto the fathers concerning the seed. (Abraham 1:2-4)


[25]         Abraham traced the Priesthood to Melchizedek from whom he sought those rights and blessings. And Melchizedek:

. . . lifted up his voice, and he blessed Abram, being the High Priest . . . and it came to pass that God blessed Abram, . . . and gave unto him riches, and honor, and lands for an everlasting possession; according to the covenants which He had made, and according to the blessing wherewith Melchizedek had blessed him.  (Gen. 15:37, 40, Insp. Trans.)

Only a few of the children of Israel, out of millions, were worthy to receive the higher Priesthood of Melchizedek. Only a few went up the mountain to see God and receive the higher ordinances of the Gospel. Because so many of the children of Israel were incapable of living the gospel which their fathers obeyed, God gave them the law of carnal commandments. They received an order of Priesthood to suit their conditions and worthiness.

Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also;

And the Lesser Priesthood continued, which Priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory Gospel;

Which Gospel is the Gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in His wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb.

For he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood and was ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of His people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power. (D & C 84:25-28; see also Ex. 34:1-2, Insp. Trans.)


[26]         Aaron, the brother of Moses, and his four sons, were called to hold the Lesser Priesthood and to administer the ordinances pertaining to the Priest’s office. This authority was only a part of the powers of the Higher Priesthood and so is called the Lesser Priesthood. It is, therefore, part of the higher Priesthood. Aaron seems to have held the same position as a present Presiding Bishop who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood but presides over the Levitical or Aaronic. This Lesser Priesthood would continue until the time of Christ, who would once again restore the Higher Priesthood and ordinances. According to John Taylor:

The Aaronic Priesthood, being continued, held the Urim and Thummim, and gave direction to Joshua who was set apart by Moses, and to Saul, David, Solomon and others, who were anointed and set apart to their kingly power, and to rule over and to lead and to direct Israel, and this state of things continued until Christ. The High Priests of the Aaronic Priesthood being the acknowledged representatives of God, holding the priestly power; whilst the kings were anointed by them, or by their priestly authority, and the kings and rulers had to get the word of the Lord from the Aaronic Priesthood, or through the Urim and Thummim. It is evident that all the Aaronic Priesthood did not have the Urim and Thummim, nor did they call, anoint, or direct kings, or bear rule in the nations; but only the High Priest—-one man—-and one man presided over the actions of all the other Priests in Israel, and regulated the actions of the kings, telling them when to go to war, and when not to, and giving unto them the word of the Lord through the Urim and Thummim. (“Items on Priesthood”, John Taylor, p. 12)


The Aaronic Priesthood was given according to the ability and worthiness of the children of Israel. If they would have lived higher laws, they would have received the higher Priesthood. Hence, Priesthood is commensurate with the law. Paul says:


[27]         If therefore perfection were by the Levitical Priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another Priest should rise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the Priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. (Heb. 7:11-12)

Even with the lesser Priesthood, the leaders in Israel made errors and sinned. Some abused their offices in the Priesthood; others unworthily kept the offices of their kingship so that the Priesthood often became corrupted and dishonored. Occasionally God manifested His displeasure upon leader and lay member alike. Thus the Aaronic Priesthood continued, more or less, until John the Baptist.

It is interesting to note that many individual men were called to be prophets and given the Higher Priesthood. This Higher Priesthood was taken only from Israel as a nation, not from worthy individuals. The Prophet Joseph Smith elaborates:

Nevertheless, though the Higher Priesthood had been taken from Israel as a body, it was not permanently taken from the earth. Between the time of Moses and the coming of Jesus Christ, there were at various times, and perhaps at all times, holy men prophets of the Lord, such as Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Elijah, and others, who received the Holy Priesthood as part of their special commissions in the service of the Lord. Some of these holders of the Priesthood are among the most important figures in ecclesiastical history. Through them the word of the Lord was transmitted from generation to generation. Elijah was the last prophet, before Christ, who held “the keys of the authority to administer in all the ordinances of the Priesthood”. (DHC 4:207)


[28] New Testament Priesthood

John the Baptist came preaching and baptizing in the River Jordan. He did this under the authority of the Lesser or Aaronic Priesthood, but Christ would re-establish the Higher or Melchizedek Priesthood.

John’s ministry came in the meridian of time, when the Gospel was about to be revealed again through Jesus Christ. John preached repentance, and baptized under the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood. The law of Moses, that is, the law of carnal commandments, was fulfilled when Christ introduced the Gospel ordinances, but the Aaronic Priesthood remained intact; it now came under the direction and control of the Melchizedek Priesthood, being appended to the higher. Many of the rites and observances of this Priesthood were abolished with the passing of the old law, and new office and work was introduced under the Gospel dispensation. * * *

John, the son of Zacharias, was probably the last who held the keys of the Lesser or Aaronic Priesthood among the Jews. He was raised up and sent as the forerunner of Christ to prepare the way for His first coming. And he was also sent to the world in this dispensation to begin the work of preparation for Christ’s second advent. (Gospel Doctrine, Jos. Fldg. Smith, pp. 19, 191)

Christ came to bear the Higher Priesthood and to teach and practice all of the promises, principles and laws pertaining to that Priesthood. We can assume that He did not receive all of that authority until after he had been baptized by John, because baptism is the door through which all must pass to receive the Priesthood.

The King James translators wrote that Jesus went “into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matt. 4:1), but when the Prophet Joseph translated it, he wrote: “Then Jesus [29] was led up of the Spirit, into the wilderness, to be with God.” This probably was the time that Jesus received the Higher Priesthood from God, because this was the proper order of that Priesthood. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself.” (TPJS, p. 181) Christ was very well acquainted with his Father and would need the Higher Priesthood to begin his ministry, and he, too, would receive it directly from God.

He <Christ> ordained Apostles and Seventies, and left with His followers the authority of the Holy Priesthood, under which the Church could be fully organized for the purposes of the plan of salvation. The Higher Priesthood was restored, and those who in earlier dispensations had held the keys of power came forth to confer them on the Apostles. Moses and Elias, possessing the keys of their dispensations, with the Savior, in the mount, gave the keys of presiding authority to Peter, James and John. Thus the chain of authority was kept complete. (Studies in Priesthood, LDS lesson manual, p. 10)

It is important to know that Jesus also came to the American continent to establish His church over here. It is written in the Book of Mormon:

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 [30] blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me, and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am. (3 Ne. 12:1)

These disciples were given all the authority that other disciples received. Joseph F. Smith declared:

The Melchizedek Priesthood was confirmed upon the Nephite disciples upon this continent, after His resurrection and ascension on high. These He made 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. Fldg. Smith, p. 190)

This is a precedence established by Christ Himself, that He can have two or more churches on the earth at the same time. It is evident that the Priesthood can operate in several different places at the same time with or without the consent or knowledge of the other. Wherever disciples have the Higher Priesthood, there will be the higher laws and men obeying them. Sometimes, due to unworthiness, location or other factors, the Lord may have several places at a time where His Priesthood is operating. It is evident that this happened during Christ’s ministry in the meridian of time.



The Priesthood Restoration

Shortly after the death of Christ, mankind groped in darkness for nearly 2,000 years without the Priesthood. Good men had to struggle and suffer under the tyranny of controlling church authority. As men began to liberate themselves from the abusive powers of those in authority who thought they were acting for God, the way began to be opened for God to restore the Priesthood. Those “rights of the Priesthood are [31] inseparably connected with the powers of heaven,” and as man became worthy, the heavens were opened to them and the Priesthood was bestowed upon them.

Two interesting accounts of the restoration of the Aaronic and the Melchizedek Priesthood are included here. First, Oliver Cowdery gives his glorious account of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood:

On a sudden, as from the midst of eternity, the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us. While the veil was parted and the angel of God  <John the Baptist> came down clothed with glory, and delivered the anxiously looked for message, and the keys of the Gospel of repentance. What joy! What wonder! What amazement! While the world was racked and distracted—-while millions were groping as the blind for the wall, and while all men were resting upon uncertainty, as a general mass, our eyes beheld, our ears heard, as in the “blaze of day”; yes, more—-above the glitter of the May sunbeam, which then shed its brilliancy over the face of nature! Then his voice, though mild, pierced to the center, and his words, “I am thy fellow-servant,” dispelled every fear. We listened, we gazed, we admired! ‘Twas the voice of an angel, from glory, ’twas a message from the Most High! And as we heard we rejoiced, while His love enkindled upon our souls, and we were wrapped in the vision of the Almighty! Where was room for doubt? Nowhere; uncertainty had fled, doubt had sunk no more to rise, while fiction and deception had fled forever!

But, dear brother, think, further think for a moment, what joy filled our hearts, and with what surprise we must have bowed, (for who would not have bowed the knee for such a blessing?) when we received under his hand the Holy Priesthood as he said, “Upon you my fellow-servants, in the name of the Messiah, I confer this Priesthood and this authority, which shall [32] remain upon the earth, that the Sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness!”

I shall not attempt to paint to you the feelings of this heart, nor the majestic beauty and glory which surrounded us on this occasion; but you will believe me when I say, that earth, nor men, with the eloquence of time, cannot begin to clothe language in as interesting and sublime a manner as this holy personage. No, nor has this earth power to give the joy, to bestow the peace or comprehend the wisdom which was contained in each sentence as they were delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit! Man may deceive his fellow-men, deception may follow deception, and the children of the wicked one may have power to seduce the foolish and untaught, till naught but fiction feeds the many, and the fruit of falsehood carries in its current the giddy to the grave; but one touch with the finger of his love, yes, one ray of glory from the upper world, or one word from the mouth of the Savior, from the bosom of eternity, strikes it all into insignificance, and blots it forever from the mind. The assurance that we were in the presence of an angel, the certainty that we heard the voice of Jesus, and the truth unsullied as it flowed from a pure personage, dictated by the will of God, is to me past description, and I shall ever look upon this expression of the Savior’s goodness with wonder and thanksgiving while I am permitted to tarry; and in those mansions where perfection dwells and sin never comes, I hope to adore in that day which shall never cease. (Times and Seasons 2:201)


Addison Everett describes the time and place of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood in a letter to Oliver B. Huntington:

St. George, Utah

February 7, 1881

Brother Oliver B. Huntington,

Dear Brother:

[33]         In answer to your request I will state that I heard the following conversation between Joseph and Hyrum in the front of the “Mansion” (Nauvoo) a few days before they were martyred. In the conversation Oliver Cowdery was spoken of—-Joseph said, “Poor boy!” He went on and said that at Coleville, he and Oliver were under arrest on a charge of deceiving the people. When they were at the justice’s house for trial in the evening, all were waiting for M. Reid, Joseph’s lawyer. And while waiting, the justice asked Joseph some questions. . . . Mr. Reid came in and said he wanted to speak to his clients in private and that the law allowed him that privilege he believed. The judge pointed to a room in the back part of the house and told them to step in there. As soon as they got into the room, the lawyer said there was a mob outside in front of the house, “and if they get hold of you, they will perhaps do you bodily injury; and I think the best way for you to get out of this is to get right out there,” pointing to the window and hoisting it. They got into the woods in going a few rods from the house. It was night and they travelled through brush and water and mud, fell over logs, etc., until Oliver was exhausted; then  Joseph helped him along through the mud and water, almost carrying him.

They travelled all night, and just at the break of day, Oliver gave out entirely and exclaimed, “O Lord! Brother Joseph, how long have we got to endure this thing?” They sat down on a log to rest, and Joseph said that at that very time, Peter, James and John came to them and ordained them to the apostleship.

They had sixteen or seventeen miles to go to get back to Mr. Hale’s, his father-in-law’s, but Oliver did not complain any more of fatigue.

Now, Brother Huntington, I have told you what I heard Brother Joseph tell. It is a source of satisfaction to have seen and heard the Prophet of God.


Yours truly,

Addison Everett (signed)

(Quoted in the Young Women’s Journal 2:75-77)


[34]         With the restoration of the Priesthood, came all the fiery darts of the adversary. From the sacred grove to the present, the Priesthood of God has been opposed by the priesthood of the Devil. Mobs formed against the little church in Kirtland, and they continued their opposition until they were driven to Missouri and then on to Nauvoo. From there they were driven out west to the wilderness. The object of this warfare is to destroy the Priesthood—-by death, discouragement, neglect, or by changing the laws upon which it is predicated. The Devil is always in diligent pursuit of the Priesthood of God.

And so for the past 160 years men have been tested as to the value they place on their Priesthood. Many men have lost this gift and power because of trials and temptations, as they were brought into the fires of purification—-to burn out the dross and to sanctify the gold. Elder B. H. Roberts describes the heritage of faithful Priesthood bearers:

Then how blessed, indeed, someone will exclaim, must they be who are born to riches, who were born to titles, to dukedoms, earldoms, and lordships! How faithful must they have been who inherit these privileges and blessings! Whose life is one continuous summer, whose existence is as a sea without a ripple! Nay, I pray you, take no such view of it as that. This class that I have described are not the most blessed among men. When you would point to those who are the favored sons of God, and who enjoy the best and highest privileges in this life, you must take into account the object for which man came here. That object is to gain an experience. Hence, those are the most blessed who live in the midst of conditions that give the widest experience. The favored sons of God are not those furthest removed from trial, from sorrow, from affliction. It is the fate, apparently, of those whom God most loves that they suffer most, that they might gain the experience for which men came into this world. It is not the smooth seas and the favorable winds that [35] make your best seamen. It is experience in stormy weather; it is the ocean lashed into a fury by the winds, until the fretted waves roll mountain high and make the “laboring bark climb hills of sea and duck again and again, as low as hell is from heaven.” It is when the lightning splits the clouds, when the masts are splintered, when the ropes are tangled, and all is confusion, that the sailor learns to control his fear and stand unmoved and calm in the midst of the threatening difficulties about him. Those are the experiences that make good sailors. And so the sorrows, the afflictions, the trials, the poverty, the imprisonment, the mobbings, the hatred of mankind are experiences that furnish men an opportunity to prove whether or not the material is in them to outride the storms of life, prove their right and title to that exaltation and glory which God has in reserve for the faithful.  (“Priesthood and Trials”, in What Is Man?, B. H. Roberts, Des. News, Mar. 9, 1895)

Looking back into history, we can see how few men have honored the Priesthood, and most of them have had mobs, cities, states, and nations oppose them. Through the press, over pulpits, and by the sword have Priesthood holders been opposed, imprisoned, or even killed. But because of these adversities, manÕs worthiness to hold this Priesthood is often tested. Will he adhere to, obey and protect the laws and doctrines of the Priesthood at all costs? Or will he compromise and disobey even weakening to the point that his Priesthood is lost? Priesthood can be either a blessing or a curse.

When the laws of the Priesthood are obeyed, it can become a power unequal to any other force. When they are disobeyed, it can result in both  spiritual and temporal disaster. Men who have honored the Priesthood have healed the sick, cast out devils, walked on water, and raised the dead. Even greater than these, they have conversed with angels and talked with God. What greater honor can God give to man?



[36]                              Chapter 3



He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion. (2 Ne. 26:29)

A priest is required to be different from all other men. He should have two distinguishing features: one is in the nature of the office he holds, and the other is in his character. His office commands him to labor and teach and administer the principles and ordinances of the Gospel. But his greatest labor should be to accept and perfect those principles in his own character.

From a retrospect of the requirements of the servants of God to preach the Gospel, we find FEW qualified even to be Priests. . . . (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 112)

Difficulty arises because men are prone to do evil because of the forces of the natural man. By overcoming evil they seek to do the will of God. Thus it is by their “works” that the inner man can be detected, for—-

. . . every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. * * * It is against the nature of a good man to do evil, just as it is for a wicked man to [37] do good. Because of this simple fact, Jesus concluded by saying, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt. 7:17-18, 20)

The power of the Priesthood should be reflected in the lives and character of those who bear it.

The power, glory and blessings of the Priesthood could not continue with those who received ordination only as their righteousness continued; for Cain also being authorized to offer sacrifice, but not offering it in righteousness, was cursed.  It signifies, then, that the ordinances must be kept in the very way God has appointed; otherwise their Priesthood will prove a cursing instead of a blessing. (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 169)

According to the scriptures a (high) priest is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God (Heb. 5:1) and to bring men to God (Ibid. 7:25), but in both ancient and contemporary times, not many do.

According to Jeremias, the historian, there were approximately 18,000 priests in the time of Jesus. Very few of them saw in that Great High Priest, the kind of virtue they wanted to see. The Priests made the temple of God into a den of thieves; they  took the widow’s money; they strained at gnats and swallowed camels. In general, they had very few qualities relevant to the office of Priest. Although Jesus was “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4), they could not recognize the Lord of lords.

These Jewish leaders were lovers of mammon and had turned themselves into Priests after the order of the world; and they despised Jesus for telling them so. In desperation to cover their sins and gratify their pride, they hired lawyers to trap Jesus, trying to pull Him down to their own level. But failing [38] to condemn Him by the law, they became outlaws and attempted to kill him.

These chief priests of Judah were afraid Jesus would cause them to lose their “place and nation”. (John 11:48) They were tied to Babylon and thereby had corrupted themselves and their holy office. They had sunk to the level that “none other nation on earth would crucify their God.” And so it was “because of priestcrafts and iniquities, they at Jerusalem will stiffen their necks against him, that he be crucified.” (2 Ne. 10:3, 5) And so it was.

When these priests rejected their great High Priest, they lost their own priesthood. They feared He would cause them to lose their “place and nation” if He remained alive; but when they killed Him, they most certainly lost it anyway.

In 2 Nephi chapter 26, several criteria are presented to help in distinguishing between priestcraft and priesthood;



In Priestcraft, men–


  1. build up many churches (v. 20) (for personal gain).
  2. “put down the power and miracles of God.” (v. 20)
  3. preach by “their own wisdom and their own learning.” (v. 20)
  4. preach “that they may get gain” and “grind upon the face of the                                             poor.” (v. 20)
  5. exalt themselves in their “pride.” (v. 20)
  6. work in darkness and secret combinations. (v. 22)
  7. set themselves up as a “light to the world.” (v. 29)
  8. labor for “money”. (v. 31)
  9. seek “praise of the world.” (v. 28)
  10. do not seek the welfare of Zion. (v. 29)


[39] In true Priesthood, men–


  1. do not work “in darkness”. (v. 23)
  2. “persuade all men to repentance.” (v. 27)
  3. “have charity” and “not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.”

(v. 30)

  1. “labor for Zion.” (not money) (v. 31)
  2. “doeth that which is good among the children of men.” (v. 33)
  3. “doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men.” (v. 33)
  4. work by the power of God and revelation. (v. 13)

In short, a false priest labors in and for the world; a true priest separates himself from it. A false priest labors under the jurisdiction of the world; the true priest labors under the direction of God.

There are few passages of scripture that better describe priestcraft than Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson–

That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

[40]         Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned. (vs. 34-41)

Although “many are called” to the Priesthood, yet only a “few are chosen” and truly magnify their call. This is because “their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world.” Some never receive the Priesthood because the things of this world are more attractive; some receive the Priesthood and then later turn to materialism. Mammon has great power! It buys businesses, real estate, and even nations; but its greatest power is captivating the hearts of men. Mammon was the devil’s greatest temptation for Christ–so it is to all the rest of mankind. Temporal wealth and temporal power–these are the two great temptations that so often work against the Priesthood.

And again, many are not chosen by the Lord because they “aspire to the honors of men.” How strange that pride, vanity, and self-esteem can replace the honor that belongs to the Father.

Vanity and self-pride are deeply imbedded in the very character of men because “it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” (D & C 121:39) However, if they use the Priesthood as an authority to aspire to honors or riches, it no longer remains a power of God.


[41]         One point of doctrine should be clarified here. God said that if men use Priesthood “in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” (D & C. 121:37) This does not mean that a man will actually lose his Priesthood. If that were true, then no mortal man would be holding any Priesthood today, for no man is perfect. It means that if a man does something wrong, in any degree of unrighteousness, then the Spirit of the Lord is grieved and will not sanction that particular act of Priesthood The more righteous a man acts, the more his Priesthood is manifest, magnified, and accepted by God. The more wicked a man becomes, the less his Priesthood functions and he can eventually lose the power of the Priesthood and even the Priesthood itself.

The Priesthood requires a condition in which–

. . . we should walk not merely in the authority of the appointment, but in the virtues and qualities that are its necessary accompaniments. . . . The authority to be the Father’s representatives has been given us, and the legality of our administrations has been acknowledged on high, but whether we are the Father’s representatives beyond holding His authority remains yet to be seen. One thing is certain–Divine Authority alone is not sufficient to make us representatives of God; some men possess that, but nothing else. (Mill. Star 20:641)

As explained, then, some men who bear the Priesthood possess the authority of God but not the attributes. They are the type to give and take orders, but they seldom reflect the inspiration to think and act for themselves. They fall into the “businessman’s” world and soon conduct the affairs of God after the manner of the merchants. They employ salesmanship, [42] advertising, good will meetings, business transactions, and all the tools of company public relations to gain their converts.

But what has their new subject been converted to? Has he gained a testimony of the spiritual powers of the Priesthood, or is he just another cog in the machinery or another statistical number to the corporation? Jesus rebuked the priests, scribes and Pharisees for such activities by saying, “ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” (Matt. 23:15)

The call of God to the modern-day missionary is the same as it has always been: “ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.” (D & C 29:7) The elect rejoice in the spiritual powers of the Priesthood; the “unelect” rejoice in the temporal powers of the corporation.


The work of the Priesthood, then, should not be just to fill the Church with a vast number of members. God wants quality rather than quantity, for He seeks a people He can speak to. “Holy Father,” said Jesus, “the world hath not known thee,” and surely the hosts of the world do not know Him today. God not only wants His people to preach true principles, He wants them to live those principles. In doing that, they can bring heaven to earth, rather than mammon to heaven.

To most Latter-day Saints today the Priesthood means status. Their Priesthood office and title have a prestigious temporal appearance, and it seems that the man with the most money is the man most blessed with a higher Priesthood position. Generally speaking, the wealthier he is, the more “qualified” he is for a promotion in the Church. Have you seen [43] very many poor Stake Presidents or poor General Authorities? It seems apparent that a fine car, a large home, and a successful business are all necessary criteria for selecting mission presidents, stake presidents, and Apostles in the Church. These temporal assets may bring respect from the rest of the world, but the Prophet Joseph said, “The world always mistook false prophets for true ones” and that the true prophets were “the most honorable men of the earth”, yet they were always “banished from society.” (TPJS, p. 206) So often poverty followed the prophets, but wealth was a partner of pride.

The Priesthood does not come with the same aura as manÕs authority. It is neither given by man, nor can it be taken away by man. Priesthood comes from God; it is controlled by Him and can be taken away only by Him. When man attempts to control or govern others with his Priesthood, then it becomes priestcraft. How often Priesthood holders will tell others “obey me or you cannot function in the Priesthood or its ordinances”, or “obey me or be excommunicated.” Nephi described this delicate situation by saying:

Wherefore he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation. Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth. . . . Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance. Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden. He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, [44] priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world. . . . (2 Nephi 26:24-29)

Priesthood is not a power to govern others, but to serve and protect them. It does not dictate orders, but teaches principles. By teaching correct principles, individuals are free to govern their own lives. The responsibility is their own. Priesthood has little or no relevance to a military-like authority, for it has no command/obey system. It has never operated with a top-to-bottom ripple effect, where the leader commands and all others must obey. The President of the Church mandates the appointments, offices and work of the Church, but not the lives of individuals. Free agency is the fertile soil in which Priesthood thrives.

It is a self-governing power designed to exalt the individual himself, not to exalt someone else. Neither can one person totally depend on guidance from another, even though he be a prophet. For the Prophet Joseph said:

. . . the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, . . . (TPJS, pp. 237-238)

True priests and high priests officiate in ordinances necessary in the work of salvation, such as baptisms, sacrament, blessings, and ordinations–with all their attending signs, tokens, rituals, and sacrifices. To perform such a righteous work requires dedication, devotion, and a great deal [45] of time and study. The obligations of the Priesthood are not simple or easy, as the Lord describes in the following passage:

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile– * * *

. . . let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever. (D & C 121:41-42, 45-46)

Priesthood is a free agency authority designed to allow men the potential of growing in power, might and excellence until they are capable of enjoying every ordinance, accepting every correct principle and performing every possible good work, even to the creation of immense stellar systems. Mortal man’s authority and power are limited and will soon vanish into the records of the past; but the rights, blessings and opportunities of the Priesthood are unlimited and will progress forever and ever.

In fact, that Priesthood is a perfect law of theocracy, and stands as God to give laws to the people, administering endless lives to the sons and daughters of Adam. (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 322)

There is a spirit and desire that attend the man with Priesthood; it acts as a constant source of energy, enthusiasm and joy to his soul. He thrives in its labor, without remuneration, because he so dearly loves it.


[46]         What, then, is the priesthood on this earth? It is what Brigham Young and the Twelve wrote in the Times and Seasons in 1839, they called the priesthood an “onerous duty,” a load to be borne. (“Priesthood”, Hugh Nibley, Sunstone, Dec. 1990, p. 11)

The Prophet Joseph described it as “an untiring zeal” which also “fired the souls of the ancient patriarchs and prophets.” (TPJS, p. 232)

Parley P. Pratt understood this “energy” and “zeal” that attended the Priesthood. He along with others noticed the awesome responsibility that is assumed by the bearer, and it cannot be easily set aside. The faithful man who holds the Priesthood will become dedicated to it; it becomes the aim and destiny of his very soul. Parley proclaimed:

You have been baptized, you have had the laying on of hands, and some have been ordained, and some anointed with a holy anointing. A spirit has been given you. And you will find, if you undertake to rest, it will be the hardest work you ever performed. I came home here from a foreign mission. I presented myself to our President, and inquired what I should do now. “Rest,” said he.

If I had been set to turn the world over, to dig down a mountain, to go to the ends of the earth, or traverse the deserts of Arabia, it would have been easier than to have undertaken to rest, while the Priesthood was upon me. I have received the holy anointing, and I can never rest till the last enemy is conquered, death destroyed, and truth reigns triumphant.

May God bless you all. Amen. (JD 1:15)

The Holy Priesthood is designed to be the greatest power for good among men. It can become a tremendous blessing, or the cause of great sorrow and cursing. The bearer should avoid pride and compromises with the world. Too many [47] men ordained to the Priesthood do not remain faithful to it. No man has the power to do much of real worth in this life unless he continually seeks for that which is right. The Prophet Joseph explained, “A man can do nothing for himself unless God direct him in the right way; and the Priesthood is for that purpose.” (TPJS, p. 364)

A true priest loves to obey the principles and ordinances of the Gospel, because they are the highest good that he can perceive. The results of his labors extend beyond the confines of mortality; they reach into the eternal worlds. But other men labor for the things of this world, and this is the distinction between Priesthood and Priestcraft.

This, then, is true priesthood–to be images of the living God, exhibiting in our characteristics His brightness and His strength; to be girt and endowed with the purity of His nature; to be unsullied in heart and mind; to stand by the strength of redeeming, saving qualities; to bless, and bless, and bless again, not withstanding ingratitude in some–building, sustaining, and protecting all the time; to fight all spirits of division and all principles of death; to help the weak, the downtrodden, and the helpless, till helping becomes our natural food, working on all principles that yield nourishment, support, and strength–till our very presence is as the sun, cheering and blessing all. So shall God increase within us, refreshing our own spirits, and watering all around, and characteristics of the Holy Priesthood will grow out from us like the branches of a fruitful tree that yield shelter, shield, and fruit. (E. Harrison, Mill. Star 20:643)

If a man can do this, he shall surely exemplify that he bears the Priesthood of God!



[48]                              Chapter 4



The Priesthood in the last days has to be manifested in sufficient power to bear off the kingdom of God triumphant, that all Israel may be gathered and saved. * * * The Priesthood appears greater than the powers of the earth. The powers of the Priesthood must be manifest before the eyes of all the world, and become transcendently above every other influence. (Franklin D. Richards, JD 1:321)

Men are to use their Priesthood in the same manner that God uses His Priesthood. In the pre-mortal world He used it to protect the free agency of all His children. He did not compel or force or demand. No force was used against Lucifer and his hosts until they rebelled and made war.

From the records we have pertaining to that pre-mortal history, we can grasp a few significant keys regarding the Priesthood:


  1. God did not employ any form of tyranny over His spirit children.


  1. Christ did not propose a plan that included any kind of force. Men were to use free agency and free thinking.


  1. It was Lucifer’s system that was to impose strict obedience by force, and he was to be followed. Lucifer wanted a military system.


[49] 4. Priesthood power was to be used against evil and wickedness.


  1. Pre-mortals were allowed total freedom to choose the plan they wanted to follow; mortals were supposed to have the same freedom.

From the brief glimpse we have of the pre-mortal world, and from the short history of men who have held the Priesthood, there are only a few things that Priesthood powers should be used for:


  1. Maintaining power over evil spirits.
  2. Controlling the elements of the earth.
  3. Protecting the rights of free agency.
  4. Administering ordinances.
  5. Blessings and cursings.

These five main areas of Priesthood powers will be considered in this chapter.


  1. Maintaining Power over Evil Spirits

Over whom does it exercise power, then? Over the spirits. . . . (Nibley, op. cit., p. 11)

There are two basic opposing forces within the universe: good and evil–often represented in light and darkness, truth and error, etc. These contending forces are frequently displayed through spirits of men and devils.

The power of God operates through the spirits of the good, and evil spirits also have a power that they use. There is a constant warfare between these two forces. However, the Priesthood of God has the higher power to control  all foul and wicked spirits. When men bearing the Priesthood speak by the [50] power of God, it manifests itself to the spirit of those who hear. It may be a small still voice or it may be much more powerful. When the righteous Nephites heard the voice of God–

They heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice, it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn. (3 Nephi 11:3)

On another occasion Nephi’s body was filled with that same power. It was at the time when his older brothers were trying to throw him into the sea. The Lord told Nephi:

Stretch forth thine hand again unto thy brethren, and they shall not wither before thee, but I will shock them, saith the Lord, and this will I do, that they may know that I am the Lord their God. And it came to pass that I stretched forth my hand unto my brethren, and they did not wither before me; but the Lord did shake them, even according to the word which he had spoken. (1 Nephi 17:53-54)

It is important to understand that this power was done so “that they may know that I am the Lord their God,” not to glorify any mortal man. Most men want such a power so they may be exalted in the eyes of others. Nephi said his brothers “fell down before me, and were about to worship me, but I would not suffer them.”

It is also written that when “Enoch spake forth the words of God, the people trembled, and could not [51] stand his presence.” (Moses 6:47) They knew that he had the power of God, but still they persisted in wickedness and would not be converted.

The first powers manifest in the ministry of Christ had to deal with combatting the evil powers of Satan. From the Inspired Translation of the Bible we read, “Then Jesus was led up of the Spirit, into the wilderness, to be with God.” (Matt. 4:1) But, he was rudely interrupted by a former acquaintance who asked some favors and quoted scripture.  However, Jesus responded with additional scripture, and the visitor (Satan) was disappointed with the visit and left. Through that encounter, Jesus became a champion over the powers of evil. It was necessary for Him to have that victory if He were to help others to do the same.

When Jesus called His Apostles and Seventies, He gave them a special Priesthood commission saying, “Heal the sick; cleanse the lepers; raise the dead; cast out devils; freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:8) That was the power they were to use in connection with the Priesthood–not a command over men, or the subjugation of their souls.

One of the first miracles the disciples experienced was connected with the spiritual powers of the Priesthood. It is written:

And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:17-20)


[52]         The disciples were not excited about the praise and honor of men; they were not rejoicing that multitudes of people wanted to become their subjects; neither did they mention a power to cast a spell of servitude over the multitudes. They rejoiced in their Priesthood power over evil spirits.

God sent Lucifer and his hosts to the earth, and they were allowed specific areas of jurisdiction. Like a dog on a leash, they could not go beyond certain bounds. There still were specific means of communication and privileges that the devil requested permission to use. For example, in the book of Job it is written that Satan had to make a report of his activities. He replied that he had been “going to and fro in the earth and from walking up and down in it.” (Job 1:7) He also asked permission and received the right to take power over Job’s possessions. Later he returned and asked permission to have power over his body. “The Lord said unto Satan, Behold he is in thine hand; but save his life.” (2:6)

Christ Himself showed how Priesthood power could be used over evil spirits:

. . . there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?

And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. (Matt. 8:28-32)


[53]         This instance of “deviled ham” illustrates how evil spirits eagerly seek possession of physical bodies. Oftentimes mortals (by their unholy actions) allow them to take possession of their bodies. The Priesthood is the power to keep the proper balance when they try to go beyond their jurisdiction.

Jesus and His disciples were continually confronted by people who had been influenced by evil spirits. Some could be cast out easily, while others were much more difficult. In one instance it reads:

Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.

Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.

Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. (Matt. 17:15-21)

Several important factors are alluded to in this account; for example: (a) The disciples could not cast out the evil spirit because of their unbelief. (b) Jesus was angered because the disciples had the responsibility to cast out evil spirits, yet they had such little faith they couldn’t do it. (c) The disciples were required to gain sufficient faith over this type of evil spirit by prayer and fasting.


[54]         In this dispensation, when the first few LDS missionaries arrived in England, they were met by evil spirits. Heber C. Kimball briefly  described this experience:

We could distinctly see the evil spirits, who foamed and gnashed their teeth at us. We gazed upon them about an hour and a half. * * * and we saw the devils coming in legions, with their leaders, who came within a few feet of us. (Life of Heber C. Kimball, Orson F. Whitney, p. 130)

When they overcame Heber, Orson Hyde stood against them and said, “I stood between you (Heber) and the devils and fought them and contended with them face to face, until they began to diminish in number and to retreat from the room.” The last one to leave said to Orson Hyde, “I never said anything against you!” Hyde replied, “It matters not to me whether you have or not; you are a liar from the beginning! In the name of Jesus Christ, depart! He immediately left, and the room was clear.” (Ibid., p. 131)

Later when Heber related this to the Prophet Joseph, he replied that those missionaries were very near the Lord and there was only a veil between them and the Lord, but they could not see Him. The Prophet said,

When I heard of it, it gave me great joy, for then I knew that the work of God had taken root in that land. It was this that caused the devil to make a struggle to kill you. * * * The nearer a person approaches the Lord, a greater power will be manifested by the adversary to prevent the accomplishment of His purposes. (Ibid., p. 132)

Heber C. Kimball later said, “I have seen evil spirits attempt to overcome those holding the Priesthood, and I know how they act.” (JD 4:137)


[55]         Men who honor the Priesthood will have opposition from the evil one, but they will eventually have power over those wicked spirits. Brigham Young declared:

When we have done with the flesh, and have departed to the spirit world, you will find that we are independent of those evil spirits. But while you are in the flesh you will suffer by them, and cannot control them, only by your faith in the name of Jesus Christ and by the keys of the eternal Priesthood. (JD 4:133)

In this world men must walk with faith, with knowledge and with the power of the Priesthood or they will be overcome. Joseph Smith said, “Wicked spirits have their bounds, limits, and laws by which they are governed or controlled . . . and they possess a power that none but those who have the Priesthood can control. . . . ” (TPJS, p. 208) Men who bear the Priesthood cannot expect a normal life as other men. They will discover that the forces of evil will continually trouble them in one way or another. The Prophet Joseph added:

He that will war the true Christian warfare against the corruptions of these last days will have wicked men and angels of devils, and all the infernal powers of darkness continually arrayed against him. When wicked and corrupt men oppose, it is a criterion to judge if a man is warring the Christian warfare. (TPJS, p. 259)

A good man must continue the fight or be overcome. There is no compromise, and the Prophet warned the Elders about Satan: “You cannot watch him too closely, nor pray too much.” (TPJS, p. 25) Evil spirits are miserable and they want others to be the same. Yet they are permitted to be here for a purpose: they provide the means for a man to become closer to God. The Prophet explained:


[56]         We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker and is caught up to dwell with Him. (TPJS, p. 51)

In this life we look “through the glass darkly,” and sometimes it appears to be completely black.

Men with the Priesthood need to be acutely aware that evil spirits are ever present in this life and be constantly alert and on guard against them. If men don’t exercise their Priesthood power to control evil spirits, then the evil spirits will control them.



  1. Controlling the Elements of the Earth

Over whom does it exercise power, then? Over the spirits and over the elements . . . . (Nibley, op. cit., p. 11)

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1) Thus by the power of the Priesthood, two of the greatest organizations of elements began for this earth. So, “through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God. . . .” (Heb. 11:3) Then it is written, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen. 1:27)

Surely if God created the heavens, the earth, and man, he must still maintain power over those creations. Throughout the ancient scriptures we read that God and His servants used [57] the powers of the Priesthood to control such elements as pillars of fire and fiery furnaces, the waters of the Red Sea, the River Jordan, and Galilee. Jesus and Peter walked upon the water, and Jesus changed water to wine. The earth was made to quake; and Joshua stopped its rotation; and even mighty storms were quelled. The elements of the earth–mountains, waters, and precious metals all obeyed their command.

Even the living things would obey, as the prophets brought frogs, lice, and flies; they had power over famines, diseases, the deaf, the blind and the lame. They even raised the dead back to life. The miracles of Moses were examples of this Priesthood power over both the elements. and living things.

Frequently death or judgment were inflicted, but the miracles of Christ often showed compassion and love. The first miracle of Moses was to turn water into blood, but the first miracle of Christ was to turn water into wine. Moses commanded the waters to descend upon the armies of the Egyptians to destroy them; Christ quelled the stormy waters to protect His disciples. But both Moses and Christ used their Priesthood power over the elements to best promote the cause of the Gospel.

Joshua, the protege and successor of Moses, also witnessed the powers of the Priesthood, such as the River Jordan opening up as the Red Sea did for Moses. Because of this miracle, Joshua told the Israelites that “ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites.” (Joshua 3:10) The Israelites must have been slow to understand this miracle because they had to divide the River Jordan three times! (See Joshua 3; 2 Kings 2:8; 2:14)


[58]         Joshua had other experiences with great miracles, one of which was controlling stone; he brought the mighty stone walls surrounding Jericho to the ground! Then came the most astounding of all: commanding the earth and sun to stand still to allow for another day of light.

According to the New Testament, miracles were commonplace during the ministry of Christ. Because they were well known, word soon reached surrounding countries concerning this Jesus who performed these great miracles. But they were never performed for fame, personal aggrandizement, nor for adding converts to the church; yet these are the reasons that most people attribute to miracles.

Most miracles are such to only those who do not understand how they are performed. To mankind, these acts appear to defy natural law; but to God, these phenomena conform to law, but a higher law than we are familiar with at this time. Most of us have trouble understanding how television waves travel through the air and come down a little metal rod into a full color picture–let alone comprehending the parting of the Red Sea, walking on water, and the plagues of Egypt. Brigham Young explained this–

The Lord Almighty could resuscitate a corpse lying before us a thousand times easier than He could control the congregation in this house. He has the material on hand, and He knows every process, and He could give life to a lifeless being with ease, by the elements He would operate upon and with. This is a great miracle in our estimation; but it would be no miracle at all to the Lord, because He knows precisely how to do it. There is no miracle to any being in the heavens or on the earth, only to the ignorant. (JD 13:33)


[59]         Men who bear the Priesthood should understand the powers connected with it and know when and why they are to be used. Exercising power over the elements is perhaps easier for God than trying to get people to serve Him.

Nephi had faith in the power of God that was with him, and he spoke to his brothers saying, “If God had commanded me to do all things, I could do them. If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done.” (1 Nephi 17:50)

It is written that the Lord also promised Enoch that “mountains shall flee before you, and the rivers shall turn from their course. . . .” (Moses 6:34) However, there was a time and a place for such events; it was not just for a “show and tell” or a magic program to entertain audiences.

Enoch’s mission was to gather a righteous people together (as taught in every dispensation), and after returning from one of his missions, he heard plans of a war against them. The great armies of their enemies were marching against the city of Enoch! These peaceful people were being descended upon by a vicious and powerful people who were well prepared for war. On the other hand, the city of Enoch probably had few or no weapons of war and were caught completely unprepared. Their only defense was to trust in the Lord. Yet these have been His instructions from the beginning of time. How often those words of comfort have been given to the Saints of God: “Trust in the Lord, for I will fight your battles!”

Dr. Cleon Skousen describes Enoch’s seemingly hopeless situation:

Instead of organizing large armies and building moats and trenches, Enoch went forth alone to meet [60] the savage and vengeful hosts which came pouring over the hills and plains to slaughter the people and seize the land. At exactly the precise moment when it would have the greatest effect, Enoch exercised the power of the Priesthood he possessed and solemnly spoke “the word of the Lord” in accordance with the divine instructions he had received. Immediately the convulsions of the earth roared forth in a mighty wave of grinding stone and trembling terrain which split the crust of the earth into gaping seams and turned the blood of the invading hosts to water. Mountains slipped from their foundations and slid across the path of the would-be conquerors. Rivers left their courses and sent a wall of churning destruction down upon the cringing legions of foot soldiers and chariots. In the hills and forests the terror of the hour gripped both man and beasts, and the scripture says the “roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness.”

This almost unbelievable display of power which the enemies of Enoch were close enough to hear him call down from heaven was so impressive that they who escaped fled fearfully to their own lands and spread the news of all they had witnessed. And they probably found ready listeners, for the quaking in the depths of the earth had been no small or local affair. Its violence had been felt over a vast area. During the quake a great peninsula of land had even sprung up out of the depths of the sea.

And another thing which was especially impressive at the moment was the fact that the great nation of strong and large-statured men who were referred to as “giants”–and who were undoubtedly feared above all other peoples because of their fierceness and strength–behold, these were no more anxious to be pitted against Enoch than the rest of his enemies. In fear of their lives, the scripture says these giants fled from their own land and “stood afar off.” (The First 2000 Years, Skousen, pp. 165-166)


[61]         The powers of the Priesthood have never changed. This power to control the elements has been used to protect the people of God, to strengthen their faith, and to destroy wickedness.



  1. Protecting the Rights of Free Agency

Over whom does it exercise power, then? Over the spirits and over the elements–never over one’s fellow men, whose free agency is absolute and inalienable. (Nibley, op cit., p. 11)

An intense battle existed before the foundation of this world. It engaged all the spirits of mortals that will ever come to earth, and a third more. This mighty war did not concern the word of wisdom, tithing, the Sabbath day, or things most religious leaders think are so important. The battle was over freedom.

Free agency was the main topic and it concerned everyone. It was a principle engaging the mightiest forces of the universe. Furthermore, it was the predominant reason to exert Priesthood powers of the Father. When God saw the forces of evil opposed to free agency, He used His powers to cast them out of heaven.

It would be a violation of Priesthood to vote for or support any law or power that is opposed to free agency. The value of freedom is priceless. Joseph Smith once declared that “One hour of virtuous liberty is worth a whole eternity of bondage.” (DHC 6:225)

Satan was opposed to any form of free agency in the pre-mortal world, and he continues to be opposed to it here. “Wherefore Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy [62] the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given unto him. . . . And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies. . . .” (Moses 4:3-4) By destroying a man’s liberty, he becomes a slave. Therefore, Satan’s first objective is to destroy freedom; whereas it is the Priesthood’s first objective to preserve it.

The devil subtly persuades men to believe in majority opinion–that the minority are always wrong. This is the power that has put tyrants into power; it is an evil that feeds on itself. A nation of this thinking is a democracy, not a republic. Democracy can be mob rule–and usually is.

A man with the Priesthood cannot compromise between liberty and servitude any more than he can co-exist with food and poison because death always wins. Anyone who has tried to live under the jurisdiction of two political systems learns that slavery usually wins. When the devil sets up programs, they are done with professional propaganda, and through colored lies and semi-truths, he tries to gain a multitude of converts. No half-hearted Priesthood holder can compromise and be a victor.

The nation of Israel was bound by the law of liberty; it was in their code and commandments. Directions from the Almighty gave them reason and right to liberate people from bondage and tyranny. In their law the Lord commanded them to “proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” (Lev. 25:10)

And for centuries it was the theme of many prophets. They wanted to bring the people from bondage, from Babylon and from the ignorance of financial and spiritual slavery.

This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the Lord after that the king Zedekiah had made a [63] covenant with all the people which were at Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty unto them. (Jer. 34:8)

Free agency is one of God’s greatest gifts to man, and it is the responsibility of the Priesthood to protect and preserve that gift.



  1. Administering Ordinances

Why send Elijah? Because he holds the keys of the authority to administer in all the ordinances of the Priesthood; and without <unless> the authority is given, the ordinances could not be administered in righteousness. (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 172)

The Prophet Joseph Smith said that “every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood will . . . be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings. This ever did and ever will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood are sufficiently manifest. . . .”(TPJS, p. 173)

The Priesthood and the ordinances are eternal in their nature. One is not without the other, and neither can be dispensed with. In 1839 the Prophet Joseph emphasized:

The Priesthood is everlasting. The Saviour, Moses, and Elias gave the keys to Peter, James, and John, on the mount, when they were transfigured before him. The Priesthood is everlasting–without beginning of days or end of years–without father, mother, etc. 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. (JD 6:238)

Priesthood ordinances and laws are eternal because they pertain to the Celestial Kingdom of heaven. What greater [64] work, or what greater mission, can any man be endowed with in this life than to teach those principles and administer those ordinances? Brigham Young commented:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the opening avenue–the open gate in the road or way from earth to heaven, through which direct revelation comes to the children of men in their various capacities, according to their callings and standing in the society in which they live. The Gospel of salvation is a portion of the law that pertains to the kingdom where God resides; and the ordinances pertaining to the holy Priesthood are the means by which the children of men find access to the way of life wherein they can extend their travels until they return to the presence of their Father and God. (JD 8:159)


Wilford Woodruff also noted:

I consider any people blest of the Lord to whom he has revealed the Gospel of Jesus Christ–to whom he has given the holy Priesthood and authority to administer in the ordinances of his house. That people are greatly blest, far above their fellow-men, who do not enjoy this privilege. I consider this to be our position to-day: we have the privilege of walking in the light; we have the privilege of comprehending and knowing the truth–of knowing the way to be saved and exalted in the presence of our Father and God. We are in a position to know his mind and will, through his servants, the Prophets. (JD 8:267)

Teaching the world about the restoration of the Priesthood and its ordinances is very difficult. They do not understand the need nor the power of this work. For nearly 2,000 years mankind has been interpreting, changing and adding to the Gospel until it has become a mere fragment of what it was originally.


[65]         It is an honor to receive and understand the blessings of the Priesthood restoration, as Wilford Woodruff continued:

And any man or community who have the Gospel of Christ, the holy Priesthood, and the power of the Holy Ghost that we have, possess a great advantage over the world; for they do not comprehend–they do not see nor understand the things that await them: they do not understand the dealings of God with them in any respect. It is not so with the Latter-day Saints; for as long as they continue to receive the truth, their minds are opened to understand the character of the day and age in which we live, and all those trying scenes that are approaching us; the vail is taken from off the face of the earth, and we see things, to some extent, as they are. (JD 8:268)

Even the lesser or Aaronic Priesthood contains greater powers and authority than most of its bearers realize. The Lord revealed:

The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic, Priesthood is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments. (D & C 107:20)

The higher, or Melchizedek, Priesthood holds powers and keys which have completely escaped the understanding of most religionists. The Lord revealed some of these blessings:

And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; for without this no man can see the face of God, even [66] the Father, and live. Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God.

(D & C 84:19-23)

The Lord considers the Priesthood so important and so sacred that He said, “And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord.” (D & C 84:35) This presents a serious problem for most Protestants, Jews, Moslems and other religions that don’t believe in a priesthood.


In the early days of the restoration of the Gospel, many people desired to join the Church, but they didn’t want to be baptized again. But, the authority of the Priesthood is so important in a baptism that the Lord told Joseph Smith that ordinance must be done over by one holding proper authority:

Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works. (D & C 22:2)

The Prophet Joseph added:

All the ordinances, systems, and administrations on the earth are of no use to the children of men, unless they are ordained and authorized of God; for nothing will save a man but a legal administrator; for none others will be acknowledged either by God or angels. I know what I say; I understand my mission and business. (TPJS, p. 274)

A man’s receiving the Priesthood and its ordinances does not entitle him to enjoy all the blessings promised. It is accompanied with the responsibility to administer these ordinances to others. Even in the earlier days of the Church, it was difficult to get men to realize these privileges and responsibilities. Woodruff stated:


[67]         The Lord has given you the keys of the Priesthood with all the blessings pertaining to it–as great and as mighty a work as ever was committed to any man on the earth, and that too in the midst of the last dispensation and fulness of times. The Lord requires us to prepare this generation, both Jew and Gentile, either for salvation or damnation through the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the administering of the ordinances of the House of God, and we go to sleep! The Apostles go to sleep–the Seventies go to sleep–the Elders of Israel close their eyes to slumber, and we the only people God has on the earth, upon whose shoulders He has laid the responsibility of performing this great and mighty work! * * *

I wonder that our children at the fireside do not rise up and prophesy, with a voice like thunder and in flames of fire, unto their fathers and mothers, and unto the people of Israel. (JD 4:148)

Thus, every Priesthood holder also bears a tremendous responsibility to accept and correctly perform Priesthood ordinances. But this important obligation seems to be quite lacking among the elders today.


  1. Blessings and Cursings

I had rather bless ten men than curse one. (Jedediah M. Grant, JD 4:86)

The Gospel does not always bring opportunities for blessings. Along with persecution, opposition and apostasy, it can also bring occasional cursings. As early as in Abraham’s time it was written that those who hold the Priesthood have the power to bless and to curse. The Lord said to Abraham, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3) And again, very similarly:


[68]         And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee and in thy seed, for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee. . . . (Abraham 2:11)


The power to bless is demonstrated frequently throughout the scriptures, but the power to curse is not often considered. Anciently, the prophets cursed individuals and even nations. There is even the unusual incident of Elisha using this power on children:

And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.

And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. (II Kings 2:23-24)

It is recorded that Jesus used this power also. On one occasion He saw a fig tree barren of fruit and said, “No man eat fruit of thee forever.” (Mark 11:14) In the morning his disciples saw that the tree had “dried up from the roots.” (v. 20) While His other miracles brought relief, health and blessing, this particular one was used as a judgment. Could this be a parable for us that if we are “barren of fruit”, we may be cursed and “dry up” in our knowledge and understanding of the Gospel?

This power of “blessings and cursings” followed the missionaries and was used on those who accepted or rejected the Gospel:

And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and [69] Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. (Mark 6:11)

With the restoration of the Priesthood in the latter days came this same power. The Lord said:

For I have conferred upon you the keys and power of the priesthood, wherein I restore all things, and make known unto you all things in due time.

And verily, verily, I say unto you, that whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you bind on earth, in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you remit on earth shall be remitted eternally in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you retain on earth shall be retained in heaven.

And again, verily I say, whomsoever you bless I will bless, and whomsoever you curse I will curse, saith the Lord; for I, the Lord, am thy God. (D & C 132:45-47)

This was a power the Saints were instructed to use, for the Lord revealed:

And inasmuch as mine enemies come against you to drive you from my goodly land, which I have consecrated to be the land of Zion, even from your own lands after these testimonies, which ye have brought before me against them, ye shall curse them;

And whomsoever ye curse, I will curse, and ye shall avenge me of mine enemies.

And my presence shall be with you even in avenging me of mine enemies, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. (D & C 103:24-26)

In the early days of the Church, great blessings and cursings were experienced by the Saints. For example, when Joseph Smith was tarred and feathered, a man named Raymond was involved. His son later told some LDS missionaries how [70] his father became ill shortly afterward and was “finally confined to his bed where slow death came upon him, mortification setting in at his toes, and he died by inches as mortification worked its way upward.” (Fate of the Persecutors. . ., Lundwall, p. 71)

Cecil McGavin stated that “Within a few years all the men who took part in that raid had suffered a painful death.” (Historical Background of the Doc. & Cov., p. 196)

At Haun’s Mill on Shoal Creek in 1838, a band of men shot and killed 18 Mormons. Years later when the Mormon Battalion arrived in San Diego, they met a ragged, dirty old man who bore this testimony to Captain Hancock and some of his men:

“Gentlemen, I am glad to see you. I have been waiting here days for you, for I heard there was a company of Mormons coming.” “Well,” said Brother Hancock, “what can we do for you?” The man replied, “I hoped there would be someone in the company who had friends killed in the Haun’s Mill massacre, who would kill me, because I was there. I was the man who shot that little boy’s brains out in the blacksmith shop. His cries and pitiful pleadings have never been from before my eyes and I want to die.” Brother Hancock took him to father, where he repeated his story. He said, “I shot that boy with a double-barreled shotgun. His pleadings still ring in my ears. I hope you will grant my request.” He wore an old army shirt, buttoned over the shoulder and down the right side. Tearing this open, he threw himself down on his knees, saying, “I want to die; I want you to kill me.” My father stepped back from him, saying, “There is a just God in heaven who will avenge that crime. I will not stain my hands with your blood.” This man loitered around camp for days until the officers had him taken away. (Fate of the Persecutors, p. 61)


[71]         John C. Bennett was one of the worst apostates of Mormonism, and he fought it violently. As a result, he suffered a divine curse:

For some years before his death he had fits, which were very violent; he also partly lost the use of his limbs and of his tongue. It was very difficult for him to make himself understood. He dragged out a miserable existence, without a person to scarcely take the least interest in his fate, and died a few months ago without a person to mourn his departure. (Juvenile Instructor 3:111, July 1868)

It has been reported from many different sources that those who had a part in the killing of Joseph and Hyrum also suffered from a curse. (See Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, pp. 474-77.) One of those men who took part in the martyrdom said he knew that Brigham Young had pronounced a curse on all of them. He was dying from being eaten by worms, and said he knew of 12 other men that had died the same way, but he thought he would not die that way because he was the 13th.

Priesthood is a two-edged sword–it can bless or curse; it can exalt or condemn. In the last days the elders will be given such power over their enemies that one will put a thousand to flight and they will even be able to rebuke strong nations from afar off.

* * * * *

It is written in scripture that some men “walked with God.” Were they just walking? Could there be more implied than just a stroll down the path? Generally speaking the term of walking together signifies a friendship, and the first and foremost reason for that friendship is that they are in agreement. Such an agreement means they are together in mind, will and desire. They have confidence in each other as [72] friends, and they enjoy the communication of similar ideals, principles and objectives. Their attitudes and dispositions are the same. These are the things that make them familiar with each other and bind them together as friends. Such were the kind of men who “walked” and “talked” with God.

These men who bear the Priesthood and truly honor it, use this power to bring salvation to men. They do not labor for large congregations, increased salaries, honors or titles among men. They seek not for expensive and elaborate chapels, impressive statistics and the riches of Babylon. Rather, they seek, through this great power, to change the hearts of men.



[73]                              Chapter 5




We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, etc. (7th Article of Faith)


Importance of Spiritual Gifts

There is a particular reason and purpose for everything in creation. Temptation, evil, and even the devil have a place and purpose. God in His infinite wisdom does things which are beyond the normal reasoning of man. These are considered to be the mysteries of God, but in time they can and should be understood.

Within the narrow and dark confines of mortal man, God often reveals sudden bursts of light to open the windows of manÕs understanding. These communications come through many different means and are types of revelation. The power by which these “gifts” are received is through the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Ghost is a revelator, revealing through many different mediums, such as speaking in tongues, visions, dreams, the visitation of angels, etc. Yet, all these different forms of revelation have one thing in common–they all communicate intelligence. They convey information for guidance, comfort, instruction, or warning–guiding the receiver into truth and preventing him from being deceived.


[74]         Each of the many gifts of the Holy Ghost serves a specific purpose and is adapted to the appropriate conditions. Often they are manifest to both the believer and the non-believer, but more often they are not known to anyone but the person who receives them.

In some instances the display of power through this medium is given to be a “sign” to others that the power of God is present. Any kind of sign–a street sign, neon sign, or billboard sign–all carry a message. They are not there as ornaments or for beauty. The “signs” of the Holy Ghost also carry a message, as Orson Pratt explained:

Jesus said, “These signs shall follow them that believe.” If they were to be of no particular use or benefit to the believer, it is not reasonable to suppose that Jesus would have promised them. Modern Christendom asserts that these signs were given, not so much for the benefit of believers, as for the convincing of unbelievers. The servants of God, it is said, wrought signs and wonders to establish the divine authenticity of their calling and message. Signs followed, they assert, that all people might know believers from unbelievers–the true Church from every other church. (Orson Pratt’s Works, p. 82)

Paul the Apostle listed nine of these gifts (See I Cor. 12:8-10) Moroni recognized the same nine with only a slight variation. (Moroni 10:9-16) The main difference in the gifts mentioned by these two great men was that Paul said “discerning of spirits,” and Moroni used the words “beholding of angels and ministering spirits”.

The Lord gave a similar list of gifts to the Prophet Joseph Smith with the addition of a few more, including the discerning of the source of these gifts and powers:


[75]         13.          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.

  1. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.
  2. 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.
  3. And again, it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God, that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal.
  4. And again, verily I say unto you, to some is given, by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom.
  5. To another is given the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge.
  6. And again, to some it is given to have faith to be healed;
  7. And to others it is given to have faith to heal.
  8. And again, to some is given the working of miracles;
  9. And to others it is given to prophesy;
  10. And to others the discerning of spirits.
  11. And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues;
  12. And to another is given the interpretation of tongues.
  13. And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.
  14. 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 46:13-27)


[76]         It is apparent that whenever the Gospel is sent to earth, the Priesthood is present. And whenever men possess the Priesthood, these gifts are also present. Bestowal of the Holy Ghost is a gift and it is through that medium that the gifts of the spirit are revealed. One of the important gifts of the spirit is the gift of the discerning of spirits. Orson Pratt explained:

The Saints find out “the deep things of God” by the Spirit. The faithful Saints or the elect cannot be deceived; for the Holy Ghost dwells in them as a Spirit of constant revelation, teaching them all things; guiding them into all truth; shewing them things to come; taking of the things of the Father and shewing the same unto them by heavenly visions and dreams, and revealing the deep things of God such as no natural man could ever see, hear, think of, or know, for they are only spiritually discerned. Thus there is no possibility of a person’s ever being deceived who follows the teachings and revelations of the Holy Ghost. (Orson Pratt’s Works, p. 70)

Throughout history, the majority of people are more impressed with power, money and fame than they are with the things of God. Simon the Sorcerer saw the “signs” resulting from the laying on of hands from the Apostles, and he thought they could be bought. The story reads:

And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. (Acts 8:18-21)

Thus, Simon was unworthy of the gifts because he desired them only for temporal power and manifestations.


[77]         The Lord has warned us to remember why these gifts are given. He has promised that everyone would receive a gift if he becomes worthy:

Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given; for verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.

And again, verily I say unto you, I would that ye should always remember, and always retain in your minds what those gifts are, that are given unto the church. 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. (D & C 46:8-12)

Even the great high priests of the Sanhedrin acknowledged that Jesus had power to do miracles. They admitted it by saying to Him, “We know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” (John 3:2) This was an indication that these miracles were from God, and it was a testimony of the divinity of the Priesthood.

Peter reminded the Judeans to “hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you. . . .” (Acts 2:22) The miracles were a sign or evidence that God approved and had a part in it.

Moses also knew the importance of miracles and how they identify God as the author. God said to Moses: “For this [78] cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.” (Ex. 9:16)

The great miracles that Moses performed were not to convince Pharaoh of the God of heaven; they were to convince the children of Israel of their true God. God said these miracles were simply demonstrations “that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.” (Ex. 9:14)

In some situations faith creates miracles; in others the miracles create faith. In either situation, they are supposed to be evident whenever men possess the Priesthood.

Once a Pharisee said to Jesus, “Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign. . . . ” (Matt. 12:38-39) In other words, if it takes a “sign” to prove the Gospel to a man, then he is an adulterer and has destroyed his faith.

Another scripture says, “These signs shall follow them that believe.” (Mark 16:17) In one case the believers have the signs; in the other, the unbeliever is unworthy of them.

The Prophet Joseph once said, “Whenever you see a man seeking after a sign, you may set it down that he is an adulterous man.” (TPJS, p. 157) Such an occasion came up and the Prophet relates the following incident:

When I was preaching in Philadelphia, a Quaker called out for a sign. I told him to be still. After the sermon, he again asked for a sign. I told the congregation the man was an adulterer; that a wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and that the Lord had said to me in a revelation, that any [79] man who wanted a sign was an adulterous person. “It is true,” cried one, “for I caught him in the very act,” which the man afterwards confessed when he was baptized. (Feb. 9, 1843, DHC 5:268)

We should not seek after signs in order to become believers; yet, if we are believers, these signs should follow. Moroni emphasized the importance of these gifts by saying:

I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever.

And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them. (Moroni 10:7-8)

Let us briefly review five of these spiritual gifts of the Priesthood: (1) Healing; (2) Dreams and Visions; (3) Gift of Tongues; (4) Gift of Prophecy; and (5) Visitation of Angels. It is important to learn when they usually appear, to whom they are given, and why.



Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. (James 5:14-15)

Two important blessings attend this gift–one is that the person is healed, and the second is that he is forgiven of sin. [80] God intends for men to have faith in Him to be healed. When they don’t they may not be healed, even though they go to physicians.

  1. Golden Kimball used a Biblical example to prove this and said it was the only humorous quote in the Bible:

And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians. And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign. (II Chron. 16:12-13)


Christ performed miracles as foretold by Isaiah (35:5,6; 42:7), but not to astonish people nor to satisfy their demands and curiosity. Even when asked for such a sign, he refused (See Luke 11:18.), and He never did any miracle for His own benefit. Neither did He perform miracles for publicity. He often told them to keep such a thing secret. (Mark 1:43,44; 5:43; 9:9) In his extreme hunger he would not change the stones to bread; but he multiplied the bread and fish for others who were hungry. Neither would he ask for the power of Divine intervention while suffering on the cross, even though legions of angels would have been glad to respond.

In the study of the life of Christ, it is interesting to note that He did not heal everyone that was sick; often by-passing some to heal only one individual. (John 5:3, 5) Although He had such great powers to perform miracles, yet when he “came into his own country” and among His own people, “he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” (Matt. 13:58)

Jesus healed people in many ways. Sometimes He laid His hands on them or touched them. On some occasions he [81] had no contact with the afflicted; others merely touched His garments and were healed. On occasion he told them to go down and put mud on their eyes and they were healed.

In almost every incident a miracle was performed for the glory of God and healing was secondary. Miracles usually illustrate the power of God and the needs of man. They also displayed the evidence of His affiliation with God and were symbols of divine commission. A church without miracles is a church without God.

The Lord gave a prescription for healing when He said, “They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” This is one of the signs of believers, yet it is so seldom practiced among the Latter-day Saints. In spite of all the medicine, hospitals and modern equipment, disease is still a major problem. For instance, in the yellow pages of the Salt Lake City phone book, there are over 300 physicians just for the first three letters of the alphabet. We are indeed a sick generation!

With thousands of doctors caring for thousands of sick people, society is losing a great sum of money. And, they are losing something more precious–their faith. It is evident that we do not have sufficient faith in the healing power of the Priesthood!


Dreams and Visions

Visions and dreams have constituted a means of communication between God and men in every dispensation of the Priesthood. (The Articles of Faith, Talmage, p. 226)

Probably every prophet has enjoyed the gift of dreams, for the Lord mentioned that He could “speak in a dream.” [82] (Num. 12:6; Job 33:14) He “spoke” this way to Abimelech, Jacob, Laban, Solomon, Joseph, Pharaoh, Gideon, Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel, Joseph, the Wise Men, Pilate’s wife, and many others. Indeed, it was meant to be a gift to all Israelites. (See Deut. 13:1-5.)

The Prophet Joseph Smith mentioned dreams that he had, as well as many that he interpreted for others. Brigham Young referred to some he had received, and Heber C. Kimball  said he had been blessed with over 100 inspired dreams.

Parley P. Pratt wrote this beautiful explanation:


What have not dreams accomplished?

Dreams and their interpretation brought the beloved son of Jacob from his dungeon, made him prime minister of Egypt, and the savior of a nation, and of his father’s house.

Dreams, and the interpretation of dreams, raised a Daniel from slavery or degrading captivity in Babylon, to wear a royal chain of gold, and to teach royalty how to rule, whilst himself presided over the governors and presidents of more than a hundred provinces.

Dreams, and the interpretation of dreams, have opened the future, pointed out the course of empire through all the troublous times of successive ages, till Saints alone shall rule, and immortality alone endure. (Key to the Science of Theology, 5th ed., Pratt, p. 129)

An interesting article on the subject of dreams was published by Elder Joseph Romney in the Millennial Star of 1864. Although it is quite extensive, its logical, historical and spiritual explanations require a partial reprinting:

It is by dreams that God often makes known His mind and will to mankind. In the holy scriptures we find [83] many notable instances of this power, or of this gift, in which man, visited in his slumbers by the angels of God’s presence, has partaken of that Spirit of light and intelligence that surrounds him, and has, by its aid, seen the course of human events, and noted the results of human actions, which were long afterward to take place upon the earth. . . .

Dreams are of different kinds and are given for various purposes; each true one, however, being applicable to the situation and requirements of the individual receiving it, or, of the people about whom it contains directions.

Dreams are great and glorious gifts of God to man, and they are given for his benefit, or his holiest and most deserving servants would not alone receive them, or be called upon to interpret them. They are promised, however, by the Apostle to all believers in Jesus Christ, and are a proof, along with other gifts, to those who receive them, that they are, indeed, believers, and that they are in that road which will lead them on to salvation. They are given to strengthen the faith of individual Saints. . . .

A good dream from the Spirit of God is very easily told; it will make persons wiser, more humble and more obedient than they have ever been before. . . . (Mill. Star 26:293)

Inspired dreams have often been manifest to the Saints of God for their encouragement, guidance, and comfort, but essentially they are the means of communication from God to man.

When inspiration is not enough to clearly depict God’s message to man, He will often employ a dream to convey His will. When a dream is not forceful enough, He will manifest His will through an open vision; and if that is insufficient, He may send an angel or perhaps even manifest His Son, or on very special occasions He will reveal Himself.


[84]         Dreams, then, are one of the stepping stones of communication from God to man. When men are capable of receiving revelations from God, they can then be directed, reproved, comforted, warned or instructed and thus have the assurance that they are walking in the path that God wills them to follow.

Dr. James Talmage has said that, “Visions and dreams have constituted a means of communication between God and men in every dispensation of the Priesthood.” (Articles of Faith, p. 226) And the Lord has said that “the rights of the Priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven.” (D & C 121:36). Therefore, those who bear the Priesthood should also receive communication from heaven through the gift of dreams.


The Gift of Tongues

For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God. . . . (I Cor. 14:2)

The most famous instance of speaking in tongues occurred on the day of Pentecost. The Apostles of Christ were speaking to many foreign people and the story is recorded that there was a sound as a “rushing mighty wind” and “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Those who were gathered that day were “devout men of every nation under heaven.”

Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? (Acts. 2:6-8)


[85]         This grand manifestation was considered speaking in tongues. Actually it was the gift of interpretation of tongues because the Apostles only spoke in one language, yet all the people could “hear” in their own language.

Inasmuch as there are many different nationalities and different languages, there is a need for missionary work with the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues.

The gift of speaking and interpreting tongues has been enjoyed in probably every dispensation of the Gospel on the earth. Although it is considered one of the least of the gifts, yet it still has its purpose and is a necessary gift that comes with the Priesthood. Orson Pratt explained:

The benefits to be derived from this gift <of tongues> are as essential in this age, as in the first age of Christianity. It is as necessary that people of different languages should hear the gospel now, as in early ages. It is also as important that believers should be confirmed by this gift now, as it ever was. Therefore, as there is no scripture to limit this gift to the early Christians, and no reason why believers should not enjoy it now, we are compelled to admit that this promise of Jesus is in full force yet, and that whenever and wherever we find a church of true believers in Christ, there we shall also find the signs of believers. And as the gift of tongues is not among the apostate churches now on the earth, we are compelled by the word of God to consider them all unbelievers. Indeed, they cannot be believers; for if they were they could speak with new tongues, as Jesus promised. (Orson Pratt’s Works, p. 84)

The gift of tongues was a common gift in the early LDS Church. It was probably one of the first gifts demonstrated after its organization in 1830. It was taught these gifts should be associated with the true Church, as Matthew Cowley said:


[86]         . . . the gifts of the Spirit are enjoyed by the Saints, not merely in isolated cases, but wherever the Saints are united; live in harmony with the spirit and precepts of the gospel. * * * It may be said truly that wherever pure faith, unity, and zealous devotion exist, there is no dearth of the gifts of the Gospel. (Matthew Cowley, Imp. Era 2:448-449)

During the 1860’s and 70’s living the United Order was attempted, and when a man by the name of Joseph Orton heard a voice speaking in tongues, he wrote:

Asking for the interpretation of the tongue, it came instantly and ran thus: “Without the United Order we cannot become one; without the United Order, angels cannot hold communion with us as a people. The dead cannot be raised nor Jesus come to dwell with his people.” I said, “It is enough; I am prepared to give my name as a member of the United Order tonight.” (Autobiog. of Joseph Orton, p. 22)

Heber C. Kimball once said:

Can I interpret tongues? Yes, because that gift is in me, and I have not forfeited it. Is it in Brother Brigham? Yes, and so is every gift that God ever gave to His ancient Apostles. * * * When any of you get up to speak in tongues, whether you do so by the power of God or of the devil, I can tell you which source that tongue came from. . . . (JD 4:170)

Many who had received the gift of speaking in tongues never lost that gift. Heber C. Kimball added, “I can speak in a good, beautiful language to this people at any time. Why? Because God gave me the gift, and He does not give gifts to men and then take them away again, so long as those men are doing their duty.” (Ibid., p. 170)


[87]         Early pioneer journals are filled with accounts of men and women who spoke and sang in tongues. Joseph Lee Robinson testified that “many times” he and others had that gift. He recalled:

We many times sang in our congregations for the Lord did pour out his spirit abundantly upon me not only in singing in tongues for we have seen strong men sit and tremble like a poppie leaf to the great edification and comforting of the Saints. . . . (Jos. L. Robinson Journal, pp. 4-5)

Some of the leading sisters of the Church often travelled through the stakes and would sing in tongues. The Prophet Joseph once recorded, “We again assembled in conference; when, after much speaking, singing, praying, and praising God, all in tongues, we proceeded. . . .”(DHC 1:323)

One of the last recorded instances of speaking in tongues was by Apostle John W. Taylor’s wife, Nellie, in 1899. Since then, the gift of tongues has been almost extinguished. Elder James Allen expressed shock in 1904 when he heard elders return from foreign missions and say they never heard the gift of tongues in their life. He said speaking in tongues was “one of the most common gifts of the Gospel, as enjoyed years ago.” And he said:

. . . because in the early days of the Church–where I was reared–there were so many of the Saints who enjoyed the gifts, and there were none among my acquaintances who had not heard the sweet sound of the gift of tongues. Many times there would be both speaking and singing in tongues, in the same sacrament meeting. The interpretation of tongues was equally as common as the tongues themselves. In fact, we were wont to regard the speaking in tongues, the interpretation of tongues, the relating of dreams and prophesying, as an essential part of the latter-day [88] gospel. These gifts were a great comfort to the new converts. They strengthened our faith, and served as abiding testimonies to many of us. (Imp. Era 8:109)

Thus, the gift of tongues, also, is an important Priesthood gift that should be enjoyed by the Saints today.



The Gift of Prophecy

The word prophecy is mentioned over 300 times in the Old Testament and over 100 times in the New Testament. The word generally indicates a message from God, and those who receive it have been called prophets.

The gift of prophecy often pertains to future events. God uses gifts to reveal these messages to man as a means of warning, instruction, or guidance.

Joseph Smith, quoting John the Revelator, indicated this gift is so important that every “man who has the testimony of Jesus,” is a prophet, “for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. –Revelation 29:l0th verse” (TPJS, p. 119)

When people are baptized by the authority of the Priesthood, they receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift is a revelator and organizer, and also has prophetic powers. Joseph Smith declared:

We believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost being enjoyed now, as much as it was in the Apostles’ days; we believe that it (the gift of the Holy Ghost) is necessary to make and to organize the Priesthood, that no man can be called to fill any office in the ministry without it; we also believe in prophecy, in tongues, in visions, and in revelations, in gifts, and in healings; and that these things cannot be enjoyed without the gift of the Holy Ghost. We believe that the [89] holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and that holy men in these days speak by the same principle; we believe in its being a comforter and a witness bearer, that it brings things past to our remembrance, leads us into all truth, and shows us of things to come; we believe that “no man can know that Jesus is the Christ, but by the Holy Ghost.” We believe in it (this gift of the Holy Ghost) in all its fullness, and power, and greatness, and glory; but whilst we do this, we believe in it rationally, consistently, and scripturally, and not according to the wild vagaries, foolish notions and traditions of men. (TPJS, p. 243)

Prophets often see future events. Sometimes God gives them special means to do this, for instance with a seer stone. This was sometimes called a “Urim and Thummim” in the Bible. In this last dispensation this gift was also manifest. Brigham Young relates the following event:

Dec. 27, 1841: I met with the Twelve at Brother JosephÕs. He conversed with us in a familiar manner on a variety of subjects, and explained to us the Urim and Thummim which he found with the plates, called in the Book of Mormon the Interpreters. He said that every man who lived on the earth was entitled to a seer stone, and should have one, but they are kept from them in consequence of their wickedness, and most of those who do find one make an evil use of it; he showed us his seer stone. (Mill. Star 26:118)

Few men at the present time claim to have the gift of prophecy, and even fewer men have ever seen a seer stone. In 1878 Orson Pratt noticed the absence of this gift:

This failure to realize all the blessings and powers of the Priesthood does not apply to the elders and lesser Priesthood only; but it applies to the higher quorums, and comes home to ourselves, who are Apostles of Jesus Christ. We are presented [90] before the Church, and sustained as prophets, seers and revelators, and we have received oftentimes the gift of prophecy and revelation, and have received many great and glorious gifts. But have we received the fullness of the blessings to which we are entitled? No, we have not. Who among the Apostles have become seers, and enjoy all the gifts and powers pertaining to that calling? (JD 25:145)

In ancient times it was thought that only a few people could be prophets. In fact, they often declared that they wanted only a certain person to be a prophet for all the people. Joseph Smith said this was a wrong concept and declared:

. . . the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, . . . (TPJS, pp. 237-238)

An example of this occurred during Moses’s dispensation:

And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.

But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.

And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And [91] Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them! (Num. 11:25-29)

In our own dispensation the Lord said that–

I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments; And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets–

The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh–But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world; . . . (D & C 1:17-20)

Hence, every man who holds the Priesthood should have the gift and power of prophecy.



Visitation of Angels

Angels of God are messengers of God who work with those bearing the Priesthood on earth. They make up the “heavenly hosts” who act as servants, revelators and even the armies of heaven. These “angels can function as mediators between God and man. They can pass back and forth from the spiritual realm to the natural at will, unimpeded by physical boundaries.” (Zondervan Enc. of Bible 1:160; see the example in Acts 12:7.)


[92]         They appeared in the Garden of Eden and in every dispensation since then. Orson Pratt elaborates on the frequency of their appearances:

Angels appeared to Abraham and took dinner with him; angels appeared to Jacob and wrestled with him all night; angels appeared to Lot and lodged with him; angels appeared to Moses, to Joshua, to Manoah, to Gideon, to David, to Daniel, to Zechariah, to Joseph, the husband of Mary, to the shepherds by night, to the apostles, to Philip, to Paul, to Cornelius, and finally, Paul says, that they are “all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.” The apostles exhorted the saints not to be forgetful to entertain strangers, for some, in so doing, “had entertained angels unawares.” There is nothing in the scriptures which indicates that angels will cease to appear among men; therefore, there is nothing in the circumstances of the appearance of the angel to those four witnesses that is unscriptural. And there certainly is nothing unreasonable in an angel’s being sent in our day. (Orson Pratt’s Works, p. 211)

Angels came to the rescue of many ancient Saints. They often communed with mortals, teaching, warning, and instructing them concerning God’s will. They also came to the Saints during the restoration, as Heber C. Kimball noted:

Supposing that there was a tub standing here and the people perishing for want of water, could not I, were I beyond the vail, come and pour in water? Yes, and you could not see me. Unless your eyes are touched by the power of God, you cannot see an angel; it is as much as you can do to see me.

Angels are ministering spirits, and do you suppose that they will see this people want? * * *

Brother Brigham and I once started to travel with sixteen dollars and fifty cents, and in five hundred miles we paid out eighty-two dollars, and had some [93] money left when we got to the end of our journey. Do you not suppose that we believe in angels and holy beings, having visited us on those occasions? Cannot angels furnish Saints with money? Our wants were supplied, and we are witnesses of the fact, and we still live, and shall continue to live, and bear testimony to this generation.

Do you not think that angels can bring flour? Can they not go and take it from those who have plenty, and put it in the empty bins, sacks, and barrels belonging to good men, and that too without your knowing it? It is very common for one to increase, and for another to decrease.

Prepare yourselves for the future scenes through which you may be called to pass. (JD 4:7)

Jedediah Grant said the difference between the Saints and other folks was that we believe in the ministry of angels. He said:

They do not believe in gathering to where the Almighty can talk to them; they do not even pray for the Lord to send an angel to speak to them. The Latter-day Saints try to live their religion, that they may converse with angels, receive the administration of holy messengers from the throne of God, be sanctified in their spirits, affections, and all their desires, that the Holy Ghost may rest upon them, and their hearts be filled therewith, and become competent to bear the presence of angels.

May the Lord bless you, and wake you up upon these points of doctrine, that your faith and works may ever correspond, and that your blessings be equal with those of the ancient people of God. (JD 2:279)

One of the most important objectives of the Saints is to magnify the Priesthood so that they may have the association of angels–even the Archangel. Many of our own ancestors and relatives have become angels who are near to us and are very aware of what we do. The Prophet said:


[94]         The spirits of the just are exalted to a greater and more glorious work; hence they are blessed in their departure to the world of spirits. Enveloped in flaming fire, they are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith. (TPJS, p. 326)

Today we seldom, if ever, hear about the visitation and ministrations of angels. It is an evidence that they are probably “pained” with the doings of both Mormon and non-Mormon people. As a matter of doctrine it is written that the angels are about to come down upon the earth with destructions and pour vials of death upon mankind. Men who bear the Priesthood should be on a good standing with angels and have communication with them if they are to be saved from the pestilences that are to come.


* * * * *



Decrease of Spiritual Gifts

Commenting on the gifts of the Gospel, Joseph Smith said:

. . . by quoting the commission given to the ancient Apostles in Mark, 16th chapter, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th verses, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

No matter who believeth, these signs, such as healing the sick, casting out devils, etc., should follow all that believe, whether male or female. (TPJS, p. 224)


[95]         Many other gifts came with the restoration of the Priesthood, such as the gift of translation, seership, and written revelations. God freely gave them but gradually they have been disappearing. The Prophet explains why:

Because faith is wanting, the fruits are. No man since the world was had faith without having something along with it. The ancients quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, women received their dead, etc. By faith the worlds were made 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, so that tongues, healings, prophecy, and prophets and apostles, and all the gifts and blessings have been wanting. (TPJS, p. 270)

There are two reasons why these spiritual gifts should be among those who have the Priesthood: (1) They naturally accompany faith, and Priesthood bearers should have faith; and (2) These gifts are needed for spiritual development. Said Brigham Young:

I do not want to see a miracle to confirm the truth of any doctrine or saying that is revealed to me. If I can see that it is calculated to purify the hearts of the people and to sanctify their affections, and to reconcile them to God and to His law and government, it satisfies me; and so far as this goes I might say that I am like the Christian world, in the belief that miracles are no longer needed. But I believe that miracles are as absolutely necessary now as they ever were. (JD 13:140)

And from Apostle Ezra T. Benson in 1855:

It is necessary that there should be an excitement in the world, and that servants of the Lord should in [96] those times show their faith by their works, and it is also important that they should, as the Apostle has exhorted us, contend for all the gifts of the Gospel that are mentioned in the Holy Scriptures–the gift of godliness and of patience and charity, and all those good gifts that are spoken of in the scriptures of truth. The Apostle says, if all these good gifts abound in you, “ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (JD 3:76)

The Lord has explained the reasons why spiritual gifts decrease and men do not have communion with the heavens. Strangely enough the spiritual things are often governed by the temporal. For instance, the Lord revealed:

. . . in regulating and establishing the affairs of the storehouse for the poor of my people, both in this place and in the land of Zion–Or in other words, the city of Enoch (Joseph), for a permanent and everlasting establishment and order unto my church, to advance the cause, which ye have espoused, to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven; That ye may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things. For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things: . . . (D & C 78:3-6)

When men have a difference in temporal wealth, they will have a lack of spiritual powers. One is predicated upon another. When men disobey the laws of the Gospel, they lose the gifts of the Gospel. Jedediah Grant commented on this:

Now some suppose there was a necessity for this display of the power of God to establish the Gospel, and that when it was established, the gifts would be done away. I recollect reading, in the ninety-fourth sermon of John Wesley, in commenting upon this subject, he says, “It has been vulgarly supposed that after the [97] Gospel was established, the spiritual gifts were no longer needed; but this is a gross error. To be sure we seldom hear of them after that fatal period that Constantine called himself a Christian. Scarcely an instance of the manifestation of these spiritual gifts can be found in the second century, the reason is not that they were done away by the will of the Almighty, but Christians had apostatized, and become heathen, and had nothing but a dead form of religion left, and this is the grand reason the gifts have not continued in the Church.” This is the idea Wesley gives in the sermon I have alluded to, if not the exact language. That is “Mormonism”. In the second century the Church apostatized and became heathen, and men could not speak by the gift of the Holy Ghost, and with other tongues, and prophesy, and obtain visions, and the gift of healing. (JD 2:231)

Dr. James Allen said that people were thinking that those gifts were no longer needed, but said he, “If men now think they can get along without the gifts of the Gospel, may not the time come when they may believe they can get along without its ordinances?” (Imp. Era 8:109)


These are critical issues that should be considered by every Priesthood bearer. The Apostle Orson Pratt exclaimed:

The Protestants denounce the Catholics as the mother of harlots–the most wicked and corrupt power on earth. The Catholics denounce the Protestants as heretics and apostates from them both as unbelievers, because they lack the signs. The infidel world denounces the word of God, because miraculous signs follow neither Catholics nor Protestants, who pretend to be believers. The sincere inquirer is almost distracted, because he is in greater doubt whether to believe in Catholics, Protestants, infidelity, or the word of God. If signs then were given to distinguish the ministers of Christ from impostors, surely the present generation need them if ever they were needed.

[98]         In the midst of all these conflicting opinions, the humble servant of God comes forth and boldly declares that no church can be the true church, unless they obey the words of Christ and enjoy the signs of believers. He testifies with authority that all the promises of Jesus will be fulfilled while there is one believer upon the face of the earth to be perfected and saved. He testifies that all who deny that signs will follow them that believe, are unbelievers, who, according to the words of Christ, must be damned. (Orson Pratt’s Works, pp. 82-83)

If we are not enjoying these gifts, we do not have power in the Priesthood, nor the approval and sanction of God for our treatment of the Gospel.

Mormonism is becoming spiritually dead. It has been split by divisions of wealth, positions of respectability in the world, and the lack of spirituality. Mormonism does not invoke a need or desire for the spiritual gifts and so they die out. Apostle E. T. Benson went on to explain why:

It is like an old blacksmith’s bellows, the very moment that you cease to blow, the fire goes down, and especially the fires of those that burn cedar coal; and those who use the blacksmith’s bellows, know how long it takes to kindle up the fire, that is, when they have got the same material on hand; and it is just so with the Gospel of Christ. If we quench the Spirit, and do not magnify the Lord by our works and by our faith, that which is in us soon goes out, and we die a natural death in the kingdom. Then, if we wish to obtain influence again, we have to become humble, come forth and get re-baptized for the remission of sins, and have hands laid on for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and obey it strictly in all things, before we can get the zeal and flame of the Gospel again to burn in our souls. (Ezra T. Benson, JD 3:77)


[99]         With the loss of spiritual gifts, we have been losing the power of the Priesthood.




And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, ONLY according to the unbelief of the children of men. (Moroni 10:19)

We must acknowledge that these gifts and signs were given for a divine purpose, so why are they lacking when so many unconverted people are still on the earth? If we do not exhibit any spiritual powers, how can anyone determine which is the true church? Is there any other way to determine the true believers from the imposters? The Lord said, “These signs shall follow them that believe”–so, are most of us in the category of “unbelievers”?

The true church of Jesus Christ cannot function as it should without those spiritual gifts. If it doesn’t have the gifts, then it has no more power than other churches. Joseph F. Smith said:

If the time or condition should ever come to pass that a man, possessing human weaknesses, shall lead the Church, woe be to the Church; for it will then become like the churches of the world, man-made and man-led, and have no power of God or of life eternal and salvation connected with it; only the wisdom, the judgment and intelligence of man. I pity the world because this is their condition. (Gospel Doctrine, 7th ed., pp. 138-39)


[100] Spiritual gifts are the fruit of the Church of Jesus Christ, but if the Church bears little or no fruit, it is under condemnation. If the true church preaches any other doctrines than those sanctioned by Christ, then the spiritual gifts will wane.

When the early Christians changed the Gospel, the spiritual gifts were lost. Jedediah Grant warned of the same condition occurring in our dispensation:

Well, though we or an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel, let him be accursed. No matter how near men may preach the Gospel; they must preach the same Gospel, every part of it, every ordinance of it, every principle Jesus Christ revealed and His apostles taught; if they do not, they teach another Gospel, and if they teach another, says the Apostle, let them be accursed.

Now if you will preach the same Gospel, you will preach the same principles precisely that were taught not only by Paul, Peter, James, and John, but by all the rest of their fellow servants. And when men received the Holy Ghost, they spake with other tongues, and prophesied. In order to tell whether people have embraced the true Gospel or not, we need only to look at their fruits, for by their fruits shall ye know them, . . . (JD 2:231)

Orson Pratt also warned:

All churches which have not faith to obtain revelations and laws by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, are not the churches of God. Though they may pretend to great piety; profess to be Christians; make long prayers; preach eloquent sermons, and meet together every Sabbath day under the pretense of worshipping God, yet if they have not faith to obtain new revelations, and visions, and the ministry of angels, they are not the church of God, and are deceiving themselves and others with a false and [101] delusive religion; a religion by which they will perish, as the scripture saith, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” <Proverbs 29:18> (Orson Pratt’s Works, p. 70)

It is evident that the early Christians had so far changed the Gospel of Jesus Christ that it soon became a “form of Godliness without the power thereof,” and the decisions of the councils of men superseded the word of God.

Whenever the power of Priesthood has operated through an organized Church on the earth, the members have been strengthened in their faith and otherwise blessed in numerous related ways, by the possession of these gifts. We may safely regard the existence of these spiritual powers as one of the essential characteristics of the Church; where they are not, the Priesthood of God does not operate.

Mormon solemnly declared that the days of miracles will not pass from the Church, as long as there shall be a man upon the earth to be saved. (Art. of Faith, Talmage, p. 217)

The Melchizedek Priesthood is the principle power and authority through which the gifts of the Gospel are manifest. When those gifts are lost, then the Priesthood is lost.

Do the Latter-day Saints enjoy all of these gifts which were so prevalent at the beginning of the restoration? If not, then something is wrong. Heber C. Kimball sums it up by saying:

Are you faithful to your vows? If you are, you will have dreams, and visions, and revelations from the world of light, and you will be comforted by night and by day. But if you do not fulfill your covenants, you cannot enjoy these blessings. (Heber C. Kimball, JD 3:112)


[102] Moroni warned:

And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth–that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief. And wo be unto the children of men if this be the case; for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one. For if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power and gifts of God. (Moroni 10:24-25)

Orson Pratt described the effects of the Holy Spirit in the early Christian dispensation by saying:

. . . the Holy Spirit was that which would enable them to prophesy, see visions, dream dreams, and guide them into all truth, reveal unto them the things of the Father, and show them things to come; hence it was a Spirit greatly to be desired, and they wished to know how they might obtain it; . . . (JD 14:177)

This was an important blessing then, and it should be an important part of our faith today. They are the expected results of faith in the true Gospel. Pratt continued:

. . . these gifts were given for the perfecting of the Saints, and if you are Saints, where are your gifts? For does it not follow that if you have no gifts, you are either perfect Saints or not Saints at all? For if you are not perfect Saints, these gifts must be among you. Do you know any way to perfect Saints independent of these gifts? I do not. (Ibid., 14:180)

Thus, Pratt establishes a premise on which to determine the validity of the Saints–if we do not have these spiritual gifts, we are either perfect or else we are not recognized by God as His people. To further emphasize this fact, Orson Pratt concludes:


[103] Is the Holy Ghost given? If it is, all these gifts are given; and if the Latter-day Saints are not in possession of these gifts, they are not in possession of the Gospel, and are no better off than the Baptists, Methodists or Presbyterians, and we all know they have not the Gospel; we all know they have not the power of God among them. (Ibid., 14:185)

Here is an indictment of the Church: if they have the true Gospel, they will have the Holy Ghost, all the spiritual gifts and the power of God. Conversely, if the Latter-day Saints today have no spiritual gifts, lack the power of the Priesthood and have no manifestations of the Holy Ghost, then it follows that we no longer have the true Gospel. The early Christians lost the power of the Priesthood and gifts of the Holy Ghost because they changed the ordinances, broke their covenants, and transgressed the laws of the Gospel. The question now remains–are we doing the same things and following the same path?



[104]                             Chapter 6





My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high. (D & C 121:7-8)

In the beginning Lucifer rebelled against Christ which started an opposition that was to continue for thousands and thousands of years. Lucifer resented and opposed every principle and every authority held by Christ. It was so in the pre-mortal world and it is so in this world.

For this reason men who bear the Priesthood should not be discouraged at opposition. Every prophet and every true Saint will meet it in this world. All must travel to their own personal Gethsemane, and some may continue to their Calvary. But regardless, in this life they will face opposition in some form or another. It may be some insignificant irritant, or perhaps a bitter barb from a tongue or pen, or simply a family feud, or the seemingly ever constant worry over money. For some it has been a relentless and bitter opposition, and on occasion a violent death. As long as Priesthood is on the earth, men will see that evil, invisible hand of the arch-enemy of Christ. Lucifer is always ready to implement a jab here, a blow there; or even wrench the very heart strings. But to achieve the ultimate goal, men must endure to the end.


[105] Priesthood Brings Persecution

It seems strange that the Apostle James would say, “whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God;” (James 4:4) yet the Apostle John said, “God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son” to save it!

Evidently they were talking about two different worlds. One is speaking of the souls of God’s children; the other is talking about the messed-up systems of religion, politics and customs they have created. One is of the greatest worth; the other is absolutely worthless. One involves the most important labor of the Priesthood; the other is the greatest danger to the Priesthood.

The scriptures refer to these social systems of the world as Babylon, whose empire was the crowning glory of the temporal world. At one time Babylon had everything that most nations ever wanted:


  1. A great and powerful military machine
  2. Enormous wealth and prosperity
  3. A spreading empire mingling with nations
  4. A huge and powerful political government
  5. Rich and learned leaders
  6. Thousands of laws, statutes and regulations
  7. Notable scientific achievements 8.A heavy taxing system
  8. Thriving international businesses
  9. A corporate structure regulating religion

Indeed this influence of Babylon has never died. It has impregnated nations ever since, and today it is greater than ever.


[106] It is interesting to note that there were two things Babylon, and successive empires, never had: freedom and respect for the Gospel. These two factors defeated the devil in the pre-mortal world and will destroy him in this world.

But the devil claims to own this world. He certainly has control of it, but he is an imposter who works under the color of law, deceiving and tempting men away from freedom and the Gospel of Christ. His objective is to destroy the Holy Priesthood. What he cannot gain through death and destruction in war, he obtains through cunning and deception.

However, God had a plan and a people who would carry out that plan. He chose Israel to bear the Priesthood and defend freedom. It soon became obvious that the nations who knew not the God of Israel were indeed Babylon. With over 100 references to Babylon in the Bible, it had great influence and notoriety. Isaiah spoke of Babylon as “the glory of kingdoms”. (Isa. 13:19)

The Roman Empire was a shadow of the great Babylon, and now America is its imitation. Modern Babylon thrives with a total control over men–governing their work, travel, education, politics, and even religions. All of these empires shared in a seductive tyranny over their subjects, which was enforced by laws, licenses, regulations and civil and social traditions. All of them were foreign powers to the Gospel.

Babylon was and is a product of greed, wickedness and corrupt politics. It is a ruthless and formidable power designed to oppose and destroy the Priesthood. In essence, then, it is the devil’s workshop–an enterprise of a designing instrument in the service of evil to overthrow the Kingdom of God and the work of the Holy Priesthood. It is indeed a danger and a threat to every man who bears the Priesthood of God.


[107] Very few men on earth, including those in the Church are really qualified. In terms of prestige, status, power, influence, pleasure, privilege, “power, and authority, and riches” (3 Nephi 6:37, sic), the Priesthood has absolutely nothing to offer. The world laughs at it, the Latter-day Saints abuse or ignore it, those who take it seriously do so in “fear and trembling.” (Hugh Nibley, Sunstone, op. cit., p. 11)

When Jesus sent His missionaries out into the world, He warned them: “I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.” (Matt. 10:16) It would seem that righteous people–those who live the Gospel–would be the easiest people to get along with. Yet, in every instance the more righteous they are, the more they are resented. But the people of God and the people of the world represent two different ways of life. One is for God and the other is described as from the devil. They are opposites and Brigham Young said:

Do you suppose that this people will ever see the day that they will rest in perfect security, in hopes of becoming like another people, nation, state, kingdom, or society? They never will. Christ and Satan never can be friends. Light and darkness will always remain opposites. (Brigham Young, JD 1:188)


Brigham Young also said that these two forces will always clash with each other:

Hatred and persecution has <sic> been the lot of every man that ever lived upon the earth holding the oracles of the kingdom of heaven to deliver to the children of men. Wicked men, Satan, and all the powers of hell and hate are at war with every holy principle that God wishes to place in the possession of his children. (JD 8:13)


[108] George Q.  Cannon added that it is a natural thing to have opposition with the Gospel of Christ.

Opposition in this respect is not a new thing. It is as old as Adam that there should be opposition to contend against. Jesus predicted it, because he knew it was the history of the past, and he knew it would be repeated. Thus those who embrace “Mormonism,” or the Gospel of Christ, may make their calculations upon it. (JD 22:179)


Why Persecution?

The question now arises as to why the righteous are always persecuted? Looking through history, the most righteous seem to have suffered the worst forms of persecution, plundering and death. The Prophet Joseph Smith gave a key to the reason for such persecution:

He that will war the true Christian warfare against the corruptions of these last days will have wicked men and angels of devils, and all the infernal powers of darkness continually arrayed against him. (TPJS, p. 259)

It is evident that the Priesthood is to speak out against corruption, but in doing so, it arouses opposition.

When Brigham Young was baptized into the Church, he knew it would bring trouble for him. He realized that as the Kingdom of God would be built up, persecution would increase. Said he:

And to my certain knowledge, through the visions of the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, I did know, I did see, I did understand, before I went into the waters of baptism, that this spirit of persecution would increase. As the kingdom of God increased upon the earth, so [109] would the power of the enemy increase in like manner, to keep pace with it; and there never would be a time, except for a short period, that this people would have rest, until Israel was fully gathered, was redeemed and built up, and the Lord had drawn the dividing line between the righteous and the wicked. (JD 2:249)

It would seem logical that as the work of God would increase, that the people of the world would join with it. However, instead of people of this generation getting more righteous, they would only increase in their wickedness. The Prophet responded:

I prophesy, in the name of the Lord God of Israel, anguish and wrath and tribulation and the withdrawing of the Spirit of God from the earth await this generation, until they are visited with utter desolation. This generation is as corrupt as the generation of the Jews that crucified Christ; and if He were here today, and should preach the same doctrine He did then, they would put Him to death. (TPJS, p. 328)

If the Saints speak out against the “corruptions” of the world, it will arouse the wrath of those who promote those corruptions. From this statement of Joseph’s, it is evident that it is also the doctrines of the Gospel that arouse the wrath of the world.

George Q. Cannon elaborates on this by showing that God allows it by turning it around for good:

This power <of the adversary>, which is waging a warfare against us, would shed the blood of every man and woman who profess to be Latter-day Saints and who try with all their might to live their religion and honor the Holy Priesthood. There is no excess of cruelty at which they who are influenced by it would stop, no [110] length to which they would not go to accomplish their damnable and hellish purposes. Why? Because the devil was a murderer from the beginning–he has murdered from the beginning; he prompted the first murder, and he prompted the last one. It was he who prompted men at all times to shed the blood of innocence, and seek by so doing to stop the work of God. He induced Judas to betray and shed the blood of Jesus Christ–to shed the most precious blood that ever flowed in human veins. He it was who stirred men up to commit these murders, impressing them with the false idea that some great advantage would result from such crimes, and that they would be able to check the progress of the kingdom of God and arrest the purposes of Jehovah. And it is the same power which is at work today and that suggested to men to shed the blood of Joseph, and instilled into their minds the thought that if they could kill him, they could thereby interrupt the work of God. But, as we see, instead of accomplishing what they expected, they have only forwarded the purposes of God our heavenly Father.

In suggesting to men to shed the blood of Jesus Christ, and the blood of innocence in every dispensation and age when God has had a people on the earth, the devil has shown great ignorance and blindness, and God has, through his superior wisdom and power, overruled all these acts for his own glory, and for the accomplishment of his own purposes and the salvation of man upon the earth. (JD 11:230)

Those who have rebelled against those prophets, apostles, and priesthood holders, have only served a purpose for the Lord. To plunder and kill the Saints will only help to exalt them. When they killed the prophets, they became martyrs. When they crucified Christ, He became the Savior of the world.


[111] Persecution of the Early Christians

King Solomon seemed to understand the nature of the opposition by saying, “The wicked watcheth the righteous and seeketh to slay him.” (Ps. 37:32)

Jesus also issued a similar warning to His disciples:

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 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. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; . . . (John 15:18-20)

This was fulfilled with greater intensity than any of them probably expected. The extent of this persecution against the Priesthood was elaborated on by Apostle George Q. Cannon:

So long as the Apostles lived, and so long as any man lived who had been associated with them in their labors, there was an incessant persecution carried on against them. And it is recorded that every one of them, except John, died a violent death. They tried to kill John; they immersed him in a cauldron of boiling oil and sent him to the Isle of Patmos to work in the lead mines, and persecuted him in various ways; but, owing to the promise of God, they could not kill him. Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, not considering himself worthy to be crucified as his Lord had been. Paul was beheaded in Rome; the other Apostles were killed in various ways, every one of them suffering an ignominious death because of their belief in Jesus; because they believed God was a God of revelation, and because they laid claim to authority from Jesus to administer the ordinances of his church. This was the course pursued by the inhabitants of the earth until the Apostles and every man having [112] authority had been killed, and the gifts and blessings had entirely disappeared from the earth. After this men took to themselves doctrines to accommodate themselves, the rites and many of the doctrines of Paganism and portions of existing institutions were incorporated into the Christian Church, until almost every vestige of the pure doctrines had disappeared, and nothing was left but mere forms. (JD 14:53)

Among the disciples of Christ, Paul was one of the most noted victims of persecution. He personally described some of his sufferings:

In labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (2 Cor. 11:23-27)

I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Cor. 12:10)

John Foxe is perhaps the most noted English historian of the early Christian persecution, writing the most extensive research on that subject that has ever been done. Concerning these first Christians, he wrote:

The first Christian martyrs were those who suffered under the persecution of the Romans in the early ages of the Church. For 240 years, or from about the year 64 after Christ to the time of the emperor Constantine (306), the cruel punishments inflicted upon [113] the Christians by their heathen enemies are described by the ancient historians as being as various and horrible as the mind of man, inspired by the devil, could invent.

“Some,” we are told, “were slain with the sword; some burned with fire; some scourged with whips; some stabbed with forks of iron; some fastened to the cross or gibbet; some drowned in the sea; some had their skins plucked off; some were stoned to death; some killed with cold; some starved with hunger; some, with their hands cut off or otherwise disabled, were left naked, to the open shame of the world. Yet, notwithstanding the sharpness of their torments, such was the constancy of those who suffered–or rather, such was the power of the Lord in his saints–that they generally remained faithful to the end.” (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, p. 11)

Joseph F. Smith reviewed the sufferings of these early Saints and explained the reason why it eventually stopped:

Notwithstanding, the disciples of Jesus, excepting John the Revelator, suffered ignominious deaths, they sowed the seed of the Gospel among, and conferred the Priesthood upon men, which remained for several generations upon the earth, but the time came when Paganism was engrafted into Christianity, and at last  Christianity was converted into Paganism rather than converting the Pagans. And subsequently the Priesthood was taken from among men, this authority was recalled into the heavens, and the world was left without the Priesthood–without the power of God–without the Church and Kingdom of God. (JD 22:44)

As men were converted to the ways of the world, their Priesthood was lost and persecution dwindled. As the Church began to prosper in power, wealth and numbers, it became a foreign power to the righteous principles of the Priesthood. Soon the Church became a worldly power and a terrible [114] dictator, eventually bringing about the great need for a Reformation.


The Great Reformation

Jesus told His disciples, “The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.” (John 16:2) The Romans declared that it was for a lawful and worthy cause that Christians be killed, so they devised many entertaining ways to torture and execute them. They believed that their Roman gods were pleased to see the Christians whipped, burned, fed to lions, dragged through streets, and killed by horrid means of torture.

When the true Priesthood had been driven from the earth through persecution, the Roman Empire took over the remains of the Christian Church. Like a phoenix from the ashes, however, the Church gained in power and began to purge, plunder and kill in the same way the Romans had done to them previously. Anyone who did not agree with the Church leaders was considered an apostate and was condemned. As a few righteous souls began condemning the evils of the Church, their persecutions became worse. By the time the Church gained total control of the religious and political realms, it had sunk to its lowest level.

As the scriptures began to be rediscovered and more widely circulated, persecutions increased. During the era of Martin Luther, the Church was devastating communities. Luther said, “He who desires to proclaim the word of Christ to the world, must expect death at every moment.” (D’Aubigne, bk. 4, ch. 4) The Church would ferret out these heretics, hold Church trials, and after the excommunication, turn them over to the secular authorities for execution. To offer any disagreement with Church leaders was almost a death sentence.


[115] On one occasion when Luther was going to his Church trial–

The population of Worms crowded the city’s streets to welcome his arrival; he was the popular hero of the hour; and the next morning when, through thronged streets, he went to his first appearance before the diet, General Frundsberg, the outstanding soldier of Germany, clapped him on the shoulder, saying: “My poor monk! my little monk! Thou art on thy way to make a stand such as I and many of my knights have never done in our toughest battles.” (Great Voices of the Reformation, Fosdick, p. 75)

Another great reformer, John Huss, wrote a letter while on his way to a Church trial and said:

My brethren, . . . I am departing with a safe-conduct from the king to meet my numerous and mortal enemies. . . . I confide altogether in the all-powerful God, in my Saviour; I trust that He will listen to your ardent prayers, that He will infuse His prudence and His wisdom into my mouth, in order that I may resist them; and that He will accord me His Holy Spirit to fortify me in His truth, so that I may face with courage, temptations, prison, and if necessary, a cruel death. Jesus Christ suffered for His well-beloved; and therefore ought we to be astonished that He has left us His example, in order that we may ourselves endure with patience all things for our own salvation? He is God, and we are His creatures; He is the Lord, and we are His servants; He is Master of the world, and we are contemptible mortals: –yet He suffered! Why, then, should we not suffer also, particularly when suffering is for us a purification? Therefore, beloved, if my death ought to contribute to His glory, pray that it may come quickly, and that He may enable me to support all my calamities with constancy. But if it be better that I return amongst you, let us pray to God that I may return without stain,–that is, that I may not suppress [116] one tittle of the truth of the gospel, in order to leave my brethren an excellent example to follow. (The Great Controversy, White, p. 118)

The noble John Huss never returned–he was burned at the stake!

Each of the great Reformers studied the scriptures and understood the corruptions and apostasy of the Church. More important, they knew the compromises between the Church and the world. When the Reformer, Jerome, was brought before the Church council, he said:

“Prove to me from the Holy Writings that I am in error,” he said, “and I will abjure it.”

“The Holy Writings!” exclaimed one of his tempters. “Is everything then to be judged by them? Who can understand them till the church has interpreted them?”

“Are the traditions of men more worthy of faith than the gospel of our Saviour?” replied Jerome. “Paul did not exhort those to whom he wrote to listen to the traditions of men, but said, `Search the Scriptures.'” (History of Protestantism, 1:73)

The Church had become so bound by the “wisdom” of the councils of men and the traditions of the world, that they no longer used the scriptures as a guide.

There were spiritual and scriptural truths that the Reformers attempted to sustain and defend, but the world would not accept them. There has always been the same disposition to accept the theories and traditions of men instead of the word of God as recorded in scripture. In every age the truth has not had the serious recognition it deserves.


[117] Thus, those who bear the Priesthood and defend the truth in this dispensation should not expect any favors from the world. The traditions and disposition of men today are the same as in the days of the early Christians and the Reformers. Ellen G. White wrote, “The great controversy between truth and error, between Christ and Satan, is to increase in intensity to the close of this world’s history.” (The Great Controversy, p. 165)

There is an important lesson to be learned from these former souls who paid the ultimate price for their faith. Every Priesthood bearer should consider it in depth. A remarkable piece of writing came from the pen of John Foxe, who wrote:

But a few hundred years ago the most cruel punishments were inflicted, not merely upon criminals dangerous to the State, but upon innocent men and women, the best and noblest people of their time, whose only offense was a refusal to renounce their faith in a religion dearer to them than life.

The steadfast courage of the martyrs, when confronted with death in terrible forms, almost leads us to believe they could not have been mere human creatures, subject to the same fears, having the same love of life, affections, and sensibility to pain as ourselves; but another order of beings, so formed as to be indifferent to physical suffering and proof against mental weakness. But the records of their lives proves this not to be so. Their words, their acts, their writings, their often impassioned defense, and affectionate leave-taking of family and friends show them to have been of the very same flesh and blood as we of today; only differing in being upheld by a fiery zeal and fervent faith which grew stronger with persecution, defied prisons and tormentors, and shone yet brighter than the flames in which their bodies finally perished. (Preface to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs)


[118] During those Dark Ages and the Reformation, conditions became so confusing and so corrupt that Catholics were killing Protestants and Protestants were killing Catholics. One particular siege became known as the “Thirty-Year War”, both sides thinking they were “doing God a service.”

For nearly 2,000 years the sentence of death could strike at any moment because of a difference in religious convictions.




Protestant clergyman being roasted alive by a slow fire


[119] The Restoration of All Things

With the restoration of the Gospel in this last dispensation, came the restoration of Priesthood and its resulting persecution. With the founding of America, religious freedom was established–but for only a little while. The Prophet Joseph Smith caused the world to initiate the same spirit of persecution that began with the ministry of Christ. He wrote:

I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects–all united to persecute me. (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2:22)

  1. H. Roberts explained:

The Great Teacher said to His disciples: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 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.” And does not the same principle hold good today? And if Joseph Smith was indeed God’s servant, would not the world hate him? (JD 25:136)

The Prophet Joseph described the people of the world who caused him such persecution; but he also described the good that comes from such persecution:


[120] I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyercraft, doctorcraft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women–all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty, who will give me dominion over all and every one of them, when their refuge of lies shall fail, and their hiding place shall be destroyed, while these smooth-polished stones with which I come in contact become marred. (TPJS, p. 304)

Brigham Young also elaborated:

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. (JD 7:145)

You may calculate, when this people are called to go through scenes of affliction and suffering, are driven from their homes, and cast down, and scattered, and smitten, and peeled, the Almighty is rolling on his work with greater rapidity. (JD 2:7)

Heber J. Grant made this observation:

Joseph Smith . . . predicted that the Latter-day Saints would be driven from city to city, from county to county, from state to state, and finally driven from the confines of the United States to the Rocky Mountains, which was then Mexican territory. People laughed him to scorn for saying that he, whom they considered a miserable upstart, at the head of a deluded lot of people, would attract the attention of anybody to the [121] extent that they would be driven out of a state, and particularly be driven beyond the confines of the United States. He also announced that the day would come when not only a city, not only a county, not only a state should be arrayed against the handful of Latter-day Saints, commonly called Mormons, but the day should come when the whole United States would be arrayed against them. People hooted at that statement, but the day did come when we were driven from city to city, from county to county, and state to state, and the day did come when we were driven to the Rocky Mountains, where he had said we should become a great and mighty people. And that is exactly what we have become, because in proportion to our numbers, we are a great and mighty people, and people are beginning to recognize it today. Finally the United States of America, on the statements of lying judges and others, sent an army against us–for doing what? For doing what we never did. Subsequently the government pardoned us for our sins that we had never committed, but they sent their army here all the same. And later, because of false statements made to Congress, the government confiscated all the property, both real and personal, belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as if the Lord desired doubly to fulfill the prediction of Joseph Smith. I picked up the paper day after day myself, when the trial was going on here in the courts, and read in bold headlines, “The United States of America vs. the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” and laid the paper down and said: “Thanks be to Uncle Sam for putting the absolute stamp of divinity upon the utterances of the Prophet Joseph Smith!” This is one of the reasons why we believe in prophets–because their prophecies are fulfilled. (Conf. Rept., Oct. 1919, pp. 29-30)

Most people would believe that the Priesthood of God should be respected and honored among all men, and that persecution. would be a detriment in promoting the cause of Christ and God should not allow it. How could any good come from it? But Brigham Young arrived at these conclusions:


[122] Well, do you think that persecution has done us good? Yes. I sit and laugh, and rejoice exceedingly when I see persecution. I care no more about it than I do about the whistling of the north wind, the croaking of the crane that flies over my head, or the crackling of the thorns under the pot. The Lord has all things in His hand; therefore let it come, for it will give me experience. (JD 2:8)

I used to think if I were the Lord, I would not suffer people to be tried as they are; but I have changed my mind on that subject. Now I think I would if I were the Lord, because it purges out the meanness and corruption that stick around the Saints, like flies around molasses. (JD 5:115)

The spirit of opposition has existed since the Garden of Eden. It will continue as long as the devil has anyone on earth who will serve him. The Book of Mormon says that “it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.” (2 Ne 2:11); so it is not surprising that there will be opposition to the Priesthood. Either the Priesthood of God or the priesthood of the devil must ride triumphant on the earth, and until the final victory there will be opposition.

The warfare between Christ and the devil is not fought with guns and bombs; nevertheless it is a warfare. Those who are unwilling to fight valiantly on the battlefield must suffer the eventual consequences. Many have complained over the price that must be paid, but the Prophet Joseph chastised them saying:

You are not as yet brought into as trying circumstances as were the ancient Prophets and Apostles. Call to mind Daniel, the three Hebrew children, Jeremiah, Paul, Stephen, and many others, too numerous to mention, who were stoned, sawn asunder, tempted, slain with the sword, and wandered about in sheep skins and goat skins, being destitute, [123] afflicted, tormented, or whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and in mountains, and hid in dens, and caves of the earth; yet they all obtained a good report through faith; and amidst all their afflictions they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to receive persecution for Christ’s sake. (TPJS, p. 32)

“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 men, but every man and woman who dares believe the doctrines that God hath inspired me to teach in this generation.” Such were the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith to the Nauvoo Legion on the 18th of June 1844. (Rise and Fall of Nauvoo, B.H. Roberts)

Thus, in this Dispensation of the Fullness of Times, we not only have the restoration of the fullness of the Gospel, but the “fullness of opposition” as well. The devil knows the time is short, and he has engaged all his forces for these last battles.


The Need for Persecution

For gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity. (Eccles. 2:5)


The worst forms of persecution seem to be the result of religious fanatics against other religious people–bringing judgment against the wicked, and purification and glory to the innocent. These sufferings prove to be a great benefit for the saints, since it is by trial that souls are purified and perfected.


[124] When we come to look at the works of God, and witness the manifestation of His power, we see that everything that is excellent, everything that is desirable, comes forth from the midst of much tribulation. Even the jewels of the earth, and the riches thereof–the minerals, the gold and silver for which men thirst, and for which they have been willing to sacrifice life–are brought forth out of what seems to us the agonies of nature. And so in regard to violent deaths such as our brethren have suffered. In passing through such a trial bravely, faithfully, and truly, they have become jewels in the hands of God, and will continue to progress throughout the endless ages of eternity. (George Q. Cannon, JD 25:280-81)

Another reason the Lord allows tests and persecutions to come to those who bear the Priesthood is because it prevents the dross from joining the ranks of the faithful. Persecution screens out the weak. According to Brigham Young–

. . . if we did not have to bear the iron hand of persecution, the principles we believe in, which attract the attention of the good and the evil upon the earth and which occupy so many tongues and circumscribe their philosophy, would be embraced by thousands who are now indifferent to them. The evil-doer would crowd upon our borders; and we have plenty of them now without receiving any more. They would crowd into this Church. And this is the reason why brother George Q. Cannon says, he is pleased and rejoiced because of this persecution. We should be satisfied with it; we should acknowledge the hand of God in it, and say: The will of the Lord be done and not ours. By closely watching the Latter-day Saints, and seeing that they are kept in the line of their duty by using this kind of a rod, it prevents others from coming that would affect us more than they can who are outside of this Church.

(JD 18:359)


[125] Can you destroy a true religion by persecuting it? No. What destroyed the Priesthood of the Son of God from the earth in ancient days? Was it persecution? No. The Emperor Constantine embraced it and sent out a decree for all his people to embrace it. Let this people be prospered and all persecutions cease, and then every description of characters would hasten to join this Church. (JD 7:145)

Persecution is only one of the kinds of testing the Lord allows His people to endure. Riches and prosperity can also be a severe test.

There is a class of persons that persecution will not drive from the Church of Christ, but prosperity will; and again there is another class that prosperity will not drive, but persecution will. The Lord must and will have a company of Saints who will follow Him to the cross if it be necessary and these He will crown. (Mill. Star 16:444)

Prosperity is one of the greatest temptations to man and is one of the most powerful influences in proving the genuine qualities of his character. Men want money to help them become popular and famous–two extreme dangers to those holding the Priesthood. Brigham Young said:

If I had in my possession one hundred million dollars in cash, I could buy the favor of the publishers of newspapers and control their presses; with that amount I could make this people popular, though I expect that popularity would send us to hell. (JD 3:160)

It is important to remember that those who do the persecuting are preparing their own rewards. The wicked must be condemned, and it is by their own works that they will be judged. In 1855, Ezra T. Benson explained:


[126] We have learned another lesson too, at least I have, viz., that the driving part of “Mormonism”, the burnings, mobbings, and oppressions were all very necessary to the bringing this people to an understanding of their true position before God. All that has ever come upon us has served a good purpose and was very essential to the condemnation of our enemies. (JD 3:77)

Alma and Amulek were forced to witness the pain and suffering of women and children as they were consumed by fire. Amulek pleaded with Alma to use his Priesthood power to save them, but Alma replied:

The spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day. (Alma 14:11)

And again in the last days, Joseph and Hyrum were killed for the same reason–to bring about judgment upon the wicked. It is written that their innocent blood–

. . . is a witness to the truth of the everlasting gospel that all the world cannot impeach; and their innocent blood on the banner of liberty, and on the magna charta of the United States, is an ambassador for the religion of Jesus Christ, that will touch the hearts of honest men among all nations; and their innocent blood, with the innocent blood of all the martyrs under the altar that John saw, will cry unto the Lord of Hosts till he avenges that blood on the earth. Amen. (D & C 135:7)


[127] When the Lord allows persecution, affliction, and opposition to come upon His people, it is for their benefit. Perhaps there would be no other way for men to learn to bend their will to the will of God. Prosperous men seldom feel that they need God, but poor men usually do. John Taylor explained:

Why is it that good men should be tried? Why is it, in fact, that we should have a devil? Why did not the Lord kill him long ago? Because he could not do without him. He needed the devil and a great many of those who do his bidding just to keep men straight, that we may learn to place our dependence upon God, and trust in Him, and to observe his laws and keep his commandments. (JD 23:336)

It is through our difficulties that we gain strength. This is evident in the sluggishness and weakness that many animals display when they are confined to living in a zoo. The wilderness provides them with difficulties and alertness that build their strength, alertness and agility. Persecution has been a boon to the cause of the Gospel, and the more its enemies have tried to stomp it out of existence, the greater becomes the strength of its advocates. Brigham Young explains this further:

Every time they persecute and try to overcome this people, they elevate us, weaken their own hands, and strengthen the hands and arms of this people. And every time they undertake to lessen our number, they increase it. And when they try to destroy the faith and virtue of this people, the Lord strengthens the feeble knees, and confirms the wavering in faith and power in God, in light, and intelligence. Righteousness and power with God increase in this people in proportion as the devil struggles to destroy it. (JD 8:225-26)


[128] Another reason for persecution and trials is to prepare the souls of men for a celestial inheritance. Wilford Woodruff realized this and said:

I believe myself, from the reading of the revelations of God, that it is necessary for a people who are destined to inherit the celestial kingdom to be a tried people. I have never read of the people of God in any dispensation passing through life, as the sectarian world would say, on flowery beds of ease, without opposition of any kind. (JD 23:327)

John Taylor felt the same way:

Nevertheless, as I have said, it is necessary that we pass through certain ordeals, and that we be tried. But why is it that we should be tried? There is just the same necessity for it now that there was in former times. I heard the Prophet Joseph say, in speaking to the Twelve on one occasion: “You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God, and (said he) God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it, you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.” Some people have wondered why so many of the Twelve fell away. God tries people according to the position they occupy. (JD 24:197)

From the previous passages, then, it is evident that persecution, trials, and opposition are necessary for the following reasons:


  1. To prove the strength of the people
  2. To screen out the weak
  3. To keep the Saints from pride
  4. To bring judgment against the wicked
  5. To bring righteous men to God


  1. To provide an avenue for spiritual guidance
  2. To prepare souls for celestial glory

In all the ages of the past, Saints of God have been persecuted and so it should be expected now. The Lord does not allow His people to be afflicted without a reason. He does it for their good. But it is easier to go through these trials if one understands the reasons for them.


Why Does Persecution Cease?

Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? (Acts 7:52)

Apathy and prosperity are like small insects which bore into a mighty tree and cause a church to die. Ellen G. White identifies this danger and explains why persecution ceases:

There is another and more important question that should engage the attention of the churches of today. The apostle Paul declares that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Why is it, then, that persecution seems in a great degree to slumber? The only reason is, that the church has conformed to the world’s standard, and therefore awakens no opposition. The religion which is current in our day is not of the pure and holy character that marked the Christian faith in the days of Christ and His apostles. It is only because of the spirit of compromise with sin, because the great truths of the word of God are so indifferently regarded, because there is so little vital godliness in the church, that Christianity is apparently so popular with the world. Let there be a revival of the faith and power <and doctrines> of the early church, and the spirit of persecution will be revived, and the fires of persecution will be rekindled. (The Great Controversy, White, p. 53)


[130] In all dispensations, Satan has made plans to gain success against the Church of God by planting seeds of allurement to the temporal rather than the spiritual. Into the hearts of influential leaders, he has instilled the lure of temporal wealth and honors of men. As compromises began to be made with the world, persecution dwindled and temporal prosperity increased. This new-found wealth, honor and praise were considered by them to be blessings from God. But as the saints began to revel in this prosperity, they began to lose the riches of eternity.

What the devil had failed to achieve by force, he has accomplished by cunning artifice. The Church has arrived on the brink of serious peril. Persecution, plundering, prison, torture and even death have stopped, but they were blessings compared to the consequences of abandoning the exalting principles of the Gospel. The rules, superstitions and philosophies of men have caused changes in the organization, ordinances, and doctrines once established by Christ. The true Gospel, once enjoyed by members of the LDS Church, has gradually slipped away along with its gifts, powers and blessings. The glorious Gospel principles have been substituted for acceptance of Babylon, and the absence of persecution–the refiner’s fire–is being temporarily enjoyed by the mainstream church.

Thus, the influences of the world continue to play an important part in weakening the work of the ministry. The sermons, the living conditions, and religious thinking all conform to worldly standards and customs in order to have peace with the world. If a man preaches the Gospel truth today, and lives by that truth, he will not be popular with the world. George Q. Cannon declared:

Whenever a preacher is popular in the midst of a wicked generation, or a man is popular who professes [131] to be a minister of truth, you may set it down as a certain fact that that man does not preach the truth as it exists in Christ. There is no disputing this, if this book (the Bible) be true; if there is any reliance to be placed in the word of God. (JD 20:333)

If a bird looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, you can be quite sure it must be a duck. When a Latter-day Saint looks like a gentile, acts like a gentile, and speaks like a gentile, you can be quite certain he has become a gentile.

When the Church of Christ has taken up friendship with the world and is no longer the object of persecution, it is because there is little or no difference between the Church of Christ and any of the other world churches. When the Church of Christ becomes just another corporation, then it operates as a business with all the common business licenses and social status of other state administrations. It voluntarily removes itself from God’s jurisdiction and places itself under the jurisdiction of government where it becomes a professional department within the usual political framework. When such a church has struck hands with the world, the reasons for its persecution are no longer there.


From Persecuted to Persecutor

It has been said that those who have been persecuted will, when their turn comes, become persecutors. This has been said concerning us. “Oh,” it has been said, “you are now in the minority. It is all very well to plead for liberty and contend for the rights of man. But wait. If you ever get power, you who have been persecuted will turn round and persecute other people.” This has been cast against us as bearing out the history of the past. (George Q. Cannon, JD 22:179)


[132] As the Church has become more and more worldly–in both Christ’s day and in ours–two interesting phenomena have occurred: (1) it was no longer persecuted, and (2) it became a persecutor.




The Spanish Inquisition: Torturing apostates


[133] Men who governed the Church sought for more power and recognition, even political offices and important business connections. Revelations that conflicted with these programs were set aside or substituted for “new” ideals and “progressive” methods. Men who joined the Church were more often lawyers, educators, bankers, businessmen, and political officers who perhaps saw an opportunity to use the Church to further their personal ambitions.

So, those conservative adherents to the original Gospel who objected to the compromises and changes became targets for “cleansing the Church of apostates,” because they would not conform to the new changes. The result was that the Church leaders resorted to various methods of persecution. Christians who once were persecuted became persecutors, and with the passing of time it grew worse.

The devil often tries to get his disciples into the Church of Christ for the specific reason of changing the Church from the inside. They are usually worldly people who push conformity to worldly standards. Persecution is one of the methods of dealing with those who object to their plans. These “false” brethren can always be detected, as outlined in the parable of the tares. The Doctrine and Covenants Commentary explains:

As the work of sowing good seed is done by Christ through His Apostles, so the work of sowing tares is done by the adversary through the agency of the leaders of an apostate, persecuting church. A persecuting church, be it remembered, is always a false church. Persecution is from the evil one. For, as has been well said by a student of history, “While it is true that victims of persecution have sometimes been wrong, it is equally true that the persecutors have always been wrong.” (D & C Comm., Smith and Sjodahl,  p. 531)


[134] It may seem bewildering that the Lord has said to let the wheat and tares grow together in the same soil, for they are similar in their appearance, characteristics and manner of growth. But it is the same in the Church and Kingdom of God. Men who attend the same meetings, claim the same authority, sustain the same Gospel, and speak in the same religious manner, can still be as different as the wheat and the tares.

How, then, can a person distinguish the difference? While they are young, it may be almost impossible; but as they mature, there is a marked difference. The tares are usually a little weaker in their spine, and probably lean in a different direction, or they may display a lack of substance in their head. So it is with tares among men.

The question then arises that if it is so dangerous for the wheat to grow up with the tares, why does God allow such a thing in His garden? He answered this question for the Apostle Orson Hyde in a revelation:

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. (Unpub. Rev., comp. by Collier, pp. 104-05)

When leaders are weak, they demand allegiance–often in written form; but those who are rightfully strong, need not exercise such force as they know it does not add to their strength or allegiance. The Prophet Joseph Smith stated:


[135] Pure friendship always becomes weakened the very moment you undertake to make it stronger by penal oaths and secrecy. (TPJS, p. 146)

But unfortunately the Mormon Church has not escaped this desire to compel and control the free conscience and beliefs of its members. For nearly 50 years the Church has been issuing test oaths for members to sign. Notice the allegiance demanded by the leaders on one of their test oaths:

That I accept fully and endorse and endeavor to make a part of my life, the present-day teachings of the General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with headquarters at 47 East South Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah. * * *

That I sustain the present-day leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with headquarters at 47 East South Temple Street, Salt Lake City, as the authorized servants of God upon the earth. * * *

I say truthfully, wholeheartedly and of my own free will, that I do accept and endorse the present policies and teachings of the General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with headquarters at 47 East South Temple Street, Salt Lake City. * * *

It is my intention to live my life in harmony with the present-day policies and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with headquarters at 47 East South Temple Street, Salt Lake City.


(from Complaint Against Ogden Kraut, p. 36)

Ironically, this test oath said nothing about following God, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Ghost–but only about following the men at 47 East South Temple Street.


[136] Those who are excommunicated from the Church should be so handled only for reasons of sin; yet, many over-enthusiastic leaders cut people off the Church for belief or disbelief in certain doctrines. They think they are doing God a service and diligently seek out those whose state of mind is different from theirs.

It is strange that many men should have such a strong desire to force others to adopt their views and practices. It is strange to contemplate that prisons, torture, and death have been employed in the service of compulsory religion. No doubt, most of those who have resorted to such means have done so believing that they were trying to benefit their fellow-men by compelling them to believe and to do right. They did not call themselves persecutors. Nor do their modern successors regard themselves as persecutors, if they slander the members of unpopular churches, boycott them socially and otherwise, and do everything in their power to prevent people from becoming interested in them. But, no matter how they regard themselves, they are persecutors, and as such they are in the service of Satan, who is the originator of the compulsory plan of salvation, and who has tried to enforce it among men from the beginning. God’s kingdom is founded on perfect liberty. (D & C Comm., p. 650)

The Prophet Joseph explained the nature of those who cause trouble for members within the Church by saying:

When once that light which was in them is taken from them, they become as much darkened as they were previously enlightened, and then, no marvel, if all their power should be enlisted against the truth, and they, Judas-like, seek the destruction of those who were their greatest benefactors. What nearer friend on earth, or in heaven, had Judas than the Savior? And his first object was to destroy Him. (TPJS, p. 67)


[137] Just before his death, the Prophet foretold to Mosiah Hancock that this transition would occur in the Church:

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 Saviour, 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 Saviour will be cast down because of their poverty. (Mosiah Hancock Journal, printed by Pioneer Press, p. 19)

By the late 1890’s the Church chose to turn a corner rather than continue on the straight and narrow path–giving up (1) their political kingdom of God, (2) their economic United Order, and (3) their social marriage system to “become a part of the world.” Wilford Woodruff was Church President during this time, and Thomas Alexander (historian and BYU professor) was reported to have said:

Alexander called President Woodruff a “prime mover” in the effort to shift the Church’s emphasis from a political, economic, social and religious organization to an organization that emphasized personal piety, church attendance and ritual.

He said President Woodruff chose to accommodate the customs of non-Mormons rather than see the Church destroyed. Such an accommodation, said Alexander, paved the way for sweeping political, economic and social change that would bring Utah statehood and its people into the 20th century. (Des. News, Jan. 13, 1990)

Elder Carmack spoke about the “pivotal times” the Church had taken and said:

We had a period of isolation in the West, then we had a period of tremendous persecution. And we turned another corner about the turn of the century.


[138] During his tenure, President Heber J. Grant moved us into the modern era. We were no longer in isolation. We became a part of the world, the business community, the intellectual community. That was a major corner that we turned. (Church News, Jan. 13, 1990)

Martha S. Bradley, another LDS historian and professor, in a classical treatise on the “Changed Faces” of Mormonism, noted that, “During this century the Church’s attitude has changed dramatically,” and “these adjustments also reflect a sort of `changing of the guard.'” Also, “through this transition, the Church entered the mainstream of conservative American Society.” During this transition, Church leaders changed from persecuted to persecutor. Prof. Bradley reported:

Starting in the 1950’s, Elder Mark E. Petersen aggressively worked to eliminate the practice of plural marriage by searching out the individual believer and utilizing surveillance techniques similar to those used by private investigators. After searching for and identifying a suspected polygamist, Elder Petersen encouraged local leaders to watch their homes, to follow them to meetings or other gatherings, and to question them about their unexplainable behavior. This information would then be used in a Church court. (Sunstone, Feb. 1990, “Changed Faces”, p. 31)

This was a change from the attitude of Joseph F. Smith, who said, “If there is anything, gentlemen, that I despise, it is an infamous spotter and informer; and I am not one of those.” (Smoot Investigation 1:149)

Professor Bradley also noted that–

In a statement to the United Press which would later become part of the case file, Apostle Mark E. Petersen remarked: “The Church has actively assisted [139] federal and state authorities in obtaining evidence against the cultists, and helping to prosecute them under the law. . . . Among the witnesses for the prosecution are men who have been appointed by the Church to search out the cultists, turning over such information as they gather to the prosecution for their use; these men have also been appointed by the Church to do all they can to fight the spread of polygamy.”

At the time the Church was supplying information from its internal surveillance activities to the state attorney general, it was publicly denying any part in the action. (Ibid., p. 30)




Roundup at Short Creek


[140] Changes in the LDS Church have continued to the present time. Elder George P. Lee of the First Quorum of Seventy regarded the change from the spiritual to the temporal as a grievous mistake and mentioned such in his meetings with the General Authorities. In a letter he wrote to The Brethren just prior to his excommunication, he stated:

We need to get our act together before the spirit of the Lord is grieved and before the Lord says amen to our priesthood and authority as he did the Nephites. I believe our fate is very similar to the Nephites unless we can turn it around only upon the principles of righteousness.

We do not have the priesthood for self-aggrandizement or to be used to oppress anyone. There is no priesthood of God that authorizes any one man to oppress another or to intrude upon his rights in any way.

Elder Lee went on to mention some of the weaknesses of the Church leaders today:

Pride, arrogance and unrighteous dominion and control which encourages priesthood abuse, induces fear and produces forced obedience.

Love of power, status, position which creates a sense of worship for those in control and power.

Love of money. The rich seem to get richer and the poor get poorer, which encourages no sense of responsibility to the poor. In fact, you told me to not talk about the poor nor pray for them.

I am not sure how many of us would really do the Lord’s work if we were not being paid. (Sunstone, Aug. 1989, see pp. 50-55)

Elder Lee has mentioned since that time that the Church has various ways of harassing and persecuting those who, because of their fundamentalist beliefs, do not comply with the present teachings of the Church leaders today.


[141] It would be well for all Latter-day Saints, especially those who claim to hold the Priesthood, to carefully evaluate their position. Paul warned the Saints:

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (Col. 2:8)

The authority of the Priesthood has been the same in every dispensation, and the authority of the world has also been the same. But men of God will learn they cannot be loyal to both.



[142]                             Chapter 7




Brethren, it is a glorious privilege to have the priesthood of God, which has power that is greater than that held by kings and emperors. (Priesthood, p. 6, Spencer W. Kimball)


Priesthood, a Sacred Privilege

There is no greater privilege on earth than possessing the Priesthood, nor is there any greater power. For this reason it is important to understand what it is and make sure it is conferred properly. A brief review was given by Joseph Fielding Smith:

Priesthood has been defined by President John Taylor as the “rule, authority, administration, of the government of God on the earth or in the heavens.” It is the authority of God delegated to man, by which he is given power to officiate in all the ordinances of the Gospel, speak in the name of the Lord, perform all duties pertaining to the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth, and obtain knowledge by revelation. It is the power by which worlds are made. It is the power they obey, for it is the authority by which our Eternal Father performs all His work.

Without Priesthood there can be no Church of Jesus Christ on the earth: no official act performed in the name of the Lord and recognized by him; no remission of sins or fellowship with God. No man has power to take this authority to himself, it must be [143] delegated and come through the proper channels from the Author of our faith. (Way to Perfection, Smith, p. 70)

The Priesthood, then, is one of the greatest and most precious blessings that God can bestow upon man. It should be earnestly sought for, more than any of this world’s treasures, and it should be meticulously used and protected.

Through the ages it has been abused, misused, misunderstood, and fought against. Mankind, in general, understands little or nothing about the privileges, blessings and importance of this special power. Our generation is no exception. The rise and fall of Priesthood occurring in every other dispensation is also taking place in our own.

All of the keys, powers and blessings of every other dispensation have been restored to our generation. For obvious reasons those who now hold the Priesthood are among the most blessed and hold the greatest responsibility of any other dispensation.


Reasons for Conferral of Priesthood

Some have supposed that actual conferral of Priesthood was not really necessary–that by living a very righteous and virtuous life, a man would automatically possess Priesthood. But Joseph Smith explained:

There are two Priesthoods spoken of in the scriptures, viz., the Melchizedek and the Aaronic or Levitical. Although there are two Priesthoods, yet the Melchizedek Priesthood comprehends the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood. . . . (TPJS, p. 166)

If men could obtain the Priesthood through righteousness only, how do they know when they are righteous enough [144] to have the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood? And when have they achieved the level of righteousness to go on to the Melchizedek Priesthood? By performing some good deed, do they then know that the Priesthood has suddenly been conferred upon them? If such were true, why has the Church been making the mistake of laying on hands for conferral of Priesthood ever since Joseph Smith directed them to do so? Or, why was John the Baptist so mistaken that he administered laying on of hands for conferral of the lesser Priesthood?

Righteousness is certainly essential for receiving and exercising power of the Priesthood, but it is not the procedure by which it is conferred. Many righteous people have lived and died without the Priesthood. Few people have ever exhibited a more noble or Christian life than did many of the early Reformers who suffered in prisons and died in flames–just because of their faith and obedience to the gospel of Christ. Yet, they never received the Holy Priesthood of God in this mortal life. Brigham Young mentioned:

I never passed John Wesley’s church in London without stopping to look at it. Was he a good man? Yes, I suppose him to have been, by all accounts, as good as ever walked on this earth, according to his knowledge. Has he obtained a rest? Yes, and greater than ever entered his mind to expect; and so have thousands of others of the various religious denominations. Why could he not build up the Kingdom of God on the earth? He had not the Priesthood; that was all the difficulty he labored under. Had the Priesthood been conferred upon him, he would have built up the Kingdom of God in his day as it is now being built up. He would have introduced the ordinances, powers, grades, and quorums of the Priesthood; but, not holding the Priesthood, he could not do it. Did the Spirit of God rest upon him? Yes, and does, more or less, at times, upon all people. (Discourses of Brigham Young, 7:5)


[145] Another point to consider–men may be very righteous, but because of their lineage, they are forbidden from holding the Priesthood. For instance, the king of Egypt, who established the first Egyptian government, was a very nobel man. It is written:

Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood. (P of GP, Abraham 1:26)

On the other hand, Abraham learned that through his lineage, both he and his posterity had a right to possess the Priesthood. But even with this knowledge and being “chosen” before he was born, he still had to go to someone with Priesthood authority for his own Priesthood conferral. So he journeyed to another city to visit Melchizedek, the great High Priest, and inquired from him about the Priesthood. The Prophet Joseph shed this additional light:

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 sent him away. Abraham rejoiced, saying, Now I have a priesthood. (DHC 5:555)

So the actual ordinance of conferring the Priesthood, and doing it correctly, is of vital importance. It must be handled carefully and wisely right from the beginning or it can be lost. Through careless and sloppy administration, it has been lost or forfeited in every previous dispensation, and our own is no exception. The Prophet Joseph said that, “The ordinances must [146] be kept in the very way God has appointed; otherwise their Priesthood will prove a cursing instead of a blessing.” (TPJS, p. 169)

* * *

The remainder of this chapter will be divided into five sections, mostly discussing the issues of conferral of Priesthood and ordination to office:


  1. Set Form vs. Free Expression in Ordinations
  2. First the Priesthood, then the Office
  3. The Official Change in Conferring and Ordaining
  4. Appendages to the Priesthood
  5. Conclusion: Questions and Problems

Set Form vs. Free Expression in Ordinations

The wording in Priesthood conferrals and ordinations to Priesthood office has been an ongoing problem in the LDS Church for over 100 years, the issue being between a set form or a free expression. To what extent either of these methods is used may decide the valid reception of the Priesthood or merely receiving an office in the Church.

An interesting guideline was published by the Church in 1947 which seemed to indicate that men should avoid “memorized prayers” and depend upon “inspiration” in these administrations:

Rather than follow set forms the brethren should live so that they may have the inspiration of the Spirit of God when called upon to officiate in the ordinances. Then their prayers will be simple, direct, appropriate and effective in the sight of God.

The only forms, either for prayer or ordinances outside the Temple in which the wording is specifically [147] prescribed are those pertaining to baptism and the administration of the sacrament. * * *

No set forms have been revealed in our day pertaining to the Blessing of Children, Confirmation and Bestowal of the Holy Ghost, Conferring the Priesthood, Consecration of Oil, Administering to the Sick, and Dedication of Graves. * * * Brethren officiating in ordinances should not repeat memorized prayers, except in the two cases referred to above, but exercise the privilege of blessing people and performing other ordinances under the inspiration of the Lord. It follows that faith, humility and purity of life should rule the lives of all bearing the Priesthood that the “vessels of the Lord” might be pure and receptive to the inspiration and direction of the Almighty. (Des. News, Dec. 27, 1947)

The problem arises as to which wording is necessary and which is irrelevant. There must be some “form” or guide to convey a specific function, while the rest of the wording is left to inspiration, prayer or promise. Such has been the controversy over the ordination of men to the Priesthood.

Many instances in Church history imply that men were ordained to an office in the Church but no mention was made of getting the Priesthood itself. Was Priesthood conveyed when there was no mention of it?

In some historical works it may not be written that a person was married, went to the temple, went on a mission, etc., but the absence of its mention does not necessarily mean that those things did not happen. So if no conferring of Priesthood is mentioned, does it happen anyhow?

Naturally there may be some words misused, misplaced, or omitted, and it will not effect the validity of an ordinance. On the other hand, words may be omitted that would make a big difference in the  validity and significance of that ordinance.


[148] For instance, the ordinance of baptism has a specified form to follow which is found in D & C 20:73. Leaving out some of those words would create questions as to the validity of the ordinance. The same may be said of the form used in the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. (See D & C 20:77-79.) This may also be true in conferring Priesthood–at least regarding the wording of the actual conferral.

When John the Baptist restored the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, he gave a pattern for future Priesthood ordinations:

While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying:

“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: and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”

He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; * * *

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 in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood, he said, would in due time be conferred on us. (P of G.P., Joseph Smith 2:68-70, 72)

If there is any form to be used or patterned after, it should be the wording coming from this heavenly messenger who restored the Priesthood in this dispensation; and he [149] specifically said it was conferred. By following this guide, there is less doubt and less room for human fallibilities and weaknesses. If men are too liberal in their views, the wording may stray too far from the objective of the ordinance, as Joseph Musser warned:

It isn’t that the Lord will not overlook an awkward word used by our inexperienced Elders who are called upon to perform these ordinances, excusing their mistakes and taking the will for the deed; but we cannot conceive Him condoning the changing of positive instructions and introducing forms that in no sense express the intention. (Truth 14:12)

There is only one way to confer Priesthood, and that is to confer it. (Truth 9:117)

Thus, when John the Baptist  appeared to Oliver and Joseph, he conferred Priesthood and never mentioned or identified any of the offices. It seems that if the office held the Priesthood, there would be no need to even mention Priesthood, but merely ordain to the particular office.

He also said the higher Priesthood “would in due time be conferred upon them” not that a higher office would be given to them. This was the order initiated by a heavenly being and one in which a precedent was established and followed almost universally for many years in the Church.

The references to John the Baptist surely must confirm our understanding of the conveyance of Priesthood authority. He said, “I confer the Priesthood of Aaron” rather than “I ordain you a Priest after the order of Aaron.”

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of references to the conferral of Priesthood; for example:


[150] Through the laying on of hands the Priesthood is conferred upon those who are counted worthy to receive it. (Erastus Snow, JD 25:199)

We have had conferred upon us the eternal Priesthood by which our heavenly Father has created all worlds and redeemed all worlds and has performed all his works from eternity to eternity. * * *

The Lord has given unto us the Priesthood. This is conferred upon us that we may administer in the ordinances of life and salvation. (Wilford Woodruff, JD 23:328)

But here is an important item: There are some of these things which I have referred to that some cannot do–they cannot lay hands upon them to impart unto them the Holy Ghost. If an elder can, he does it by and through the authority of Jesus Christ, through the medium of the holy priesthood conferred upon him by those holding authority. (John Taylor, JD 21:212)

But some of the Elders in the Church began to follow a general outline given by Moroni instead of John the Baptist. Notice this statement in the Book of Mormon:

After they had prayed unto the Father in the name of Christ, they laid their hands upon them, and said: In the name of Jesus Christ I ordain you to be a priest, (or, if he be teacher) I ordain you to be a teacher, to preach repentance and remission of sins through Jesus Christ, by the endurance of faith on his name to the end. Amen. (Moroni 3:2-3)

It is important to remember, however, that this wording applied to ordination of priests and teachers. Apparently before the individual was ordained to the office of Deacon, he had the Aaronic Priesthood conferred upon him, and the subsequent ordination to the higher offices did not necessitate re-conferral of the Priesthood itself since he had already [151] received it. Moroni was speaking of ordaining men to different offices in the Church–not the conferral of Priesthood itself; so what they did then was correct.

The procedure is the same for the Melchizedek Priesthood. When a man is ordained to the office of an Elder, he should be given the Melchizedek Priesthood first; but when he advances to other offices, such as Seventy, High Priest, or Apostle, he is not given that Priesthood again.

Notice that this passage in Moroni did not mention “The Church of Jesus Christ” or the “rights, powers, and authority pertaining to his office and calling,” nor did it even mention the word “Priesthood”. Neither does the LDS Church today adapt this version in the ordinations because nothing is said about the person preaching repentance or “the endurance of faith on His name” either.

However, in later years there were some, even among the Apostles, who thought this was a satisfactory form to follow. Two such examples are identical to Moroni’s statement:

Samuel Merrill:

January 2, 1841. * * * I ordain you an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to preach repentance and remission of sins through faith in the name of Jesus Christ and the endurance of faith unto the end. ***

Philemon Merrill:

January 2, 1841. * * * I ordain you an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and ordain you to that office to preach repentance and baptism for the remission of sins through faith in the name of Jesus Christ and the endurance through faith unto the end. (Patriarchal Blessing Book, 3:418, 419, 431, blessings No. 96, 104)


[152] In these particular instances the wording was copied from Moroni in the Book of Mormon as an apparently authorized form. In other ordinations those who were mouth just seemed to say whatever they felt like saying and never followed any kind of form. The ordination of Elijah Fordham is just such an example:

Kirtland, Jan. 3, 1836. The ordination and blessing of E(lijah) F(ordham):

Brother, we lay our hands upon thy head in the name of the Lord Jesus and we ordain thee to be an Elder in the Church of the Latter-day Saints, praying our Heavenly Father that he will bless thee with all the blessings of this ministry. * * * (W. W. Phelps, Family History, Utah Genealogical Society, SLC, Utah)

It should be noted that in all of these ordinations the word “Priesthood” is not even mentioned. Is it possible to convey something verbally but not even mention it?

Another ordination example, with no apparent guidelines used, is quoted below:

Bro. Crookston, in the name of the Lord Jesus of Nazareth, we lay our hands on you to ordain you to the office of a Deacon in the 18th Ward and pray our Heavenly Father to pour His spirit on you that you may go forth and discharge all the duties of this office that devolves on you. We ordain you even to the office of a Deacon in the CJCLDS that your mind may be quick of understanding, that you may perform the duties of your office and (I) seal this blessing on you and this we do in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, even so, Amen. (18th Ward Record, No. 1, pp. 17-18; March 18, 1855)

Was this man baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ, the 18th Ward, or both? It is evident that there were many different kinds of ordinations going on throughout the Church. [153] Some were valid, some questionable, and others may have gone too far on the liberal end of that spectrum. Elder Max Andersen expressed his opinion about Priesthood ordinations by saying:

If fundamentalism is what it purports to be–a return to and preservation of the early doctrine and practice of the Church–then they must reject the interpretations and procedures advocated by Joseph F. Smith and return to the original practice of the Church . . . . (Lorin C. Woolley Statement on Priesthood Conferral, p. 27)

Actually there never has been a solid and “original practice” of ordination that has been followed consistently throughout Church history. Some followed the procedure of John the Baptist; others used Moroni’s words; and some took off on their own version. How many of these ordinations the Lord will consider valid is anyone’s guess. Some may not have been worthy to have the Priesthood in the first place; others may need to have it redone during the Millennium; and still others received it but later sinned sufficient to lose it anyway.

The Lord took notice of some of these things occurring early in the Church because He said:

Wherefore, let all men beware how they take my name in their lips–for behold, verily I say, that many there be who are under this condemnation, who use the name of the Lord, and use it in vain, having not authority. (D & C 63:61-62)

It may seem strange that the Lord was warning the people of His church that some are doing Church work but have not authority. Possibly some men were already flippant and reckless in their callings and never passed on the conferral of Priesthood authority. Because of this error, they left some [154] innocent soul thinking he had received Priesthood when in reality this was not the case.

Apparently even in those early years, the Church didn’t offer any standard form as a guideline, and it has created a serious problem. Nearly a half century later a couple of different forms were published in the Missionary Handbooks for the Elders, but by then it seems that the solution to the problem came many years too late.


First the Priesthood, Then the Office

Ten years after Brigham Young died, the issue of Priesthood ordination came up in the higher councils of the Church. Some questioned a man’s having Priesthood when he had been given only an office in the Church. Abraham Cannon believed that Priesthood must first be conferred upon a man. In his journal he described the discussion:

A question was asked as to whether a man who held no Priesthood and on being ordained a Seventy, (who) did not have the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred upon him, was really the possessor of the Priesthood. I maintained that it was necessary to say in the ordination that this was conferred upon him; otherwise he did not possess it. There being some difference of opinion on this point, it was decided to refer the matter to the First Presidency for an answer. (Abraham H. Cannon Journal, March 20, 1887)

During this same time period, John Taylor responded to a letter from two brethren who inquired about the proper procedure for Priesthood ordination:



Salt Lake City, UT

March 25, 1887

Elder Robert Campbell, City


Dear Brother:


We might answer the question contained in the letter of F. G. Froerer and Angus McKay by asking another question: Did the Priest (after the order of Aaron) who was ordained according to the form given by Moroni in the 3rd chapter of his book, on page 609 of the Book of Mormon, receive the Aaronic Priesthood when there was no mention of its bestowal upon him or anything said concerning his being in the Church of Christ?


When a man is ordained to an office and to all the gifts and blessings pertaining to that office, if the man who ordains him has the authority necessary to ordain him, he certainly receives all that is conferred upon him.


It is very wrong for Elders in the Church to be caviling and getting up disputes upon such questions as are mentioned in this letter. Instead of contending upon such a subject, if there be any doubt respecting the sufficiency of the ordination, (it would be) far better to remove it by giving him another ordination that will leave no room for question than to have disputes about its validity.


With kind regards,

Your Brother

John Taylor  (Seventies Council Minutes, March 23 & 30, 1887)


[156] President Taylor’s response to the letter is most interesting. Consider his second paragraph again:

When a man is ordained to an office and to all the gifts and blessings pertaining to that office, if the man who ordains him has the authority necessary to ordain him, he certainly receives all that is conferred upon him.

No one can disagree with that. If you are ordained to an office in the Church by someone with authority, you have all the authority pertaining to that office. Furthermore, if a man is given the Priesthood by someone who has the authority to confer it, he certainly has all that is conferred upon him, too!

There are many men today who have been ordained to an office in the Church, by someone else who had only an office in the Church. Thus, they both may have all the authority of that office, but still not possess the Priesthood.

So in agreement with President Taylor, there is no reason for “caviling and getting up disputes upon such questions,” but rather we should simply follow the procedures as outlined by the Prophets. When that was not done, then caviling and disputes have arisen.

However, John Taylor’s recommendation to redo an ordination to remove any doubt about someone’s receiving the Priesthood did not seem to make much of a lasting impression. The issue continued to be discussed and debated; and seven years afterwards (1894) George Q. Cannon wrote the following article in the Juvenile Instructor:

Ordaining to the Priesthood.  We have been asked by several persons whether in ordaining a brother, it is right to confer the Priesthood first and then ordain him to the particular office to which he is called, or to [157] directly ordain him to that office in the Priesthood. That is in ordaining a man an Elder, should the one officiating say: “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?

So far as we know, the Lord has revealed no particular form or words to be used in the ceremony of ordination to the Priesthood as He has done in the rite of baptism, neither has he given any direct instructions on the point presented by the inquirers. Certain it is that both forms have been and are being used by those officiating, and it is equally certain that the Lord recognizes and honors those ordained in either way. Consequently, we are of the opinion that both are acceptable to him, and will be until it pleases Him to give the Church further light on the subject, either by direct revelation or by inspiring his servants of the First Presidency of the Church to direct exactly what shall be said. (Juvenile Instructor 29:114)

The problem was raised again the next year, showing extreme sentiment on both sides of the issue:

On January 19, 1895, a Conference of Elders was held in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. The meeting was opened to questions and, among others, the following question relating to Priesthood ordination was asked:

“In ordaining brethren, should we say: `Receive ye all the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood,’ or simply say: `We ordain you an Elder?’ Does he receive a fullness of authority and Priesthood when ordained an Elder?”

Counselor Joseph E. Taylor took up the questions asked at the opening of the meeting, and answered them as follows:

In ordaining Elders, say after this manner: “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the authority of the Holy Priesthood vested in me (or us), I (or we) ordain you an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ [158] of Latter-day Saints, and seal upon you every key, power, right and privilege pertaining to this high and holy calling, Amen.”

If you have the proper authority, such a man is ordained an Elder. Never mind considering the question as to whether he is more than an Elder. Let him magnify this calling or office, and there is ample scope for the exercise of all his talents and ability, and if he will faithfully perform his duty, he will thus qualify himself to act in other offices of the Priesthood to which he may hereafter be called and ordained. (Des. News, Jan. 26, 1895, p. 9; also Salt Lake Stake Minute Book, pp. 310, 318)

These answers, however, did not solve the problem for many Elders who would not accept such a loose manner of confirmation, and they continued to press their views–and rightly so. Finally the second counselor in the Church Presidency took up the issue and resolved it in a 1901 publication. Joseph F. Smith wrote:



Conferring the Aaronic Priesthood

A subscriber submits this question: “In ordaining a person to the office of a Deacon, should the words be used: We confer upon you the Aaronic Priesthood?”

Answer: See Section 107, Book of Doctrine and Covenants, verse 1,–There are, in the Church two Priesthoods. Namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood.

Verses 5 and 6–All other authorities or offices in the Church are appendages to this (the Melchizedek) Priesthood.

Verse 7–The office of an Elder comes under the Priesthood of Melchizedek.

Verse 21–Of necessity there are Presidents, or presiding officers, growing out of, or appointed of, or from among those who are ordained to the several offices in these two Priesthoods.

The revelation clearly points out that the Priesthood is a general authority or qualification, with [159] certain offices or authorities appended thereto. Consequently the giving 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, to which “Subscriber” refers; 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 Priesthoods were subject to subdivision, which is contrary to 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 the exact words should be used, but the language should be consistent with the act of conferring the Aaronic Priesthood. (Imp. Era 4:394, March 1901)

This was probably the first major clarification specifically published by a member of the First Presidency of the Church on this subject. It was positive, clear and directly answered the questions that had previously arisen concerning it. It agreed with past policies, still leaving room for free expression not using memorized prayers, yet it was definite in the manner of conferring Priesthood and then ordaining to an office. It should have settled the issue once and for all–but it didn’t.

By the turn of the century, many changes in Church doctrines, ordinances and principles were being made. Even [160] men who stood for one set of guidelines later began to change them. Because of these changes, some began to dispute them and they were taken up in the meetings of the general authorities of the Church.

Brigham Young, Jr., who was acting President of the Quorum of Twelve, disagreed with Joseph F. Smith’s views. This account occurred about four months after Smith’s editorial in the Era:

Salt Lake City, Thurs., June 20, 1901.

Meeting at eleven a.m. Some business when question of Priesthood came up again, raised by me. I have been called to order for teaching that Priesthood is “Divine Authority” and when a Deacon is ordained, all the rights, keys, blessings, etc., are conferred pertaining to this office in the Aaronic Priesthood. Bro. Jos. (F. Smith) contended that the whole Priesthood of Aaron was given in the ordination. This view I cannot see now and take. Bro. Jos. (F. Smith) was more than earnest and was brotherly and kindly reprimanded by Pres. Snow. (Brigham Young, Jr., Diary)

But apparently Joseph F. Smith maintained his same position that receiving the Priesthood and receiving an office in the Church were two distinct parts of the ordination. Two years after his Improvement Era statement, he explained further:

There is no office growing out of this Priesthood that is or can be greater than the Priesthood itself. It is from the Priesthood that the office derives its authority and power. No office gives authority to the Priesthood. No office adds to the power of the Priesthood. But all offices in the Church derive their power, their virtue, their authority, from the Priesthood. If our brethren would get this principle thoroughly established in their minds, there would be less misunderstanding in relation to the [161] functions of government in the Church than there is. (Joseph F. Smith, Conf. Report, Oct. 1903, p. 87)

In later editions of Gospel Doctrine, published as Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, an Addendum is attached, signed by Heber J. Grant, Anthon H. Lund and Charles W. Penrose, stating:

In reference to the form of procedure mentioned on page 169, and that set forth in this addendum as adopted by the leading authorities of the Church from the beginning, our beloved and departed President, Joseph F. Smith, when questioned concerning them decided, as of record, “it is a distinction without a difference,” and “either will do.”

This correction is not in the exact wording of Joseph F. Smith, that he had previously stated on this subject, and no one has apparently found the record referred to in the above quote. Joseph Musser explained in February 1938:

The “as of record” alibi seems not to exist; at least that is the word emanating from the office of Church Historian. Latter-day Saints in good standing have asked to see the “record” mentioned in the “Addenda”, but it has not been produced and they have been told, “No such record exists.” The only logical conclusion is that there is no such “record,” and that the “Addenda” mentioned, based perhaps on a half forgotten conversation had with the President some years before his death, was fabricated after his death to appease the Saints. * * * Had President Smith reversed himself, as the “Addenda” statement claims he did, surely some word of it would have leaked out to the Saints during the long years of his official career as President of the Church. (Truth 3:152)

At another time, Musser writes:


[162] Some time after the death of President Smith, a claim was made by the succeeding authorities that he reversed his opinion as expressed, claiming that either method of ordination would be correct. No written statement to this effect has been adduced. We are informed there is no such statement in existence. The alleged statement was not included in the first edition of Gospel Doctrine, but was published in a later edition and, of course, after the death of President Smith. Even if such a statement were made, it would not change the truth, for the manner of conferring Priesthood is definitely fixed and unless followed in accordance with the word of the Lord, there can be no assurance of heaven’s acceptance. (Truth 4:144, footnote)


But going back to the early part of Joseph F. Smith’s administration, in May 1902 the First Presidency issued a series of statements showing the distinction between the Priesthood and the offices therein:

The leading fact to be remembered is that the Priesthood is greater than any of its offices; and that any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood may, by virtue of its possession, perform any ordinance pertaining thereto, or connected therewith. * * * An office in the Priesthood is a calling, like Apostle, High Priest, Seventy, Elder, and derives all its authority from that Priesthood; these officers hold different callings, but the same Priesthood. * * * When an Apostle presides, he, like the High Priest, the Seventy, the Elder, or the Bishop, presides because of the High Priesthood which has been conferred upon him. * * * Every man holding the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood may act in any capacity and do all things that such Priesthood authorizes; it makes no difference what office in that Priesthood he holds. . . . (Mess. of 1st Pres. 3:43)


[163] Once again, these statements from the First Presidency should have resolved the issue, but instead it only added more fuel to the fire. If conferring the Priesthood and then ordaining to an office was the proper method of bestowing the Priesthood, the question now was, “How valid is the Priesthood of those who had been ordained improperly?”

Joseph F. Smith appears to have opened a can of worms, and they were crawling everywhere in the form of letters, questions and problems about this “correct” procedure. It is only reasonable to ask that if there is a proper procedure to give the Priesthood, would Priesthood be conferred if the ordination was improperly or incorrectly bestowed?

The Church was now forced to consider going through a “reformation” to correct this error, to its own embarrassment, or to allow it to stand on the records as it was. One of several statements and letters from the First Presidency is reproduced here, showing that by 1906 they were somewhat softening their prior position and stating that whatever the wording in the ordinations, “the Lord accepts of the intent.”


January 5, 1906

Elder James R. Moffett

Smoot, Wyoming

Dear Brother–

This is in answer to yours of the 1st inst.

The Lord has given us no particular form for ordination to the Priesthood, and the Church recognizes none. Moroni in the first three verses of the third chapter of the Book of Moroni, gives the manner which the disciples on this continent ordained Priests and Teachers; and we may add that the same simple manner would apply to all the other offices in the Priesthood.

[164] It is our understanding that when a person is ordained a Deacon, with all that pertains to that office sealed upon him, it is tantamount to conferring upon him the Aaronic Priesthood, and ordaining him to the office of Deacon. And so also in regard to the ordination of an Elder. When a man is ordained an Elder, it is understood that the Melchizedek Priesthood is conferred upon him whether the officiating Elder expresses that fact or not in the ordination; and it is by virtue and authority of this Priesthood that the Elder performs the duties of his office.

Brethren have been criticized for using this language, “We lay our hands upon your head to ordain you,” etc., because the language fails to express the full intent of the officiating Elder, and for that reason brethren have been instructed to use the word “and” in that connection instead of the word “to”.

Of course, all ordinations are not worded alike, and it may be true also that some ordinations may be somewhat defective, grammatically or otherwise, in fully expressing their full scope and meaning; but while it is true that the Lord accepts of the intent, it is nevertheless true also that officiating Elders should learn to express themselves as fully and clearly as possible in ordaining to the Priesthood as well as in the performance of every other duty or labor.


Your Brethren

Joseph F. Smith

John R. Winder

Anthon H. Lund

First Presidency         (Mess. of 1st Pres. 2:72)

It is evident that this 1906 statement is somewhat contradictory to the 1901 position stated in the Improvement Era. It appears that at least Joseph F. Smith wanted the proper form to be recognized as the authorized form, but not to cast a shadow on other forms which had been previously done. Joseph F. Smith continues with this same position in a letter written three years later:



February 26th, 1909

President Alma Merrill

Richmond, (Utah)

Dear Brother:

This is in answer to yours of the 16th inst., also in answer to a letter of the 17th from Elder Andrew Morrison of your town on the same subject, in substance as follows: In ordaining to the Priesthood, which form should be followed–that of John the Baptist bestowing the Priesthood, and then (in order to accommodate our conditions to it) ordain to the offices, and confer all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto, or to ordain directly to office in the Priesthood as is practiced in the Temple?

Brother Morrison’s letter indicates a difference of opinion existing in Richmond on this subject, some failing to see that any Priesthood is bestowed by ordaining to the offices.

In considering this subject it is important that we have in mind these thoughts:

  1. In ordaining there is no set form revealed for us to follow, and therefore it is proper that the party officiating use his own language as appropriately and concisely as he can.
  2. That the intent of the ordination, whether the language used by the ordainer is strictly appropriate or not, validates the ordination.

With these thoughts in mind, we will briefly consider the two ways referred to, in the understanding however that both ways are recognized by us as legitimate and proper, according to the intent of the person officiating.

It is our understanding that when a person is ordained a Deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood, with all that pertains to that office sealed upon him, it is tantamount to conferring upon him the Aaronic Priesthood and ordaining him to the office of a Deacon.

Of course, all ordinations are not worded alike, and it may be true also that some ordinations may be somewhat defective in fully expressing their full scope and meaning; but the fact remains nevertheless that [166] when a person is ordained a Deacon, for instance, even in the language said to have been used by the Elder on the occasion referred to by you in your letter, the ordination is lawful and valid. In this connection we refer you to the third chapter of the Book of Moroni.


Your Brethren,

Joseph F. Smith

John R. Winder

Anthon H. Lund

First Presidency      (Decisions of the 1st Pres. 2:66)

So it is suggested, then, that the wording in the ordination is not that significant, but rather it is the intent of the person. Joseph Musser gave this evaluation of that argument:

We admit that the unintentional omission of a word needed to convey the full sense of the ordinance conferring Priesthood, would not necessarily vitiate the attempt. In such an event the Lord would doubtless take cognizance of the intention and place His stamp of approval upon the act; but when the intention is left entirely unexpressed, another question arises.

Suppose, for instance, a man is ordained to the office of Elder when it was intended to make a Seventy of him; will the Lord overlook the mistake and consider him a Seventy when he was ordained to the office of an Elder? Then again, suppose John Brown is baptized under the ritual of the Baptist church. Both he and the brother performing the ceremony are honest and sincere in the belief that the baptism is legal; suppose John Brown later became converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and applies for membership in the Mormon Church; will his former baptism by one without authority be sufficient, or must he be baptized by one having authority? There can be no argument here. The question is answered in D & C Sec. 22.

Another case: Suppose John Brown is baptized by a member of the Mormon Church who thinks he holds the Priesthood, but does not hold it–under a [167] deliberately adopted rule of the Church, it has not been conferred upon him; then what will be the status? It is this latter situation the Church faces today. (Truth 12:41)

To further add to the confusion and contradictory positions being taken by Church hierarchy during Smith’s presidency, compare the instructions appearing in the Missionary Handbooks at this time. Below is a photo copy of an Elders Manual published in 1914:

There is no set form of words given to be used in ordinations to the Priesthood. A few suggestions, however, in relation to the manner of ordaining men may be helpful to the inexperienced Elder. For example, after calling the person by name the officiating Elder should say: “In the name of Jesus Christ, and by the authority of the Melchisedek Priesthood vested in us, we lay our hands upon your head and confer upon you the Melchisedek Priesthood, and ordain you to the office of an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” If the Spirit prompts the Elder to add to these words other words and blessing for the strengthening of the person ordained in the discharge of his duty, do as one of old said, “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings.” If the lesser Priesthood is to be conferred, the word “Aaronic” should be used instead or the word “Melchisedek” and the word “priest”, “teacher,” or “deacon” as the case may be, instead of the word, “Elder.”


(The Elders Manual, p. 51, April 1, 1914; Joseph F. Smith, President)


[168] In one statement, the Saints are being told to confer Priesthood and then office, and next they hear that it really doesn’t matter!

So there seems to be a definite contradiction in method of Priesthood ordination during the administration of the first six presidents of the Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith instructed, “Do not forget to confer the High Priesthood upon them, and to be one of the Seventy Apostles;” then another President came along and said it didn’t matter. Joseph F. Smith early in his presidency said, “The conferring of the Priesthood should precede and accompany ordination to office;” then President Heber J. Grant issued a notice to “ordain to the office” only.

In the midst of such confusion, there must be a right way, for the Lord has instructed that His house is a house of order, not a house of disorder and confusion.

* * *

It is interesting to note that when Elders administer most of the ceremonial ordinances, they begin with, “By the authority of the Priesthood which we hold. . . .” Now then, if an office in the Church contains the Priesthood, why do they not say, “By the authority of the office we hold. . . .?” The answer is obvious: it is the primary authority that is always mentioned first. An office is subordinate to the Priesthood and even dispensable. A man may be released from all offices in the Church but still hold the Priesthood if it has been properly conferred on him.

It is the Priesthood that holds the power, authority and keys to act and speak for God. An office is subservient to it and is subject to change through time. It may possibly even be [169] left entirely out of Priesthood confirmation as it was with John the Baptist. So,men can have Priesthood without an office, and surely they can have an office without the Priesthood.

The Lord has said that, “The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the church in all ages of the world. . . . ” (D & C 107:8)  Thus the Priesthood holds authority over the offices, not the office over the Priesthood. Also, the offices are consequently added to the Priesthood, not the reverse.

In one of the Official Statements by the First Presidency in 1902 (Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund), the Priesthood is described as the authority and the offices are merely “callings”:

An office in the Priesthood is a calling, like Apostle, High Priest, Seventy, Elder, and derives all its authority from that Priesthood; these officers hold different callings, but the same Priesthood.

The apostolic office, in its very nature, is a proselyting office. When an Apostle presides, he, like the High Priest, the Seventy, the Elder, or the Bishop, presides because of the High Priesthood which has been conferred upon him. . . . (Mess. of the 1st Pres. 4:43)

Joseph Musser makes a distinction between men operating under the rights of an office, and those functioning with the power of the Priesthood:

This situation–lacking Priesthood authority–is not new. In all dispensations men have arrogated to themselves prerogatives to which they were not rightly entitled. A prominent example is recorded in Acts 19:1-6. Since the baptized converts had not “so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost,” it was natural to assume that they had been baptized by one not having authority to do so–not holding the [170] Priesthood. A situation doubtless existed in the Church then similar to present conditions; men assuming authority they did not possess. Paul did the only logical thing; he baptized them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and gave them the gift of the Holy Ghost. Had this situation not been detected, those disciples may have gone on, under a spurious authority, doing all kinds of things unlawful and jumbled the situation as it is now being done.

The Egyptians, we are told, claimed the Priesthood by descent from their father Ham, through Noah. They established a government “to initiate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign.” (Book of Abraham, Chap. 1) But, though the ruling head–Pharaoh–was a righteous man and “established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days,” he was without the Priesthood, for it had not been given him. (Truth 12:44)

Once again, in trying to clarify this perplexing problem, letÕs turn to Brigham Young:

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)

In analyzing this short paragraph, there are several important points made by President Young:


  1. The Prophet Joseph brought up this subject “many times” to instruct them on conferring and ordaining, as though it was a matter of great concern to him.


  1. Joseph warned them not to forget to “confer the Priesthood”, meaning that was how the Prophet did it.


  1. His instructions were to use both the terms of “confer” Priesthood and “ordain” to an office.


  1. That was the “language” that Brigham Young used in the days of Joseph Smith, and that was the way he did it as President of the Church.

It is evident that this is the “original” and approved method of giving the Priesthood and offices in the Church. But as clear as these instructions were, questions, changes, and confusion over this issue have persisted–even to this day.


The Official Change in Conferring and Ordaining

From 1830 until 1921, in spite of contradictions and confusion, the “generally accepted” procedure of the Church was to first confer Priesthood and then ordain men to offices in the Church. However, 2-1/2 years after Heber J. Grant became president, the First Presidency of the LDS Church, on April 26, 1921, issued an official statement as to the accepted procedure for Priesthood ordinations. The following wording was to be used from then on:

As to the Melchezedek Priesthood–“By authority (for in the authority) of the Holy Priesthood and by the laying on of hands, I (or we) ordain you an Elder, (or Seventy, or High Priest, or Patriarch, or Apostle, as the case may be), in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and confer upon you all the rights, powers, keys and authority pertaining to this office and calling in the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.” (Mess. of First Presidency 5:120)


[172] This change in ordinations came about through the efforts of Charles W. Penrose and a few others. The reason given in the minutes of the official meeting April 26, 1921, was that it was “for the sake of uniformity and to avoid confusion.” But since there is only one method of correctly conferring Priesthood, by making this change it merely created more confusion.

Furthermore, there was no mention of a revelation saying that this change was necessary. It was a policy change rather than a commandment from the Lord.

An additional explanation for this change was given by Charles W. Penrose at a stake conference:

Daniel R. Peay of Provo quotes Charles W. Penrose instructing them at a stake quarterly conference of the Utah Stake in Provo, Utah, shortly after President Grant became President, as follows: “We have been making a mistake in ordinations. We have been conferring the Priesthood, and it ought not to be done. If we confer the Priesthood on a man, we give him all the offices and callings in the Church. We should ordain directly to the office in the Priesthood.” (“Is the Manifesto a Revelation?”, Newson)

He was saying, in essence, that the leaders of the Church from Joseph Smith to Joseph F. Smith had been making a mistake in conferring the Priesthood. If it were a mistake, did that mean those who had it conferred on them did not get the Priesthood or got “too much” Priesthood? If they did receive the Priesthood, why was it considered a “mistake”.

An example of the “Church approved” Priesthood ordination during the succeeding years is photocopied here:



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)

So, after they ordained a man to an office in the Church , they say we “confer upon you all the rights, powers, and authority pertaining to this office and calling in the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood.” They authorize him to officiate in the Priesthood, but how can he officiate in a “Priesthood” if it was not first conferred upon him?

If a man holds an office in the Church and performs an ordinance without the Priesthood, it would be an act similar to that performed in any Protestant church. Joseph Fielding Smith considered it more than just an erroneous act, but a “mockery in the sight of the Lord:”

No man is authorized to perform these ordinances unless he holds the Priesthood. An ordinance performed by one who has not received authority would be only mockery in the sight of the Lord. Likewise the gift of the Holy Ghost is conferred by [174] the laying on of hands by one who has been officially invested with divine authority. (Answers to Gospel Questions 4:86)

Some have said that this change in wording is “just as good as the original way,” and it is just a difference in semantics. If it is “just as good”, then why did they make any change at all?

From all these changing and conflicting statements, it is evident that not all were done by revelation from the Lord.

But there were many Church members who were concerned about the continuation of the Priesthood because of improper ordinations. In 1955 a sincere brother wrote to Joseph Fielding Smith, who was considered the Church doctrinarian at that time. It is interesting to note that his answer was different from the official 1921 Church position. (See photocopy of letter on following page.)

Another interested and concerned brother was Robert C. Newson. In fact, no one exerted more effort to correct this issue than did he. He wrote and distributed thousands of letters and pamphlets as a constant reminder of this “error”, to both members and leaders. To further draw attention to this issue, Newson even passed out pamphlets during the time of General Conferences.

In April of 1957, apparently his efforts (as well as those of many others) did not go unnoticed, because President David O. McKay decided to reverse this procedure of ordination. After 36 years of ordaining only to an office in the Church, he sent out instructions to return to the original way of conferring Priesthood! Once again they should confer Priesthood first and then ordain to an office in the Church. This was later outlined in the Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook:


[175]                                                            June 20, 1955

Joseph Fielding Smith

  1. D. S. Church Offices

47 E. South Temple

Salt Lake City, Utah


Dear Brother Smith:


You are familiar with the teaching of President Joseph F. Smith regarding the conferring of the priesthood before ordaining to an office as recorded on Page 169 of Gospel Doctrines.


The present method of ordaining an Elder before conferring the priesthood has caused a little confusion in our group.


Will you kindly enlighten me on this subject and if the present method is satisfactory, kindly give me the reason for the change.


Mont Woolley

25 Highland Drive

Ogden, Utah


When your Bishop, or President of Stake, or anyone else, by appointment ordains a youth or man to the Priesthood he should confer the Priesthood, whether a deacon or an Elder, and then ordain to the office when the Priesthood is once conferred. It is not conferred again.

Joseph Fielding Smith



  1. Conferring the priesthood and ordaining to an office therein
  2. a) Lay hands on individual’s head.
  3. b) Call person by name.
  4. c) State authority (Melchizedek or Aaronic Priesthood) by which ordinance is performed.
  5. d) Confer Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood, as the case may be, unless previously conferred.
  6. e) Ordain to the specific office in the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood and bestow rights, power, and authority pertaining to the office.
  7. f) Add such words of blessing as the Spirit dictates.
  8. g) Close in the name of Jesus Christ.

(1970 LDS Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook, p. 42)

Once again Robert Newson took pen in hand. In a letter to President David O. McKay, he calls attention to an ironic situation that developed because of McKay’s recent announcement:

In all my 65 years of residence in the area of the Riverside Stake, I never thought I would live to witness such an ironic event as that which transpired here recently. A young returned missionary here, after diligent study, realized that he did not have the Priesthood because it had not been properly conferred upon him. Therefore he sought out an elderly man whom he knew must have been correctly empowered with it, and through him was re-ordained properly.

When his bishop and stake president were appraised of this through those in whom this lad had misplaced his confidence, he was called on the carpet. This, in turn, led to that abomination known as “The Loyalty Oath”, which this young man and his good wife refused to sign. As a result they were both excommunicated by the Riverside Stake Presidency and High [177] Council. Now shortly after this comes the bulletin from South Temple that the type of ordination which the young man sought is perfectly correct and all Priesthood groups are advised to use it. (dated June 19, 1957, Salt Lake City, Utah)

Unfortunately, it seems that President McKay did not do a thorough job in making this correction in Priesthood ordination. He merely instructed a return to the way the first six presidents had done it and did not require that all those who held only an office should first be given the Priesthood. This would have required correcting 36 years of faulty ordinations, and re-ordaining by someone who held the Priesthood. Of course, this would also require re-doing 36 years of temple work for the dead, since they did not receive the Priesthood either.

Now the error is compounded because many today are properly conferring Priesthood, but they themselves never had it conferred upon them!

It is evident that to “confer Priesthood” was an expression used to mean what it said. Many early leaders used that terminology rather than “ordain to an office” to receive the Priesthood. Consider the following:

He said his name was John, the same who came to prepare the way of our Savior at His first coming, and that he was sent to confer this lesser Priesthood upon His servants in answer to their prayers. . . . (Orson Pratt, JD 12:360)

We may notice that John the Baptist conferred the Priesthood upon Joseph Smith, and that therefore, as he held it, he had the power to confer it upon others. (John Taylor, Gospel Kingdom, p. 156)


[178] And why was John the Baptist chosen to confer the Priesthood? * * * Who held the keys of that Priesthood? Peter, James and John who were three presiding Apostles. Did they confer this Priesthood upon Joseph Smith? Yes. (John Taylor, Gospel Kingdom, p. 122)

This is the Church of Jesus Christ. It was He who called Joseph Smith to be a prophet, and sent his disciples to confer upon the Prophet Joseph the authority of the Priesthood and directed him how the Church should be organized. (George Albert Smith, Sharing the Gospel, p. 110)

The promise to confer upon Joseph and Oliver the Melchizedek Priesthood was fulfilled. (DHC 1:40)

By virtue of the ordination he received, Joseph had the right and the authority to confer this Priesthood upon others. (George Q. Cannon, JD 13:49)

. . . the Priesthood which I have conferred upon the seed of Levi, shall remain just as eternal as the new heavens and the new earth. (Orson Pratt, JD 12:361)

And, by the by, if they have authority to confer upon you the Priesthood, and that gives you a right to baptize and to administer the ordinances. . . . (Orson Pratt, JD 18:174)

And when he laid his hands upon Elders conferring on them the Holy Priesthood, they carried the principles imparted by Elijah to Joseph to you and to others, and you received it without knowing it. (John Taylor, JD 22:306)

Whenever the Priesthood is delegated to man, it is conferred upon him. . . . (David O. McKay, Era, p. 406, June 1959)

[179] They have not received the gospel, nor have they received that Priesthood by the laying on of hands by those having authority to confer it. (Jos. F. Smith, Imp. Era, Dec. 1910, p. 14)

We are obliged to confer upon them the Melchizedek Priesthood. . . . (Brigham Young, Disc. of B.Y., p. 396)

. . . to call upon the inhabitants of the earth everywhere to repent of their sins and receive the imposition of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost, and to confer the Holy Priesthood. (Brigham Young, JD 7:141)

Most of you, my brethren, are Elders, Seventies, or High Priests; perhaps there is not a Priest or Teacher present. The reason of this is that when we give the brethren their endowments, we are obliged to confer upon them the Melchizedek Priesthood. (Brigham Young, JD 18:309)

No being can give that which he does not possess; consequently, no man can confer the Priesthood on another, if he has not himself first received it. (Brigham Young & Willard Richards, DHC 4:257)

. . . and having received his appointment through the holy Priesthood that exists in the heavens, and with that appointment, authority to confer it upon others, did confer it upon others, and they in turn upon others, . . . (John Taylor, JD 18:195)

And consequently Peter, James, and John came and conferred that Priesthood. Why did they come? Because they were the last who held the keys of that Priesthood. (John Taylor, JD 23:32)

Peter, James, and John afterwards conferred upon Joseph Smith the Melchizedek Priesthood, which holds the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. (John Taylor, JD 23:322)


[180] They had the Aaronic Priesthood; and those who held it came and conferred it upon Joseph. They had the Melchizedek Priesthood and the keys thereof, and they came and conferred it upon him. (John Taylor, JD 26:108)

Afterwards it was necessary that the Priesthood should be conferred; and John the Baptist came and laid his hands upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, saying, “Upon you, my fellow servants, I lay my hands, and confer upon you the Aaronic Priesthood, which shall never be taken from the earth again until the sons of Levi offer an acceptable offering before me.” <paraphrased> That was the Lesser Priesthood–the Aaronic–appertaining to the bishopric. And why was John the Baptist chosen to confer this Priesthood? Because he was the last that held this holy Priesthood upon the earth. And why did he come? Because the Priesthood administers in time and eternity; both the Aaronic and Melchizedek. And he, holding the keys of that Priesthood, came and conferred it upon Joseph Smith. When he had conferred this Priesthood upon Joseph Smith, other things had to be conferred; that is, what is called the Melchizedek Priesthood. (John Taylor, JD 26:106)

There are certain words in any book, document, or legal paper that are critical in conveying a particular meaning or even in transferring material substance. So, too, there are certain words that must be used in religious ordinances–such as the sacrament and baptism–and certainly for such an important ordinance as the conferral of Priesthood.


* * *

This matter of Priesthood conferral is only one of many Gospel changes that have taken place in this dispensation of the fullness of times. Many reasons have been given for these changes in ordinances and principles, but one of the most [181] unique and original reasons was given by Apostle Steven L. Richards in a General Conference:

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. I would not discard any old practice merely because it is old. But only after it has outworn its usefulness. * * * Some changes have been made in recent years and these changes have disturbed some of the members. Personally, I approve of those changes. (S.L. Tribune, April 10, 1932)

Apparently Elder Richards thought that ordinances should be changed because they become “outworn” like an old shoe. He must have thought that each generation can modify the ordinances and that after they have served their “usefulness”, they can be changed to something totally different. Did he forget that the Church members were also being taught that–

He <God> gave us an unchangeable gospel plan, which is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That gospel is Christ’s. It is not subject to evolution or alteration according to the changing view of preachers or congregations. (Des. News, Church News Section, p. 16)

So, in concluding this section, review the following page and determine which way was used when you received the Priesthood.


[182]             Which Way Was Used When You Were Ordained?


(Use full name) by the authority of the Holy Priesthood in us vested, we lay our hands upon your head 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

Individual ordained to an office in the Church, only. This way was used from April 1921 to April 1957–36 years–with no Priesthood conferred.


(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

Priesthood conferred and individual then ordained to office in the Church. The original way used again since April 1957.


[183] Appendages to the Priesthood


There are certain “degrees” of authority in the Priesthood because each office in the Church is delegated a certain portion or degree of the authority to be used for the Church. Brigham Young clarified:

There is authority and there are degrees of authority, and there is a difference in degrees, callings and authority of the Priesthood. (Des. News, 26:275, May 25, 1877)

All are not called to be one of the Twelve Apostles, nor are all called to be one of the First Presidency, nor to be one of the First Presidents of all the Seventies, nor to preside over the High Priests Quorum; but every man in his order and place, possessing a portion of the same Priesthood, according to the gifts and callings to each. (JD 9:89)

In other words, just because a man is an Elder and holds the Melchizedek Priesthood, it does not mean that he can act as an Apostle in the Church. His authority is confined to the functions of an Elder in the Church. He can use only that portion of his Priesthood, even though he has as much Priesthood as the President of the Church. The Priesthood itself it not fractionalized–only the offices in it. Each Priesthood holder is limited to function within his particular office. A Seventy or Apostle has a calling to the ministry, and therefore he exercises his Priesthood in that capacity. A High Priest uses his Priesthood differently–yet they all hold the same Melchizedek Priesthood.

The Prophet Joseph explained this important key:

All Priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion which brought Moses to speak face to face was taken away; [184] but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. (TPJS, p. 180)

The Lord said:

For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two Priesthoods <higher and lesser> of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God. (D & C 84:33-34)

The Lord designates TWO Priesthoods, not offices. They are two separate entities or authorities, capable of existing without any office.

Now let us briefly discuss the difference between conferring, ordaining, and setting apart.

In 1877 Orson Pratt stated that the proper term in installing a President of the Church is to “set apart,” not “ordain”:

So in relation to the First Presidency. They carry no new office, but new duties are required at their hands, when they are chosen by the Priesthood and set apart, not ordained to a new office, but set apart to preside. (JD 19:115)

This concept was further amplified by Franklin D. Richards in 1898:

Neither Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, nor Wilford Woodruff were ordained Presidents of the Church. It is not according to the order of the Church to ordain Presidents of the Church. . . . Offices in the Church are conferred by ordination, but [185] offices of position to honor and labor (i.e., Presidency) are conferred by calling or appointment, and not by ordination. (Sanders, A Key to Succession in the Presidency of the Church, p. 227)

Notice the following usage of the term “ordain” in connection with the organization of the Relief Society as recorded in the Prophet’s history:

I gave much instruction, read in the New Testament, and Book of Doctrine and Covenants, concerning the elect lady, and showed that elect meant to be elected to a certain work, etc., and that the revelation was then fulfilled by Sister Emma’s election to the Presidency of the Society, she having previously been ordained to expound the scriptures. Emma was blessed, and her counselors were ordained by Elder John Taylor. (DHC 4:552, 553; see also JD 21:367-368.)

The term “set apart” also applies to missionaries going into the missionfield, for they are “set apart” for that labor.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie, in his work Mormon Doctrine, clearly describes the difference in these three actions:

Priesthood is conferred upon an individual; he is ordained to an office in the Priesthood; and he is set apart to a position of presidency or administration. Thus a man has the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred upon him; he is ordained an Elder in that Priesthood; and he is set apart as a President of an ElderÕs Quorum. Similarly a man is ordained an Apostle, but set apart a member of the Council of the Twelve; he is ordained a Bishop, but set apart to preside over a ward; he is ordained an High Priest, but set apart to preside over a stake or to serve as President of the Church. (Mormon Doctrine, McConkie, p. 549)


[186] At this point, it is important to remember that the Lord said, “All other authorities or offices in the Church are appendages to this <Melchizedek> Priesthood.” (D & C 107:5) B. Harvey Allred made an interesting observation regarding this scripture:

Our best authority on the English language defines an “appendage” as “a subordinate addition or adjunct,” “as a limb of a tree is an appendage to the tree,” “that which is thought of as added we call an appendage to; that which is looked upon as an integral part is called and appendage of.” Thus defined, all offices of the Priesthood are an appendage to, hence, added to the Priesthood, not an integral part of the Priesthood. * * *

. . . the best authority we have on the English language says, “that which is thought of as added we call an appendage to.” Thus every revelation in which office in Priesthood is spoken of as an “appendage,” it is said “appendage to.” Thus office “appendage to Priesthood,” is as “a limb of a tree appendage to the tree.” “Appendage to is not an integral part.” Hence, John the Baptist conferred Priesthood without naming an “appendage” thereto. Priesthood holds the power, the authority and the keys to speak and act for God. The office is a “subordinate part,” dispensable. So, with ordaining to office without conferring Priesthood to which the office is appendage, it is like giving a man the limb of a tree without the tree and expecting it to bear fruit. Having no power or authority in and of itself, it is dead, fit only to be cast into the fire and burned. (A Leaf in Review, Allred, p. 84)

An appendage is something “added to”, “associated with as a consequence”, “subsidiary as a branch is to a tree.” Or, in other words, an index is an appendage to a book. If you have the contents of a book, you can add an index. However, if you have an index, you cannot complete the book. So it is with the Priesthood. If you have the Priesthood, you can establish the [187] offices of the Church; but if you have only an office in the Church, you cannot automatically possess the Priesthood.

How can a man hold an office in the Priesthood without first receiving the Priesthood itself? This is the same as a man being given a job in the government of the United States, but he has not been given the rights of citizenship. Or, telling a man he can have all the milk he wants from a cow that he does not have.

A man holding Priesthood can be given any office and has the right to labor in that office; but if he is given only the title to an office, then he still lacks the authority to function in that office. There is a great difference between giving a man a title and giving him authority to function under that title.

The following observations on procedure for ordinations was published in a little book by Dr. Joseph B. Keeler in 1904. This work was published under “the approval and sanction of the First Presidency of the Church.”

Offices belonging to the Priesthood: Appended to and growing out of the two Priesthoods, are the various offices. The offices are not parts of the Priesthood as is sometimes erroneously said. Office means the service or duty to be performed; that is a definite line of work to be followed. * * *

Ordinations to the Priesthood: There is no set form for ordinations to the Priesthood. But when it is understood that a person cannot receive a fractional part of the Priesthood, the wording of an ordination may be directed in accordance with the object in view; namely, to confer whatsoever authority is intended. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery held the Priesthood several months before they were ordained to the office of Elder. (Keeler on Lesser Priesthood and Church Government, p. 21)


[188] When the conferring of Priesthood was changed to ordaining only to an office, it designated just the amount of Priesthood that pertained to that office. This is dividing the Priesthood into portions to fit the office–or the office containing only a part of the Priesthood. This would also mean that some offices in the Church would have more Priesthood than others. This is what President Joseph F. Smith inferred could not be done:

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 Priesthoods were subject to subdivision, which is contrary to the revelations. (Gospel Doctrine, Smith, 1st ed., p. 169)

The Priesthood is incapable of subdivision; otherwise, a man ordained to an office would never be able to function outside of that office. However, President Brigham Young informed us that one Elder with the Priesthood could reorganize the whole Church if it were necessary for him to do so.

A Deacon possesses all the Priesthood in the Aaronic order that a Teacher or Priest has, but it is the appointment, the commission or delegation of assignment that pertains to the office he has. So it is that a man having the Aaronic Priesthood has all of the authority that any Deacon, Teacher, or Priest has. Continuing along this line, an Elder possesses all the Priesthood that an Apostle or President of the Church has.

Joseph Fielding Smith explained the nature of the Priesthood with all else being merely appendages to it:


[189] When John the Baptist came, we know what happened for his exact words are given. He conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the Aaronic Priesthood. In similar manner, Peter, James, and John conferred upon them the Melchizedek Priesthood, and not an office. Oliver Cowdery has said that this was so. Having received the Priesthood, they had power to ordain each other, after the organization of the Church, to offices in this Priesthood, for the Lord had said that all offices are appendages of the Priesthood and grow out of it. . . .

When the Church was organized, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the first offices coming out of the priesthood and bestowed for the necessary government of the Church. These offices were conferred by unanimous vote of the little band of worshipers who organized the Church.

No Ordained Offices Outside Church. The Priesthood, under certain conditions, may be held independent of the Church. Such was the case from the 15th of May, 1829, to the 6th of April, 1830. This had to be the case for the Church could not be organized without the authority for the organization preceding it. The offices, which grow out of the Priesthood, for they are appendages to it, belong also to the Church and therefore are not conferred independent of the Church.

There can be no Church of Jesus Christ without Priesthood. (Doc. of Sal., Smith, pp. 147-148)

This agrees with the revelation on Priesthood given in 1831:

. . . the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood. All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood.

But there are two divisions or grand heads–one is the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the other is the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood. The office of an elder comes under the priesthood of Melchizedek.

[190] The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the church in all ages of the world, to administer in spiritual things. (D & C 107:4-8)

It is therefore acknowledged that all authorities and offices in the Church are appendages to the Priesthood. In other words, if a man has the Melchizedek Priesthood, he has the power and authority to function in any office of the Church. Those offices come out of the authority of the Priesthood.

Let’s assume that a man is ordained an Elder or a High Priest. According to the present-day argument, the Priesthood follows and comes with that office. In this case, the Priesthood is an appendage to an office in the Church! But this is not according to the revelation which says, “The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the Church in all ages. . . .”(D & C 107:8) Even the Church is an appendage of the Priesthood!

Regardless of the historical events, past or present statements, or the interpretations that may seem relevant, there is no getting around the fact that, “All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this Priesthood” (D & C 107:5), and this is to remain “in all ages of the world.”

This is a good example of determining if principle comes before procedure; or is procedure dictating principle?

Elder Max Andersen stated that “The Melchizedek Priesthood is properly conferred in connection with ordination to the office of Elder, not Seventy.” (Priesthood Conferral, p. 24)  This agrees with the instructions given in the Elders Manual issued during the administration of Joseph F. Smith: (It has the signatures of eight mission presidents.)


[191] In the name of Jesus Christ, and by authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood vested in us, we lay our hands upon your head and confer upon you the Melchizedek Priesthood, and ordain you an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This procedure is true today (especially since they have done away with the Seventy); but in the early days of the Church some were first given the Melchizedek Priesthood at the time they were called to the mission field. They were elevated from the Aaronic Priesthood right to the Melchizedek Priesthood and the office of Seventy, as they answered the call to go on a mission, thus by-passing the office of Elder.

To conclude this section on “Appendages to the Priesthood,” let’s consider the following historical course that has been taken in regard to the Holy Priesthood of God:


  1. John the Baptist conferred the Priesthood, not an office, indicating it was superior to the office.


  1. Revelations from the Lord as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants clearly explain that an office is an appendage to the Priesthood.


  1. Revelations say that the “Office of an Elder comes under the priesthood”, not the other way around.


  1. Numerous statements by leaders have confirmed the difference between Priesthood and office, stating that authority comes with Priesthood not with the office.


  1. The procedure was clearly explained by Brigham Young, though contradicted by later presidents.



  1. Offices continued in the early Christian Church, but that was not enough to show that they held the Priesthood.


  1. Clear definitions have consistently been made between conferring and ordaining.


  1. Ignorance, blundering and misunderstanding of how to confer the Priesthood has existed since the early days of the Church.


  1. Confusion has caused definite statements for both sides of the issue, indicating a house out of order.


  1. Where was the revelation that reversed the rule in 1921? Or where is the revelation that changed it back in 1957?


  1. How can one method be absolute at one time and then another method be made absolute at another time?


  1. Since the laws of the Priesthood are consistent, what happens to the Priesthood when those laws are changed?

It has been stated that the day would come when thousands that think they hold Priesthood would not actually have it. Early Church Presidents have given the reasons why:


  1. Friendship with the world and acceptance of their standards.
  2. Rejecting the eternal laws of the Priesthood.
  3. Failure to confer Priesthood correctly.
  4. Attempting to give Priesthood to the Canaanites.

All of these conditions have come to pass; so when people say it doesn’t matter which method is used in [193] conferring Priesthood, they are right. If someone has already lost the Priesthood (through whatever means), it wouldn’t matter how he tried to give it to someone else.


Conclusion: Questions and Problems

We now live in a day of perfections. Science, literature, commercial industry, and indeed nearly everything is being developed to its best possible capacity. Books, manuals and courses of instruction are available on every conceivable subject. Gone are the old cowboy days of rough, calloused and sloppy habits and customs. Instead we live in a refined society of careful and meticulous functions which are governed by the minute on the clock and the chip in the computer. Just 250 years ago most men were unlearned and uneducated, so only a small portion of the people could read and write. Today a college education is almost a necessity to gain a respectable place in the business world.

Most of the functions of society, including religions, were conducted in a disorganized and risky manner. Unfortunately the method of ordinations to the Priesthood fell under this haphazard and inconsistent way of doing things, especially when it has been admitted that no “form” was available.

In those early days of the Church, many rough and tough farmers and cowhands, unlearned and unschooled, were given the call to preach, teach and ordain. Often their unorthodox expressions in conversation and in their church work were with “good intention,” but may not have been commensurate with the proper procedures in the administration of the Priesthood. Perhaps this casual choice of expression has caused a penalty in the use of the Priesthood.


[194] The Lord has promised us that “the rights of the Priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven; and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.” (D & C 121:36) It seems today that we have become disconnected from the “powers of heaven”.

It is reasonable to assume that if the Lord had wanted a change in ordinances, he would have revealed how and why it should be done. But to date no revelation has ever been evident. And if He wanted to changed back again, there must have been a revelation to that effect. But there never has been any form of revelation for the change or the re-change.

Doesn’t it seem rather strange that after a significant ordinance has been performed for hundreds of thousands of times, it is suddenly changed? Is it possible that it was done wrong for nearly 100 years and then someone discovered the right way to do it? Or was it properly done, and then an improper change was made, and 36 years later it was corrected?

It seems logical to conclude that if the Priesthood is “inseparably connected with the powers of heaven”, and we have had no evidence of this “power from heaven” for over 100 years, something has happened to cause this separation from that inseparable power.

For many years now there has been a problem for those Saints claiming to hold the Priesthood: (1) Was their Priesthood conferred correctly? (2) Do they really hold this Priesthood? (3) Why do they not see great spiritual gifts manifested through the power of this Priesthood? (4) Should they do something to make sure their Priesthood is valid?


[195] They realize that for many years there was no written form for ordinations to the Priesthood. It was handled in a variety of very casual ways. Near the turn of the century a directive came from the President of the Church with a set pattern for these conferrals and ordinations–published in several different Church periodicals so there would be no misunderstanding of how it should be done. Then a quarter of a century later the next President published a different method for Elders to use in their ordinations because he thought it had been done wrong. A new form was sent out in missionary handbooks and other publications as the “official” method of ordaining. Then to add confusion to confusion, about 36 years later the process was reversed back again! Consistency was even a problem.

No one can deny that it has been a very perplexing problem. But the important question now is not so much as to the proper method of ordination, but rather who has the Priesthood? And conversely, and more seriously, who does not have the Priesthood? Many men in the Church are now worried about this vital issue of authority.

If the Lord’s house is supposed to be a house of order and not of confusion, why are there so many questions surrounding this Priesthood issue?

Hopefully the next few pages will shed a little light on these questions. But the problem is so complex, that it is difficult to come up with any sure answers.

Shortly before his death (April 1901), George Q. Cannon spoke at a meeting in Draper, Utah, and gave a warning prophecy:

The day will come when men’s Priesthood and authority will be called into question, and you will find [196] out that there will be hundreds who have no Priesthood, but who believe they hold it, they holding only an office in the Church. (Truth 12:45)

On another occasion when John Taylor spoke at the Centerville meeting in 1886, he said:

I would be surprised if ten per cent 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 held the Priesthood, who would not have it properly conferred upon them. (Ballard-Jensen Correspondence, p. 94)

Because of the inconsistent form of Priesthood ordinations for over 100 years, it is easy to see how the above two prophecies by Cannon and Taylor are being fulfilled.

If men’s Priesthood is to be called into question and there are comparatively few of those who claim it that actually hold Priesthood, then how have they lost it? Two main ways: (1) through sin, or (2) by not having it conferred correctly. (See D & C 42:11.)

But, of course, many of the Elders in the Church, in trying to defend themselves, cannot admit that such a catastrophe could have occurred. For example, Elder Max Anderson gives this interpretation of the statements of Cannon and Taylor:

How could hundreds of men be deluded into thinking they held the Priesthood, “they holding only an office in the Church” when “the Lord recognizes those ordained in either way?” If anything was said about hundreds thinking they hold the Priesthood when they do not, it no doubt refers to the hundreds who have [197] been excommunicated from the Church and still think they hold the Priesthood–who think that Priesthood cannot be taken away through excommunication. (Lorin C. Woolley Statement, Anderson, “Priesthood Conferral”, p. 31)

Does every man who is excommunicated from the Church lose his Priesthood? Or, is it possible that prejudice, emotion, false accusation and misunderstanding have a bearing on an unjust excommunication? If a man is excommunicated for adultery, and he was really not guilty of such a sin, does he still have his Priesthood? Or, if a man is defending a true principle and the Stake President excommunicates him because he thinks it is false, does that take away the individual’s Priesthood?

On the other hand, if certain Church officials make changes in the established ordinances, or bestow Priesthood when it should not be given, or compromise principles to make friends with Babylon–would those constitute reasons for loss of Priesthood?

Immorality alone has probably caused the greatest loss of Priesthood. In addition, Isaiah described those who have reason to lose their Priesthood: those who “have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” (Isa. 24:5)

Why does the Lord allow changes to creep into His Church and Priesthood? There are probably several reasons:


  1. The Lord never intrudes upon men’s free agency to act for themselves. Often men are so determined in their own mind that they are right, that they will not pray for guidance or revelation on the subject, and consequently they usually make mistakes.


  1. When the higher laws of the Priesthood are discarded, there is no longer a need for the higher Priesthood.


  1. There are so many Church members and leaders who have a higher regard for money and power than they do for Gospel principles, that it is better for them if they do not have the Priesthood.


  1. There are some professions, such as lawyers, who exert every effort to win an “innocent” verdict for men whom they know are guilty of murder or other horrible crimes. This is contrary to the principles of the Priesthood.


  1. There are some people who are not appointed to receive the Priesthood; consequently many would be guilty of trying to give it to them.


  1. There are many men who are unworthy of receiving the Priesthood; or after receiving it, they will commit evils which show that it would have been better that they never had it.
  2. Men who continue to live in, promote, and are satisfied with the customs, traditions, and honors of Babylon should not have the Priesthood.

Once Priesthood is correctly bestowed on an individual, it can be lost only through sin; and excommunication can be justly carried out only because of sin. If men holding the Priesthood do not sin, but are excommunicated for defending unpopular but true principles of the Gospel, they do not nor cannot lose their Priesthood. They do lose their offices and standing in the Church, but they cannot be deprived of their Priesthood, which came from God and can be taken away only by Him. Men held the Priesthood before there was a church [199] and before they joined the church, and men can do the same today. Joseph Musser wrote:

Since Priesthood is <from> God and ranks above the Church, no formal action by the Church can interfere with one’s Priesthood calling; only as the Church may produce evidence to God that the person in question is not entitled longer to enjoy the rights of the same. In which event the Lord, and not the Church must act and issue the decree, “Amen to the Priesthood or the authority of that man.” (Truth 12:41, July 1946)

After President Smith’s death, the same forces operating in President Snow’s day, gained the ascendancy and accomplished the change; the argument being that when the Priesthood is conferred on an individual who may later be excommunicated from the Church, he will still hold the Priesthood, since the Church has no power to divest him of it. The Church may take from him his church office and church standing, but cannot disturb his Priesthood. Therefore, under the new rule, where no Priesthood is given, none is held, and an “un-churched” person is divested of all.

This argument is sound only in part. One cannot legally be excommunicated from the Church except for apostasy or other sin which he refuses to repent of; and such a breach automatically takes from him his Priesthood, for “when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the Priesthood or the authority of that man.” (D & C 121:37) (Truth, Ibid.)

Another question could now be asked: Which man would the Lord allow to continue holding the Priesthood–the man [200] who changed and opposed the laws, principles and ordinances of the Gospel, or the man who stood firmly in defending them?

The Prophet Joseph Smith said:

God purposed in Himself that there should not be an eternal fulness until every dispensation should be fulfilled, and gathered together in one, and that all things whatsoever, that should be gathered together in one in those dispensations unto the same fulness and eternal glory, should be in Christ Jesus; therefore he set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever, and set Adam to watch over them, to reveal them from heaven to man, or to send angels to reveal them. (TPJS, p. 168)

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. (TPJS, p. 308)

These remarks by the Prophet Joseph should make it very clear how the Lord regards the eternal principles and ordinances that are such a vital part of the Priesthood.

In helping to discern who really has the Priesthood, here are a few keys that can be used:


  1. Was it properly conferred by someone holding the Priesthood himself?


  1. Does the Priesthood holder honor and apply Gospel principles and ordinances into his life?


  1. Does he defend these principles even at the expense of disfavor from Church leaders who insist on changing them?



  1. Does he possess a testimony and/or exemplify spiritual gifts in his own life?


  1. Does he place spiritual things ahead of the temporal?


  1. Does he exercise the powers of the Priesthood and show forth good fruit?

The Prophet Joseph Smith stated that, “If there is no change of ordinances, there is no change of Priesthood.” (TPJS, p. 158) What does he mean? Simply that if you change any ordinance, it must only be in the fulfilling of a lesser ordinance by entering into a higher ordinance, and thus be able to use the power of a higher Priesthood. Some ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood are fulfilled in the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Certainly no one should or has reason to change a higher ordinance to replace it with a lesser one. And, above all, no one should change a valid ordinance for one that is worthless and unacceptable, for in such a case the Priesthood could be lost.

In other words, if there is a change in ordinances, there can be a change or loss of Priesthood. For example, Cain, holding the Priesthood, changed the ordinances; it was a sin, and he was cursed for it. (See TPJS, p. 58.)

The Mormon response to the Catholic claim to Priesthood is that nearly 2,000 years ago they began to change the ordinances, and because of that they lost the Priesthood. By the same reasoning, can ordinances be changed now and the Priesthood not be lost? What difference does it make if the changes occurred recently or 2000 years ago? It is only too clear that men can obtain blessings or cursings for the way in which they handle the ordinances and the Priesthood.


[202] In another instance, the Priesthood may be magnified or lost by the manner in which ordinances are administered. The Prophet Joseph said:


There are certain key words and signs belonging to the Priesthood which must be observed in order to obtain the blessing. (TPJS, p. 199)

He is saying that if men do not use “certain key words . . to the Priesthood”, they cannot “obtain the blessing” of that Priesthood. If men do not have the Priesthood properly conferred upon them, they will not have the blessing of the Priesthood, and their administration of ordinances is no more valid than those performed by the Catholics. The Prophet Joseph warned:

It signifies, then, that 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)

John Taylor also warned–at Sidney Rigdon’s trial in September of 1844–that Rigdon had “ordained men illegally, and contrary to the order of the Priesthood,” indicating that there are ways of ordination “contrary to the order of the Priesthood.” He concluded by adding an important factor often overlooked in ordinances–that men also partake of the spirit of those who do the ordinations. Said he:

I see men in this congregation who have received illegal ordinations, ordinations imparted through a perversion of the Priesthood, and through the influence of an improper spirit…. A man may receive a spirit in a few minutes, the which it will take him years to get entirely rid of. I don’t want any man with such a spirit to put his hands on my head, or on the head of any of my brethren. (Times and Seasons 5:662)


[203] Men cannot be too careful in administering the ordinations and ordinances that pertain to the Priesthood.

The problem today is very real for those in doubt about their Priesthood. It would be well to heed this additional advice of John Taylor:

Instead of contending upon such a subject, if there be any doubt respecting the sufficiency of the ordination, (it would be) far better to remove it by giving him another ordination that will leave no room for question than to have disputes about its validity. (“Seventies Council Minutes”, March 30, 1887)


If pursued collectively in the Church, this would result in a complete reformation, requiring re-baptism and re-conferral of Priesthood. This may not be such a bad idea. All the “dead wood” in the Church who did not want to receive these ordinances again could be dropped from Church membership. It is certainly needful that most members be re-baptized anyway.

If pursued individually, it would require diligent prayer and searching and finding someone who rightfully holds the Priesthood, re-entering the waters of baptism and re-conferral of Priesthood.

When the House of God is set in order, then all the laws, ordinances and covenants will also be put in order, and so, too, will the order of conferring Priesthood.

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


[204] Priesthood holders of today ought to think seriously about the information presented in this chapter pertaining to their conferral, and take heed to the scriptural warning:

Wherefore, let all men beware how they take my name in their lips–For behold, verily I say that many there be who are under this condemnation, who use the name of the Lord, and use it in vain, having not authority. (D & C 63:61-62)

This warning applies more today than it ever has before!



[205]                             Chapter 8



The Holy Priesthood is a special privilege and power given to only a few, and it is circumscribed with specific bounds and conditions upon which it can be exercised. Like the Ark of the Covenant, it can be utilized by only those who have been called and chosen to do so. For this reason, it is a two-edged sword–to defend or to destroy. Its obligations are awesome, but its blessings are unbelievable!

Clearly the Priesthood is not a status symbol nor a permanent gift for those who receive it. True Priesthood should continue to lead the bearer to grow in power and intelligence because its progress is connected to the work of the Lord. That eternal progressive labor will continue to expand as the work of the Lord extends through the universe, adding power, might and glory to its possessor forever.

By the power of the Priesthood, worlds were and are being created, and that work is eternal in nature. Blessed is the man who is righteous enough to bear the Priesthood with honor, for it will lead him to eternal life–the most precious gift of God to man.


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