Holy Priesthood Vol. 6

There never was a dispensation on the earth when prophets and apostles, the inspiration, revelation and power of God, the holy priesthood and the keys of the kingdom were needed more than they are in this generation. (Wilford Woodruff, 1872, JD 15:8)


A man never has half so much fuss to unlock a door, if he has a key, as though he had not, and had to cut it open with his jack-knife. (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 308)


To Gurney Cook,

in appreciation for all his

encouragement and assistance

in the publication of this book–

and more, for being my good friend.


As children, most of us have played the game called “Button, button, who’s got the button?” A similar question has been asked for over a century by serious students of Mormonism: “Keys, keys, who’s got the keys?” For some, this is a rather humorous question, but others take it very seriously, resulting in confusion and conflict–and occasionally even murder!

Because of this strange quest for keys, there have arisen break-off groups, churches, and self-proclaimed prophets–all of which have caused a varying degree of problems for the LDS Church. Ironically, however, the basic cause of the dilemma seems to stem from the main body of the Mormon Church; for if leaders and members alike had not departed from many of the original laws, principles, and ordinances, such a climate would not have been fostered for these questions and divisions in the first place. If all the leaders had followed their previous leaders, this problem would not have been created.

With each departure from the original Gospel as revealed to Joseph Smith, another swarm of doubting and questioning members and dissidents alike has arisen to challenge the changes. Like Paul’s thorn in his side, the LDS Church has thousands of these little thorns causing them grief and embarrassment because of the numerous questions they cannot satisfactorily answer.

The whole issue of keys revolves around two central questions: (1) What are the keys? and (2) Who has them? Joseph Smith, in emphasizing the importance of correct answers to these questions, explained: “. . . it is necessary to know who holds the keys of power, and who does not, or we may be likely to be deceived.” (TPJS, p. 336) If this was a serious matter in his day, how much more important it is in ours!

Maybe these questions wouldn’t be quite so difficult to answer if there weren’t so many different kinds of keys, but there is such a host of them, that the subject has grown to gigantic and sometimes even ridiculous proportions. Yet, in reality, the answers may be surprisingly simple.

By reading through the chapters of this book, the reader will hopefully be able to see through this misty haze of bewilderment and misunderstanding, and eventually realize the wondrous blessings and rewards that are associated with the keys of the Holy Priesthood.

[7]                               Chapter 1



For where your treasure is,

there will your heart be also. (Matt. 6:21)

Those seeking for a treasure spend time, effort, and means in order to secure that which is of great worth to them. To one person something may be a real treasure while it is only insignificant to another because their values are different. The old adage is true that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Jesus gave the following two examples of the value that we should place on the kingdom of heaven:

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matt. 13:44-46)

Any why did he buy this field? For the “joy thereof.” But joy in the Lord and joy in earthly treasures are very different, for according to Luke:

And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, [8] drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool! This night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?

So shall it be with him who layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. * * *

… but rather provide a treasure in the heavens, that faileth not; where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:21-23, 36-37, JST)

Perhaps we can find no better illustration of the value placed on an earthly treasure than the discovery of the great riches found in the tomb of King Tut (Tutankhamen). In 1922 the British archeologist, Howard Carter, was searching in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt when he broke a small opening in an ancient wall. Placing a lamp inside, he peered in to see what was inside. His impatient friend and companion waited for his response, and then finally asked, “Well, Howard, what do you see?” Howard replied in disbelief, “Wonderful things!” He was looking at the greatest archeological discovery ever found! In that tomb were over 2,000 objects of ancient Egyptian treasures. This picture shows part of what Howard Carter saw:








(Photo Courtesy of Luxor Hotel Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada)


[9] To the average person, this may not be of any great inherent value, but to others, such as Howard Carter, it was the most valuable discovery of his life. It is interesting to note how individuals from six different walks of life might value the treasures in King Tut’s tomb:

The gold seeker: Nothing in those rooms except the gold would have any value to him. For example, centuries ago one of these ancient tombs had been broken into and only the gold was taken.

The historian: He would look for the missing links and additional information in language, customs, and culture. The true history of this prominent civilization would indeed be a great treasure for him.

The architect: He would want to get information on how both small and large edifices had been built, what kinds of materials had been used, and the scientific and engineering methods utilized for their construction.

The artist: This person would look at the paintings, sculptures, and other works of art to try to learn about the materials and methods used during that period of time.

The astronomer: This individual would know that centuries ago Father Abraham had taught the Egyptians the science of astronomy, and certainly such a man who had talked with God would know many things yet unknown to astronomers in the 1920’s.

The religionist: At various times, Egypt had some of the greatest prophets living within her borders, and the hidden secrets would be a tremendous treasure. There was Joseph, prime minister of all Egypt; Jacob and his other sons; Moses [10] and the children of Israel; and many other prophets. Even Jesus went there. The spiritual truths they taught, if recorded and preserved, would be invaluable.

The Lord often tests us to see if we place more value on temporal than on the spiritual treasures. For Abraham, his treasure and test was his son, Isaac; Heber C. Kimball’s test was concerning his beloved wife, Vilate; Job’s treasure was his farm, thousands of cattle, and “a very great household.” To a young man who came to Jesus and asked what he might do to gain eternal life, it soon became known that his greatest treasure was his money. And each of us will probably be tested sometime in our life regarding that which we value most.

In mortality, we usually choose the same occupation or profession as that which we selected in our pre-mortal life. Some chose to be politicians, educators, musicians, artists, athletes, etc. This is supported in Mosiah Hancock’s vision of the pre-existence where some were asked, “What do you wish to be? He would sometimes say, `I wish to be a judge, or an officer of high rank among the people.'” (Mosiah Hancock Journal, p. 73)

There were, however, comparatively few men who sought to serve the Lord and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Prophet Joseph said, “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was.” (TPJS, p. 365)

Regretfully there were all too few who selected one of the greatest of all life’s treasures–the gift of the Holy Priesthood and the keys thereof. Most have chosen to favor the treasures of Babylon, and it takes only a brief look around to see that they have received a great following.

[11] Although God has promised us “great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures” (D & C 89:19), we have been searching for them in all the wrong places. We will never find them in stocks, bonds, or federal notes. Even the Elders of Israel seem to show more respect for rich men than for spiritual ones, as Elder J. Golden Kimball noted, “If I had a million dollars, I’d be the most sought-after man in the Church. But I haven’t got it–damn it.” (J. Golden Kimball, Claude Richards, p. 97)

How strange that the world generally looks upon priesthood keys as an ignorant man looks at a diamond in the rough–as though it were just another rock. But a wise and spiritual man knows that the keys of the Holy Priesthood should be among the most sought after and valued treasures in life.


[12]                              Chapter 2


The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church. (D & C 107:18)

To define the function of Priesthood keys is very similar to defining the use of car keys. In both cases they unlock something so it can be used. But before legitimately using these keys, the following questions should be answered:

  1. Who should use them?
  2. What “vehicle” are they for?
  3. When should they be used?
  4. How should they be used?

There are millions of keys that belong to houses, cars, offices, bank boxes, tool boxes–and the list goes on and on. Almost everything of value is protected with locks and keys.

There are other related definitions for keys as well. For instance, a teacher may explain a key to speed reading. A policeman may say he discovered the key to solving a crime. The Lord has said:

This greater Priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. (D & C 84:19)


[13]         All this implies that some knowledge is necessary to unlock these mysteries. From the dictionary comes the following:

Key: Anything serving to disclose, open, or solve something. Something that opens or prepares a way. (New Intern’l. Dic. 1:699)

Key: Something regarded as like a key in opening or closing a way, revealing or concealing; . . . gives access to or control of. (Webster’s New World Dic., 1984)

In reality then, a key is something functioning, that performs an action; it is not dormant. It might be “disclosing” or opening something–such as a car or the heavens.

For purposes of this study, the term “keys of the Priesthood” refers to the knowledge, the right, the calling, and the power to lock, unlock, or perform something in the name of God.”

People frequently assume what keys are before they correctly understand them. For example, many individuals today are looking for the “keys of the Priesthood” and the person who holds them. It seems proper, however, to first learn exactly what keys are, then determine what keys he is looking for, and then decide what he wants to accomplish after he finds them.

Countless keys have been revealed for use in this Dispensation of the Fullness of Times, for when it was ushered in, the Lord said there was “a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories,” and many things were brought back “from the days of Adam” of things which “never had been revealed from the foundation of the world.” (D & C 128:18) [14] What keys is He talking about and what powers and glories, so long kept hidden, have come with those keys? They make an interesting and rather lengthy list. Those mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants are–


The keys of the gift of translation (6:28)

The keys of the ministering of angels (13:1 & 107:20)

The keys of the ministry (7:7)

The keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim (27:5)

The keys of the power of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers (27:9)

The keys of the mystery of those things which have been sealed (35:18) The keys of the church (42:68)

The keys of the mysteries of the kingdom (64:4)

The keys of salvation (78:16)

The keys of the kingdom (90:2)

The keys of the school of the prophets (90:7)

The keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church (107:18)

The keys of the gathering of Israel (110:11)

The keys of this dispensation (110:16)

The keys of the priesthood of Aaron (107:70)

The keys of the patriarchal blessings (124:92)

The keys to ask and receive blessings (124:97)

The keys to open up the authority of my kingdom upon the four corners of the earth (124:128)

The keys of knowledge (128:14)

Three grand keys whereby you may know whether any administration is from God (129:9)

The keys of sealing by the holy spirit of promise of a woman to a man (132:19,39)

In addition, many other keys were mentioned by early Church leaders:


[15] Keys of government

Keys of words

Keys of the oracles of God

Keys of divine revelation

Keys of the stick of Joseph

Keys to the stick of Ephraim

Keys of eternal life

Keys of the gospel

Keys of the office of baptism

Keys of communion with the heavenly Jerusalem

Keys to power

Keys of the resurrection

Keys of death and hell

Keys of intelligence

Keys to the rich storehouse

Keys to the gifts and graces of God

Keys of light

Keys to the treasury of heaven

Key to the science of theology

Keys to blessings

Keys to eternal mysteries

Keys to science

Keys to true principles

Keys to administering ordinances

Keys to divine power

Keys to temples and temple building

Keys to a labor

Keys to the holy church

Keys to restoring

Keys to the right to officiate

Keys to lead the Ten Tribes

Keys to success

Keys of responsibility

Keys to the high priesthood

Keys to the Apostleship [16]

Keys to the patriarchal office

Keys to heavenly treasures

Keys to rally for God’s work

Keys for binding and sealing

Keys for individual growth

Keys to storehouses

Keys of Elijah

Keys to endowments

The list could go on and on–as if there were no end to these spiritual keys.

When the Lord calls a person to do a particular work, He gives him the temporal and spiritual means to do it; as Nephi said:

. . . I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. (1 Nephi 3:7)

In other words, when God calls a man to do something, He also gives him both the authority and the keys to accomplish it.

President Joseph F. Smith probably said more about Priesthood and its keys than any other Church president or apostle. He explained:

What is a key? It is the right or privilege which belongs to and comes with the priesthood to have communication with God. Is not that a key? Most decidedly. We may not enjoy the blessings, or key, very much, but the key is in the priesthood. It is the right to enjoy the blessing of communication with the heavens. (Gospel Doctrine, p. 142)


[17]         The Lord Himself explained 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)

John the Baptist told Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery about “the Priesthood of Aaron which holds the keys of the ministering of angels.” (D & C 13:1) And Wilford Woodruff testified to this when he said, “I had the administration of angels while holding the office of a priest.” (Disc. of Wilford Woodruff, p. 298)

Bruce R. McConkie explained, “The term keys is found in the revelations. One has reference to the directive powers.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 410)

Consider the combined meaning of all these statements. If you had the inseparable powers of heaven, and an angel came to you, giving you the directive powers to do something, would you not have the keys to do it?

Even the best Bible scholars have come to this same conclusion, i.e.–

Since it is the doctrine of the gospel that opens heaven to us, it is beautifully expressed by the metaphorical appellation of Keys. *** With the Reformers, it has been accepted that the power of the keys represented the use of power under the direction of the Holy Spirit. (Tyndale’s Enc. of the Bible, 3:1255)

The most important and powerful keys given to man are contained within the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, for the Lord has said that the Melchizedek Priesthood holds–


[18]                         . . . the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church–To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. (D & C 107:18-19)

Let’s reiterate–what keys does He say the Melchizedek Priesthood contains? Keys that would “open”:


  1. all the spiritual blessings of the church
  2. the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven
  3. the heavens unto them
  4. communion with the general assembly
  5. communion with the church of the firstborn
  6. communion of God the Father and Jesus
  7. the presence of God the Father and Jesus

All seven segments refer to that “inseparable connection with the powers of heaven,” which contain the “directive powers” or keys. But what Melchizedek Priesthood holder today realizes the full significance of these seven keys, let alone exercises them? If the Church of Jesus Christ is to operate on a spiritual foundation, then these keys must be present.

In recent years there has been a meshing together of the meanings of church, priesthood and keys, and it is supposed that they are all inseparable. However, each is very distinct and different. The definition of church should be obvious, but not so with priesthood and keys. Joseph F. Smith made a clear distinction between the two:

The priesthood in general is the authority given to man to act for God. Every man ordained to any degree of the Priesthood, has this authority delegated [19] to him. * * * But it is necessary that every act performed under this authority shall be done at the proper time and place, in the proper way, and after the proper order. The power of directing these labors constitutes the keys of the Priesthood. *** A distinction must be carefully made between the general authority, and the directing of the labors performed by that authority. (Imp. Era, 4:230, Jan. 1901)

If nothing else is remembered in this book, it should be the distinction between these two terms:


  1. “The priesthood in general is the authority given to man to act for God.”
  2. “The power of directing these labors constitutes the keys of the Priesthood.”

Holding or bearing the Priesthood is one thing, but being called to use it in a particular capacity is another. Furthermore, it does not mean that one person holding certain Priesthood keys has any more authority than another person with different keys. Once again from Joseph F. Smith:

He may delegate any portion of this power to another, in which case that person holds the keys of that particular labor. Thus, the president of a temple, the president of a stake, the bishop of a ward, the president of a mission, the president of a quorum, each holds the keys of the labors performed in that particular body or locality. His priesthood is not increased by this special appointment, for a seventy who presides over a mission has no more Priesthood than a seventy who labors under his direction; and the president of an elders’ quorum, for example, has no more Priesthood than any member of that quorum. But he holds the power of directing the official labors performed in the mission or the quorum, or, in other words, the keys of that division of the work. So it is throughout all the ramifications of the [20] Priesthood–a distinction must be carefully made between the general authority, and the directing of the labors performed by that authority. (Gospel Doctrine, p. 168)

When a Church president receives revelation for the operation of the body of the Church, then he has these keys over the Church, for “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 107:8) Nevertheless, as mentioned, the “power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church.” (107:18) Thus, if the Church president or any of his subordinates are not inspired, then they do not have the keys for guiding the Church.

An inspired president can pass keys on to other officers in the Church to help direct them in their particular work. Heber C. Kimball explained:

Brother Brigham is my brother; and holds the keys to all the departments of the Priesthood on this earth, and when he unlocks the door it will come open. He has a bundle of keys, and, if they were keys like these in my hand, no ten men in this congregation could carry or lift them. He possesses the keys of all the different gifts and graces that God designs for this people. Can you realize it? Some do, and some do not. It is brother Brigham that holds the keys, yes, above every other man that lives in the flesh [not above Joseph Smith]. When he says, “Brother Heber, take that key and open such or such a door,” then I have authority to go and unlock that door, the same as he has. If he says, “Brother Wells, take this key and go and unlock such a door,” he then has the same power as brother Brigham has to unlock that door. If he says, “Brother Hyde, take this key and other small keys and go to the nations of the earth and open into [21] different nations,” brother Hyde then has the power and authority, with his brethren of the Twelve, to open the door, preach the Gospel, build up the Church, organize it, and set it in order in every nation, kingdom, tongue, and island, so far as he has received the keys and authority. When brother Brigham gives a Bishop a key pertaining to a ward, that Bishop has power to open and shut, to teach, prophesy, and administer the word of life, according to his holy calling in his department. (JD 4:171)

The President of the Church has all the keys of presiding over all of the offices of the Church. He orders, directs, ordains, and governs the body of the Church. No other mortal has all those keys. However, any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood has just as much authority as the President of the Church. He may receive even more revelation than the President–but not for governing the Church.

John Taylor explained what powers and blessings are received through higher Priesthood keys:

What has the Lord done for us? He has opened the heavens, and has revealed the principles of truth. He has sent his holy angels to communicate unto the children of men the things that are calculated to promote their peace and happiness in time and throughout all eternity. He has given unto us, his people, the holy Priesthood after the order of Melchizedek, which “holds the keys of the mysteries of the revelations of God,” which draws back the curtains of the invisible world, and enables him to penetrate beyond the veil, and discloses the great purposes of Jehovah pertaining to himself and to this world, as they shall roll forth in the accomplishment of His purposes. (JD 6:163)

Many men in the Church may be noble, honest, clean living and have the best of intentions, but it does not mean [22] their decisions and actions are always correct or from the Lord. Joseph Smith had the gift of prophecy and was all that a prophet should be, but it still did not allow him to perform certain works or ordinances without the specific call to use that authority. Brigham Young clarified this:

When Joseph first received the knowledge of the plates that were in the hill Cumorah, he did not then receive the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood; he merely received the knowledge that the plates were there, and that the Lord would bring them forth, and that they contained the history of the aborigines [natives] of this country. He received the knowledge that they were once in possession of the Gospel, and from that time he went on, step by step, until he obtained the plates, and the Urim and Thummim, and had power to translate them. This did not make him an Apostle, it did not give to him the keys of the kingdom, nor make him an Elder in Israel. He was a Prophet, and had the spirit of prophecy, and had received all this before the Lord ordained him. And when the Lord, by revelation, told him to go to Pennsylvania, he did so, and finished the translation of the Book of Mormon; and when the Lord, in another revelation, told him to come back, into New York State, and to go to old Father Whitmer’s, who lived in a place opposite Waterloo, and there stop, he did so, and had meetings, and gathered up the few who believed in his testimony. He received the Aaronic Priesthood, and then he received the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and organized the Church. He first received the power to baptize, and still did not know that he was to receive any more until the Lord told him there was more for him. Then he received the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and had power to confirm after he had baptized, which he had not before. (JD 18:239-240)

If men have the keys of prophecy, then they should prophesy. If men have the keys of translation, then they should produce readable material from ancient records. If men claim [23] the keys of revelation, then they should receive revelations. The Catholic and Protestant churches claim to have those “keys”, but there is no evidence of the fruits of that power. Could a man say he is a grocer but has no groceries? The Prophet Joseph commented on this:

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. (TPJS, p. 270)

And the same criteria can be used for keys. Those who profess to hold the keys to prophecy, revelation, etc., should look carefully at their fruits of these powers before making such public claims.



Keys of any kind are for the purpose of unlocking or controlling a particular object or activity. The term keys is not meant to denote authority. If someone finds your car keys, that does not automatically give him your authority to drive it.

Brigham Young acknowledged that God had given the Saints both authority and keys:

Thanks be to the Lord our God . . . for the spirit of revelation he has bestowed upon us, and for the holy Priesthood and the keys thereof, by which the heavens are opened. . . . (JD 8:29)

Keys of the Priesthood unlock the power to use the Holy Priesthood. If Brother Brigham had said, “the keys of translation,” it would have referred to the secrets of some different [24] language. Keys of the ministry unlock the door pertaining to missionary work. Keys of Elijah unlock the power to do sealing for the living and the dead. Keys of Elias unlock the way for a preparatory work. Keys to the ministry of angels mean unlocking the heavens to commune with angels. Keys of the gathering are to unlock the ways to gather Israel.

Men may have Priesthood authority to do these things, but when they have the keys, then they can actually unlock the door and function in those different areas. To reiterate–


“Keys of the Priesthood”

refers to the

knowledge, the right, and the power

to lock, unlock, or perform something

in the name of God.

Too often people make the mistake of thinking that keys means authority or position, but each term has a completely different meaning–which will be the subject of our next chapter.



[25]                              Chapter 3



Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.” (D & C 107:99)

This chapter is divided into the following sections:


  1. Explanation of Terms
  2. Authority, Position, Keys
  3. Callings and Keys
  4. Specific Callings
  5. General Callings
  6. Magnifying Your Callings
  7. Rule and Reign OR Serve and Sacrifice


Explanation of Terms

It would be much easier to understand these Gospel terms if we could put them in some kind of order–such as that listed in the chapter title above. But since they are so closely allied together, there is no defined timetable in which you can place them.

For example, one can receive a calling either before or after he receives Priesthood authority; some gifts of the spirit can be enjoyed anytime along the way, not just after [26] receiving Priesthood authority; someone can act by virtue of his own Priesthood keys or under the direction of someone else’s. Some positions automatically entitle you to certain keys, whereas most keys come in connection with a particular calling.


To begin with, let’s take the scenario of a young man who is converted to the LDS Church in the mid-1800’s:


  1. He first feels he has received a calling to join the Church. (Some even receive their calling in the Pre-Existence.)


  1. He may have received the gift of dreams to help him gain his testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel, as well as the gift of discernment, etc.


  1. He is baptized and confirmed a member of the LDS Church by someone with Priesthood authority.


  1. He is conferred with the Aaronic Priesthood, giving him Priesthood authority.


  1. He eventually is ordained to the positions (or offices) of Deacon, Teacher, and Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood.


  1. He now holds the keys (1) “of the ministry of angels,” (2) “of the gospel of repentance,” (3) “of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins,” and (4) “to administer in outward ordinances.” (See D & C 13 & 107:20.)


  1. Along with his Aaronic Priesthood position (or office) he can receive a particular Priesthood calling, from someone with a higher calling, to perform a particular work or assignment. [27]


  1. At that time he would receive the necessary keys to enable him to perform that labor.


  1. He is later conferred with Melchizedek Priesthood, a higher authority, by someone who already had this authority.


  1. He is ordained to any or all of the positions (or offices) of Elder, Seventy, High Priest, Apostle, and Patriarch.


  1. He now holds the keys (1) “of the mysteries of the kingdom,” (2) “of the knowledge of God,” (3) “of all the spiritual blessings of the church,” (4) “to have the heavens opened unto them,” (5) “to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn,” and (6) “to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.” (see D & C 84:19 and 107:19.)


  1. In his Melchizedek Priesthood position, he can receive a particular calling that entitles him to receive accompanying additional keys to perform that work.


  1. When he is ready to be married, he goes to someone with Melchizedek Priesthood authority and also the calling to perform sealing ceremonies.

There are “variations of the theme” expressed above, but at least this should help clarify the definitions of the terms used throughout this book.


Authority, Position, Keys

It has been mistakenly assumed by some that authority, position and keys are all inter-linked and mean about the same [28] thing; but there is a significant difference. A man may have one, two, or all three; and herein lies a major mystery regarding the Holy Priesthood. Consider these three areas in the following list of possible variations. (Keep in mind the definition of the word keys given on page 24 in the preceding chapter.)

Men may or may not hold the following:


  1. Authority, position, keys
  2. Authority, no position but with keys
  3. Authority, no position and no keys
  4. Position, authority, and no keys
  5. Position, no authority and no keys
  6. No authority, no position, and no keys

The following examples show how each of these situations could exist:


  1. Authority, position, keys

Such a man would have the authority of the Priesthood, a position such as president of the Church, and the keys of receiving revelations from the Lord entitled to a man who honors that position.


  1. Authority, no position, but with keys

This could be those men since 1886 who were properly conferred with the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, but have not been ordained or called to a particular position in the Church. They did receive keys, however, to perform a certain mission, i.e., to keep plural marriage alive by performing sealings of men and women.


  1. Authority, no position, and no keys

This could refer to those who had the Priesthood conferred upon them at one time, but currently do not [29] accept a position in the Church nor do they receive the keys to function in a Priesthood office because of their own choice or actions. Many such persons are inactive in the Church.


  1. Position, authority, and no keys

Such a man could have the authority of the Priesthood, the position of Church president or apostle, but no longer have the keys of receiving revelations from the Lord to guide him in his position. Such a person could be like those Church leaders–since the turn of the century–who have lost the keys to revelation.

  1. Position, no authority, and no keys

Such a person would be like some priesthood leaders of today who have been ordained to positions in the Church, but were never properly conferred with Priesthood authority, i.e., those persons who were ordained between 1921 and 1957, when Priesthood was not conferred but only an office in the Priesthood was given. Without the Priesthood authority, they would, of course, have no keys to revelation, but only a position in the Church.


  1. No position, no authority, and no keys

This could apply to those who do (or do not) receive revelations or manifestations from the Lord in their individual capacity, without the Priesthood, i.e., Betty Eadie, Damon Brinkley, Edgar Casey, Joan of Arc, etc. Even though they have no Priesthood authority, position or keys, yet they still testify to receiving some type of spiritual gifts and revelations. This could also apply to those who are baptized into the Church but go no further.


[30]         The most desirable situation, of course, is to have persons, in both church and government, who qualify to enjoy all three of these–authority, position and keys. But the devil blinds our eyes, and we frequently fail to see their importance and are often willing to settle for “two out of three.” The devil’s program is one of deception and duplicity, wherein individuals are attracted to worldly position, power, and prosperity. As soon as they acquire wealth and authority, they seek for higher and higher positions–the “uppermost seats.” As Joseph Smith pointed out, “There are so many fools in the world for the devil to operate upon, it gives him the advantage oftentimes.” (TPJS, p. 331) Both positions and revelations can come from three sources: God, the devil, and man himself, and it is our responsibility to discern the difference.


Callings and Keys

Like keys, Priesthood callings in mortality are so numerous and varied that it would be difficult to list them all. The two are usually so closely identified, that they are often received about the same time. For whoever received a calling from the Lord without getting the keys to perform that calling?

According to Alma, some callings were “prepared from the foundation of the world.” He described those who had received this “holy calling”:

And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.

And this is the manner after which they were ordained–being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the fore-knowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; . . .

[31]                         And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith. . . .

. . . thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, . . .

And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God. . . .

Now they were ordained after this manner–being called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance, and taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end– . . .

Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb. (See Alma 13:2-11.)

There are three main ways in which someone can receive a calling from the Lord:


  1. Directly from the Lord Himself
  2. Indirectly through a Church officer, i.e., president, stake president, bishop, etc., who is entitled to receive inspiration and revelation to help him in his stewardship.
  3. Officially by virtue of the office itself, i.e., the duty and calling of a Seventy and an Apostle is to do missionary work.

There are even times when someone can experience all three of these for one particular calling. For example, (1) a man may receive a direct revelation that he is to preach the Gospel. (2) His bishop may be inspired to call him to go on a mission. (3) If the individual is ordained a Seventy, he immediately receives the calling inherent in that office for “building up the church and regulating all the affairs of the same in all nations.” (D & C 107:34)


[32]         It is interesting to note that some callings are for a specific individual, while others are more general. A specific calling can be an assignment for a person to do a particular task or work, i.e., translating ancient records, building an ark or a particular temple, collecting hymns for the Church, etc. A general calling is much broader in scope, i.e., doing missionary work, building temples, gathering to Zion, etc. A few brief examples of each of these two types of callings will be included on the following pages.


Specific Callings


Joseph Smith

He [Moroni] called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; . . . (P. of G.P., Joseph Smith 2:33)

. . . and thou [Joseph Smith] art still chosen, and art again called to the work (of translation) (D & C 3:10)

Which commandments were given to Joseph Smith, Jun., who was called of God, and ordained an apostle of Jesus Christ, to be the first elder of this church; . . . (April 1830, D & C 20:2)

. . . thy husband shall support thee [Emma] in the church; for unto them is his calling, that all things might be revealed unto them, whatsoever I will, according to their faith. (July 1830, D & C 25:9)


Hyrum Smith

Hyrum, . . . thy calling is to exhortation, and to strengthen the church continually. (April 1830, D & C 23:3)


[33] Samuel Smith

Behold, I speak a few words unto you, Samuel; for thou also art under no condemnation, and thy calling is to exhortation, and to strengthen the church; and thou art not as yet called to preach before the world. Amen. (April 1830, D & C 23:4)


Sidney Rigdon

. . . you, my servant Sidney, should be a spokesman unto this people; yea, verily, I will ordain you unto this calling, even to be a spokesman unto my servant Joseph. (Oct. 1833, D & C 100:9)


Oliver Cowdery

Behold, the work which you are called to do is to write for my servant Joseph. (April 1829, D & C 9:4)

And to Oliver Cowdery, who was also called of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to be the second elder of this church, and ordained under his hand; … (April 1830, D & C 20:3)

Make known thy calling unto the church, and also before the world, and thy heart shall be opened to preach the truth from henceforth and forever. Amen. (April 1830, D & C 23:2)


Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer

And now, Oliver Cowdery, I speak unto you, and also unto David Whitmer, by the way of commandment; for, behold, I command all men everywhere to repent, and I speak unto you, even as unto Paul mine apostle, for you are called even with that same calling with which he was called. (June 1829, D & C 18:9)


[34] Joseph Knight

Behold, I am the light and the life of the world, that speak these words, therefore give heed with your might, and then you are called. Amen. (May 1829, D & C 112:9)

Behold, I speak a few words unto you, Joseph [Knight]; for thou also art under no condemnation, and thy calling also is to exhortation, and to strengthen the church; and this is thy duty from henceforth and forever. Amen. (April 1830, D & C 23:5)

And lest one thinks that only the men can receive callings from the Lord, notice the six distinct callings that Emma Smith received in a July 1830 revelation through her husband:


Emma Smith

. . . thy calling shall be (1) for a comfort unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness.

And thou shalt go with him at the time of his going, and (2) be unto him for a scribe while there is no one to be a scribe for him, . . .

And thou shalt be ordained under his hand (3) to expound scriptures, and (4) to exhort the church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit. * * *

. . . thy time shall be given (5) to writing, and to learning much. * * *

And it shall be given thee, also, (6) to make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church. (July 1830; see D & C 25:5-11.)


[35]         And at times a particular group of individuals will receive a specific calling, as shown in the following three quotes pertaining to the Twelve Apostles:


Twelve Apostles

Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. (June 1829, D & C 18:14)

For verily I say unto you, the keys of the dispensation, which ye have received, have come down from the fathers, and last of all, being sent down from heaven unto you.

Verily I say unto you, behold how great is your calling. Cleanse your hearts and your garments, lest the blood of this generation be required at your hands. (July 1837, D & C 112:32-33)

The Twelve Apostles have got to rise up and magnify their calling, or they will be removed out of their place. The high priests, the seventies, the bishops, and every quorum of the church and kingdom of God have got to do the same, or they also will be removed; we cannot sleep any longer with the priesthood of Almighty God resting upon us, and the work that is required at our hands. (1835, Disc. of Wilford Woodruff, p. 326)


General Callings


Doing Missionary Work

I consider all the Elders of this Church, missionaries. (1853, Tchgs. of Brigham Young, comp. by Fred Collier, 3:192)

Behold, the field is white already to harvest; therefore, whoso desireth to reap, let him thrust in his sickle with his might, and reap while the day lasts, that he may treasure up for his soul everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God. Yea, whosoever will [36] thrust in his sickle and reap, the same is called of God. (April 1829, D & C 6:3-4)

What greater calling can any man have on the face of the earth than to hold in his hands power and authority to go forth and administer in the ordinances of salvation? (Disc. of Wilford Woodruff, pp. 133-134)

Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work. (Feb. 1829, D & C 4:3)

Therefore, let no man among you, for this commandment is unto all the faithful who are called of God in the church unto the ministry, from this hour take purse or scrip, that goeth forth to proclaim this gospel of the kingdom. (Sept. 1832, D & C 84:86)


Building Temples

Therefore, verily I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor, and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name. (Jan. 1841, D & C 124:39)


Gathering Together

It was the design of the councils of heaven before the world was, that the principles and laws of the priesthood should be predicated upon the gathering of the people in every age of the world. Jesus did everything to gather the people, and they would [37] not be gathered, and He therefore poured out curses upon them. (TPJS, p. 308)

The greatest temporal and spiritual blessings which always come from faithfulness and concerted effort, never attended individual exertion or enterprise. The history of all past ages abundantly attests this fact. In addition to all temporal blessings, there is no other way for the Saints to be saved in these last days, [than by the gathering] as the concurrent testimony of all the holy prophets clearly proves, …

It is also the concurrent testimony of all the prophets, that this gathering together of all the Saints, must take place before the Lord comes to “take vengeance upon the ungodly,” and “to be glorified and admired by all those who obey the Gospel.” (TPJS, p. 183)


Magnifying Your Callings

The Lord has instructed each of us to magnify our callings, no matter what they may be, as each one is important in building up His Kingdom:

Therefore, let every man stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; and let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet; for without the feet how shall the body be able to stand?

Also the body hath need of every member, that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect. (D & C 84:109-110)

For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining of these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. (D & C 84:33)

And if a person does “labor in his own calling,” thus “magnifying their calling” (or in other words exercising his [38] keys), then he can be among the chosen; for we are told that it is one thing to be called but quite another to be chosen.

Some were chosen in the Pre-Existence, and some will be chosen after proving faithful in mortality:

Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; and God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou was chosen before thou wast born. (P. of G.P., Abraham 3:22-23)

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. * * *

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. (D & C 121:34-36, 39-40)

But behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many who have been ordained among you, whom I have called but few of them are chosen. (D & C 95:5)

There has been a day of calling, but the time has come for a day of choosing; and let those be chosen that are worthy. (D & C 105:35)


[39]         And to emphasize the importance of being both “called” and “chosen”, Joseph Smith said, “God will not acknowledge that which He has not called, ordained, and chosen.” (TPJS, p. 168) And also, “It is not the multitude of preachers that is to bring about the glorious millennium! but it is those who are `called, and chosen, and faithful.'” (TPJS, p. 42)

And taking this subject of calling to the ultimate level, the Prophet exclaimed, “Oh! I beseech you to go forward, go forward and make your calling and your election sure; . . .” (TPJS, p. 366; for more information on this subject, see Calling and Election, a 218-page book by this author)

How important it is, then, for each of us (1) to learn what our callings are, (2) to magnify these callings by using the keys associated therewith, and (3) and to eventually make these callings “sure” (calling and election). If we do not use these God-given keys, they will become “rusty”, and taken away–and may even be turned against us.


Rule and Reign OR Serve and Sacrifice

So often those with authority, position, calling, and keys mistakenly think that entitles them to “rule and reign” over others. But, according to the Savior, it is just the opposite: “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased. . . .” (Matt. 223:11-12) Christ gave the following example:

And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.

But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is [40] chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (Luke 22:24-27)

And again, when Jesus spoke to the Nephites, he said:

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. (3 Nephi 12:1)

Too many people believe that a man’s position makes him a great person. The president of the nation is revered and treated by most of his “subjects” with awe and adulation, considering it a wonderful privilege just to shake his hand. But he may be nothing more than a dishonest scoundrel and hypocrite! People idolize movie stars and put them on some kind of pedestal, thinking it a great honor just to see one. But many of them live immoral and artificial lives, to say the least. Just because a man is rich, famous, and powerful among men, does not make him great in the eyes of God.

In referring to people who cry out against “prophets, apostles, angels, revelations, prophesying and visions,” the Prophet Joseph said:

Why, they are just ripening for the damnation of hell. They will be damned, for they reject the most glorious principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and treat with disdain and trample under foot the key that unlocks the heavens and puts in our possession the glories of the celestial world. (TPJS, p. 298)

He also warned us to “beware of Gentile sophistry [fallacy]: such as bowing and scraping unto men in whom you have no confidence.” (TPJS, p. 156)


[41]         The people of the world know little or nothing about those who hold the Holy Priesthood, for the Lord has told His people, “For ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God. . . .” (D & C 86:9) It is a blessing not found among the worldly, because priesthood authority and keys do not come through that kind of lineage. He has said, “The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones. . . .” (D & C 1:19) God always seems to operate that way. He may choose a young boy with a slingshot, a babe in the bullrushes, some unlearned fishermen, a youth in a grove of trees–and almost always the poor!

The important thing is not just “holding keys” but “using keys.” In other words, the greatness of a man is not what he has, but what he does with what he has. Holding a lot of keys is meaningless if they are not used constructively; whereas holding only a few keys and using them properly may be of much greater significance. It is very possible that in the final evaluation, some “little elder” might have done more with his keys to accomplish the work of the Lord than some “famous General Authority” and all his keys.

The crucial question is, What is being done with one’s Priesthood keys? Are they being used to “rule and reign” or “serve and sacrifice”? What a grand and glorious day it would be if all mankind used their authority, positions, callings, and keys to serve the Lord and their fellowmen!



[42]                              Chapter 4



The Lord promised Zacharias that he should have a son who was a descendant of Aaron, the Lord having promised that the priesthood should continue with Aaron and his seed throughout their generations. Let no man take this honor upon himself, except he be called of God, as was Aaron; and Aaron received his call by revelation. (TPJS, p. 272)

We have often heard the scriptural passage that “the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven,” but like many of the Priesthood terms already discussed, this word rights is also frequently misunderstood.

This chapter will discuss answers to three frequently asked questions regarding Priesthood rights and keys:


  1. Who has keys of the Priesthood?
  2. What are the rights to Priesthood keys?
  3. How does one use and abuse Priesthood keys?


  1. Who has keys of the Priesthood?

The term “Keys of the Priesthood” often confuses people because it has been used in so many different contexts. Sometimes the expression refers to one man, or a quorum of [43] men, or to many individual men. This may seem contradictory at first, but when it is properly understood, each statement can be correct.

Keys of the Priesthood are within the rights, powers and privileges of the Priesthood. As explained in the previous chapter, when a man is conferred with either the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood, they are blessed with certain keys that automatically come with that Priesthood authority. Then when they are called to various positions, they are entitled to additional keys to enable them to perform that particular work.

Consider the following examples of those who have held various keys of the Priesthood:


One Man

. . . (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), . . . (D & C 132:7)

(See Chapter 8, “Joseph Smith and the Keys,” for more information on this subject.)



And in the name of the Lord, I [Joseph Smith] now shake from my shoulders the responsibility of bearing off the Kingdom of God to all the world, and here and now I place that responsibility, with all the keys, powers and privileges pertaining thereto, upon the shoulders of you the Twelve Apostles, in connection with this council; . . . (“Letter to George F. Gibbs from Benjamin F. Johnson”, p. 18)

When a man is an Apostle, and stands at the head of the Kingdom of God on the earth, and magnifies his calling, he has the keys of all the [44] power that ever was bestowed upon mortal man for the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth. (Brigham Young, JD 6:320)

What ordination should a man receive to possess all the keys and powers of the Holy Priesthood that were delivered to the sons of Adam? He should be ordained an Apostle of Jesus Christ. That office puts him in possession of every key, every power, every authority, communication, benefit, blessing, glory, and kingdom that was ever revealed to man. (Brigham Young, JD 9:87)

. . . an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ has the keys of the holy Priesthood, and the power thereof is sealed upon his head. . . . (Brigham Young, JD 13:144)


Apostles and Others

Moses conferred these keys of authority upon the Prophet Joseph Smith, and he afterwards conferred them upon the Twelve Apostles and others, who when they were ordained received them as part of their ministry and priesthood. . . . (John Taylor, JD 19:239)

I am the last man living who heard that declaration. He told the truth, too; for would not any of the men who have held the keys of the Kingdom of God or an Apostleship in this church have been under condemnation, and would not the wrath of God have rested upon them if they had deserted these principles…. (Wilford Woodruff, Contributor 10:382)



You read in the revelation alluded to that when the Twelve were called and ordained, they possessed the same power and authority as the three First Presidents; and in reading further, you find that there must needs be appendages and helps growing [45] out of this Priesthood. The Seventies possess the same power and authority; they hold the keys of establishing, building up, regulating, ordaining, and setting in order the kingdom of God in all its perfections upon the earth. (Brigham Young, JD 9:87)


Seventies, High Priests, and Elders

Though the Presidency of the Church and the Twelve Apostles should suffer martyrdom, there will remain over 4,000 Seventies, all Apostles of the Son of God, and were these to be slain, there still would remain many thousands of High Priests, and as many or more Elders, all possessing the same authority to administer Gospel ordinances. (Lorenzo Snow, Mill. Star 48:111)

If in the providence of God he should permit the enemy to destroy these two first Quorums, and then destroy the Quorum of Seventy, all but one man, what is his power? It would be to go and preach, baptize, confirm, lay on hands, ordain, set in order, build up, and establish the whole Kingdom of God as it is now. (Brigham Young, JD 9:88)


High Priests

We have a Quorum of High Priests, and there are a great many of them. They are a local body–they tarry at home; but the Seventies travel and preach; so also do the High Priests, when they are called upon. They possess precisely the same Priesthood that the Seventies and the Twelve and the First Presidency possess; but are they ordained to officiate in all the authority, powers, and keys of this Priesthood? No, they are not. Still they are High Priests of God; and if they magnify their Priesthood, they will receive at some time all the authority and power that it is possible for man to receive. (Brigham Young, JD 9:87-88)


[46] Elders

Whoever is ordained to the office of an Elder to a certain degree possesses the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood; and suppose only one Elder should be left on the earth, could he go and set in order the kingdom of God? Yes, by revelation. (Brigham Young, JD 9:88)

. . . the keys of the kingdom are about to be given to them [heads of the church], that they may be able to detect everything false; as well as to all the Elders who shall prove their integrity in due season. (TPJS, p. 226)


Quorum Leaders and Officers

All members of a Priesthood quorum hold equal Priesthood authority, but in the president of the quorum is vested the authority to use the Priesthood for quorum purposes, for he holds the keys of authority for the quorum. (Evid. & Recon., Widtsoe, p. 234)

Verily I say unto you, I now give unto you the officers belonging to my Priesthood, that ye may hold the keys thereof, even the Priesthood which is after the order of Melchizedek, which is after the order of my Only Begotten Son. (DHC 4:284)

The rights of the priesthood are the keys or covenants pertaining to priesthood offices. The powers of heaven are the gifts of the spirit which the Lord God omnipotent gives to righteous Priesthood holders. (Tchgs. of Ezra Taft Benson, pp. 216-217)

The Bishopric is the Presidency of this [Aaronic] Priesthood, and holds the keys or authority of the same. (DHC 4:211)


[47] Priesthood Holders

[Blessing to confer Melchizedek Priesthood:]

. . . 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. (Gospel Doctrine, Jos. Fldg. Smith, p. 541)


The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church– (D & C 107:18)

. . . 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. . . . (TPJS, p. 166)

What is a key? It is the right or privilege which belongs to and comes with the priesthood to have communion with God. (Gospel Doctrine, Jos. Fldg. Smith, p. 142)

The Priesthood is given to the people and the keys thereof, and, when properly understood, they may actually unlock the treasury of the Lord, and receive to their fullest satisfaction, . . .

An individual who holds a share in the Priesthood, and continues faithful to his calling. . . . upon whoever are bestowed the keys of the eternal Priesthood, by a faithful life, will secure to themselves power to see the things of God. (Brigham Young, JD 3:192)


Firstborn Sons of Aaron

And if they be literal descendants of Aaron they have a legal right to the bishopric, if they are the firstborn among the sons of Aaron; for the firstborn holds the right of the presidency over this [48] priesthood, and the keys or authority of the same. (D & C 68:16-17)


Those with Endowments

Then go on and build the temples of the Lord, that you may receive the endowments in store for you, and possess the keys of the eternal priesthood. (Disc. of B.Y., p. 396)

We want to rear this temple with clean hands and pure hearts, that we, with our children, may enter into it to receive our washings and anointings, the keys and ordinances of the holy Priesthood, and also to officiate in the same for our fathers and mothers and our forefathers. (The House of the Lord, Talmage, p. 190)

For verily I say unto you, that after you have had sufficient time to build a house to me, wherein the ordinance of baptizing for the dead belongeth, and for which the same was instituted from before the foundation of the world, your baptisms for your dead cannot be acceptable unto me,

For therein are the keys of the holy Priesthood, ordained that you may receive honor and glory.

And after this time, your baptisms for the dead, by those who are scattered abroad, are not acceptable unto me, saith the Lord;

For it is ordained that in Zion, and in her stakes, and in Jerusalem, those places which I have appointed for refuge, shall be the places for your baptisms for your dead. (DHC 4:277)

Joseph tells us that this new name is a key-word, which can only be obtained through the endowments. This is one of the keys and blessings that will be bestowed upon the Saints in these last days, for which we should be very thankful. (Charles Rich, JD 19:250)


[49] Lineage of the House of Israel

This election or covenant with the house of Israel will continue for ever. In the great restoration of all things, this lineage will hold the keys of Priesthood, salvation, and government, for all nations. (Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, 5th ed., p. 68)


Many Others

Many have received the keys of this Priesthood through the ministry of the Prophet Joseph, that they might assist in carrying out the plan of salvation, as revealed through him. (Mill. Star, editorial, 18:145)

And when we understand how to use the keys and principles ourselves, we can then teach others, for all who have received the gospel are expected to practice its principles in their lives. . . . (Charles Rich, JD 19:252)

The Lord has given you [members of the Church] 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 fullness of times. (Disc. of Wilford Woodruff, p. 327)

In the world of spirits there are Apostles, Prophets, Elders and members of the Church of the Saints, holding keys of Priesthood, and power to teach, comfort, instruct, and proclaim the Gospel to their fellow spirits, after the pattern of Jesus Christ. (Parley P. Pratt, Key to Theology, p. 134)

. . . certain individuals, more intelligent than the others, were chosen (before the foundation of the world) by the Head, to teach, instruct, edify, improve, [50] govern, and minister truth and salvation to others; and to hold the delegated powers or keys of government in the several spheres of progressive being.

These were not only chosen, but set apart, by a holy ordinance in the eternal worlds, as ambassadors, foreign ministers, priests, kings, apostles, etc., to fill the various stations in the vast empire of the Sovereign of all. (Ibid., p. 67)


Wives in Connection with Husbands

He [Joseph Smith] spoke of delivering the keys of the Priesthood to the Church, and said that the faithful members of the Relief Society should receive them in connection with their husbands, that the Saints whose integrity has been tried and proved faithful, might know how to ask the Lord and receive an answer; . . . (DHC 4:604; see also TPJS, p. 226)


* * *

What is it that all these people have in common? They are all entitled to appropriate keys depending upon their individual authority and callings. Since there are many callings in life, so there must be a variety of keys to accompany them, as John Taylor explained:

There are different callings, and offices and stations, and authorities in the holy priesthood, but it is all the same Priesthood; and there are different keys, and powers, and responsibilities, but it is the same government. (The Gospel Kingdom, pp. 132-133)

So when someone talks about keys of the Priesthood, it is important to know which keys he is referring to, because although there is only one Priesthood, there are many callings and keys that belong to it. Any man with the Priesthood should exercise some keys of that Priesthood. If he does not [51] use his keys to unlock the heavens and receive some form of revelation, then maybe he ought to be concerned about why the heavens have withdrawn themselves and if the Spirit of the Lord has been grieved. (See D & C 121:37.)

As a man is ordained to the various Priesthood offices of Elder, Seventy, High Priest, or even Apostle, President or Patriarch, there is no new or additional Priesthood authority conferred upon him. Even when ordained a King and a Priest in the Second Anointing, he is still receiving another office within the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Prophet Joseph 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, 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; and is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation and every important matter is revealed from heaven.

Its institution was prior to “the foundation of this earth, or the morning stars sang together, or the Sons of God shouted for joy,” and is the highest and holiest Priesthood, and is after the order of the Son of God, and all other Priesthoods are only parts, ramifications, powers and blessings belonging to the same, and are held, controlled, and directed by it. 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, p. 166-67)


[52]         Here the Prophet gives an unmistakably clear explanation of the highest powers and keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood. If we numerically list his statements, we get an even better understanding of the supreme position of the Melchizedek Priesthood over all other priesthoods and offices:


  1. The Melchizedek Priesthood is the grand head.
  2. It holds the highest authority which pertains to the Priesthood.
  3. It contains the keys of the Kingdom of God.
  4. It is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation, and every important matter is revealed from heaven.
  5. It is the highest and holiest Priesthood.
  6. It is after the order of the Son of God.
  7. All other Priesthoods are only parts, ramifications, powers, and blessings belonging to the Melchizedek Priesthood.
  8. All other Priesthoods are held, controlled and directed by the Melchizedek Priesthood.
  9. It is the channel through which the Almighty reveals His will and glory.
  10. It is the Priesthood through which the Almighty reveals Himself to men.
  11. It is the channel through which He will make known His purposes to the end of time.

Because of these definite and unequivocal statements, we can see that there are no greater Priesthood powers and keys on this earth than those of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Hopefully the information in this section on “Who has the keys of the Priesthood?” has eliminated some confusion on the subject and has answered such questions as:



  1. “Do only the leaders of the LDS Church hold the keys of the Priesthood?”
  2. “Can more than one man hold Priesthood keys?”
  3. “Who is the one man on earth at a time who holds all the keys of the Priesthood?”

The question of “Who has the keys of Priesthood?” should be immediately followed by “What Priesthood keys does he have?” And the next logical questions each individual should be concerned with are, “What keys do I have?” and “Am I exercising them fully?”


  1. What are the rights to Priesthood keys?

Priesthood authority does not come through lineage, blood line, worthiness, pre-destination or foreordination. Men are not born with it. It is received by a conferral from one man to another. There are rights pertaining to the priesthood, but they do not automatically give men authority. Priesthood rights belong to the lineage of Abraham, as was revealed to Joseph Smith in 1832:

Therefore, thus saith the Lord unto you, with whom the priesthood hath continued through the lineage of your fathers–

For ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God–

Therefore your life and the priesthood have remained, and must needs remain through you and your lineage until the restoration of all things. . . . (D & C 86:8-10)

The line of the Holy Priesthood from Moses back to Adam was given in Section 84, showing the importance of actual Priesthood conferral, by the laying on of hands, even though the individuals already had the “right” to receive it:


[54]                         And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood which he received 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 Gad;

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 til 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. (D & C 84:6-17)

A chosen family lineage possesses the right to the Priesthood; men in that lineage are not born with Priesthood, but only with the right to have it. Abraham received it under the hands of Melchizedek and said:

I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same;… 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,… before the foundations of the earth….(Abraham 1:2-3)

The fact that Priesthood is given from one man to another is related by the Prophet Joseph:


[55]                         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. (TPJS, pp. 322-323)

If anyone could have been born with the Priesthood, it would have been Joseph Smith, but it was necessary for John the Baptist to come and confer the Priesthood of Aaron upon Joseph and Oliver.

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 2:72)

There are different rights that pertain to one’s Priesthood authority and calling. For example, only a literal descendant of Aaron has the “legal right” to hold the office of bishop:

The bishopric is the presidency of this priesthood, and holds the keys or authority of the same. No man has a legal right to this office, to hold the keys of this priesthood, except he be a literal descendant of Aaron.

But as a high priest of the Melchizedek Priesthood has authority to officiate in all the lesser offices, he may officiate in the office of bishop when no literal descendant of Aaron can be found, provided he is called and set apart and ordained unto this power by the hands of the Presidency of the Melchizedek Priesthood. (D & C 107:15-17)

The rights of the higher Priesthood are greater than the rights of the Church, because they include the right and power to preside over all church offices in all ages:


[56]                         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 107:8)

In other words, the Church does not control the higher Priesthood, but the Priesthood should control the Church. Men who hold the Priesthood may be used in Church positions if they are asked, but if the Church does not want the power, rights and authority of the Priesthood, they can choose whom-ever they want in those offices.


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. . . . (Joseph F. Smith, Mess. of First Pres., Clark, 4:43)

Another important point to remember is that “The Priesthood is essential to the Church, but the Church is not essential to the Priesthood.” (J. Reuben Clarke, Jr., Imp. Era 39:134, March 1936)

Throughout history, people have failed to accept and exercise their rights to Priesthood. They have seldom chosen to have God rule over them, as they want their own will rather than His. This was a dilemma in the early stages of the church, and it has been a problem ever since. After the death of the Prophet Joseph, Brigham Young said:

Does this church want it as God organized it? Or do you want to clip the power of the priesthood, and let those who hold the keys of the priesthood go and build up the kingdom in all the world, wherever the people will hear them? (DHC 7:235)


[57]         As descendants of Abraham, through Joseph and Ephraim, we have the legitimate right to hold the Priesthood and receive it by conferral from one with that authority.


  1. How does one use and abuse Priesthood keys?

The Holy Priesthood has been neglected, misunderstood, mistreated, opposed, misconferred and misrepresented. In short, it has been abused more than used. Both lay members and leaders alike are guilty–not just in our dispensation, but every dispensation has suffered the same fate.

Power, like money, can quickly change the character of a man, and cause him to become very self-righteous. According to Joseph Smith, “Now, in this world, mankind are naturally selfish, ambitious and striving to excel one above another; . . . (TPJS, p. 297) Brigham Young also commented:

Brethren, what is it that you love the truth for? Is it because it gives you the power, the authority of the Priesthood? Is it because it makes you rulers, kings, and priests unto our God, and gives you great power? There are men professing to be Saints, even in this congregation, within the sound of my voice, who feel how almighty they have become. They will curse you, if you do not see proper to comply with their wishes. Many men have feelings in their hearts towards their wives, that if they will not do precisely as they wish to perform this or that, they will curse them. What wonderful things they are going to do! “If you do not obey my voice, my counsel, I will send you to hell, and turn the keys upon you, that you may never! no NEVER! be released.” Sisters, you might as well heed the crackling of thorns under the pot, the passing idle bird, or the croaking of a crane, so far as their Priesthood is concerned. (JD 1:118-119)


[58]         It is the tendency of most men, that when they obtain “a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” (D & C 121:39) They put themselves up as “a light to the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world.” (2 Nephi 26:29) Their doctrine is that others should “follow them because they cannot lead anyone astray.” According to President Gordon B. Hinckley–

. . . I solemnly testify that the Lord Jesus Christ, whose church it is and whose name it bears, will never let any man or group of men lead it astray. (Ensign, Nov. 1993, p. 54)

The people who believe this have already been led astray and are believing an incorrect principle. We should follow no mortal person–only their good examples and any true doctrines they teach. The Saints today are advised to totally trust their leaders, but the Prophet Joseph said, “the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man,” because “righteous persons could only deliver their own souls.” (TPJS, pp. 237-38)

There are three important test questions that every Latter-day Saint should answer for himself:


  1. Has Christ’s Church ever gone astray in the past?
  2. Has the Mormon Church changed or rejected laws of the Priesthood?
  3. Can a man or men change or reject the laws of Priesthood and still hold the keys of Priesthood?

If you answered anything other than yes to the first two questions and no to the third, you failed the test.

With this great power of the Priesthood, one can bless or curse; it can make Gods or devils. Like any power, it can be [59] used for good or evil. Atomic power can provide lights for a whole city, or it can destroy that city. Since Priesthood is the greatest power in the universe, its abuse or misuse can result in the greatest consequences.

In what ways can we sin against these Priesthood laws and power?


  1. By changing the laws of God
  2. By incorporating the laws of man
  3. By totally rejecting the laws of God

History has proved that usually all three occur in that order within a short period of time. When you break man’s laws, you become a criminal; if we do the same with God’s laws, wouldn’t we be worse than a criminal? If we obey the laws of the land, which are contrary to the laws of God, we have established a different god. The laws of the land are supposed to agree with the laws of God–not the other way around.

Man’s laws are fickle and forever changing with nearly every session of Congress and state legislature. Even many decisions of the Supreme Court have been overturned or reversed. Does God operate that way? Can eternal laws be reversed and overturned? Can the laws of God continually change so that one day we are Saints by them and the next day sinners?

The idea that “a living prophet” can contradict, reject and overturn the teachings and revelations of the dead prophets is foolishness in the extreme. Does a man’s exaltation depend on contradictory laws, principles and ordinances? Such an idea is inconsistent with God’s unchangeable Gospel.


[60]         According to Joseph Smith, “The order of the house of God has been, and ever will be, the same.” (TPJS, p. 91) “He set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever.” (p. 168) “The gospel has always been the same; the ordinances to fulfill its requirements, the same, and the officers to officiate, the same.” (p. 264) “Ordinances . . . in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles.” (p. 308)

Can a “living prophet” ignore and change all that? If someone claiming to be a prophet tried to change the laws of the Priesthood, what kind of prophet would he be?

Men can lose the keys of the Priesthood much easier and quicker than they qualified to obtain them. If you follow the doctrines of the Priesthood, you can magnify your Priesthood power, privileges, and blessings. If you change or oppose those doctrines, you lose your Priesthood power. In 1873 Brigham Young explained how this happened to the Church of Christ after the Savior left:

The priesthood has left the people, but in the first place the people left the priesthood. They transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, and broke the everlasting covenant, and the priesthood left them; but not until they had left the priesthood. (JD 16:186)

And what is most amazing is that they never realized it! The Catholic Church still claims to hold the keys of the kingdom that were given to Peter, and they have been making changes in their doctrines for nearly 2,000 years!

In 1907 an editorial in the Liahona entitled “Fallen Prophets” was written as a warning against the many claimants of “keys” and “authority” that were springing up. The information still applies today. The author said that in every instance–


[61]                         . . . not a single individual . . . ever made an utterance or accomplished an achievement, from the day he first sought to gratify his ambition to that which he breathed his last breath, that marked him as a true prophet. * * *

Take each man whose name could properly be mentioned in this connection, and study his biography from the time when he first began to plan for the gratification of his aspirations to the end of his life, and what did he ever say or do that was worth remembering? What proof did he ever give that the Lord had called him? Prophets are known by their works, and the fulfillment of their predictions. What works were ever performed by anyone of these men by which he may be known as a prophet? What prophecy did one of them ever utter in the name of the Lord that was later fulfilled, or is ever likely to be? ***

Again no true prophet who was ever called to hold the keys of a dispensation and to preside over the church of God, ever deigned to engage in a controversy with a rival upon the subject of his right of leadership. To present himself before the people with his message from the Lord, and to invite all who chose to do so, to sustain and follow him, has been the course taken by every divinely authorized presiding prophet since the world began. Wrangling over such a question as the right to lead the people of God, is nearly always a distinguishing characteristic of a false or fallen prophet, never of a true one. (Liahona, The Elders Journal, 5:91-92)

All those who say there can be a difference between gospel teachings of dead and living prophets, are only excusing themselves for selecting a more “convenient” or popular gospel.

Most LDS members feel that since the Church is prospering in wealth, is popular with the world, and is very rapidly increasing in membership, that it must be sanctioned by the Lord. But listen to Apostle Orson Pratt:


[62]         The form, without the power and authority, is no better than the hundreds of human forms that have no resemblance to the ancient pat-tern; indeed, it is more dangerous because it is better calculated to deceive. (Orson Pratt’s Works, p. 4)


Cursings to Follow Abuse

Because of the nature of Priesthood, it becomes a two-edged sword, a great blessing or a great cursing. For Jesus said,

“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven, but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:19)

The devil’s power over a man is usually in proportion to the sins he commits against the knowledge and authority he has. For example, Sidney Rigdon claimed a revelation while he was in Kirtland which caused considerable trouble. He was asked for his license, but refused. Orson Hyde related the episode:

When we demanded his license, he said, “I did not receive it from you, neither shall I give it up to you.” He then threatened to turn traitor. His own language was, inasmuch as you have demanded my license, I shall feel it my duty to publish all your secret meetings, and all the history of the secret works of this church, in the public journals. He intimated that it would bring a mob upon us, says he. I know what effect it will have; there is a rod and a scourge awaits this people. Says I, “Elder Rigdon, if you want the honor of bringing distress upon this people, you may have it; you may have the honor of it here, and you may have the honor of it in eternity; and every effort you make to bring [63] distress upon this people, will recoil back upon your own head.” (Times and Seasons 5:650)

From this we can see how dark Sidney had become, his stubbornness, and arrogance, and how devilish his intentions–but they were to have grave consequences. When Joseph Smith returned to Kirtland, he explained to Sidney why he should give up all claims to authority because of his transgressions:

Sidney’s first revelation in Kirtland was telling the people that the kingdom was rent from them, and they might as well all go home for they were rejected. The saints felt very bad and were almost distracted. When Brother Joseph came home, (who was absent at the time) he called Sidney into council and there told him he had lied in the name of the Lord; and says he, “You had better give up your license and divest yourself of all the authority you can, for you will go into the hands of Satan, and he will handle you as one man handleth another, and the less authority you have the better for you.” Sidney gave up two licenses to Brother Whitney, (who has got them at this day) and according to his own testimony, he was handled by Satan just as Brother Joseph said, and weltered in the most extreme agony for about two or three months, and then Brother Joseph seeing that he had repented, said that he had suffered enough and restored him again. He made a tremendous blunder at the first revelation, but we would hardly suppose that a man who has been in the church so long as Sidney has, would make such a monstrous blunder as he has made this time. The object of Sidney’s revelation was to divide the church and scatter it. Brother Joseph has said at different times, that if Elder Rigdon was to lead the church twelve months, he would lead them to the devil. When he attempted to lead the people in Kirtland, it was to lead them to the devil, and when he made the attempt this time, it was for the same purpose. (Times and Seasons 5:660-661)


[64]         Wilford Woodruff also commented on what happens when someone abuses his Priesthood:

He (God) gave Joseph to understand that he held the Priesthood, which Priesthood was after the order of God, after the order of Melchizedek, the same Priesthood by which God Himself performed all His works in the heavens and in the earth, and any man who bore that Priesthood had the same power. That Priesthood had communication with the heavens, power to move the heavens, power to perform the work of the heavens, and wherever any man magnified that calling, God gave His angels charge concerning him and his ministrations were of power and force both in this world and the world to come; but let that man use that Priesthood for any other purpose than the building up of the Kingdom of God, for which purpose it was given, and the heavens withdraw themselves, the power of the Priesthood departs, and he is left to walk in darkness and not in light, and this is the key to apostasy of all men whether in this generation or any other. (JD 21:190-91)

It has been said that some of the spirits in the pre-mortal life asked not to have the Priesthood while they were on the earth. They understood the powerful forces of evil that would continually be arrayed against them, the constant barrage of temptations, and the terrible persecutions that would come upon them. But most of all, they saw the terrible consequences for any misuse of the Priesthood. Most of the people who never hear about the Gospel and the Priesthood may be part of those who chose not to receive that authority in this life.

When we consider how few people in mortality ever have an opportunity to receive Priesthood, and how few of those actually do receive it and use it correctly, there must have been reasons for this. We know more men will be [65] condemned by the misuse of it than blessed for its proper use. Many men in the Church, who supposedly have the Priesthood, seldom use it and rarely even show up for their Priesthood meetings. Brigham Young realized this in his day and commented:

I wish my sermons to be like the raining of pitchforks point foremost, until you awake out of your sleep and find out whether you are Saints or not. We have a great many gars, sharks, sheepheads, lamper-eels, and every other kind of fish that is to be found in the pond; the Gospel net has gathered them up, and what may you expect from such a mess? You may expect the best and worst of all God’s creation mingled here together. The foolish will turn from correct principles, go over to the wicked, and cease to be righteous, so that they can go to hell with the fools. I wish to have every man who rises to speak from this stand, lay aside the smooth tongue and velvet lips and let his words be like melted lead, that they may sink into the hearts of the people. (JD 3:226)


Many people who win millions of dollars in lotteries later bear testimony that it was the worst thing that ever happened to them because they lose family, friends and end up doing things they will always regret. Sudden great wealth in the hands of weak men can be the means of destroying them. How much worse for those who receive the Holy Priesthood and then misuse or abuse it!

For my Priesthood whom I have called and whom I have sustained and honored, shall honor me and obey my laws, and the laws of my Holy Priesthood, or they shall not be considered worthy to hold my Priesthood, saith the Lord. (From the Oct. 13, 1882, Revelation to John Taylor, Mess. of 1st Pres., James R. Clark, 2:348-49)


[66]         Brigham Young said, “. . . when a man’s mind is enlightened, and he turns from that light to darkness, it prepares him to be a devil.” (JD 1:134) Thus, the Priesthood and its ordinances are vehicles that can make devils, as well as Gods.

Giving endowments to a great many proves their overthrow, through revealing things to them which they cannot keep. They are not worthy to receive them. Brother Heber takes the lead in giving endowments, and you may ask, “Why do you give such folks their endowments?” To qualify them to be devils, if they wish to be. The plan of salvation is calculated to make devils as well as Saints; for by and by we shall need some to serve as devils; and it takes almost as much knowledge to make a complete devil as it does to fit a man to go into the celestial kingdom of God, and become an heir to His kingdom. We want to complete the education of a number of such fellows; they are running to the States, to California, and elsewhere, and are trying to reveal this, that, and the other; but I defy any one of them to give any idea of what is taught them in their endowments, except a garbled mass of trash. God takes that knowledge from their minds. We have to make devils, and we are preparing them. (JD 4:372)

Jesus said he had the keys of heaven and hell, and they are incorporated in the powers of the Holy Priesthood. When foolish Saints abuse such a great power and blessing, it becomes a terrible curse upon them.


* * *

It is not the intent, nor the right, nor even within the ability of this author to point out individuals today who have (or have not) Priesthood rights and keys, nor to identify those who abuse their Priesthood authority and keys–but only to provide the criteria we should use, along with the inspiration from the Lord, to determine this for ourselves.



[67]                              Chapter 5



The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened. (D & C 110:1)

The value of any key is in its use and function. If you should find a ring of keys along the road, you would have a problem in knowing what they are for; and without that knowledge, they would be worthless to you. If such a perplexing situation arises over small temporal keys, what greater problems can arise over spiritual keys! Men use keys and locks to open up their temporal treasures; God uses keys to open up the treasures of His Kingdom.

A key without a lock, or a lock without a key, is of no value. Furthermore, if they are not protecting anything of value, they are still worthless. The greater the value of that which is protected, the greater the value of the keys. This can also be applied to spiritual keys as well.

All keys have one thing in common–they are meant to operate, function, or perform some useful act. If they do not achieve this, then of what value are they?

Going back to the analogy of car keys, if someone has the key to a car but doesn’t know how to drive, is the key of much value to him? So it is with spiritual keys–they must first be located and identified, and then put to use. Even if persons [68] have genuine keys but are not functioning with them, they are of no more worth than having the wrong keys or not having any keys at all. Anyone can claim spiritual keys, and many do, but the real worth of their keys is determined by how they function with them.

Many questions continually arise regarding spiritual keys:


  1. Who has them?
  2. How are they being used?
  3. Does the LDS Church still have Priesthood keys?
  4. Can anyone outside the Church have Priesthood keys?
  5. How can someone lose Priesthood keys?

Today we are in a situation worse than a century ago. In 1856 Wilford Woodruff chastised the Priesthood holders for their lack of valiancy in their use of Priesthood keys.

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! (Disc. of Wilford Woodruff, ed. by G. Homer Durham, p. 327)

If there are as many keys to the Holy Priesthood today, where are they functioning, or are the Elders still asleep?


[69]         The keys to Priesthood are the means of making Priesthood function. The wrong key will not make a door open (function), nor can the wrong key make Priesthood function. Claims to possess keys to certain doors, or claims to hold Priesthood keys, are just that–only claims, until they function properly.

Everyone has at one time or another used the wrong key in a car ignition, and it has resulted in confusion, embarrassment and futility–regardless of how hard we try, twist, or turn the key. It may look like the right key; it may be made by the right manufacturer; it may be stamped with the right car model; and it may even fit into the key opening–but if it is the wrong key, it will not work!

So it is with Priesthood keys. Someone claiming keys to Priesthood may not have the right keys, or may be trying to use some keys incorrectly. On the surface, everything may seem to be correct: a righteous cause, proper ordinations, authentic offices, and even apparent true manifestations; but they cannot produce the right, authorized results. Using anything other than the right keys, or directions from God, will result in a blockage to their Priesthood power, and their keys will not function properly. And if such actions are pursued long enough, it may result in apostasy.

The keys of the Priesthood can function only through the proper use of the Priesthood. There are specific guidelines and restrictions that must be followed or they will not work. Did you ever have a key duplicated, but when you tried to use it in the car, it did not work? Why not? Simply because it was not perfectly matched to the original. Neither can men make the keys of the Priesthood function unless they follow the exact procedure initially given to them from God.


[70]         Hugh Nibley quoted:

“The impression made on the modern mind,” writes I.E.S. Edwards, “is that of a people searching in the dark for a key to truth and, having found not one but many keys resembling the pattern of the lock, retaining all lest perchance the appropriate one should be discarded.” (The Ancient State, Hugh Nibley, p. 313)

And so it is today. Many people are grasping at straws, following different people who claim to have keys with the hope of finding the right keys to heaven’s blessings. It is a haphazard attempt to obtain the treasures of heaven without following the correct road map to achieve them. Too often pretentious men seeking to be “a light to the world” have deceived many souls. The Prophet Joseph once said:

A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity–thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men. (TPJS, p. 137)

Imitations, substitutions, and duplications sometimes appear to be genuine, but eventually they prove to be a deceptive and dangerous pitfall.

Today you might say that the Elders of Israel represent a huge parking lot filled with cars and none of them are moving–because no keys are being used! Occasionally, on the fringe, [71] there are a few cars that slowly move–but they seem to be going in the wrong direction!

The proper function of Priesthood keys should be the same today as anciently. But where are the fruits? Obviously, somewhere along the way something has gone wrong!


In describing the proper function of Priesthood keys, we conclude this chapter with the poignant words of Hugh Nibley:

Repeat of repeat: Over whom does it [Priesthood] exercise power, then? Over the spirits and over the elements–never over one’s fellow men, whose free agency is absolute and inalienable.

Christ commanded the spirits, and they obeyed him; he commanded the elements and they obeyed him, but men he would not command, and rebuked the apostles at Capernaum for suggesting it. “How often would I have gathered you together . . . and ye would not!”

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. 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), 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.” (printed in Sunstone, Dec. 1990, p. 11)



[72]                              Chapter 6



A covenant concerns two persons. Both parties must do something to make the covenant effective. That principle is in full operation in the oath and covenant of the priesthood. He who receives the priesthood covenants to magnify his calling in the priesthood. That makes the covenant valid. That is too often forgotten. (Evidences and Reconciliation, Widtsoe, p. 253)

When a man receives the Holy Priesthood, he receives more than just its authority; he accepts the oath and covenant attached thereto. “Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father. . . .” (D & C 84:40) However, the oath and covenant do not apply to all orders of Priesthood, as Joseph Smith explained:

The 3rd [order] is what is called the Levitical Priesthood, consisting of priests to administer in outward ordinance, made without an oath; but the Priesthood of Melchizedek is by an oath and covenant. (DHC 5:555)

But first of all, let’s define these legal terms of oath and covenant:

Oath: An external pledge or assertion, made in verification of statements made or to be made…. Oath of Allegiance: An oath by which a person promises and binds himself to bear allegiance to a particular [73] sovereign or government. (Black’s Law Dictionary, p. 840)

Covenant: Those in which the party binds himself to the future performance of some act. A covenant which has for its object something annexed to, or inherent in, or connected with land or other real property. (Black’s Law Dictionary, p. 293)


An oath usually pertains to one person’s pledge or promise, whereas a covenant is usually an agreement between two or more parties.

An oath is the bond attached to the promises of the covenant. There is an oath of obedience with the Aaronic Priesthood, but the covenant and promises are attached to the Melchizedek Priesthood.

When Abraham was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him–

. . . and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.

And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

[74]                         And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. and he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. (Gen. 17:1-14)

This ancient covenant of the Priesthood involved two parties: God and Abraham–and even extended to Abraham’s posterity. Both parties made promises:

God’s Promises to Abraham:

  1. Abraham would be a father of many nations.
  2. His name would be Abraham, no longer Abram.
  3. He would be fruitful and his seed would be numerous.
  4. Kings should come from his lineage.
  5. A great amount of land would be given to him and

his posterity as an inheritance.

Abraham’s Promises to God:

  1. He would walk before God and “be thou perfect.”
  2. Pertaining to him and his seed, “every man child

among you shall be circumcised.” (at 8 days old)

In an effort to keep his part of the covenant, Abraham (age 99) was circumcised that same day, as well as his son, Ishmael (age 13), and “all the men of his house.”


[75]         When Abraham was 75, God had made a similar covenant with him:

And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Gen. 12:2-3)

But this covenant between God and Abraham did not start when Abraham was 75 or 99. Its inception was “before the foundations of the earth.” (See P. of G.P., Abraham, 1:3 and 3:23)

Moses also referred to both an oath and a covenant when talking to the children of Israel:

That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day. (Deut. 29:12)

And God also covenanted with Moses and the Israelites:

These are the words of the covenant, which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb. * * *

And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot. Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the Lord your God.

And when ye came unto this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, came out against us unto battle, and we smote them: And we took their land, and gave it for an inheritance unto the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to the half tribe of Manasseh. Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.

[76]                         Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water; That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day: That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (Deut. 29:1, 5-13)

In Deuteronomy chapter 28, God listed over 30 wonderful blessings that would come to the Israelites if they would obey those oaths and covenants; but if they failed to honor them, He listed over 100 curses that would then befall them.

The oath and covenant of the Priesthood came down through the Old Testament prophets, and after John the Baptist was born, Luke records:

And his [John’s] father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began; that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. And thou, child, [John] shalt be called the prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, [77] through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:67-79)

In our day we can still enter this same Priesthood covenant which entitles us to the same blessings:

And though we cannot claim these promises which were made to the ancients for they are not our property, merely because they were made to the ancient Saints, yet if we are the children of the Most High, and are called with the same calling with which they were called, and embrace the same covenant that they embraced, and are faithful to the testimony of our Lord as they were, we can approach the Father in the name of Christ as they approached Him, and for ourselves obtain the same promises. (TPJS, p. 66)

When a man receives the Melchizedek Priesthood, he automatically enters into a covenant with God to obey the laws of that Priesthood. It is not a matter of waiting to receive a separate revelation explaining and endorsing such a covenant. The following three references clearly explain this concept:

And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me saith the Lord; For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood. Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved. But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come. (D & C 84:35-41)


[78]                         Those who have received this Priesthood have covenanted with God the Father, and he with them. (A Compendium . . ., Richards and Little, p. 67)

Every person upon whom the Melchizedek Priesthood is conferred receives his office and calling in this higher priesthood with an oath and a covenant. The covenant is to this effect: (1) Man on his part solemnly agrees to magnify his calling in the priesthood, to keep the commandments of God, to live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of Deity, and to walk in paths of righteousness and virtue; and (2) God on his part agrees to give such persons an inheritance of exaltation and Godhood in his everlasting presence. The oath is the solemn attestation of Deity, his sworn promise, that those who keep their part of the covenant shall come forth and inherit all things according to the promise. (Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie, p. 480)

The oath and covenant of the Priesthood requires obedience to all the laws of God if a man wants to receive all the blessings promised. This Priesthood covenant says nothing about making a promise with any mortal (no matter what his position), nor does it state that we must follow “Brother So-and-So” or “President So-and-So”. This covenant is between God and man, not between man and man.

In the following passage, Hugh Nibley is talking about the covenant involved in the law of consecration, but the same conditions are true in any Priesthood covenant:

But the covenant is made by the individual to the Father in the name of the Son, a private and a personal thing, a covenant with the Lord. (Approaching Zion, Nibley, p. 468)

Thus, man should make his Priesthood covenants direct with God, and certainly never with anyone that would prohibit [79] him from making and keeping those covenants. Breaking a covenant with man is a crime, but to break one with God is a sin and much more serious.

Among the many laws of the Melchizedek Priesthood that man covenants to obey when he receives this Priesthood are–


  1. Preaching the Gospel
  2. Gathering the elect
  3. Baptizing and rebaptizing the Saints
  4. Helping the poor
  5. Blessing and healing the sick
  6. Doing temple work
  7. Performing necessary ordinances
  8. Conferring the Priesthood on others
  9. Living the law of consecration/united order
  10. Living celestial (or plural) marriage

This is where the keys of the Priesthood enter the picture, as the necessary keys are needed to accomplish and fulfill Priesthood laws and covenants. They provide the means to take action–to open the doors allowing a person to keep his part of the covenant. But when certain Priesthood keys are not used or are used improperly, they can be taken away and even turned against him, thus preventing him from honoring his part of the covenant and releasing God from fulfilling his part.

When the Saints broke their covenant and failed to keep the law of Zion (United Order) in Missouri, the Lord kicked them out and did not allow them to redeem Zion at that time. Then they failed in their attempt to live it in Illinois, so the Lord allowed them to be driven out into the wilderness. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith in 1834:


[80]                         Therefore, inasmuch as some of my servants have not kept the commandment (of United Order), but have broken the covenant through covetousness, and with feigned words, I have cursed them with a very sore and grievous curse. For I, the Lord, have decreed in my heart, that inasmuch as any man belonging to the order shall be found a transgressor, or, in other words, shall break the covenant with which ye are bound, he shall be cursed in his life, and shall be trodden down by whom I will; . . . (D & C 104:4,5)

It took a couple of decades for the Saints to try again, but once more they failed:

When the United Order was dissolved in 1834, it was through no pressure from outside but because of greed and hypocrisy (“covetousness, and with feigned words,” D & C 104:4, 52) within the Church. Brigham Young revived it again–the Brigham Young Academy at Provo was founded for the explicit purpose, in his words, of countering “the theories of Huxley, of Darwin, or of Miall and the false political economy which contends against cooperation and the United Order.” (Approaching Zion, Nibley, p. 171)

Brigham Young had established over 300 separate orders, but by the 1890’s, they had also been dissolved; and certainly a BYU student does not hear the living of the United Order promoted on the campus today. And when was there a time in the past century when the principles of the United Order were advocated in LDS General Conference? This is just one of the Priesthood covenants that has obviously been broken.

Another part of the Priesthood covenant includes the law of plural marriage. Regarding this law, the Lord said:

I reveal unto you a new and everlasting COVENANT; and if ye abide not that covenant, then [81] are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory. (D & C 132:4)

Marriage with one wife was only a part of the marriage covenant; this new revelation included more than one wife. Franklin D. Richards elaborated:

The Latter-day Saints claim to be the children of Abraham, and if they are the children of Abraham, they will do the works of Abraham. It was difficult for men and women from all parts of the world, who had lived in the monogamic order all their lives to accept this doctrine of the eternity and plurality of marriage. It was “a new and everlasting covenant”. . . . (JD 26:341)

Monogamy was the first part of that covenant; plural marriage was the fulfillment of it, as Joseph F. Smith explained:

The marriage of one woman to a man for time and eternity by the sealing power, according to the law of God, is a fulfillment of the celestial law of marriage in part. . . . But this is only the beginning of the law, not the whole of it. Therefore, whoever has imagined that he could obtain the fullness of the blessings pertaining to this celestial law, by complying with only a portion of its conditions, has deceived himself. (JD 20:28)

So important was obedience to this covenant that Wilford Woodruff said:

The leading men of Israel who are presiding over stakes will have to obey the law of Abraham or they will have to resign. (Life of Wilford Woodruff, Cowley, p. 542)

But the consequences of not living that law were more serious than just resigning one’s Church position. Woodruff [82] continued by stating that, “If we do not embrace that principle soon, the keys will be turned against us.” (Ibid., p. 542)

Heber C. Kimball warned the Saints what would happen if they found fault with the covenant of plural marriage:

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

Who among the Latter-day Saints today are “finding fault with the plurality of wives?” Who are they that are “trying to sink it out of existence?” The answer is obvious. They are the ones who have themselves broken these oaths and covenants of the Priesthood. Brigham Young, at the time of the dedication of the St. George Temple in 1877, is accredited with saying:

Hear it, ye Elders of Israel, and mark it down in your log books; the fulness of the Gospel is the United Order and the order of Plural Marriage, and I fear that when I am gone, this people will give up these two principles. (Truth 3:166)

His prophecy came true! After he was gone, the Church did give up these two principles, but they remain as part of the higher Priesthood laws. By giving them up, they broke their oath and covenant of the Priesthood.

The Father is bound to keep his part of the oath and covenant “which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.” (D & C 84:40) Therefore, the only way a covenant with God can be broken is on the human side of those bonds. And the consequences are severe:


[83]                         Whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come. (D & C 84:41)

There are only a few sins that cannot be forgiven, but apparently this is one of them. Joseph F. Smith concurred with this:

Acceptance of the Priesthood a Serious Matter. This makes a very serious matter of receiving this covenant and this Priesthood; for those who receive it must, like God himself, abide in it, and must not fail, and must not be moved out of the way; for those who receive this oath and covenant and turn away from it, and cease to do righteously and to honor this covenant, who will to abide in sin and repent not, there is no forgiveness for them, either in this life or in the world to come. (Gospel Doctrine, 1970-71 Mel. Prstd. manual, pp. 209-210)

President Spencer W. Kimball explained another way this Melchizedek Priesthood covenant can be broken:

Melchizedek Priesthood holders and those who have received their temple endowments have made further and specific pledges to do, to work righteousness. The Lord has expressed the mutual pledges between our Heavenly Father and the priesthood holders as an “oath and covenant,” . . . Suffice to say here that one breaks the priesthood covenant by transgressing commandments–but also by leaving undone his duties. Accordingly, to break this covenant one needs only to do nothing. (The Miracle of Forgiveness, Kimball, p. 96)

In explaining further the seriousness of breaking such an oath and covenant, suppose an ordinary citizen commits a felony and is caught. In court he is found guilty of a crime and is subject to ten years in prison. If an officer of the law was [84] found guilty of the same criminal act, should his punishment be more severe because he had taken an oath to obey the law that he broke? By the same reasoning, the gentiles who oppose and disobey the laws of God will suffer severely for it; but those who have had Priesthood conferred upon them and then break the covenants and laws of the Priesthood, will suffer even more.

By holding the Priesthood we are bound by an oath and covenant that should not be broken, and the Lord said He would test us to see how determined we are to keep our part of the covenant:

Therefore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy. For if ye will not abide in my covenant, ye are not worthy of me. (D & C 98:14-15)

In a future chapter we will determine if we, as Priesthood holders, have been faithful in keeping the oath and covenant of the Priesthood.

Most Mormons fail to grasp and importance of the blessings and the cursings connected to the oath and covenant of the Priesthood. They do not fully realize the magnitude of the promises of the Lord upon His people who honor their covenant with Him. The extent which the Lord will go in protecting someone who honors their oath and covenant of the Priesthood is related by Joseph Smith and recorded by Horace Cummings:

Concerning the Prophet’s preaching, I have heard father say that although he was a powerful speaker and could hold his audience spellbound, he [Joseph Smith] seemed to feel an inability to make them really [85] comprehend what he taught them, and showed great anxiety to do so. Here are a few points that father heard him teach:

“It would have been contrary to the oath and covenant that belong to the Priesthood for Lot and his family to have been destroyed with Gomorrah, so the Lord sent an angel to get them out, as Lot held the Priesthood.” (The Vision, Lundwall, p. 141)

It appears that when we break a covenant with God, we automatically have acquired one with the devil. A rejected covenant with God becomes a covenant with Satan. Isaiah mentioned a time when “the priest and the prophet have erred . . . in vision, they stumble in judgment.” (Isa 28:7) The result is that “your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.” (v. 18) He is referring to the leaders of the Ephraimites.

What will be the results upon the Latter-day Saints if they “neglect,” “refuse,” and “oppose” so many laws and doctrines that are part of our Priesthood covenant with God? According to the Lord, we do not learn–

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; [God is no longer bound by the covenant.] the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. [His priesthood is no longer recognized by Deity.]


[86]                         Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. (D & C 121:36-38)

It is the nature of a man to say, “This cannot happen to me–just to the other guy.” But each Priesthood holder should seriously consider whether or not he is keeping his part of the covenant he made with God when he was conferred with Melchizedek Priesthood.



[87]                              Chapter 7



And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness. (1 Tim. 3:16)

For an analysis or breakdown of the term keys, Biblical scholars have used an outline similar to the one below. This is supposed to help solve some of the problems connected with the keys as mentioned in the Bible. Thus, this chapter will be organized as follows:


  1. Jesus gives the keys
  2. Peter and the keys
  3. Binding and loosing
  4. Dangers and warnings
  5. The rock of revelation


  1. Views and Perspectives
  2. True and false agents
  3. Scope of the keys
  4. Functioning with Priesthood keys


III.          Data

  1. Related passages on keys


  1. Conclusion
  2. The power of keys
  3. Agencies of power


[88]                                                         I.             JESUS GIVES THE KEYS


  1. Peter and the Keys

Very few “keys” are mentioned in the Bible, but when Jesus said to Peter, “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:19), it became the most contested, controversial scripture of the Protestant and Catholic churches. Biblical scholar, James Hastings, wrote:

In ecclesiastical history the phrase is associated primarily with the so-called “Privilege of Peter”, upon which the dogma of papal supremacy has been built, but also with the delegated authority of an official priesthood. . . .

This double promise, like the one in the preceding verse, that was made to St. Peter personally, can hardly be doubted. The question is as to what it means. (Hastings Dic. of the Bible, p. 549)

Most scholars have stumbled over this passage and have arrived at many different interpretations–some so strange they don’t seem to refer to the passage at all. Elder Bruce R. McConkie noted this, too:

In one of the most abused and misinterpreted passages in the whole Bible, Jesus promised to give Peter certain keys and powers, which would enable the ancient apostle to build up the Church and kingdom in the meridian of time. (The Millennial Messiah, McConkie, p. 124)

And referring to this same passage–

There is no more stubbornly contested conception in Christian terminology. (International Standard Bible Enc. 3:1794)


[89]         However, the Catholic Church has felt very comfortable with their interpretation:

Since the Reformation it has been recognized by Catholic and Protestant, that on the interpretation of this passage depends the authority of the Church of Rome and its exclusive claims, so far as their foundation in scripture is concerned. (Ibid., 3:1794)

To the Catholic leaders this passage in Matthew 16:19 is one of the most important and authoritative Bible scriptures, yet they base their authority on a misinterpretation. It is strange that so many of the strongest arguments of claimants to title and position are usually based on error or misunderstanding. It is important to remember that a mistaken interpretation or a deliberate fraud can bring the same disastrous results. Every great fraud is perpetuated by misrepresentation, and unfortunately most religions are caught in the same trap.

The following questions could legitimately be asked regarding these keys that Peter held:


  1. Was he the only one to possess the keys?
  2. Could he pass them on to someone else?
  3. How does one pass keys to another?
  4. Did Paul have those keys?
  5. Were those keys a promise of a position?
  6. Were they a privilege or a duty?
  7. Why was Peter singled out for the keys?

Since Roman and Greek Catholic foundations rest upon the keys being given to Peter, the interpretation of this scripture is extremely significant. If their interpretation is in error, then so is the superstructure of Catholicism


[90]         The statements and references in this section should help clarify this mystery and explain the real meaning of Christ’s gift of keys to Peter.

When Jesus told Peter that he would give him the keys of the kingdom of heaven, he made a promise that was yet to be fulfilled. The Prophet Joseph explained when that promise was actually fulfilled:

The Savior, Moses, and Elias, gave the keys to Peter, James and John, on the mount, when they were transfigured before him. (TPJS, p. 158)

From this quote, we learn two things: that keys can be passed from one or more persons, and that they can even be given by translated or resurrected beings. The indications could be that they are connected with the High Priesthood, and that where the priesthood is found, those keys can also be found. This may be confirmed by the statement of the resurrected John the Baptist who told Joseph and Oliver–

. . . 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. (DHC 1:40)

From this we learn that there are keys to both the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. Undoubtedly there are many other keys not mentioned, but we are mainly concerned here with the keys that Peter received. More about him will be discussed in subsequent sections as well.


  1. Binding and Loosing

The more the scriptures mention keys, the more confusing the issue becomes. Instead of clarifying the subject, it seems to create more problems than it solves.


[91]                         This critical passage in Matthew 16:19 has two declarations, commonly spoken of as promises to Peter: to him Christ will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, while whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

What was Peter to bind and loose, men or things, persons or teachings? Do they signify powers and privileges conferred on Peter, exclusively or representatively? Do they belong to other apostles, and to other officers besides apostles? Can the powers be exercised by individuals or by the church alone? (Intern’l Standard Bible Enc. 3:1791)

So this presents another problem–how to interpret the binding and loosing powers connected with those keys.

As previously mentioned, Priesthood keys can both lock and unlock, close and open; so we must accept the fact that the keys Peter received were to do the same thing. When Jesus said to Peter that he could bind and loose, this indicated that Peter was supposed to DO something with his keys. They were an activity not merely a symbol of power or authority.

It is possible that such keys of power have been given before–perhaps many times–as indicated by Isaiah:

And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. (Isa 22:20-22)


The Apostle Orson Pratt inferred that this power was held by servants of God in all dispensations:


[92]                         The authority committed into the hands of the servants of God, in all dispensations of the Gospel, is the power to bind on the earth, and it is bound in heaven,–to seal on the earth and it is sealed in heaven,–to loose on the earth, and it is loosed in the heavens; and whosesoever sins they remit here on the earth, they are to be remitted in the heavens; and whosesoever sins they retain here upon the earth, they are retained against those individuals in the heavens. This is the authority of the servants of God in all dispensations of the Gospel from the earliest ages of the world until the present time. Any authority which does not embrace this power in the ministration of ordinances is altogether useless and in vain. Baptism received at the hands of any unauthorized person is good for nothing. (JD 7:83)

The authority of Priesthood is usually denied by most churches because they have no way to connect back to its origin. But without Priesthood, there is no power to seal and loose as indicated by those keys. John Taylor loved to use this argument with Protestant churches, and on one occasion he explained:

In talking with Church of England ministers I have sometimes asked them where they got their authority from. That is a kind of question they hardly deem admissible, but they would say, “Well, if we must confess, we got it from the Roman Catholics.” Where did they get it from? “From Peter.” But, unfortunately, you Episcopalians say that the Roman Catholics are in error. “Yes, they are in error.” Well, if that be the case, how could they confer power upon you? Do not the scriptures say if a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad? “Oh,” say they, “they might retain their power even if they had lost their virtue.” Oh, indeed; you admit that much. Well, if they had power to bind on earth and to bind in Heaven, they had power to loose on earth and to loose in Heaven; and if they had power to give the priesthood, they had power to take it away, and if [93] they cut you off, you have no authority. They do not like to reason upon these things; but I do. (JD 13:14)

If people do not understand what they claim to possess, it is doubtful that they have it in the first place, nor do they know how to use it. So it is with the “keys” given to Peter.

One of the questions asked by Christian churches today is, “What could Peter bind and loose on earth and in heaven?” A few of these powers will be mentioned here showing their connection with the restored keys. Compare the first quotation from the Bible with that of a latter-day scripture showing how the same power has been restored and fulfilled in our dispensation:


Remitting Sins

Bible: Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. (John 20:23)

Latter-days: 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. (D & C 132:46)


Blessings and Cursings

Bible: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Gen. 12:3)

Latter-days: That whoever he blesses shall be blessed, and whoever he curses shall be cursed;. . . (D & C 124:93)


Judgments in the Ministry

Bible: And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that [94] house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city. (Matt. 10:14-15)

Latter-days: And in whatsoever house ye enter, and they receive you not, ye shall depart speedily from that house, and shake off the dust of your feet as a testimony against them. (D & C 75:20)


Sealing and Binding Marriages

Bible: And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (Mark 10:8-9)

Latter-days: And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; . . . it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world, . . . (D & C 132:19)


The Dead Judged from the Books

Bible: And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Latter-days: . . . whatsoever you record on earth shall be recorded in heaven, and whatsoever you do not record on earth shall not be recorded in heaven; for out of the books shall your dead be judged, according to their own works. (Times and Seasons 4:934)


[95] Sealing up to Eternal Life

Bible: Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)

Latter-days: And of as many as the Father shall bear record, to you shall be given power to seal them up unto eternal life. Amen. (D & C 68:12)


Recording Visions

Bible: Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; . . . (Rev. 1:19)

Latter-days: And while we were yet in the Spirit, the Lord commanded us that we should write the vision; . . . (D & C 76:28)

There are many sealings and powers that will be mentioned later–all of which are accomplished through the keys of the Priesthood.


  1. Dangers and Warnings

When men can bind and loose on earth and in heaven, it is an awesome power; and as with all powers, they can be used constructively or destructively. Thus, they carry the burden of a tremendous responsibility. Those who possess Priesthood keys are under a great obligation to comply with the laws pertaining to that Priesthood.

Jesus set an example. He had the audacity to speak against the most respected and honorable men in the Jewish community. They were the learned, the wealthy, the doctors, lawyers and political leaders–the pillars of society. They were [96] also the religious leaders and the best students of the scriptures. How could Jesus speak so terribly about such men?

Nevertheless, he called them “hypocrites,” “blind guides,” “fools,” “whited sepulchres,” who “appear righteous unto men, but within are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matt. 23:28) “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (v. 33)

Jesus warned His disciples:

And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. (Matt. 7:26-27)

Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. * * * He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. (Matt. 10:33, 38)

Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. (Matt. 11:20-22)

Chorazin was near the Sea of Galilee. Today it is a shamble of ruins, and Eusebius said it was a ghost town when he lived (264 A.D.). Bethsaida was also located near the Sea of Galilee, but no one knows what happened to it or where it was actually located. Capernaum was another town that fell under the curse of the Master, and it lost its identity and apparently was reduced to rubble near the north end of the Sea of Galilee.


[97]         Today we can learn from Jesus’s warnings about the Scribes and Pharisees for making “the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition (Matt. 15:6), and for “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (v. 9), and to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” (Matt. 16:6). Keep in mind that these warnings applied mainly to those who were reputed to hold the Aaronic Priesthood. Jesus warned all people that:

. . . whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offenses: for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!” (Matt. 18:6-7)

The Savior then repeated the statement regarding the keys for binding and loosing on earth and heaven. (v. 18) He explained, “So the last shall be first and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.” (20:16) When He came to the temple, he spoke to the chief priests and elders and chastised them for not believing in John the Baptist and said that, “the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matt. 21:31) The 23rd chapter of Matthew records His chastisements of the Jewish leaders. Would Jesus have grounds to give the same chastisements to those who claim the uppermost seats today?

It is written that “all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death,” and “they all say unto him [Pilate], Let him be crucified.” (Matt. 27:1, 22) “Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.” (v. 25) By invoking such a cursing upon themselves, Jerusalem soon–



  1. Lost over a million of its people in war with the Romans
  2. Lost most of the others who were taken to Rome as slaves
  3. Lost their priests and priesthood
  4. Lost their city of Jerusalem
  5. Lost their nation and became wanderers over the earth
  6. Became a persecuted people–being driven, hated, beaten and burned for centuries.

Now, after nearly 2,000 years, their curse is beginning to be removed.

Thus, it can be clearly seen that along with the blessings of holding Priesthood keys, come a tremendous burden and responsibility, which if not exercised properly, can bring condemnation and cursings as a result.


  1. The Rock of Revelation

Just before Jesus told Peter He would give him the keys, Jesus asked His disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Matt. 16:13) They answered with a variety of speculations. Then He turned to Peter and asked, “But whom say ye that I am?” and Peter replied, “Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (vs. 15-16), to which Christ responded:

Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven …. (Matt. 16:17-19)

First of all, it is interesting to understand more about the name of Peter. Catholic research reveals:


[99]                         In all likelihood, Peter’s original name was Simon. . . . The form Simon, a genuinely Greek name, is used much more often, about 50 times. This could be simply a NT adaptation of the Hebrew name, but it is also quite possible that Peter, like many of his compatriots, used two names, one Hebrew and one Greek. However, it was by neither of these names that he came to be generally known. Jesus gave him a new name, the Aramaic word for rock, kepa. In the primitive Church, which was at first Aramaic-speaking, this form of his name would have been most common. Later it was transliterated into Greek as Cephas, but this form turns up only nine times in the NT, once in John and eight times in the letters of Paul. In fact, only once does Paul refer to him in any other way; in Gal. 2:7 he calls him Peter. This is intended as a Greek translation of kepa and is used more than 150 times in the Gospels and Acts. It told the Greek-speaking Christians more about Peter’s function than the noncommittal Cephas. Finally, there is the double name, Simon Peter, which occurs about 20 times, mostly in John. (The New Catholic Enc., vol. 11, p. 201)

This account of Peter’s receiving the keys (Matt. 16:19) is one of the most significant events in Christ’s ministry, yet it was completely omitted in the gospels of Mark, Luke and John. However, the predominance of Peter is obvious from other recorded history, as whenever the names of the Twelve are listed, Peter is mentioned first. Even within the circle of the favored three, Peter, James, and John, who witnessed the raising of Jairus’s daughter, the Transfiguration, and the Garden of Gethsemane, he is named first. In many instances where a group of the Apostles is involved, only Peter is mentioned by name. Quite often in different stories Peter is singled out for special attention. In fact, he was favored with a special appearance of Christ after His resurrection. Certainly Peter’s enthusiasm, dedication and loyal service to Christ stood above that of all the others, but there was a more [100] important reason for his pre-eminence–he had been given the “keys of the kingdom”.

The name Peter in Greek means “stone”. With that in mind, refer again to Matthew 16:17-18:


  1. No mortal had told Peter that Jesus was the Christ.
  2. He had a revelation from God.
  3. Christ acknowledged he was Peter.
  4. On this rock He would build His church.
  5. The gates of hell would not prevail against it.

Is the meaning of rock different from stone? Peter later said, “the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God. . . .” (I Peter 2:3-4) Then, referring to the Saints, He continued, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (v. 5)

Jesus referred to Himself as the chief cornerstone of the church: “Did ye never read in the scriptures, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?” (Matt. 21:42; see also I Peter 2:7.)


So, there is a difference in the terminology between a “stone” and a “rock.”

The Prophet Joseph Smith clearly explained the meaning of “rock” in Matthew 16:18:

Jesus in His teachings says, “Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” What rock? Revelation. (DHC 5:258)

[101] The answer is simple. Jesus told Peter that “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father in heaven;” and so it was on this principle of revelation that He would build His church. George Q. Cannon elaborated further:

Jesus replied, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” That is, he had not received that knowledge from man, but from God; and said Jesus, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” What rock? “Oh,” says the Catholic, “upon Peter; he was a rock, and the Church was built upon him.” “No,” say the Protestants, “Not upon Peter, but upon Jesus.” “Now,” says Jesus, “Upon this rock.” What rock? The rock of revelation–the principle upon which he was talking. He had spoken to Peter and told him that flesh and blood had not imparted to him certain knowledge which he possessed, but “my Father which is in heaven; and upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” They never can prevail against a Church built on the rock of revelation. (JD 14:171)

Peter was not selected by the Lord because he was so impetuously willing to do His will. Nor was it because he was so faithful in keeping the word of wisdom so he could say “nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.” It was not entirely because of his faith that he could walk on water as Jesus did; or because he was a strong witness to the miracles of Jesus; or because he would not let the Lord wash his feet, but when he learned how important it was, he was willing to let Jesus wash all of him. Rather, Peter was chosen to receive the “keys” because he was an inspired man and received revelation.

Going back to Peter’s new name, John shed more light on it:

And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou are Simon the son of Jona: [102] thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone. (John 1:42)

Further light and knowledge is given in the Inspired Translation of the Bible by Joseph Smith:

And he [Andrew, Peter’s brother] brought him [Peter] to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon, the son of Jona, thou shalt be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a seer, or a stone. And they were fishermen. And they straightway left all, and followed Jesus. (John 1:42, JST)

This clarifies why Peter was chosen as the chief of the Apostles– certainly not because of seniority, but because Peter was a seer and revelator. It is upon this principle that men are chosen to hold and use the keys of the Priesthood.


When Jesus appeared to the Nephites, He emphasized the importance of building upon His rock:

. . . whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one. (3 Nephi 11:35-36)

Then a few verses later He said:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine [repentance and baptism], and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and [103] the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them. (vs. 39-40)

It is obvious that a church that is not built upon this rock is like a house built upon sand, and when the rains, floods, and winds came, “it fell: and great was the fall of it.” (Matt. 7:27) In other words, a church that no longer is built upon that rock of revelation is a church that is on a shaky and unsure foundation–and has lost its keys.




  1. True and False Agents

Agents of the Priesthood, similar to men with any other kind of authority, can become oppressive, offensive, cruel and even wicked. The Prophet Joseph soon learned that “almost all men” will rule with “unrighteous dominion.” (See D & C 121:39) This has been proved over and over again throughout history.

It happened in the Catholic Church with men who supposedly “held the keys” originally given to Peter. In the 13th century a new order was established called “The Inquisition,” which held trials on those suspected of heresy.

When one accused of heresy was brought before the Inquisition, confession and repentance might result in only a token punishment, for instance, the making of a pilgrimage. If the accused remained obstinate in his heresy, he was delivered to the civil authorities for punishment, because the state considered heresy a civil offense. The methods used by the Inquisition were comparable to those of civil courts of the time, but were barbaric according to modern standards. The defendant was denied counsel; testimony of heretics and [104] excommunicates was admitted against him; cruel tortures were often used to extort a confession. Punishment took forms of imprisonment or death (usually by burning alive at the stake) with confiscation of the condemned’s property in either case. Although reliable figures are difficult to obtain, it is known, for example, that during 1239 in France 183 persons were burned. Bernard Gui, one of the prosecutors in southern France in his Register between 1249 and 1258 shows no verdicts of acquittal in the trials of 200 suspects. Gui’s lifetime record of convictions totaled 930, of whom 47 were burned and 307 were sentenced to prison; all 930 had their property confiscated. (American People’s Enc. 10:264)

Henry Lea compiled an extensive three-volume work on the history of the Inquisition, following its development throughout many nations and the effect it had on the people and the church. He gives an incident which probably describes the general effect of the Inquisition as it went throughout Europe:

Thus the Inquisition triumphed, as force will generally do when it is sufficiently strong, skillfully applied, and systematically continued without interruption to the end. In the twelfth century the south of France had been the most civilized land of Europe. There commerce, industry, art, science, had been far in advance of the age. The cities had won virtual self-government, were proud of their wealth and strength, jealous of their liberties, and self-sacrificing in their patriotism. The nobles, for the most part, were cultivated men, poets themselves or patrons of poetry, who had learned that their prosperity depended on the prosperity of their subjects, and that municipal liberties were a safeguard, rather than a menace, to the wise ruler. The crusaders came, and their unfinished work was taken up and executed to the bitter end by the Inquisition. It left a ruined and impoverished country, with shattered industry and failing commerce. The [105] native nobles were broken by confiscation and replaced by strangers, who occupied the soil, introducing the harsh customs of Northern feudalism, or the despotic principles of the Roman law, in the extensive domains acquired by the crown. A people of rare natural gifts had been tortured, decimated, humiliated, despoiled, for a century and more. The precocious civilization which had promised to lead Europe in the path of culture was gone, and to Italy was transferred the honor of the Renaissance. In return for this was unity of faith and a Church which had been hardened and vitiated and secularized in the strife. Such was the work and such the outcome of the Inquisition in the field which afforded it the widest scope for its activity, and the fullest opportunity for developing its powers. (A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, 2:109-110)

(pictures of some of the instruments of torture used to try to force heretics to repent.)


[106] Jesus prophesied that such things would occur and explains why:

They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. (John 16:2-4)

A little authority is often a bad beginning for many men. The transformation of normal, kind and considerate men into cruel oppressors occurs because they were given “authority”. Men often change in the military. It is well known that in world history there has been a considerably high percentage of officers killed because the common soldier could not take such drastic, cruel and vicious treatment by men in their own army, so many officers died at the hands of men under their own command.

Religions have not escaped the same effects of authority, as men enjoy having some kind of personal power over others. This negative trait has even followed many who have claimed to hold “the keys”:

Great is the responsibility of that man who is called to give counsel which involves the salvation of another; and when such counsel is given, it should be of that pure character, that the powers above him upon the earth, with angels and God, can approve. He will then have no occasion to destroy his own influence and power by telling others that it will be no sin for them to commit adultery, to lie, or steal, etc., etc., if they are told to do it by the Priesthood, and thereby pervert the right ways of the Lord, and bring reproach upon the honour of His cause. The Lord asks for no such confidence in His Priesthood as this, neither do good [107] men who are under its influence. The Priesthood never demands a wrong at the hands of another, though men who hold the Priesthood may make such a demand, as has sometimes been the case, and for which they have had to suffer.

Where the authority of God is, there should the confidence of all men be reposed, sufficiently to obey its laws, but not to violate them; for we have not yet learned that it has power enough to save the transgressor in his sins. Some men have been so wise as to think the little authority they had was sufficient for them to set aside law and revelation, and mete out justice and judgment upon their own responsibility. But in the end they have found that responsibility to be greater than they could bear. (Mill. Star 14:595-96, editorial, 1852)

Men always seem to have more ambition than common sense, as history has proved. They have sought for power, the vain things of the world, and for a controlling influence over their fellow men. When they gain a little authority, as they suppose, they lean towards unrighteous rule. Instead of their eyes single to the glory of God, they soon get bent out of shape, cross-eyed, or blinded. In such a case, “if thine eye which seeth for thee, him that is appointed to watch over thee to show thee light, become a transgressor and offend thee, pluck him out.” (Mark 9:46, JST)

Who then can qualify to be a leader and holder of the keys? Few descriptions could equal that offered by E. T. Harrison in a Millennial Star article entitled, “A Real Representative of the Most High,” from which the following brief excerpts are taken:

We should walk not merely in the authority of the appointment, but in the virtues and qualities that are its necessary accompaniments. * * *

Jehovah’s principles should shine in us, so that, seeing us, He may be seen. * * *


We are not called simply that God may have a number of men called Priests upon the earth. No. The holy Priesthood has been conferred on us for the express purpose that the Father and the Son may have representatives of their Spirit and their actions upon earth. We are ordained and appointed to act them out. * * *

The heavenly authorities of the upper worlds, whose glorious characters shine white, and pure, and free, and innocent, and whose virtues have lifted them up to their high estate, have stooped to attach us to their ranks. They have delegated us to stand and speak for them, to impersonate them, and to establish their order of society among men. (Mill. Star 20, see pp. 641-644.)

But sometimes it is difficult to determine a true key from a poor copy; and so it is with the true keys of the Priesthood and the many close imitations.


  1. Scope of the Keys

Through a microscope or telescope a subject is greatly magnified. So it is with spiritual keys; you should use a micro-scope, figuratively speaking, to view the subject with greater intensity and more accurate scrutiny.

Priesthood keys vary greatly in scope–some are very limited, while others are beyond comprehension. Keys can be very deceiving–one key might open a child’s piggy bank, while another opens Ft. Knox. The keys of the Priesthood vary in use from passing the sacrament to creating galaxies; some pertain to mortality while others reach into immortality.

The scope of some men’s keys is limited to themselves and their family, while other men claim that they “hold all the keys,” which to them is a super title, a badge of honor, and a special “trophy” that others have not acquired. However, the [109] scope of such keys probably goes no further than their own backyard.

Priesthood keys are located with those teaching eternal principles of the Gospel, administering correct ordinances, and preparing souls for the Celestial Kingdom. They are designed for saving souls, not to enable someone to brag about possessing them.

The scope and power of Priesthood keys are limited to the kind of people who claim them. Some people only care about following someone else who claims to hold keys. For them, personal use of keys is not as important as following someone else’s keys.

The scope of one’s Priesthood keys can increase if he wisely and correctly uses those that he already has. The principle of the parable of the talents, (related in Matthew 25:14-30) can apply here, “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance.” (v. 29)


  1. Functioning with Priesthood Keys

It cannot be denied that if there is no Priesthood, there can be no keys to the Priesthood; and furthermore, wherever the Priesthood exists, there must be keys for it to function. The Bible provides a clear history and understanding of how those keys functioned with Priesthood. It is obvious from Biblical history that most of Christianity today have neither the keys nor the Priesthood.

Following are some quotes by several Christian scholars and recorded in Zondervan’s Encyclopedia of the Bible under the heading of “Priest.” It is a magnificent collection of research on the priesthood in both the Old and New Testaments, and illustrates several important points:



  1. that Priesthood existed from the beginning of time
  2. that it was needed to perform the ordinances of God
  3. that it must strictly be obeyed or apostasy sets in
  4. that it is necessary for the “completion” and “perfection” of a man

It is amazing that such intelligent scholars can do this excellent research and still be “in the dark” as to its real meaning, function, and importance. If anything, it should provide a special warning to those of us claiming Priesthood and keys today.


Old Testament

Although the terms “priest” and “Levite” occur hundreds of times in the Old and New Testaments, scholars have different opinions as to the identity, function and rights of them. The word priest appears over 700 times in the Old Testament and over 80 times in the New. Scholars conclude that priests were given a Urim and Thummim. The term in Arabic designates a seer or soothsayer. At one time it was held that this was the original meaning of the Hebrew word. At another time the word priest meant one who stands for God. They also were given to offering sacrifices and other ordinances. Priests were also chosen from the tribe of Levi and others who became priests were sometimes distinguished by one doing the ministering while the other made sacrifices. At one time the priesthood was restricted to the descendants of Aaron; however, some non-Levites performed priestly functions on occasion. The priesthood in Israel takes into account another dimension in the religious world, that of supernatural revelation.

In Israel the priesthood represented the nation’s relationship with God. The original intention in the Mosaic covenant was for the entire nation to be a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:6). The covenant of God was mediated through the priest-[111]hood. It was a practical necessity that the corporate obligation of the covenant people should be carried out by priestly representatives. Furthermore, the priests in their separated condition symbolized the purity and holiness God required. They were a visible reminder of God’s righteous requirements.

In early Israel an important function of the priests was to discover the will of God by means of the ephod (I Sam. 23:6-12). The highest level of the priesthood was the high priest. He represented bodily the height of the purity of the priesthood.

By divine authority Moses consecrated his brother Aaron and Aaron’s sons to be priests (Ex. 28:11). The priesthood was restricted to the family of Aaron and his descendants.

When Korah and his followers rebelled against the authority of Aaron (Num. 16), he and his followers were destroyed and the priesthood of Aaron was signally confirmed. There were special laws for the maintenance of their purity. The provisions were principally concerned with prevention of defilement, which rendered them unfit for service.

Old Testament scholars claim that the history of the priesthood in Israel is highly complex. It is asserted that in spite of the unanimous Hebrew tradition concerning the Mosaic origin of the Levitical priesthood, evidence appears in even the older records that the priesthood was not exclusively Levitical in the early period.

The only priests mentioned in Genesis and Exodus before the giving of the law of Moses were foreign priests: Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18), Egyptian priests (41:45), and Jethro the Midianite priests (Ex. 2:16; 3:1; 18:1). General references to priests before the law are found in Ex. 19:22, 24, which seem to imply a Hebrew priesthood before Moses. Moreover, Exodus 32:25-29 indicates the Levites were given the priesthood for their faithfulness in carrying out the wrath of God after the sin of the golden calf.

At first the priest was concerned both with sacrifice and with directing the affairs of life. In Deuteronomy 33 the teaching function of the priest is [112] prominent. It was done through the Urim and Thummim and by reference to the legal code.

It has been suggested that every priest did not have to be a lineal descendant of Levi. Before Josiah’s reform, the priesthood was distributed widely throughout the land.

In the post-exile books of the OT a clear picture is said to be given of the priesthood of the restoration temple.

The high priest’s garments were distinctive; blue robe with bells and pomegranates, ephod, a square breastplate with twelve precious stones inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel and with Urim and Thummim. The position that the high priesthood did not exist before the Exile is invalid.


New Testament

The NT usage of the terms “priest” and “high priest,” with but one exception reflects OT antecedents, esp. the ministers of the Temple. In Revelation, the Christian community is referred to as “priests of God,” reflecting Exodus 19:6. For the most part the high priest and priests in the NT are extensions of what one finds in the OT. What distinguished the high priest from all other men was his unique privilege to enter the Holy of Holies in the temple once a year to offer sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. The high priest also served as president of the Sanhedrin. Thus both religious and political power tended to focus on him. He was the principal agent for the people in dealing with Rome. At least 64 times in the NT and often in Josephus and the Talmud, the term “high priest” occurs.

It was he who presided over the so-called trials of Jesus, of the early apostles, of Stephen, and of Paul. During NT times the high priesthood had lost its OT hereditary character. Herod the Great had begun the practice of dismissing and appointing the high priest, a practice continued under Roman rule. The effect was wholly deleterious. Not only did the [113] office cease to be lifelong and hereditary, but it also became wholly dependent on political authority. They also had seats on the Sanhedrin, hence their implication in the opposition to Jesus, especially after Jesus “cleansed” the Temple.

Over against the priestly aristocracy were the vast majority of ordinary priests, who Jeremias estimates numbered approximately 18,000 in the time of Jesus. They traveled to Jerusalem for the three annual pilgrimage festivals. For the rest of the year these priests lived at home with a few priestly functions to perform. For subsistence the majority of them also had another occupation. The Levites were numbered at about 10,000. Their chief functions were music and various forms of service connected with the Temple. Although they rarely are mentioned by name, indications are they formed the police force of the Temple. Therefore, they are almost certainly responsible for both the attempted and actual arrest of Jesus, as well as the arrests of the apostles. * * *

Although the author of Hebrews is the only NT author specifically to call Jesus a “priest”, the roots of such an idea are much earlier. In John’s gospel the high priest prophesies the high priestly character of Jesus’ death. The concept of His priestly ministry is deeply rooted in the motif that Christ’s death was a sacrifice for sins. The author of Hebrews takes this figure and works it out with consummate skill. He starts with the basic notings of priesthood. A priest is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God. His ultimate purpose is to bring men to God, and thereby bring them to perfection, or completion. The priest does not take this prerogative upon himself; he must have divine appointment. An imperfect priest can only offer imperfect sacrifices; therefore both the covenant on which his priesthood is based and the Holy Place in which it is performed are imperfect. Therefore, the old is only a type, a shadow, of the real who was to come. He is the ultimate priest because by His death He ratified a new covenant toward which the OT itself had looked. Moreover God [114] had promised that the Messianic king would also be “a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”

Melchizedek’s order is also superior to Aaron’s because the lesser always pays tithes to the greater. Furthermore, Jesus is a priest “forever”. Jesus is the ultimate priest also because He offers the perfect sacrifice–Himself. (Zondervan’s Enc. of Bible, see 4:849-867.)

It is evident that a knowledge of the history of priesthood is only the beginning of understanding the subject. Even among the Latter-day Saints, the meaning, function, and power of the Priesthood are not properly understood and appreciated.


There are three primary areas in which Priesthood is meant to function:


  1. The ministry of teaching and performing ordinances
  2. Healing and casting out devils
  3. Power over the elements

It should be noted here that “power over other people” is not one of the functions and powers of Priesthood. All three of the functions above are included in the following New Testament passage:

Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

And he said unto them, 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 believeth; 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. (Mark 16:14-18)


[115] In summary, then, Jesus mentioned:


  1. Power to preach the Gospel (preaching and baptizing)
  2. Power over evil spirits (casting out devils and healing the sick)
  3. Power over the elements (deadly serpents or poison would not hurt them, etc.)

The Savior Himself set the example of how He used Priesthood keys in all three of these areas:


  1. The ministry of teaching and ordinances:

Began to preach the gospel (Matt. 4:17, 23)

Teaching multitude on beatitudes (Matt. 5; 6; 7)

Ordained apostles (Matt. 10:1-4)

Ordained Seventy (Luke 10:1)

Multitudes listened to Him (Matt. 12:15)

Taught multitudes from a ship (Matt. 13:2)

Preached in their synagogues (Matt. 13:54)

Taught in many cities (Matt. 15:21)

Preached to chief priests and Elders (Matt. 21:23)


  1. Healing and casting out devils:

Nobleman’s son, of a fever (John 4:46-54)

Man with leprosy (Mat. 8:2-4; Mk. 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-14)

Man borne by four, of palsy (Mat. 9:1-8; Mark 2:3-12; Luke 5:17-26)

Impotent man (John 5:1-16)

Man with withered hand (Mark 3:1-5; Luke 6:6-10)

Centurion’s servant, of palsy (Mat. 8:5-13; Luke 7:2-10)

The woman who had been twelve years with issue of blood (Mat. 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48)

Sight restored to two men (Mat. 9:29-31)

Hearing and speech restored to a man (Mark 7:32-37)

Sight restored to a man (Mark 8:22-26) [116]

Sight given to man born blind (John 9:1-11)

Cure of woman who had been eighteen years afflicted (Luke 13:11-17)


Withstood the devil (Matt. 4:1-11)

Man of unclean spirit (Mark 1:23-26; Luke 4:33-37)

Man possessed by spirits called Legion (Mat. 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39)

Daughter of the Syrophoenician woman (Mat. 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30)

Lunatic boy, the disciples having failed (Mat. 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-43)

Many devils cast out (Mat. 8:16)


  1. Power over the elements:

Water converted into wine (John 2:1-11)

Peter’s net filled with fish (Luke 5:1-11)

5,000 men, besides women and children, fed (Mat. 14:15-21; Mark 6:35-44; Luke 9:122-17; John 6:5-14)

4,000 men, besides women and children, fed (Mat. 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-10)

A fish furnishes tribute money (Mat. 17:27)

A great haul of fish (John 21:6-14)

Fig tree withered (Mat. 21:18-21; Mark 11:12-14)

Wind and sea obey His word (Mat. 8:23-27; Mark 4:37-41; Luke 8:22-25)

Jesus walks upon the sea (Mat. 14:2831; Mark 6:45-52)

Those sent to apprehend Him fall backward (John 18:4-6)

Such were the works and powers of the Priesthood at the time of Christ. They provided a pattern for all who would yet hold Priesthood and the keys thereof. If these signs do not follow those who claim to hold Priesthood and its keys, then they are not following the proper pattern established by Christ.


[117]                             III. DATA


  1. Related Passages on Keys

There are several interesting scriptural passages that refer to those holding keys:


  1. Elijah held the keys of the sealing power (turning the hearts of the fathers and children) in ancient Israel. (Mal. 4:5-6; D & C 27:9; 110:13-16)
  2. Nephi, the son of Helaman, in the early Christian era also held important keys of sealing. (Helaman 10:4-10)
  3. Elias held the keys of “the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham” (D & C 110:12), while another called by the same name [probably Gabriel, or Noah] was “committed the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, concerning the last days.” (D & C 27:6)
  4. Moroni holds “the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim.” (D & C 27:5)
  5. Jesus Christ, when He appeared to John, said, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” (Rev. 1:18)

During the ministry of Jesus, He spoke to the lawyers: “Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge; ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” (Luke 11:52) Regarding this passage, Matthew Henry wrote in his Commentaries:

They [lawyers] are reproved for opposing the gospel of Christ, and doing all they could to obstruct the progress and success of it. (v. 52) {1} They had not, according to the duty of their place, faithfully expounded to the people those scriptures of the Old [118] Testament which pointed at the Messiah, which if they had been led into the right understanding of by the lawyers, they would readily have embraced him and his doctrine; but, instead of that, they had perverted those texts, and had cast a mist before the eyes of the people, by their corrupt glosses upon them, and this is called taking away the key of knowledge; instead of using that key for the people, and helping them to use it aright, they hid it from them; this is called, in Matthew, shutting up the kingdom of heaven against men. (Matt. 23:13) Note, Those who take away the key of knowledge shut up the kingdom of heaven. {2} They themselves did not embrace the gospel of Christ, though by their acquaintance with the Old Testament they could not but know that the time was fulfilled, and the kingdom of God was at hand; they saw the prophecies accomplished in that kingdom which our Lord Jesus was about to set up, and yet would not themselves enter into it. Nay, {3} them that without any guidance or assistance of theirs were entering in they did all they could to hinder and discourage, by threatening to cast them out of the synagogue, and otherwise terrifying them. It is bad for people to be averse to revelation, but much worse to be adverse to it. (Matthew Henry’s Commentaries 4:704)

This incident should be a warning to lawyers–both in and out of the church; furthermore, it could apply to all church leaders. To prevent people from hearing the true Gospel is “taking away the key of knowledge.” Jesus repeatedly warned the people about the scribes and the Pharisees who sat in Moses’ seat:

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. . . . 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. 23:13, 15)


[119] This was the sorrowful tale of rejecting the keys of knowledge that befell the Christian Church. It is certainly a warning to those who would reject those keys today.




  1. The Power of Keys

In mortality, power is always used for good or bad. Both God and the devil use power to accomplish their work among men, and the challenge for us is to discern one from the other. Keys play a part in both kinds of power–they lock or unlock these powers for mankind to witness or to use. Most of these powers are manifest in the form of miracles, a few of which will be briefly mentioned in this section.

Moses pled with God over his sister’s leprosy (see Num. 12:13-15.), whereas Christ could heal lepers by His touch or even by remote control. (see Matt. 8:3; Luke 17:14.) Elijah had to stretch himself three times on a dead child to painfully win back his life (I Kings 18:42-44), but Jesus raised the dead with apparent ease. Elisha fed 100 men with 20 loaves, but Christ fed 5,000 with five loaves. Many miracles in the Old Testament were performed by the use of rods, but Jesus accomplished them with a word or a touch of His hand.


There are 45 miracles recorded in the first five Old Testament books by Moses and 48 miracles in the four Gospels of the New Testament. Why?

The miracles of Jesus are not mere prodigies intended to strike the imagination. There is a close relation between these marvelous facts and the person who does them. They are visible emblems of what He is, and what He comes to do. . . . (All the Miracles of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer, p. 15)


[120] It is often necessary to readjust our understanding of God and of ourselves. The power of miracles can help us do that. The two most common readjustments that should be made are (1) to enlarge our view of God, and (2) to reduce our image of ourselves.

Keys go hand in hand with the performance of miracles and all other Priesthood powers. These powers and keys are commensurate with the worthiness of the agent and his particular mission in life. For example, regarding Christ’s Twelve Apostles–

. . . when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. [And they were commanded to] Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils. (Matt. 10:1, 8)

When Jesus selected his Quorum of Seventy, He gave them the same charges as He did to the Twelve.

The Seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them . . . 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. (Luke 10:17, 19)

As men obey the will of the Lord, they are given greater opportunities, a better understanding of the will of the Lord, and more power. What may begin with a small whispering of the Spirit, may evolve into greater manifestations of the Lord. The more important the mission, the greater the power of revelation, but also the greater the opposition against him by the adversary. Joseph Smith admitted, “When I do the best I can–when I am accomplishing the greatest good, then the [121] most evils and wicked surmisings are got up against me.” (TPJS, p. 259)

The measure of opposition to a man holding the Priesthood is often a measure of the power and keys of that man’s Priesthood.

The power of miracles in the Old Testament established the supremacy of God as the true God over all the dead gods of idolatry. The power of the miracles of Christ established His claims as the true Messiah. In all these miracles, the power of God was manifest for a divine purpose: They were intended to exalt God, not the agent through whom they were performed!


  1. Agencies of Power

Even men in the highest clergy positions sometimes mistake evil for good, and the devil covers sin with polish and the appearance of good. Thus it happened in the Church of Rome. In an attempt to raise money to build St. Peter’s Basilica (see photo on following page.), a new idea came from the minds of its leaders: They would sell indulgences, or pardons, by the authority of the Pope. When a person sinned, he could buy an indulgence entitling him to receive forgiveness.

In their minds, the plan was reasonable because they held the keys of Peter and the priesthood; so whomsoever’s sins they loosed, it would be done. They thought that this would be a wonderful way to cleanse society of sin, and at the same time the money could be used to build this great edifice for the Lord. So the church selected John Tetzel to sell these indulgences.

(Note: The following three engraved illustrations are taken from History of Protestantism by Rev. J. A. Wylie)


[122]         (Drawing of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican)



The infamous traffic was set up in the church, and Tetzel, ascending the pulpit, extolled indulgences as the most precious gift of God. He declared that by virtue of his certificates of pardon, all the sins which the purchaser should afterwards desire to commit would be forgiven him, and that “not even repentance is necessary.” More than this, he assured his hearers that the indulgences had power to save not only the living but the dead; that the very moment the money should clink against the bottom of his chest, the soul in whose behalf it had been paid would escape from purgatory and make its way to heaven.

When Simon Magus offered to purchase of the apostles the power to work miracles, Peter answered him, “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.” But Tetzel’s offer was grasped by eager thousands. Gold and silver flowed into his treasury. A salvation that could be bought with money was more easily obtained than that which requires repentance, faith, and diligent effort to resist and overcome sin. (The Great Controversy, Ellen White, p. 146)

A copy of one of Tetzel’s indulgences was preserved, and it reads as follows:

May our Lord Jesus Christ have pity on thee, N. N., and absolve thee by the merits of his most holy passion. And I, in virtue of the apostolical power that has been confided to me, absolve thee from all ecclesiastical censures, judgments, and penalties which thou mayest have incurred; moreover, from all excesses, sins, and crimes that thou mayest have committed, however great and enormous they may be, and from whatsoever cause, were they even reserved for our most holy father the pope and for the apostolic see. I blot out all the stains of inability and all marks of infamy that thou mayest have drawn upon thyself on this occasion. I remit the penalties that thou shouldst have endured in purgatory. I restore thee anew to participation in the sacraments of the church. I


[124]                  (Drawing of Tetzel’s Procession)



incorporate thee afresh in the communion of saints, and re-establish thee in the purity and innocence which thou hadst at thy baptism. So that in the hour of death, the gate by which sinners enter the place of torments and punishment shall be closed against thee, and, on the contrary, the gate leading to the paradise of joy shall be open. And if thou shouldst not die for long years, this grace will remain unalterable until thy last hour shall arrive.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Amen

Friar John Tetzel, commissary, has signed this with his own hand. (History of the Reformation, J. Merle D’Aubigne, 1:258)

Tetzel was so enthusiastic about these pardons that he declared:

Indulgences are the most precious and the most noble of God’s gifts. Come, and I will give you letters, all properly sealed, by which even the sins that you intend to commit may be pardoned. (Ibid., 1:252)

Tetzel told the people that if they did not buy these indulgences for their dead relatives and friends, that they would be punished in the Day of Judgment. So important were they, said he, that if you had only one coat, “you ought to strip it off and sell it, in order to obtain this grace.” He was a super salesman, and bragged, “I have saved more souls by my indulgences than the Apostle Peter by his sermons.”

But he was far more than a super salesman–he was a super deceiver! Previously he had been convicted of adultery and other vices so bad that the Emperor Maximillian had ordered him to be put in a sack and thrown into the river. Through a special pardon by Fredrick of Saxony, he escaped his just fate. It was said that no one in all of Germany could have been found that was better qualified to Tetzel’s business than Tetzel himself.


[126] But strangely enough, it was these Indulgences that served as the means for bringing about the Reformation. It was the sale of Tetzel’s Indulgences in Germany that caused Martin Luther to post his “95 Theses” on the door of the Wittenburg Chapel, challenging their scriptural validity.


(Luther nailing his “theses” to the door

of the Schloss-Kirk, at Wittemberg)


[127] And how ironic that on the place where Peter was killed by the Romans, now stands St. Peter’s Basilica, probably the most majestic church in the world. And even more ironic is the fact that it was mostly funded by the sale of pardons thought to be by the authority of the “keys” given to Peter by Jesus.


(Two photos of St. Peter’s Basilica)

St. Peter’s dome was designed by Michelangelo Buonarotti, who also painted the murals in the Sistine Chapel nearby. The interior of the church is nearly the length of a football field and the dome is 452 feet high.

“In 1950 Pope Pius XII announced that excavations beneath the grottoes of St. Peter’s had unearthed a number of tombs dating from the first century of the Christian Era, one of which–located directly under the high altar–was established to the satisfaction of Vatican archaeologists as that of St. Peter!” (Amer. People Enc. 16:264)


[128] Many different world religions are founded upon some truth, some good intent, or seemingly righteous endeavor. They build beautiful buildings; they show charitable works to the poor; they greet all with open arms; and they bestow great honors upon the leaders of nations. They believe that God is blessing them when their wealth increases. They assume that when great numbers join their church, it is a sign of God’s power. And they believe that when the world gives respect and honor to them, that they have God’s favor as well. Yet, in reality, all of the above are dangerous perils to the power of God’s people and the Priesthood keys.

For over 1800 years the keys of the Priesthood were misinterpreted, mishandled and misused–and ironically they are not much better understood and used today. However, through Joseph Smith these keys and a knowledge of them were restored–which will be the subject of the next chapter.



[129]                             Chapter 8



And the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom shall not be taken from my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., . . . (D & C 64:5)

This chapter will be divided into four sections:


  1. Joseph Smith–Ordained in the Pre-Existence
  2. Joseph Smith–Head of This Last Dispensation
  3. Joseph Smith–One on Earth at a Time
  4. Joseph Smith–Holds These Keys Forever


Joseph Smith–Ordained in the Pre-Existence

There are several references that attest to the fact that Joseph Smith was fore-ordained in the Pre-Existence to be the head of this last dispensation. At that time, he received a special appointment and calling to enable him to perform such a great earthly mission. Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff both mention Joseph’s calling before he came into mortality:

You will be thankful, every one of you, that Joseph Smith, junior, was ordained to this great calling before the worlds were. I told you that the doctrine of election and reprobation is a true doctrine. It was decreed in the counsels of eternity long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that he should [130] be the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people, and receive the fulness of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God. The Lord had his eye upon him, and upon his father, and upon his father’s father, and upon their progenitors clear back to Abraham, and from Abraham to the flood, from the flood to Enoch, and from Enoch to Adam. He has watched that family and that blood as it has circulated from its fountain to the birth of that man. He was foreordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation, as much so as Pharaoh was fore-ordained to be a wicked man, or as was Jesus to be the Saviour of the world because he was the oldest son in the family. (Brigham Young, JD 7:289-90)

Joseph Smith will hold the keys of this dispensation to the endless ages of eternity. It is the greatest dispensation God ever gave to man, and he was ordained before the world was to stand in the flesh and organize this work. (Disc. of Wilford Woodruff, p. 158)

Joseph’s mission as dispensation head, was to serve as a witness to the whole world. He explains this in his own words:

I shall read the 24th chapter of Matthew, and give it a literal rendering and reading; and when it is rightly understood, it will be edifying.

I thought the very oddity of its rendering would be edifying anyhow–“And it will be preached, the Gospel of the kingdom, in the whole world, to a witness over all people: and then will the end come.” I will now read it in German [which he did, and many Germans who were present said he translated it correctly].

The Savior said when these tribulations should take place, it should be committed to a man who should be a witness over the whole world: the keys of knowledge, power and revelations should be revealed to a witness who should hold the testimony to the world. It has always been my province to dig up hidden mysteries–new things–for my hearers. Just at the [131] time when some men think that I have no right to the keys of the Priesthood–just at that time I have the greatest right. The Germans are an exalted people. The old German translators are the most nearly correct–most honest of any of the translators; and therefore I get testimony to bear me out in the revelations that I have preached for the last fourteen years. The old German, Latin, Greek and Hebrew translations all say it is true: they cannot be impeached, and therefore I am in good company.

All the testimony is that the Lord in the last days would commit the keys of the Priesthood TO a witness over all people. Has the Gospel of the kingdom commenced in the last days? And will God take it from the man until He takes him Himself? I have read it precisely as the words flowed from the lips of Jesus Christ. John the Revelator saw an angel flying through the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth.

The scripture is ready to be fulfilled when great wars, famines, pestilence, great distress, judgments, etc., are ready to be poured out on the inhabitants of the earth. 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: for they shall deceive almost the very chosen ones! (TPJS, pp. 364-65)

Joseph Smith said he would give the scripture in Matthew 24:14 a “literal rendering,” which he did by saying the Gospel would be given “TO a witness” (instead of FOR a witness) “over all people.” He continued by saying that this witness would come “in the last days” and would hold “the keys of the priesthood” and be “a witness over all people.” It is very clear that Joseph Smith is the one who fulfills that prophecy in Matthew 24, and the following quotation is further evidence that he was that witness:



Everlasting covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth, and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth; these personages, according to Abraham’s record, are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the witness or Testator. (TPJS, p. 190)

And later Joseph referred to a scripture recorded by John the Revelator which ties in with Matthew 24:

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come, and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. (Rev. 14:6-7)

John saw an angel with “the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth.” This angel was a “special messenger–ordained and prepared for that purpose in the last days.”

Who was this “man who should be a witness over the whole world” in the last days? Joseph Smith certainly fits the description. And who was the “angel” that became a “man” who had the “holy priesthood” to “preach the everlasting Gospel to all nations”? Once again, the answer has to be Joseph Smith.

On top of the Salt Lake Temple is a statue representing the “angel who should preach the gospel to all nations in the last days;” how could that represent Moroni when he did not come with the Priesthood to preach the gospel to the nations–instead instructed Joseph Smith to do it. So the next time you drive downtown and look up on the temple and see that [133] golden statue, remember that it represents Joseph Smith much more than it does Moroni.


Joseph Smith–Head of This Last Dispensation

In April of 1836 there were some unbelievable manifestations in the Kirtland Temple, where personages who had lived on earth previously appeared and “committed” to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery different “keys” from their dispensations on the earth.

Paul spoke of the dispensation of the fullness of times, when God would gather together all things in one, etc.; and those men to whom these keys have been given, will have to be there; and they without us cannot be made perfect. (TPJS, p. 159)

The last verse in Section 110 of the D & C recorded:

Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors. (D & C 110:16)

Since this manifestation was to both Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, the question arises: “Did both Joseph and Oliver receive the keys of this dispensation?” It was not really clear. From the author’s research, all early leaders have felt it was just Joseph Smith, except for Joseph Fielding Smith, who thought it was both of them. He wrote:

It was Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith who received the keys in the Kirtland Temple on the 3rd of April, 1836, when Christ appeared, when Moses appeared, when Elias appeared, when Elijah appeared. And every time when the keys of a dispensation were bestowed, it was to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery–not Joseph Smith alone. Why? Just because [134] of what the Savior said: “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” (Doc. of Sal. 1:211)

And then he added:

He [Oliver] was an Assistant President of the Church and the second witness of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which is the greatest of all dispensations, for it was necessary that there be two Presidents, two witnesses standing at the head of this dispensation. (Ibid., p. 212)

Joseph Fielding Smith did conclude, however, that when Oliver Cowdery left the Church, and then later came back into full fellowship, he “never again was privileged to receive the keys of power and authority which once were placed upon him.” (Ibid., p. 217) Then he considered that his grandfather, Hyrum Smith, assumed the position of Oliver Cowdery–

. . . to stand through all time and all eternity at the head of this dispensation with his brother Joseph.” * * *

The sealing of the testimony through the shedding of blood would not have been complete in the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith alone; it required the death of Hyrum Smith who jointly held the keys of this dispensation. (Doc. of Sal. 1:219)

It is a wonderful thing to honor one’s grandparent to such an extent–even bestowing upon him favors and keys which no one else thought he held. But it just wasn’t true. For example, compare what Brigham Young and George Q. Cannon had to say about only Joseph Smith being the head of this dispensation:

Joseph Smith holds the keys of this last dispensation, and is now engaged behind the vail in the great work of the last days. * * *


. . . no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are–I with you and you with me. I cannot go there without his consent. He holds the keys of that kingdom for the last dispensation–the keys to rule in the spirit world; and he rules there triumphantly, for he gained full power and a glorious victory over the power of Satan while he was yet in the flesh, and was a martyr to his religion and to the name of Christ, which gives him a most perfect victory in the spirit-world. He reigns there as supreme a being in his sphere, capacity, and calling, as God does in heaven. Many will exclaim–“Oh, that is very disagreeable! It is preposterous! We cannot bear the thought!” But it is true.

I will now tell you something that ought to comfort every man and woman on the face of the earth. Joseph Smith, junior, will again be on this earth dictating plans and calling forth his brethren to be baptized for the very characters who wish this was not so, in order to bring them into a kingdom to enjoy, perhaps, the presence of angels or the spirits of good men, if they cannot endure the presence of the Father and the Son; and he will never cease his operations, under the directions of the Son of God, until the last ones of the children of men are saved that can be, from Adam till now.

Should not this thought comfort all people? They will, by-and-by, be a thousand times more thankful for such a man as Joseph Smith, junior, than it is possible for them to be for any earthly good whatever. It is his mission to see that all the children of men in this last dispensation are saved, that can be, through the redemption. (Brigham Young, JD 7:289)

He [Joseph Smith], therefore, received the ministration of divers angels–heads of dispensations–[136] from Michael or Adam down to the present time; every man in his time and season coming to him, and all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their Priesthood. So that Joseph, the head of this dispensation, Prophet, Seer and Revelator, whom God raised up, received from all these different sources, according to the mind and will of God, and according to the design of God concerning him; he received from all these different sources all the power and all the authority and all keys that were necessary for the building up of the work of God in the last days, and for the accomplishment of His purposes connected with this dispensation. He stands at the head. He is a unique character, differing from every other man in this respect, and excelling every other man. Because he was the head God chose him, and while he was faithful no man could take his place and position. He was faithful, and died faithful. He stands therefore at the head of this dispensation, and will throughout all eternity, and no man can take that power away from him. If any man holds these keys, he holds them subordinate to him. * * *

I present this matter before you that you may see that when Joseph died he had embodied in him all the keys and all the authority, all the powers and all the qualifications necessary for the head of a dispensation, to stand at the head of this great last dispensation. They had been bestowed upon him through the providences of God, and through the command of God to his faithful servants who lived in ancient days. * * *

There is no man in this dispensation can occupy the station that he, Joseph did, God having reserved him and ordained him for that position, and bestowed upon him the necessary power. (George Q. Cannon, JD 23:361-62)

The keys of this dispensation cover a much longer period of time than most Latter-day Saints realize. Brigham explained:

From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are–I with you and you with me. I cannot go there without his consent. He holds the keys of that kingdom for the last dispensation. . . . (JD 7:289)

Joseph Smith, then, is the head of the dispensation extending from around the end of the first century A.D. to the end of the Millennium, which is about 3,000 years, and includes more people than all other dispensations put together!

There are seven major dispensations on our earth, with the following dispensation heads: Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, and Joseph Smith. Minor dispensations–such as Elias, John the Baptist, Raphiel, etc.–have also been mentioned in scripture. But for us, we belong to only one dispensation, which is under the authority, jurisdiction, and keys of one man–Joseph Smith, Jr.

As head of the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, the Prophet Joseph had to receive his Priesthood keys from those who had held them in their dispensations. John Taylor explained the many former apostles and prophets who restored these keys so we could enjoy them in this last dispensation:

Then comes another personage, whose name is John the Baptist. He ordained the Prophet Joseph to that portion of the Priesthood of which he held the keys, namely, the Aaronic, or lesser Priesthood. Afterwards came Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and of the dispensation of the fullness of times, they being the last in their day to whom it was committed, and therefor they came to him and revealed to him the principles pertaining to the Gospel, and the events to be fulfilled. Then we read [138] again of Elias or Elijah, who was to act as a restorer, and who committed to him the powers and authority associated with his position. Then Abraham, who had the Gospel, and Priesthood and Patriarchal powers, in his day; and Moses, who stood at the head of the gathering dispensation in his day, and had these powers conferred upon him. We are informed that Noah, who was a Patriarch, and all in the line of the Priesthood, in every generation back to Adam, who was the first man, possessed the same.

Why was it that all these people should be associated with all these dispensations, and all could communicate with Joseph Smith? Because he stood at the head of the dispensation of the fullness of times, which comprehends all the various dispensations that have existed upon the earth, and that as the Gods in the eternal worlds and the Priesthood that officiated in time and eternity had declared that it was time for the issuing forth of all these things, they all combined together to impart to him the keys of their several missions, that he might be fully competent, through the intelligence and aid afforded him through these several parties, to introduce the Gospel in all its fullness, namely, the dispensation of the fullness of times, when, says the Apostle Paul, “He might gather all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are in earth even in him.” Consequently he stood in that position, and hence his familiarity with all these various dispensations and the men who administered in them. If you were to ask Joseph what sort of a looking man Adam was, he would tell you at once; he would tell you his size and appearance and all about him. You might have asked him what sort of men Peter, James, and John were, and he could have told you. Why? Because he had seen them. (JD 18:326)

Since Joseph holds the keys of this dispensation, it means we are subject to him in life and in death. Brigham Young explained:



Just wait till you pass Joseph Smith; and after Joseph lets you pass him, you will find Peter; and after you pass the Apostles and many of the Prophets, you will find Abraham, and he will say, “I have the keys, and except you do thus and so, you cannot pass;” and after a while you come to Jesus; and when you at length meet Father Adam, how strange it will appear to your present notions. If we can pass Joseph and have him say, “Here; you have been faithful, good boys; I hold the keys of this dispensation; I will let you pass;” then we shall be very glad to see the white locks of Father Adam. (JD 5:331-32)

Although the Prophet Joseph presides over this last dispensation, he recognized the one who was President of all the dispensations on this earth:

This then, is the nature of the Priesthood; every man holding the Presidency of his dispensation, and one man holding the Presidency of them all, even Adam…. (TPJS, p. 169)

The Prophet also testified that Adam “had dominion given him over every living creature.” And also that “the keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent. When they are revealed from heaven, it is by Adam’s authority.” “He [Adam] is the father of the human family, and presides over the spirits of all men, and all that have had the keys must stand before him in this grand council.” Furthermore, Adam is the one “holding the keys of the universe.” (See TPJS, p. 157.)

The Apostle Orson Pratt made an interesting observation:

In a great and glorious open vision, in answer to his [Joseph Smith’s] prayers, there was the manifestation of two of the great personages in the heavens–not angels, not messengers, but two persons [140] that hold the keys of authority over all the creations of the universe. Who were they? God the Eternal Father and his Son Jesus Christ, through whom God the Father made the worlds! (JD 21:308)

It is interesting to note that in the reference above Joseph said that Adam holds the “keys of the universe”. Then Orson Pratt said that God the Eternal Father was the personage who appeared to Joseph and was the personage who held “the keys of authority over all the creations of the universe.” Could it be that they are both one and the same personage?

Just because Joseph held the keys of this dispensation, he never asked the people to “follow him,” but rather he said, “call upon the Lord while He is near, and seek Him while He may be found, is the exhortation of your unworthy servant.” (TPJS, p. 18) Brigham Young concurred:

I believe in the one-man power. Who is that man? Our Father in heaven, God, the eternal Father, who is in all, knows all, and who made all that is in heaven, and who brought this world and all its living creatures into existence. He is the supreme “man” I serve, believe in and wish to obey in all things. It is my right and privilege to thus believe, and all who choose to differ from me have the privilege to do so. I want to continue in that course that will secure to me an exalted salvation. (JD 18:234)


Joseph Smith–One on Earth at a Time

For over a century many misconceptions, misinterpretations and false claims have arisen from the following verse:

And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, [141] associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead. (D & C 132:7)

The answer seems so clear: the Lord is talking about Joseph Smith being the one man who holds the keys of this dispensation, and thus the only one who can hold ALL the keys. The Lord said, “I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days.” It couldn’t be any clearer. Every contract, vow, etc., in this dispensation must be approved or sealed “by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, . . .”

Perhaps this could be clarified better if we equate the word “time” with a “dispensation” of time. For example, Abraham was the one man over his dispensation; Moses was the one man in his time; and Joseph Smith was, is, and always will be the one man over this dispensation. Before Joseph Smith was martyred, he did not appoint one man to continue with all the “keys”, as Brigham Young himself admitted that he was “subordinate” to Joseph Smith. But the Prophet Joseph gave the Quorum of Twelve Apostles the responsibility and keys to “bear off the Kingdom of God:”

“And in the name of the Lord, I [Joseph Smith] now shake from my shoulders the responsibility of bearing off the Kingdom of God to all the world, and [142] here and now I place that responsibility, with all the keys, powers, and privileges pertaining thereto, upon the shoulders of you the Twelve Apostles, in connection with this council; . . . and I am henceforth free from this responsibility and I now shake my garments clear and free from the blood of this generation and of all men.” (Benjamin F. Johnson Letter to George F. Gibbs, p. 18)

If anyone had the legitimate claim to be the only one on earth to hold “all the keys” after Joseph Smith died, it would have been Brigham Young. But the following two quotes explain how Brigham felt about it:

You may say Joseph was a devil, if you like, but he is at home, and still holds the keys of the kingdom, which were committed to him by heavenly messengers, and always will. Do you ask who brother Brigham is? He is an humble instrument in the hands of God, to keep His people in the path he has marked out through the instrumentality of his servant Joseph; and to travel in which is all I ask of them. (Brigham Young, Contributor 10:3)

He [Joseph Smith] stands therefore at the head of this dispensation, and will throughout all eternity, and no man can take that power away from him. If any man holds these keys, he holds them subordinate to him. You never heard President Young teach any other doctrine; he always said that Joseph stood at the head of this dispensation; that Joseph holds the keys; that although Joseph had gone behind the veil, he stood at the head of this dispensation, and that he [B.Y.] himself held the keys subordinate to him. (George Q. Cannon, JD 23:361)

Shortly after Joseph Smith was martyred, a meeting was held in which Sidney Rigdon came to claim the title of the guardian of the Church. But Brigham Young explained:



If the people want President Rigdon to lead them, they may have him; but I say unto you that the Quorum of the Twelve have the keys of the Kingdom in all the world. The Twelve are appointed by the finger of God. Here is Brigham, have his knees ever faltered? Have his lips ever quivered? Here are Heber and the rest of the Twelve, an independent body who have the keys of the priesthood; the keys of the Kingdom of God to deliver to all the world; this is true, so help me God! They stand next to Joseph and are as the Presidency of the Church. (Wilford Woodruff, Mathias Cowley, p. 219)

When President Brigham Young said, “The keys of the priesthood were committed to Joseph, to build up the Kingdom of God on the earth, and were not to be taken from him in time or in eternity. . . .” (Contributor 10:3), he is saying that the keys are still held by Joseph beyond the vail. A mortal man may hold keys pertaining to Church presidency, apostleship, a mission, or particular work or labor, but everything is done under the supervision of THE “ONE MAN”–Joseph Smith, who is the only one with the key to serve as head of this dispensation. This one key (as dispensation head) he kept for himself; all others he passed on to the Twelve Apostles, as the following three apostles explain:

[Orson Hyde, speaking in Sept. 1844:] . . . says Brother Joseph, in one of those councils, there is something going to happen; I don’t know what it is, but the Lord bids me to hasten and give you your endowment before the temple is finished. He conducted us through every ordinance of the holy priesthood, and when he had gone through with all the ordinances, he rejoiced very much, and says, now if they kill me, you have got all the keys, and all the ordinances, and you can confer them upon others, and the hosts of Satan will not be able to tear down the kingdom, as fast as you will be able to build it up; and now says he on your shoulders will the responsibility of leading this [144] people rest, for the Lord is going to let me rest a while. (T & S 5:651)

[Wilford Woodruff:] We had our endowments; we had had all the blessings sealed upon our heads that were ever given to the apostles or prophets on the face of the earth. On that occasion the Prophet Joseph rose up and said to us: “Brethren, I have desired to live to see this temple built. I shall never live to see it, but you will. I have sealed upon your heads all of the keys of the kingdom of God. I have sealed upon you every key, power, principle that the God of heaven has revealed to me. Now, no matter where I may go or what I may do, the kingdom rests upon you.”

. . . “But,” he said, after having done this, “ye apostles of the Lamb of God, my brethren, upon your shoulders this kingdom rests; now you have got to round up your shoulders and bear off the kingdom. . . .” (Wilford Woodruff, Coll. Disc., Stuy, 1:292)

[George Q. Cannon:] While he [Joseph Smith] was in possession of all his faculties, and likely to live for many years to lead the Church–in fact the people believed that he would live to redeem Zion–when he was thus situated, impressed by the Spirit and power of God, he called together our leading men, and he bestowed upon the Twelve Apostles all the keys and authority and power that he himself possessed and that he had received from the Lord. He gave unto them every endowment, every washing, every anointing, and administered unto them the sealing ordinances and taught them the character of those ordinances, and revealed unto them the doctrine of celestial marriage, and impressed upon them the importance of their obedience to the same, and made it obligatory upon them that they should obey it and carry it out in their lives, and teach it to others. He taught these brethren that unless they did this, the kingdom would stop, it could not make further progress. And filled with the power of God, he blessed them and placed those keys and this authority upon them, and told them that he had thus ordained [145] them to bear off the kingdom. There was no key that he held, there was no authority that he exercised that he did not bestow upon the Twelve Apostles at that time. Of course, in doing this, he did not divest himself of the keys; but he bestowed upon them these keys and this authority and power, so that they held them in their fullness as he did, differing only in this respect, that they exercised them subordinate to him as the head of the dispensation. He ordained them to all this authority, without withholding a single power or key or ordinance that he himself had received. (JD 23:262-63)

How can anyone say, then, that only one on earth holds all the keys (other than Joseph Smith), when it is so evident that all Twelve Apostles held every key of this dispensation? This would be the same fallacious claim that Sidney Rigdon and Amasa Lyman made. Brigham referred to them when he said, “If either wishes to act as spokesman for the Prophet Joseph, he must go behind the veil where Joseph is.” (T & S 5:638)

Therefore, it was the appointment and responsibility of all the Twelve to hold these Priesthood keys. As late as 1880 the Lord gave a revelation to Wilford Woodruff stating that the previously departed prophets and apostles were still “watching over” them, and were still living:

Thus saith the Lord unto you, my servants and Apostles who dwell in the flesh. Fear ye not your enemies. Let not your hearts be troubled. I am in your midst. I am your advocate with the Father.

I have given mine angels charge concerning you. Mine eyes are upon you and the eyes of your heavenly Father and the Heavenly Hosts and all justified spirits made perfect are watching over you.

Your works are manifest before the face of my servants who have sealed their testimony with their blood, and before all my servants of the Apostles whom I have taken unto myself.


The veil is taken from off their faces and they know your works. They await your coming when you have finished your testimony in the flesh. Therefore, be ye faithful until I come. My coming is at the door. (Revelations, 1880-1890, comp. by Kraut, pp. 12-13)

And one of the following verses in the same revelation makes it very clear who holds the keys:

And while my servant John Taylor is your President, I wish to ask the rest of my servants of the Apostles the question, although you have one to preside over your Quorum, which is the order of God in all generations, do you not, all of you, hold the apostleship, which is the highest authority ever given to men on earth? You do. Therefore, you hold in common the Keys of the Kingdom of God in all the world. (Ibid., p. 15)

The Lord said the Twelve held the Keys of the Kingdom “in common;” and although one person would “preside over your Quorum,” they were all equal in authority as Apostles “which is the highest authority ever given to men on earth.” In others words, from at least April 1844, to January of 1880, the Lord recognized the keys as being with the Twelve Apostles and held “in common”.

In July of 1843 the Lord gave the revelation known as Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, wherein Joseph was designated as the one man holding all the Priesthood keys, which is the order of things in every dispensation. Then a year later Joseph conferred all but the keys of the dispensation head upon the Twelve Apostles, not just upon one of the Apostles. It couldn’t be more clear–yet people seem to be so confused–with many men claiming to be this one man with all the keys. In fact, if they were all valid claims, there would be a very large quorum of “One Men”. Only the Prophet Joseph [147] Smith was that one man who presided over everyone when he was alive and is still presiding over everyone in this day. All the rest of the keys have been passed down through others holding and honoring the Priesthood.

Isn’t it interesting that the 1880 revelation was given to Wilford Woodruff, not President John Taylor, who was Church President at that time! Doesn’t this show that God recognized that all the Twelve could function as prophets, seers and revelators for the Church, even though one had been selected to preside?

Some people become enraptured with themselves and their supposed authority and think they are some great and noble soul who is to hold all the keys, powers, authority and titles–thus bringing them personal recognition and honor. Many times these individuals gather followers who think so, too. However, it is extreme folly, and harmful to the Kingdom of God, as well as being dangerous for the people themselves. Even Joseph Smith warned that others’ claims about himself were incorrect and destructive:

When Martin Harris was with Joseph Smith, he was continually trying to make the people believe that he (Joseph) was the shepherd, the stone of Israel. (Gen. 49:22-24) I have heard Joseph chastise him severely for it, and he told me that such a course, if persisted in, would destroy the kingdom of God. (Brigham Young, Contributor 10:3)

Claiming to be more than you are is far worse than claiming to be less. Abe Lincoln made an interesting statement when he said he loved his enemies because they always told him his faults–and his friends wouldn’t. To admonish is better than to praise.


[148] The pattern the Lord reveals in heavenly things is often the same as the pattern He has revealed pertaining to earthly things. This pattern was first given regarding the Godhead of three: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost–with only God as presiding officer. Next we see the Presidency of the Church, with one presiding head. Then there is a senior Apostle of the Quorum of Twelve, one president of a stake, and one bishop of a ward. Even most businesses follow a similar organizational pattern with one senior executive officer. Even two heads in a family does not function properly.

And, there is only one head of a dispensation–one man who holds all the Priesthood keys–and, for this Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, it is Joseph Smith.


Joseph Smith–Holds These Keys Forever

Among the keys that Joseph Smith held were the powers of communication between the living and the dead. The doctrine of the Lord is that the “rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven” (D & C 121:36). If those who suppose all the keys of the Priesthood have to be confined to some mortal, then they do not understand these keys. Joseph Smith (1) was ordained to hold the keys of this dispensation before he was born, (2) he had them while he was on earth, (3) he still holds them, and (4) he will hold them for eternity.

On the 8th of March the assurance by revelation was given to the Prophet that–“The keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from thee while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come.” (Sec. 90:3) This confirms upon the head of Joseph Smith the presidency of the great dispensation he was the instrument in the hands of God in introducing into the world. Henceforth he stands at the head of it, whether in heaven or in earth.*


(*Footnote: It was doubtless the thought here expressed in this revelation that led one of the prominent disciples to sing, after the death of the Prophet–

“Great is his glory and endless his priesthood,

Ever and ever the keys he will hold,

Faithful and true he will enter his kingdom,

Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.”

–“Praise to the Man”, LDS hymn by W.W. Phelps

(CHC 1:307)

When Joseph Smith was killed, he did not lose any power, authority or keys over this people. The term “dead prophet” has nothing to do with his right to continue presiding over this people. Benjamin Johnson quotes an interesting and comforting account where the Prophet declared he would continue working with this people even after his death:

After he [Joseph Smith] had at evening preached with great animation to a large congregation, and had blessed nineteen children, he turned to me and said, “Benjamin, I am tired; let us go home,” which, only a block distant, we soon reached, and entering we found a warm fire with a large chair in front, and my wife sitting near with her babe, our eldest, upon her lap, and approaching her, I said: “now, Melissa, see what we have lost by not going to meeting. Brother Joseph has blessed all the children in the place but ours, and it is left out in the cold.” But the Prophet at once said, “You shall lose nothing,” and he proceeded to bless our first born, and then with a deep drawn breath, as a sign of weariness, he sank down heavily in his chair, and said, “O, I do get so tired and weary, that at times I almost yearn for my rest,” and then proceeded to briefly recount to us some of the most stirring events of his life’s labors, sufferings and sacrifices, and then he said, “I am getting tired and would like to go to my rest.” His words and tone thrilled and shocked me, and like an arrow pierced my hopes that he would long remain with us, and I said, as with a heart full of tears, “O, Joseph, what could [150] we, as a people, do without you and what would become of the great Latter-day work if you should leave us?” He saw and was touched by my emotions, and in reply he said, “Benjamin, I would not be far away from you; and if on the other side of the veil, I would still be working with you, and with a power greatly increased, to roll on this kingdom.” Such was the tone, earnestness and pathos of his words to me then, that they cannot be fully recalled but with emotion. (“Johnson Letter to Gibbs”, pp. 16-17)

Orson Hyde mentioned that those who enter into the Celestial Kingdom will have to pass by Joseph Smith because he holds the Keys of the Kingdom:

Now if Brother Joseph yet holds the keys of this kingdom, I would ask how is any man going to get by Joseph into the celestial kingdom of God, if they oppose and seek to destroy the principles laid down by Brother Joseph. (T & S, 5:651)

Joseph holds those “keys which will unlock the door into the kingdom of God to every man who is worthy to enter and which will close that door against every soul that will not obey the law of God.” (Gospel Doc., Jos. Fldg. Smith, p. 501)

In a revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord said:

Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come; Nevertheless, through you shall the oracles [revelations] be given to another, yea, even unto the church. (D & C 90:3-4)

We know that many people held the keys of the kingdom, so what did He mean? The answer, of course, is in the question, “What keys of the kingdom would he hold?” He would hold the keys of a dispensation. And what did He mean [151] by the “oracles” that others would receive? The applicable dictionary definition here is “divine announcements” or “revelations”. The word oracle can be defined as a (1) revelation, (2) a man of God, or (3) a holy place– depending on its usage.

Consider the following use of oracles when it means revelations:

What constitutes the kingdom of God? Where there is a prophet, a priest, or a righteous man unto whom God gives His oracles, there is the kingdom of God; and where the oracles of God are not, there the kingdom of God is not. (DHC 5:257)

This is the place [Nauvoo] that is appointed for the oracles of God to be revealed. (DHC 5:355)

When the term oracles refers to revelations, it implies that certain keys can be conveyed from God to man. In the case of Joseph Smith, these oracles, or revelations, would be given through him to the church from the other side of the veil.

Brigham Young understood well the eternal calling of the Prophet Joseph:

Are the keys of the kingdom taken from Joseph? Oh no; well then he still lives. He that believes in Jesus as Joseph did, they will never die. They may lay down their lives, but they still hold the keys. (DHC 7:287)

Wilford Woodruff had the same understanding:

The same priesthood exists on the other side of the veil. Every man who is faithful is in his quorum there. When a man dies and his body is laid in the tomb, he does not lose his position. The Prophet Joseph Smith held the keys of this dispensation on this side of [152] the veil, and he will hold them throughout the countless ages of eternity. (Disc. of Wilford Woodruff, ed. Durham, p. 77)

Joseph Smith went into the spirit world to unlock the prison doors in this dispensation or generation. He stayed here long enough to lay the foundation of this kingdom and obtain the keys belonging to it. (JD 21:194)

And the same from Franklin D. Richards:

When he [Joseph Smith] went away, he went with the keys of this last dispensation to the prison house of the dead, who had died in times that were past; and he, his brother Hyrum, the brethren of the Twelve Apostles–for there are now nearly a quorum of the Twelve Apostles with them–constitute a great mighty church in the spirit world, laboring and preaching the Gospel to the spirits of our fathers who are in prison. (JD 26:301)

When we no longer pay heed to the “dead prophets,” we shut the door against any further revelation from them. We lose the opportunity to benefit from the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The doctrines they taught when they were alive as well as additional teachings after they are dead are fundamental and basic parts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This whole concept is described beautifully by Parley P. Pratt:

If, on the other hand, we deny the philosophy or the fact of spiritual communication between the living and those who have died, we deny the very fountain from which emanated the great truths or principles which were the foundation of both the ancient and modern Church.

Who communicated with Jesus and His disciples on the holy mount? Moses and Elias, from the invisible world. Who bestowed upon the Apostles the commission to preach the Gospel to every creature in all the world? He that had passed the vale (sic) of death, and had [153] dwelt in the spirit world, yea, he that had ascended far on high above the realms of death, and far beyond all the principalities and powers of the spirit world, and had entered, and been crowned, in the mansions of immortal flesh.

Who communicated with the beloved disciple on the Isle of Patmos, and revealed these sublime truths contained in his prophetic book? He that liveth and was dead, through his angel, who declared to John–Behold, I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren the Prophets, that have the testimony of Jesus.

Who communicated with our great modern Prophet, and revealed through him as a medium, the ancient history of a hemisphere, and the records of the ancient dead? Moroni, who had lived upon the earth fourteen hundred years before. Who ordained Joseph the Prophet, and his fellow-servant, to the preparatory Priesthood, to baptize for the remission of sins? John the Baptist, who had been beheaded! Who ordained our first founders to the Apostleship, to hold the keys of the kingdom of God, in these the times of restoration? Peter, James, and John, from the eternal world. Who instructed him in the mysteries of the Kingdom, and in all things pertaining to Priesthood, law, philosophy, sacred architecture, ordinances, sealings, anointings, baptisms for the dead, and in the mysteries of the first, second and third heavens many of which are unlawful to utter? Angels and spirits from the eternal worlds.

Who revealed to him the plan of redemption, and of exaltation for the dead who had died without the Gospel? and the keys and preparations necessary for holy and perpetual converse with Jesus Christ, and with the spirits of just men made perfect, and with the general assembly and Church of the first-born, in the holy of holies? Those from the dead!

Again–How do the Saints expect the necessary information by which to complete the ministrations for the salvation and exaltation of their friends who have died?

By one holding the keys of the oracles [revelations] of God, as a medium through which the living can hear from the dead.


Shall we, then, deny the principle, the philosophy, the fact of communication between worlds? No! Verily no! * * *

An important point is gained, a victory won, and a countless host of opposing powers vanquished, on one of the leading or fundamental truths of “Mormon” philosophy, viz.–“That the living may hear from the dead.” (JD 2:44-45)

Today many LDS Church members say we should give little or no heed to the dead prophets because we have a living prophet. This is a modern misconception, a fraud, a lie, and a most dangerous doctrine. Are those prophets really dead? Are Jesus and Joseph Smith no longer living? Are their teachings and doctrines worthless now because someone else is alive and holds a position of leadership?

The fact is, Joseph Smith–along with all previous prophets–is not dead; he is alive and well. He has not lost his Priesthood–nor his interest and concern for mortals today. Furthermore, he continues to hold keys and power among this people. As the head of this dispensation, it is still his right to direct and influence us if we but open the way to allow him to do so.



[155]                             Chapter 9



Anoint: To put oil on as a sign of consecration, as in a religious ceremony. (New Intern’l. Dic. 1:61)

The Lord’s anointed hold the keys of the Priesthood; but do all those holding the Priesthood become the Lord’s anointed? Are only prophets, priests, and kings entitled to be the Lord’s anointed? This chapter will try to provide answers to these questions.


Prophets, Priests, and Kings

For a person to be classified as “anointed of the Lord”, it is another way of saying a man is “called of the Lord.” Prophets are “anointed” which means they are God’s representatives on the earth. Paul said:

Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. (II Cor. 1:21-22)

And John stated, “but the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you; . . .” (I John 2:27)


[156] Anciently the phrase “the Lord’s anointed” became a synonym for “king.” (See I Sam. 12:3, 5; 24: 6, 10; 26: 9, 11, 16; 2 Samuel 1:14, 16; 19:21; Ps. 20:6; Lam. 4:20)

Anointing expresses the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit upon Christians, who are priests and kings unto God” (Peloubet’s Bible Dic., p. 35)

The first three kings of the Old Testament were “anointed”; Saul (1 Sam. 9:16); David (1 Sam. 16:13); and Solomon (1 Kings 1:34). The Persian king, Cyrus, is also called the Lord’s anointed. (Isa. 45:1)

Persons were anointed in the Old Testament to signify their separation from the world, and they were anointed to a consecration of holiness. Priests, prophets and kings were anointed as an act of divine favor and special appointment. “Further, the anointing symbolized equipment for service, and is associated with the outpouring of the Spirit of God.” (1 Sam. 10:1; Isa. 61:1) (Illus. Bible Dic. 1:69)

Anointing, in Holy Scripture, is either (1) material–with oil, or (2) spiritual–with the Holy Ghost. It was a rite of inauguration into each of the three typical offices–(a) Prophets, (b) Priests, and (c) Kings. (Peloubet’s Bible Dic., p. 35)

But an anointing is not limited to just prophets, priests, and kings.


The Anointing of Both Items and Individuals

In ancient days different items and/or individuals were anointed, i.e., “altars” (Num. 7:84); the “tabernacle” and “vessels” (Lev. 8:10 & Num. 7:1); “garments” (Ex. 29:29); “priests” (Num. 3:3); “prophets” (1 Chron. 16:22); and “kings” (1 Kings 1:39)


[157] The Book of Mormon also mentions this same custom:

Now Nephi began to be old, and he saw that he must soon die; wherefore, he anointed a man to be a king and a ruler over his people now, according to the reigns of the kings. (Jacob 1:9)

The anointing of kings had also been previously practiced by the Jaredites. We read that “Orihah [a son of Jared] was anointed to be a king over the people” (Ether 6:27), and later other kings were also “anointed” such as Emer (Ether 9:14), Coriantum (Ether 9:21), and Corum (Ether 10:16).


The Anointing Oil

The word anoint was generally used in conjunction with “anointing oil”: “God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” (Ps. 45:7) See also Lev. 8:10, 1 Kings 1:39, and 1 Sam. 10:1 for other examples of anointing with oil.

In the famous 23rd Psalm, it states, “Thou anointest my head with oil” (v. 5), which is often what a shepherd actually had to do to his sheep:

As the sheep are coming along, they sometimes hit their heads against sharp rocks or trees. If we leave them in the sun, their wounds will all fester. So when they are on this table, we have to oil their heads with pure olive oil, or a butter made out of sheep’s milk called Samen. (The King of the Shepherds and His Psalm, Lydia Mountford, p. 156)

Various oils were used for different occasions. In the New Testament:



Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. (John 12:3)

This was an act to acknowledge Him as her Lord. Olive oil was generally used for the healing of the sick. (See Mark 6:13 and James 5:14.)

The Lord told Moses to use a combination of oils (myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, cassia, olive oil) to make a holy anointing oil, and after He described the ingredients, He told Moses:

And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil. And thou shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony, And the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense, And the altar of burnt offering with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot. And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy.

And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, This shall be an holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations. (Ex. 30:22-31)

In the healing of a blind man, Christ didn’t use oil, but spittle:

And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. * * *

When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, [159] wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. (John 9:2-3 & 6-7)

However, later on the Apostle James suggested that they refrain from using spittle in healing the sick:

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. (James 5:14)

When Solomon was anointed, “Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save king Solomon.” (1 Kings 1:39) This expression is still a tradition of the British, i.e. “God save the Queen!”

This anointing with oil was more than just a setting apart or an appointment; it also had a spiritual significance:

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him [David] in the midst of his brethren; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. (1 Sam. 16:13)

By the pouring of the consecrated oil upon the head, there was thought to be effected a transference to the person anointed of part of the essential holiness and virtue of the deity in whose name and by whose representative the rite was performed. By the Hebrews the rite was also believed to impart a special endowment of the spirit. . . .

The application of this honorable title to kings alone in the oldest literature makes it probable that the similar consecration of the priesthood was a later extension of the rite. (Scribners Dic. of the Bible, p. 35)


[160] It is significant that anointing with oil was a practice in both the Old and New Testaments, and prophets, priests, patriarchs and kings were thus anointed. Joseph Smith also incorporated it into the religious rites of the Church in our day.

However, anointing with water, oil, or other ingredients does not make the anointing valid in the eyes of the Lord if it is not done by someone with the Holy Priesthood. There are anointings performed by men–even in the temples–that the Lord never sanctions. By transgressing, opposing eternal laws, and breaking his Priesthood oath and covenant, a man can become unfit to be considered the Lord’s anointed, and thus his anointing will no longer be recognized by the Lord.

It should be noted that oil is not a requirement in all anointings because men can be baptized, have hands laid upon their head, be set apart, ordained, given priesthood, and sealed by the Holy Spirit, and oil is not necessarily a part of these ordinances.


Protection of the Lord’s Anointed

The Lord keeps His eye upon those who have received such an anointing, and on one occasion said, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” (1 Chron. 16:22) David once said, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.” (1 Sam. 24:6)

After Joseph Smith recorded the anointing of some High Priests, Elders, and Seventies in 1836, he briefly described two separate visions showing how the Lord protects His anointed:



Elder Roger Orton saw a mighty angel riding upon a horse of fire, with a flaming sword in his hand, followed by five others, encircle the house, and protect the Saints, even the Lord’s anointed, from the power of Satan and a host of evil spirits, which were striving to disturb the Saints.

President William Smith, one of the Twelve, saw the heavens opened, and the Lord’s host protecting the Lord’s anointed. (DHC 2:386-387)

On the other hand, the Lord has shown His displeasure with the people who have mistreated His anointed ones. For example, Aaron and Miriam complained about the plural wife of Moses (the Lord’s anointed one), and thus Miriam was tormented by leprosy. (See Num. 112:1-10.)

Criticizing and complaining against the Lord’s anointed has been the cause of many plagues, famines and wars coming upon the people. And in the latter days the Lord has said, “Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, . . .” (D & C 121:16)


Jesus Christ, the Anointed One

Interestingly, the word anoint has another connotation relating to Jesus Christ:

In the Old Testament a Deliverer is promised under the title of Messiah, or Anointed, and the nature of His anointing is described to be spiritual, with the Holy Ghost. In the New Testament Jesus of Nazareth is shown to be the Messiah, or Christ, or Anointed, of the Old Testament (John 1:41; Acts 9:22; 17:2,3), and the historical fact of his being anointed with the Holy Ghost is asserted and recorded. (John 1:32, 33; Acts 4:27; 10:38) Christ was anointed as prophet, priest and king. (Peloubet’s Bible Dic., p. 35)



The Anointed One–Christ, the official name of the Redeemer of mankind, as Jesus, or in the Hebrew, Joshua, “Savior,” was His natural name. Christ means “anointed,” from chrio, “to anoint.” Under the Old Testament dispensation, high priests, kings, and prophets were appointed to their office by the pouring of the sacred oil upon their heads. The rite was performed by the recognized officer of Jehovah, and was an outward testimony that their appointment proceeded direct from God himself, as the source of all authority, and as being under the ancient covenant, in a peculiar way, the governor of his people. The oil used in the consecration of priests, and the anointing of the tabernacle and sacred vessels, was a special preparation of myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, and cassia (Ex. 30:23-25), which the Jews were forbidden to apply to the body, or to copy under pain of death. It was no doubt intended to typify the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. (Cassell’s Bible Dic., p. 257)

It is obvious that if the early Christians anointed with oils and other preparations, then surely such ordinances should be administered today–if we profess to be Christians.


Priesthood Anointing in This Dispensation

The following is the order and procedure that took place when the anointings were given to the Saints in the early days of the Church:

We then laid our hands upon our aged Father Smith, and invoked the blessings of heaven. I [Joseph Smith] then anointed his head with the consecrated oil, and sealed many blessings upon him. The Presidency then in turn laid their hands upon his head, beginning at the oldest, until they had all laid their hands upon him, and pronounced such blessings upon his head, as the Lord put into their hearts, all blessing him to be our Patriarch, to anoint our heads, and attend to all duties that pertain to that office. The [163] Presidency then took the seat in their turn, according to their age, beginning at the oldest, and received their anointing and blessing under the hands of Father Smith. And in my turn, my father anointed my head, and sealed upon me the blessings of Moses, to lead Israel in the latter days, even as Moses led him in days of old; also the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (DHC 2:379-380)

Later these anointings were administered to others.

In the evening met the quorum of High Priests, in the west room of the upper loft of the Lord’s house, and, in company with my counselors, consecrated and anointed the counselors of the presidents of the High Priests’ quorum, and, having instructed them and set the quorum in order, I left them to perform the holy anointing, and went to the quorum of Elders at the other end of the room. I assisted in anointing the counselors of the president of the Elders, and gave the instruction necessary for the occasion, and left the president and his counselors to anoint the Elders, while I should go to the adjoining room, and attend to organizing and instructing the quorum of the Seventy.

I found the Twelve Apostles assembled with this quorum, and I proceeded, with the quorum of the Presidency, to instruct them, and also the seven presidents of the Seventy Elders, to call upon God with uplifted hands, to seal the blessings which had been promised to them by the holy anointing. As I organized this quorum, with the presidency in this room, President Sylvester Smith saw a pillar of fire rest down and abide upon the heads of the quorum, as we stood in the midst of the Twelve. (DHC 2:386, Jan. 1836)

Brigham Young said that “for a person to have the fullness of that [Melchizedek] Priesthood, he must be a king and priest” [which is the second anointing] (DHC 5:527) These ordinations and anointings were meant to be performed in the [164] temple, as Parley Pratt said, “Here, in the holy sanctuary, must be revealed, ordained and anointed the kings and queens of eternity.” (Key to Theology, 5th ed., pp. 170-71)

There are a series of important steps to be taken in order to achieve these blessings. Dr. Hugh Nibley explained:

To organize a race of priests in ancient as in modern days, God processed all volunteers by a series of preparatory steps. First, there is an initiatory stage in which one is physically set apart from the world: actually washed, anointed, given a protective garment, and clothed in sanctified robes. This is merely preliminary and qualifies one to proceed, in earnest not of what one has become, but of what one may and wishes to become. (Approaching Zion, Nibley, p. 424)

Thus, when people enter the temple to receive their first endowments, they are anointed with water, with the promise that if they are faithful, they will receive another, or second, anointing. In that ceremony they are anointed with oil as kings and queens, priests and priestesses.

Thousands, if not millions, go through our LDS temples and receive their first anointings, but only a handful ever receive their second anointings. Why is this? Is it because they are all unworthy? Or is it because those who should be calling them in to receive those anointings have failed to get the inspiration enough to know that they are worthy? Or is it because it is just not the policy to administer these second anointings to Church members any longer?

Giving the Saints a first anointing without the second is good for nothing and is like baptizing people with water but never finishing their baptism by giving them the Holy Ghost.

The Prophet Joseph said that–



Baptism is a holy ordinance preparatory to the reception of the Holy Ghost; it is the channel and key by which the Holy Ghost will be administered. (TPJS, p. 148)

And later he emphasized–

Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half–that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost. (TPJS, p. 314)


What keys, powers, and blessings are the Saints being deprived of by not receiving their second anointings and ordinations as kings and queens? This is the subject of our next chapter.



[166]                             Chapter 10



And I will make thee [Abraham] fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. (Gen. 17:6)

Protestants and Catholics alike have studied the scriptures in an attempt to understand the different offices existing in the early Christian church, but they have no knowledge of their real purpose or function. They have occasionally incorporated some elders, teachers or deacons into their churches, but even then they are unsure of all the functions of those offices.

John Taylor talked about kings and priests that officiated sometime after the days of Noah:

We find that after the days of Noah an order was introduced called the patriarchal order, in which every man managed his own family affairs, and prominent men among them were kings and priests unto God, and officiated in what is known among us as the Priesthood of the Son of God, or the Priesthood after the Order of Melchizedek. (JD 17:207)

The Apostle John also mentioned kings and priests unto God:

Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and [167] priests unto God and His Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen. (Rev. 1:5-6; see also Rev. 5:10)

John said that the Lord had made us kings, which means several were ordained to that position, and “we shall reign,” not just one. John also said:

These [the unrighteous kings] shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. (Rev. 17:11)

If Jesus is to be a “King of kings,” it means He will rule over kings of His own, not just gentile kings.

There are two kinds of kings: the “kings of the earth” and the “kings and priests of God.” Of the wicked kings of the earth, it is said:

. . . the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. (Rev. 17:1-2)

But the kings of God are those who are “called, and chosen, and faithful.” (Rev. 17:11)

Joseph Smith mentioned the difference between kings of God and kings of the earth:

Have we not learned the Priesthood after the order of Melchizedek, which includes both Prophets, Priests and Kings (see Rev. 1:6), and I will advance your Prophet to a Priest, and then to a King–not to the Kingdoms of this earth, but of the Most High God. (See Rev. 5:10)–Thou hast made us unto our God, [168] Kings and Priests, and we shall reign on the earth. (TPJS, p. 318)

They are mentioned by the Lord Himself when He was describing those who would come forth in the resurrection of the just and eventually inherit the Celestial Kingdom:

They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory; And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son. (D & C 76:56-57)

When interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the prophet Daniel prophesied of the latter days when the Lord would establish a kingdom which would not be after the pattern of other worldly kingdoms:

And in the days of these kings shall the God of Heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. (Dan. 2:44)

Have any of the Christian churches claimed to have received direction to establish this kingdom? Do any of them ordain men as kings to rule and reign on earth?

When Christians today repeat the Lord’s prayer, they pray, “Thy kingdom come,” but yet they continue to support the kingdoms of Babylon and its tyrannical governments, wicked men, corrupt financial systems, and unjust laws, lawyers and judges. They have no more concept of the Kingdom of God than the heathen. Instead of searching for the kings and priests of God’s kingdom to rule over them, they vote for Democrats and Republicans. How long do you suppose it would take these Christian Democrats and Republicans to usher in the Millennium?


[169] Most of today’s Christians are unworthy to receive any more authority or kingly ordinations. They have created such monstrous demonstrations of killing each other in unrighteous wars that they are a shame to the name of Christ. For nearly 2,000 years they have instigated more wars with each other than any other race or religion of people. Their atrocities of torture, barbarity, and murder are a stink in the nostrils of the King of Peace. John Taylor asked:

Does God set up Christian kings to fight against Christian kings? and Christian subjects to destroy Christian subjects? I know they call upon God; but what to do? In their ways they ask him to destroy one another. This patchwork dominion, and mongrel Christianity, although they may be quite feasible in the dark, yet they present a curious spectacle when brought into the light of Truth. (The Government of God, Taylor, p. 60)

Because of such wickedness, John Taylor challenged the authority of the rest of the world to rightfully ordain kings:

I am aware that kings and queens are anointed, and set apart by their different ministers, according to the different forms and creeds of the several countries over which they reign. There are two things necessary, however, to make their authority legal, and to authorize them to act as God’s representatives on the earth. The first is, that they should be called of God; and the second, that the persons by whom they are anointed are duly authorized to anoint them. First, then, it may be necessary to observe, that if kings and queens are of God’s selection, and are his representatives, they must themselves be appointed by him; for if not so, how can they be considered his representatives?

The prophet Hosea complains that “they have set up kings, but not by me; they have made princes, and I knew it not.” (8:4) If they are sent by him, they must understand their office and calling, and the designs of [170] the Lord concerning the people whom they govern, the same as a governor of a province, or a minister plenipotentiary, receives his credentials from the prince or court whom he serves. If, then, we examine the position of kings, and their relationship to their divine Sovereign, we shall find that there is (sic) only two ways for this calling to be legal. It must have been given either by God, through revelation to the ancestors or the reigning kings, and handed down in an unbroken descent to the present time; or, otherwise, given by direct revelation, and then set apart by a prophet of the Lord God. But no nation, kingdom, or king in existence will acknowledge either of these ways. (Ibid., p. 58)

In the restoration of the Priesthood through Joseph Smith, this correct order of kings in God’s kingdom was re-established, whereby worthy men can be made kings so they can have a kingdom of their own. According to Brigham Young:

We understand that we are to be made kings and priests unto God; now if I be made the king and lawgiver to my family, and if I have many sons, I shall become the father of many fathers, for they will have sons, and their sons will have sons, and so on, from generation to generation, and, in this way, I may become the father of many fathers, or the king of many kings. This will constitute every man a prince, king, lord, or whatever the Father sees fit to confer upon us.

In this way we can become King of kings, and Lord of lords, or Father of fathers, or Prince of princes, and this is the only course, for another man is not going to raise up a kingdom for you. (JD 3:265-66)

Ordinations of kings must be a legitimate calling, not a haphazard ordination such as found in the confused Christian churches. John Taylor explained:



Authority to anoint kings and queens, in order that they may be anointed of the Lord, must be given in one of three ways. It must, first, have been given by revelation to the primitive Christian Church, authorizing them to administer in this ordinance, and empowering their successors to do it; secondly, by direct revelation; or, otherwise, [thirdly] it must have been transmitted from the ancient Jews, through a lineal descent.

In regard to the first, we find no such record in the New Testament; neither Jesus, nor his Apostles, nor any of the seventies, nor elders, ever administered in this ordinance, or spoke of it as being associated with the powers of their ministry. Consequently, no power can come from there.

In regard to the second position, all Christendom deny present revelation; and thus from their own confession they have not obtained their authority from that source; and in regard to the third, if there was authority associated with the Jews to ordain kings, the Christians certainly could not claim a Jewish rite; for the Jewish nation and authority were all destroyed: “they were broken off because of unbelief.” (see Rom. 11:17,19,20) The Christians obtained all their authority to officiate from Jesus Christ, and not from the Jews. Whichever way you look at it, there is no foundation for any such authority, and consequently the anointing is all a farce, for it does not originate with God (Gov. of God, Taylor, pp. 59-60)

If worthy Saints are to be made kings and priests, queens and priestesses, then when and where are they ordained as such? John the Revelator said that several were made kings when he was alive, so it is not a heavenly ordination. It is an earthly office that can last forever (still depending on worthiness), and is part of the ordination of the second anointing. According to one account–

When we reached the Endowment House, we ladies were shown into one room and our husband into [172] another. We then proceeded to array ourselves in our robes, caps, and aprons–the same as when we received our first Endowments–and when all was ready we were ushered into another room by one of the brethren, who was also dressed in his Temple robes. There we met our husband and several other brethren, all dressed in the same way. We sat down, and oil was then poured upon the head of our husband, by two of the brethren–Daniel H. Wells, and another–and he was then ordained a King and Priest to all eternity. After that, we two wives were anointed in like manner, and ordained Queens and Priestesses, to reign and rule with our husband over his kingdom in the celestial world. (Tell It All, Fanny Stenhouse, p. 517)

At this time, the participants do not receive a separate Priesthood, but rather another order of the High Priesthood. Elder Orson Pratt explained:

The Kingly authority is not separate and distinct from the Priesthood, but merely a branch or portion of the same. The Priestly authority is universal, having power over all things; the Kingly authority until perfected is limited to the kingdoms placed under its jurisdiction: the former appoints and ordains the latter; but the latter never appoints and ordains the former: the first controls the laws of nature, and exercises jurisdiction over the elements, as well as over men; the last controls men only, and administers just and righteous laws for their government. Where the two are combined and the individual perfected, he has almighty power both as a King and as a Priest; both offices are then merged in one. The distinctions then, will be merely in the name and not in the authority: either as a King or a Priest he will then have power and dominion over all things, and reign over all. Both titles, combined, will then not give him any more power than either one singly. (The Seer, p. 145)

As Priesthood kings and priests, men are God’s representatives on earth, as John Taylor explained:



Thus, then these men [kings in ancient Israel, i.e., Saul, David, and Solomon], delegated and appointed of God, acted as his representatives on the earth. They received their kingdoms from him. They were anointed by prophets of God, who received the word of the Lord concerning them, as in the case of Saul and David; and if they departed from God, he chastised, or removed them, as in the case of Saul and David, and of which the history of the Kings of Israel is a striking example, and faithful commentary. Those that were faithful among them sought to know the mind of God, and to carry out his designs. The greatest, most powerful, and prosperous rule that ever existed among them, as a nation, was that of Solomon, who asked, and obtained wisdom from God; and that wisdom as a necessary consequence brought honour, happiness, security, riches, magnificence, and power. Thus those kings that were righteous, who received their kingdoms from the Lord, went to war, or proclaimed peace by his directions; they were his representatives on the earth, and governed his people as the Lord’s anointed. (Gov. of God, Taylor, pp. 63-64)

The Prophet Joseph spoke of the return of Christ’s glory, “even a celestial glory, and a kingdom of priests and kings to God and the Lamb, forever. . . .” (DHC 4:493) Kings and priests unto God possess all the keys and powers necessary to enable them to officiate in all religious ordinances and to rule over their own kingdoms. They are endowed with the highest order of keys of the kingdom available to mortal man.



[174]                             Chapter 11



Elias who held the keys of God’s church in the days of Abraham and blessed him, has restored the patriarchal powers and graces of the priesthood, to link together the families of men in patriarchal order, from now to the time of the end. (CHC 6:557)

To present the information in this chapter in the most organized way, it has been divided as follows:


History of Patriarchal Order of Priesthood

The Calling and Mission of Patriarchs

Three Types of Patriarchs

  1. Presiding Patriarch
  2. Stake Patriarch
  3. Family Patriarch

The Patriarchal Laws

  1. Patriarchal Order of Enoch (United Order)
  2. Patriarchal Law of Marriage (Plural Marriage)


History of Patriarchal Order of Priesthood

The office and calling of a patriarch reaches back to the beginning of time on this earth. The Prophet Joseph looked upon those days and said, “I saw Adam in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman. He called together his children and blessed them with a patriarchal blessing.” (JD 6:238, 1839)


[175] From that beginning to the time of Christ, the dispensations of Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses were called Patriarchal dispensations, as John Taylor explained:

. . . Noah steps forward in a prominent position, and he had his work to perform, which he did perform, and began to raise up another seed; and they lived also in what may be termed a patriarchal dispensation. (JD 21:244)

And also:

We have, for instance, what is called the patriarchal dispensation, which existed before and after the flood. And those patriarchs and men of God that lived in those remote ages had communications with the Almighty, and they also had the Gospel. (JD 21:242)

All of these dispensations had the Gospel, a patriarchal order, and held all the authority and keys of the Priesthood, and these keys and authority have been continued down to the present.

The Prophet Joseph explained, “All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself.” (TPJS, p. 181) In other words, those ancient prophets held all of the keys, powers and privileges of the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Gospel. Joseph Smith specifically mentioned the Prophet Elijah:

Now for Elijah. The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the revelations, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth; and to receive, obtain, and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God, even unto the turning of the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the hearts of the [176] children unto the fathers, even those who are in heaven.

Malachi says, “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the heart(s) of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. (TPJS, p. 337)

What is often called the Patriarchal Priesthood is in reality the patriarchal order of the Priesthood, or the patriarchal office. It is that order that pertains to Kings as given in the second anointing, but it is not another Priesthood. In the second anointing ceremony there is only the ordination of a king, but no wording that confers the patriarchal priesthood.

It has been thought by some that a man who is ordained as a Patriarch has higher Priesthood authority than anyone else. However, this is not the case as explained in the days of Joseph Smith concerning Joseph’s own brother, William:

A Patriarch is what is termed in scripture an evangelist, and Br. William acts in that capacity, and God placed in the church “first apostles,” not first evangelists, but the president stands in the same relationship to the church as Moses did to the children of Israel, according to the revelations.

Again, who ordained Father Smith to the office of patriarch? His son Joseph: and Father Smith ordained Hyrum, and the Twelve (of whom Br. William is one) ordained him.–Who are appointed to ordain evangelical ministers? (See page 104 D.C.) Can a stream rise higher than its fountain? No. Says Paul, “verily the less is blessed of the better.”

We think that every one will see that Br. William Smith’s patriarchal office will not exalt him higher in regard to priesthood than he was before, as one of the Twelve; but will rather change the nature of his office. (editorial, T & S, 6:922)


[177] In short, the Twelve ordain patriarchs; it is not the privilege of patriarchs to ordain the Twelve.

The term “patriarchal priesthood” refers to the order and use of a man’s priesthood rather than another kind of priesthood. An example is when Peter wrote, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; . . .” (1 Peter 2:9) When a government or nation is under the rule of the priesthood, then they are under the order of a royal priesthood.

The patriarchal priesthood refers to the fatherly order of the priesthood. If the Savior came to a man and put His hands upon the man’s head, He would not be giving him some new priesthood, but rather confirming and sealing upon him all the blessings promised in the Melchizedek Priesthood.

We have already quoted enough to show that all God’s prophets have and use the powers, rights and keys of the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood, but some of them have different callings within that Priesthood. This subject will be discussed in greater detail in the author’s forthcoming book The Kingdom of God.

The dispensation of Christ was a little different from the previous patriarchal dispensations, because Christ established a church body that was representative of those ancient prophets and patriarchs. For example, He chose Twelve Apostles to represent the twelve sons of Jacob and also the twelve tribes of Israel–who were the elect seed selected to hold the keys of the Priesthood. His Seventy Apostles represented “all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob” (Ex. 1:5) and also the seventy faithful elders under Moses who went upon the mountain “and they saw the God of Israel.” (See Ex. 24:9 & 10.)


[178] Christ also had “evangelists” in His church who were representatives of the ancient patriarchs and, according to Joseph Smith–

An Evangelist is a Patriarch, even the oldest man of the blood of Joseph or of the seed of Abraham. Wherever the Church of Christ is established in the earth, there should be a Patriarch for the benefit of the posterity of the Saints, as it was with Jacob in giving his patriarchal blessing unto his sons, etc. (DHC 3:381)


The Calling and Mission of Patriarchs

Patriarchs have a mission of blessing the descendants of Jacob in the house of Israel, and they perform a tremendous work:

The fifth Patriarch was Hyrum Gibbs Smith, grandson of John Smith, and the great-grandson of Hyrum Smith. He was ordained under the hands of President Joseph F. Smith, May 9, 1912. He died February 4, 1932, in Salt Lake City. During the 19 years of his ministry he gave 21,590 blessings which were recorded, or 931 more than his grandfather gave. (Doc. of Sal., Jos. Fldg. Smith, 3:169)

The main purpose or mission of patriarchs is to bless the Saints. This patriarchal order is meant to provide understanding and promises of the lineage, rights, powers and privileges of those who have accepted the gospel. It is in their power to help, counsel, encourage and even to foresee events as a warning, or to see promised inheritances that can be obtained. All of these are great blessings given through the keys of the patriarchs.

Father Jacob gave patriarchal blessings to his children and their posterity that would last to the end of time because he gave those blessings by the spirit of prophecy and [179] revelation. Joseph Smith, Sen., also had that same gift and power. According to Wilford Woodruff–

When Father Smith gave me my patriarchal blessing, he told me I should bring my father’s house into the Church and Kingdom of God. I had never seen any member of my father’s house from the time I obeyed the gospel until I received my patriarchal blessing, and I rested a good deal on this blessing. Now, all men who were acquainted with Father Joseph Smith know that when he laid his hands upon a man’s head, it seemed as if the heavens and the hearts of men were open to him, and he could see their past, present and future. And that is the way all men in the holy priesthood should feel; and whether patriarchs, prophets, apostles or elders they should live so as to enjoy the spirit and power of their office and calling. (JD 12:277)

The keys, or calling, of a patriarch are different from all other offices in the church, as outlined in a First Presidency message in May 1943:

The patriarchal office is (1) one of blessing, not of administration. Patriarchal blessings are the only blessings that patriarchs are specifically ordained and sustained to give. Patriarchal blessings contemplate (2) inspired declaration of the lineage of the recipient, and also, where so moved upon by the Spirit, an inspired and prophetic (3) statement of the life mission of the recipient, together with such (4) blessings, cautions, and admonitions as the patriarch may be prompted to give for the accomplishment of such life’s mission, it always being made clear that the realization of all promised blessings is conditioned upon faithfulness to the gospel of our Lord, whose servant the patriarch is. (Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, David O. McKay, Mess. of 1st Pres., Clark, 6:194)


[180] In January of 1841, when Hyrum Smith was designated as Church patriarch, after his father Joseph Smith, Sen., the Lord elaborated on Hyrum’s calling and mission as Patriarch:

. . . that my servant Hyrum may take the office of Priesthood and Patriarch, which was appointed unto him by his father, by blessing and also by right; That from henceforth he shall hold the keys of the patriarchal blessings upon the heads of all my people, That whoever he blesses shall be blessed, and whoever he curses shall be cursed; that whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (D & C 124:91-93)


Three Types of Patriarchs

In the LDS Church, there are three general divisions or types of the patriarchal office: (1) patriarch over the whole church; (2) patriarch over a stake; and (3) patriarch over a family. We will discuss each of these three in that order.


  1. Presiding Patriarch


The presiding patriarch of the Church is intended to be the “father” of the Church. He is also appointed to “be a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church,” the same as the President of the Church. (D & C 124:94)

The first general, or presiding patriarch of the church in the New Dispensation was Joseph Smith, Sen., father of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jun. He was ordained to that office by Joseph Smith, Jun., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams, who at the time were the presidency of the Melchizedek priesthood, on the 18th of December, 1834, at Kirtland, Ohio. (CHC 1:387)



The matter of selecting a patriarch was left to the Twelve for future action and for the purpose of learning the will of the Lord concerning it. (Wilford Woodruff, Mathias Cowley, p. 222)

The Church Patriarch then receives the word and will of the Lord for His selection of a Church President when that office is vacated–not the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who are appointed to regulate all the affairs of the Church among the nations, not at headquarters. (See D & C 107:33.)

There is a particular right through lineage that is associated with the office of Church Patriarch.

The order of this [evangelical] priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made. This order was instituted in the days of Adam, and came down by lineage. . . . (D & C 107:40-41)

Joseph Fielding Smith goes into more detail regarding the “Hereditary Nature of Patriarchal Office:”

It has always been understood, and so the revelations declare, that this office is hereditary. In a revelation to Hyrum Smith a few days after the organization of the Church, the Lord foreshadowed the coming of this priesthood as it would descend upon the head of Hyrum Smith, and implied that it would be an office which would pertain to his family, in the following words:

“Behold, I speak unto you, Hyrum, a few words; for thou also art under no condemnation, and thy heart is opened, and thy tongue loosed; and thy calling is to exhortation, and to strengthen the church continually. Wherefore thy duty is unto the church forever, and this because of thy family.” (D & C 23:3)

The statement that the duty of Hyrum Smith was to the Church forever, because of his family, [182] evidently conveys the thought that he would succeed to the office of Patriarch and that it should continue in his posterity to the end of time, for, surely, it would have to continue in this way to last forever in the Church upon the earth among mortal men. Then again, the blessing pronounced upon the head of Hyrum Smith’s father, was that this calling was to come upon his head “and his seed after him, to the uttermost.” And so, down through the history of the church, this doctrine has been recognized. (Doc. of Sal., Smith, 3:164) [See Appendices A & B, listing names, dates and relation-ships of Presiding Church Patriarchs.]

Unfortunately, however, in 1979 the patriarchal office of the Church suffered from man-handling like so many other offices, principles and laws, and the following announcement was made regarding that high Priesthood office:

  1. Eldon Tanner: “President Kimball has asked me to read the following statement: Because of the large increase in the number of stake patriarchs and the availability of patriarchal service throughout the world, we now designate Elder Eldred G. Smith as a Patriarch Emeritus, which means that he is honorably relieved of all duties and responsibilities pertaining to the office of Patriarch to the Church.” (Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 18)

Because the Church is growing, do we need to release the Church Patriarch? Isn’t it his responsibility and calling to preside over those “increased numbers” of stake patriarchs?

. . . since his jurisdiction in the line of his calling extends throughout the church, and he presides over, instructs and directs the labors of all the patriarchs of the church. (CHC 1:387)

This is not only a sad commentary on the loss of an important office in the Church, but it is another evidence that the House of God is out of order. The keys to that patriarchal [183] priesthood office authorize the sealing of blessings on Church leaders as well as the lay members, but those keys are now dormant.


  1. Stake Patriarch

There is a significant difference between the patriarch of the Church and the patriarch of a stake as correctly explained by B. H. Roberts:

It will be observed that the twelve apostles are to ordain “evangelical ministers” in “large branches of the church.” Also there is provided a presiding patriarch over all the patriarchs of the church, and he is known as the presiding patriarch of the church, holding the keys of the patriarchal blessings upon the heads of the Lord’s people; the knowledge also through the inspiration of the Spirit of the Lord, of their tribal relations in Israel, and the blessings and powers to which they may attain on conditions of their faithfulness. All the patriarchs, or “evangelists” chosen “in all large branches of the church” by the apostles participate, of course, in all these spiritual powers, graces, and rights of this office in the priesthood, but the patriarchs of the respective “large branches of the church” are limited in their jurisdiction of blessing and designation of tribal relations and ancestry to the respective jurisdictions assigned them. (CHC 1:387)


  1. Family Patriarch

The seemingly forgotten patriarch is the man who presides over his family. This order of patriarch should not be considered as the least important, but rather as the greatest. His function is representative of the ancient order of patriarchs as described by some of the Biblical scholars.

In patriarchal times, the head of each household exercised the priestly function of sacrifice. In fact, God Himself initiated the concept of priesthood at the time of [184] the fall of Adam (Gen. 3:21). As previously stated, the full fledged priestly system in Israel began with Moses. This does not mean the priestly functions of sacrifices and gifts to God were lacking because as shown above, fathers of households cared for these important matters. * * *

In earliest times sacrifice was not the sole province of a priest. Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as heads of families performed priestly functions before the building of the Temple. During this time the priesthood was found in families. (Zondervan Enc. of Bible, 4:856, 859)

John Taylor explained this Patriarchal Priesthood within the individual families after the days of Noah:

We find that after the days of Noah an order was introduced called the patriarchal order, in which every man managed his own family affairs, and prominent men among them were kings and priests unto God, and officiated in what is known among us as the Priesthood of the Son of God, or the Priesthood after the Order of Melchizedek. Man began again to multiply on the face of the earth, and the heads of families became their kings and priests, that is the fathers of their own people, and they were more or less under the influence and guidance of the Almighty. (JD 17:207)

Included in managing “the affairs of his own family” is the right of a father to give a patriarchal blessing to his own children:

A faithful father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood may bless his own children, and that would be a patriarchal (father’s) blessing. Such a blessing could be recorded in the family records, but it would not be preserved in the archives of the Church. Every father who is true to this priesthood is a patriarch over his own house. In addition, children may receive a blessing by an ordained patriarch. A [185] father blessing his own child could, if he received the inspiration to do so, declare the lineage of the child. (Doc. of Sal., Jos. Fldg. Smith, vol. 3, p. 172)

Bruce R. McConkie gave us this surprisingly truthful doctrinal gem:

Whenever the Lord has a people on earth, he offers to make them a nation of kings and priests–not a congregation of lay members with a priest or a minister at the head–but a whole Church in which every man is his own minister, in which every man stands as a king in his own right, reigning over his own family-kingdom. The priesthood which makes a man a king and a priest is thus a royal priesthood. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, McConkie, 3:294)

An editorial on this subject was written in the Times and Seasons in June 1845:

Every father, after he has received his patriarchal blessing, is a Patriarch in his own family; and has the right to confer patriarchal blessings upon his family; which blessings will be just as legal as those conferred by any Patriarch of the Church; in fact, it is his right; any Patriarch in blessing his children, can only bless as his mouthpiece.

A Patriarch to the church is appointed to bless those who are orphans, or have no father in the church to bless them. * * *

Adam was the natural father of his posterity, who were his family and over whom he presided as patriarch, prophet, priest, and king. Both Abraham and Jacob stood in the same relationship to their families. But not so with Father Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, or William Smith. They were not the natural fathers of the church, and could not stand in the same capacity as Adam, Abraham, or Jacob; but inasmuch as there had been none to bless for generations past, according to the ancient order, they were ordained and [186] set apart for the purpose of conferring patriarchal blessings, to hold the keys of this priesthood, and unlock the door, that had long been closed upon the human family: that blessings might again be conferred according to the ancient order, and those who were orphans, or had no father to bless them, might receive it through a patriarch who should act as proxy for their father, and that fathers might again be enabled to act as patriarchs to their families, and bless their children. For like all other ordinances in the church, this had been neglected, and must needs be restored. (T & S 6:921-922)

When a father holds the Melchizedek Priesthood, he not only has the right, privilege and power to instruct and perform ordinances for his family, it is his duty. In that position he automatically is a patriarch; his priesthood becomes a patriarchal priesthood, and all the authority, calling and keys are inherent for him to bless, teach and administer ordinances for his wives and children. According to Brigham Young:

If I had power of myself to heal the sick, which I do not profess to have, or to cast our devils, which power I have not got, though if the Lord sees fit to cast them out through my command, it is all right–still if I had that power, and there was no other person to help me, the people would do as they do now, they would hunt me almost to death, saying, “Won’t you lay hands on this sick person? Won’t you go to my house over yonder?” and so on. I am sent for continually, though I only go occasionally, because it is the privilege of every father, who is an Elder in Israel, to have faith to heal his family, just as much so as it is my privilege to have faith to heal my family; and if he does not do it, he is not living up to his privilege. It is just as reasonable for him to ask me to cut his wood and maintain his family, for if he had faith himself, he would save me the trouble of leaving other duties to attend to his request. (JD 3:46)


[187] Some family patriarchs have failed to baptize their own children because they question their right to do it; and some have entered into common law marriages rather than be sealed by the head of the family holding Patriarchal Priesthood. All this is an insult to their Priesthood. They have more right to perform ordinances for their family than any bishop, stake president, or apostle, because the rights first follow the Patriarchal Order of the Priesthood.

A Patriarchal Priesthood order is a fatherly order. You rely upon your earthly father for temporal things, and upon your spiritual Father for spiritual things. There is little reason for you to follow somebody else and his Priesthood when it comes to matters of your own family.

Each patriarch is to build his kingdom as God built His, as he will never preside over anyone but his own children.

Who will be the subjects in the kingdom which they will rule who are exalted in the celestial kingdom of our God? Will they reign over their neighbors’ children? Oh no. Over whom then will they reign? Their own children, their own posterity will be the citizens of their kingdoms; in other words, the patriarchal order will prevail there to the endless ages of eternity, and the children of each patriarch will be his while eternal ages roll on. This is not according to present customs, for now when a young man reaches the age of twenty-one years, he is free from his parents, and considers that he is no longer under the necessity of being controlled by his father. That is according to our customs, and the laws of our country. It is a very good law and adapted to the imperfections that now exist; but it will not be so in the eternal worlds. There will never be any such thing there as being from under their father’s rule, no matter whether twenty-one or twenty-one thousand years of age, it will make no difference, they will still be subject to the laws of [188] their Patriarch or Father, and they must observe and obey them throughout all eternity. There is only one way by which children can be freed from that celestial law and order of things, and that is by rebellion. (Orson Pratt, JD 15:319-20)

The main idea here is that the whole human race consists of families that are part of a much larger family–with God as our Father. He is the grand Patriarch over His family. Brigham Young explained:

The kingdoms he [God] possesses and rules over are his own progeny. Every man who is faithful and gets a salvation and glory, and becomes a King of kings and Lord of lords, or a Father of fathers, it will be by the increase of his own progeny. Our Father and God rules over his own children. Wherever there is a God in all the eternities possessing a kingdom and glory and power, it is by means of his own progeny. (JD 11:262)

He is the Father of our spirits; and if we could know, understand, and do His will, every soul would be prepared to return back into His presence. And when they get there, they would see that they had formerly lived there for ages, that they had previously been acquainted with every nook and corner, with the palaces, walks, and gardens; and they would embrace their Father, and He would embrace them and say, “My son, my daughter, I have you again;” and the child would say, “O my Father, my Father, I am here again.” (JD 4:268)


The Patriarchal Laws

There are specific laws, ordinances, principles, and rules that attend the patriarchal order of priesthood. They have always existed; they exist now and they will exist forever. They are not “set aside,” “replaced” or “done away” as some men [189] infer. Such language is merely used as an excuse not to obey them. When these higher laws and ordinances are not lived, then a lower form of laws, ordinances and priesthood take precedence among members. Then if the laws and ordinances of the lesser priesthood are not obeyed, then Priesthood ceases to function at all. The Prophet Joseph said:

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

The Prophet continued with the statement, “Moses sought to bring the children of Israel into the presence of God, through the power of the Priesthood, but he could not.” (TPJS, p. 159) The reason he could not is because they would not nor could not obey the laws of the higher priesthood.

The Lord told Joseph Smith the same thing regarding the Saints in his day:

Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now.

But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh Saints, to the poor and afflicted among them.

And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom.

And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom, otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.

And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer. (D & C 105:2-6)


[190] And what are these “principles of the law of the celestial kingdom?” What were the transgressions of the early Saints that kept them, as a church, from redeeming Zion? What are these higher Priesthood laws, the fulness of the Gospel? Brigham Young answers these questions:

In Mormon theology Celestial or plural marriage and the United Order are companion principles, one being incomplete without the other. “The fulness of the Gospel,” says Brigham Young, “is the United Order and the order of Plural Marriage.” (Joseph Musser, Truth, 7:175)

The social law of heaven–Celestial Marriage–became a law to the Church in 1852. This, in connection with the law of the United Order, according to the word of Brigham Young, comprises the “fulness of the Gospel.” At the time of the dedication of the St. George Temple in 1877 the speakers emphasized the fact that these laws must be lived or there could be no substantial advancement for the Saints. Said Brigham Young:

Hear it, ye Elders of Israel, and mark it down in your log books, the fulness of the Gospel is the United Order and the order of Plural Marriage, and I fear that when I am gone, this people will give up these two principles which we prize so highly; and, if they do, this church cannot advance as God wishes for it to advance. (Joseph Musser, Truth, 3:166)

The remainder of this chapter will briefly discuss these two important Patriarchal Priesthood laws.


  1. Patriarchal Order of Enoch (United Order)

In 1878 Lorenzo Snow beautifully described the importance of eternal Gospel principles, and especially emphasized the United Order:



There are principles which are revealed for the good of the people of God, and clearly manifest in the revelations which have been given; but in consequence of not being more persevering and industrious, we neglect to receive the advantages which they are designed to confer, and we think, perhaps, that it is not necessary to exert ourselves to find out what God requires at our hands, or in other words, to search out the principles which God has revealed, upon which we can receive very important blessings. There are revealed, plainly and clearly, principles which are calculated to exalt the Latter-day Saints, and preserve them from much trouble and vexation, yet, through lack of perseverance on our part to learn and conform to them, we fail to receive the blessings that are connected with obedience to them. These principles of union, which the Latter-day Saints in former times ignored, and in consequence of disobedience to them, were driven from Missouri, are called by different names–United Order, Order of Enoch, the principles of Union of the Celestial Law, etc. When we search the revelations of God in regard to them, we see that wherever the Gospel of the Son of God has been revealed in its fulness, the principles of the United Order were made manifest, and required to be observed. The system of union, or the Order of Enoch, which God has taken so much pains to reveal and make manifest, has been, and is, for the purpose of uniting the Latter-day Saints, the people of God, and preparing them for exaltation in his celestial kingdom, and also for the purpose of preparing them here on this earth to live together as brethren, that they may become one in all matters that pertain to their worldly affairs, as well as their spiritual interests, that they may become one–one in their efforts, one in their interests–so that there shall be no poor found in the midst of the Latter-day Saints, and no monied aristocracy in the midst of the people of God, but that there should be a union, an equality. * * *

Zion is the pure in heart. Zion cannot be built up except on the principles of union required by the celestial law. It is high time for us to enter into these [192] things. It is more pleasant and agreeable for the Latter-day Saints to enter into this work and build up Zion, than to build up ourselves and have this great competition which is destroying us. (JD 19:342, 349)

The Saints had failed to be unified in Missouri and in Illinois, so they were driven into the wilderness where they made another attempt. But once again, they were unsuccessful in living this Order of Enoch as a people. Brigham Young expressed his disappointment with the Saints:

I have had visions and revelations instructing me how to organize this people so that they can live like the family of heaven, but I cannot do it while so much selfishness and wickedness reign in the Elders of Israel. (1862, JD 9:269)

I have looked upon the community of the Latter-day Saints in vision and beheld them organized as one great family of heaven, each person performing his several duties in his line of industry, working for the good of the whole more than for individual aggrandizement; and in this I have beheld the most beautiful order that the mind of man can contemplate, and the grandest results for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God and the spread of righteousness upon the earth. Will this people ever come to this order of things? (1868, JD 12:153)

But the Saints also failed in Brigham’s day to live this Patriarchal Order of heaven, and today we are even further away from living this law than when it was first revealed.

We have been told by the Lord that “. . . in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld.” (D & C 70:14) It is quite evident that for more than a century “the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit” have been withheld.


[193] We have also been told that the Priesthood holder should not work for money, but for Zion:

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. * * *

But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish. (2 Nephi 26:29,31)

Being united and living as one is an irrevocable law of the celestial kingdom. We cannot enter any other way. Jesus said, “He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1) We cannot expect to be celestialized by living the laws of Babylon. Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” (John 17:11) We still wait for that prayer to be answered.

The Lord has given over 13 revelations to the Latter-day Saints showing them how to live this Patriarchal Order of Enoch. There has never been any revelation telling the Saints not to obey it, yet we are told that the “Lord took it away.” If He did, then that must mean He felt we were not fit candidates for the Celestial Kingdom because of our refusal to live it.


  1. Patriarchal Law of Marriage (Plural Marriage)

Another ancient patriarchal practice was plural marriage. Some may say that it was an “ancient” practice and had nothing to do with Christ and the principles of Christianity. However, George A. Smith commented:



How appropriate it would have been for Jesus, descending as he did from a race of polygamists, to have denounced this institution of plural marriage and shown its sinfulness, had it been a sin! Can we suppose, for one moment, if Patriarchal marriage were wrong, that He would, under the circumstances, have been silent concerning it or failed to denounce it in the most positive manner? (JD 13:42)

Brigham Young spoke highly of it as being a law of the patriarchs:

I will say that the principle of patriarchal marriage is one of the highest and purest ever revealed to the children of men. (JD 13:239)

Plural marriage was called patriarchal marriage by the early Church leaders. For example, in 1852, when Apostle Orson Pratt went to Washington, D.C., to announce plural marriage as a doctrine of the Church, he wrote:

The views of the saints in regard to the ancient patriarchal order of matrimony or plurality of wives, as developed in a revelation given through Joseph Smith, the Seer, will be fully published. (CHC 4:61, ftnt. 16)

Many public statements were published identifying patriarchal (plural) marriage as one of the most complete and fully explained and defended doctrines of the Bible. Even the capable and learned U.S. chaplain came to Utah and unsuccessfully debated against the issue. Nearly all professors and ministers of Christendom disagreed with this Biblical marriage system, and thus abandoned their belief in the true Priesthood. In doing this, they lost the power of sealing and binding on earth–one of heaven’s greatest blessings.

Under the current laws and powers of man and government, a marriage contract can be in effect only until the death [195] of one or the other. That “sealing” is limited to mortality. But there is another sealing by the Holy Priesthood that extends throughout all eternity; however, it is only binding based on adherence to the conditions and laws pertaining to that Priesthood. That marriage contract is called “Patriarchal Marriage.” Wilford Woodruff explained this:

So I will say to our friends here–the strangers within our gates–that any man that marries a wife by any other authority than the authority of the Holy Priesthood is simply married for time, “or until death do you part.” When you go into the Spirit World, you have no claim on your wife and children. The ordinance of having them sealed to you by one having the authority of the Holy Priesthood must be attended to in this world. Father Abraham obeyed the law of the patriarchal order of marriage. His wives were sealed to him for time and all eternity, and so were the wives of all the Patriarchs and Prophets that obeyed that law. * * *

We have obeyed the law because God has commanded us, and I bear record of its truth; and so far as I am concerned, if I can have my wives and children with me in the morning of the resurrection, so that I can dwell with them and with those Patriarchs and Prophets who obeyed that law, it will amply repay me for the trials and tribulations I may have had to pass through in the course of my life here upon the earth. (JD 24:243-44)

Since the U.S. Government didn’t like the Patriarchal Law of Marriage, they adopted the Roman law of the Caesars which was monogamy. Thus it became a conflict of laws. Brigham Young was not in favor of their heathen law and strongly declared:

I replied, “Let me die and go to my Father in heaven, before I stoop to that abominable wickedness; I never will stoop to it so help me God.” * * *


Do you suppose that I am going to crouch down, and suffer this people to bow down continually to the rod of corruption? No. Come on with your knives, your swords, and your faggots of fire, and destroy the whole of us, rather than we will forsake our religion. Whether it is true or false is none of your business; whether the doctrine of plurality of wives is true or false is none of your business. We have as good a right to adopt tenets in our religion as the Church of England, or the Methodists, or Baptists, or any other denomination have to in theirs. Our doctrine is a Bible doctrine, a patriarchal doctrine, and is the doctrine of the Gods of eternity, and of the heavens, and was revealed to our fathers on the earth, and will save the world at last, and bring us into Abraham’s bosom, if we ever get there. Are the officers of the Government the judges of our religion? It is none of their business whether it is true or false. I know whether it is true or not, and that is enough for me; you know, brethren and sisters, and that is enough for you. (JD 2:187)

Heber C. Kimball was another strong defender of the Patriarchal Order of Marriage:

If you oppose any of the works of God, you will cultivate a spirit of apostacy. If you oppose what is called the “spiritual wife doctrine,” the Patriarchal Order, which is of God, that course will corrode you with a spirit of apostacy, and you will go overboard; still a great many do so, and strive to justify themselves in it, but they are not justified of God. (1855, JD 3:125)

Even most of the wives were unwilling to submit to the “laws of the land” in preference to the laws of God. Phoebe Woodruff announced:

Shall we as wives and mothers sit still and see our husbands, and sons, whom we know are but obeying the highest behest of heaven, suffer for their religion without exerting ourselves to the extent of our [197] power for their deliverance? No! verily, no! God has revealed unto us the law of the patriarchal order of marriage, and commanded us to obey it. We are sealed to our husbands for time and eternity, that we may dwell with them and our children in the world to come, which guarantees unto us the greatest blessing for which we are created. If the rulers of our nation will so far depart from the spirit and the letter of our glorious Constitution as to deprive our prophets, apostles, and elders of citizenship, and imprison them for obeying this law, let them grant us this our last request, to make their prisons large enough to hold their wives, for where they go we will go also. (CHC 5:233)

In 1884 Wilford Woodruff stated:

. . . if this work is of God, if the gospel of Jesus Christ, as revealed to Joseph Smith, is true, then God will take care of it; if the patriarchal law of marriage comes from the God of Israel, He will take care of it; He will protect and defend it, and He will uphold the people that carry it out. I say this in the name of Israel’s God. (JD 25:9)

However, when the government began putting some of the polygamists in jail, the prosecuting attorney, in the case against Lorenzo Snow, spoke up and said:

. . . I can assure you, and predict emphatically, if the defendant, Mr. Snow, with a few other Mormon leaders can be secured, it will not be long before a new revelation will follow, calling for a change in the law of patriarchal marriage. (JD 26:365)

However, Lorenzo Snow replied:

Whatever fame Mr. Bierbower may have secured as a lawyer, he certainly will fail as a prophet. The severest prosecutions have never been followed by revelations changing a divine law, obedience to which [198] brought imprisonment or martyrdom. Although I go to prison, God will not change His law of celestial marriage. (Mill. Star 48:110)

This event occurred in 1886. However, only four years later Lorenzo Snow publicly, and ironically, announced (after the presenting of the Manifesto to the Saints in October Conference) that, “we accept his [Wilford Woodruff’s] declaration concerning plural marriages as authoritative and binding.” (Statement printed at the end of the Doctrine and Covenants)

In defending his issuance of the Manifesto, President Woodruff wrote in his journal:

I have arrived at a point in the history of my life as the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where I am under the necessity of acting for the temporal salvation of the church. The United States Government has taken a stand and passed laws to destroy the Latter-day Saints on the subject of polygamy, or patriarchal order of marriage; and after praying to the Lord and feeling inspired, I have issued the following proclamation which is sustained by my counselors and the Twelve Apostles. (The Manifesto followed.)

This subject will be discussed at greater length in Chapter 16, “The Keys to Plural Marriage;” but it needed to be mentioned here also, as a part of the Patriarchal Order of Priesthood.



[199]                             Chapter 12




Behold, this is my doctrine–whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church. (D & C 10:67-68)

There are three essential areas that will be discussed in this chapter to provide a better understanding of how keys function within the Church of Jesus Christ and within the Kingdom of God.


  1. The Church is an appendage.
  2. The Church and the Kingdom are separate.
  3. Apostasy from the Church and of the Church.

First, it is important to point out that the Church and the Kingdom of God are two separate entities. They co-existed within the organization of the LDS Church until 1843, at which time Joseph Smith set up the Kingdom as a separate organization from the Church. (This will be explained further in “The Church and the Kingdom are separate” section.)


The Church is an appendage.

In a revelation from the Lord in 1831, He said the Saints should lift up their hearts and rejoice because “the keys of [200] the church have been given.” (D & C 42:69) There were numerous other kinds of keys also given, but we are more interested here in the particular keys of the Church, some of which are–


  1. for the work of the ministry
  2. for missionary work
  3. for the gathering of Israel
  4. for building temples
  5. for the School of the Prophets
  6. Keys for the work of the ministry–In a revelation to Joseph Smith in 1841, the Lord said He gave keys to the officers of the church “for the work of the ministry and the perfecting of my saints.” (D & C 124:143) The Church was and still is a vehicle for the work in the ministry of the Priesthood.
  7. Keys for missionary work–The Church of Jesus Christ is a missionary church. In the former-day church, Jesus commanded His apostles to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.” (Matt. 28:19) In the latter days, the Lord has said that He restored His church “that the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, . . .” (D & C 1:23)

When the Lord said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), that instruction pertains to now as well as then.

For 165 years, Mormons have sent missionaries to the corners of the world, seeking new members for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Today there are 50,000 such missionaries in 156 countries. (Peggy Stack, Salt Lake Tribune, April 6, 1996)

  1. Keys for the gathering of Israel–In Kirtland, Ohio, April 1836, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the keys of the gathering of Israel:



After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north. (D & C 110:11)

  1. Keys for building temples–The Lord has commanded us to always build temples (see D & C 124:39), and along with that come the keys to do so:

And as thou hast said in a revelation, given to us, . . . establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God. (Dedicatory prayer at Kirtland Temple, 1836, D & C 109:6, 8)

  1. Keys for the School of the Prophets–In a revelation to Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1833, the Lord said:

As also through your administration the keys of the school of the prophets, which I have commanded to be organized; . . . (D & C 90:7)


* * *

In spite of the changes, rejections, and failures of the membership rank and file, the LDS Church still has the responsibility and calling to cry repentance to this generation and to exercise the keys given to them. The missionaries go all over the world and preach the story of the apostasy and the establishment of this Church in these latter days–that the Priesthood has been restored; that the Book of Mormon is true; that Joseph Smith was and is a true prophet; and that Jesus is the Christ. The Church has not abandoned that part of their calling.

Regarding the keys to build temples, it is interesting to note that some of the ordinances usually performed in the [202] temples can also be performed outside the temple, i.e., baptisms for the dead, marriage sealings, and even personal endowments. For example, Ensign Peak was considered a special or sacred place, and on July 23, 1849, Brigham Young offered a dedicatory prayer there. But it was more than just a seemingly “hallowed” spot, but was also a place where sacred ordinances were administered to the Saints:

Immediately after Young’s dedicatory prayer, Addison Pratt, already called to a South Seas LDS proselyting mission, received his endowment on the peak. (“A Gauge of the Times: Ensign Peak in the Twentieth Century,” Ronald Walker, p. 21)

Ron Walker also noted that these same ordinances were performed there many years later as well:

And rumors circulated that Mormon Fundamentalists secretly used the place [Ensign Peak]. Denied entry to LDS temples, so the story went, these LDS dissenters recalled Brigham Young’s 1849 consecration of Ensign Peak for prayer and the endowment ceremony and performed such ordinances there themselves. (Ibid., p. 21)

But Brigham Young mentioned certain ordinances that should be reserved for inside the temple, i.e. (1) sealing children to parents; (2) being sealed to forefathers; and (3) sealing men to men:

We also have the privilege of sealing women to men, without a temple. This we can do in the Endowment House; but when we come to other sealing ordinances, ordinances pertaining to the holy Priesthood, to connect the chain of the Priesthood from father Adam until now, by sealing children to their parents, being sealed for our forefathers, etc., they cannot be done without a temple. But we can seal [203] women to men, but not men to men, without a temple. When the ordinances are carried out in the temples that will be erected, men will be sealed to their fathers, and those who have slept clear up to father Adam. This will have to be done, because of the chain of the Priesthood being broken upon the earth. The Priesthood has left the people, but in the first place the people left the Priesthood. They transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, and broke the everlasting covenant, and the Priesthood left them; but not until they had left the Priesthood. This Priesthood has been restored again, and by its authority we shall be connected with our fathers, by the ordinance of sealing, until we shall form a perfect chain from father Adam down to the closing up scene. This ordinance will not be performed anywhere but in the temple neither will children be sealed to their living parents in any other place than a temple. (JD 16:186)

It is erroneously taught in the Church today that the LDS Church controls the Priesthood and that they are interwoven together. John A. Widtsoe supported this idea:

Nevertheless it has been so ordained, that whenever the Church of God is upon the earth, ALL Priesthood on earth should function within it. The Church is the keeper, under the Lord, of the plan of salvation, and of the Priesthood necessary to carry out the provisions of the plan. There can be no holders of the Priesthood who are independent of the Church. * * * The Church and Priesthood are interwoven; when the Church is upon the earth neither can exist independently. . . . (Imp. Era, Sept. 1936)

But the Lord Himself has said, “All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood.” (D & C 107:5) Even the Church is an appendage of the Priesthood. The dictionary definition of appendage is “anything appended … supplementary, or subordinate.”


[204] Let us ask ourselves by what authority was the Church organized? Did the Priesthood organize the Church, or did the Church establish the Priesthood? Obviously the organizing power is greater than that which is organized. The builder of a house is greater than the house. A church is just one of the many functions of Priesthood. Priesthood existed before the creation of the world or the church.

Unfortunately, a tradition has grown up among the Saints that the church is the highest organization–the ultimate power and order of God. It has become more important than the Gospel or the Priesthood, and the Saints frequently bear testimony to the truthfulness of the Church rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Church and the Priesthood can go in different directions, as Brigham Young expressed:

Does the Church want it as God organized it? Or do you want to clip the power of the Priesthood and let those who have the keys of the Priesthood go and build up the kingdom in all the world, [independent of the Church] wherever the people will hear them? (DHC 7:235)

He was saying that it was possible for the Church to lose the power of the Priesthood by taking a different course than that which was outlined by the Lord. In such a case men with the Priesthood could still continue on to build up the Kingdom of God.

Brigham Young explained how this happened to the Church of Jesus Christ in the meridian of time by explaining that, “It is said the Priesthood was taken from the Church, but it is not so, the Church went from the Priesthood. . . .” (JD 12:69) If it could happen then, it can happen now.


[205] Some neglect, or betray their Priesthood, while others go beyond their calling and assume more than they have been given. In each case, they become a law unto themselves by disobeying the laws of the Priesthood and both types eventually lose the keys they once held.

Are the heads of governments and churches leaders or servants? This was asked and answered by LDS author, Duane Crowther:

In American government, the basic understanding is that the government exists by the consent of the people, and to serve the people–the government is the servant; the people are the master. Is it the same in the Church? In situations where Church policies get too far ahead of the people and begin to exert a degree of compulsion so that some members perceive themselves to be compelled to take action they really don’t wish to take, the question begins to be raised as to who is to serve whom–is the church leadership to serve the saints, or are the saints to serve the leaders? (Thus Saith the Lord, p. 250)

The Lord can promote His work of the Priesthood in many different ways–in churches, within a kingdom, or among individual prophets and saints. He may have several prophets on the earth at the same time in different places, and they may not even be aware of each other–just as He did around Jerusalem at the time Lehi left. The church is merely a schoolhouse with the fundamental saving ordinances. Brigham Young explained:

A man may be a prophet, seer and revelator, and it may have nothing to do with his being the president of the Church. (Contributor 10:3)

And, we might add, it may have nothing to do with being a member of the Church either. The Church may or may not [206] have the keys of the Priesthood, depending on the laws they advocate and obey.

Keys go with a calling from the Lord. They do not necessarily go with all those who are ordained, blessed, or set apart, as Christian ministers may bless and ordain and give church offices, but it may have nothing to do with Priesthood keys. Even all men in the Mormon Church who are ordained, blessed, or set apart may not necessarily have Priesthood keys.

When the children of Israel would not accept the higher laws of the Priesthood, the Lord allowed them to live by numerous lesser laws and programs to keep them so busy they could not get into sin. The Church today has programs, games, outings, recreations, plays, singing programs, and meetings to plan other meetings. All these are the niceties of a church, but they are not promoting the higher laws of the Gospel or Priesthood.

We frequently hear the expression “there is only one true and living church on the earth,” which in one sense is true, but in another it is not. Immediately after His resurrection, the Lord appeared to His Apostles, and directed them in the work of the Church which He had organized. Then at about the same time He appeared to the Nephites in the Western Hemisphere, and again established His Church with Apostles and the Priesthood and the authority to baptize and give the Holy Ghost. (See 3 Nephi 11:24-28.)

Thus, Christ established two churches on the earth at the same time–complete with offices and callings, i.e., twelve apostles, teachers, deacons, elders, priests and high priests. Certainly if such church offices existed, they must have had the church.


[207] President Brigham Young confirmed this:

He [Jesus] was seen to come from heaven down into the midst of the people. He organized his Church amongst them, healed the sick, and left his Church and Gospel in their midst. . . . For 300 years the people on the continents of North and South America were benefitted by the work of the Savior in organizing His Church and revealing every principle and ordinance calculated to assist them back into the presence of God. (JD 13:174-175)

And Orson Pratt had the same understanding:

Did Jesus and his disciples organize the Church in Asia with revelators and inspired men in it–with prophets and prophetesses, with dreams, visions, and revelations? So did the ancient Israelites in America do the same thing. They, the ancient Apostles, organized the Church with miracles and gifts, with power to heal the sick, to cast out devils, to work miracles, and with power over the elements. The Book of Mormon tells us that the Israelites in ancient America organized one after the same pattern. Consequently, if we examine the whole structure of the Church in Palestine and the structure of the Church in ancient America, we find no jar; . . . (JD 7:34)


Christ also told the Nephites:

I have other sheep which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land. . . . But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep. . . . (3 Nephi 16:1,3)

Thus, it is highly possible that he organized even another church, and in that case wouldn’t He have given them the Priesthood with attending keys?


[208] It is evident that these churches were appendages to the Priesthood work–not the Priesthood as an appendage to church work. The keys come through Priesthood to the church, not the reverse.


The Church and the Kingdom are separate.

John the Revelator gave an interesting prophetic parable about an organization which was separate from the church:

And there appeared a great sign in heaven, in the likeness of things on earth; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars [twelve apostles]. And the woman being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. . . . And the dragon stood before the woman which was delivered, ready to devour her child after it was born. * * *

And the dragon prevailed not against Michael, neither the child, nor the woman which was the church of God, who had been delivered of her pains, and brought forth the kingdom of our God and his Christ. (Rev. 12:1,2,4,7, Insp. Trans.)

In the previous section of this chapter, it was shown that there existed at least two churches at the same time–and now comes another organization called “the kingdom of God,” which can also exist simultaneously. God’s work is the work of the Priesthood, and the church is merely one of the organizations the Lord may select to promote His work and through which keys may be given.

In John’s prophecy of the kingdom and the church, it is interesting to note that it was the kingdom that the dragon wanted to devour–not the church. Apparently, he is more threatened by and opposed to the Kingdom of God than he is the Church.


[209] In the four Gospels of Christ the word kingdom appears 201 times, yet Jesus mentioned His church only twice. The establishment of the kingdom, the priesthood of the kingdom, and the gospel of the kingdom were evidently much more important than the church–and for that matter, they still are. Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33)

Brigham Young concurred with John’s testimony that the Church gave birth to the Kingdom:

As observed by one of the speakers this morning, that Kingdom grows out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but it is not the Church, for a man may be a legislator in that body which will issue laws to sustain the inhabitants of this earth in their individual rights, and still not belong to the Church of Jesus Christ at all. (JD 2:310)

And George Q. Cannon said the same thing:

The Kingdom of God is a separate organization from the Church of God. There may be men acting as officers in the Kingdom of God who will not be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On this point the Prophet Joseph gave particular instructions before his death, and gave an example, which he asked the younger elders who were present to always remember. It was to the effect that men might be chosen to officiate as members of the Kingdom of God who had no standing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Kingdom of God when established will not be for the protection of the Church of Jesus Christ alone, but for the protection of all men, whatever their religious views or opinions may be. Under its rule, no one will be permitted to overstep the proper bounds or to interfere with the rights of others. (DHC 7:382)


[210] John Taylor also briefly explained:

The Kingdom of God is the government of God, on the earth, or in the heavens. (The Government of God, Taylor, p. 1)

As previously mentioned, governments are created for serving and protecting, not controlling.

The prophet Daniel, when interpreting the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and describing “what shall be in the latter days,” prophesied:

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. (Dan. 2:44)

Joseph Smith organized both the Church and the Kingdom before he was killed. President Brigham Young said:

As was observed by Brother Pratt, that Kingdom is actually organized, and the inhabitants of the earth do not know it. If this people know anything about it, all right; it is organized preparatory to taking effect in the due time of the Lord, and in the manner that shall please Him. (JD 2:310)

The “keys of the Kingdom of God” were given to Joseph Smith, and he established that organization. But before the Kingdom of God had been organized by the Church as a separate entity, the “keys of the kingdom” were within the Church. For example, when the LDS Church was only one year old, the Lord said, “Lift up your hearts and rejoice, for unto you the kingdom, or in other words, the keys of the church have been given.” (D & C 42:69) At that time they were functioning as one and the same. But according to John the [211] Revelator, he described the church as a woman who gives birth to the kingdom, showing a distinction between the two. (See Rev. 12:5 & 13.) So ordinarily the church and the kingdom exist as two separate entities, as evidenced by the Lord’s language “church and kingdom.” (See D & C 72:14; 84:34; 90:16: 104:59.)

In 1843 the Church leaders set apart men into the organization of the Kingdom of God, at which time the Church and the Kingdom became two distinct organizations. Then there were keys to the Church organization and also keys to the Kingdom organization.

Through the years, however, the Saints have promoted the Church and dropped the Kingdom, just like the children of Israel and the Jews at the time of Christ. So what will be the destiny of the Mormon people because of their rejecting this Kingdom and promoting kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, and obeying, honoring, and sustaining the laws of the kingdoms of the world? History certainly does repeat itself!

Any Melchizedek priesthood holder who believes in supporting the government in anti-Constitutional programs, (which seems to include most of them) or the “International Community” and the “New World Order”, does not understand the Holy Priesthood, the laws of God, or the Kingdom of God.

With the continuation of such a condition, the “keys of the kingdom” would surely be turned against them.


Apostasy from and of the Church

Most people assume that when a church increases in numbers and in prosperity, that it must be on the right course and is blessed by the Lord. But quantity is no substitute for [212] quality. A church organization may appear beautiful on the outside, but full of corrupt doctrine on the inside–as Jesus rebuked the leaders of the Church in His day:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. (Matt. 23:25)

The question thus arises: “How do we know when a church is on the proper course? Apostle Parley P. Pratt gave us some important guidelines:

Search the sacred writings of the Apostles of old for any other order of Apostles, ministers, ordinances, gifts, or powers, as constituting the true church, or connected with it, than the order set forth in the foregoing pages, and you will search in vain. The New Testament system was a system of inspiration, apostolic powers, miracles, healings, revelations, prophesyings, visions, angels, and all the gifts recorded in that book. It was a system of ordinances. . . .

Such was the New Testament system. Peter himself had no right to alter it, neither had Paul; in so doing, they would have forfeited their apostolic powers, and their Christian standing; and would have been accursed, as it is written by Paul, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel, let him be accursed.” * * *

Has the foregoing order of things been handed down in purity and power to this day? Its Apostleship, its powers of vision, revelation, prophecy, miracles, gifts, ordinances, and powers unaltered, unimpaired, unperverted?

If so, we have Apostles, Church, etc., now, without a New Dispensation or a new commission.

If not so, then there is no Apostleship, no Church, no Christian ministry and gifts on the earth, except commissioned by a New Dispensation. (“Proclamation,” Parley P. Pratt, Sept. 18, 1852, Mill. Star 14:[213]466; see also Sermons and Writings. . . . Pioneer Press, 3:93)


If these gifts and powers of the Gospel (i.e., miracles, revelations, prophesyings, visions, angels, etc.) are indications of the Lord’s Church, then where are they today?

There is a distinctive difference between the Gospel and the Church; and even though we speak of the restoration of both of them, they actually occurred at different times. The Church is an organization, whereas the Gospel consists of principles, laws, and ordinances. The Church of Jesus Christ was restored and organized on April 6, 1830; the Gospel was restored little by little, principle by principle, as the Lord saw fit. The two should function together, but oftentimes they become separated.

According to Brigham Young, the Church in his day was flourishing, but apparently the living of the Gospel was not:

I sometimes think I would be willing to give anything, yes, almost anything in reason, to see one fully organized Branch of this kingdom–one fully organized Ward. * * * Is there even in this Territory a fully organized Ward? Not one. It may be asked, “Why do you not fully organize the Church?” Because the people are incapable of being organized. I could organize a large Ward which would be subject to that full organization, by selecting families from the different Wards, but at present such a Branch of the Church is not in existence. (JD 10:20)

I have had visions and revelations instructing me how to organize this people so that they can live like the family of heaven, but I cannot do it while so much selfishness and wickedness reign in the Elders of Israel. (JD 9:269)


[214] And certainly conditions have not got any better in the last 150 years!

Both the Church of Jesus Christ and the Government of the United States have changed: the Church has deviated from the laws of their Doctrine and Covenants, and the government has deviated from their Constitution. Both are out of order, and both will have to be set in order.

What causes this apostasy of a church? Let’s look to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon and see what happened 200 years after Christ appeared to them:

And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world.

And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them. And they began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain, and began to deny the true church of Christ.

And it came to pass that when two hundred and ten years had passed away there were many churches in the land; yea, there were many churches which professed to know the Christ, and yet they did deny the more parts of his gospel, insomuch that they did receive all manner of wickedness, and did administer that which was sacred unto him to whom it had been forbidden because of unworthiness.

And this church did multiply exceedingly because of iniquity, and because of the power of Satan who did get hold upon their hearts. (4 Nephi 1:24-28)

In summary, these were the causes and results of apostasy:


[215] Pride

Costly jewelry and clothes

Fine things of the world

No United Order

Class distinction

Using the church for gain

Rejecting original doctrines

Denying parts of the Gospel

Tolerating wickedness

The reader can decide for himself if there are any similarities between these conditions of the Nephites and those in the LDS Church today.

James E. Talmage identifies three major causes for the apostasy from the early Christian church: (The parenthetical expressions following each item are those of this author.)

. . . the Church was undergoing internal deterioration, and was in a state of increasing perversion. Among the more detailed or specific causes of this ever widening departure from the spirit of the gospel of Christ, this rapidly growing apostasy, the following may be considered as important examples:

(1)           The corrupting of the simple principles of the gospel by the admixture of the so-called philosophic systems of the times.

(Such as honoring, sustaining and obeying the laws of the land, regardless of how corrupt they become, in preference to the laws of God.)

(2)           Unauthorized additions to the ceremonies of the Church, and the introduction of vital changes in essential ordinances.

(Such as changing the temple ceremony, eliminating re-baptism and traveling without purse or scrip, abandoning the United Order, etc.)


[216]      (3) Unauthorized changes in Church organization and government.

(Such as doing away with the Church Patriarch and abolishing the local level Seventies, etc.)

(The Great Apostasy, Talmage, pp. 90-91)

The Church’s interpretation of the term apostasy has even changed. The following comes from a recent Bishop’s Handbook:


As used here, apostasy refers to members who (1) repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders; (2) persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority; or (3) continue to follow the teachings of apostate cults (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority. In such cases, excommunication may be necessary when repentance is not evident after counseling and encouragement. Total inactivity in the Church or attending or merely holding membership in another church does not constitute apostasy. (Bishop’s Handbook, March 1989, 10-3)

In other words, if you are an active member of the Church–going to every meeting, paying full tithing, keeping the Word of Wisdom, holding a temple recommend, doing all your genealogy, and teaching classes–but follow the teachings of those who “advocate plural marriage” or other doctrines taught by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, that constitutes apostasy!

However, on the other hand, if you are totally inactive, giving the Church no support (economic, social, or spiritual), and you even join some other church (such as the Catholics) and follow the teachings of the Pope, that is not apostasy!


[217] The devil is so clever at deception that when he leads men astray, they don’t even know it, so “the apostates think that everybody is wrong but themselves.” (Brigham Young, JD 16:66) The Lord warned the Saints that–

. . . your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received, which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. (D & C 84:54-55)

Holding keys of the Priesthood does not mean automatic protection from being influenced and overtaken by the adversary. The Lord will not “force” men to be obedient, in spite of circulating erroneous statements, such as “the Lord will not allow us to be led astray.”

Powerful military generals may crush and destroy their enemies and capture soldiers, cities, and even nations, but the most cunning and powerful forces are not in the military, but in subtle subversion. The devil uses this subversive tool to gain control of governments and churches, and has done so well that he claims power over “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.” (Matt. 4:8) He would rather overtake his enemy rather than destroy him, as mentioned in the classic statement of the late Dean Inge:

History seems to show that the powers of evil have won their greatest triumphs by capturing the organizations which were formed to defeat them, and that when the devil has thus changed the contents of the bottles, he never alters the labels. The fort may have been captured by the enemy, but it still flies the flag of its defenders. (Prophets, Principles, and National Survival, J. L. Newquist, p. 339)

In conclusion, we quote from Ezra Taft Benson:



With the passing of the Apostles [of Christ] and the loss of the priesthood keys, corrupt doctrines were introduced into the Church. In the words of one eminent historian, “Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it.” (Tchgs. of E.T. Benson, p. 86)

With the passing of time, the correct order and doctrines of the Church have passed away–through attrition of the noble and valiant leaders and indifference and changes instigated by the rest. In a similar manner the Kingdom has suffered the same fate–with its organization and long-range objectives dissolving into the past. As both the Church and the Kingdom have adopted worldly customs and laws, the keys of both have diminished.



[219]                             Chapter 13



They are they who are the church of the Firstborn. They are they into whose hands the father has given all things–They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory. (D & C 76:54-56)

Many scriptural passages and prophets have mentioned another church besides the Church of Jesus Christ; it is called the Church of the Firstborn. Some of these references are as follows:


Genesis 9:23 (JST)

Hebrews 12:23

Romans 8:29

Doc. & Cove. 76:54,67,71,94,102; 77:11; 78:21; 88:5; 93:22; 107:19

Doc. History of the Church (10 times)

Brigham Young (JD 8:153, 155; 13:30)

Heber C. Kimball (JD 5:129)

Orson Pratt (JD 8:51; 18:67, 365)

John Taylor (JD 18:311)

Wilford Woodruff (JD 13:169)

Henry Naisbitt (JD 21:109)

Although the Lord gave instructions on the proper name for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (D & C 115:4), He distinguished this other church by calling it a [220] different name. The reason is because they are two separate churches with different missions and qualifications for entrance.

When did this Church of the Firstborn begin? According to Heber C. Kimball–

Here, in the Territory of Deseret, is the kingdom of God, and here are all the officers pertaining to that kingdom; and here is an organization that is organized after the order of God, and it is organized after the order of the Church of the Firstborn.

Let me explain what the Church of the First Born is. It is the first Church that ever was raised up upon this earth; that is, the first born Church. That is what I mean; and when God our Father organized that Church, He organized it just as His Father organized the Church on the earth where He dwelt; and that same order is organized here in the city of Great Salt Lake; and it is that order that Joseph Smith the Prophet of God organized in the beginning in Kirtland, Ohio. Brother Brigham Young, myself, and others were present when that was done; and when those officers received their endowments, they were together in one place. They were organized, and received their endowments and blessings, and those keys were placed upon them, and that kingdom will stand forever. (JD 5:129, 1857)

Brother Heber clearly talks about the organization of this separate church [of the Firstborn] in Kirtland, Ohio, where he and Brigham Young were present. It is distinguished from the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was organized in Fayette, New York, on April 6, 1830, before Brigham and Heber had even heard about the Church.

It can be taken from some passages that the Church of the Firstborn was God’s church, as differentiated from Christ’s church. For example:



This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom. Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son. (D & C 88:4-5)

The ordinances and authority of the Aaronic Priesthood make it possible to enter into the membership of the LDS Church; but it requires the ordinances and authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood to enter into the Church of the Firstborn.

The Church of the Firstborn is a spiritual church for which the Church of Jesus Christ is a preparatory church. Membership in the Church of the Firstborn is for those who are chosen, called and elected. The first principles of the Church of Jesus Christ open the door to the higher principles of the Church of the Firstborn.

Paul explained to the Hebrews why the children of Israel failed to ascend the mountain:

For they could not endure that which was commanded, . . . And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake: But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. . . . (Hebrews 12:20-24)

The children of Israel had rejected the higher laws and the higher Priesthood; therefore, they were limited to the lesser laws and the lesser Priesthood. But still these Saints of Christ were promised to go to–



  1. Mount Sion (but not up on the mount itself)
  2. The city of the living God
  3. The heavenly Jerusalem
  4. An innumerable company of angels
  5. The general assembly
  6. The church of the Firstborn
  7. God
  8. The spirits of just men made perfect
  9. Jesus the Mediator

It appears, from the revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, that there are three distinct and separate churches:


  1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “For thus shall my church be called in the last days,…” (D & C 115:4)
  2. The Church of the Firstborn. “And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn.” (D & C 93:22)
  3. The Church of the Devil. “Contend against no church, save it be the church of the devil.” (D & C 18:20)


The ultimate objective of all Saints should be to enter into the Church of the Firstborn, not just the Church of Jesus Christ. Joseph Fielding Smith described how to enter into this higher church:

Each person baptized into the Church is under obligation to keep the commandments of the Lord. . . . When he has proved himself by a worthy life, having been faithful in all things required of him, then it is his privilege to receive other covenants and to take upon himself other obligations which will make of him an heir, and he will become a member of the “Church of the Firstborn.” (Seek Ye Earnestly, Smith, p. 147)



Those who gain exaltation in the celestial kingdom are those who are members of the Church of the Firstborn; in other words, those who keep all the commandments of the Lord. There will be many who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who shall never become members of the Church of the Firstborn. (Doc. of Sal. 2:41)

He then went on to explain that holding a high position in the Church is no guarantee that someone will become a member of the Church of the Firstborn:

So being ordained an elder, or a high priest, or an apostle, or even President of the Church, is not the thing that brings the exaltation, but obedience to the laws and the ordinances and the covenants required of those who desire to become members of the Church of the Firstborn, as these are administered in the house of the Lord. To become a member of the Church of the Firstborn, as I understand it, is to become one of the inner circle. We are all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by being baptized and confirmed, and there are many who seem to be content to remain such without obtaining the privileges of exaltation. (Ibid., 2:42)

Thus, holding high Church positions and attending to Gospel ordinances still is no guarantee that a person will belong to the Church of the Firstborn.

Joseph Smith, after quoting Paul’s message to the Hebrews, added that someone–

. . . can never see the celestial kingdom of God, without being born of water and the Spirit. He may receive a glory like unto the moon, or a star, but he can never come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn, which are written in [224] heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, unless he becomes as a little child, and is taught by the Spirit of God. (TPJS, p. 12)

To gain a place in a spiritual kingdom, or church, one must become spiritual himself. Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated that “as the Church of Jesus Christ is his earthly church, so the Church of the Firstborn is his heavenly church.” (The Promised Messiah, McConkie, p. 47)

Elder McConkie describes the difference in agency, powers, and membership requirements for the two churches:


The Church on earth is patterned after the Church in heaven, where God himself is its President, Lawgiver, and King. The Church there is the administrative agency through which the Almighty governs the universe. Members of the earthly church “who overcome by faith” shall be members of “the church of the Firstborn” in the highest heaven of the celestial world. (D & C 76:51-54) Such persons, however, need not await that celestial day to gain a perfect knowledge of God and his heavenly kingdom. Through “the power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood,” they “have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. (D & C 107:18-19) (Millennial Messiah, McConkie, p. 123)

Interestingly, there are references to keys associated with both the Kingdom and the Church, but there is rarely any mention of keys connected with the Church of the Firstborn; yet this Church appears to be more spiritual, has a greater glory, and is a higher objective for faithful Saints.


[225] Receiving higher ordinances of the Gospel does help to qualify one to become a member of the Church of the Firstborn. Brigham Young said, “The ordinances of the house of God are expressly for the Church of the Firstborn.” (JD 8:154) And Elder McConkie expressed the same view:

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who so devote themselves to righteousness that they receive the higher ordinances of exaltation become members of the Church of the Firstborn. Baptism is the gate to the Church itself, but celestial marriage is the gate to membership in the Church of the Firstborn, the inner circle of faithful saints who are heirs of exaltation and the fulness of the Father’s kingdom. (Mormon Doctrine, McConkie, p. 139)

The Lord gave a short summary of some of the necessary steps to become a member of the Church of the Firstborn:

And again we bear record–for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just–

They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given–

That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;

And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.

They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.

They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things–


They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory. (D & C 76:50-56)

To list these qualifications, the candidates–


  1. Receive the testimony of Jesus
  2. Are baptized by immersion
  3. Keep the commandments
  4. Have the Holy Spirit for a guide
  5. Overcome by faith
  6. Are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise
  7. Receive all things from the Father
  8. Become priests and kings
  9. Receive of God’s fulness and glory

The Lord gives further information about those who become members of the Church of the Firstborn:


  1. “These are they who are just men made perfect.” (D & C 76:69)
  2. “These are they whose bodies are celestial.” (D & C 76:70)
  3. “They see as they are seen, and know as they are known.” (D & C 76:90)
  4. “Another comforter . . . is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom.” (D & C 88:3-4)
  5. “And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn.” (D& C 93:22)

What does He mean we are “begotten” through Him? This is a very important mystery, which has seldom been explained.


[227] First of all, Paul said, “Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee.” (Heb. 5:5) How could the Father say to His 30-year-old son, “Today I have begotten thee?”

Again, God told Joseph Smith, “all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn.” (D & C 93:22)

Peter also mentions this special meaning: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)

All mortals were once spirit children born of the Father, but only a few belong to the Church of the Firstborn–so only those few members are somehow “begotten” through the Lord in some other manner with some other meaning–almost as if it were some kind of “new birth”.

John the Beloved clarified it a little better: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him.” (1 John 5:1)

But finally it all becomes much clearer in the writings of Mosiah:

And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. (Mosiah 5:7)


[228] There are many, many people who believe on Jesus, have accepted some of the Gospel ordinances, and have even received offices in His Church–but they have never had their “hearts changed through faith on his name,” and have never been “born of him;” thus they cannot belong to the Church of the Firstborn.

Apparently there are three different levels when one is “begotten:” (1) born as a spirit in the pre-mortal world; (2) born as a mortal, and (3) born again spiritually through the Holy Spirit.

Because so little has been revealed about the Church of the Firstborn, we must rely on the inspiration and understanding of those who have learned more about this distinctive church. The following eight references by Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Orson Pratt, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Bruce R. McConkie, should increase our understanding of this important organization.

Brigham Young:

The sectarian world, as we call them, is a professed church of God, without the Priesthood. Sectarians have not the Priesthood; but all of them who live according to the best light and intelligence they can obtain through faithfulness to what they believe, as taught unto them, will receive a kingdom and glory that will far transcend all their expectations, imaginations, or visions in their most excited moments whether in their falling down power, jumping power, or squawling power. All they have desired or anticipated they will receive, and far more; but they cannot dwell with the Father and Son, unless they go through those ordeals that are ordained for the Church of the Firstborn. The ordinances of the house of God are expressly for the Church of the Firstborn. (JD 8:154)


[229] John Taylor:

We are placed in this world to prove us. What shall we do? Why, fear the Lord and do the best we can, trusting in him. If we do that, all is right pertaining to the future. But what are we all aiming at? I am looking for a celestial glory. I want to be associated with the Church of the Firstborn, whose names are written in the heavens, and with Prophets and Apostles, and with all the holy men of God who are inspired with the same hopes, who lived generations ago, as well as with such men who now live. (JD 18:311)

Wilford Woodruff:

What joy, consolation and satisfaction it will be to the Apostles, Elders and Saints of God, of this day, who remain true and faithful to the end, having become members of the Church of the Firstborn, and been valiant in the testimony of Jesus, when they meet Father Adam, Enoch, Jacob, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus and the Apostles, how great their joy will be! They labored in their day for the work of God, and their toils are over; we are having our day and our labor. By and by we shall meet and mingle in the eternal world. (JD 13:169)

Orson Pratt:

Now, his will must be done on the earth as it is in heaven, in order that that prayer which has been offered up by his people ever since it was revealed, may be fulfilled to the very letter. Hence the great necessity of the Latter-day Saints preparing themselves by being united, even as the hosts of heaven are. For remember that the Apostle Paul says, “that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on the earth; even in him.” If then the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn are to come down out of heaven to dwell on the earth, how important it is that the Latter-day Saints should be prepared to join this grand company, being united as they are, having no feeling of dissension, no division in [230] their midst, no evil or corruption of any nature; no covetousness, no feeling of individuality in regard to wealth, but having all upon the alter ready to subserve the purposes of the Most High in building up His kingdom upon the earth. (JD 18:365-366)

Orson Pratt:

The sun is a very glorious body; and when you look upon it, so great is the light, that you can scarcely see surrounding objects; but the light of the sun is nothing to be compared with the glory of that personage who shall appear when the heavens shall be unveiled, or unfolded like a scroll. The light of the sun will dwindle away, and he shall hide his face with shame. Who will be with Jesus when he appears? The decree has gone forth, saying, Mine Apostles who were with me in Jerusalem shall be clothed in glory and be with me. The brightness of their countenance will shine forth with all that refulgence and fulness of splendour that shall surround the Son of Man when he appears. There will be all those personages to whom he alludes. There will be all the former-day Saints, Enoch and his city, with all the greatness and splendour that surround them: there will be Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as they sit upon their thrones, together with all the persons that have been redeemed and brought near unto the presence of God. All will be unfolded and unveiled, and all this will be for the wicked to look upon, as well as the righteous; for the wicked will not as yet have been destroyed. When this takes place, there will be Latter-day Saints living upon the earth, and they will ascend and mingle themselves with that vast throng; for they will be filled with anxiety to go where the Saints of the Church of the Firstborn are, and the Church of the Firstborn will feel an anxiety to come and meet with the Saints on earth, and this will bring the general assembly of the redeemed into one; and thus will be fulfilled the saying of Paul, “that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in him.” (JD 8:51)


[231] Joseph Fielding Smith:

The Scriptures say that eternal life–which is the life possessed by our Eternal Father and his Son, Jesus Christ–is the greatest gift of God. Only those shall receive it who are cleansed from all sin. It is promised to those “who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true. They are they who are the Church of the Firstborn. They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things.” (D & C 76:52-55) (The Way to Perfection, p. 22)

Bruce R. McConkie:

When a man has “his calling and election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter,” the Second Comforter, the Prophet Joseph Smith tells us. Then he asks: “Now what is this other Comforter?” His answer: “It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, and the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions–Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn.” (TPJS, pp. 150-51) (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pp. 498-99)

Bruce R. McConkie:

The Church of the Firstborn is the church among exalted beings in the highest heaven of the celestial world. It is the church among those for whom the family unit continues in eternity. In a sense it is the inner circle within the Lord’s church on earth. It is [232] composed of those who have entered into that patriarchal order which is called the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. As baptism admits repentant souls to membership in the earthly church, so celestial marriage opens the door to membership in the heavenly church. (Ibid., p. 337)

Apparently the Church of the Firstborn is not a visible church that one can join. It is not a church established by man, nor does man control it. It is not a church we can ask for keys to gain membership.

The Church of the Firstborn is for those who have faithfully used the keys of the Priesthood and have proved themselves worthy of that membership. It is more of a reward than an ordination. The Church of Jesus Christ is a physical church; the Church of the Firstborn is a spiritual church.

They who dwell in His presence are the church of the Firstborn, and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of His fulness and of His grace. (D & C 76:94)

Those who are raised to join the ranks of all the great prophets, apostles, patriarchs and kings, will be members of the Church of the Firstborn. Will they meet together like any other church? Apparently so, as one of the meetings will occur when Jesus will again “drink of the fruit of the vine” with all those great men and “with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world.” (See D & C 27:5-14.)



[233]                             Chapter 14



And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom. (D & C 88:77)

The doctrines of the kingdom are the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are the keystone to exaltation and the pathway to the Celestial Kingdom. They should be valued as one of the greatest treasures on earth.

The problem with learning “the doctrine of the kingdom” is that it requires much searching, study, and faithful obedience to the commandments. There are so many false doctrines of devils, contending doctrines of modern Christianity, and changed doctrines in the Church of Jesus Christ, that God’s true doctrines are not easy to find.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ have always had difficulty in accepting and learning and maintaining the doctrines of the kingdom. Since most of them are not popular with the world, Church members are often persuaded to substitute more accepted policies for difficult doctrines.

There is a significant difference between policy and doctrine. Policy is not an eternal truth, and it frequently changes with the times, conditions, opinions, social life, and [234] wishes of its members. When the doctrines of the Priesthood are treated in the same manner, apostasy has begun its work.

Policy changes frequently; doctrine remains fixed. In matters of true doctrine, there is no conflict between living and dead prophets. Truth is consistent, and doctrines of the Priesthood are eternal.

Keys of the Priesthood seldom have anything to do with policies, but rather with the doctrines of the Kingdom. Duane Crowther wrote:

The author has often encountered those who, consciously or unconsciously, have attempted to establish or observe false standards of what is doctrine. Certainly doctrine is not determined by such superficial standards as “was it printed by the Church?” “is it carried in Deseret Book?” “wasn’t that book written in the temple?” etc. Doctrine is not determined by when it was said, where it was said, where it was written, who is the author, who published it, who owns the copyright, etc. (Thus Saith the Lord, Crowther, p. 254)

The question obviously should be, “Is it true?” Duane presented a list of points that help to identify correct doctrine:


  1. Doctrine comes from God the Father, through Jesus Christ.
  2. Doctrine is sacred, and represents an attribute of godliness.
  3. God’s doctrines are revealed statements of eternal truths, saving principles, or aspects of His plan of salvation.
  4. God’s doctrines explain man’s relationship to Christ.
  5. Doctrine serves as a standard of conduct.
  6. Doctrine is closely related to the gospel of Christ.
  7. Doctrine is recorded in the scriptures.
  8. Church workers and leaders sometimes preach incorrect doctrines. [235]
  9. Doctrines are to be taught to one another by the saints.
  10. Satan seeks to lead men astray through false doctrine.

(Thus Saith the Lord, Crowther, p. 247)

True doctrine embraces every law, ordinance, principle and covenant of the Gospel. It is the first thing taught in the work of the ministry, and it is the first thing in the Church of Jesus Christ that the devil seeks to overthrow. To understand the doctrines of the Priesthood is more important than its history, philosophy, church organization or policies.

For a guide the Lord has given us the Doctrine and Covenants which contains the doctrines of the Priesthood and the covenants we make pertaining to those doctrines. If we are not following those doctrines and obeying those covenants, then what (or whom) are we following and obeying?

The doctrines of the kingdom are like the laws of science, mathematics, and chemistry–they are constant, fixed and everlasting. Charles W. Penrose acknowledged:

He governs the universe by fixed laws that cannot be turned out of their way by the whims of men. And so it is in the spiritual universe. Earthly things are a pattern of heavenly things, and as there are laws that govern the physical things, so there are also fixed laws which govern spiritual things. (JD 22:89)

And John Taylor’s comments were very similar:

. . . there are laws that pertain to the physical world in which we live, and those that govern the sun, the moon, and the countless stars that shine in the dome of heaven. With all these man has nothing to do. He never has been and in the nature of things never can be able to change what are called the laws of nature. If any congress, parliament, or convocation was to [236] pass a law changing the period of the earth’s revolution, or the phases of the moon, or the rising or setting of the sun, or if all the congresses, parliaments, or legislative bodies in the world were to unite to pass such a law, it would be of none effect, or utterly useless, for the simple reason that these laws are entirely independent of man’s action and outside of his control. So with the laws governing man’s physical being or that of the brute, or those natural to the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms, all these are irrevocably fixed and unchangeable so far as man is concerned. All beings, all things, from the Great Creator to the minutest form of life are governed by the law of their existence. The laws by which all created things fill the measure of their existence were placed there by a superior power to that of man, and he is impotent to change or annul them. All these are called natural laws. (JD 26:349-350)

Bruce R. McConkie made a brief scriptural summary of the importance of true doctrines:

Conversion to the truth comes by accepting true doctrine. (1 Ne. 15:15; 3 Ne. 21:6) Those so converted are expected to “speak . . . by doctrine” (1 Cor. 14:6); to teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom” (D & C 88:77); to “be perfected in the understanding of their ministry, in theory, in principle, and in doctrine” (D & C 97:14); to “act in doctrine” (D & C 101:78); and to learn more doctrine by revelation from heaven (D & C 121:45-46).

In the final analysis the truth of doctrine can only be known by revelation gained as a result of obedience. “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me,” our Lord proclaimed. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:16-17) (Mor. Doc., p. 205)

The keys of the Priesthood are always found in conjunction with the true doctrines of the Gospel. Thus there is an [237] important key here–those who teach false doctrine do not have the keys of the Kingdom.

There have been continuous warnings to Church members that they were becoming overtaken by the world and its doctrines, philosophies and wickedness. Brigham Young said it was his “worst fear” that they would depart from the doctrines established by the Lord. Many others have felt the same way. For example, Duane Crowther remarked:

In this day of many converts and rapid Church expansion, it is not uncommon to hear incorrect doctrines expressed in Church classrooms. Many lessons and sermons reflect only the level of understanding and doctrinal knowledge to which the speaker has attained at the time. As Latter-day Saints grow, they may find that they have been teaching some type of “false doctrine.” This is unfortunate, but it is probably experienced by most Church members. Doctrinal misconceptions can exist on any level–there is no doctrine of infallibility within the Church. (Thus Saith the Lord, Crowther, p. 280)

With all the brilliant scholars and theologians in the Jewish nation, they, too, made the terrible mistake of changing their religious doctrines. Jesus explained how futile their religion had become: “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt. 15:9)

Compare that statement to what the Savior told Joseph Smith about 1800 years later concerning the Christians:

. . . and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; … they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof. (P of GP, Jos. Smith 2:19)


[238] But now these “commandments of men” have entered into even the Restored Church, as J. Reuben Clark warned:

There is creeping into our midst, and I warn you brethren about it, and I urge you to meet it, a great host of sectarian doctrines that have no place amongst us. The gospel in its simplicity, is to be found in the revelations, the teachings of the prophet and the early leaders of the Church. We shall make no mistake if we follow them. We shall make mistakes, and we shall lead our youth, or some of them, to apostasy if we try to harmonize our simple beliefs with the philosophy and the speculations of sectarian doctrines. (Mel. Prsthd. Manual, 1968-69, from Immortality and Eternal Life, Clark, p. 156)

The strongest criticisms of many anti-Mormons are not against doctrines of the restoration itself, but over the constant changes in Church doctrine. If there is no consistency in the “truths” of Mormonism, then there is not much truth at all, because truth is eternal. How can Mormons teach “restored” doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ in one century and then oppose them in the next?

Many anti-Mormons have admitted to this author that “If there is any truth to Mormonism, the Fundamentalists have it,” because they still teach the same early fundamental doctrines.

In both the LDS Church and the US Government we have witnessed each new president instigate a few more changes, add or eliminate laws, and disregard the Constitution. Each president is a little worse than his predecessor because he not only accepts all the previous presidents’ changes, but also adds a few more of his own.

A testimony is one of the most powerful forces for good because it stands as a judgment. The people who reject a true [239] testimony may suffer the most terrible judgments, but the acceptance of such a testimony will bring heavenly rewards.


The devil has brought some of the most formidable attacks against the printed testimonies of truth. In ancient Egypt a king or noble who found disfavor with some earlier king, would destroy every book or obelisk that bore his name. The largest library in the world, once owned by the Arabs, was destroyed by disbelieving enemies–a loss of some of the most valuable documents in existence. For many centuries the Catholic Church burned all books that disagreed with their dogmas. A record was kept of discussions held around Martin Luther’s dining table with many prominent scholars and theologians. They were so profound and filled with wisdom that it was suggested that Luther print them in a book, which was done, and it was called Table Talk. However, Pope Rudolphus II became so infuriated at its contents that he–

. . . made an edict throughout the whole empire, that all the aforesaid printed books should be burnt; and also, that it should be death for any person to have or keep a copy. (Table Talk, ed., W. Hazlitt, “Introduction,” p. vi)

It was thought all such copies were destroyed, but a century later one was found in a building being torn down in Holland, and it was taken to England to be published.

In more recent years, under the direction of Heber J. Grant, many early books of Mormonism suffered a similar fate by fire.

The devil seems very eager to destroy the printed word, but he is even more eager to persuade men to say or sign something against the truth. Just a man’s signature can be the means of gaining millions of dollars, or result in the victim’s death or eternal misery.


[240] Two young men were asked by the Prophet Joseph to attend a meeting that was being held for the purpose of deposing the Prophet. He told them they might be asked to sign a document promoting such action, but Joseph added, “But be sure that you make no covenants, nor enter into any obligations whatever with them.” (Contributor 5:253) It would seem that two young men would be excused from signing something if it would save their lives, but Joseph told them, “they may shed your blood,” if they refused to sign; but he added, “Don’t flinch. If you have to die, die like men.”

Signing a document against a principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the same as a testament against the Savior Himself. He said, “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:33) And He also revealed that “all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified.” (D & C 101:5) All Melchizedek Priesthood holders who raise their hands to reject the laws of the Gospel, or to sustain something opposed to the true doctrines of Christ, is breaking their oath and covenant of the Priesthood.

Bishop John H. Koyle [of Dream Mine fame] made a statement to this author that has taken many years to completely understand. He said, “All the work of the temples will have to be done over, back to and including the administration of Wilford Woodruff.” That is a very serious statement to make, and I did not understand it until I realized that in 1890, members of the Church voted to break their oath and covenant of the Priesthood, and thus the keys of Elijah were revoked. From 1890 to the present time, there has been a continual denial of doctrines, changes in temple ordinances, and abandonment of Church offices and callings, such as the Seventies and Church Patriarch.


[241] But the structure remains–the Church continues to grow in size and popularity, its economy is booming, its acceptance by the world is better than ever. But is the price they’ve paid worth it? As a result of such actions, the Church has lost nearly every key to the Kingdom of God.

The scriptures abound with prophetic warnings concerning the deceptions and temptations that would be prevalent during the latter days. We are told that false prophets would arise to deceive almost the very elect. How would they do it? How could they do it? By gradually changing or even eliminating doctrines of the Kingdom from the Church. Joseph Smith translated the key verse:

For in those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant. (Jos. Smith 1:22)

These “elect” had to be Latter-day Saints, for no others could qualify or are bound by the oath and covenant of the Holy Priesthood.

Paul foresaw these events and warned the Saints:

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

. . . because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thes. 2:3-4, 11-12)


[242] The actual identity of this “son of perdition” is not made clear, but it is sufficient to know that this evil person will actually enter the “temple of God” and rule as if he were God, and deceive all those who do not recognize and obey true principles and doctrine.

When we change or discard the doctrines of the Priesthood, at that moment we break our covenants–which results in the loss of Priesthood keys and a possible disastrous outcome:

“And all those who preach false doctrines, . . . and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!” (2 Nephi 28:15)



[243]                             Chapter 15



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. (D & C 132:45)

There have been more disagreements, confusion, and controversy over the keys to plural marriage than all the other keys combined. For this reason, this chapter will be the longest, and for many readers the most interesting. It will be divided into the following major sections:


  1. Background of Priesthood Keys to Plural Marriage
  2. The Keys of 1886–and Beyond
  3. A Key to the Manifesto
  4. From Persecuted to Persecutors
  5. Groups and Splinter Groups


Background of Priesthood Keys to Plural Marriage

Ever since its introduction by Joseph Smith in the 1830’s, the law of plural marriage has been a highly controversial subject that has certainly not lost much intensity through the years. The arguments about who does and does not have the keys to perform plural marriages have been debated over and over again. But one thing is certain–those who oppose plural marriage do not hold the keys to plural marriage.


[244] Plural marriage has been the subject of hundreds of speeches, books, lectures, and debates; but let’s allow Orson Pratt to briefly represent all of them with these remarks:

God has told us Latter-day Saints that we shall be condemned if we do not enter into that principle; and yet I have heard now and then (I am very glad to say that only a few such instances have come under my notice,) a brother or a sister say, “I am a Latter-day Saint, but I do not believe in polygamy.” Oh, what an absurd expression! What an absurd idea! A person might as well say, “I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, but I do not believe in him.” One is just as consistent as the other. Or a person might as well say, “I believe in Mormonism, and in the revelations given through Joseph Smith, but I am not a polygamist, and do not believe in polygamy.” What an absurdity! If one portion of the doctrines of the Church is true, the whole of them are true. If the doctrine of polygamy, as revealed to the Latter-day Saints, is not true, I would not give a fig for all your other revelations that came through Joseph Smith the Prophet; I would renounce the whole of them, because it is utterly impossible, according to the revelations that are contained in these books, to believe a part of them to be divine–from God–and part of them to be from the devil; that is foolishness in the extreme; it is an absurdity that exists because of the ignorance of some people. I have been astonished at it. I did hope there was more intelligence among the Latter-day Saints, and a greater understanding of principle than to suppose that any one can be a member of this Church in good standing, and yet reject polygamy. The Lord has said, that those who reject this principle reject their salvation, they shall be damned, said the Lord; those to whom I reveal this law and they do not receive it, shall be damned. Now here comes in our consciences. We have either to renounce Mormonism, Joseph Smith, Book of Mormon, Book of Covenants, and the whole system of things as taught by the Latter-day Saints, and say that God has not raised up a Church, has not [245] raised up a prophet, has not begun to restore all things as he promised, we are obliged to do this, or also to say, with all our hearts, “Yes, we are polygamists, we believe in the principle, and we are willing to practice it, because God has spoken from the heavens.”

Now I want to prophesy a little. It is not very often that I prophesy, though I was commanded to do so, when I was a boy. I want to prophesy that all men and women who oppose the revelation which God has given in relation to polygamy will find themselves in darkness; the Spirit of God will withdraw from them from the very moment of their opposition to that principle, until they will finally go down to hell and be damned, if they do not repent. (JD 17:224-225)

But through its brief history as a Church doctrine, it changed from an exalting principle to a damning one. And strangely enough, those who once defended it the most, seemed to fight against it the hardest.

In the beginning of this dispensation no one really wanted to live plural marriage–at least not as it was intended by God to be lived. It took an angel with a drawn sword to make Joseph Smith live it. Brigham Young said he would rather be the object of a funeral than obey that law. John Taylor said he had been raised with the strictest morality and to live plural marriage was most reprehensible to him. Heber C. Kimball thought it would destroy his marriage, his home and his peace of mind. And so it went with many other early Saints.

At first (1843) Joseph Smith was the only one who held the appropriate keys: “I hold the keys of this power in the last days; for there is never but one on earth at a time on whom the power and its keys are conferred; . . .” (TPJS, p. 324) About 40 years later, President John Taylor testified in court that “There are hundreds of people who have authority (to perform plural marriages) . . . a great many have been appointed–hundreds.” (Des. News, Oct. 18, 1884)


[246] As early as 1829 and 1831 plural marriage was revealed as a true principle and a law belonging to the Priesthood and to this dispensation, but at that time it was not to be given to the Church nor was it to be lived as yet.

The Prophet Joseph could have obeyed it as early as 1833 and for certain by 1841. (For a list of the names and dates of Joseph Smith’s wives, see the article “A Trajectory of Plurality: An Overview of Joseph Smith’s 33 Plural Wives,” Todd Compton, Dialogue 29:2, Summer 1996.) However, the LDS Church did not accept it as a Church doctrine until August 28, 1852. This tells us a very interesting fact–that men, even leading men in the Church, were practicing plural marriage for at least ten years before the Church officially accepted it. If the Church were opposed to plural marriage, which they were, why did so many of the leading men live it? How could men get authority from a church that didn’t claim such authority? Or, where did they get their authority?

Furthermore, if polygamists were caught by Church leaders, were they excommunicated? And if so, did that take away their authority? Can the Church actually take away some authority which they never had themselves? Should we suppose that Joseph Smith never had that authority even though he said, “I hold the keys of this power.” (TPJS, p. 324) Obviously the authority to perform plural marriage was a Priesthood authority and was independent of Church acceptance or rejection. Plural marriage was a law, as stated 32 times in a revelation given on plural marriage (see D & C 132), but it was a law of the Priesthood. (See 132:7,19,28,44,45-46,58,64.) The Church functioned independently from this law since it was able to vote it in or out–and they did both!

As previously mentioned in this book, the Church and the Gospel are two different entities. The Gospel is an unchangeable product of the Priesthood, but the Church can [247] accept all, part, or none of it–which they actually did at the time of Christ on both continents.

Since the patriarchal law of plural marriage belongs to the Priesthood, if a man was not prepared to obey it, he would lose his keys to the Priesthood. This sounds quite radical, but John Taylor explained:


Joseph Smith told others; he told me, and I can bear witness of it, “that if this principle [polygamy] was not introduced, this Church and kingdom could not proceed.” When this commandment was given, it was so far religious, and so far binding upon the Elders of this Church, that it was told them if they were not prepared to enter into it, and to stem the torrent of opposition that would come in consequence of it, the keys of the Kingdom would be taken from them. * * *

It was necessary that one grand truth should be unlocked, which is, that man and woman are destined to live together and have a claim upon each other in eternity. The Priesthood being restored, the key was turned in relation to this matter, . . . . (JD 11:221)

In Nauvoo the Prophet Joseph attempted to recruit his best friends and associates to enter into plural marriage. John Taylor recalls when he and Joseph met on a hill and the Prophet said:

“Stop,” and he looked at me very intently. “Look here,” said he, “those things that have been spoken of must be fulfilled, and if they are not entered into right away, the keys will be turned.” (JD 24:231)

Joseph F. Smith also mentioned how these keys could have been turned against them:

When the time came to introduce this doctrine to those who were worthy in the Church, God commanded [248] the Prophet and he obeyed. He taught it, as he was commanded, to such as were prepared to receive and obey it, and they were commanded to enter into it, or they were threatened that the keys would be turned against them, and they would be cut off by the Almighty. (JD 20:29)

As mentioned in an earlier chapter, keys turn. They can both lock or unlock. They can unlock the heavens to receive heavenly blessings, or they can lock up so men forfeit the blessings. It is very difficult to unlock the heavens, but it is very easy to cause them to be locked up. All keys are easier to lose than to obtain. And this also applies to the keys of plural marriage.


The Keys of 1886–and Beyond

On October 13, 1882, President John Taylor received a revelation best known for the calling of Heber J. Grant and George Teasdale to the Apostleship. It stated:

Let my servants George Teasdale and Heber J. Grant be appointed to fill the vacancies in the Twelve, that you may be fully organized and prepared for the labors devolving upon you, for you have a great work to perform; and then proceed to fill up the presiding quorum of Seventies, and assist in organizing that body of my Priesthood who are your co-laborers in the ministry. You may appoint Seymour B. Young to fill up the vacancy in the presiding Quorum of Seventies, if he will confirm to my law. (Message of 1st Pres., Clark, 2:348)

Seymour Young was to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Levi Hancock, who had died four months earlier. However, Seymour had to live plural marriage to qualify to preside over the Priesthood.



Seymour B. Young added a second wife as ordered by the 1882 revelation before joining the First Council. All the First Council members that decade were polygamists. . . . (See “The Seventies in the 1880’s: Revelations and Reorganizing,” William G. Hartley, Dialogue 16:1, Spring 1983.)

Of the 75 senior presidents of the Seventy, nine were imprisoned for polygamy. It was getting more difficult to comply to that law and “church leaders used the reorganization movement to enforce the Word of Wisdom but not to increase plural marriages.” (Ibid., p. 86)

Accordingly, there were a number of men in Church positions who asked to be released rather than take a second wife. Lack of strict enforcement soon made it possible for monogamists to take leading positions in the Church, a condition that continued for eight more years until the Manifesto which totally reversed the order.

In 1884, when John Taylor was questioned in court by government lawyers regarding the authority to perform plural marriages, he was asked:

  1. When this authority is conferred upon any one by you, is it an authority limited to some particular case, or a general authority?
  2. It would be a general authority until rescinded.
  3. I understand it is you from whom the authority comes?
  4. Yes, sir; but I have nothing to do with the details of the matter.
  5. But you are the person who confers the authority?
  6. Yes, sir.
  7. Then you do know upon whom you do confer authority?
  8. There are hundreds of people who have authority.


  1. Who in this city is authorized to celebrate plural marriages?
  2. A great many have been appointed–hundreds. * * * formerly the Apostles were the ones who attended to these marriages, but latterly a great many others have been authorized. (Des. Even. News, Oct. 18, 1884)

Persecution and prosecution of the Saints by the U.S. Government continued to escalate. They were determined to destroy both the Mormons and their polygamy. In 1882 Congress passed the Edmunds Bill which brought more trouble to the Saints. By 1886 the government, which was established to protect citizens’ rights, was determined to destroy the rights of the Mormons. Lorin Woolley recalled:

The brethren were considerably agitated about this time over the agitation about plural marriage, and some were insisting that the church issue some kind of edict to be used in Congress, concerning the surrendering of plural marriage, and if some policy was not adopted to relieve the strain, the government would force the church to surrender. (The Priesthood of Modern Polygamy, Hales & Anderson, p. 50)

About this time John Taylor authorized and set apart several men to perpetuate the principle of plural marriage and gave them the calling to perform such marriages, regardless of what the Church or the government might say or do. This was preceded by the Revelation of 1886, which was received in the fall of that year.

This revelation was received after John Taylor had considered both sides of the issue, but still was unsure as to what to do. George Q. Cannon suggested that he take up the issue with the Lord, which he agreed to do. Since he was living on the underground, he was at that time staying at the John W. Woolley home in Centerville and entered the “south [251] room to retire for the night.” Lorin Woolley, John’s son, and Charles Birrell, had been selected to stand as guards; and relating the events of that night, Lorin reported:

I heard the voice of another man engaged in conversation with President Taylor, and I observed that a very brilliant light was illuminating the room occupied by the president. I wakened Birrell and told him what I had heard and seen, and we both remained awake and on watch the balance of the night. (Ibid., p. 50)

The next morning the two guards questioned President Taylor about the strange light and the visitor, to which he responded, “I had a very pleasant conversation all night with the Prophet Joseph.” He stated that the Savior had also visited them for awhile and had given him what we now consider as the controversial “1886 Revelation”.

(Picture of The John W. Woolley home in Centerville, Utah, where the Prophet Joseph Smith and Jesus both appeared to President John Taylor in 1886.)


[252] It has been stated by more recent Church leaders, “As to this pretended revelation, it should be said that the archives of the Church contain no such revelation.” In an “Official Church Statement” signed by Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and J. Reuben Clark, they denied the existence of the 1886 Revelation. Did they remove this revelation from the archives first so they could be justified in making this statement? One might respond with the fact that there is no revelation in the archives supporting the Official Declaration of the 1890 Manifesto, nor the Official Declaration of 1978. Therefore, using the same criteria, we must assume that they are both “pretended revelations.” Furthermore, what they have said about the 1886 Revelation could also be said about these last two official declarations–that “the said pretended revelation(s) could have no validity and no binding effect and force upon Church members, and action under it would be unauthorized, illegal, and void.” (Des. News, June 18, 1933) On the other hand, a copy of the 1886 Revelation is available and a photocopy is printed on the following two pages. It was presented by John W. Taylor to the Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve in 1911.

According to Melvin J. Ballard, “The pretended revelation of John Taylor never had his signature added to it, but it was written in the form of a revelation and undoubtedly was in his handwriting.” (“Marriage–Ballard-Jenson Correspondence,” p. 17)

  1. H. Roberts, while Assistant Historian of the Church, reportedly stated to some friends that he had seen, on more than one occasion, the original copy of this 1886 revelation, and knew that it was in the church archives; and in his opinion it was genuine.


[253]                                                            Sept 27, 1886

My Son John: You have asked me concerning the New and Everlasting Covenant and how far it is binding upon my people;

Thus saith the Lord: All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name, unless they are revoked by me or by my authority, and how can I revoke an everlasting covenant; For I the Lord am everlasting and my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated, nor done away with, but they stand forever. Have I not given my word in great plainness on this subject? Yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my laws and the keeping of my commandments, and yet have I borne with them these many [254] years; and this because of their weakness, because of the perilous times, and furthermore, it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regards to these matters. Nevertheless, I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not, And as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph: All those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law. And have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham’s seed and would enter into my glory, they must do the works of Abraham? I have not revoked this law, NOR WILL I, for it is everlasting, and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof; Even so, Amen.


[255] The real importance of the 1886 experience was not particularly the appearance of Joseph Smith and Jesus to John Taylor, nor the subsequent setting apart of men to seal in plural marriage–because these things had happened before and even afterwards. It was the content of this revelation that was of most significance, because the information revealed has served as a guide ever since. In summary–


  1. All commandments must be obeyed.
  2. Covenants cannot be abrogated or done away.
  3. They stand forever.
  4. It is pleasing to the Lord for men to use their agency in these matters.
  5. His word, covenants and law do not change.
  6. To enter His glory, they must and shall obey his law.
  7. Abraham’s seed must do the works of Abraham.
  8. The Lord had not revoked that law.
  9. He will not revoke that law.
  10. Those who will enter into His glory must obey the conditions of this law.

After his father’s death, Apostle John W. Taylor found this 1886 revelation in his father’s desk, and he told his brethren:

This revelation is either true or it is false. Assuming that it is true, it seems to me that it would be better to offer leniency on the side of the Lord, if you are going to offer any leniency, than on the side of politics. (“The Trials of John W. Taylor,” Feb. 22, 1911, p. 8; Church Archives)

During John W. Taylor’s investigation by the Twelve Apostles in 1911, Francis M. Lyman asked him:

“Do you think anyone can solemnize plural marriages with authority now?


John W.: I feel under certain circumstances they could, but it would depend on the circumstances. * * *

I don’t know what others have taken from this revelation. If the revelation is true, it would certainly impress me that the Church was relieved of responsibility in this matter and the responsibility placed upon the individual. (transcript of meeting as printed in “1886 Revelation,” pp. 10, 11)

Most Church members, and even leaders, would have been eager to accept a revelation supporting a compromise. When John Taylor went in to inquire of the Lord concerning a Manifesto, he was uncertain as to whether or not such a compromise would be acceptable to the Lord. When he came out the next morning, his mind was very clear on the course he should pursue:

Sign that document–never! I would suffer my right hand to be severed from my body first. Sanction it–never! I would suffer my tongue to be torn from its roots in my mouth before I would sanction it! (Truth 20:31)


(picture of John Taylor)


[257] Thus, it is reported that President John Taylor, in a meeting that took place the day after this revelation was received, commissioned men to lawfully continue plural marriages–both in and out of the Church. Men were obligated to live this Priesthood law regardless of what the Church said or did to them. Excommunication from the Church for living a higher law of the Priesthood would not affect their own individual Priesthood. The blessings promised for living it would far exceed any sacrifices made.

Lorin Woolley, one of those so commissioned, declared that John Taylor–

. . . then set us apart and placed us under covenant that while we lived, we would see to it that no year passed by without children being born in the principle of plural marriage. We were given authority to ordain others if necessary to carry this work on, they in turn to be given authority to ordain others when necessary. . . . (Statement by Lorin Woolley, reported in “1886 Revelation” pamphlet, p. 7)

Lorin Woolley prepared a statement called “Statement of Facts” and filed it with the Church Historian’s Office on October 6, 1912. This was the first open account of the 1886 revelation and meeting that followed.

This whole 1886 experience is the key foundation of those who claim to be Fundamentalist Mormons. There is no mention of setting up a church, taking tithing, having weekly meetings, or setting up a colony somewhere. Their calling (or keys) was to (1) live plural marriage, (2) perform plural marriage sealings, and (3) set apart others with this same calling.

In analysis, this 1886 revelation has all of the earmarks of a true revelation: (1) it was a “Thus saith the Lord” [258] revelation; (2) it sustained a correct principle; (3) it was given to the president of the Church; and (4) it was in his handwriting and was found in his desk.

By comparison, a phony revelation would have advocated: (1) giving up a true principle; (2) acting for the temporal, rather than the spiritual, salvation of the Church and the Saints; (3) surrendering to the enemy; and (4) obeying the law of the land rather than the law of God.

When the question was asked the Lord regarding a compromise to give up plural marriage, He responded very emphatically:

All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name unless they are revoked by me or by my authority, and how can I revoke an everlasting covenant, for I the Lord am everlasting and my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated nor done away with, but they stand forever. (1886 Revelation)

Plural marriage is a “new and everlasting covenant”. Therefore, no mortal man will ever receive any keys to lock up the practice of that principle or do away with it. Even though the Lord said He had given His word “in great plainness on this subject,” still today, members and leaders alike have great difficulty understanding it.


A Key to the Manifesto

The American dream of a land of freedom had turned into a nightmare of tyranny. It had become so corrupt that many states wanted to secede, while Utah was trying to join. For their devotion to the Constitution, the Saints in this area were rewarded with persecution and imprisonment. In a Dr. Jekyll/[259]Mr. Hyde performance, the lovely lamb of liberty had turned into a ravenous wolf. Instead of a military force to defend the Mormons, the U.S. Government sent an army out to destroy them.

If ever the Lord wanted to cleanse a nation, it was this one–and it certainly needed it. The Lord pleaded with the Saints to let Him fight their battles. In 1880, He revealed to Wilford Woodruff:

And what I the Lord say unto you, mine Apostles, I also say unto my servants the Seventies, the High Priests, the Elders, the Priests and all my servants who are pure in heart and who have borne testimony unto the nations. Let them go forth and cleanse their feet in pure water and bear testimony of it unto the Father who is in heaven.

And then, saith the Lord unto mine Apostles and mine Elders, when ye do these things with purity of heart, I the Lord will hear your prayers and am bound by oath and covenant to defend you and fight your battles. (Journal of Wilford Woodruff, Jan. 25, 1880)

And in 1889, about one year before issuing the Manifesto, President Woodruff was again told by the Lord:

Place not yourselves in jeopardy to your enemies by promise. Your enemies seek your destruction and the destruction of my people. If the Saints will hearken unto my voice, and the counsel of my servants, the wicked shall not prevail. Let my servants who officiate as your counselors before the courts make their pleadings as they are moved upon by the Holy Spirit, without any further pledges from my Priesthood. (“1889 Revelation to Wilford Woodruff,” SLC, as recorded in Revelations 1880-1890, Pioneer Press, p. 64)


[260] So the Lord had given Wilford Woodruff plain instructions on how He would fight their battles if they made no more promises or pledges to their enemies (the U.S. Government). But the pressures from within the Church, as well as without, were too great, and Woodruff made plans to compromise with the Government. He defended his action of issuing the Manifesto by claiming a revelation that showed him–

. . . the confiscation and loss of all the temples, and the stopping of all the ordinances therein, both for the living and the dead, and the imprisonment of the First Presidency and Twelve and the heads of families in the church, and the confiscation of all personal property of the people. . . . (Des. News, Nov. 7, 1891, as quoted in Way of the Master, Mark E. Petersen, p. 48)

At one time Woodruff was saying that the Lord promised to fight their battles, and then ten years later he was saying that the Lord couldn’t win those battles. According to him, these two revelations seemed to contradict each other.

On the other hand, he was also shown that if they did give up the practice of plural marriage, that massive apostasy would occur in the Church, and the members would take up the ways of the world. The Lord gave him and the Saints their free agency with two options–the majority voting to chose the easy path. The Gentiles are always looking for a chance to do battle with the Saints, but in 1890 the Saints gave up before the battle had really begun.

In the process of making this radical change in Church doctrine, President Woodruff further justified himself by saying:

The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind [261] of God. (D & C, 1982 ed., p. 292, following the Manifesto)

In other words, he was saying that the Lord was taking away the free agency of a man by forcing him to “be good” just because he was Church President. Why didn’t the Lord do the same thing to Joseph Smith? Compare what He told the Prophet:

Behold, thou art Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware thou wilt fall. * * * Except thou do this [repent], thou shalt be delivered up and become as other men, and have no more gift. (D & C 3:9, 11)

And now, verily I say unto Joseph Smith, Jun.–You have not kept the commandments, and must needs stand rebuked before the Lord; (D & C 93:47)

Being chosen to do the work of the Lord, being President of the Church, or holding keys of the Priesthood are no guarantees of infallibility and exaltation, nor do they protect one from sin, loss of free agency, or loss of Priesthood keys.

Also printed as an “Addendum” after the Manifesto was the following statement by President Woodruff:

The Lord has told me to ask the Latter-day Saints a question [regarding the Manifesto], and He also told me that if they would listen to what I said to them and answer the question put to them by the Spirit and power of God, they would all answer alike, and they would all believe alike with regard to this matter. (D & C, 1982 ed., p. 292)

But when presented with this question during the October 1890 General Conference, the Saints did not all “answer alike” or “believe alike”, as is very evident from the following six reports:



The vote in support of this motion [accepting the Manifesto] was nearly unanimous. (CHC 6:222, as printed in the Des. News, weekly, Oct. 11, 1890)

[When the Manifesto was read to the assembled Saints] Silence prevailed until someone from the gallery called for a second reading. After this request was granted, Quorum of the Twelve President Lorenzo Snow moved that the declaration be accepted as “authoritative and binding”. Many of the thousands in attendance abstained from voting. (Mormon Polygamy: A History, Richard Van Wagoner, p. 145)

Apostle Marriner W. Merrill noted in his 6 Oct. diary that the motion was “carried by a weak voice, but seemingly unanimous.” (Ibid., p. 145)

I thought it a very slim vote considering the multitude assembled. (“Thomas Broadbent Diary,” p. 24)

There were some of the people that did not vote. (Heber J. Grant, Journal, 6 Oct. 1890)

Although official accounts of this meeting [Oct. 6, 1890] state that the congregation voted unanimously to sustain the Manifesto, that was not the case. William Gibson, later a representative in the Utah legislature, voted against it. . . . The majority of the congregation refused to vote at all when the Manifesto was presented, . . . (“LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, 1890-1904,” Michael Quinn, Dialogue 18:1, Spring 1985, p. 48)

And why was the voting not unanimous? Could it have been that most of the Saints recognized that the Manifesto was not a revelation from God, but only a means of making peace with the Government? Certainly they could tell that the wording of this proclamation was not from God; He is not even mentioned in the five paragraphs of this “Official Declaration;” [263] and the second paragraph begins with, “I, therefore, as President of the Church … declare ….” which plainly identifies the person who is issuing this document.

But interestingly enough, Wilford Woodruff himself was not even the true author. He had several other brethren helping him with it–similar to a politician hiring a speech writer to assist with an important address during an election campaign. Two major sources explaining more about the real authorship of the Manifesto are included here: (1) a letter from Thomas Rosser, and (2) excerpts from the Reed Smoot Hearings.

Salt Lake City, Utah

August 4, 1956

Mr. Robert C. Newson

Salt Lake City, Utah


Dear Brother Newson;

In response to your inquiry as to authorship of the Manifesto of 1890, the following events which occurred on my mission to England and Wales during 1907 and 1908, might give you a satisfactory answer. Should anyone be interested, I have also made this statement in the form of a sworn affidavit, which was made and placed on file in 1935.

The following is a true and correct statement of an occurrence that transpired in Bristol England, on November 16, 17 and 18, in the year 1907, while I was on an LDS mission in that country:

By request of Charles W. Penrose, I was transferred from Nottingham Conference to Wales, my birthplace, to finish the rest of my mission at this time. So on the dates named above I was with President R. J. Smith of the Welch District, visiting Saints and investigators in Bristol during those three days.

[264] President R. J. Smith said to me: “I am glad to have you with me as I see that you have a strong testimony and implicit faith in God. With our faith and prayers, brother Rosser, I desire you to go with me and testify of the knowledge and testimony which you have of the gospel.

“We have one peculiar case here. The investigator believes in every principle of the gospel but Plural Marriage. Perhaps, through the help of the Lord, we can convince her that this is a true principle. I would like to have her baptized before the coming conference.”

We then went to this Sister’s home, and I was introduced to the lady by Elder Smith. After a few passing remarks, she said to us: “Brethren, I am ready for baptism!”

Brother Smith was much surprised, as well as myself. He then said: “What has now taken place?”

She then answered: “Brethren, only yesterday while doing my washing out there on the porch, I heard the voice of the Lord saying that Plural Marriage is true and was instituted from before the foundation of the world. Brethren, I am 55 years old….I don’t expect to enter the Principle, but nevertheless, I know it is true!”

Upon hearing this, Brother Smith and I left, rejoicing because of the testimony she had borne to us.

I then left for Treorachry, Wales, my birthplace, and labored there until May 23, 1908. Then I went back to Bristol, my headquarters, to a conference, which was held Sunday, May 24, 1908. On Monday morning, the 25th, our Conference Priesthood Meeting was held, which lasted four hours and a half. After the preliminary exercises, President Charles W. Penrose asked if any of the brethren had any questions on their minds, and if so, to present them now before he delivered his message to us.

Up went my hand.

“Allright,” he said.

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

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

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

Sincerely, your brother,

Thomas J. Rosser


[266] This Rosser letter was of great interest to Kenneth Godfrey who mentioned it in an article he wrote for Dialogue, wherein he also quoted from a letter to him from Dean C. Jessee of the Church Historical Department. The article states:

It has frequently been asserted by the so-called Fundamentalists, that the Manifesto was not a revelation at all. In support of this view, Thomas J. Rosser tells the following story. (Excerpt from Rosser’s letter was included here.)

In a letter to the author [Kenneth Godfrey], Dean C. Jessee, a member of the Church Historian’s staff, wrote: “Your reference to a meeting in Treararchy, Wales, at which Charles W. Penrose allegedly stated that he wrote the Manifesto, and the reference to the Wolfe testimony in the Smoot proceedings where he claims that John Henry Smith told him that the Manifesto was a trick to beat the devil at his own game are both frequently used quotations of the Fundamentalists.

“In checking the matter, the Church has no minutes of a meeting in Treararchy, Wales, on May 25, 1908. Neither do we have a journal of Charles W. Penrose. Aside from statements in Fundamentalist literature, I have been unable to find any reference to this meeting in Wales, or anything that would verify the Wolfe testimony in the Smoot investigation.

“To my knowledge there is no written revelation upon which the Manifesto was based.” –O/S Dean C. Jessee (“The Coming of the Manifesto,” Kenneth Godfrey, Dialogue 5:3, Autumn 1970, p. 20)

Apparently, the Church Historian’s Office staff had not been informed that the conference referred to was not held in Treararchy, Wales, but in Eastville, Bristol, as explained in the Millennial Star:

Minutes of the Bristol Conference

The Bristol semi-annual conference was held May 24th [1908], in the Wolseley Hall, Eastville, Bristol. [267] There were present President Charles W. Penrose, President C. G. Jarman and twenty-four traveling elders of the Bristol conference. After singing and prayer, President Jarman gave all present a hearty welcome. Expressed his appreciation at seeing so many saints and friends present from the outlying districts. * * * Elders R. J. Walker, Thomas J. Rosser, Frank I. Hill and John H. Bawden gave reports of their respective branches. The reports were very encouraging. (Mill. Star 70:348)

In his above letter, Dean Jessee referred to the “Wolfe testimony in the Smoot proceedings.” This leads us to the second major source explaining the authorship of the Manifesto. Three excerpts from the interrogation of Mr. Wolfe during the Reed Smoot hearings follow:

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

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

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

Mr. Carlisle. It was after the manifesto?

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



The Chairman. Was anything said to you about the manifesto being a grand thing, as it enabled the church to select the people they would admit to polygamy?

Mr. Wolfe. Such a statement has been made to me, but not by anyone who was high in authority. In a [268] conversation held during the Christmas holidays with a man by the name of Wilson– Mr. Worthington. What year?

Mr. Wolfe. 1905. He said to me that he wished he could go that day and see a man who had just had an heir born to him. He had married for his second wife a girl who was in Chicago two or three years ago, either as a missionary or a recent convert, and he said that this man had been married for twenty years without a son, and now he had one, and he rejoiced that it had been possible. I said: “Why, John, how about the manifesto?” He said: “Well, Brother Wolfe, the manifesto enables the church to exclude men who are not good men and men who ought not to have plural wives, but it gives an opportunity for worthy men to take more wives.” He spoke of it as being a glorious thing. (4:14)



Senator Overman. Was there any general feeling in the church that the manifesto was a trick, as I have seen stated? Was there any such feeling in the Church as that?

Mr. Wolfe. Now, Senator, I will have to answer you from hearsay, and not from my own knowledge. I have heard this statement made in Logan, that a man once got up in the tabernacle and spoke of the manifesto as the will of the Lord and a revelation, and some of his brethren told him that he must not talk that way. Among people generally, I think that the manifesto is regarded as simply a document to tide over existing conditions. I think that is the general sentiment.

Senator Overman. They do not regard the manifesto as a revelation and Divine?

Mr. Wolfe. I think not the same importance as the other revelations. (4:63)

Among the many other individuals questioned during the Smoot Hearings was George Reynolds, who admitted that he and two others “had assisted in writing” the Manifesto:



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

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

Mr. Worthington. Who were the three?

Mr. Reynolds. C. W. Penrose, John R. Winder, and myself.

Mr. Worthington. What did you do? You said you helped to write the manifesto, and I want to have an understanding of what you mean by that.

Mr. Reynolds. The answer came from the fact of the question coming to me whether I had read it and understood it, and I answered that I had assisted in writing it.

Mr. Worthington. Did you three, then, transcribe these notes of President Woodruff, or did you rewrite it, or what?

Mr. Reynolds. We transcribed the notes and changed the language slightly to adapt it for publication.

Mr. Worthington. It contained the substance?

Mr. Reynolds. Yes, it contained the substance.

Senator McComas. Did you, in transcribing the utterance of President Woodruff, make such change of phraseology as would make it ambiguous, so that it might apply to marriages subsequent and not to living with wives who had been married prior?

Mr. Reynolds. No, sir. Senator McComas. It must have come to your mind when you were copying and changing the phraseology whether this is to apply to the future and whether the past is to be expected, did it not?

Mr. Reynolds. No, sir; I have told you honestly what my feelings and opinions were.

Senator McComas. It did not occur to you then?

Mr. Reynolds. No, sir.

Senator McComas. That required years?

Mr. Reynolds. Yes, sir. We wrote it as we understood the president intended, with his manuscript [270] before us.

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

Mr. Reynolds. Yes.

The Chairman. That is your understanding of it?

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

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

Mr. Reynolds. Yes.

The Chairman. What business had you changing it?

Mr. Reynolds. We did not change the meaning.

The Chairman. You have just stated you changed it.

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

The Chairman. But you changed the phraseology?

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

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

Thus, according to the above references regarding the authorship of the Manifesto, there were at least six brethren who assisted in writing it: Wilford Woodruff, Charles W. Penrose, Frank J. Cannon, John White, John R. Winder, and George Reynolds. Doesn’t it seem quite amazing that so many men would be required to improve on a “revelation” from the Lord before it could be presented to the people for a vote? No wonder the voting was not unanimous!


[271] It was the probable intent of the Church leaders that by issuing the Manifesto, Utah would then be accepted as a state, and then the Saints could instigate their own laws and reinstate plural marriage. They called this “beating the devil at his own game.” However, they apparently did not count on the fact that they would not be able to select their own judges, who were appointed by the U.S. Government with prior instructions as to how to interpret the laws.

Then, too, Gov. Heber M. Wells refused to sign Senate Bill #4611 which provided that “no prosecution for adultery shall be commenced except on complaint of the husband or wife, or relative of the accused, …” and that “no prosecutions for unlawful cohabitation shall be commenced except on complaint of the wife or alleged plural wife of the accused.” (Senate Journal 1901, p. 254, March 6, 1901) Governor Wells himself was a Mormon who was–

. . . born and reared in Utah, myself a product of that marriage system, taught from infancy to regard my lineage as approved of the Almighty,” * * * [but he thought that] “if passed, [it] would be welcomed and employed as a most effective weapon against the very classes whose condition it is intended to ameliorate. * * * This bill holds out only a false hope of protection, and that in offering a phantom of relief to a few, it in reality invites a deluge of discord and disaster upon all. * * * I am unable to approve the bill now before me (Senate Journal 1901, pp. 422-424)

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

After the Manifesto was issued, Wilford Woodruff admitted in November 1891–



I know there are a good many men and probably some leading men in this Church, who have been tried and felt as though President Woodruff has lost the spirit of God and was about to apostatize. (Way of the Master, Petersen, p. 49)

The Saints were divided over it then, and they are still divided. For over 100 years plural marriage has been the most controversial doctrine in Mormonism. It has served as an excellent test for the Saints, for the Lord said:

. . . be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy. for if ye will not abide in my covenant, ye are not worthy of me. (D & C 98:14-15)

The Lord loves His martyrs, but all Saints are not required to be martyrs, for He promised, “I, the Lord, would fight their battles, and their children’s battles. . . .” (D & C 98:37)

For behold, I do not require at their hands to fight the battles of Zion; for, as I said in a former commandment, even so will I fulfill–I will fight your battles. (D & C 105:14)

How many times does the Lord have to tell us this before we will believe him?

In spite of the 1890 Manifesto, the fulness of the Gospel continues to be taught, the Priesthood still exists, and men and women still obey and live the principle of plural marriage. Of a truth, Woodruff declared, “And God Almighty decreed that the devil should not have the power to thwart it. If you can understand, that is the key to it. (Way of the Master, Petersen, p. 52)


[273] Plural marriages continued after the 1890 Manifesto, and were performed in Mexico, Canada, and even here in the United States. These sealings were performed by such leaders as George Q. Cannon, Joseph F. Smith, John W. Taylor, Anthony W. Ivins, Mathias F. Cowley, and John Henry Smith. On October 10, 1910, the Salt Lake Tribune printed a list of Apostles in the Church who were promoting and living plural marriage, such as Brigham Young, Jr., Abraham Cannon, George Teasdale, and Abraham O Woodruff. Others outside the Quorum were also performing those ordinances. Even though this article came out 20 years after the Manifesto, it listed the names of over 200 known polygamists.

But Brigham Young had prophesied:

The Government of the United States and all the kings of the world may go to war with us, but God will preserve a portion of the meek and humble of this people to bear off the Kingdom to the inhabitants of the earth, and will defend His Priesthood; for it is the last time, the last gathering time; and He will not suffer the Priesthood to be again driven from the earth. They may massacre men, women, and children; but the Lord will not suffer them to destroy the Priesthood; and I say to the Saints, that, if they will truly practice their religion, they will live, and not be cut off. (JD 2:184)

And the Prophet Joseph had explained:

The Priesthood is everlasting–without beginning of days or end of years; . . . Wherever the ordinances of the Gospel are administered, there is the Priesthood. (TPJS, p. 158)

Conversely, it is true that where the ordinances are not administered, the Priesthood does not function. Keys of the Priesthood accompany obedience to laws, principles and ordinances of the Gospel.


[274] The fulness of the Gospel is still alive–seriously wounded, but it does survive. It has been splintered and the splinters have splinters–who disagree over who has the most “authority” or the most “keys”. But a few righteous Saints still defend the restored Gospel and its eternal Priesthood laws as given to Joseph Smith, scattered though they may be.

There are many references to the eternal nature of the Priesthood, but none to the everlasting nature of the Church. The Church cannot function as it should without the Priesthood and its laws, but the Priesthood can function independently of the Church. If this were not the case, how do you explain the fact that Joseph Smith and many others lived the Priesthood law of plural marriage without the approval or knowledge of the Church? Why did many leaders and hundreds of Saints live plural marriage after the Manifesto without the consent of the Church? No eternal principle revealed in this dispensation has been or will be revoked. Those desiring the blessings of Abraham must do the works of Abraham; and if we do not live the laws of Abraham, we cannot go where Abraham is.

We would ask, For what is the Priesthood given unto man? It is that they may have a right to administer the law of God. Have they then a right to make void that law? Verily no.

None can revoke the decree but Him by whom it was given; neither can the laws of God be trampled upon with impunity, or revoked by a lesser power than that by which they were framed. (Mill. Star 14:595)

How could a document written by man (Manifesto) eliminate a principle ordained by God (plural marriage)? How could the words of an earthly compromise negate the words of God as expressed by the first four Church Presidents in this dispensation?



Joseph Smith: God commanded me to obey it. He said to me that unless I accepted it and introduced it, and practiced it, I, together with my people, would be damned and cut off from this time hence forth. But we have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction. (Contributor 5:259)

Joseph Smith (to William Clayton): The doctrine of plural and celestial marriage is the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on the earth, and that without obedience to that principle, no man can ever attain to the fulness of exaltation in celestial glory. (Historical Record 6:226)

Brigham Young: The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them. (JD 11:269)

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

John Taylor: We have been taught and conscientiously believe that plural marriage is as much a part of our religion as faith, repentance and baptism. (The Life of John Taylor, B. H. Roberts, pp. 357-358)

John Taylor: If we do not embrace that principle [the Patriarchal Order of Marriage] soon, the keys will be turned against us. If we do not keep the same law that our Heavenly Father has kept, we cannot go with Him. A man obeying a lower law is not qualified to preside over those who keep a higher law. (Wilford Woodruff, History of His Life and Labors, Matthias Cowley, p. 542)

John Taylor: What would be necessary to bring about the result nearest the hearts of the opponents of “Mormonism,” more properly termed the Gospel of the Son of God? Simply to renounce, abrogate or apostatize from the new and everlasting covenant of [276] marriage in its fullness. Were the Church to do that as an entirety, God would reject the Saints as a body. The authority of the Priesthood would be withdrawn, with its gifts and powers, and there would be no more heavenly recognition of the ministrations among the people. The heavens would permanently withdraw themselves, and the Lord would raise up another people of greater valor and stability. . . . (Des. Eve. News, Apr. 23, 1885)

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

Just prior to the Manifesto there were comparatively few Saints who were living plural marriage. So did the Lord allow the Manifesto to be issued for the Church because not enough of the members were living it? In December 1891, in their “Amnesty Petition to the President of the United States,” the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve admitted that the Lord did not force them to give up plural marriage.

To be at peace with the Government and in harmony with their fellow citizens who were not of their faith, and to share in the confidence of the Government and people, our people have voluntarily put aside something which all their lives they have believed to be a sacred principle. (Mess. of the 1st Pres. 3:231)


And about 40 years later the First Presidency [Grant, Ivins and Clark] said about the same thing:



. . . the church pledged itself, by its Presidency, by its members in General Conference assembled, and by its support of the State Constitution, to discontinue the practice of polygamous or plural marriage. Thus our people sacredly covenanted with the Government of the United States that they would obey the civil law. (Mess. of the 1st Pres., 5:322)

But even today people are free to choose what they want to believe. In the 1886 Revelation the Lord said, “It is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regard to these matters”–and they have. The Saints can find justification for either accepting or rejecting this law of the Priesthood. They alone will determine which way the keys will turn in their behalf.

Joseph Smith said, “the devil has no power over us only as we permit him.” (TPJS, p. 181) And Spencer W. Kimball related this truthful gem:

He [the devil] seems to have no keys for locked doors. But if the door is slightly ajar, he gets his toe in, and soon this is followed by his foot, then by his leg and his body and head, and finally he is in all the way. (Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 215)

This process pretty well summarizes what has happened, beginning in 1890 with the issuing of the Manifesto.


From Persecuted to Persecutors

The battle was over and someone had conditionally surrendered. What were the conditions? Leonard Arrington, former LDS Church Historian, explained the terms:

As a part of the “deal” by which this was arranged, church officials are said to have given [278] congressional and administration leaders to understand that they would support a proposition to (1) prohibit forever the practice of polygamy in Utah; (2) that the church would dissolve its Peoples’ Party, [Kingdom organization] and divide itself into Republican and Democratic supporters; and that the church would (3) discontinue its alleged fight against Gentile business and relax its own economic efforts. [United Order]. The temporal kingdom, for all practical purposes, was dead–slain by the dragon of Edmunds-Tucker. (Great Basin Kingdom, p. 379)

Within ten years the Church had not only surrendered their basic political, social and economic doctrines, but they began to oppose them. The enemies of Mormonism had ceased to fight against the Saints, but the Church itself gradually took up where they left off–and plural marriage was the most obvious target.

The perpetuation of plural marriage has nearly always been a covert operation, accompanied by confusion and contradiction. Both before and after the Manifesto, members of the leading quorums were divided in their opinions: some promoting it and some opposing it–and others even tried to spy and expose it.

President Joseph F. Smith was saying one thing and doing another. He set apart patriarchs and stake presidents as late as 1910 in Canada, to live the principle and seal others in plural marriage. Edward Wood, patriarch and temple president, was among them, and he obeyed the charge given him. However, only a year later (1911), President Joseph F. Smith claimed:

There is no man or woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who is authorized to contract a plural marriage. It is not permitted. . . . I want to say that we have been doing all in our power [279] to prevent it or stop it; and in order that we might do this, we have been seeking, to our utmost, to find men who have been the agents and the cause of leading people into it. (Conf. Rept., April 1911, p. 8)

What happened to those keys between 1910 and 1911?

A few years later, Heber J. Grant, President Smith’s successor, repeated the same thing:

As President of the Church, I once again solemnly declare that no man living has the authority to solemnize a plural marriage; and I hereby announce that it is the bounden duty of every Latter-day Saint, male and female, who knows of any such pretended marriage being performed, to inform the proper officers of the Church, in order that the Church’s honor may be maintained and that such individuals may be dealt with according to the rules and regulations of the Church and excommunicated therefrom. (Conf. Rept., Oct. 3, 1926, p. 12)

Heber J. Grant was an enigma–at one time advocating plural marriage and at another condemning it. He lived plural marriage both before and after the Manifesto; he was first a monogamist, then a polygamist, and then a monogamist again. Because of the time that he lived (1856 – 1945), he found himself on both sides of the fence, and giving contradictory statements. For example, five years before the Manifesto, when the government was busy making laws against plural marriage, Heber J. Grant declared:

No matter what restrictions we may be placed under by men, our only consistent course is to keep the commandments for God. We should in this regard, place ourselves in the same position as that of the three Hebrews who were cast into the fiery furnace. . . . We have but one choice, that is to abide in the law of God, [280] no matter as to the consequence. (Des. News, Apr. 6, 1885)

However, in June 1933 in a First Presidency statement regarding polygamists, President Grant said:

The great law-abiding, faithful Church membership cannot and must not be brought into disrepute, nor their honor and good faith challenged, by a small group of recalcitrant and evily led Church members in rebellion. (Mess. of the 1st Pres. 5:316)

Thus he contradicted and condemned his own lifestyles: at one point, he had lived plural marriage trying to qualify himself for Godhood; however, at another time he considered it adultery.

In order that there may be no excuse for any Church member to be misled by the false representations or the corrupt, adulterous practices of the members of this secret and oathbound organization, it is deemed wise again to set out the position of the church. (Mess. of the 1st Pres. 5:317)

Nine years after the Manifesto, President Grant pled guilty to living plural marriage. It is a fascinating story:

The tall, gaunt form of the apostle went up with a jerk, and he cast an uneasy, but defiant glance at the half hundred spectators, as Judge Norrell said: “The sentence of the court is that you pay a fine of $100.00 and in default of payment that you be imprisoned in the county jail for one hundred days, that is one day for each dollar of the fine.”

Grant quickly left the courtroom, walked to the clerk’s office, wrote his check on the State Bank of Utah for $100.00, and handed it over to Deputy Clerk Little in liquidation of the fine. The charge to which the apostle pleaded guilty, as stated in the information, was that he committed the crime of unlawful cohabitation on January 1st, 1899, and on divers other days, [281] and continually between January 1, 1899, and July 15, 1899, by unlawfully cohabiting with more than one woman. (See records of the Third District Court under date of Sept. 8, 1899; also S.L. Tribune, Sept. 9, 1899)

Heber J. Grant lived to become one of the greatest opponents of plural marriage. He tried very hard to locate and excommunicate the patriarchs and stake presidents that Joseph F. Smith had previously commissioned to keep plural marriage alive:

We have excommunicated several patriarchs because they arrogated unto themselves the right, or pretended right, to perform these ceremonies. And after our having excommunicated several patriarchs, another one, so I am informed, has committed the same offense. I announce to all Israel that no living man has the right to perform plural marriages. I announce that no patriarch has the right to perform any marriages at all in the Church. (Gospel Standards, H. J. Grant, p. 159)

Heber J. Grant taught contradictory doctrines and he lived a contradictory lifestyle. No wonder he was confused regarding the doctrine and keys of plural marriage.

Sometimes it is difficult for a man to change his character–even for his mother. When Heber was a young man, his mother told him to live righteously so that one day he might be called to be an Apostle.

I always said to mother: “Get it out of your head. I do not want to be an Apostle. I do not want to be a Bishop. I do not want to be a president of a stake. I simply want to live my religion and be a business man. (Des. News, Sept. 17, 1938)

Even while serving as President of the Church, he was heavily involved in business transactions, such as mortgaging [282] the temple, temple square, and other Church assets on a 50-year loan to promote the U & I Sugar Company.

It was 11 years after the Manifesto before anyone was excommunicated for living plural marriage. The selected victim was Apostle John W. Taylor, called “the prophet of the Quorum.” It was initially intended that he be a scapegoat to appease the U.S. Government, but eventually his excommunication was used as the example for all the believers in plural marriage.


(Picture of John W. Taylor)


Doesn’t it seem strange that the one man who was the most gifted and spiritual in the Quorum of Twelve would be the one selected to be thrown out of the Church? Even Mark E. Petersen was reported to have said something like, “Those *#@&% Fundamentalists are getting the best people in the Church!”


[283] The Mormon Church believes Joseph Smith is a prophet and so do the Fundamentalists; so why are they at such odds with each other? The answer is simple: one believes everything the Prophet Joseph taught, and the other does not. And the gap grows wider.

The Gospel net gathers fish of every kind, but there is a tendency in the Church to lower its standards and requirements to the capacity of the majority. But the Lord does not want His elect held back to that level. Daniel H. Wells, counselor to Brigham Young, was among many who prophesied that there would be a people from among this people who would do whatever it would take to build His Kingdom on earth:

And if we as a people do not hold ourselves on the altar, ready to be used with our means and all that God has bestowed on us, according to the Master’s bidding, for the upbuilding of His kingdom upon the earth, He will pass on and get somebody else; because He will get a people that will do it. I do not mean to say He will pass on and leave this people; no, there will come up from the midst of this people that people that has been talked so much about. (Des. News, Dec. 9, 1882)

These valiant few would not need to wait for Church leaders to direct them in the eternal laws they should obey and Priesthood keys they should use.

Why were so many leading men in the Church opposed to plural marriage? Simply because it had a bad reputation and they were trying to establish friendship with the world. For example, in 1933, Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and J. Reuben Clark wrote to the Saints: “Prosecutions under the Edmunds-Tucker Bill ceased and a spirit of neighborly good-will was established between members and non-members of the Church.” (Mess. of the 1st Pres. 5:321)


[284] This was their objective, and they were willing to pay whatever price was required to achieve it.

My greatest happiness, I find in the good will and friendship that has developed among all classes of people at home and abroad toward the Latter-day Saint Church, during my lifetime; in place of everyday persecutions and bitterness we now enjoy the high regard and happy association with all denominations. (Heber J. Grant, S.L. Tribune, Nov. 22, 1938)

President Grant and the other leaders and members who fought against plural marriage got what they were after, and will eventually be blessed accordingly.


Groups and Splinter Groups

The LDS Church, by vote, accepted the law of plural marriage in 1852; then by similar vote they rejected it in 1890. It was their privilege and their right to make those choices, but plural marriage and other ordinances pertaining to the fulness of the Gospel still remained as laws of the Priesthood. The vote of the people cannot change Priesthood laws.


Unfortunately, since there was no defined Priesthood organization separate from the Church, many different groups began claiming Priesthood authority and keys–and the calling to keep all the Gospel doctrines in tact and alive. As mentioned earlier, “hundreds” of men had been commissioned to perform plural marriage sealings, and most of the group leaders alive today claim their authority through one of only a few major lines.

The following four charts taken from The Priesthood of Modern Polygamy: An LDS Perspective, by Brian Hales and Max Anderson, pp. 12-13, show some of the claims of authority as of 1992. There are also some, however, that [285] claim to have received their authority and calling direct from the Lord in recent years.


(line of authority chart for the LDS church)

This line of authority to perform plural marriage ended with Heber J. Grant because he admitted that he no longer held those keys.



From out of the two major Fundamentalist groups existing today, many more have mushroomed, with their “prophets” also claiming authority and “keys”.


(line of authority chart for the major Fundamentalist groups)


[287]          (line of authority chart for the LeBaron groups)

Nearly every son of Alma Dayer LeBaron claimed to be the “one” holding all the keys, the most publicized of whom was Ervil LeBaron, who methodically killed his dissidents and rivals while trying to maintain his sole claim to these “keys.”

With the death of Joel, Ervil, and Ross, this line of authority has become scattered, vague and contradictory, and at times has remained very violent in enforcing their claims to keys.



There are probably more “Independent Fundamentalists” who believe in the fulness of the Gospel than those belonging to any groups. They range from LDS members who stay in the mainstream church to individual families advocating a strong family patriarchal system and living the Gospel the best they can on their own. Some of the Independents attend group meetings but don’t necessarily go along with their claims of authority. (See the pamphlet “Independent Fundamentalist Mormon” by this author.)


(line of authority chart for Independent Fundamentalists)


[289] Rivalry has increased among the break-off groups and their leading prophets. There are continual feuds and arguments over which men are commissioned to perform plural marriage sealings and who has “Priesthood keys.”

As soon as one of these break-off groups becomes organized, it is in competition to the LDS Church, with each one gunning after the other, and the situation becomes a target for both media and law officials.

It has been stated by many that those men set apart in the 1886 meeting were given only the keys to teach and live the fulness of the gospel, seal plural marriages, and see that no year should pass but that someone was married or born in this principle.


After the meeting referred to, President Taylor had L. John Nuttall write five copies of the revelation. He called five of us together: Samuel Bateman, Charles H. Wilkins, George Q. Cannon, John W. Woolley, and myself [Lorin Woolley].

He then set us apart and placed us under covenant that while we lived we would see to it that no year passed by without children being born in the principle of plural marriage. We were given authority to ordain others if necessary to carry this work on, they in turn to be given authority to ordain others when necessary, under the direction of the worthy senior (by ordination), so that there should be no cessation in the work. He then gave each of us a copy of the Revelation. (“1929 Statement of Lorin Woolley,” as quoted in The Priesthood of Modern Polygamy, Brian C. Hales & J. Max Anderson, p. 253)

According to one author (who was a wife of someone on a group Priesthood council), there were certain things that these men were told not to do:



  1. organize
  2. colonize
  3. collect tithing
  4. set up any United Orders
  5. proselyte
  6. give patriarchal blessings
  7. hold public meetings

(Taken from The Betrayal of the Godhead, Priesthood Work, and Priesthood People, Jenna Vee Hammon, p. 10)

The reasons such warnings were given were that (1) these areas were mainly the responsibilities of the LDS Church; (2) if the people concentrated on them, they would lose sight of their main commission to keep plural marriage alive; and (3) getting into these additional responsibilities would result in the creation of a hierarchy, and it is the tendency of most leaders to become strong rulers who eventually exercise unrighteous dominion over the people–resulting in priestcraft rather than Priesthood.

It is a very perplexing problem today for individuals who want to enter into the law of Abraham, to find someone to perform the sealing, because of the restrictions established by the groups themselves and even some of the independent prophets. If the Lord should reveal to a man and a woman that they are to be joined in that law, and they approach someone they feel has that calling in one of the groups, they are usually told that they must first be baptized into their church group, attend meetings for a year, and pay their tithing to them. The people feel it is priestcraft because it looks like they are required to pay for that ordinance.

Let’s briefly consider a few of the most often asked questions pertaining to keys and plural marriage today:



  1. Can people be sealed for time and eternity outside of the temple?


This was answered in 1883:

While we are commanded to build temples, yet, under certain emergencies, a pile of stones, speedily erected as Jacob and others of old did, would answer for an altar and be acceptable to God, for it is the authority and not the place that possesses the virtue. The temple is aught without the priesthood (Des. News, April 1, 1883)

In the northwest corner of temple square an Endowment House was built in 1855, and was used for endowments and marriage and plural marriage ceremonies. It “remained in use with little interruption, for thirty-four years, when it was taken down by order of Wilford Woodruff, in the spring of 1889. . . .” (CHC 4:15)

Many Saints went to Canada and Mexico to be sealed in plural marriage during the 1880’s and continued for many years after the Manifesto. There were no temples in those countries at that time.

After passage of the Edmunds Law, March 22, 1882, [John] Taylor issued an epistle “On Marriage”, authorizing church marriages outside the temple or Endowment House. This was the first step toward taking polygamy underground again, as in Nauvoo days. (The Kingdom or Nothing, Samuel W. Taylor, p. 305)


  1. What right do people have to live plural marriage when the Church has abandoned that law?

We should ask here, “Were Moses and the 70 other faithful servants restricted from living the higher laws of the [292] Priesthood just because the majority of the Israelite children rejected them? When the Israelites rejected the higher laws of the Priesthood–

. . . he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also; and the lesser priesthood continued … which the Lord in His wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John. . . . (D & C 84:25, 27)

In the Book of Mormon, Alma and others lived higher principles than the general membership of the church.

In 1843, and before, Joseph Smith commanded men to take plural wives as a “higher principle,” long before it was accepted by the Church. Until 1852, plural marriages were kept quite secret from the general membership of the church, though most of them knew they were being performed.

It had been a matter of wide knowledge within the church for some time that such a principle was believed in and practiced by many of the leading elders; and yet none to whom this knowledge had come, felt at liberty to make proclamation of the doctrine, neither was it their prerogative to do so. . . . (CHC 4:57)

As we have already mentioned, the law of plural marriage is a Priesthood law and not always a law of the LDS Church.


  1. Recognizing the need for men to be set apart to continue plural marriage, did the Lord think it was necessary for groups to be established to carry out this work?

Little doubt exists anymore concerning the validity of the 1886 Revelation, but the meeting following has been a matter of controversy. Lorin Woolley said that President John Taylor [293] foretold of the time “when many of the Saints would apostatize because of this principle,” and so:


To meet this contingency, at the close of the meeting he held a private session with five of the men, to whom he gave “authority to perform marriage ceremonies,” Lorin said, and place them under covenant that, while they lived, they would see to it that no year passed by without children being born in the principle of plural marriage. They were given authority to ordain others when necessary. (Kingdom or Nothing, Taylor, p. 367)

At this point, however, no church or group was organized. Such formalization was not even considered for over 30 years. Such a body, according to some, would run counter to the organization and order of the Church.

Those receiving this special commission in 1886 and afterwards took seriously their obligation to see that no year passed without plural marriages being performed and children being born in that principle. However, as the years passed, some began to organize, which was against the wishes and understanding of some others. Questions arose as to whether or not the Lord was in favor of such organizing. According to Jenna Vee Hammon, the following incident happened, indicating that organizing was not in the Lord’s plan.

The following is a true happening that I saw, witnessed and heard in the year 1952 in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the summer of that year.

Our family always went to Sunday afternoon meetings of the Group (Priesthood). At this time it was being held at Carl Fischer’s home. The Sunday Meeting had just been dismissed and all the people were on their way to their cars. As I came out the door, I noticed Lyman Jessop talking to two men about 30 years of age, who had come up from California to investigate [294] the Priesthood work. While I was waiting for our family to come out, I heard Lyman trying to convince these two men of the truth of Joseph W. Musser’s call to the Priesthood Counsel of Rulon Allred, and that they should follow Rulon. The more Lyman pushed, the harder these two men resisted accepting it. They were not convinced at all. Finally, after a few minutes and making no headway with the two men, Lyman Jessop said in desperation, “Well, if I’m doing wrong and doing things I shouldn’t be doing and saying things the Lord doesn’t want me to do and say, I want the Lord to strike me dumb so I can’t speak and do these things anymore.” Well, the Lord took Lyman up on his request. He struck Lyman dumb on the spot and Lyman Jessop never spoke another word the rest of his mortal life. His family never knew what really happened to him and gave out the word that Lyman had a stroke.                              O/S Jenna Vee Hammon


  1. Who is qualified to be called a prophet and who holds these sealing keys?

We read that “Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. and they saw the God of Israel. . . . (Ex. 24:9-10) These men had Melchizedek Priesthood. (See D & C 107:18-19.) Joseph Smith explained:

That portion [of Priesthood] which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away; but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself. (TPJS, pp. 180-81)


In the charge given to the Twelve Apostles in Joseph Smith’s day, they were expected to seek for the same blessings:

The ancients passed through the same experience. They had this testimony–that they had seen the Savior after He rose from the dead. You must bear the same [295] testimony; or your mission, your labor, your toil, will be in vain. You must bear the same testimony, that there is but one God, one Mediator; he that hath seen Him, will know Him, and testify of Him. * * *

. . . it is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven for yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God. * * *

Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid His hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; . . . (Oliver Cowdery, DHC 2:193, 195, 196)

Who among all the leaders in or out of the Church today can bear this testimony? Yet certainly those who say they hold all the “keys” should be able to make this claim.

Oliver Cowdery’s charge to the Twelve was to serve as a guideline for any future apostles that would receive such a calling. They should be called to that position through manifestations from the other side.

Louis Kelsch testified to this procedure and said he had receiving his calling in that same manner:

In 1932 Louis was told he had been chosen a member of the High Priest Apostles. He told his family and close friends many times just how he was called. Lorin [Woolley] received the call for Louis in the same manner as he had received it for the five whom he had already called into that quorum. Lorin described all this to Louis in detail and said it had been the same for the other men called. According to Lorin, it was not just a warm feeling in his bosom but an actual visitation by a messenger from heaven, his father.

Lorin’s father, John W. Woolley, who had died earlier, came and asked Lorin, as senior member, if he would accept Louis into the quorum. Lorin said he would. (Louis Alma Kelsch, pp. 25-26)

* * *


[296] Some break-off groups place great emphasis on what was called a “Council of Friends”–seven men who were commissioned to keep plural marriage alive in the 1930’s. There is sufficient evidence to show that there were seven men selected for this assignment (Lorin Woolley, Joseph Broadbent, John Y. Barlow, Joseph Musser, LeGrande Woolley, Charles Zitting, and Louis Kelsch); but it is somewhat questionable as to whether or not they were intended to act as a formal quorum. The idea of an organized group of men was never taught at the 1886 meeting.

After much research on the subject, Fred Collier very forcefully announced that he could find no evidence to support the existence of such a formal and organized council:

Of late, some Fundamentalists have attempted to substantiate the existence of the “Council of Friends” by identifying it with the “Holy Order” and the “Fullness of the Priesthood”–but you might just as well try to dress a hippo in a small bikini as to make the Holy Order into the Council of Friends. The suit just doesn’t fit.

Fundamentalists who found their faith on a belief that the Prophet Joseph Smith ever established a so-called “Council of Friends” composed of seven “High Priest Apostles” or any other number, are following a fable–there is not a word of truth in it! And those who persist in this belief are just as misled as the leaders of the Church, who argue that the Manifesto was a revelation from God. There is not one shred of evidence to support the existence of the Council of Friends, but on the contrary, all the evidence utterly refutes it.

Why don’t we all come clean and admit the Truth! The time for such fables is past! The war is over! The teachings on the Council of Friends is a lie! And even if it is not as big a lie as the one told by President Grant and his Lawyer Councilor, J. Reuben Clark, it is nonetheless still a lie! (“Doctrine of the Priesthood”, Collier, vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 13-14)


[297] Another important factor that should be considered when determining if someone has all the keys, is whether or not there were any witnesses. When Joseph Smith received any great manifestation from heaven involving Priesthood keys, there was always a witness–such as Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, and the three and eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon.

There has been a multitude of “prophets,” claiming all kinds of keys, that have shown up in the past several years. They testify of great and marvelous revelations, visions, and manifestations they have received–usually setting them up as a great person–but they fail to have any supporting witnesses. Even the Savior Himself said, “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” (John 5:31)

Joseph Musser told this author that everyone, in or out of the Church, should study to become thoroughly conversant with the fullness of the Gospel, and have cottage meetings or firesides in their homes. In these small gatherings, the head of the household should preside regardless of who was present. It was suggested that others interested in the Gospel be invited; and when they learned the fullness, they could have similar gatherings in their homes. This would spread the fullness of the Gospel, placing the emphasis on Gospel principles rather than people and leaders, and accomplishes more toward the setting in order than anything else they could do. At the same time, it would eliminate the tendency for one man to rise to the top of a group, claiming all kinds of keys, and exercising unrighteous dominion over his associates.

The LDS Church has greatly reduced their fight against those living plural marriage, but they still strongly oppose the doctrine. They label polygamists as apostates–but their definition of the term apostate is very interesting. From the [298] handbook sent to all bishops and stake presidents, the following explanation and guideline is circulated Churchwide:


As used here, apostasy refers to members who (1) repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders; (2) persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority; or (3) continue to follow the teachings of apostate cults (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority. In such cases, excommunication may be necessary when repentance is not evident after counseling and encouragement. Total inactivity in the Church or attending or merely holding membership in another church does not constitute apostasy. (General Handbook, March 1989, 10-3)

How strange that we can be “totally inactive” or “holding membership in another church” and that “does not constitute apostasy.” However, if we follow the teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, “such as those that advocate plural marriage,” that constitutes apostasy. Mercy, how terrible is the “sin” of plural marriage for Church members today!!

The Church looks upon their role in plural marriage as a thing of the past and something to be forgotten. For example, LeGrand Richards was asked, “What was the most significant development in the Church during your lifetime?” His response was, “We have finally overcome the stigma of polygamy.” (Martha Bradley, “Changed Faces: The Official LDS Position on Polygamy, 1890-1990,” Sunstone, Feb. 1990, p. 26)

Church leaders have not only lost those keys of sealing–they don’t even want them!


[299] In their effort to take the Gospel to the world and become a “world church,” the leaders have instead created a “worldly church.” Instead of studying the laws of God, we have developed schools for studying the lawyercraft of the gentiles. The Roman, and more commonly accepted, law of monogamy has been victorious over God’s law of plural marriage. We teach the principles of gentile business rather than God’s laws of United Order. Instead of trying to establish the government of the Kingdom of God, we have sworn allegiance to the laws of the land and even the New World Order government.

We think, work, and act like gentiles, and we adopt many of their laws, customs, morals, and religious systems. When the Mormons voted in 1890 to obey the laws of the land, they adopted many of their other customs and standards as well.

The condition of the Saints in Brigham Young’s day is even worse today, as President Young so eloquently explained:

I have had visions and revelations instructing me how to organize this people so that they can live like the family of heaven, but I cannot do it while so much selfishness and wickedness reign in the Elders of Israel. Many would make of the greatest blessings a curse to them, as they do now the plurality of wives–the abuse of that principle will send thousands to hell. There are many great and glorious privileges for the people, which they are not prepared to receive. How long it will be before they are prepared to enjoy the blessings God has in store for them, I know not–it has not been revealed to me. I know the Lord wants to pour blessings upon this people, but were he to do so in their present ignorance, they would not know what to do with them. (JD 9:269)

It is a bleak and dismal effort for those today who try to find a genuine prophet, seer and revelator, such as those whom the Lord has previously called and appointed. Could we be [300] living in that time when “there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour?” (Rev. 8:1), and when there was to be “a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord?” (Amos 8:11) We are certainly further away from Zion today than ever before in this dispensation, and as Isaiah so bluntly described: For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean.

Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. (Isa. 28:8,9)

With this, the author rests his case.



[301]                         SUMMARY STATEMENT

It is not the purpose of this author to debate lines of Priesthood authority, nor to accept or reject certain individuals who claim position and keys; but rather to provide certain guidelines, such as the following, so that others are better qualified to make correct determinations for themselves.


  1. He has had the Priesthood properly conferred upon him.
  2. He can make a valid claim to the keys and calling he has received.
  3. He honors, supports and defends all the eternal principles, doctrines and laws of the Gospel.
  4. He does not advocate following a leader rather than God.
  5. He does not go beyond his “calling” in the use of his keys, nor restrict himself from going far enough.
  6. He is a “servant” to others, rather than a “ruler”.
  7. He does not use force or compulsion upon others in trying to get them to join, tithe, or consecrate to a particular person or group.
  8. He does not prevent others from having necessary ordinance work done.
  9. He recognizes and uses his Priesthood power as being “inseparably connected with the powers of heaven.” (D & C 121:36)
  10. He is willing to pass through the fire in whatever test the Lord might place upon him, and endure to the end, for “saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy.” (D & C 98:14)

Let every man “listen to the voice of him who speaketh, to the word of the Lord your God, and hearken to the calling wherewith you are called. . . .” (D & C 81:1)



[302]                             Chapter 16



And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. * * * 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. 11:27, 29)

By now we should have learned several important things pertaining to the “keys of the Priesthood.” First and foremost, it is the Melchizedek Priesthood that contains “the keys” to the following:


  1. “of all spiritual blessings of the Church”
  2. “of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven”
  3. “to have the heavens opened unto them”
  4. “to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn”
  5. “to enjoy the communion and presence of God, the Father, and Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant.” (D & C 107:18-19)

We should keep in mind that–


  1. These powers and keys come from the Priesthood–not a man, a group of men, or the Church. [303]
  2. Only those holding the Melchizedek Priesthood have the power to bind or loose on earth and in heaven.
  3. Men who hold the Priesthood may be called upon by the Lord to perform a specific labor or mission that may not be under the jurisdiction of the mainstream Church.
  4. Any man, church or group who changes, discards or opposes the eternal laws, principles, ordinances and doctrines of the Priesthood, will lose their keys to the Priesthood–if they ever had them in the first place.

All of this means that the whole responsibility of a man’s salvation rests upon him and the Priesthood he holds; he cannot depend on someone else, or their keys, to save him. (See TPJS, p. 238.)

A man’s future destiny and glory depends upon his obedience to the laws, ordinances and principles of the Gospel, as Wilford Woodruff said:

We have received the Holy Priesthood. There is no change to that Priesthood. It belongs to the Celestial kingdom of our God. It does not belong to the Terrestrial nor the Telestial kingdom. If you and I ever get into the Celestial kingdom, we have got to keep the law of that kingdom. Show me the law that a man keeps and I will tell you where he is going. (Des. Weekly News, July 29, 1889)

Ironically, he signed the Manifesto about one year later, and the Saints were told that the celestial law had changed. In reality, the “celestial law” was still there and available, but just no longer accepted by the Church. The Saints need to learn that Joseph Smith spoke truly when he said that, “the people should each one stand for himself,” and that “righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church” (TPJS, p. 237-38), meaning that religious responsibility rests upon each individual. God wants [304] everyone to be a witness to Him so “that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world, . . . (D & C 1:20) Too often the Saints, both in the Church and the groups, are taught to “follow their leader,” which is degrading to their salvation. “Following someone” is a contradiction to the doctrine of calling and election, as Brigham Young taught:

Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. (JD 1:312)

People who must “follow” someone else are spiritual cripples. A true spiritual leader wants people to get the word of the Lord for themselves. They could spiritually sustain and support such a leader far more if they had their own testimonies.


Prophets, seers, and revelators are best described as “servants,” as such men are called to serve people by healing, prophesying, performing miracles, and teaching the word of God. Those are keys in action. Jesus said that the greatest of all was the servant of all. (See Matt. 20:27; 23:11; Mark 10:24; 3 Nephi 12:1) It is this kind of service that is a greater evidence of keys, not just holding some position of authority. The greater the spiritual service, the greater their keys.

There is a common misconception in ordinations, which was clarified by Brigham Young when Sidney Rigdon was making claims of Church leadership:

You cannot fill the office of a prophet, seer, and revelator. God must do that. * * * You cannot call a [305] man to be a prophet. (Wilford Woodruff, . . ., Cowley, p. 218)

This same concept was printed in the Millennial Star:

Ordinations do not celestialize; appointments do not elevate; they only authorize us to be channels of light to others and to ourselves. * * * But under the present state of things, if the whole world were ordained Apostles, that in itself would not make it a whit more heavenly. . . . (Mill. Star 20:543, E. Harrison)

The Church claims that they alone hold “the keys;” each of the groups believes they hold “the keys;” and most of the independent prophets claim they alone hold the keys. It reminds us of Elijah who told the Lord that the children of Israel had all fallen away, “and I, even I only, am left; . . .” and the Lord said to him, “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” (I Kings 19:14, 18) Likewise, there are many among our modern Israelites who still hold and honor the Holy Priesthood and have some attending keys.

In Section 101 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord gave a parable of the vineyard to explain the redemption of Zion. The men who were in charge of the vineyard failed to do their job so finally “the Lord” of the vineyard came back and said, “Why! what is the cause of this great evil? Ought ye not to have done even as I commanded you. . . ?” Then He said to “one of his servants,” “Go and gather together the residue of my servants, . . . and redeem my vineyard.” (D & C 101:52, 53, 55, 56) This indicates that His chosen were not all in one church, group, or place–but were in a scattered condition and had to be gathered.


[306] The Priesthood of one man is not controlled by the Priesthood of another–either in the Church or out of it. Any man who honors his Priesthood may be called to assist in the building of Zion, the New Jerusalem, and Kingdom of God.

The zeal towards establishing the Lord’s Kingdom on the earth, has fallen into the historical past like the dream of Camelot. The mighty warriors of Zion, like the knights of the Roundtable, have come to the shame of fighting among themselves. In giving up their search for Zion, they have joined league with the soldiers of Babylon where they have lost the dream–and have almost lost their own identity.

Where are the mighty warriors of the Lord today? Where is the individual spoken of where “one thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one” (Isa. 30:17), or “two put ten thousand to flight?” (Deut. 32:30) Talk about warriors for the Lord! Today they don’t even know who the enemy is!


Men can receive the Priesthood, with keys thereof, but then can easily lose them–as Cain, Esau, Sampson, Reuben, Judas, etc. It is astonishing to note the reasons why–a vain glory, a mess of pottage, a few pieces of silver, a woman, or friendship with the world.

Men who have the Holy Priesthood and associated keys will be required to make an accounting of what they have done with them. It will be comparable to one of the parables of the Lord who taught:

For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. * * * After a long time [307] the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. (Matt. 25:14, 15, 19)

A similar accounting will have to be made by those with Priesthood keys, as explained by John Taylor:

Then they will assemble to regulate all these affairs, and all that held keys of authority to administer, will then represent their earthly course. And, as this authority has been handed down from one to another in different ages, and in different dispensations, a full reckoning will have to be made by all. All who have held keys of Priesthood, will then have to give an account to those from whom they received them. (Gov. of God, Taylor, p. 116)

What keys have been operating in the Church for the last century? Have we continued in the quest for building the New Jerusalem, or the establishment of the Kingdom of God, or promoting the same principles and doctrines they formerly did? Professor Harold Bloom, noted Jewish scholar and author of The American Religion, noticed a significant difference:

It has become something of a commonplace to observe that modern Mormonism tends to reduce itself to another Protestant sect, another Christian heresy–while the religion of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Parley and Orson Pratt, and other leading early Mormons was a far more radical swerve away from Protestant tradition. (“Harold Bloom Lauds the Auda-city of Joseph Smith,” Dennis M. Clark, Sunstone, April 1991, p. 59)

Our own Mormon historians admit the same thing. Thomas Alexander said:

By 1930, for the general church membership, the transition of the Latter-day Saint people from conditions and attitudes in the nineteenth century to those [308] prevalent in the early twentieth century had generally been completed. * * * Administratively and practically, however, they fit in well and were increasingly accepted by the society which had worked so hard a generation before to destroy them. (Mormonism in Transition, Alexander, p. 306)

Jesus said, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30) If Christ set the example of following the Father, why are we so anxious to “follow the brethren?” We should put our trust in religious leaders the same as we put trust in business and corporation leaders. We expect them to run a business properly, efficiently, and on correct principles. If they betray this trust, then we no longer place our trust in them lest we become a part of their impropriety.

However, we continue to maintain our allegiance with the company, while withholding support from those who have betrayed our trust. This applies to all organizations–governments, businesses, and churches.

One of the differences between a cult and a religion is whom the members follow: quite simply, if they follow God, it is a religion; if they follow a man, it is a cult. The present position of the Mormon Church is evident by the barrage of sermons, writings, and exhortations persuading the members to follow their leaders.

The scriptures are filled with prophecies about many false prophets in the last days, so it should not be surprising to see them crop up in increasing numbers. The scriptures also tell us that the house of God will be out of order, so it should not be shocking to the Latter-day Saints to hear someone declare that it is indeed so. But we have the promise that the great prophet, Joseph Smith, the one man holding all the keys to this dispensation, is responsible for getting it back in order. [309] When the Prophet was killed, the Apostle Parley Pratt prayed to know what he should say to the Saints when he returned to Nauvoo. In a revelation the Lord told him:

My servant Joseph still holds the keys of my kingdom in this dispensation, and he shall stand in due time on the earth, in the flesh, and fulfill that to which he is appointed. (Auto. of P.P.Pratt, p. 333)

Heber C. Kimball described all the tests and trials the Saints would have to go through and then added:

Then the Prophet and others will make their appearance, and those who have remained faithful will be selected to return to Jackson County, Missouri, and take part in the upbuilding of that beautiful city, the New Jerusalem. (Des. News, May 23, 1931)

Brigham Young, in a speech a week after the Saints arrived in the Rockies, said, “We should yet have Brothers Joseph and Hyrum and many of the Saints in their resurrected bodies with us on earth.” (Wilford Woodruff Journal 3:244) And from the Prophet himself: “This I will promise to you, that when I come again to lead you forth, for I will go to prepare a place for you, so that where I am you shall be with me.” (Fate of the Persecutors . . . , Lundwall, p. 154)

In reality, all kinds of churches and groups are needed. Men with keys to the Priesthood and those who think they have the Priesthood keys are needed. True prophets, false prophets, and even the devil are all needed, as Brigham Young explained:

Men and women never could be prepared to be judged. . . without the power both of God and the devil. We are obliged to know and understand them, one as well as the other, in order to prepare us for the day that is coming, and for our exaltation. Some of you [310] may think that this is a curious principle, but it is true. Refer to the Book of Mormon, and you will find that Nephi and others taught that we actually need evil, in order to make this a state of probation. We must know the evil in order to know the good. There must needs be an opposition in all things. All facts are demonstrated by their opposites. (JD 4:373)


We should learn how the devil deceives people, and what principles he uses, just as we study the principles of Jesus. A good general learns the strengths and weaknesses of his enemy, and a good Christian needs to do the same.

We know that both God and the devil can hear and answer prayers. A person can be receiving true revelation, but if he transgresses the laws of God, and in any way invites in a wrong spirit, he may continue to get revelation but from another source. Thus, it is critical to know the difference.

According to the Prophet, “No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations.” (TPJS, p. 328) But “the moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power.” (Ibid., p. 181) But how do we know which is from God and which is from the devil? The Prophet mentioned one important key:

A key: Every principle proceeding from God is eternal and any principle which is not eternal is of the devil. (Ibid., p. 181)

There seems to be a common problem with most “prophets,” “presidents,” “leaders,” and “key holders;” they aspire to be the “one” who is “chosen” above all others. But how many of them have ever produced a genuine prophecy, or been given the keys to seership, or produced written revelations that are consistently fulfilled? Yet they claim to hold “the keys;” but where are the fruits of those keys?


[311] Maybe if somebody doesn’t have their keys, they lost them, as Columbo might say, “It just came to me–if somebody lost their keys, maybe, just maybe, somebody else now has them.”

In our search for Priesthood keys, let’s seriously consider the following four quotes from Brigham Young which should be very helpful in discerning true leaders and prophets from false ones:

If I find a man, as I do once in a while, who thinks he ought to be sustained in a higher position than he occupies, that proves to me that he does not understand his true position, and is not capable of magnifying it. (JD 7:161-62)

. . . many imbibe the idea that they are capable of leading out in teaching principles that never have been taught. They are not aware that the moment they give way to this hallucination, the Devil has power over them to lead them onto unholy ground; . . .

If they had received from the proper source, the same power that revealed to them would have shown them that they must keep the things revealed in their own bosoms, and they seldom would have a desire to disclose them to the second person. (JD 3:318)

So when individuals are blessed with visions, revelations, and great manifestations, look out; then the Devil is nigh you, and you will be tempted in proportion to the visions, revelation, or manifestation you have received. (JD 3:206)

Brother John referred to some persons receiving revelations. I say to such persons, Go ahead, and get all the revelations you can. If brother Joseph visits you every night, go ahead, and tell him to bring brother Hyrum, father Smith, Don Carlos Smith, St. Paul, Peter, James, and John, and Jesus Christ, if you can induce him to do so. But I could almost lay my hand on [312] that Bible and swear that the man or woman who gets such revelations has been guilty of adultery, or of theft, or has been rebellious and apostatized in feelings, but has come back again, and now professes to have such revelations. Hell is full of such revelations; and I could almost testify that a man or woman who receives them has been guilty of some outrageous crime. (JD 5:352)

How grateful we should be for Brigham Young and his wisdom and foresight! He surely saw our day and the increasing dangers and deceptions.

And Heber C. Kimball also saw our day, and knew there would be a decrease in spiritual gifts and righteous leadership:

The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. . . . (quoted by J. Golden Kimball in Conf. Rept., April 1906, pp. 76)

So what should we do when the House of God is out of order? Should we join a group or follow some charismatic leader outside the LDS Church? Good counsel came from Lorin Woolley:

“Don’t fight the Church, and don’t establish or become a part of any group.” He said, “You’ll live to see the day that the Prophet Joseph will come among this people, to individuals, and he will choose this man or that man, and they are the ones, through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph, who is “The One Mighty and Strong,” who will come bearing the scepter of power in his hand to set in order the House of God, …” (Reminiscences of John W. Woolley and Lorin C. Woolley, Rhea Kunz, “Interview with Carl Jentsch,” vol. 1, No. 2, p. 6)


[313] Today we are taught by LDS Church leaders that to fulfill the requirements of exaltation, we must–


  1. Have faith in God and Christ
  2. Repent
  3. Be baptized and confirmed
  4. Be morally clean
  5. Partake the Sacrament worthily
  6. Pay a full tithe
  7. Keep the Word of Wisdom
  8. Attend Sunday meetings
  9. Sustain the General Authorities
  10. Obtain a temple recommend

These are all important requirements, especially when the Church is in order, but as Joseph Smith said, (when giving a correct rendition of Hebrews 6:1), “Not leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection….” (TPJS, p. 328) And what are the requirements in seeking such perfection?


  1. Obtain the keys to the fullness of the Holy Priesthood
  2. Function in the Holy Order
  3. Become the Lord’s Anointed
  4. Get the Patriarchal office and calling
  5. Be willing to make a sacrifice of all things
  6. Obey the New and Everlasting Covenant of marriage
  7. Belong to the Church of the Firstborn
  8. Receive the second anointings
  9. Have your calling and election made sure
  10. Live as kings and priests, queens and priestesses, in the Kingdom of God

When a person receives the Melchizedek Priesthood, he receives certain keys to that Priesthood, accompanied by an oath and covenant. If he keeps the terms of the oath, then the [314] covenant promises him eternal life–the greatest of all blessings. We should never forget that.

Speaking to the Elders, Wilford Woodruff said:

Do you appreciate the Priesthood that is given you, and that the keys of the kingdom are given to you, and that the world of mankind are dependent upon you for salvation? No, not as you ought. (JD 9:222)

And Joseph Musser gave some excellent advice:

Stop quibbling about who holds the “keys” but each magnify his particular calling and see to it that no day passes that they are not engaged in advancing the cause of the Kingdom. (Jrnl. of Joseph W. Musser, August 12, 1938)

Bearing the Priesthood and being blessed with its keys are part of our stewardship for which we will have to give an accounting. Maybe a righteous family Patriarch should be more concerned about what Priesthood keys he already holds and can qualify for, rather than searching for someone else with keys. He may already possess this great treasure of Priesthood authority, calling, and keys.


* * * * *

* * *




[315]                             Appendix A


Presiding Patriarchs and Presidents

of the Mormon Church


Patriarchs                              Dates of Office    Presidents                              Dates of Office


Joseph Smith, Sr. Dec.1833-Sept.1840           Joseph Smith, Jr.                  1830-44

Hyrum Smith                       Jan.1841-June 1844           Joseph Smith, Jr.

William Smith                      May 1845-Oct.1845           Quorum of Twelve              1844-47

(Brigham Young

President of the


Uncle John Smith                Dec.1847-May 1854          Brigham Young                   1847-1877

(Sustained in 1847)

John Smith                            Feb.1855-Nov.1911            Brigham Young

John Taylor                          1880-87

Wilford Woodruff               1889-98

Lorenzo Snow                      1898-1901

Joseph F. Smith    1901-18

Hyrum Gibbs Smith   May1912-Feb.1932     Joseph F. Smith

Heber J. Grant                      1918-45

George F. Richards              Oct.1937-Oct.1942             Heber J. Grant

(Acting Patriarch)

Joseph F. Smith II               Oct.1942-Oct.1946             Heber J. Grant

(Released)                             George Albert Smith 1945-51

Eldred G. Smith    Apr.1947-Oct.1979             George Albert Smith

(Emeritus)                             David O. McKay                 1951-70

Jos. Fielding Smith 1970-72

Harold B. Lee                       1972-73

Spencer W. Kimball            1973-85

Note: Appendices A and B are taken from Lost Legacy by Irene Bates and Gary Smith, pp. 233, 235.)



[316]                             Appendix B


Mormon President Patriarchs

(with blood relationships)


Asael Smith

Grandfather of Joseph Smith, Jr.





|                                                                                 |                                                                            |

Joseph Smith, Sr.                                                                 Asael Smith                                          John Smith

1st Patriarch                                                         Unofficial Patriarch                            4th Patriarch

1833-40                                                                                                1845-46                                                                 1847-54

|                                                                                                                                                                              |

—————————————–                  |

|                                                               |                                                   |                          |

Hyrum Smith                       Joseph Smith, Jr. William Smith       George A. Smith

2d Patriarch                          1st President                         3d Patriarch                          Apostle

1841-44                                                  May-Oct.1845                                                                                   |

|                                                                                                                                                                              |

———————                                                                                                  |

|                                                              |                                                                                                               |

John Smith                            Joseph F. Smith                                                   John H. Smith

5th Patriarch                         President of                                                                           |

1855-1911                                           Church                                                                                   |

|                                                              |                                                                                                               |

Hyrum F. Smith                   Hyrum M. Smith Geo. F. Richards  Nicholas G. Smith

(skipped over)                      Apostle                  Acting Patriarch Unofficial Patriarch

|                                                              |                                               1937-42                                 1932-37

|                                                              |

Hyrum G. Smith                  Joseph F. Smith II

6th Patriarch                         7th Patriarch

1912-32                                                1942-446



Eldred G. Smith

8th Patriarch


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