Authority, Power, and the "Government of the Church of Christ," 1835

J. Spencer Fluhman

J. Spencer Fluhman, “Authority, Power, and the ‘Government of the Church of Christ,’” in Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer, ed. Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Kent P. Jackson (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010), 195–232.

J. Spencer Fluhman was an assistant professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University when this was published.

This chapter will first review the events of 1835 in the life of Joseph Smith. There were no uneventful years in his life, and 1835 was as bewilderingly busy and meaningful as any. Second, it will focus on the establishment of two additional presiding Church quorums—the Twelve and the Seventy—and situate those key moments in the larger story of the Church’s ecclesiastical development. Most Saints today know something of the beginnings of priesthood and Church government, but the story is more interesting and inspiring than most of us realize.[1]

1835: The Year in Review

In January 1835, Joseph Smith worked on a set of theological lectures, the “Lectures on Faith,” that were eventually published in the Doctrine and Covenants. The Prophet’s involvement is still debated by historians. While tradition has designated Joseph Smith as the lectures’ lone author, most historians agree that they were likely not the product of a single person. Various analyses, in fact, have suggested that Sidney Rigdon likely played a lead role in the writing of many of the lectures. In any case, Joseph Smith presided over the preparation of the lectures, and their inclusion with the revelations prompted a name change for the final collection. The first compilation of revelations had been called Book of Commandments (1833), but the new version was named Doctrine and Covenants (1835). The lectures, according to the subheadings in the new volume, were to be the “doctrine” section, and the revelations served as the “covenants” section. The lectures remained in the volume in its various editions throughout the nineteenth century but were removed in 1921.[2]

In early February, Joseph Smith received a vision not described in any section of the Doctrine and Covenants (though it is noted in the History of the Church).[3] Joseph Young remembered the Prophet bringing him and his brother Brigham to his residence in Kirtland and explaining that he had seen a vision of the men who died on Zion’s Camp: “Brethren, I have seen those men who died of the cholera in our camp; and the Lord knows, if I get a mansion as bright as theirs, I ask no more.” After that, Joseph Smith “wept, and for some time could not speak.” When he had composed himself, the Prophet explained that a Church conference should be convened where brethren would be called as Apostles and Seventies.[4]

According to these instructions, Joseph Smith presided over the meetings on February 14 when new Apostles were called and ordained. After a reading of John 15 and a prayer, Joseph Smith announced to the group that “God had commanded [the meeting] and it was made known to him by vision and by the Holy Spirit.”[5] The Prophet would repeat that the priesthood organization was according to “vision” on several occasions.[6] The Book of Mormon witnesses, in accordance with an earlier revelation (Doctrine and Covenants 18), selected and helped ordain men to serve as members of the Quorum of the Twelve. Some were ordained the following day and others later in the week.[7] A few days after the February 14 meeting, the First Presidency approved the publication of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants.

On February 27, the Prophet invited nine of the new apostles and several others to his home, where he taught them of their duties and bemoaned the fact that the brethren had kept inadequate records of their priesthood meetings. “It is a fact (said President Smith) that if I now had in my possession every decision which has been had upon important items of doctrine and duties which have been given since the commencement of this work, I would not part with it for any sum of money. But we have neglected to take minutes of such things, thinking, perhaps, that they would never benefit us afterwards, which, had we now, would decide almost any point of doctrine.”[8]

The following day, February 28, Joseph Smith presided over the calls of the Seventy, some of whom were ordained that day, others the next.

On March 28, Joseph Smith received the final portions of Doctrine and Covenants 107, the grand revelation on priesthood and Church government. As with many of the revelations, the final document as we now read it in the Doctrine and Covenants was given in stages, in a process more drawn out than we sometimes imagine it.

In early May, Joseph Smith was forced to respond to charges brought by Dennis Lake that the Prophet owed him eight hundred dollars. Joseph Smith denied owing Lake the money.

On June 2, Joseph Smith wrote a few lines to a cousin at the end of a letter W. W. Phelps intended for loved ones in Liberty, Missouri. Many of the Saints forced from their Jackson County homes had ended up in Clay County, and Joseph’s letter to Almira Scobey communicated his heartache at what the Missouri Saints had suffered. The lines are poignant:

Cousin Almyra, Scoby . . . Brother W W phelps has left a little space for me to occupy and I gladly improve it, I would be glad to see the Children of Zion and del[i]ver the <word> of Eternal life to them from my own mauth but cannot this year nevertheless the day will come that I shall injoy this privilege I trust. and we all shall receive an inheritance in the land of refuge which is so much to be desired seeing it is under the direction of the Allmighty therefore let us live faithful before the Lord and it shall be well with us I feel for all the Chilldren of Zion and pray for them in all my prayers peace be multiplied unto their redeemtion and favor from God Amen Joseph Smith Jr.[9]

On June 15, Joseph Smith wrote to the Missouri brethren to inform them of plans to publish his New Translation of the Bible, now commonly called the Joseph Smith Translation. Despite these intentions, the Saints did not publish the work in the Prophet’s lifetime. He had pronounced the work complete as early as 1833. That same day, the suit brought against the Prophet by Dennis Lake was dismissed; the court ruled that Lake had failed to provide sufficient evidence. A few days later, Joseph Smith pledged five hundred dollars to the building of the Kirtland Temple.

During the first days of July, Joseph Smith examined several Egyptian mummies and papyrus scrolls from antiquities dealer Michael Chandler. Joseph Smith’s translation of some of the hieroglyphs became the Book of Abraham, now in our Pearl of Great Price. Throughout the month, the Prophet “was continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients.”[10] Joseph Smith worked on the translation throughout the fall.

In August, Joseph Smith traveled to Michigan. In his absence, the Brethren approved the new Doctrine and Covenants as scripture and voted to accept a statement on government now appearing as section 134.

In early September, the Prophet began writing a long treatise “to the elders of the church” instructing them “in the way of their duty” and providing them a statement of “religious principles” to help correct false impressions about the Church.[11] Portions of the treatise were published serially in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, the Church paper in Kirtland.

Joseph Smith spent September 22 dictating blessings for some of the Church’s leading brethren, though he and Oliver Cowdery found it difficult to complete the work because of “a multitude of visitors.”[12]

On October 4, Joseph Smith’s journal noted that, on a trip with John Corrill to Perry, Ohio, “about a mile from home we saw two Dears playing in the field which diverted our minds by giving an impatus to our thoughts upon the subject of the creation of God.”[13]

The Prophet’s journal entry for October 11 reads, “visited my Father <again> who was verry sick <in secret prayer in the morning the Lord said my servant thy father shall live> I waited on him all this day with my heart raised to god in the name of Jesus Christ that he would restore him to health again.”[14] He and David Whitmer administered to Joseph Smith Sr.; he regained his health in a few days.

On October 17, the Prophet’s journal reported, somewhat tersely, that he “called my family together and aranged my domestick concerns and domestic dismissed my boarders.”[15]

On October 29, a dispute with his younger brother William became so heated, according to Joseph’s journal, that “I told him he was out of place & asked him to set down he refused I repeated my request he become enraged I finally ordered him to set down he said he would not unless I knocked him down I was agitated in my feeling at on the account of his stubournness and was about to call leave the house, but my Father requsted me not to <do so> I complyed.”[16]

On November 3, Joseph Smith dedicated the “Elders School,” spoke to the gathered brethren, attended a meeting of his brother Samuel’s parents-in-law’s patriarchal blessings (Samuel’s daughter was blessed and named in the same meeting) and preached that evening to a crowded congregation at the Kirtland schoolhouse.[17]

A few days later, Joseph Smith entertained a visitor at Kirtland who identified himself as “Joshua the Jewish Minister.” After hearing the stranger explain his religious views, Joseph Smith discovered that the visitor was in fact Robert Matthews, the infamous “prophet Matthias” from New York, who had recently stood trial for the suspicious death of a follower. Joseph was ultimately unimpressed with Matthews: “I told him, that my God told me that his God is the Devil, and I could not keep him any longer, and he must depart.” The visit was not a total loss, however, because Joseph Smith had recounted the First Vision for Matthias before discovering his identity. A scribe recorded the Prophet’s recital of the vision: “I called on the Lord in mighty prayer, a pillar of fire appeared above my head, it presently rested down upon my <me> head, and filled me with joy unspeakable, a personage appeared in the midst, of this pillar of flame which was spread all around, and yet nothing consumed, another personage soon appeared like unto the first, he said unto me thy sins are forgiven thee, he testifyed unto me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; <and I saw many angels in this vision>.”[18]

On November 19, Joseph Smith inspected the finish coat of plaster on the Kirtland Temple. On the way home, he chatted with a couple of disaffected Latter-day Saints.

The following day, November 20, was spent translating the Egyptian papyri. Oliver Cowdery, having recently returned from a trip to New York, delivered a Hebrew Bible, Hebrew and Greek lexicons, and a Webster’s dictionary.

On November 24, Joseph Smith performed a marriage ceremony for Newel and Lydia Knight.

On December 2, Joseph Smith took a sleigh ride with his family to a neighboring town, and, while passing another sleigh, the other travelers “bawled out, do you get any revelation lately[?]” Joseph wrote that he was not surprised with that kind of treatment from folks from that side of town. [19]

The following day, December 3, Joseph performed a marriage ceremony for Warren and Martha Parrish.

On December 10, the Prophet helped put out a fire at the Kirtland lumber kiln. The loss of wood delayed the completion of the temple.

On the evening of December 12, the Prophet attended a debate at the home of his brother, William. Various speakers debated on the question “was it necessary for God to reveal himself to man, in order for their happiness[?]” Joseph Smith’s journal records, simply, “I was on the affirmative and the last One to speak on that side of the question.”[20] He left early to administer to a sick sister.

On December 16, the debate from a few days earlier was continued at William Smith’s. The affirmative position won, but, to quote the Prophet’s journal, “some altercation took place” when it was suggested that the debates would come to no good and should be discontinued. William Smith opposed the measure and “at length become much enraged particularly at me and used violence upon my person . . . for which I am grieved beyond expression, and can only pray God to forgive him inasmuch as he repents.”[21] Two days later, Joseph Smith replied by letter to a repentant William. The letter concluded with these lines: “And now may God have mercy upon my fathers house, may God take away enmity, from betwe[e]n me and thee, and may all blessings be restored, and the past be forgotten forever, may humble repentance bring us both to thee and to thy power and protection, and a crown, to enjoy the society of father mother Alvin Hyrum Sophron[i]a Samuel Catharine [Katharine] Carloss [Don Carolos] Lucy the Saints and all the sanctify[ie]d in peace forever<, is the prayer of> This from Your brother Joseph Smith Jun.”[22]

Things calmed down in time for Christmas. The Prophet spent Christmas day at home with family. On the day after Christmas in 1835, Joseph Smith studied Hebrew and received the revelation now appearing as section 108.

December 29 was spent preaching, for over three hours, this time at the Kirtland schoolhouse to a large gathering that included many of the town’s Presbyterians.

New Year’s Eve 1835 was spent “attending to the duties of my family,” in the printing office studying, and in a meeting with the “council of the 12.”[23]

In no way can 1835 be described as leisurely. Even so, Joseph could note at the outset of 1836 that “my heart is filled with gratitude to God, that he has preserved my life and the life <lives> of my family while another year has rolled away, we have been, sustained and upheld in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, and exposed to all, the afflictions temptations and misery that are incident to human life, for which I feel to humble myself in dust and ashes, as it were before the Lord.”[24] I turn now to focus in on a theme that dominated that momentous year: the development of Church government.

“Government of the Church of Christ”[25]

As some of the earliest Latter-day Saint missionaries traveled through Ohio in the fall of 1830, they made some startling claims. In an effort to circumvent any influence the Mormon elders might have in the area, local newspaper editor Eber Howe summarized their message by writing that “[Oliver] Cowdry claims that he and his associates are the only persons on earth who are qualified to administer in [Christ’s] name.”[26] Howe guessed right, but only in part, that his readers would take offense at such religious audacity. Then, as now, American Protestants bristled at Latter-day Saint claims that Christian ordinances are essential for salvation and that the Latter-day Saint priesthood is uniquely authorized to perform those rites. Predictably, Howe was dumbfounded when hundreds of Ohio Protestants flocked to the missionaries for baptism. By early 1831, four branches of the infant Church dotted the Ohio landscape.[27] Looking back on his conversion to Mormonism, Edward Partridge remembered having concluded prior to the missionaries’ arrival that God would surely “again reveal himself to man and confer authority upon some one, or more, before his church could be built up in the last days.” Convinced that the Christian pastors of his day ministered “without authority from God,” Partridge wholeheartedly embraced the Latter-day Saint missionaries’ message and joined the Church of Christ, as the Church was initially called.[28]

The contradictory reactions of Howe and Partridge illustrate the divisiveness of the early Saints’ message and the puzzle their church presented to conventional Christians. Based on what the Saints regarded as scriptural precedents, the Church in the 1830s was at once recognizably Christian and something quite new. Joseph Smith’s revelations unfolded a complex and highly successful institution, and the Prophet and the Saints alike worked to implement the revelations as best they could. Indeed, the early history of Latter-day Saint Church government makes clear that while the revelations drove the development, Church leaders constantly grappled with questions, complications, and a good deal of trial and error. In retrospect, modern Saints see an orderly procession of events leading to a finished product. This, however, is apparent only in retrospect. For the Saints of the 1830s and ’40s, the story was thrilling but not nearly so neat. At times, they seemed to feel their way, hardly conceiving what the finished product might look like. It often took years for important terms or concepts—”apostle,” “Melchizedek Priesthood,” “sealing,” and just about every other key word for Church government—to take on their modern meanings. This terminological instability with regards to priesthood and Church government has led to years of historians’ debates about what happened and when. Where some modern Saints might assume that the full-blown Church of today was more or less an understood given, one modern Church leader has cautioned that such a perspective obscures the challenges facing nineteenth-century Saints:

Some suppose that the organization [of the Church] was handed to the Prophet Joseph Smith like a set of plans and specifications for a building, with all of the details known at the beginning. But it did not come that way. Rather, it came a piece at a time as the Brethren were ready and as they inquired of God. . . . It took a generation of asking and receiving before the order of things as we know it today was firmly in place. Each move to perfect that order has come about in response to a need and in answer to prayer. And that process continues in our day.[29]

The revelations, in other words, did not force themselves on the early Saints. Rather, only as early Church leaders were ready and asking did they move into new periods of ecclesiastical development and understanding.

So, looking back, we should expect the processes that brought us the modern Church to be more dynamic, more rooted in human agency, and more drawn out than we sometimes imagine. And while it is tempting to get lost in the details of the early Church’s governmental particularities, I hope to call attention to just how complex and effective early Church government became. Noting the complexities and successes in the same sentence is intentional: the perplexities of establishing a new church ex nihilo illustrates the kind of human striving that cheers modern hearts. If history is any guide, Latter-day Saints will succeed as their predecessors did, namely, by looking to the revelations for direction, leaning on experience, staying open to change, and seeking for heaven’s help in meeting new and confounding challenges.

Christian Authority in Joseph Smith’s America

Joseph Smith’s revelations sought several critical balances in erecting an ecclesiastical structure for the Church of Christ. Questions pressed themselves on Joseph Smith early and often. How does a church serve the many without missing the one? What was the relationship between Joseph Smith’s revelatory experiences and those of ordinary Saints? Was the Bible or Book of Mormon (or both) to be taken as a guide for building a modern church? Would it be up to Joseph Smith himself to decide every ecclesiastical question? Over the first dozen years of Church history, these questions about the Church and its governance occupied a prominent place in the revelations; but, again, the early Saints were often left to wrestle with their implications and implement them as best they could. Clearly, the expectations of former Protestants—as nearly all the early Saints were—were at times validated in the revelations; at other times, the Saints were nudged into new understandings of authority and church power.

While a tiny smattering of Roman Catholics joined the Church in its early years, the overwhelming majority of converts came from Protestant churches. While Protestantism had taken myriad forms by 1830, most of the newly minted Saints shared some general assumptions about church polity and the place of ordinances. Protestantism had for centuries honed a critique of Roman Catholicism’s reliance on religious rituals—”sacraments” in Catholic and Protestant parlance—as the “usual vehicles” of God’s saving grace. For Catholics, the church and its priesthood thus functioned as critical mediators of God’s power. God’s saving power was potentially available to all, but the church, as the lone authorized dispenser of the sacraments, became the critical intermediary between heaven and earth. An elaborate hierarchy oversaw the church’s ordinances and, at the local level, priests administered the sacraments to lay Catholics. For Catholics, the notion of salvation apart from the church and its sacraments was unthinkable.

The place of the sacraments in Catholic theology was no small problem for Martin Luther, the Catholic monk who is sometimes credited for touching off the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation. For Luther, the book of Romans in the New Testament sparked a spiritual crisis that culminated in a new understanding of sacraments, priestly power, and salvation. His reading of Romans 1:17, especially the phrase “the just shall live by faith,” came to describe Luther’s critique of Catholicism. Rather than believing that the church and its sacraments somehow mechanically dispensed salvation to humanity, Luther argued that salvation sprang from saving faith alone. No human striving, no human achievement could merit salvation. Rather, one was declared righteous, or justified, by faith in Christ’s saving gift, which was itself a gift of God for Luther. The church, in Luther’s reckoning, did not dispense salvation but rather was to be a loving body of believers only. Priesthood was redefined too. No longer a body of uniquely authorized men vested with power needed for salvation, Luther called for a “priesthood of all believers.” Authority rested in the Bible and in Christ, not in a special priesthood. Luther reduced the sacraments from seven to two—he kept only baptism and communion (which, ironically, Latter-day Saints call the “sacrament”)—and redefined them in the process. Luther refused to view any sacrament as essential for salvation, instead believing they functioned as important symbols or moments along the Christian path. They would call to mind important truths and unite the faithful in sacred settings, but Luther, like other Protestants generally, removed intermediaries and demanded that Christians look to Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

Other reformers added an array of emphases to Luther’s main teachings, but most agreed with salvation by grace through faith and were similarly leery of Catholic-looking emphasis on churches, priests, or rituals. John Calvin, for instance, retained the two sacraments Luther had (baptism and communion) but became even more anti-ritualistic. He discarded formalized, structured worship and insisted that preaching alone would be the centerpiece of true Christian churches. Calvin’s emphasis on the Bible, predestination, and the “irresistible Grace” of God wielded no small influence in the English Reformation, as generations of Puritans worked to nudge the Church of England farther and farther from its Catholic past.[30] In terms of sheer numbers and influence, in fact, Calvin cast a larger shadow on early America than Luther did, as the British colonies in North America were, well, British. With Calvinistic Puritans and Calvinistic Presbyterians predominating before the American Revolution (they ranked first and second in terms of church membership), especially in New England and the middle colonies, historians have described the Christianity of the early American republic as generally anti-ritualistic, largely suspicious of Catholic-looking church hierarchies, and insistent that faith alone—not ordinances—offered salvation to the human family.[31] Waves of Irish immigration brought Catholics in large numbers to both the colonies and new nation, putting Protestants on notice that “true religion” was under siege and that Catholics had to be controlled lest the nation be imperiled by what critics saw as Catholicism’s ultra-authoritarianism, its superstitious attachment to ordinances, and its theologically dangerous obsession with priestly power.

Enter Oliver Cowdery and his missionary companions declaring sole authorization for essential Christian ordinances. As one might expect, American Protestants typically met these claims with alarm. Some saw in the Latter-day Saint message an affront to the very core of Protestantism. Even so, Americans like Joseph Smith and Edward Partridge found in the Restoration a satisfying and compelling alternative to the dizzying array of Protestant denominations. Though the message seemed unavoidably controversial given its historical context, Americans by the dozens, then hundreds, then thousands found a spiritually steadying bulwark in the Restoration’s claims to certainty, authority, and power.

Priesthood Authority in the Early Church

This detour through Christian and early American history reminds us of how new and old the revelations might have looked to Christians of Joseph Smith’s day, not to mention the early Saints themselves. Some elements of the revelations were recognizable to early Saints as reflecting Protestant understandings. Others appeared to outsiders to be theological throwbacks to Catholic practices or beliefs. Some elements of the revelations seem altogether foreign when viewed against the backdrop of Joseph Smith’s religious environment. No wonder the early Saints struggled to come to grips with, much less implement, some of the revelations.[32] As just one example, when the revelations now appearing as section 20 called for quarterly conferences, early Saints instinctively called them “general conferences.” Quarterly general conferences, as it turns out, had been a staple of early Methodist church government, and Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other Latter-day Saint converts with experience in Methodist churches relied on the models they had grown up with. When the Lord declared in Doctrine and Covenants section 1 that “I am God . . . these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding” (v. 24), he apparently meant what he said. I am inclined to see the phrase “after the manner of their language” broadly. These early Latter-day Saint converts were heirs to an ecclesiastical language inherited from the Christian tradition that the revelations routinely assumed, appealed to, and utilized to both reinforce old ideas and communicate new ones.

It appears that the translation of Book of Mormon provided Joseph Smith and his earliest associates the first forum in which to work out questions of priesthood and Church governance. While the Book of Mormon was not exactly a handbook for organizing the early Church, the text provided important principles and hinted at future developments. The text named several positions of significance in the ancient Church: priest, teacher, elder, apostle, and high priest.[33] The relationship and duties of each was only partially clear in the text, though, and it is evident that early Church leaders initially lacked a clear sense of how they would work together. Even so, two points in 3 Nephi came through loud and clear: first, one needed authority from Christ to baptize; and, second, there was a distinction between those who could baptize and those who could also give the gift of the Holy Ghost. Joseph Smith and the early brethren were certain of this much. Their prayer about the former—the power to baptize—was answered with an angelic visitation. With the lesser authority in place, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery baptized each other and eventually others.

The higher office or power was a different story, though. That Joseph Smith received additional authority from other angelic beings is clear enough, but exactly when and what he made of those experiences at the time are still questions for Church historians. There is no recorded date, for instance, for the visit of Peter, James, and John, like there is for the visit of John the Baptist.[34] Furthermore, Joseph Smith and the other brethren early on used the terms “elder,” “high priesthood,” “high priest,” and “Melchizedek Priesthood” in sometimes confusing ways. While even young Latter-day Saints now rattle off that Peter, James, and John restored the Melchizedek Priesthood, it is curious that Joseph Smith did not use this kind of language until 1835. I am suggesting that the Prophet came to understanding things more slowly than we have imagined. There are clues as to how some understandings apparently came together. In the Book of Mormon text, for instance, the terms “elder” and “disciple” seem to have been used interchangeably. Drawing as they did on the language of both the Bible and Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery instinctively used “apostle,” “disciple” and “elder” synonymously in the earliest documents. Note, for instance, the now-curious language of Doctrine and Covenants 20:38: “An apostle is an elder, and it is his calling to baptize.” It is surprising, too, to find John Whitmer’s preaching license naming him an “apostle”—unless, that is, we have this earliest usage in mind. Similarly, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer were referred to “apostles” in a revelation from 1829 (section 18), though they are hardly remembered these days as being among the Church’s first Apostles. In the Church’s first months, though, with the understandings apparently then in place, this made perfect sense.

Even so, this apostolic language invests Peter, James, and John’s visit with special significance for modern Saints. When Joseph Smith set about to prepare the revelations for the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, he unapologetically added some significant lines to the revelation now appearing as section 27. When elaborating on the idea of the Lord visiting the earth for a kind of millennial sacrament meeting, the revelation listed several additional figures who would participate, including “Peter, James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name” (v. 12). So while the earliest documents use “apostle” somewhat more generally than would be the case later, in 1835 Joseph Smith’s revelation narrated the visit of Peter, James, and John in an unmistakably powerful way. The point was not lost on the first generation of Church leadership. Brigham Young, speaking in 1852, reminded his audience that “Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer were the first Apostles of this dispensation.”[35] A few years later, Heber C. Kimball agreed, stressing that “the moment that the Almighty sent Peter, James, and John, and ordained Joseph Smith an Apostle, the seed of [the] Priesthood and Church was planted.”[36] If Young or Kimball were writing this essay, in other words, they would no doubt report that modern Saints have rather dramatically undervalued the visit of Peter, James, and John by thinking it restored only the Melchizedek Priesthood.

The fact that Joseph Smith continued to describe higher authority in perplexing ways might hint at the fact that he viewed this higher authority, as one historian has described it, as a succession of keys.[37] Joseph Smith learned the hard way that as soon as he said something like, “We now have all the authority or power God intends for his people,” some other authority, power, or deep insight came and rearranged the ecclesiastical furniture. In 1831, a conference conferred “high priesthood” on several elders, a circumstance that is confusing to modern readers because they were already ordained elders. Within months, the office of “high priest,” named in the Book of Mormon but not yet a part of Church governance, was applied to several brethren, leaving some modern commentators to conclude that “high priesthood” simply meant “high priests.” Eventually, the distinction between office and priesthood itself became clearer in Latter-day Saint minds.[38]

By 1835, the offices of the modern Church were more or less in place. Those offices named in the Book of Mormon were introduced first chronologically, a testament to the importance of the translation experience.[39] Priests and teachers, described almost synonymously in the Book of Mormon, appeared at the beginning. Elders and Apostles, though indistinguishable in the Church’s first months, were eventually separated into distinct offices. The office of bishop did not appear in the Book of Mormon, though it does in the Bible (see 1 Timothy 3:1–7) and was introduced in 1831. Originally, the bishops had responsibilities administering the law of consecration and stewardship and functioning as the first rung in a system of Church courts. The pastoral duties of the office were not added until the early Utah period, when the first congregational wards were introduced. The office of deacon, like that of bishop, had a New Testament precedent (see 1 Timothy 3:8–13) but none in the Book of Mormon. The office also appeared in 1831. High priests, as mentioned above, were noted in the Book of Mormon but did not appear until 1831 or 1832 (depending on one’s interpretation of the events of the 1831 conference where “high priesthood” was introduced).[40] A “president of the high priesthood” working in tandem with counselors was appointed by revelation in 1831, though it took some time for the presidency to function as a unit.[41] The office of patriarch, introduced in 1833, related to an Old Testament rather than a New Testament or Book of Mormon model. In the case of the presiding patriarch, the office passed from father to son, making it unlike any other calling in church government. Other patriarchs were called starting in 1837; their offices did not pass to sons.[42] An early Church leader described practice with regards to patriarchs: “It also was a rule in the church to have one in each stake (most generally the oldest, if suitable) appointed and ordained a patriarch, whose duty it was to be a sort of father to the church, and bless such children as had no natural father to bless them.”[43] As this account underscores, initially fathers gave their children patriarchal blessings; the Church patriarch and stake patriarch gave blessings to those who did not have a living Latter-day Saint father to bless them. The first high council was appointed in 1834; the minutes of its first meeting were eventually canonized and now appear as Doctrine and Covenants 102. “Apostle,” the word applied to Joseph Smith and a select few others in the months just before and after the organization of the Church, roared back in 1835 with added emphasis. An apostolic Quorum of Twelve was called in 1835, with a president designated on the basis of seniority (originally based on age). The “Seventy” came just days later in 1835. Most of the members of these two quorums were chosen from the Zion’s Camp ranks.

With this list in place, we can consider the significance of the early revelations relating to priesthood. Doctrine and Covenants 20, the Church’s founding “articles and covenants,” had listed the duties of the several offices and described select Church ordinances, but sections 84 and 107 fit both into a theological and ecclesiastical framework. The revelation we know as Doctrine and Covenants 84, given in 1832, drew several distinctions between the lesser and higher priesthoods and connected both to the temple and covenants. Following an introductory section relating to the building of a latter-day temple, verses 6–31 added a parenthetical note on priesthood history. The verses traced priesthood backward from Moses to Adam, stating in each case that a recipient received priesthood “under the hand” of another. This account itself is interesting, as the language underscored a lineal decent of authority that shared little with many Protestant conceptualizations of church authority. Divine authority descending through the years with a physical ordinance in an apparent top-down direction would have struck many Protestants as a Catholic practice. Even those with more hierarchical church structures like the Episcopalians and Methodists were forced, in the press of early American democratization, to demonstrate how church authority ultimately ran bottom up.[44] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would retain the principle of common consent in its government but, when viewed in conjunction with prophets, apostles, keys, and priesthood, it remains true that no other church in early American history cared so little for democratic church government.[45]

Section 84 also detailed how the higher priesthood was taken from Israel, along with Moses, because Israel’s tribes “hardened their hearts” and could not endure the presence of God. A lesser priesthood was “confirmed” on Aaron and his seed, and it predominated among the Israelites until the time of Jesus Christ (see vv. 18–28). Embedded in the account was this important phrase: “Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest” (v. 20). While no Saint of the 1830s took special notice of that verse, so far as we can tell, when viewed in retrospect, it reads like a sign of things to come. More to the point, where most of Joseph Smith’s contemporaries tended to see ordinances in strictly symbolic terms, the thrust of Joseph Smith’s ministry was to call greater and greater attention to what other Christians would call sacramentalism.

Indeed, the trajectory of Latter-day Saint theology and practice in the early years led away from the standard Protestant position on the sacraments. What lingering Protestant attachments the early Saints might have held were systemically undone by the revelations. Added to the early insight from the Book of Mormon that special divine authorization was needed to baptize, some early converts were no doubt surprised to learn to their Protestant baptisms “didn’t count,” as it were, for entrance into the Church of Christ. The revelation on the subject was less than diplomatic: one could be baptized “an hundred times,” but it would avail nothing . . . “you cannot enter in at the strait gate . . . by your dead works” (Doctrine and Covenants 22:2). Leaving little room for doubt about the place of authorized baptism in Latter-day Saint doctrine, section 76 listed baptism by immersion as a qualification for those inheriting celestial glory. That Joseph Smith took passages like these literally is clear enough: in an 1836 vision of celestial glory (now appearing as section 137), Joseph Smith was confused at seeing his own brother Alvin, who had died in 1823, in the celestial kingdom. As the Prophet explained, he “marveled” at Alvin’s presence there because “he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins” (v. 6).

So, viewed against the backdrop of Latter-day Saint thinking about ordinances, section 84 sounded an important chord. With the power of godliness manifest in the ordinances of higher priesthood alone, it is unsurprising that the revelation went on to call all men to the priesthood. Even while power in the restored Church remained top-down in its orientation, the net of priesthood was cast wide. How is that for a paradox? A prominent historian has recently written this about what I described above as a thoroughly anti-democratic church: “In a democratic time, the Mormons emerged as the most democratic of the churches, rivaled only by the Quakers.”[46] The revelation went on to link priesthood with exaltation itself, noting that those who received and magnified the priesthood would receive “all that my Father hath” (vv. 33, 38). It even cautioned those who would try to avoid priesthood responsibility. “And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood which ye have received,” the revelation warned, making clear that God intended all men to receive it.

Section 107 elaborated on these themes. It stressed the distinction between lesser and higher priesthoods, described the various offices of the Church, and outlined the relationship between the various quorums. Importantly, it also made clear the concept of presidency. “Of necessity,” verse 21 reads, “there are presidents, or presiding officers growing out of, or appointed of or from among those who are ordained to the several offices in these two priesthoods.” The necessity was evident enough in the early years of the Church. With its democratic male priesthood, some kind of ordering mechanism was needed to prevent disunity, confusion, and factionalism. That mechanism was presidency, which was most often articulated in the language of keys. Though the word was used in at least three distinct ways in the early Church, for our purposes the critical function of keys was to designate presiding officers.[47] While faithful men could receive priesthood, only presidents would receive keys, giving them the right to preside in a jurisdiction. Ultimately, the revelation stipulated, a quorum of presidents presided over the whole Church: “Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church” (v. 22). There was not a quorum, in fact, without a president, though a couple of the presidencies were unique. The apostolic quorum would have a single president without counselors, and the Seventies’ presidency would feature seven presidents without counselors. In every other case, a president with two counselors oversaw quorums in the Church.

The revelation related the Church’s presiding quorums in an interesting way. The First Presidency, the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, and the Seventy were described as “equal in authority and power” in verses 23–24, giving the impression to casual readers that the quorums perhaps shared presiding power.

Verse 33 corrects that impression, though, stating that “the Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church” (emphasis added). Whatever “equal” meant in the earlier verses, then, it did not place the Twelve and Seventy on par with the First Presidency. (The stake high councils, moreover, were accounted as “equal” with the Presidency and Twelve in verses 36–37.) While the Saints were left to sort through the equality language in those verses, it should be noted that the Twelve’s being described a “Traveling Presiding High Council” points to the position early Apostles found themselves in during the 1830s and ’40s. Whereas local stake councils in Kirtland or Missouri had responsibility to act under their presidencies in administering the needs of the Church, the Twelve were originally given authority only where there were no organized stakes. The modern apostolic quorum still scatters across the earth in fulfillment of its original directive—to act as “special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world” (v. 23)—but they play a role at Church headquarters today that their 1830s counterparts never did.

The Seventy, according to the revelation, were organized “according to the vision showing [their] order” (v. 93). The seven presidents, with one presiding over the six, were to oversee the work of a potentially large number of seventies. The revelation empowered Church leaders to call not just a single quorum of seventies, but perhaps many more “if the labor in the vineyard of necessity requires it” (v. 96). This flexibility is an important aspect of early Church government. While ideal membership numbers were set for the various quorums, the sizes were not set in stone. The First Presidency, for instance, had its number set at three, but Joseph Smith felt free to expand the quorum as needed. He not only added Oliver Cowdery as “Assistant” or “Associate” President for a few years in the 1830s—a position that Cowdery described as above the counselors but beneath the president—but also added additional counselors in Nauvoo.[48] Ecclesiastical adjustment and modification, in other words, should not trouble the Latter-day Saints. The Seventy, in fact, have undergone as much adjustment as any office in the Church.[49]

Priesthood Power, the House of the Lord, and the Grace of Jesus Christ

With all the structuring, ordaining, and organizing, one thing became clear to Joseph Smith: the Brethren would amount to little without power in their priesthood work. Modern Latter-day Saint missionaries learn that priesthood authority comes by ordination, but real power depends on their faithfulness.[50] This distinction between authority and power was not always explicit in the revelations or in the Prophet’s speaking and writing, but it runs through early Church history in unmistakable ways (see Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46). In short, neither Joseph Smith nor the revelations sought a cohesive organization or efficient institution only. Rather, since the salvation of the human family was the end of all the ecclesiastical means, the Saints sought nothing less than divine power to bless lives.[51] I will limit my illustration of early priesthood power to two examples, each a key term in the development of Latter-day Saint understanding of priesthood: endowment and sealing. Unsurprisingly, each in turn leads to temple, a word and place that serves as something of a crown jewel in the ministry of Joseph Smith. With the thought in mind, then, that all ecclesiastical paths lead to the temple, we can situate endowment, sealing, and temple together under heading of “power in the priesthood.”

The Lord’s instructions to his ancient Apostles that they should tarry at Jerusalem until they were “endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49) probably framed Joseph Smith’s early understanding of the priesthood’s potential. That word endue would enter Joseph Smith’s vocabulary with particular force. He used it interchangeably with the word endow. He expected an outpouring of divine power, in fact, that would rival the ancient Apostles’ experience at Pentecost as recorded in the New Testament. The spiritual gifts experienced by the early Saints, he taught, would signal God’s working in an unmistakable way to empower the newly ordained brethren. A dramatic experience of this sort of divine manifestation accompanied the ordinations to the “high priesthood” in 1831. Shortly after gathering to Ohio, in fact, a revelation (section 43) had promised an endowment to Saints: “Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power” (v. 16). In the June conferences of 1831, several of the brethren assembled there left accounts of a variety of dramatic spiritual experiences—healings, visions, speaking in tongues, and so on—that some expected would constitute the promised endowment of power.[52] Others were unconvinced that the promised endowment had come, and questions persisted.

One question related to sealing, a term perhaps unsurpassed in the transformation it underwent in the Church’s early years. After the November 1831 high priesthood conference, Joseph Smith instructed the elders on their appointments by linking high priesthood with the power to assure eternal life for faithful Saints. Speaking at a conference four months after the ordinations to high priesthood, Joseph Smith, according to the conference minutes, said that “the order of the High-priesthood is that they have power given them to seal up the Saints unto eternal life.”[53] Some early missionaries, acting on what understanding of the concept they had, began “sealing up” entire congregations to eternal life! Leaders later sometimes used this same “sealing” language in their patriarchal blessings, in their descriptions of initiation into the School of the Prophets, and in conjunction with the first temple ordinances practiced in Ohio.[54] Even so, Joseph Smith would eventually come to understand sealing in still different terms.

A revelation in 1833 (section 95) coupled “endowment” with “temple.” Intended for the Saints in Jackson County, Missouri, it related a “commandment that you should build a house, in the which house I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high” (v. 8). This would dramatically redirect the Saints’ energies with regard to the endowment of power. Oliver Cowdery took the new directions to heart. “We want you to understand that the Lord has not promised to endow his servants from on high,” he wrote to a fellow priesthood leader in 1834, “only on the condition that they build him a house; and if the house is not built the Elders will not be endowed with power, and if they are not they can never go to the nations with the everlasting gospel.”[55] After the 1833 Missouri mobbings made a temple there impossible and the 1834 Zion’s Camp recall made an immediate return unlikely, the Saints, armed with the knowledge that an endowment would not come without a temple, eventually built one in Ohio. The Pentecostal experiences before and after the dedication of the Kirtland Temple struck Joseph Smith as an endowment of power. After recording the visions, tongues, and angelic visitations of March 30, 1836, Joseph Smith’s journal records the following: “It was a penticost and enduement indeed, long to be remembered for the sound shall go forth from this place into all the world, and the occurrences of this day shall be handed down upon the pages of sacred history to all generations, as the day of Pentecost, so shall this day be numbered and celebrated as a year of Jubilee and time of rejoicing to the saints of the most high God.”[56] It was in Nauvoo, of course, that the term endowment took its final form in the Restoration. Predisposed to see endowment in terms of divine power and temple, the Saints experienced endowment as a distinct ordinance beginning in 1842. In a public sermon in early May of that year, Joseph Smith discoursed on the coming endowment and the difference between it and the preliminary ordinances revealed in Kirtland: “The keys are certain signs and words by which false spirits and personages may be detected from true, which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed—The rich can only get them in the Temple—the poor may get them on the Mountain top as did Moses.”[57]

Sealing, too, found its final forms in Nauvoo. The “sealing up unto eternal life” that the early Saints had spoken of since 1831, like endowment, was at last associated with the ordinances of the temple.[58] As important, the Prophet used sealing in new and consequential ways in Illinois. Whereas sealing had essentially linked individuals to God in the 1830s, the Nauvoo Saints learned that it could also link husbands and wives and parents and children together in eternal, covenantal relationships. In a conversation with William Clayton and Benjamin Johnson in May 1843, the Prophet explained that “except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity while in this probation by the power and authority of the Holy priesthood they will cease to increase when they die (i.e. they will not have any children in the resurrection) but those who are married by the power & authority of the priesthood in this life . . . will continue to increase and have children in the celestial glory.”[59] That same teaching was reinforced two months later when Joseph Smith dictated the revelation on celestial marriage (section 132). Sealing, importantly, seems to have functioned three ways in this last canonized revelation of Joseph Smith. The long-discussed “sealing up unto eternal life” appears in verse 49, where Joseph Smith was told, “For verily I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father.” The seventh verse speaks of ordinances themselves being sealed by the Holy Spirit in order to be valid, and, lastly, the net effect of the revelation was to assure that those worthily married for eternity were sealed to each other.[60] In section 132, the promised blessings related to sealing were supernal: “They shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them” (vv. 19–20). A month later, in August of 1843, Joseph Smith preached a sermon in which he explained that the sealing of husbands and wives would extend to their children: “When a seal is put upon the father and mother it secures their posterity so that they cannot be lost but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father.”[61] Just months before his death in 1844, the Prophet put the finishing touch on the doctrine of sealing, explaining that it would be possible to “seal those who dwell on earth to those which dwell in heaven.”[62] Is there a doctrine taught by Joseph Smith that gives more comfort and purpose to modern Latter-day Saint families?

In conclusion, I am hopeful that this brief review deepens our appreciation for these early Saints on several counts. First, while most modern Latter-day Saints know that the revelations came “precept upon precept; line upon line” (Isaiah 28:10), getting into the details of the beginnings of priesthood and Church government might convince us that we have underestimated how demanding and drawn out the process can be. Those of us who struggle with our own limited understanding might find some comfort in this. To grapple with what light and truth we have, and to yearn for more, is to stand in good company. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, and the rest came to know these processes well. Second, we might perhaps see in the temple the culminating contribution of Joseph Smith’s ministry. This chapter wound up at the temple because Joseph Smith’s prophetic work did; in one way or another, each of the doctrines, organizations, and practices found its ultimate expression in the house of the Lord. The trajectory of the Prophet’s teaching on priesthood and Church government pointed to ordinances and the covenants they offered. The Restoration in 1830, in the rear-view mirror, seems considerably less sacramental than it would in 1844. The Saints came a long way, both theologically and ecclesiastically, in less than two decades.

One question remains unanswered. What of that great question dividing Catholics and Protestants? What of the relationship between the sacraments and saving grace? That question animated the theologies of Luther, Calvin, and the other early Protestants and framed a major disagreement between the two Christian communities. Interestingly, in early Latter-day Saint scripture one finds ample support for both sides of that particular Christian divide. With all that I have presented here, there can be little doubt that ordinances came to occupy a prominent—and seemingly non-Protestant—place in the Restoration.[63] Baptism for the dead made unmistakably clear that ordinances were something well beyond symbols for the early Saints. Even so, Luther and Calvin would have approved of the early Church’s statement of faith given at its founding, as recorded in that unforgettable section 20. Here is its article on justification: “And we know that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true” (v. 30). That simple statement of Jesus Christ’s place in the Restoration should warm Latter-day Saint hearts—and Protestant hearts, too!

How, though, do these sacramental and grace sides of Latter-day Saint scripture come together? How should they fit in Latter-day Saint lives? I propose that the answer might lie in Doctrine and Covenants 84, the revelation on the priesthood’s oath and covenant discussed above. After the history lesson in verses 6–31 but before the overwhelming promise of “all that my Father hath” in verse 38, the revelation briefly, but powerfully, pulls together the ordinances of the priesthood and the Atoning One: “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” (vv. 35–37). For me, that word receive is the grand key. Every ritual act in the Church is in fact an act of reception or acceptance. In my mind, participation in the ordinances of the Church does not earn salvation for the Saints. I am not convinced that ordinances can qualify us for exaltation, either. No decision, no earthly work, no human striving could possibly merit “all that my Father hath.” Does any Latter-day Saint think that the accumulated righteousness of a lifetime could deserve that? Theologically speaking, it just does not add up. No, Latter-day Saints stand with the rest of Christendom, “all amazed . . . [and] confused at the grace that so fully he proffers” us.[64] Rather, as section 84 reminds us, by being baptized, confirmed, or endowed, we receive Jesus. His unmatched gifts are just that: gifts. And no one earns gifts. But for gifts to matter, for gifts to be enjoyed, they must be received. In the final tally, the Restoration’s revelations on priesthood underscore the fact that to “come unto Christ,” as the revelations so often put it, is to receive his goodness and grace.


[1] Chronology items are drawn from “A Chronology of the Life of Joseph Smith,” BYU Studies 46, no. 4 (2007), 67–78. I gratefully acknowledge two extensive studies of early Church government that inform this essay: Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), especially chapter 13; and Gregory A. Prince, Power from On High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1995).

[2] Larry E. Dahl and Charles D. Tate Jr., eds., The Lectures on Faith in Historical Perspective (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1990), 1–10.

[3] Joseph Smith Jr., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1948), 2:221.

[4] Joseph Young, History of the Organization of the Seventies: Names of the First and Second Quorums, Items in Relation to the First Presidency of the Seventies, also a Brief Glance at Enoch and His City (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1878), 1–2.

[5] Fred C. Collier and William S. Harwell, eds., Kirtland Council Minute Book (Salt Lake City: Collier’s Publishing Company, 1996), 70.

[6] See, for instance, Doctrine and Covenants 107:93: “And it is according to the vision showing the order of the Seventy.”

[7] Collier and Harwell, Kirtland Council, 72–80.

[8] Collier and Harwell, Kirtland Council, 85.

[9] Joseph Smith Jr., Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, comp. and ed. Dean C. Jessee, 2nd ed. rev. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002), 358.

[10] Smith, History of the Church, 2:238.

[11] Smith, Personal Writings, 368–88.

[12] Dean C. Jessee, Mark Ashhurst-McGee, and Richard L. Jensen, eds., Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839, vol. 1 of the Journals series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: The Church Historian's Press, 2008), 62.

[13] Jessee, Ashhurst-McGee, and Jensen, Journals, 1:68.

[14] Jessee, Ashhurst-McGee, and Jensen, Journals, 1:71.

[15] Jessee, Ashhurst-McGee, and Jensen, Journals, 1:72.

[16] Jessee, Ashhurst-McGee, and Jensen, Journals, 1:77, 79.

[17] Jessee, Ashhurst-McGee, and Jensen, Journals, 1:83–84.

[18] Jessee, Ashhurst-McGee, and Jensen, Journals, 1:88, 95.

[19] Jessee, Ashhurst-McGee, and Jensen, Journals, 1:113.

[20] Jessee, Ashhurst-McGee, and Jensen, Journals, 1:120–21.

[21] Jessee, Ashhurst-McGee, and Jensen, Journals, 1:124.

[22] Jessee, Ashhurst-McGee, and Jensen, Journals, 1:134.

[23] Jessee, Ashhurst-McGee, and Jensen, Journals, 1:140.

[24] Jessee, Ashhurst-McGee, and Jensen, Journals, 1:140.

[25] “Government of the Church of Christ” appears on the title page of the Book of Commandments (Zion [Independence, MO]: W. W. Phelps and Co., 1833).

[26] Painesville [Ohio] Telegraph, December 7, 1830.

[27] Milton V. Backman Jr., The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio 1830–1838 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983), 42.

[28] Edward Partridge Papers, 1839, as quoted in Backman, Heavens Resound, 16.

[29] Boyd K. Packer, “The Twelve Apostles,” Ensign, November 1996, 6.

[30] For an accessible review of Catholic and Protestant perspectives, see Peter W. Williams, America’s Religions: From Their Origins to the Twenty-first Century (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 64–99.

[31] For early American churches and their theologies, see Edwin S. Gaustad and Philip L. Barlow, New Historical Atlas of Religion in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001); E. Brooks Holifield, Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003).

[32] For a prominent example, see Grant Underwood, “‘Saved or Damned’: Tracing a Persistent Protestantism in Early Mormon Thought,” BYU Studies 25, no. 3 (Summer 1985): 85–103.

[33] See Prince, Power from On High, 47–78.

[34] See Brian Q. Cannon, “Priesthood Restoration Documents,” BYU Studies 35, no. 4 (1996): 162–73.

[35] Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses (Liverpool: F. D. and S. W. Richards, 1854–86), 6:320.

[36] Heber C. Kimball, in Journal of Discourses, 7:231.

[37] Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, 251–69.

[38] See Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, 156–60; Prince, Power from On High, 15–21.

[39] When they were making preparations for the organization of the Church, in fact, Oliver Cowdery received a revelation never included in the Doctrine and Covenants (probably because it functioned as something of a forerunner to Doctrine and Covenants 20). In it, various Book of Mormon passages describing Church offices were emphasized. Oliver had earlier been instructed to “rely on that which is written” in his efforts to “build up my church” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:3). See Scott H. Faulring, “An Examination of the 1829 ‘Articles of the Church of Christ’ in Relation to Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants,” in John W. Welch and Larry Morris, eds., Oliver Cowdery: Scribe, Elder, Witness (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University, 2006), 155–93.

[40] See Mosiah 23:16–17, Alma 13.

[41] Prince, Power from On High, 22; Doctrine and Covenants 81, 107.

[42] See Irene M. Bates and E. Gary Smith, Lost Legacy: The Mormon Office of Presiding Patriarch (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996).

[43] John Corrill, A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, (Commonly Called Mormons) (St. Louis: Printed for the Author, 1839), 47.

[44] See Kathleen Flake, “From Conferences to Councils: The Development of LDS Church Organization, 1830–1835,” in Archive of Restoration Culture: Summer Fellows’ Papers, 1997–1999 (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute of Latter-day Saint History, 2000), 1–8; David Holland, “Priest, Pastor, and Power: Joseph Smith and the Question of Priesthood,” in Archive of Restoration Culture: Summer Fellows’ Papers, 1997–1999 (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute of Latter-day Saint History, 2000), 9–16.

[45] Flake, “From Conferences to Councils,” 2.

[46] Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, 153. See also Richard L. Bushman, Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 49–63.

[47] See Jason Lindquist, “‘Unlocking the Door of the Gospel’: The Concept of ‘Keys’ in Mormonism and Early American Culture,” in Archive of Restoration Culture: Summer Fellows’ Papers, 1997–1999 (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute of Latter-day Saint History, 2000), 29–41.

[48] D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Heirarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, in association with Smith Research Associates, 1994), 44–45.

[49] See Alan K. Parrish, “Seventy: Overview,” and Richard G. Roberts, “First Council of the Seventy,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 3:1300–3.

[50] Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2004), 83; see also Boyd K. Packer, “The Aaronic Priesthood,” Ensign, November 1981, 30: “Your authority comes through your ordination; your power comes through obedience and worthiness.”

[51] Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, 203.

[52] Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, 156–60.

[53] Donald Q. Cannon and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., Far West Record: Minutes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1844 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983), 20–21.

[54] See Prince, Power from On High, 20, 155–65.

[55] Oliver Cowdery to John F. Boynton, May 6, 1834, in Oliver Cowdery letterbook, Huntington Library, 45–46, as quoted in Prince, Power from On High, 32.

[56] Smith, Papers: Journals, 1:216.

[57] Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980), 119–20.

[58] See Prince, Power from On High, 166, 187–91.

[59] George D. Smith, ed., An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City: Signature Books and Smith Research Associates, 1995), 102.

[60] This last sense of sealing (that is, the sealing of husbands to wives) appeared for the first time explicitly in January 1844 in the journal of Wilford Woodruff (Prince, Power from On High, 167–68).

[61] Smith, An Intimate Chronicle, 115–16.

[62] Wilford Woodruff journal, March 10, 1844, as cited in Prince, Power from On High, 170.

[63] Bushman writes, “The priesthood doctrines opened a ritual world that Protestantism, with its emphasis on preaching, had closed off” (Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, 205).

[64] Charles H. Gabriel, “I Stand All Amazed,” Hymns (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985), no. 193.