5 October 1840 (Monday Morning).

Original Manuscript, in the hand of Robert B. Thompson [1] [2]

In order to investigate the subject of the Priesthood so important to this as well as every succeeding generation, I shall proceed to trace the subject as far as I possibly can from the Old and new Testament.

There are two Priesthoods spoken of in the Scriptures, viz the Melchisadeck and the Aaronic or Levitical Altho there are two Priesthoods, yet the Melchisadeck Priesthood comprehends the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood [3] and is the Grand head, and holds the highest Authority which pertains to the Priesthood 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. [4] Its institution was prior to "the foundation of this earth or the morning stars sang together or the Sons of God shouted for joy," [5] 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—Commencing with Adam who was the first man who is spoken of in Daniel as being the "Antient of days" or in other words the first and oldest of all, the great grand progenitor of whom it is said in another place he is Michael because he was the first and father of all, not only by progeny, but he was the first to hold the spiritual blessings, [6] the plan to whom was made known the plan of ordinances for the Salvation of his posterity unto the end, [7] and to whom Christ was first revealed, and through whom Christ has been revealed from heaven and will continue to be revealed from henceforth. Adam holds the Keys of the dispensation of the fulness of times, i.e. the dispensation of all the times have been and will be revealed through him from the begining to Christ and from Christ to the end of all world the dispensations that have [been and] are to be revealed

Ephesians 1st Chap 9 & 10 verses. "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he has purposed in himself 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 in him" Now the purpose in himself in the winding up scene of the last dispensation is, that all things pertaining to that dispensation should be conducted precisely in accordance with the preceeding dispensations. And again, God purposed in himself that there should not be an eternal fulness until every dispensation should be fulfilled and gathered together in one and that all things whatsoever that should be gathered together in one in those dispensations unto the same fulness and eternal glory should be in Christ Jesus, therefore he set the ordinances to be the same for Ever and ever and set Adam to watch over them to reveal them from heaven to man or to send Angels to reveal them [8] Heb 1 Chap. 16 verse. Are they not all ministring spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of Salvation. These angels are under the direction of Michael or Adam who acts under the direction of Christ.

From the above quotation we learn that Paul perfectly understood the purpose of God in relation to his connexion with man, and that glorious and perfect order which he established in himself whereby he sent forth power revelations and glory. God will not acknowledge that which he has not called, ordained, and chosen. In the begining God called Adam by his own voice See Genesis 3 Chap 9 & 10 verses. And the Lord called unto Adam and said unto him where art thou, and he said I heard thy voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked and hid myself. Adam received commandments and instruction from God. this was the order from the begining: that he received revelations, Commandments, and ordinances at the begining is beyond the power of controversy, else, how did they begin to to offer Sacrifices to God in an acceptable manner? And if they offered sacrifices they must be authorized by ordination. We read in Gen 4th Chap. v. 4 That Abel brought of the firstlings of the flock and the fat thereof and the Lord had respect to Abel and to his offring. And again Heb 11 Chap 4 verse. By Faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent Sacrifice than Cain by which he obtained witness that he was righteous God testifying of his gifts and by it he being dead yet speaketh. how doth ye yet speak? Why he magnified the Priesthood which was confired upon him and died a righteous man, and therefore has become a righteous man an angel of God by receiving his body from the dead, [9] therefore holding still the keys of his dispensation and was sent down from heaven unto Paul to minister consoling words & to commit unto him a knowledge of the mysteries of Godliness and if this was not the case I would ask how did Paul know so much about Abel and why should he talk about his speaking after he was dead. How that he spoke after he was dead must be, by being sent down out of heaven, to administer. 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, and Adam receiving his presidency and authority from Christ, but cannot receive a fulness, untill Christ shall present. the kingdom to the Father which shall be at the end of the last dispensation. [10] The power, glory, and blessings of the priesthood could not continue with those who received ordination only as their righteousness continued, [11] for Cain also being authorized to offer sacrifice but not offering it in righteousness, therefore he was cursed. It signifies then, that the ordinances must be kept in the very way God has appointed, otherwise their priesthood will prove a cursing instead of a blessing. [12] If Cain had fulfilled the law of righteousness as did Enoch he could have walked with God all the days of his life and never failed of a blessing. Gen [5:22] And Enock walked with God after he begat Mathusalah 300 years and begat Sons and Daughters and all the days of Enoch were 365 years and Enoch walked with God and he was not for God took him. Now this Enoch God reserved unto himself that he shoud not die at that time and appointed unto him a ministry unto terrestiral bodies of whom there has been but little revealed, He is reserved also unto the presidency of a dispensation. and more shall be said of him and terrestrial bodies in another treaties [13] He is a ministring Angel to minister to those who shall be heirs of Salvation and appered unto Jude as Abel did unto Paul. therefore Jude spoke of him 14 & 15 verses in Jude. and Enoch the seventh revealed these sayings. Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints Paul was also aquainted with this character and received instructions from him. Heb 11 Chap. 5 ver By Faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death, and was not found because God had translated him for before his translation he had this testimony that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please God, for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a revealer [14] to those who diligently seek him.

Now the doctrine of translation is a power which belongs to this priesthood, there are many things which belong to the powers of the priesthood and the keys thereof that have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world. [15] they are hid from the wise and prudent to be revealed in the last times many may have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God and into an Eternal fulness but this is a mistaken idea. There place of habitation is that of the terrestrial [16] order and a place prepared for such characters, he had in he held in reserve to be ministring angels unto many planets, and who as yet have not entered into so great a fulness as those who are resurrected from the dead. See Heb 11 Chap part of the 35 verse "others were tortured not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection" Now it was evident, that there was a better resurrection or else God would not have revealed it unto Paul wherein then can it be said a better ressurrection? This distinction is made between the doctrine of the actual ressurrection and the doctrine of translation, the doctrine of translation obtains deliverance from the tortures and sufferings of the body but their existence will prolong as to their labors and toils of the ministry before they can enter into so great a rest and glory, but on the other hand those who were tortured not accepting deliverance received an immediate rest from their labors, See Rev [14:13] And I heard a voice from heaven saying blessed are the dead who die in the Lord for from henceforth they do rest from their labors and their works do follow them—They rest from their labors for a long time and yet their work is held in reserve for them, that they are permitted to do the same works after they receive a ressurection for their bodies, but we shall leave this subject and the subject of the terresteal bodies for another time in order to treat upon them more fully [17] The next great grand patriarch who held the Keys of the priesthood was Lamech [18] See Gen 5 Chap 28 & 29 verses—And Lamech lived 182 years and begat a Son and he called his name Noah saying this same shall comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands because of the ground which the Lord has curst. "The priesthood continued from Lamech to Noah Gen 6 Chap 13 verse. And God said unto Noah the end of all flesh is before me, for the earth is filled with violence through them, and behold I will destroy them with the earth," thus we behold the Keys of this priesthood consisted in obtaining the voice of Jehovah [19] that he talked with him in a familiar and friendly manner, that he continued to him the Keys, the Covenants, the power and the glory with which he blessed Adam at the beginning and the offring of Sacrifice which also shall be continued at the last time, for all the ordinances and duties that ever have been required by the priesthood under the direction and commandments of the Almighty in the last dispensation at the end thereof in any of the dispensations, shall all be had in the last dispensation. [20] Therefore all things had under the Authority of the Priesthood at any former period shall be had again—bringing to pass the restoration spoken of by the mouth of all the Holy Prophets. Malachi 3 then shall the sons of Levi offer unto the Lord an acceptable offring" then shall the sons of Levi offer an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord Se[e] Malichi 3 Chap. 3 & 4 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of Silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord

It will be necessary here to make a few observations on the doctrine, set forth in the above quotation, As it is generally supposed that Sacrifice was entirely done away when the great sacrife was offered up—and that there will be no necessity for the ordinance of Sacrifice in future, but those who assert this, are certainly not aquainted with the duties, privileges and authority of the priesthood. or with the prophets The offering of Sacrifice has ever been connected and forms a part of the duties of the priesthood. It began with the prieshood and will be continued untill after the coming of Christ from generation to generation—We freequently have mention made of the offering of Sacrifice by the servants of the most high in antient days prior to the law of moses, See [21] which ordinances will be continued when [22] the priesthood is restored with all its authority power and blessings. Elijah was the last prophet that held the keys of this priesthood, and who will, [23] before the last dispensation, restore the authority and delive[r] the Keys of this priesthood in order that all the ordinances may be attended to in righteousness.

It is true that the Savior had authoritity and power to bestow this blessing but the Sons of Levi were too predjudi[ced] [24]

And I will send Elijah the Prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord &c &c.

Why send Elijah because he holds the Keys of the Authority to administer in all the ordinances of the priesthood and without the authority is given the ordinances could not be administered in righteousness. [25]

It is a very prevalent opinion that in the sacrifices of sacrifices which were offered were entirely consumed, this was not the case if you read Leviticus [2] Chap [2-3] verses you will observe that the priests took a part as a memorial and offered it up before the Lord, while the remainder was kept for the benefit maintenance of the priests. [26] So that the offerings and sacrifices are not all consumed upon the Alter, but the blood is sprinkled and the fat and certain other portions are consumed These sacrifices as well as every ordinance belonging to the priesthood will when the temple of the Lord shall be built and the Sons Levi be purified be fully restored and attended to then all their powers ramifications ramifications and blessings—this the Sons of Levi shall be purified. ever was and will exist when the powers of the Melchisid Priesthood are sufficientIy manifest. [27] Else how can the restitution of all things spoken of by all the Holy Prophets be brought to pass be brought to pass [28] It is not to be understood that, the law of moses will be established again with all it rights and variety of ceremonies, ceremonies, this had never been spoken off by the prophets but those things which existed prior Mose's day viz Sacrifice will be continued [29]—It may be asked by some what necessity for Sacrifice since the great Sacrifice was offered? In answer to which if Repentance Baptism and faith were necessary to Salvation existed prior to the days of Christ what necessity for them since that time [30]

The priesthood has descended in a regular line from Father to Son through their succeeding generations

See Book of Doctrine & Covenants [107:40-52]. [31]

—5 October 1840


[1] See History of the Church, 4:207-212 and Teachings, pp. 166-173. The original source for the reports of this discourse in History of the Church and Teachings is the account given in this text. This discourse is apparently the only discourse for which the Prophet ever prepared a text. He did not personally deliver this "Treatise on Priesthood," but had his scribe, Robert B. Thompson, read it to the Saints assembled in general conference. The dictation of the text by the Prophet has a fascinating background. We are indebted to Howard Coray, another of Joseph's clerks at the time, for the following account preserved in his autobiography (Special Collections, Brigham Young University):

One morning, I went as usual, into the Office to go to work: I found Joseph sitting on one side of a table and Robert B. Thompson on the opposite side, and the understanding I got was that they were examining or hunting in the manuscript of the new translation of the Bible for something on Priesthood, which Joseph wished to present, or have read to the people the next Conference: Well, they could not find what they wanted and Joseph said to Thompson "put the manuscript one side, and take some paper and I will tell you what to write." Bro. Thompson took some foolscap paper that was at his elbow and made himself ready for the business. I was seated probably 6 or 8 feet on Joseph's left side, so that I could look almost squarely into Joseph's left eye — I mean the side of his eye. Well, the Spirit of God descended upon him, and a measure of it upon me, insomuch that I could fully realize that God, or the Holy Ghost, was talking through him. I never, neither before or since, have felt as I did on that occasion. I felt so small and humble I could have freely kissed his feet.

Much like the Prophet's dictated revelations, this text has few editorial changes. Furthermore, the document demonstrates the Prophet's knowledge of the scriptures. With no Bible at hand, he accurately cited and dictated the text of fourteen scriptural passages. Only twice did the Prophet not remember the chapter and verse of a passage. Nevertheless, he quoted those passages accurately. In this important address the Prophet makes many important statements on Temple Priesthood the day after announcing plans for the construction of the Nauvoo Temple.

[2] Robert Blashel Thompson (1811-41). Baptized by Parley P. Pratt in Upper Canada in 1836. Scribe for the Prophet 1839-41.

[3] In the 5 January 1841 discourse, Joseph stated, "All priesthood is Melchizedeck; but there are different portions or degrees of it" (see D&C 107:1-20).

[4] "What was the power of Melchisedick?" Joseph Smith asked in his 27 August 1843 discourse. "Twas not P. of Aaron &c. [but it was the power of] a king & a priest to the most high God. [That priesthood was] a perfect law of Theocracy, holding keys of power & blessings, [and] stood as God to give laws to the people, administering endless lives to the sons and daughters of Adam."

[5] Job 38:7 (1-7).

[6] In the discourse dated "Before 8 August 1839 (1)," Joseph Smith states, "The Priesthood was first given to Adam: he obtained the First Presidency and held the Keys of it from generation to generation; he obtained it in the creation before the world was formed" (spelling and punctuation standardized).

[7] Moses 5:1-12; 6:4-9, 45-68.

[8] In the discourse dated "Before 8 August 1840 (1)," Joseph Smith stated, "The Keys [of the Priesthood] have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent, When they are revealed from Heaven it is by Adam's authority" (spelling and capitalization standardized).

[9] See 27 June 1839, note 21.

[10] D&C 29:22-32; 76:98, 106-8.

[11] D&C 121:34-37, 41-42.

[12] The Law of Sacrifice authorized as a legitimate offering to the Lord the offering of the "first fruits of the field." Therefore, Cain was following the proper form when he offered sacrifice. The reason he was cursed was not, as is generally supposed, because he violated the forms of sacrifice, but because he did not offer his sacrifice with a righteous heart.

[13] Only a brief mention of this subject is made during the Prophet's 3 October 1841 discourse a year later, and no lengthy "treatise" has ever been found on the "doctrine of translation." It is a subject the Prophet was uniquely qualified to clarify. For in the scriptures revealed through him, he had much to say on this subject—certainly more than is given in the King James Version of the Bible. See, for example, Alma 45:18-19; 3 Nephi 28; 4 Nephi 14, 37; Mormon 8:10-12; 9:22; Ether 12:17; D&C 7; 49:8; 50:26-30; 77:7-11, 14; 84:25, 98-100; 107:48-49, 57; 110:13-16; 129:1-3; 130:4-7; 133:52-56; Moses 6:32-34; 7:13; 16-23, 27, 61-69; JST Genesis 9:21-25; 13:13; 14:25-36.

[14] This change in Hebrews 11:6*—the change of the word rewarder to the word revealer—is not found in the manuscript of Joseph Smith's Translation of the Bible.

[15] Much evidence suggests that Joseph Smith considered the doctrine of translation to be an outgrowth of the highest blessings of the priesthood. For example, JST Genesis 14:25-36, is a clear statement of the relationship of the highest powers of the priesthood and the blessing of "translation." There are also other allusions by Joseph Smith in this discourse to certain elements of priesthood doctrine—teachings as he put it "that have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world … from the wise and prudent"—ordinances not previously performed in this dispensation that would be institutionalized in the Church by way of the temple endowment. For example, the Prophet alludes to the reinstitution of the Law of Sacrifice—that part administered by the Melchizedek Priesthood before the Law of Moses. Moreover, it is clear by this discourse that Joseph Smith expected to reinstitute the priesthood vestments (as described in Exodus 28 and 29) and the restoration of the Levitical Order of the Priesthood sufficient to fulfill Malachi 3:3-4 (see D&C 2).

[16] The term terrestrial order suggests the Mormon definitions of "telestial" life (the present earthly order) and "celestial" existence (the highest state of resurrected life).

[17] See note 13 of this discourse.

[18] Apparently Joseph Smith reasoned that because biblical chronology indicated that Noah was not a contemporary of Adam, the keys of Adam's dispensation fell to Noah's father, Lamech.

[19] D&C 107:18, 19. Three months after this discourse, Joseph Smith received a revelation specifically requiring that he teach Hyrum Smith and William Law certain "keys by which they could ask and receive" (D&C 124:95, 97). In the 1879 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, Orson Pratt indicated that these keys were "the order of God for receiving revelations"—the keys to the oracles of God. Because these keys were part of the endowment ordinances not revealed until a year and a half later, and because they were not to be reduced to writing until there was a temple repository (something not accomplished until 1877), we are therefore dependent either upon those who received these ordinances or those who knew second-hand for any of the otherwise unrecorded details of Joseph Smith's revelations on temple ordinances. Elder Charles C. Rich, a member of the Council of the Twelve, was one of the latter category of second-hand preservers of Joseph's revelations on the temple ordinances and who obviously was sensitive to the propriety of discussing endowment ordinances. Nevertheless, he publicly gave this very important account of the revelation of these keys of the priesthood, during a stake conference meeting in Idaho in 1878. "It was a long time after the Prophet Joseph Smith had received the keys of the kingdom of God, and after Hyrum and others had received many blessings, that the Lord gave Joseph a revelation, to show him and others how they could ask for and receive certain blessings. We read in the revelations of St. John, that [of] the white stone [as follows:]' and in the stone a new name, which no man knoweth save him that receiveth it.' Joseph tells us [in D&C 130:10-11] 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" (Journal of Discourses, 19:250).

Two years after this October 1840 discourse, Joseph Smith, according to George A. Smith's interpretation of the Prophet's meaning, told the Relief Society on 28 April 1842 (six days before the endowment was first given) that he was about to deliver "the keys of the Priesthood to the Church, and said that the faithful members of the Relief Society should receive them 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" (Teachings, p. 226). While the original minutes are not this explicit, no doubt George A. Smith felt justified in amplifying the meaning of the text based on his personal experience with the Prophet in sacred meetings when the temple ordinances were administered. His wife, Bathsheba W. Smith, left on record several statements indicating the Prophet's public reference to this concept. On one occasion she said of Joseph Smith, "When speaking in one of our general fast meetings, he said that we did not know how to pray to have our prayers answered. But when I and my husband had our endowments … Joseph Smith presiding, he taught us the order of prayer" (Juvenile Instructor 27 [1 June 1892]:345). Notwithstanding G. A. Smith's interpretation, there is evidence that prior to 19 January 1841 the Prophet had thought long on the question of keys of access to God. For example, in 1833 the Prophet taught the brethren of the School of the Prophets "how to get revelation." Also in 1835, Joseph Smith taught the Father of Lorenzo Young how to get the spiritual power to heal his son. "Join in prayer," the Prophet said, "one by mouth and the others repeat after him in unison … [then] continuing the administration in this way until you receive a testimony that he will be restored" ("Biography of Lorenzo Dow Young," Utah Historical Quarterly 14:45). But three months after these instructions were given, the Prophet received the keys of the sealing power from Elijah. Apparently based on a maturing appreciaton of the authority Elijah bestowed upon him, the Prophet six years later stated that "For him to whom these keys [of Elijah] are given there is no difficulty in obtaining" revelation (see D&C 128:10-11). Thus, based on the authority he received of Elijah, Joseph Smith conferred the keys of the priesthood in the endowment 4 May 1842 (see History of the Church, 5:1-2 or Teachings, p. 137, and 28 April 1842, notes 6, 12, 1 May 1842, notes 2 and 4, and note 15, this discourse).

[20] See note 15 of this discourse.

[21] See for example, Genesis 4:3-5; 8:20-22; 11:7-8; 13:3-4; 22:1-19; Moses 5:4-8; Abraham 2:17-21; the book of Abraham Facsimile 2, figure 2.

[22] The use of the word when rather than the word because is interesting. According to his own diary, Elijah appeared to him on 3 April 1836 and delivered these keys (Joseph Smith Diary, Church Archives, D&C 110:13-16). Apparently in his mind it was not sufficient that he alone had these keys and this power, but he intended by way of ordinances to confer a portion of this power on others who were faithful, thereby actually bringing about the restoration of all things. For example, in D&C 132:45-46, where by revelation Joseph Smith is reassured that he received the keys of the binding and loosing power of Elijah, the Lord says, "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." These keys of access to God (D&C 128:10-11) held in all their fulness by the President of the Church, enable the "least member" in the Church to have power in his priesthood (See Teachings, p. 137). It was not enough to Joseph Smith to be a king and a priest unto the Most High, but he insisted that his people be a society of priests "as in Paul's day, as in Enoch's day" through the ordinances of the temple (see 30 March 1842 discourse). Throughout the remainder of his Nauvoo experience, Joseph Smith taught and emphasized the importance of the temple ordinances, ordinances that would bestow upon members of the Church the knowledge and power he foreshadows in this discourse (see note 15).

[23] Interesting use of "will" rather than "has." See note 22, this discourse.

[24] Joseph Smith was already recognizing the difficulty he would have attempting to introduce all the knowledge and ordinances he had received by revelation. Undoubtedly the recently announced doctrine of baptism for the dead challenged the faith of some. Likewise also, he had only recently begun to preach the practice of plural marriage, which met with decided opposition. It was these and other doctrinal developments that would try the faith of many saints and fly in the face of their prejudices. Often throughout the remainder of his life, Joseph Smith would lament that many Saints were unwilling to accept the glorious things revealed to him from heaven.

[25] Despite the restoration of the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood (by John the Baptist; Joseph Smith-History 1:69-72) and the apostleship (by Peter, James and John; Joseph Smith-History 1:72), there were ordinances of the priesthood that could not be performed unless administered by the power and authority of Elijah.

[26] That is, as food for the priests.

[27] See note 15, this discourse.

[28] Acts 3:19-21.

[29] For example, Genesis 3:21; 4:2-7 (see note 12, this discourse 2); 8:20–21 are sacrifices after the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood (see Mosiah 13:27-35).

[30] Unlike the King James Version of the Bible, the scriptures revealed through Joseph Smith include the ordinances of baptism for the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands as authentic Old Testament ritual. See for example, 2 Nephi 31 in the Book of Mormon, and Moses 6:51-68 of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.

[31] Abraham 1:2-4, 31; and 2:7-11.