Now that we’re razed the unstable foundation of our false priesthood traditions, let’s examine how the priesthood actually functioned during the life of Joseph Smith so we can build on a solid foundation.
Let’s start with the most ignominious of priesthood offices in the LDS church today: Teacher. In today’s church, they can’t bless the sacrament, and usually don’t get asked to pass the sacrament. Their claim to fame is preparing the sacrament and cleaning up afterward. During the actual sacrament they might be allowed to stand by the chapel door. I’m not sure why you need authority from God to put water into paper cups or open a door, but hey, I’m not a prophet, seer, or revelator, so what do I know?
Not that most Mormons care, but this is so utterly inconsistent with the office of Teacher back when Joseph was running the church. In 1838, several of the Twelve Apostles traveled to Far West, deposed the stake presidency, and established themselves as the leadership of the stake. This was is clear violation of the role of Apostles, but that’s another issue. What is important is that after running roughshod over the local church, they quickly had to make peace with the locals. On February 24, a high council meeting was held which came to these decisions:
Resolved, by the High Council, that it be considered that no High Priest, Elder or Priest (except the Presidency, High Council and Bishopric) has any right or authority to preside over or take the charge of any branch, society, or neighborhood within the bounds of this Stake: but that the teachers, assisted by the deacons, be considered the standing ministry to preside each over his respective branch of the Stake agreeable to the covenants.
Resolved that we recommend to all High Priests, Elders, and Priests…that they do not take the lead of nor appoint meetings in any branch or neighborhood of Saints within the bounds of this stake without the invitation or consent of the presiding officer of that branch. We also, consider that the teacher, who is the presiding officer, has a right to object to any official character, who may come among them, to officiate…
Resolved that the High Council recommend to each neighborhood or settlement of Saints, within the bounds of this stake, to choose for themselves a teacher…to take the watchcare over them and preside agreeable to the covenants, who shall be assisted by the other teachers and deacons in the branch.
Resolved that each branch of this stake send one or more teachers once in three months to the quarterly conference of this stake, with a written account of the true situation of his branch, agreeably to the Covenants.
I was gobsmacked when I read this the first time. The teachers are the presiding officers, selected by the local congregation, and they have the right to tell the High Priests, Elders, and Priests to stuff it! That’s totally different than anything we’ve been taught in the last 150 years. Realizing that this was connected to the corrupt Twelve exerting authority where they had none, I thought maybe this was an anomaly. Then I found other statements supporting this.
In a meeting on July 6, 1838, Sidney Rigdon reinforced these roles, saying, “the foundation of the happiness of the church rests upon the heads of the Teachers and Deacons, whose duty it is to go from house to house and see that each family in the church is kept in order, and that the children are taught the principles of righteousness…He compared the Elder to quarriers of stone, who merely quarried the stones and brought them to the building, where the Priests, Teachers, and Deacons, are polishers, whose duty it is to prepare them for the building.”
John Corrill later wrote, “The high priests, elders, and priests were to travel and preach, but the teachers and deacons were to be standing ministers to the church. Hence, in the last organizing of the church, each branch of the church chose a teacher to preside over them, whose duty it was to take the particular charge of that branch, and report from time to time to the general conference of elders.”
Three years before Far West, the June 1835 edition of the Messenger and Advocate included this: “The Teachers and Deacons are the standing ministers of the Church, and in the absence of other officers, great things and holy walk are required of them. They must strengthen the members’ faith; persuade such as are out of the way to repent, and turn to God and live; meekly persuade and urge every one to forgive one another all their trespasses, offenses and sins, that they may work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.”
Once I saw the pattern here, I wondered if I could see that in the scriptures.
The teacher’s duty is to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them; and see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking; and see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty. And he is to take the lead of meetings in the absence of the elder or priest—and is to be assisted always, in all his duties in the church, by the deacons, if occasion requires.
It shall be the duty of the several churches, composing the church of Christ, to send one or more of their teachers to attend the several conferences held by the elders of the church, with a list of the names of the several members uniting themselves with the church since the last conference.
Teachers lead the meetings, watch over the local congregation, and attend a conference held by the elders to report on the local congregation. This is consistent other scriptures:
The high priests should travel, and also the elders, and also the lesser priests; but the deacons and teachers should be appointed to watch over the church, to be standing ministers unto the church.
If you’ve always been taught that Teachers are 14-year-old boys, this doesn’t make sense. When you learn the truth, that Teachers were adult men until Brigham changed it up in the 1860s, this all makes sense. During Joseph’s ministry, even during the dark days of Nauvoo, the Teachers and Deacons ran the local congregations and they were adults. This is consistent with the Biblical qualifications for a Deacon:
Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
There is no way anyone can claim the current Deacons quorums are a restoration of the Biblical quorums. They were when Joseph was running the show, but once Brigham started his “improvement era” we quickly disconnected from reality. And thanks to Russell, we now have 11-year-old boys serving as Deacons. Instead of Deacons ruling their children well, the Deacons are the children. (sigh)