1834 is a transitional year in church history. As the failures of the church to obey the Lord’s commands pile up, the Lord begins to put the pieces in place for what will remain once the fullness is removed.
In February 1834, Joseph Smith convenes the “President’s Standing Council,” effectively the first stake high council. Joseph, Sidney, and Frederick Williams are designated as the presidency.
In April 1834, the Lord declares in D&C 104 that the covenant has been broken and the church is to be cursed.
In May 1834, the name of the church is changed to The Church of Latter Day Saints, missing the name of Christ in stark opposition to 3 Nephi 27.
In June 1834, 15 Elders in Missouri are selected to travel to Kirtland to receive an endowment of power.
In September 1834, a committee calls Joseph, Oliver, Sidney, and Frederick to arrange the items of doctrine of Jesus Christ. This work would become the Doctrine and Covenants, with the Lectures on Faith as the doctrine.
On December 5, the Lord declared condemnation on the leaders of the church.
On December 6, Joseph Smith Sr. is ordained as Church Patriarch. Joseph would later declare the Patriarch to be the highest officer of the church, and D&C 124 would confirm that hierarchy.
Once that change was made, other changes came quickly. In February the Quorums of the Twelve and the Seventy were created. Then the first part of D&C 107 is received which begins to establish the rules of operation for this new church structure. Then during the summer the Doctrine and Covenants is published, for the governance of the Church of Latter Day Saints.
By now the church organization is significantly different than during the fullness. (Click the chart to get a larger version.)
The Twelve and the Seventy are to have no authority inside organized stakes, but they are to travel and administer the church outside the stakes. One thing that surprised me was that the first stake was created just as Zion was faltering. Rather than being an extension of Zion, it seems to have been intended for the exile of Zion, which at the time was promised to be short-lived if the church repented. September 1836 was given as the deadline for redeeming Zion. Once that passed, things deteriorated.
In 1841, the Lord gave Section 124 which listed the church organization. It is basically the same as in 1835, but there is a little bit more information.
The Patriarch is given as the first officer of the church. Interestingly, whereas D&C 107 says the First Presidency is to consist of three High Priests, in 1841 Joseph is identified as the presiding Elder. It appears even Joseph has lost the fullness of the priesthood and has reverted to being an Elder.
Notice the Lord’s description of the High Priest Quorum: “instituted for the purpose of qualifying those who shall be appointed…” This seems almost preparatory in nature, whereas before these High Priests had a “right to officiate in their own standing.”
Finally, the Lord makes it clear that the Quorum of the Twelve, the Quorum of the Seventy, and the stake high council have equal authority. Could you imagine a stake president telling the President of the Quorum of the Twelve to stuff it? Yet this is how the Lord organized things…the Twelve only had authority outside the stakes. My how times have changed.
It’s important to realize that this organization with Stake Presidents, Apostles, and Seventies, is the organization of downgraded church. If we are going to have the fullness restored unto us, I suspect we will first see the Lord’s 1835/1841 organization restored, with Twelve Apostles preaching to the world and leaving the organized stakes alone. Once we redeem Zion, I would expect to see a return to the 1833 organization inside Zion, where other than a president people seem to govern themselves.
As we read the scriptures, it’s critical to keep these different organizational structures in mind, as well as the scriptural definitions of different priesthoods. The misapplication of the term Melchizedek Priesthood to the office of Elder and the continued use of the office of High Priest has definitely muddied the waters. Only by looking back at how the priesthood was referred to and organized during specific periods of the church’s fullness, and comparing that to the state of the church and it’s downgrade, can we decode what the priesthood really looks like, how it should act, and why we don’t see the promises we should have it we truly had the fullness. But it also tells us what we should look for when the Lord sets his hand a second time to recover Israel and redeem Zion.
7 thoughts on “Cracking the Priesthood Paradox – Part 5”
Is the Stake Presidency and the Standing High Council of the stake of Zion a single organization or multiple presidents and councils of every stake? Today every stake has its own set.
Each stake seems to get one. The Kirtland Stake was created in February 1834 with Joseph as president and a high council called. In July 1834, the Independence stake was created with David Whitmer as president and it had its own high council. So there were two independent stakes running with their own presidents and high councils. Also interesting to note is that they were formed and operating well before the Quorum of the Twelve was created, so stakes do not require Apostolic approval nor oversight. If you read D&C 107 literally, each stake is an independent church that makes its own decisions, and only disputes that are appealed need a first presidency to pass judgement. Quite a bit different than how things are done today.
Great series MD, I think section 84 is also a key section to keep in mind. Even though it was given when the fullness was still on the earth it really only makes sense in our fallen state. It talks about Moses trying to get the people to see the face of God and the priesthood being removed and the resulting exile. Doesn’t sound familiar at all. And says that 33 For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.
34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
I think this is the same thing as you mention in section 124 about there being a preparatory office of “high priest”. There was a high priest anciently of the Aaronic priesthood, but only one, who could enter God’s presence on behalf of the people on yom kippur. In modern times this office has been renamed bishop. But there is also a high priest of the Patriarchal Priesthood.
If you notice in section 84 this Holy Priesthood is patriarchal and handed down by the fathers and makes you a son of Moses and of Abraham and 19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
So it is a necessary spiritually preparatory priesthood, where you can have knowledge of God and if found worthy be called by His voice out of the heavens to become a true High Priest after the order of the Son of God and actually stand in His presence.
Notice this mirrors the endowment which was given to us as a schoolmaster to point out our fallen state, and the fact that we had lost the fullness of the priesthood which is necessary to enter God’s presence. And in the endowment how do we relearn the lost word which symbolizes that lost priesthood power? We have to have been faithful in the aaronic and patriarchal priesthoods and converse with God who calls us from the terrestrial/zionish world into His celestial realm.
Great series, you did some good research in bring things out, which I appreciate. I still want to study the priesthood more, but did a great start. In the last half of this post I did I also bring out how the traveling 12 and their helpers have no part in the organization of the church but are to preach the gospel to those who are not of the church.
First I commend you in the detail that you went through in discussing the history of the Priesthood from the Church of Christ to the cursing of the Latter Day Saint Church and then to the reorganizing that Brigham did in the 1860″s to the current SLC corporation.
I would sure like to know of the reference, if any, that you found that says, “September 1836 was given as the deadline for Zion to be redeemed”.
History of the Church, Volume 2:145-146 (August 16, 1834)
“Use every effort to prevail on the churches to gather to those regions and situate themselves to be in readiness to move into Jackson County in two years from the 11th of September next which is the appointed time for the redemption of Zion.”
Thank you for responding so fast!