After the meeting referred to, President Taylor. .
. called five of us to get her: Samuel Bateman, Charles H. Wilkins, George
Q. Cannon, John W. Woolley, and myself. He then set us apart and placed
us under covenant that while we lived we would see to it that no year passed
by without children being born in the principle of plural marriage. We
were given authority to ordain others if necessary. . . under the direction
of the worthy senior (by ordination), so that there should be no cessation
in the work.
The claim that President John Taylor irrevocably set five
men apart to hold the keys of the sealing power is contrary to the revealed
word of the Lord and to the principles of succession of the sealing power
of the priesthood. The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that only
one man on the earth at a time, the President of the Church, holds the
right to direct the exercise of the sealing power.
Joseph Smith, in his day, held this office. Consider the
following revelation given to the Prophet regarding this power:
All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrec tion from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.
Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord
God, and not a house of confusion. Will I receive at your hands that which
I have not appointed? (1)
Marriages performed without the sanction of the one holding
the sealing keys were not to be binding in eternity; "plural marriages"
performed without this sanction were considered to be adultery. There were
those in the Prophet Joseph Smith's day who took plural wives without his
sanction and were excommunicated for their misdeeds. Oliver Cowdery, the
Prophet's bosom friend and the co-holder of all the keys of the priesthood,
including the keys of sealing restored by Elijah, was guilty of overstepping
this restriction of authority.
Oliver Cowdery was present when the original revelation
on plural marriage was given on July 17, 1831. (2)
Desiring to enter the practice of polygamy about 1836, he "married" a plural
wife without the Prophet's sanction. Later, in referring to this circumstance,
Brigham Young, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith indicated that it
was a transgression, even a grievous sin. (3)
Oliver Cowdery, like so many Fundamentalists, assumed
that if the Lord had given a revelation authorizing men to marry more than
one wife, then he could take additional wives without official sanction.
But he, like the Fundamentalists, was wrong, and he was subsequently excommunicated
after charging the Prophet with the same offense of which he himself was
guilty: adultery. (6)
Joseph Smith, speaking on the subject of plural marriage
and the authority to perform plural sealings, said on October 5, 1843:
Gave instructions to try those persons who were preaching,
teaching, or practicing the doctrine of plural ity of wives; for, according
to the law, I hold the keys of this power in the last days; for there is
never but one on earth at a time on whom the power and its keys are conferred;
and I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time,
unless the Lord directs otherwise. (7)
This right was carefully and zealously controlled by the
one holding the keys. Once Joseph's brother Hyrum, the Patriarch to the
Church, performed a sealing ordinance without the Prophet's direction or
sanction. Brigham Young wrote of this to William Smith, Hyrum's successor
Hyrum held the Patriarchal office legitimately, so do
you. Hyrum was counsellor, so are you. But the sealing power was not in
Hyrum legitimately, neither did he act on the sealing principle only as
he was dictated by Joseph in every case. This was proven for Hyrum did
in one case undertake to seal without counsel and Joseph told him if he
did not stop it he would go to Hell and all those he sealed with him.
Such is the declared fate of all who either perform or
enter "plural marriages" not sanctioned by the President of The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, culpability did not rest
alone with practicing plural marriage without the President's sanction,
but extended to merely advocating it without such sanction. Note the fate
of one elder so convicted, as found in the February 1, 1844, issue of the
Times and Seasons:
As we have lately been credibly informed, that an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter-day Saints, by the name of Hiram Brown, has been preaching Polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines, in the county of Lapeer, State of Michigan.
This is to notify him and the Church in general, that
he has been cut off from the church, for his iniquity; and he is further
notified to appear at the Special Conference, on the 6th of April next,
to make answer to these charges.
Let us now review succession as it relates to the office
that holds jurisdiction over the sealing prerogative. Brigham Young stated
the following shortly after the Prophet's death:
Joseph said that the sealing power is always vested in
one man, and that there never was, nor never would be, but one man on the
earth at a time to hold the keys of the sealing power in the Church. That
all sealings must be performed by the man holding the keys, or by his dictation,
and that man is the President of the Church. (10)
Before Joseph Smith's martyrdom, this authority was given
to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Brigham Young, being the senior
apostle, received the keys of the sealing power as successor to Joseph
Smith. Parley P. Pratt wrote of this vesting of the keys of the sealing
power shortly before the martyrdom:
He [Joseph Smith] proceeded to confer on Elder Young, the President of the Twelve, the keys of the sealing power, as conferred in the last days by the Spirit and Power of Elijah, in order to seal the hearts of fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse.
This last key of the Priesthood is the most sacred of
all, and pertains exclusively to the First Presidency of the Church, without
whose sanction and approval or authority, no sealing blessing shall be
administered pertaining to things of the resurrection and the life to come.
Wilford Woodruff clarified the vesting of the keys of
the priesthood with the Quorum of the Twelve in 1844, by explaining a statement
made by Joseph Smith:
". . . Now the keys of the kingdom are planted on the
earth to be taken away no more for ever." But until he [Joseph Smith] had
done this, they remained with him; and had he been taken away they would
have had to be restored by messengers out of heaven. But he lived until
every key, power and principle of the holy Priesthood was sealed on the
Twelve and on President Young, as their President.
John Taylor, speaking of this vesting of the keys, explained
that once given they then became inherent in the apostleship:
He [Joseph Smith] afterwards conferred them upon the Twelve
Apostles and others, who when they were ordained received them as part
of their ministry and priesthood, to prepare them for the work that was
to be done. (13)
Brigham Young exercised the sealing keys with universal presiding control as did Joseph Smith before him. Those who either attempted to perform or enter plural marriages without Brigham Young's sanction were disciplined. A member of the First Council of Seventy was dropped from his position by President Brigham Young because "he transcended the bounds of the Priesthood in the ordinance of sealing. (14)
The Lord stated that the powers of the priesthood must
be exercised according to the principles of revelation.
(15) Thus the President of the Church has the right to withdraw
sealing privileges--as well as to extend them -- as directed through revelation.
Brigham Young began diminishing the practice of plural marriage toward
the end of his presidency; in 1876 he closed the Endowment House, an act
that tended to decrease the number of new plural marriages.
(16) Later President Young counseled Church leaders to have only
one wife. John Henry Smith bore testimony to that fact in 1900, following
the Woodruff Manifesto of September 24, 1890, when he said: "President
Young once proposed that we marry but one wife."
(17) In addition, Brigham Young had indicated earlier that the
practice of polygamy was not always essential to exaltation. At a public
meeting in Grantsville, Utah, Wilford Woodruff reported:
President Young spoke 58 minutes. He said a man may embrace
the law of celestial marriage in his heart and not take the second wife
and be justified before the Lord. (18)
After the death of Brigham Young the keys of the sealing
power passed to the next President of the Quorum of the Twelve, John Taylor.
Elder George Q. Cannon said at that time:
At Joseph's death, there was only one man who could exercise
that authority and hold these keys, and that man was President Brigham
Young, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve. . . Now that he has gone,
one man only can hold this power and authority to which I refer, and that
man is he whom you sustained yesterday [October 7, 1877], as President
of the Quorum of the Twelve, as one of the Twelve Apostles and of the Presidency,
John Taylor by name. (19)
Thus, as pointed out, the keys of the sealing power devolved
upon the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as a matter of
course. On this same occasion, Orson Pratt said:
We have been taught, ever since the Twelve were chosen,
that they held all the power of the Melchizedec Priesthood, all the power
of the Apostleship that could be conferred upon mortal man.
Hence John Taylor stepped forward to exercise the keys
of sealing authority as President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, and
later as President of the Church.
Fundamentalists allege that their authority to continue
the present practice of plural marriage stems from the presidency of John
Taylor (1880-87). In order to claim the keys of sealing ordinances that
would allow them to perform plural marriages outside the authority of the
Church President, Fundamentalists, of necessity, had to separate the priesthood
from the Church and claim the priesthood for themselves. They argue:
Can the Priesthood function out of the Church? And is there a Priesthood organization possessing powers above those of the Church organization?
The answer to both questions must be yes.
Let us ask by what authority the Church was organized?
Did the Church set up the Priesthood, or did the Priesthood organize the
Church? Certainly the organizing power is greater than that which is organized.
The builder of a house is greater than the house. The Priest hood may organize
and disorganize at the will of God, and the Church is one of its creatures.
Fundamentalists next postulate a presidency over each
body -- a presidency of the priesthood and a presidency of the Church --
each being separate and distinct offices with separate jurisdictions of
authority. They then claim that both offices were held conjointly in the
early days of the Restoration, but that after the discontinuance of plural
marriage by the Church in 1890 the keys of the priesthood were forfeited
by succeeding Presidents of the Church. Those keys, Fundamentalists say,
descended instead through Fundamentalist channels:
Unfortunately a strong tradition has grown up among the
Saints, placing the Church as the highest organization -- the ultimate
in power and authority in the earth. Under this tradition the President
of the Church in all instances is presumed also to be the President of
Priesthood, thus automatically becoming God's mouthpiece on earth. But
this claim is unsound and in the light of facts and scripture
cannot be maintained. The claim has doubtless resulted from the fact that
Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff, who in their respective
days each became the President of Priesthood by reason of his seniority
in the higher order of the Priest hood with which he was endowed under
the hands of Joseph Smith, also in his turn becoming President of the Church.
It is true these brethren each held a dual position, but the one was ever
subordinate to the other -- the priesthood ruled. Since the day of Wilford
Woodruff the dual positions have not been held, the President of Priesthood
being separate and apart from the President of the Church.
There is not a single "fact" or "scripture" that can be
produced that specifies the existence of a priesthood presidency that rules
and presides over the Presidency of the Church. The best evidence Musser
could assemble is a series of inferences and assumptions. After trying
his best to explain and clarify this doctrine with a mass of unrelated
and misapplied quotations from the scriptures and from Church records Joseph
Musser concludes with this statement:
These incidents all tend to show that behind the scenes
independent of the Church -- there was a power little understood then [during
Joseph Smith's day], and perhaps by the masses who depend upon others to
do their thinking, no better understood to this day, and which is the governing
power of heaven, and from which the Church must receive its life and being
-- the power of the Holy Priesthood. (23)
In an earlier work clarifying this doctrine Musser is
forced to confess his lack of "facts" and "scripture":
It might be asked why the functions of this order of the
Priesthood were not made clearer in the revelations recorded in the book
of Doctrine and Covenants, in order that all Saints should understand them
alike. And the answer might be made. . . that not all the revelations of
God to His Priesthood are recorded in the book of Doc trine and Covenants.
. . the reason why this Priesthood matter was not made clear to the Saints
was that the Saints were not prepared to receive the truth.
Thus Musser admits that "facts" and "scriptures" do not exist. And little wonder: there is a different order and doctrine revealed in the revelations and history of the Church the doctrine that the President of the Church holds the keys of the priesthood by virtue of his office.
The great revelations on priesthood recorded in Sections
2O, 68, 84, 107, and 124 of the Doctrine and Covenants all reveal this
fact. After discussing the power and authority of the two main divisions
of the priesthood, the Lord revealed:
Of necessity there are presidents, or presiding officers growing out of. . . or from among those who are ordained to the several offices in these two priesthoods.
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. (25)
Speaking about the office of President of the Church,
the Lord clarified:
Wherefore, it must needs be that one be appointed of the High Priesthood to preside over the priesthood, and he shall be called President of the High Priesthood of the Church;
Or, in other words, the Presiding High Priest over the High Priesthood of the Church....
And again, the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses -- Behold, here is wisdom; yea, to be a seer, a revelator,
a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God
which he bestows upon the head of the church. (26)
When the Church was organized in 1830, the only office
of the priesthood that existed was that of elder, so Joseph Smith was designated
as "the First Elder of this Church." (27)
"The First Elder of this Church," then, was the presiding office of the
newly organized Church. After the office of high priest (referred to as
the "office of the High Priesthood") was instituted in June 1831,
(28) the office of "First Elder of this Church" was superseded
by the office of "President of the High Priesthood of the Church" or, more
simply stated, "President of the Church." (29)
This office was an outgrowth of the priesthood which Joseph Smith received
at the hands of Peter, James, and John in 1829. (30)
The great revelation on priesthood explained:
The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency,
and has power and authority over all the offices in the church in all ages
of the world, to administer in spiritual things.
Orson Pratt, who was present when Joseph Smith received
this office, wrote:
At this conference [Amherst, Ohio, Jan. 25, 1832]
the Prophet Joseph was acknowledged President of the High
Priesthood, and hands were laid on him by Elder Sidney Rigdon who sealed
upon his head the blessings which he had formerly received.
When the sealing keys were restored by the Prophet Elijah in April 1836, (33) an event which expanded the use of the Meichizedek Priesthood, the office of Church Presidency (President of the High Priesthood of the Church, D&C 107:65) also included within it presidency over the sealing authority (D&C 132:7). This fulness of priesthood authority was then transmitted to the Quorum of the Twelve in 1844, as we reviewed earlier, and it became inherent within the office of apostle (D&C 107:23-24; 110:15, 30-33).
Thus, as each President of the Quorum of the Twelve succeeded to the Presidency of the Church, he became invested with the position, and hence the authority, to exercise presidency over the sealing power, as did Joseph Smith. Brigham Young succeeded Joseph Smith as President of the Quorum of the Twelve, and John Taylor succeeded Brigham Young in a like capacity. In the same manner, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve has continued to succeed to the presidency of the priesthood to the present day.
Nowhere in the standard works or in the history of the
Church is there another, or different order of priesthood presidency indicated.
Thus Fundamentalism's double doctrine of priesthood presidency and Church
presidency is a contrived doctrine with no basis in "fact" or "scripture."
Let us review the termination of plural marriage in the
Church as it relates to the keys of the priesthood. The withdrawal of plural
marriage began during the waning years of John Taylor's presidency. In
March 1887 the Congress of the United States passed a measure commonly
referred to as the Edmunds-Tucker Law. Among other things this law
- dissolved the Corporation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- made both husband and wife competent witnesses.
- caused forfeiture and escheatment to the federal government of all Church property, both real and personal, in excess of $50,000.
- disinherited polygamous issue.
- provided for the complete disfranchisement of polygamists by test oath.
- placed all law-enforcement, judicial, and militia power in the Utah Commission or in other federal appointees.
- required certification and registration of all marriages
in the probate court. (34)
Abraham H. Cannon recorded that while the Edmunds and
Tucker bills were being debated and consolidated in Congress, President
John Taylor received a revelation, "in the which it stated that God was
satisfied with the sacrifice made by the people in this crusade and that
he would now turn their wrath aside." (35)
With the passage of the Edmunds-Tucker Law, PresidentJohn Taylor ceased
issuing recommends for the contracting of new plural marriages in the Church.
On October 20, 1889, Wilford Woodruff stated:
I have refused to give any recommendations for the performance
of plural marriages since I have been President. I know that President
Taylor, my predecessor, also refused. Since the Edmunds-Tucker law we have
refused to recommend plural marriages, and have instructed that they should
not be solemnized. (36)
Angus M. Cannon, President of the Salt Lake Stake, gave
the following testimony before a United States Commissioner in 1888:
Q. And the Church, through its officials, teaches the doctrine of plural or celestial marriage, but (through) the sanction of the Church its officers perform such marriages, do they not?
A. No sir, it has been discontinued.
Q. Since when?
A. It must be a year I think, very near a year, not quite, since persons applying have been refused...
Q. Has this refusal been since the death of President Taylor only?
A. I have understood that it existed before his death,
but I was not conscious of it. I had no occasion to sign any marriage recommends
for some time. (37)
President Taylor recognized that denial of recommends
for plural marriages was a major shift in policy, and he feared it would
try the faith of some Church members. He therefore made the following statement
in an epistle read at April General Conference in 1887:
The Church is now passing through a period of transition,
or evolution, as some might be pleased to term it. Such periods appear
to be necessary in the progress and perfecting of all created things, as
much so in the history of peoples and communities as of individuals. These
periods of transition have most generally their pains, perplexities and
sufferings. The present is no exception to the rule.
Soon after this policy of denying recommends for plural
marriages quietly went into effect, a constitutional convention was called
to frame a state constitution so that Utah Territory might be granted statehood
and be able to control its own political destiny. The constitution framed
by this convention included the following provisions:
Section 12: Bigamy and polygamy being considered incompatible
with a republican form of government, each of them is hereby declared a
misdemeanor. Any person who shall violate this section shall, on conviction
thereof, be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars and
imprisoned for a term of not less than six months nor more than three years,
in the discretion of the court. This section shall be construed as operative
without the aid of legislation, and the offenses prohibited by this section
shall not be barred by any statute of limitation within three years after
the power of pardon extended thereto until such pardon shall be approved
by the President of the United States.
Section 1. Provided, that section 12 of article XV shall
not be amended, revised, or in any way changed, until any amendment, revision,
or change as proposed therein, shall, in addi tion to the requirements
of the provisions of this article, be reported to the Congress of the United
States and shall be by Congress approved and ratified, and such approval
and ratification be proclaimed by the President of the United States, and
if so ratified and proclaimed said section shall remain perpetual.
President John Taylor and President George Q. Cannon endorsed
the proposed constitution. At a meeting on July 7, 1887,
President Cannon suggested that the Presidents of Stakes,
their counselors, and Bishops and their counselors be seen and be told,
that the First Presidency and Twelve see no reason why the Latter-day Saints
who are eligible to vote, should not vote for this state constitution,
and that in doing so they would not offend God nor violate his laws. He
thought that the giving of reasons and the indulging in argument should
be avoided, and that our public speakers should be exceedingly careful
in their utterances, lest our enemies should take advantage of what might
be said. (40)
On July 27, 1887, President J. D. T. McAllister of St.
George reports being instructed by one of the members of the Quorum of
The first Presidency and the Twelve endorsed the constitution
formulated and adopted by the convention in Salt Lake City on the 7th of
July, 1887. (41)
Three years later, in response to a Utah Commission report
to the government of the United States that over forty new plural marriages
had been consummated in the Church during the pre ceding year, President
Woodruff issued a public statement denying this allegation. This official
declaration the Woodruff Manifesto of 1890 follows verbatim:
To Whom it may Concern:
Press dispatches having been sent for political purposes, from Salt Lake City, which have been widely pub lished, to the effect that the Utah Commission, in their recent report to the Secretary of the Interior, allege that plural marriages are still being solemnized and that forty or more such marriages have been contracted in Utah since last June or during the past year, also that in public discourses the leaders of the Church have taught, en couraged and urged the continuance of the practice of polygamy--
I, therefore, as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do hereby, in the most solemn manner, declare that these charges are false. We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage, nor permitting any person to enter into its practice, and I deny that either forty or any other number of plural marriages have during that period been solemnized in our Temples or in any other place in the Territory.
One case has been reported, in which the parties allege that the marriage was performed in the Endowment House, in Salt Lake City, in the Spring of 1889, but I have not been able to learn who performed the ceremony; whatever was done in this matter was without my knowledge. In consequence of this alleged occurrence the Endowment House was, by my instructions, taken down without delay.
Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.
There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy; and when any Elder of the Church has used language which appeared to convey any such teaching, he has been promptly reproved. And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Unanimous approval of the Manifesto was secured at the
following October General Conference, and in the public mind the Manifesto
has since been viewed as the official termination of plural marriage in
the Church. Thus, with this official declaration, President Woodruff at
last made public a policy that had originated in March 1887 under President
The Woodruff Manifesto of 1890 has been much misunderstood,
and consequently misinterpreted, by Fundamentalists. They claim that Wilford
Woodruff issued the Manifesto terminating plural marriage not as President
of the priesthood, but as President of the Church:
He [Wilford Woodruff] issued a Manifesto stopping plural
marriage within the church -- doing so as President of the Church. . .
In contrast to this, the Fundamentalists claim that
John Taylor, not as President of the Church, but as President
of the Priesthood, took certain action Sept. 27, 1886. Had that action
been taken as President of the Church, to render it legal, the Church would
necessarily have had to approve it by vote as it later did the Manifesto
of Wilford Woodruff... . [Wilford Woodruff] held a like position with that
of his predecessor, but no authority came from Jesus Christ to him to cancel
John Taylor's action. (43)
Let us examine the record to see in what capacity President
Woodruff issued the Manifesto, publicly declaring an end to plural marriage
in the Church. When the Woodruff Manifesto was presented as an official
declaration to Church members at October General Conference in 1890, President
Lorenzo Snow offered the following motion:
I move that, recognizing Wilford Woodruff as the President
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the only man
on the earth at the present time who holds the keys of the sealing ordinances,
we consider him fully authorized by virtue of his position to issue the
Manifesto which has been read in our hearing, and which is dated September
24th, 1890, and that as a Church in General Conference assembled, we accept
his declaration concerning plural marriages as authoritative and binding.
George Q. Cannon confirmed this principle when he stated:
But, as is said in this action that has been made, President Woodruff is the only man upon the earth who holds the keys of the sealing power. These Apostles all around me have all the same authority that he has.
We are all ordained with the same ordination. We all have
had the same keys and the same powers bestowed upon us. But there is an
order in the church of God, and that order is that there is only one
man at a time on the earth who holds the keys of sealing, and that man
is the president of the church, now Wilford Woodruff. Therefore,
he signed that document himself. Some have wondered and said, "Why didn't
his counselors sign? Why didn't others sign?" Well, I give you the reason
-- because he is the only man on the earth that has this right, and he
exercised it, and he did this with the approval of all of us to whom the
matter was submitted. . . (45)
In further reviewing the position of President Woodruff
that qualified him to issue the Manifesto, President Cannon stated:
God gave the command, and it required the command of God
to cause us to change our attitude. President Woodruff holds the same authority
that the man did through whom the revelation came to the Church. It
required the same authority to say to us, "It is enough." God has accepted
of your sacrifice. He has looked down upon you and seen what you have passed
through, and how determined you were to keep his commandments, and now
he says "It is enough." It is the same authority that gave us the principle.
It is not the word of man. Now, it is for us to obey the law.
Thus Wilford Woodruff publicly terminated the practice
of plural marriage by virtue of the office of President of the High Priesthood
of the Church; he having received this office when he became the senior
apostle following President Taylor's death.
President Wilford Woodruff stated the following with reference
to the keys of the priesthood and the succession of those keys:
When the Lord gave the Keys of the Kingdom of God, the
keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood, of the Apostleship, and sealed them
upon Joseph Smith, he sealed them upon his head to stay here upon the earth
until the coming of the Son of Man. Well might Brigham Young say, "The
keys of the Kingdom of God are here." They were with him to the day of
his death. They then rested upon the head of another man -- President John
Taylor. He then held those keys until the hour of his death. They then
fell by turn, or in the providence of God, upon Wilford Woodruff.
And to squelch any pretensions that nonbelievers might
produce he continued:
I say to the Latter-day Saints the keys of the Kingdom
of God are here, and they are going to stay here, too, until the coming
of the Son of Man. Let all Israel under stand that. They may not rest upon
my head but for a short time, but they will then rest on the head of another
Apostle, and another after him, and so continue until the coming of the
Lord Jesus Christ. (47)
Fundamentalism claims that Wilford Woodruff lost the keys
of the priesthood through his acts connected with the issuance of the Manifesto
of September 24, 1890, and that these keys fell on the other five men allegedly
set apart by John Taylor in 1886, with John W. Woolley receiving the keys
as the "worthy senior" by ordination:
President Wilford Woodruff was "inspired" to sign the Manifesto in the same manner that the Prophet Joseph Smith was "inspired" to give the 116 pages of the manuscript of the Book of Mormon to Martin Harris; and as Joseph Smith lost the gift of translation for a few months because of this act, likewise Wilford Woodruff lost the keys of the Priesthood through his acts connected with the Manifesto. (48)
In setting the five men apart and ordaining them to the
Priesthood Presidency of Seven, John W. Woolley was first given that high
calling, coming next to Wilford Woodruff in order of ordination; so that
the keys to Priesthood passed in natural order from Wilford Wood ruff to
John W. Woolley. (49)
President Woodruff certainly did not recognize such a
dire result, nor did his counselors. George Q. Cannon, one of the five
allegedly set apart to the Presidency of priesthood, made the following
statement six years after the issuance of the Manifesto:
God has given him [Wilford Woodruff] the keys of authority.
.. . We listen to him and are guided by his slightest wish. It is because
we know that he is the servant of God, chosen by the Almighty to fill that
place, and that he holds the keys of the priesthood to this generation
on the earth at the present time. (50)
Fundamentalism alleges that no President of the Church
since President Woodruff has been a President of the priesthood, and thus
none exercised presidency over the sealing keys, as did their predecessors.
Joseph Musser explains:
Since the day of Wilford Woodruff the dual positions have not been held, the President of Priesthood being separate and apart from the President of the Church. (51)
At the death of President Taylor, he [Wilford Woodruff]
automatically advanced to the position of President of Priesthood. President
Snow, it is under stood, had already been given the higher order of the
Priesthood, though not functioning in the Presidency of it.
Despite Fundamentalist claims to the contrary, President
Snow exercised presidency over the sealing authority as God's mouth piece,
as his predecessors did. Let us examine the record. When Lorenzo Snow was
ordained an apostle in 1849, he received all the keys and powers of the
priesthood. Speaking of the fulness of the keys of the priesthood, John
He [Joseph Smith] afterwards  conferred them upon
the Twelve Apostles and others, who when they were ordained received them
as part of their ministry and priesthood, to prepare them for the work
that was to be done. (53)
The Lord confirmed this by revelation. Speaking of the
Quorum of the Twelve in 1880, which included Lorenzo Snow and his successor,
Joseph F. Smith, the Lord stated:
And while my servant John Taylor is your President, I wish to ask the rest of my servants of the Apostles the question, although you have one to preside over your Quorum, which is the order of God in all generations, do you not, all of you, hold the apostleship, which is the highest authority ever given to men on earth? You do.
Therefore you hold in common the Keys of the Kingdom of
God in all the world. (54)
In Lorenzo Snow's setting apart to the presidency of the
Church, the fulness of the priesthood was reconfirmed upon him with the
right and authority to exercise presidency of the priest hood:
We reconfirm upon thee all thy former blessings and all
the authority and ordinations; and every power that pertains to the everlasting
Priesthood and to the Presidency of the Church of Christ, we seal upon
thee, and ask God our Father to confirm this sealing and this setting apart,
that thou mayest be filled with new power, yea with increased power, to
go forth and magnify thy calling in the midst of the Church of Christ and
among thy fellowservants; and that the Lord will communicate with thee
from time to time everything necessary for the perfect government of His
Church; that thou mayest exercise all the keys and the authority that have
been exercised heretofore by thy predecessors -- by Wilford Woodruff, by
John Taylor, by Brigham Young, and by Joseph Smith, and which he (Joseph
Smith) sealed upon his fellow Apostles. (55)
When Lorenzo Snow was set apart as President of the Church,
he announced that he would authorize no new plural marriages.
(56) In a private conversation with Elder Brigham Young, Jr.,
he af firmed his position as the "one man on the earth at a time" who holds
the sealing keys of the priesthood, with the right to withhold that power
There cannot be a plural marriage solemnized in this Church
without my consent and I have never given consent for this to be done since
[I have been] President of the Church. God has removed this privilege from
the people and until he restores it, I shall not consent to any man taking
a plural wife. It is just as fair for one as it is for all to go without.
The business is taken out from our hands and we cannot fight the United
States. It is [for] them and God to settle this question. We are not in
it. There is no such thing as men taking plural wives and keeping it secret.
It cannot be done. Has any one of the Apostles a right to seal plural wives
to men by reason of former concessions made to them by the Presidency?
No, sir, such right must come from me and no man shall be authorized by
me to break the law of the land. (57)
In spite of Lorenzo Snow's lucid and unequivocal affirmation
of his position, Joseph Musser claims to have been authorized and commanded
by Lorenzo Snow to enter plural marriage after the issuance of the Manifesto:
In December 1899, after receiving my "Second Blessings,"
a messenger came to me from President Snow, stating I had been selected
to enter plural marriage and to help keep the Principle alive.
After selecting as a wife Mary Hill, a daughter of William
H. Hill of the Mill Creek Ward bishopric, Musser approached William Hill,
who flatly refused to allow the marriage, and who said that the marriage
could not be performed.
I said, "Well, Brother Hill, it can be done, and now
the responsibility is upon you. Your daughter is agreeable to the situation."
The conversation took place in the office where I was employed, in town.
He left and in about one half or three quarters of an hour he returned
and assured me it was all right and that I might go ahead. Astonished and
yet grateful, I asked what had happened to change his mind so quickly.
He said after leaving me he "bumped into Apostles John Henry Smith and
M. F. Cowley"; he put the question to them. They assured him it was all
right and advised him to return to me and give his consent to the marriage.
Thus Mary Hill entered into my family in the year 1901.
It is pertinent to note that Musser does not claim that President Snow approached him personally, but says he did so through a "messenger," whom Musser declined to name. It is important to note that William Hill gave his sanction only after talking with Matthias Cowley, an apostle who was later released from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and then disfellowshipped from the Church for continuing to promote plural marriage ceremonies after the Church had terminated the practice. (60) (John W. Woolley was excommunicated for alleged instruction from this same source.)
This claim does not square with the doctrine of succession of the sealing keys that was developed later by the Fundamentalist priesthood hierarchy to continue plural marriage independent of the Church. This later doctrine claims that President Snow was not the president of the priesthood and did not hold the keys of sealing power, but that John W. Woolley occupied that position following issuance of the Manifesto. If this later doctrine is true, why did Musser not go to John W. Woolley for sanction in 1901? Something seems amiss here. It is clear that Lorenzo Snow received and exercised the keys of the priesthood during his Presidency despite later Fundamentalist claims to the contrary.
Joseph F. Smith received the right to exercise all the
keys of the priesthood as God's mouthpiece on earth when he became President
of the Church. Speaking of this office and authority, he stated:
The Lord in the beginning of this work revealed that there
should be three High Priests to preside over the High Priesthood of his
Church and over the whole Church. (D. & C. 107:22, 64-67, 91-92.) He
conferred upon them all the authority necessary to preside over all the
affairs of the Church. They hold the keys of the House of God and of the
ordinances of the Gospel and of every blessing which has been restored
to the earth in this dispensation. This authority is vested in a presidency
of three High Priests. They are three presidents. The Lord himself so calls
them. (D. & C. 107:22). But there is one presiding President, and his
counselors are Presidents also. (61)
President Smith said in 1915:
I hold the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the
office and power of patriarch. It is my right to bless; for all the keys
and authority and power pertaining to the government of the Church and
to the Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthood are centered in the presiding
officer of the Church. (62)
The following year, while speaking on the same subject,
Presi dent Smith stated:
I hold the Priesthood of the Apostleship, I hold the High
Priesthood which is after the order of the Son of God, which is at the
foundation of all Priesthood and is the greatest of all Priesthoods, because
the Apostle and the High Priest and the Seventy derive their authority
and their privileges from the Priesthood which is after the order of the
Son of God. All authority comes out of that High Priesthood.
Since the President of the Church holds the keys of sealing,
he also has the right and authority to withdraw delegated sealing authority.
Following the issuance of the Manifesto the right to perform plural marriages
was officially withdrawn. For a time plural marriages were performed in
areas outside the confines of the United States where no laws existed against
the practice, but by 1904 President Joseph F. Smith withdrew all authority
to perform plural marriages throughout the whole world. At April General
Conference in 1904 he issued the following statement, which has since been
referred to as "The Second Manifesto":
Inasmuch as there are numerous reports in circulation that plural marriages have been entered into contrary to the official declaration of President Wilford Woodruff of September 24th, 1890, commonly called the Manifesto, which was issued by President Woodruff and adopted by the Church at its General Conference, October 6, 1890, which forbade any marriage violative of the law of the land, I, Joseph F. Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do hereby affirm and declare that no such marriages have been solemnized with the sanction, consent, or knowledge of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
And I hereby announce that all such marriages are prohibited,
and if any officer or member of the Church shall assume to solemnize or
enter into any such marriage he will be deemed in transgression against
the Church, and will be liable to be dealt with according to the rules
and regulations thereof, and excommunicated therefrom.
In connection with this statement, President Smith issued
instruction to those who had been delegated sealing authority in Canada,
Mexico, and elsewhere that all authority to perform plural marriages was
now officially withdrawn. John W. Taylor and a number of other brethren
were in Mexico in April 1904, and consequently did not hear President Joseph
F. Smith's declaration prohibiting plural marriage ceremonies worldwide.
Word was subsequently sent to inform these brethren of the announcement.
Anthony W. Ivins stated:
In April 1904, Brother Taylor was in Mexico and myself
and wife, Owen Woodruff and his wife and brother Taylor and his wife were
together at brother Woodruff's, and I delivered a message to brothers Woodruff
and Taylor that plural marriages should stop; this message was from the
President and brother Taylor seemed to endorse it and mentioned it at our
Later Francis M. Lyman, President of the Quorum of the
Twelve Apostles, sent the following communication to John W. Taylor in
Acting under the advice and counsel of the First Presidency
I take this means of calling your attention to the official declaration
on the subject of plural marriages adopted by the late General Conference
of the Church; and I bespeak your hearty cooperation in emphasizing the
same in your private conversations and counsels as well as your public
utterances, to the end that no misunderstanding may exist among our people
concerning its scope and meaning; but to the contrary, that all may be
given to distinctly understand that infractions of the law in regard to
plural marriage are transgressions against the Church, punishable by excommunication.
There was to be no question about the complete cessation
of polygamy in the Church. Permission to perform sealings outside the temples
through a special delegation of authority was also withdrawn. Note the
following letter sent to Elder John W. Taylor in Canada and Elder George
Teasdale in Mexico:
As you are aware, until within a few years ago, the custom prevailed in Canada, Arizona and Mexico for our young people residing in those countries to marry for time only on account of the inconvenience and expense of attending a journey to a temple, and that in order to save this great expense, and to encourage marriages, among our young people, President Woodruff and President Snow, each in his time, authorized some of the Apostles, and perhaps others, to perform sealings for time and eternity in behalf of young couples of those places, and that this authority has been exercised quite freely until the present time.[ (67)]
The council of First Presidency and Apostles have now
deemed it expedient and wise to withdraw this authority from those brethren,
leaving it solely in the hands of him who holds the keys thereof, and a
resolution to this affect has been unanimously passed by the council.
There were those who continued performing and contracting
plural marriages outside the country, and who were subsequently excommunicated.
(69) President Joseph F. Smith maintained his position that plural
marriages were completely terminated in the Church. At October General
Conference in 1919 he issued a letter addressed to each stake president
in the Church. After quoting his statement of 1904, he added:
After the Church had spoken thus plainly, we took it for granted that none of its members would be found disobeying its voice. But in the face of this action, emphasized repeatedly in private and public by us, and by the Apostles as well, we now find that some person or persons have assumed authority to solemnize plural marriages, and that men and women have entered into polygamous relations through having been married under such pretended authority.
Some of the violators of this official action of the Church
have been tried on their fellowship, and have been excommunicated. But
there are rumors afloat (and some of these rumors appear to be well founded)
that there are still others equally guilty, and it is to such cases that
we desire to direct your attention. It is a matter of deep regret that
men professing membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
should disregard the commands of the Church, and by doing so value their
standing in it so lightly as to lay themselves liable to be excommunicated.
. . . No one has been authorized to solemnize plural marriages, and. .
. he who advises, counsels or entices any person to contract a plural marriage
renders himself liable to excommunication, as well as those who solemnize
such marriages, or those who enter into such unlawful relations.
At October General Conference in 1911, President Joseph
F. Smith made his position as emphatic as he possibly could. Speaking on
this subject, he said:
Another thing, as we have announced in previous conferences,
as it was announced by President Woodruff, as it was announced by President
Snow, and as it was announced by me and my brethren, and confirmed by the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, plural marriages have ceased
in the Church. There isn't a man today in this Church or anywhere else
outside of it who has authority to solemnize a plural marriage, not one.
There is no man or woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints
who is authorized to contract a plural marriage. It is not permitted.
These last two statements were issued primarily because
of the activities of Judson Tolman, patriarch of the Davis Stake, who was
secretly performing plural marriages under the guise of having such authority
as a patriarch.
The concept of a patriarch holding the authority to perform
sealing ordinances undoubtedly rests on a mistaken interpretation of the
revelations. In 1841, when Hyrum Smith was called to succeed his father,
Joseph Smith, Sr., as Patriarch to the Church, the Lord stated:
First, I give unto you Hyrum Smith to be a patriarch unto
you, to hold the sealing blessings of my church, even the Holy Spirit of
promise, whereby ye are sealed up unto the day of redemption, that ye may
not fall not withstanding the hour of temptation that may come upon you.
Although the Lord clarified in the same revelation that
this sealing power was in the nature of "keys of the patriarchal blessings
upon the heads of all my people," (73)
some have not interpreted it so. In fact, Hyrum Smith himself may have
had a problem at first in understanding this concept. Brigham Young reports
in a letter we have already cited:
The sealing power was not in Hyrum legitimately, neither
did he act on the sealing principle only as he was dictated by Joseph in
every case. This was proven for Hyrum did in one case undertake to seal
without counsel and Joseph told him if he did not stop it he would go to
Hell and all those he sealed with him. (74)
In connection with the covenant of eternal marriage including
a plurality of wives, the Lord revealed that this power belonged exclusively
to the President of the Church:
I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power
in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on
whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred. .. .
It is wrong, therefore, to claim that a patriarch can hold this authority without a special delegation from the President of the Church.
Judson Tolman was only one of several patriarchs who were
excommunicated after the issuance of the Manifesto for performing plural
marriages under this mistaken concept. (76)
Heber J. Grant referred to this at the April General Conference in 1921:
We have excommunicated several patriarchs because they arrogated unto themselves, the right, or pretended right, to perform these [plural marriage] ceremonies, and after our having excommunicated several patriarchs, another one, so I am informed, has committed the same offense. I announce to all Israel that no living man has the right to perform plural marriages. I announce that no patriarch has the right to perform any marriages at all in the Church. (77)
At his trial in May 1911, Elder Matthias F. Cowley said that he did not know of anyone at that time other than Patriarch Tolman who had been performing plural marriages: "I believe no authority has been exercised, except in the Tolman case, which I know nothing about"; "I did not think Tolman had any authority"; and, "I don't know anyone who has been performing these marriages except Tolman and I don't know where he got his authority." (78)
John Woolley, newly released from the stake high council,
was ordained to succeed Judson Tolman as patriarch of the Davis Stake.
Within a few months rumors surfaced that Woolley was also guilty of secretly
performing plural marriages. When he received this news, President Joseph
F. Smith issued yet another statement to stake presidents, concerning all
Having reason to believe that some members of the Church are secretly engaged advising and encouraging others to enter into unauthorized and unlawful mar riages, we have deemed it advisable to call your attention to the communication we addressed to you on this subject on the 5th of October, 1910, a copy of which is herewith appended.
And believing, as we do, that these people are at the
bottom of all the violations referred to in our communication, we direct
your special attention to them, with a request that any information received
by you from time to time relating to cases of this character, be followed
up and investigated with a view to having this class of offenders placed
on trial for their fellowship in the Church, as we regard them equally
culpable with actual offenders. Please make the same request of your Bishops.
John Woolley and others who were involved in this activity
were subsequently summoned to trials and were excommunicated from the Church
under President Joseph F. Smith's direction. (For details of John Woolley's
excommunication, see chapter 12.)
When Heber J. Grant assumed the Presidency in 1918, Church
policy on plural marriage was firmly established. Early Fundamentalists,
however, were still pursuing the practice of plural marriage in spite of
the contrary direction of the President of the Church, who holds the keys
of sealing power. During the early presidency of Joseph F. Smith, while
plural marriages were being permitted outside the confines of the United
States, there was no concern about priesthood authority to perform the
sealing ordinances -- it was done through the sanction of the President
of the Church. George Q. Cannon stated the following ten years after the
Manifesto was issued:
When the Manifesto was issued we did not pledge ourselves
to abandon our plural wives, nor even to cease to perform plural marriages
outside of the government; and when our people get the idea that we have
bound ourselves to the whole world they manifest ignorance. A man may go
to some countries and not violate their laws by taking a plural wife and
living in plural marriage. (80)
After 1904, when this authority was completely terminated
in the Church, those seeking to enter the practice of plural marriage received
pretended authorization either from Matthias F. Cowley, who had been disfellowshiped,
or John W. Taylor, who had been excommunicated. It was during this period
that the first version of the Lorin Woolley story appeared. That first
version was dated October 6, 1912, and it does not contain a single statement
about priesthood authority being conferred at the alleged meeting of September
1886. By 1922, however, this source of alleged priest hood authority had
ended (John W. Taylor died in 1916, and Matthias F. Cowley was seeking
full Church fellowship, which he later secured.) Consequently, Fundamentalists
were required to produce their own source of priesthood authority. On August
7, 1922, Joseph Musser reported:
Bro. W.[oolley] made a vow at the above meeting (Sept.
27, 1886) that there would never be a year pass that children would not
be born in that principle, and he and his father, John W. Woolley, were
ordained to this special work, with others, by John Taylor, the Prophet
Joseph Smith being present and directing. (81)
In the 1929 version under review, the story was expanded,
and Lorin Woolley now gave the names of the five who were allegedly set
apart with the authority to seal plural marriages.
By 1934, this commission of five men that were supposedly set apart to continue plural marriage was expanded into a quorum or council of seven men, which is alleged to comprise the presidency of all priesthood on earth: "The Priesthood proper is presided over by a quorum of seven men holding the higher order of Priesthood, and forming the presidency. (82)
The five men of the Lorin Woolley story were expanded into this priesthood "Council of Seven," as follows:
President Taylor, under the direction of Joseph Smith,
who was present in the room in person, chose five men and set them apart
to continue such marriages. . . . These five men were John W. Woolley,
Lorin C. Woolley, George Q. Cannon, Charles H. Wilcken and Samuel Bateman.
President Taylor's second counselor, Joseph F. Smith (George Q. Cannon
being the first) was at the time in Hawaii performing a mission. He was
sent for and received a like commission from John Taylor some weeks before
the latter's death. These six, then, with Wilford Woodruff (who received
his anointings under the hands of Joseph the Prophet) formed the Priesthood
presidency at that time, with John Taylor the head thereof.
These Fundamentalist claims to priesthood presidency were
countered by President Heber J. Grant in an official public statement in
1933. Pertinent portions follow:
It is alleged that on September 26-27, 1886, President John Taylor. . . ordained and set apart several men to perform marriage ceremonies (inferentially polygamous or plural marriage ceremonies), and gave to those so allegedly authorized the further power to set others apart to do the same thing.
There is nothing in the records of the Church to show that any such ordination or setting apart was ever performed. There is no recollection or report among the officers of the Church to whom such an incident would of necessity be known, that any such action was ever taken.
Furthermore, any such action would have been illegal and void because the Lord has laid down without qualification the principle that "there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred." The Lord has never changed this rule.
Moreover, four years.. . after the date of the alleged ordaining and setting apart of these men by President Taylor, to perform marriage ceremonies (presumably polygamous or plural), the Church in General Conference formally approved the solemn Declaration offered to the Conference by Lorenzo Snow, then President of the Council of the Twelve, that President Wilford Woodruff was "the only man on the earth at the present time (1890) who holds the keys of the sealing ordinances." This statement would have been an unmitigated falsehood if the allegation of the organization were true. President Lorenzo Snow did not falsify.
Finally, without direct revelation from the Lord changing the principle that there is never but one man on the earth at one time who holds the keys of the sealing power -- and we solemnly affirm that there is not now and there has not been given any revelation making any change in that principle -- any such act of ordination by President Taylor as that seemingly alleged by the members of this organization would be completely null and void. No one better knew this principle regarding authority for this sealing power than President John Taylor and he would not have attempted to violate it. It is a sacrilege to his memory -- the memory of a great and true Latter-day Saint, a prophet of the Lord -- that these falsehoods should be broadcast by those who professed to be his friends while he lived.
At President John Taylor's death, the keys of the sealing ordinances, with their powers and limitations, passed by regular devolution, in the way and manner prescribed by the Lord and in accordance with the custom of the Church, to President Wilford Woodruff. At the latter's death they similarly passed to President Lorenzo Snow; and upon his death, they similarly passed to President Joseph F. Smith; and at his death the same keys passed in the same way to President Heber J. Grant. There has been no change in the law of succession of the Priesthood and of the keys appertaining thereto, nor in the regular order of its descent.
The keys of the sealing ordinances rest today solely in President Heber J. Grant, having so passed to him by the ordination prescribed by the Lord, at the hands of those having the authority to pass them, and whose authority has never been taken away by the Lord, nor suspended, nor interfered with by the Church. President Grant is the only man on the earth at this time who possesses these keys. He has never authorized any one to perform polygamous or plural marriages; he is not performing such marriages himself; he has not on his part violated nor is he violating the pledge he made to the Church, to the world, and to our government at the time of the Manifesto
Any one making statements contrary to the foregoing is
innocently or maliciously telling that which is not true. Any one representing
himself as authorized to perform such marriages is making a false representation.
Any such ceremony performed by any person so making such representation
is a false and mock ceremony. Those living as husband and wife under and
pursuant to the ceremonies proscribed by President Smith or the ceremonies
performed by any person whatsoever since that proscription, are living
in adultery and are subject to the attaching penalties.
This entire statement is very significant and should be prayerfully read and studied by all who are troubled about these matters. Here President Grant confirmed and continued the doctrine that, as President of the Church, he held the keys of the priesthood and that all others who claim to hold those keys are pretenders.
8. Brigham Young to William Smith, August 10, 1845, in William Smith Papers (copy in Church Archives, Salt Lake City; original in Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Historian's Office).
46. Deseret News Weekly, November 21, 1891. Note at this point that the Church did not have anything to do with the action of President Woodruff in his issuance of the Woodruff Manifesto of September 24, 1890. That document was prepared and issued to the press and then was sustained by the Church membership at the next general conference.
56. See New York World, December 10, 1898, and Deseret News, January 8, 1899. Lorenzo Snow's comments are also printed in the John W. Taylor File, February 22 1911, and in the Matthias Cowley File, May 10, 1911.
67. For example, on September 21, 1891, on a trip through Arizona, Elder John Henry Smith was given authority to seal couples for eternity (see Wilford Woodruff Letterbook, vol. 9, no. 1352, p. 120, Church Archives, Salt Lake City).