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The Priesthood Claims of

The Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times

By Brian C. Hales

December 17, 2006 

On April 6, 1836, the prophet Elijah restored to Joseph Smith the authority to seal eternal marriages (D&C 110:13-16).  He became the “one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred” (D&C 132:7).  God instructed that marriages, whether monogamist or polygamist, that are not sealed by the authority of that “one” man, are “not valid neither of force when they are out of the world”: 

And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife, and make a covenant with her for time and for all eternity, if that covenant is not by me or by my word, which is my law, and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, through him whom I have anointed and appointed unto this power, then it is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world, because they are not joined by me, saith the Lord, neither by my word; when they are out of the world it cannot be received there, because the angels and the gods are appointed there, by whom they cannot pass; they cannot, therefore, inherit my glory; for my house is a house of order, saith the Lord God.  (D&C 132:18; italics added.) 

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that that authority has persisted within the Church, passed down from one Church president to the next.  Joseph Smith and the scriptures provide important information regarding this highest priesthood authority and who presides over it.   

Joseph Smith and the Scriptures Teach of the Highest Priesthood Authority 

The Prophet instructed:   

There are three grand orders of priesthood referred to here [in Hebrews chapter seven].  1st Those holding the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings… The 2nd Priesthood is Patriarchal authority. Go to and finish the temple, and God will fill it with power, and you will then receive more knowledge concerning this priesthood.  The 3rd is what is called the Levitical Priesthood, consisting of priests to administer in outward ordinances.[1] 

Joseph Smith taught that the Melchizedek is the highest of the three orders of priesthood.  It holds the power for “administering endless lives” to men and women on earth, meaning there is nothing superior.[2] The Melchizedek priesthood is also called the “High Priesthood” (Alma 13:14, 18; D&C 107:9, 73) and is the “greatest of all” (D&C 107:64).  Regarding this Melchizedek priesthood, “All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood” (D&C 107:5).  The Patriarchal and Levitical priesthoods are just appendages to the Melchizedek priesthood.

Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants answers the question, “Who presides in the Melchizedek priesthood?”:  “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” (D&C 107:22; italics mine).  This is the First Presidency.  It represents the Lord on earth (D&C 112:20).[3]  D&C 81:2 states that unto the First Presidency is “given the keys of the kingdom, which belong always unto the Presidency of the High Priesthood.”[4]  It is comprised of the President and two counselors (D&C 124:125-126).

If we ask, “Who presides within the First Presidency and hence is over all priesthood on earth?” we find:  “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” (D&C 107:65-66; italics mine).  “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” (D&C 107:91). The President of the High Priesthood is always a member of the Church:  “Inasmuch as a President of the High Priesthood shall transgress, he shall be had in remembrance before the common council of the church” (D&C 107:82; italics mine; see also 78).[5]

Importantly, the “President of the High Priesthood” has always been the “President of the Church” (D&C 102:9; 115:16).[6]  He has responsibility to oversee special ordinances (D&C 88:140).  Specifically he is the “one” man holding the keys of sealing (D&C 132:7, 18, 19).  Apostle Parley P. Pratt explained: 

 SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1[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 the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth should 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.[7] 

The priesthood office held by the presiding priesthood leader is that of senior apostle.  The office of apostle holds all the priesthood authority that man can receive.  Joseph Smith taught:  “Do you not know that the man who receives the apostle, receives all the keys that ever were, or that can be, conferred upon mortal man?”[8] Brigham Young further explained:   SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1“The keys of the eternal Priesthood, which is after the order of the Son of God, are comprehended by being an Apostle.  All the Priesthood, all the keys, all the gifts, all the endowments, and everything preparatory to entering into the presence of the Father and of the Son, are in, composed of, circumscribed by, or I might say incorporated within the circumference of, the Apostleship.”[9]  “The calling of an Apostle is to build up the Kingdom of God in all the world; it is the Apostle that holds the keys of this power, and nobody else. If an Apostle magnifies his calling, he is the word of the Lord to his people all the time.”[10]  Seniority of apostleship is not based upon the date of a man’s ordination as an apostle, but upon the date of his entrance into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

In summary, both Joseph Smith’s teachings and the scriptures clearly demonstrate that the office of “apostle” in the Melchizedek priesthood (also called the “High Priesthood” holds all the priesthood keys and authority that “can be conferred on mortal man.”  The Senior Apostle is the “President” over all priesthood and acts “as Moses.”  He holds the keys of sealing as well as other keys.[11]  He has two counselors and together they form the First Presidency.  Accordingly, there are no offices or councils in or out of the Church that are higher in authority or priesthood power.

LeBaron Doctrines Contrast Those of the Church 

Followers of the Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times disagree that the Church president and senior apostle is the presiding priesthood authority on earth.  They instead believe that the highest priesthood office was eventually held by men who were not members of the Church, namely Alma Dayer LeBaron and after his death, his son Joel LeBaron.  To understand the priesthood of LeBaron followers, we must investigate their interpretation of two scriptures, one from the Doctrine and Covenants and the other from the Pearl of Great Price. 

And now I say unto you, as pertaining to my boarding house which I have commanded you to build for the boarding of strangers, let it be built unto my name, and let my name be named upon it, and let my servant Joseph and his house have place therein, from generation to generation.

For this anointing have I put upon his head, that his blessing shall also be put upon the head of his posterity after him.

And as I said unto Abraham concerning the kindreds of the earth, even so I say unto my servant Joseph: In thee and in thy seed shall the kindred of the earth be blessed.

Therefore, let my servant Joseph and his seed after him have place in that house, from generation to generation, forever and ever, saith the Lord.

And let the name of that house be called Nauvoo House; and let it be a delightful habitation for man, and a resting-place for the weary traveler, that he may contemplate the glory of Zion, and the glory of this, the corner-stone thereof. (D&C 124:56-60; italics added.) 

Most readers would probably conclude that these verses are talking primarily about the Nauvoo House, which was designed to be a boarding house or hotel.[12]  However, the LeBarons would assert that, even though the Nauvoo House is mentioned, the “anointing” referred to was a calling to the highest priesthood office on earth.  The specific “anointing” is not mentioned again in the Doctrine and Covenants.[13]  In 1956, Ervil LeBaron would ask: >What was of greater importance, the anointing and the blessing or the mansion [Nauvoo House]?@[14]  Despite this brief reference, LeBarons believe that the “anointing” cited was actually an allusion to a priesthood office called the “right of the firstborn,” which is higher than any priesthood calling found in the Church today.[15]

The term, “right of the firstborn” is mentioned once in the scriptures.  In Abraham 1:2-3 Abraham writes: 

AI became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.  It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me@ (italics added).   

This reference to the “right of the firstborn” seems to have little to do with a specific priesthood office.  Nevertheless, according to LeBaron teachings, it is a priesthood calling giving the recipient “the right to stand in the stead of the firstborn in His absence; the firstborn being Christ.”[16]  It constitutes the “First Grand Head of the Priesthood” and reportedly transcends any priesthood office found within the Church. 

Problems with the “Anointing” and an Office of “Right of the Firstborn”

 Several problems exist in accepting the LeBaron view of presiding priesthood authority.  First is the dearth of scripture or other prophetic discussion of these alleged offices.  For example, if we make a chart of all of the scriptures that discussed the First Presidency and its membership and compare it to all of the scriptures that discuss the described “anointing” and “right of the firstborn” we find:

 

References to the “PRESIDENT” and “FIRST PRESIDENCY”

References to the “Anointing”

Or “Right of the Firstborn

Passing References in Scripture

Passing References in Scripture

D&C  68:15, 19-23;

D&C 90:6, 12

D&C 94:3, 7

D&C 102:3

D&C 115:15-16

D&C 117:13

D&C 119:2

D&C 120:1

D&C 124:84

D&C 124:57

Abraham 1:2-3

Explanatory References in Scripture

Explanatory References in Scripture

D&C 81:1-2

D&C 88:140

D&C 102:9-11, 26-27, 33

D&C107:9, 17, 22-24, 65-66, 76, 78-79, 82, 91

D&C 112:20, 30

D&C 124:125-26

D&C 132:7, 18, 19,

NONE

Joseph Smith’s References

Joseph Smith’s References

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

19, 30, 69, 72, 74, 89, 93, 105, 106, 108, 110, 111, 112, 117, 118, 122, 127, 157, 161, 169, 183, 184, 187, 190, 193, 194 etc.

NONE

Benjamin F. Johnson’s References

Benjamin F. Johnson’s References

My Life’s Review: multiple

“1903 Letter to George S. Gibbs”: multiple

NONE

 From the above chart it appears obvious that if a special “anointing” existed that was superior to the Church President or if an office of the “right of the firstborn” presided over the Church President, no one ever referred it. 

            LeBaron doctrine holds that four men allegedly held this important office: 

Joseph Smith > Benjamin F. Johnson > Alma Dayer LeBaron > Joel LeBaron 

Ironically, the first three men apparently never spoke publicly or privately concerning it.  Or if they did, nothing they said about it was recorded by anyone at anytime.  To learn the details of this all-powerful priesthood office, God’s followers would have to wait for over 120 years. In other words, regarding the “anointing” and “right of the firstborn,” LeBaron teachings assert that this office was restored to Joseph Smith in the 1830s.  However, no one would hear a single word about it for over 120 years, except for two unrecognizable references, one in D&C 124 and another in the Book of Abraham (which was not canonized or generally available to Church members until after 1876).

This long delay and the absence of any corroborating teaching from Joseph Smith or the scriptures essentially gave the LeBarons carte blanche in describing its importance and authority, as they revealed its existence to the world in 1956.  If they happened to make a mistake in relating its power and authority, no voice living or dead could be recruited (from the scriptures or authoritative teachings) to clarify their errors.  Being the first in this dispensation to teach of this office (either publicly or privately), they could ascribe to it any and all priesthood duties and powers that they deemed appropriate.

A closer look at the two scriptures employed by the LeBarons to support their priesthood claims generates several questions.  As already observed, the reference to the “right of the firstborn” in Abraham 1:2-3 does not seem to be describing a specific priesthood office.  Instead, it appears to be a passing reference to several of the benefits and responsibilities that are held by the firstborn sons in patriarchal family orders.  Firstborn sons have several rights that the second-born and other sons do not receive (see D&C 68:16).  Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:  “Anciently under the Patriarchal Order certain special blessings, rights, powers, and privileges -- collectively called the birthright -- passed from the father to his firstborn son. (Gen. 43:33.)”[17] Abraham’s comments seem to be referring to this collective birthright, rather than to a specific priesthood office.

The “anointing” mentioned in D&C 124:57 is clearly referring to a right of the “posterity” of Joseph Smith to “have place” in the Nauvoo House “from generation to generation” and says nothing of a priesthood office or responsibility.  The vagueness of the “anointing” reference easily allows commentators 120 years later to ascribe whatever significance they choose to the verse.  However, without other corroborating evidences or authoritative teachings, explanatory texts would seem to be pure speculation.  They might even be entirely in error if they contradict scriptures from the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants that describe the priesthood hierarchy more specifically (e.g. 20, 84, 107, 128 etc.).

As noted above, the “anointing” is for the “posterity” of Joseph Smith.  The LeBarons would teach that Johnson was an “adopted son” of Joseph Smith and that the Prophet bypassed his own sons to make Benjamin his primary heir concerning the highest priesthood office on earth.[18]  Church scholar Lyle Wright wrote:  “Absolutely no evidence has been found to substantiate the assertions that Smith adopted Johnson as his son, nor have those making the assertions furnished any details of the alleged occurrence.”[19] Benjamin F. Johnson was Joseph Smith’s brother-in-law, as the Prophet married two of Johnson’s sisters polygamously.  But nothing exists to support the notion that Benjamin was in any way Joseph’s son, adopted son, or qualified as his “posterity” or as the “head of his posterity” in any way.

It is possible that the Lord saw the confusion that would someday be sewn regarding the stock of the Nauvoo House.  In verses 119-20 He warned: 

And again, verily I say unto you, let no man pay stock to the quorum of the Nauvoo House unless he shall be a believer in the Book of Mormon, and the revelations I have given unto you, saith the Lord your God;

For that which is more or less than this cometh of evil, and shall be attended with cursings and not blessings, saith the Lord your God. Even so. Amen. (D&C 124:120; italics added) 

Within the LeBaron priesthood line of authority outlined above, we note the complete lack of witnesses.  There are no available records showing that Joseph Smith ever held a priesthood office called “the right of the firstborn.”  Neither is their any evidence that he ordained Benjamin F. Johnson with that priesthood calling and Johnson never made such a claim. Verlan LeBaron, acknowledged in 1981: “Benjamin F. Johnson wrote nothing concerning this special appointment.”[20] Nor does Benjamin’s life’s trajectory suggest that he held such an important priesthood calling. Johnson, who lived to be eighty-seven, wrote his auto-biography and some significant letters recalling events in Nauvoo, including Joseph Smith’s explanation of polygamy;[21] but he nowhere mentions receiving a priesthood calling of unique significance.[22] 

Tellingly, Johnson accepted Brigham Young as the “leader in Israel,”[23] testified that he was one of the witnesses when the “mantle” of Joseph Smith fell upon Brigham Young in August 1844, and recognized Young as the presiding authority of the Council of Fifty, of which Johnson was a member.[24]  Nevertheless, a half-century after Johnson’s death in 1905, his LeBaron great-grandsons would proclaim that, after June 1844 and during the presidencies of Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, and Joseph F. Smith, their ancestor Benjamin F. Johnson held the highest priesthood office known to man—the “right of the firstborn.”[25]

Additionally, Alma Dayer LeBaron, who was reportedly the next in line after Johnson, left no record.[26]  The described ordination of his son Joel as the recipient of the office of the “right of the firstborn” is also apparently not corroborated by specific witnesses.[27]  This lack of witnesses to these crucial ordinations contradicts scriptural guidelines flatly. We are told that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (D&C 6:28, 2 Cor. 13:1). When important priesthood ordinations occurred, at least two witnesses have always been present. For the bestowal of the Aaronic Priesthood (D&C 13:1), the Melchizedek Priesthood (D&C 27:12), and other important priesthood keys  D&C 110:11-13), both Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were present, and their later witness corroborated each other.

The idea that God’s prophet and mouthpiece would be in hiding for over 120 years is also problematic.  Throughout history, God’s prophet and priesthood leader on earth has always boldly led forth, establishing the Kingdom of God on earth.  The problem with secret prophets and secret priesthood leaders is that they are unable to do much of anything except maintain their secrecy. Following God’s prophets is important: “The day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord,” warns Doctrine and Covenants 1:14, “neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people.”

A concealed prophet may receive the word of the Lord, but it goes nowhere as long as secrecy prevails.[28] The scriptures are the record of prophets who are commanded, often despite their personal reluctance, to announce their message publicly and testify openly. Moses, Isaiah, Jonah, Enoch, Noah, Lehi, and Samuel the Lamanite are a few among many examples. The reason for a prophet’s public ministry is obvious. Hiding God’s prophets produces unnecessary obstacles in the lives of individuals who are seeking to the truth. Paul taught that God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Doctrine and Covenants 123:12 further explains God’s compassion: “For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men . . . and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.”

Joseph Smith was called with a specific purpose: Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments; And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world. (D&C 1:17-18) We would expect subsequent prophets and priesthood leaders to openly continue the work the Joseph Smith began. A March 1829 revelation proclaimed: “This [is] the beginning of the rising up and the coming forth of my church out of the wilderness—clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners” (D&C 5:14). Two years later the Lord revealed:  “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth” (D&C 65:2).  Could this occur with a secret prophet leading the way? 

Priesthood Expounded and other LeBaron Priesthood Doctrines 

Besides the all-powerful priesthood office of the “right of the firstborn,” LeBaron doctrines have other interesting and important theological differences from those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  In August 1956, Ervil LeBaron, “under Joel’s careful direction,”[29] published a pamphlet entitled Priesthood Expounded, which provided many details about the LeBarons’ claims to supreme priesthood authority. They provide this diagram to show the super-powerful position of the “right of the firstborn.” 

 Diagram from Ervil LeBaron’s Priesthood Expounded with three clarifying additions 

Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants provides many details regarding priesthood organization.[30]   Ervil cites specific verses from that section only four times in Priesthood Expounded and completely ignores the verses that discuss the “President of the High Priesthood.”[31]  In fact, Ervil never even mentions the “President of the High Priesthood” at all.[32]  This convenient omission allows him to ascribe whatever priesthood powers and authority he chooses to the described office of the “right of the firstborn” as it competes with the man described in the Doctrine and Covenants as being “appointed of the High Priesthood to preside over the priesthood” (D&C 107:65), who is clearly a member of the Church (see verse 82).

Priesthood Expounded is an amazingly complicated exposition that contains assertion after assertion that are not supported by the documents cited, the scriptures, or the traditional functions of the priesthood, which were implemented by Joseph Smith himself.  Consistent with Ervil’s later writings,[33] new concepts are introduced into the text that branch off to topics for which no background or foundation has been set.  The reader is quickly lost in a maze of ideas that cannot be clarified by appeals to the scriptures or teachings of Joseph Smith.  At one point in the text Ervil states: “Thus we see that Joshua was under Eleazar in spiritual things, yet over him in political government.  He was also over the presiding Bishop in the political field yet under him in temporal concerns” (italics added).[34]  The complexity of Ervil’s description of priesthood hierarchy could only spawn confusion, contrasting God’s declaration:  “Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion” (D&C 132:8; see also v. 18). 

 

Individuals who possess a knowledge of the restored gospel and its history will be intrigued with how easily Ervil cites his ideas as if they were fact, when in reality, they contradict priesthood teachings.  He taught unique ideas, like Brigham Young did not hold the same authority as Joseph Smith[35] and “Brigham Young was the modern Joshua, not the modern Moses...”[36]  Importantly, LeBaron teachings assert that, in addition to the “First Grand Head of the Priesthood,” which is the office of the “Right of the Firstborn,” the “Second Grand Head of the Priesthood” is found in the calling of the Presiding Patriarch. It is described as being superior to any priesthood office in the Church including the Church President.

The basis for asserting this superiority is assumed from one single reference in the Doctrine and Covenants 124:123-24:

 “Verily I say unto you, I now give unto you the officers belonging to my Priesthood, that ye may hold the keys thereof, even the Priesthood which is after the order of Melchizedek, which is after the order of mine Only Begotten Son. First, I give unto you Hyrum Smith to be a patriarch unto you, to hold the sealing blessings of my church . . .” (emphasis mine).  

Since Hyrum was presented first and the Church president second (v. 125), LeBaron theology teaches that the office of Presiding Patriarch is superior to the office of Church president.[37] 

This interpretation is problematic and is unsupported historically, scripturally and doctrinally. John Taylor, in an unsigned editorial in the Times and Seasons, of which he was then the editor, clarified the position of patriarchs and the Presiding Patriarch in the summer of 1845 when William Smith, the sole surviving Smith brother and also an apostle, was claiming the right to preside over the Church because of his Smith lineage. Taylor stated: “The Twelve [Apostles] are commanded to ordain evangelical ministers in all large branches of the church abroad, and who has charge over them, the patriarch? No. Those who ordained them, and to whom is committed the power and authority to regulate all the affairs of the churches abroad. And who has the charge of the whole priesthood here? Answer: The presidency of the church; and not the patriarch.”[38]  In short, because patriarchs are ordained by the apostles, a patriarch could not hold authority superior to that of the apostles.

In many ways the doctrines expounded in Priesthood Expounded describe a new religious tradition, far removed from the teachings restored through Joseph Smith.  Fifteen times he refers to “self-perpetuating” offices of the priesthood.[39]  Precisely what is meant by “self-perpetuating” is unclear, because neither the scriptures nor Joseph Smith or Brigham Young ever used the term in describing a priesthood office.  Many of the concepts presented are essentially incomprehensible when viewed from within the doctrinal framework of the restored gospel.

Gospel freshmen will undoubtedly read through Priesthood Expounded and be forced to admit their ignorance or disbelief regarding many of the details presented.  Some may be impressed by its superficial persuasive power.  If so, additional study of D&C 20, 84, 107, 128 etc. might be useful.  Regardless, it is unlikely that anyone will believe its presentation to be “orderly”[40] or to follow an easily recognized “pattern” as promised in LDS scripture.[41]

Undoubtedly the greatest weakness found in Priesthood Expounded comes as Ervil glosses over the pivotal issues such as the absence any reference to an office of “right of the firstborn” prior to 1955, providing no discussion of how the “right of the firstborn” relates to the “President of the High Priesthood” (as discussed in the Doctrine and Covenants), and the lack of any witnesses including the participants themselves in the perpetuating their described line of priesthood authority.

In 1965 LDS Church member Henry W. Richards published, A Reply to the Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times.[42]  In its pages Richards outlined many of the problems easily identified within the pages of Priesthood Expounded.  In response in 1968, Thomas James Liddiard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times penned The Government of the Church of God.  Liddiard’s 250 page rejoinder resembles, in many ways, Ervil’s writing style.  He adopts a shotgun approach to Richards’ critique, producing a volume that is complex and often confusing.  He demonstrates how the obvious meanings of certain scriptures can be turned 180 degrees by adding sufficient commentary.  What is consistent is that Liddiard also fails to adequately address the issues of line of authority, the President of the High Priesthood,[43] and the lack of witnesses. 

The Priesthood Office of the “Right of the Firstborn,”

Restored by Joseph Smith or Created by the LeBarons?

             Despite the writings of Ervil LeBaron, James Liddiard, and other LeBaron apologists, the one crucial question deals with the actual origin of the office of the “right of the firstborn.”  Was it restored to Joseph Smith and then hidden from everyone for over 120 years to emerge in the 1950s?  Or was it a creation of LeBaron family members?  

Several decades ago I watched an episode of the TV western “Bonanza,” which involved an old settler Charlie Parsons who discovered that his cattle were disappearing into thin air.  He made sure that all of his cows were branded with his own CP brand so they might be easily identified, but the disappearances continued.  Parsons would count his cattle in the evening but by morning, a few more would be missing.  He recruited the help of everyone in the area including the Cartwrights, but no one could find any stray cattle with the CP brand.

 

            Just a month before the problem started, a new neighbor Gilbert R. Ellison had moved in, setting up his ranch right next to Parsons.  As it turned out, Gilbert R. Ellison was dishonest.  He had created his own GRE brand that could be easily superimposed on top of Parson’s CP brand.

 

             At night, Ellison would grab a few of Parson’s animals and then rebrand them with his own GRE symbol.  In the morning, all the cattle in Ellison’s corrals were properly branded “GRE” and Parson was left scratching his head trying to figure out what happened.  Of course, with the help of the Cartwrights, the mystery was solved and justice was served - all by the final commercial.

            Is it possible that LeBaron fundamentalists have treated the Church like Gilbert R. Ellison treated Charlie Parson’s cattle?  In order to legitimize their own priesthood offices, offices that were first described in 1956 as being outside and superior to anything within the Church, could they have superimposed them over the existing the priesthood offices and councils that have openly functioned within the Church from the time of Joseph Smith?

                                                                          

            By incorporating the Church’s true priesthood hierarchy within a new and elaborate priesthood structure described by the LeBarons, the Church and its leaders instantly become subordinate to callings and offices that were unheard of in Joseph Smith’s time.  If LeBaron fundamentalists were permitted to speak to Joseph Smith or Brigham Young from beyond the veil, is it possible that those prophets would ask questions like:  “When did we teach of priesthood offices that existed above and outside of the Church?”  “When did we speak of a calling of the Right of the Firstborn?”  Time and eternity will tell.

 

Notes


[1] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Six 1843–44, p.322-23; emphasis added.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Whosoever receiveth my word receiveth me, and whosoever receiveth me, receiveth those, the First Presidency, whom I have sent, whom I have made counselors for my name's sake unto you” (D&C 112:20).

[4] D&C 81:1-2 states – “Verily, verily, I say unto you my servant Frederick G. Williams: Listen to the voice of him who speaketh, to the word of the Lord your God, and hearken to the calling wherewith you are called, even to be a high priest in my church, and a counselor unto my servant Joseph Smith, Jun.; Unto whom I have given the keys of the kingdom, which belong always unto the Presidency of the High Priesthood.”  Frederick G. Williams was then a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church.

[5] Mormon fundamentalists leaders and writers sometimes refer to a priesthood office they call the “President of the Priesthood” or “President of Priesthood.”  Examples include Leroy Johnson (LSJ Sermons 4:1232, 1306, 5:26), Joseph W. Musser (A Priesthood Issue, 4, 5,  6, 7, 8, 19; Truth, 2:23, 3:38, 4:88, 5:17, 95, 132 etc.), Gilbert Fulton (Most Holy Principle, 4:166, 238), Rulon Jeffs (Deposition, 4 April 1989, 15, 51 etc.).  However, no such office or calling is mentioned in the scriptures or in the teachings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John Taylor etc. who only discuss the office of “President of the High Priesthood,” which is always a Church calling (D&C 107:82).

[6] To show that the President of the Church need not be the Prophet or presiding priesthood leader, fundamentalists (for example, Musser, A Priesthood Issue, 20-21; J. L[eslie], Broadbent, comp., Celestial Marriage? [Salt Lake City: Shepard Book, May 1929], 22-23.) often quote Brigham Young who said: “Perhaps it may make some of you stumble, were I to ask you a question--Does a man’s being a Prophet in this Church prove that he shall be the President of it? I answer, no! A man may be a Prophet, Seer and Revelator, and it may have nothing to do with his being the President of the Church. Suffice it to say, that Joseph was the President of the Church, as long as he lived; the people chose to have it so.”  (April 6, 1853, Journal of Discourses, 1:133.)  Church members acknowledge this to be true but point out that choosing a non-prophet to lead them would alienate them from the Lord, while simultaneously the individuals following the genuine prophet would instantly become God’s true followers (D&C 10:67-68). Parley P. Pratt explained this principle as it applied at the time of Joseph Smith’s death:  “Had we undertaken President-making in this Church simply by our uninspired notions, Brigham Young held more keys than all our votes put together; and had we voted against him, we would have voted ourselves out of the kingdom of God. He and those that stood by him would have held the keys of the Priesthood, as they have and do, and would have built up the kingdom, while those who opposed them would have been like salt that had lost its savor. It was not in our power to manufacture this Presidency, but only to uphold and cleave to it; and blessed are we, inasmuch as we have done this thing. (September 7, 1856, Journal of Discourses, 5:200.)

[7] 1 January 1845.  Millennial Star 5 [March 1845]: 151; italics mine.

[8] Quoted by Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p.141.

[9] JD 1:134-135.

[10] Discourses of Brigham Young, p.139.

[11] Included are the Keys of the Gathering of Israel (D&C 110:11), Keys of the Dispensation of the Gospel of Abraham (D&C 110:12), Keys of the Powers of the Holy Priesthood (D&C 128:11), Keys of the Kingdom (D&C 81:2), and the Keys of the Mysteries (D&C 28:7).

[12]   The ABoarding House@ was another name for the Nauvoo House. Begun in October 1841, the building was intended to be a prestigious hotel for the accommodation of prominent public figures. After the Prophet's death, the edifice was left unfinished.  (Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 91, en5.)

[13] An “anointing” is mentioned on  three other places (italics mine):  “But, by virtue of the decree concerning their right of the priesthood descending from father to son, they may claim their anointing if at any time they can prove their lineage, or do ascertain it by revelation from the Lord under the hands of the above named Presidency.  (D&C 68:21).  “Let the anointing of thy ministers be sealed upon them with power from on high” (D&C 109:35).  “And as ye have asked concerning adultery, verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man receiveth a wife in the new and everlasting covenant, and if she be with another man, and I have not appointed unto her by the holy anointing, she hath committed adultery and shall be destroyed” (D&C 132:41).

[14] Ervil LeBaron, Priesthood Expounded, 6:31.  Ervil’s choice of words is unfortunate because up the road from the Nauvoo House was the Prophet’s residence that was called the Nauvoo Mansion

[15] Ibid., 6:31-42

[16] Ervil LeBaron, Priesthood Expounded, 8:19.  Contrast Abraham 1:3, which indicates that the ARight of the Firstborn@ refers to Adam.

[17] Mormon Doctrine, p.87.

[18] Priesthood Expounded, 19:21-22.

[19] Wright, AOrigins and Development,@ 159

[20] Verlan LeBaron, The LeBaron Story, 4.

[21] Johnson, My Life’s Review; and his “Letter to George F. Gibbs,” 1903, in Dean R. Zimmerman, ed., I Knew the Prophets: An Analysis of the Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. Gibbs (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon, 1976).

[22] Richards, Reply to the Church of the Firstborn, 128–35.

[23] Johnson, My Life’s Review, 103-4. In 1903 Johnson wrote that Joseph Smith “made the prediction upon the head of Brigham Young that ‘at some period he would become the Leader of the Church. . . .’ I am witness that after the Prophet’s death that Brigham Young became Israel’s great leader—a Prophet, Seer and Revelator to the Church in all the world. . . . His voice was ever the voice of the True Shepherd to Israel. . . . From his young manhood and   through his after life in close observation I saw him—through every calling rise to become Israel’s great Chief, holding every key of priesthood and power pertaining to the kingdom of God on the earth, and of salvation for the  dead.” Johnson, Letter to George F. Gibbs, 56-57; also in Zimmerman, Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson, 68-69.

[24] Wright, “Origins and Development of the Church of the Firstborn,” 163.

[25] According to Fred Collier, “Independent Fundamentalists and Their Claims to the Fulness of the Priesthood,” Doctrines of the Priesthood 7, No. 9 (September 1990): 3: “It is easy to prove that the Council of Fifty was made custodian of the Keys of the Kingdom of God by the deeds and words of the prophet Joseph Smith.” History shows that the Council of Fifty admitted unbaptized men as members. D. Michael Quinn, “The Council of Fifty and Its Members, 1844 to 1945,” BYU Studies 20 (Winter 1980): 180. It is difficult for Latter-day Saints to believe that such a council could collectively hold priesthood keys and preside over baptized Church members and leaders. Collier also asserted: “It is also easy to prove from history that Benjamin F. Johnson out lived all the other original members of that council. He died in 1905. As such he presided over the Keys of the Kingdom of God.” “Independent Fundamentalists,” 3. More than forty years earlier in 1956, Ervil LeBaron taught that the Right of the Firstborn, the office ostensibly held by Benjamin F. Johnson, could not “be inherited by virtue of seniority of ordination to any quorum or council.” LeBaron, Priesthood Expounded, 18:40. I have come across no evidence that Ervil modified this doctrinal position before his death.

[26] In Priesthood Expounded, (19:24-25) Ervil Lebaron provided an historical account of what allegedly transpired:  “Shortly before the death of Benjamin F. Johnson, he called his grandson, Alma Dayer LeBaron Sr., who was also a grandson of the Prophet Joseph by adoption and sealing, to his bedside. He gave him many instructions and said to him:  ‘When I die, my mantle will fall upon you, even as the mantle of Elijah fell upon Elisha, when he ascended to heaven in a chariot of fire.’”  This narrative cannot serve as a witness because it was not written or dictated by the reported recipient of the ordination (Alma Dayer LeBaron, Sr.) and was transcribed in 1956, five years after Dayer’s death.  I am unaware of any recorded teachings of Alma Dayer LeBaron, Sr., alleged prophet and highest priesthood leader on earth between 1905 and 1951.

[27] Ervil provides this pseudo-witness of Joel LeBaron’s ordination:  “Shortly before the death of Alma Dayer LeBaron Sr…  he sent for son, Joel F. LeBaron… and said unto him: ‘When I die my mantle will fall upon you, even as the mantle of Elijah fell upon Elisha, and even as the mantle of my grandfather fell upon me; and you will have to round up your shoulders and bear it, because there is no one else qualified…’ After having said these things, together with many other things, he laid  his hands upon Joel's head and blessed him and appointed him to hold after he was gone, everything which he had received from Benjamin F. Johnson…  After this he called in our mother to be a witness of that which he had done.  I, Ervil M. LeBaron, was present and witnessed all of these proceedings.”  (Priesthood Expounded 19:30-38.)  The fuzziness of exactly what priesthood keys, powers, authorities might have been conferred undermines some of the value of this account as an actual “witness” of a priesthood ordination.  Contrast the definite language of D&C 13:1  “Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.”  See also D&C 110:11-16.  Precisely how the “mantle” allegedly given to Joel LeBaron relates to the “one” man mentioned in D&C 132:7 and to the “President of the High Priesthood” mentioned in D&C 107:65-66, 78, 82, 91 is also very unclear.  By keeping the references to the LeBaron priesthood nebulous, Ervil consistently avoided weighty questions regarding scriptural descriptions of priesthood authority and offices as described in the Doctrine and Covenants.

[28] In Priesthood Expounded, 19:23, Ervil theorized:  “[Benjamin F. Johnson’s appointment as holding the ‘right of the firstborn’] was kept secret by command of God, for this is the priesthood that was to be hid from the world, until the times of the Gentiles should be fulfilled and the man holding this office should be called forth to usher in the times of Israel and set in order the house of God.”  This interpretation of Church history serves the Ervil LeBaron’s agenda well, but does not seem to serve God’s purposes.  One might ask, “Why would God want to keep his prophet ‘hid from the world’?”  The prophet Mormon in the Book of Mormon prophesied:  “For the eternal purposes of the Lord shall roll on, until all his promises shall be fulfilled” (Mormon 8:22).  In LeBaron doctrine, the “rolling on” stopped with the Prophet’s death because his successor was immediately “hid from the world.”  Joseph Smith taught:  “For him to whom [the keys of sealing] are given there is no difficulty in obtaining a knowledge of facts in relation to the salvation of the children of men, both as well for the dead as for the living” (D&C 128:11).  If Benjamin Johnson and Alma Dayer LeBaron held the keys and had access to “facts in relation to the salvation of the children of men” both living and dead, it appears they did absolutely nothing with that knowledge or with those priesthood keys.

[29] Verlan LeBaron, The LeBaron Story, 128.

[30] See for example D&C107:9, 17, 22-24, 65-66, 76, 78-79, 82, 91 etc.

[31] Priesthood Expounded 2:6 refers to D&C 107:1; Priesthood Expounded 2:24 refers to D&C 107:13; Priesthood Expounded 8:11 refers to D&C 107:48, 49; Priesthood Expounded 12:13 refers to D&C 107:39.  In addition Priesthood Expounded 5:8, 11; 7:6; and 18:1 mention section 107 generally.

[32] Computerized of Priesthood Expounded search performed by the author.

[33] In 1974 Ervil would pen, Contest at Law.  Ben Bradlee Jr. and Dale Van Atta would characterize it as “understandable only after considerable study.  The writing is labyrinthine; one sentence may go on to over a hundred words broken into ten separate clauses, losing its original meaning along the way.  The confusion this caused was deliberate, says Conway LeBaron, who helped write this and three other tracts with [Ervil],” Prophet of Blood (New York: Putnam, 1981), 158.

[34] Priesthood Expounded, 5:23.

[35] Ervil LeBaron, Priesthood Expounded, 5:28-29.  Contrast Fred C. Collier who wrote: AOf course President Young held the Fulness of the Patriarchal Priesthood and the Keys thereof; and of course he was also an Apostle.@  (AApostleship B Apostolic Succession,@ 19.)

[36] Ervil LeBaron, Priesthood Expounded, 5:22, 25, 27.

[37] Historian D. Michael Quinn observed: “Perhaps the Prophet described that office [of Presiding Patriarch] as the ‘highest’ in honor, rather than in priesthood keys, due to the completely revelatory nature of its operation.” (Quinn, “The Mormon Succession Crisis of 1844,” 202.)  We recall that Joseph Smith taught that the man who is ordained an apostle “receives all the keys that ever were, or that can be, conferred upon mortal man?”  (Quoted by Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p.141.)  If an apostle has “all the keys” then how could a patriarch, who is not an apostle, preside over him?

[38] .[John Taylor,] “Patriarchal,” Times and Seasons 6 (June 1, 1845): 920-22, 928. 

[39] Priesthood Expounded, 1:22 (2); 4:36; 6:2,4; 12:1, 7,17,24; 14:31; 18:3, 6, 15, 34, 40.

[40] See D&C 132:8, 18.

[41] See D&C 52:14.  See also the pattern for the priesthood leadership as delineated in D&C 20, 84, 107, and 128.

[42] Henry W. Richards, A Reply to the Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1965).

[43] Liddiard writes:  “the title ‘President of the High Priesthood’ may apply to many presiding offices” (Government of the Church of God, blue [39]).  By fuzzifying the references to this office as found in section 107, it appears that Liddiard attempts to replace the obvious meaning of these references in order to have them comply with the LeBaron teachings.