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Where Are the Keys of Sealing?

D&C 132:18 declares: 

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.  (Italics added.)

Two other verses also refer to this "one" man who holds the keys of sealing authority: D&C 132:7, 19.  In these verses God explains the order surrounding eternal sealings, including plural sealings.  For anyone seeking an eternal marriage, following this order and finding the “one” man who holds the keys and heeding his counsel is the supreme objective. 

Regulating eternal marriages through “one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred” (D&C 132:7) is how God maintains “order” (D&C 132:8, 18) in sealings including plural marriages before 1904.  What would happen if God were to recognize eternal marriages (monogamist or polygamist) based upon other criteria, such as sincerity, tradition, and/or personal revelation, without “one” man regulating those sealings?  It seems confusion and disorder would result.  Such might describe the numerous conflicting authority claims advanced by the different Mormon fundamentalist groups today.

 Finding the “One” Man Who Holds the Keys of Sealing

“It is necessary to know who holds the keys of power, and who does not, or we may be likely to be deceived” instructed Joseph Smith.1  Church members believe the sealing keys have passed from one Church President to the next up to the present day:

So how does a person discern the true location of the sealing keys?  LDS scripture tells us that “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5).  But the Holy Ghost is not the only source of personal revelation.  D&C 46:7 explains: “Ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils” (italics added).  This verse highlights a second possible source of revelation: false and evil spirits.  The Prophet observed: “Nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God.” Several guidelines are available to help us find the “one” man:

1. We must "study it out in our minds" as we pray

2. Order will govern the line of priesthood authority

3. Priesthood leadership will be consistent with the pattern the Lord has provided

4. There will be no secret ordinations

5. God's Church will be lead by God's prophet

6. The “one” man holding the priesthood keys will exercise them

 First, as we seek to know where the priesthood keys are located, we are expected to do a little studying of the issues involved as we pray.  D&C 9:8 instructs Oliver Cowdery saying “you must study it out in your mind” prior to asking.  Having conversed with numerous fundamentalists over the past fifteen years, I have come to believe that generally little investigation is performed regarding the external Priesthood organization and the fundamentalist line of authority prior to their joining a fundamentalist group.  This seems to be true more especially among women.  Consequently, little is discovered about John Woolley’s behavior after his excommunication.  Lorin Woolley’s life, stories, and unfulfilled prophesies are passed over. Conflicting teachings of early fundamentalist leaders go undetected. Novel doctrines of the Council of Seven Friends and High Priest Apostles (ideas that were immensely important to Lorin Woolley, John Y. Barlow and Joseph W. Musser) are not examined in the light of scripture.

Admittedly, Mormon fundamentalist leaders have not facilitated this process in their discourses and writings.  Rather than encouraging their followers to study the doctrines taught by the first fundamentalist prophets Woolley-Broadbent-Barlow-Musser, new followers are instructed to simply pray directly to know where the sealing keys are then located.  I believe that such an approach might be similar to “taking no thought save it is to ask God” (D&C 9:7), thus giving false spirits an opportunity to gain influence in the hearts and minds of sincere but unsuspecting petitioners.

Obviously Heavenly Father does not expect His children to become historians or to spend hundreds of hours researching before praying to know where the priesthood keys are located.  However, it seems that an essential guideline in discerning truth from error comes as we compare the new ideas we encounter to the teachings found in the scriptures and those given by modern prophets.  Asking God to provide a direct revelation to answer a question that is already addressed in the scriptures or other prophetic instructions is seldom fruitful.  It can also result in misunderstanding, not because God is unwilling to help, but because the petitioner is unwilling to perform the required study to find the answer that has already been revealed (see D&C 10:62-63).

Second, order will govern the line of authority.  “Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion” (D&C 132:8, see also verse 18).  Interestingly, the only place in LDS scripture where God repeats his declaration that His “house” is a “house of order” is in conjunction with his discussion of the “one” man who holds the keys of sealing.  Perhaps He was trying to make a point.  Currently, we can look at the Mormon fundamentalist landscape to find much confusion and inconsistency regarding their described priesthood offices and lines of authority.  It is my opinion that none of those lines could be considered very “orderly.”

Third, in order to help us not be deceived, priesthood leadership will be consistent with the pattern the Lord has provided:  “I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations” (D&C 52:14).  Before praying about the Council of Friends, the office of the “Right of the Firstborn,” the Law of Satisfaction, an external Priesthood organization, the Law of Placing, High Priest Apostles, the duties of  “one mighty and strong,” the teachings of Lorin C. Woolley or Elden Kingston, etc.  perhaps God would expect us to examine them in light of the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets, to assure that they follow the pattern God has already given to us.

Fourth, there will be no secret ordinations.  LDS scripture condemns secret ordinations outright: “It shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church” (D&C 42:11).

Mormon fundamentalist’s priesthood authority is invariably derived from secret ordinations that were afterwards concealed from the world.  For example, Lorin Woolley reported that thirteen people attended the eight hour meeting before the described 1886 ordinations were performed, but only Lorin left his testimony, keeping it hidden for thirty-five years.  Similarly, there are no witnesses to Dayer LeBaron’s pre-1905 ordination (by Benjamin F. Johnson), which was subsequently kept secret for several decades.  Elden Kingston’s unaccompanied 1935 ordination is still essentially hidden.

This lack of witnesses to these crucial ordinations contrasts scriptural guidelines.  We are told that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (D&C 6:28, 2 Corinthians 13:1).  When important priesthood ordinations occurred, at least two witnesses were present. For the bestowal of the Aaronic priesthood (D&C 13:1), the Melchizedek priesthood (D&C 27:12), and important keys of the Priesthood (D&C 110:11-13), both Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were there bearing witness.

Another problem with secret ordinations is that they create secret prophets. Following God’s prophets is important: “The day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, 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” (D&C 1:14).

A concealed prophet may receive the word of the Lord, but it goes no where because of the surrounding secrecy.  Hiding God’s prophets produces unnecessary obstacles in the lives of individuals who are seeking to find the truth.   Paul taught that God wants to save all his children: “[God] will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).  D&C 123:12 explains: “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.”

Mormon fundamentalists generally believe that God secretly called John W. Woolley, Dayer LeBaron, Elden Kingston, etc. to be prophets, giving them the sealing keys, but not requiring them to do a prophet’s work.  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 to openly continue the work the Joseph Smith began, even to "proclaim these things unto the world."  A March 1829 revelation exclaimed: “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).  Could this occur with a secret prophet leading the way?

Fifth, by divine design, God’s Church will be lead by God’s prophet.  Revelation to the Church will not come through another channel.  Brigham Young explained in 1843: “If a person asks for a thing that does not concern him, such as governing the Church what shall the prophet or the Twelve do etc. He will not get an answer. If he does it will not be from God.”3  Joseph Smith taught: “I will inform you that it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves; therefore you will see the impropriety of giving heed to them.”4 

The man who rises in seniority through his ordination in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to lead the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not arrive there by accident.  Just prior to his passing in November of 1918, Joseph F. Smith counseled Heber J. Grant saying: “Always remember this is the Lord’s work, and not man’s.  The Lord is greater than any man.  He knows who He wants to lead His Church, and never makes any mistakes.”5  Brigham Young taught in 1862: “The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother’s arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray, for if they should try to do so the Lord would quickly sweep them from the earth.” Wilford Woodruff echoed this teaching: “The Lord will never permit me nor any other man who stands as the President of this Church, to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.”7  As the Controller of life and death, God alone determines the destinies of all men including the man whose apostolic seniority places him as the senior apostle, holding the keys of the priesthood and presiding over His earthly Church.

This guideline may create discomfiture in those that worry about claims of infallibility.  But LDS theology teaches that God knows each of us intimately including those who become Church president.  He knows how His children will respond to challenges and Church responsibilities. How does God know?  Elder John Taylor, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught that prior to our mortal births, we lived with Heavenly Father for a very long time: “although we came into corporal existence here, we existed thousands of ages before we came here.”8  During that time, the Lord was able to observe our spirituality and inclinations to accomplish righteousness.  In addition, the scriptures assert that God is not ignorant of the future: “all things are present before mine eyes" (D&C 38:2, see also Moses 1:6).  Abraham 2:8 states that the Lord knows “the end from the beginning.”  Accordingly, in ways we currently cannot understand, everything is an eternal "now" before the Lord.  In calling men to lead His Church on earth, the Lord is never choosing individuals He is unfamiliar with. No surprises are awaiting God as He watches and prompts His prophets on earth.

Sixth, the “one” man holding the priesthood keys will exercise them.  Today, several men claim to hold the keys of the priesthood.  Besides President Gordon B. Hinckley of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is LeMoine Jensen of the AUB (Allreds), Warren Jeffs of the FLDS church, Paul Kingston of the Kingston clan, James Harmston of the TLC in Manti, Utah, a descendant of the LeBarons, and others.  Which of these men and his predecessors have exercised all the keys they professed to hold?

Fundamentalists have taught that the Church has lost the “keys of plural marriage” because Church Presidents do not authorize the “ordinance of plural marriage.”  Ogden Kraut wrote: “One thing is certain – those who oppose plural marriage do not hold the keys to plural marriage.”9  But there are no keys of plural marriage.  Nor is there an ordinance of plural marriage.  The keys of sealing can be used to authorize the performance of only two distinct sealing ordinances.  The first allows a man and a woman to be eternally joined and the second permits parents to be sealed to children.  There is no priesthood ordinance wherein one man is sealed to two (or more) women at the same time.

In fact, all Church presidents since the 1904 Second Manifesto have allowed a worthy man to be sealed to a second wife through a second sealing ordinance, creating an eternal plural marriage.  However, they have stipulated that in such cases the first wife had to be deceased.  The second sealing ordinance is permitted and the widower receives a second wife, becoming a polygamist in eternity.  But the ordinance is exactly the same as if the first wife was still living.  The ordinance of sealing does not reveal whether the prospective husband has been previously sealed to other women or whether those women are living or dead.        

Besides sealing a man and woman together in eternal marriage, the sealing keys also allow parents to be sealed to children creating a “welding link” back to Adam (see D&C 128:18).  Joseph Smith wrote: “And now my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers--that they without us cannot be made perfect--neither can we without our dead be made perfect” (D&C 128:15).  Despite this emphasis, my research suggests that early fundamentalist leaders did not utilize their alleged priesthood keys to perform this ordinance in any degree.  In contrast, Church presidents have emphasized the need to perform this work allowing latter-day saints to, in the words of Joseph Smith, become “saviors on mount Zion.”  The Prophet instructed:

The keys are to be delivered, the spirit of Elijah is to come, the Gospel to be established, the Saints of God gathered, Zion built up, and the Saints to come up as saviors on Mount Zion.  But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples, erecting their baptismal fonts, and going forth and receiving all the ordinances, baptisms, confirmations, washings, anointings, ordinations and sealing powers upon their heads, in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead, and redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection and be exalted to thrones of glory with them; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah.”10

The “one” man holding the keys of sealing also possesses other important priesthood keys.  In April 1836, Elijah restored the sealing keys to Joseph Smith (D&C 110:14-16).  But prior to his appearance, Moses had arrived and bestowed the “keys of the gathering of Israel” on Joseph Smith (v. 11).  The keys of the gathering of Israel permit missionary work to proceed in these latter days.  An 1830 revelation predicted: “And Israel shall be saved in mine own due time; and by the keys which I have given shall they be led, and no more be confounded at all” (D&C 35:25).

The “one” man with the keys to authorize eternal sealings also holds the keys of the gathering of Israel and is responsible for missionary work in these latter days. Joseph explained: “For him to whom these keys 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).  The “one” man will feel the weight of the burden to seal the living, but also to perform proxy ordinance work for the dead, and to preach the gospel throughout the world.  These were Joseph Smith’s priorities.      

In 1832, Prophet gave a revelation that outlined the weighty challenge given to all members of the kingdom of God:  “And this revelation unto you, and commandment, is in force from this very hour upon all the world, and the gospel is unto all who have not received it.  But, verily I say unto all those to whom the kingdom has been given--from you it must be preached unto them, that they shall repent of their former evil works” (D&C 84:75-76; italics mine).  A year earlier he revealed: “And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days” (D&C 1:4).  It appears that where the “one” man, the Lord’s disciples, and the kingdom of God are found, missionaries will be sent forth.

Research of fundamentalist leaders John W. Woolley, Lorin C. Woolley, J. Leslie Broadbent, John Y. Barlow, Joseph W. Musser, Rulon C. Allred, Leroy S. Johnson, Rulon Jeffs, Owen Allred, and John Ortell Kingston, fails to identify even one missionary being sent forth to baptize.  In contrast, Church Presidents have over the decades consistently discharged the duty to gather Israel, organizing missionary forces; it seems fundamentalist leaders have felt little compulsion to exercise those keys they professed to hold.

In their defense, Musser and Broadbent, writing from their lofty Priesthood organization, taught that missionary work was a duty of the Church.11  Yet it is puzzling that if a fundamentalist leader was the “one” man holding the keys of the gathering of Israel, that he could blindly delegate this important duty to missionaries of the Church who would testify that the fundamentalist leader did not hold the priesthood keys, but that the priesthood keys were instead held by the Church president.  It might be tantamount to Joseph Smith ignoring missionary work because the Catholic Church had sent out many missionaries already.  And ignoring that Catholic missionaries would teach that the Pope was God’s mouthpiece, not him.

In addition, D&C 88:81 teaches: “Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.”  Within this admonition there appears to be no asterisk, footnote, or bracketed commentary exempting anyone.  It refers to a responsibility of “every man” who has received the gospel to share it with his “neighbor.”  Interestingly, member-missionary work has never been a priority of most fundamentalist leaders.  Generally, if an LDS Church member were to join a fundamentalist group today, he would be instantly released from his member-missionary duties because his new fundamentalist leaders would not expect him to proselyte non-members.12

It seems that one of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to inspire receptive listeners to share the gospel.  D&C 14:8 specifies: “And it shall come to pass, that if you shall ask the Father in my name, in faith believing, you shall receive the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance, that you may stand as a witness of the things of which you shall both hear and see, and also that you may declare repentance unto this generation.”  For example, after their conversion, the four sons of Mosiah (Mosiah 27:8-34) felt compelled to preach to the Lamanites: “Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble. And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them...”  (Mosiah 28:3-4).  Similarly, Enos cried unto the Lord in “mighty prayer” for many hours (Enos 1:4).  In response a voice came unto him “saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed” (v. 5).  Immediately thereafter Enos wrote: “I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them” (v. 9).  He also prayed “with many long strugglings for my brethren, the Lamanites” (v. 11).

Having read thousands of pages of religious discourses and other writings given over the past century by both Mormon fundamentalist and LDS Church leaders, I have noticed a stark contrast as fundamentalists display a lack of concern for missionary work.  It is surprising that neither the Holy Spirit nor the weight of the keys they profess to hold, has prompted fundamentalist leaders to call missionaries to gather scattered Israel.

In summary, our searching to find the “one” man who holds the priesthood keys will usually require some studying of the issues involved before the Holy Spirit can reveal the truth to us.  The “one” man will have received his authority through an orderly priesthood line, according to patterns that the Lord has given through His revelations.  Witnesses will be available to corroborate the actuality of those important ordinations.  God’s prophet will hold the priesthood keys and the individuals following him will constitute the membership of God’s true Church on earth.  The “one” man holding the keys will feel an intense anxiety and responsibility to exercise all of them in the salvation of the living and the dead.


1 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 336.

2 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 205.

3  Wilford Woodruff Journal 2:271, August 6, 1843. 

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 21.

5  Quoted in Quinn, Extensions of Power, 816.

6  JD 9:289, February 23, 1862; Discourses of Brigham Young, 137.

Collected Discourses 2:137, October 6, 1890.

8  John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, 12.

9  Ogden Kraut, Holy Priesthood, 6:243.

10  Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 330.

11 Musser and Broadbent, A Priesthood Issue, 17.

12  Missionary work is the process through which male Church members rid themselves from the blood of this generation.  An 1831 revelation states: “And now, concerning the residue, let them journey and declare the word among the congregations of the wicked, inasmuch as it is given; And inasmuch as they do this they shall rid their garments, and they shall be spotless before me” (D&C 61:33-34).  See also D&C 88:74-75, 84-85, Jacob 1:19, 2:2.  Unlike polygamists of the nineteenth century, most Mormon fundamentalists today live a self-focused polygamous lifestyle, performing no missionary work of any kind.  Accordingly, it is unclear how male polygamists propose to cleanse themselves from the blood of this generation as these scriptures discuss.