Fundamentalists and Priesthood Conferral
One common point of criticism leveled at the Church by
Fundamentalists involves the wording used to bestow priesthood authority.
PRESIDENT JOHN TAYLOR'S ALLEGED PROPHECY
During the 1920s, Lorin Woolley claimed that President
Taylor stated the following to him and others in 1886(1):
Among other things stated by President
Taylor on this occasion was this, "I would be surprised if ten percent
of those who claim to hold the Melchizedek priesthood will remain true
and faithful to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, at the time of the
seventh president, and that there would be thousands that think they hold
the priesthood at that time, but would not have it properly conferred
upon them." (Pamphlet, 1886 Revelation, p. 8.)
This statement is based on a long standing controversy in the Church over the proper method of bestowing Priesthood. During the administration of Joseph F. Smith (1901-1918), the general policy was to first confer the Priesthood and then ordain to the individual offices or callings within that Priesthood. During the presidency of Heber J. Grant (1918-1945), the official policy specified that a direct ordination to office in the Priesthood was all that was really required and that conferring of the Priesthood was a redundant, if not presumptuous, part of the ordinance. George Albert Smith (1945-1951) cautiously removed specificity in the ordinances as a general policy, thereby permitting either form to be used (see Deseret News, Dec. 27, 1947; also Truth 14:12). When David 0. McKay assumed the Presidency in 1951 he reverted to the form followed during Joseph F. Smith's administration, which method is still being followed as the official Church policy.
Fundamentalists often claim that the conferral method
specified by Joseph F. Smith was the only historical and proper one. They
may also assert that all ordinations which did not follow that method including
some during the administration of Heber J. Grant- the seventh President
of the Church- were defective and unacceptable to the Lord. They write:
When the change was made in 1921, giving the office only, a serious controversy arose among the Saints, many feeling that they were being given an office in the Church but not the Priesthood.
The form of (Priesthood) conference
[conferral] as formerly established and as set down by positive instructions
from President Joseph F. Smith to confer the Priesthood first, then ordain
candidates to the office was changed to confer the office first and with
it just so much of the Priesthood as pertained to the office; in other
words, cutting the Priesthood into pieces to fit into tile offices,
and in the shuffle conferring no Priesthood at all... (Truth 14:11;
...An attempt is made to confer
a fragment of the Priesthood, that part pertaining to the office involved,
but the theory of dividing the Priesthood into fragment and conferring
it as such is faulty. The result is, thousands of our brethren are being
ordained to the office of Deacon, Teacher, Priest, Elder, Seventy, High
Priest, and perhaps Apostle and Patriarchs, without in fact being given
the Priesthood. The Catholic and sectarian Churches have such officers
but no Priesthood. What better are those ordained by the present formula
than they. (Truth 4:144.)
Under the present practice of the
Church - [Heber J. Grant administration policy, 1918-1945] there are many
in the Church who are supposed to receive the Priesthood but who do not
get it. These in turn pretend to confer it upon others, who likewise fail
to receive it. And these pretend to perform baptisms which cannot be valid
for lack of Priesthood authority, and thus the gambled up condition pyramids.
One can understand in the light of these facts, how Temple ordinances may
be deficient, and in the end, all authority may justly be questioned as
for decades Latter-day Saint Elders have questioned the authority of sectarian
priests. (Truth 12:43.)
Fundamentalism claims that when President George Albert
Smith permitted return to the form specified by President Joseph F. Smith,
the Church was to be commended. It was not, however without irreparable
Since during the last twenty-five
years of more many thousands in the Church have been ordained to offices
but have received no priesthood, and these men now being called upon to
confer Priesthood... naturally cannot confer Priesthood and we conceive
the jumbled condition being perpetuated ad libitum. (Truth 14:12.)
In consequence of this condition they claim that young
men in the Church between 1921 and 1951 were given:
...offices in the Church and not the Priesthood. They have been and are now on missions, converting people and attempting to baptize them and ordain them to the Priesthood. But if they haven't the Priesthood themselves what value is their baptisms or ordinations? Some of these sons have been working in the Temple, being baptized for the dead, and receiving the Priesthood for them; yet they themselves have not received the Priesthood. How is such work to be effective? The faithful father may have the Priesthood, he may be effective. The faithful father may have the Priesthood, he may be a High Priest, or an Apostle, while his sons haven't any Priesthood at all, and yet they are officiating in positions that only Priesthood can qualify them to do. (Truth 14:324.)
The alleged serious nature of the problem is described thus:(2)
This deplorable condition has arrived.
Our missionaries in the field; those acting as Priests, Elders and High
Priests at home, operating without the Priesthood produces a serious and
tragic problem, that, as we see it, only the "One Mighty and Strong" (D.&C.
85) can unravel and bring order out of the chaotic condition the Church
finds itself in. (Truth 14:12. See also 12:40, 41.)
Certainly if there was any truth to these assertions, the Church and its priesthood leadership might be compromised. However, let us examine the facts of the issue and see if the Fundamentalist contention is true that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is presently without authority because of faulty ordinations under Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith (1921-1951).
JOSEPH F. SMITH SHARES HIS VIEWS
Joseph F. Smith sustained the following view on conferring the Priesthood prior to becoming President of the Church:
The revelation in section 107, Doctrine and Covenants, verses 1, 5, 6, 7, 21 clearly points out that the Priesthood is a general authority or qualification, with certain offices or authorities appended thereto. Consequently the conferring of Priesthood should precede and accompany ordination to office, unless it be possessed by previous bestowal end ordination. Surely a man cannot possess an appendage to the Priesthood without possessing the Priesthood itself, which he cannot obtain unless it is authoritatively conferred upon him.
Take, for instance, the office of a Deacon: The person ordained should have the Aaronic Priesthood conferred upon him in connection with his ordination. He cannot receive a portion or fragment of the Aaronic Priesthood, because that would be acting on the idea that either or both of the (Melchizedek and Aaronic) Priesthoods were subject to subdivision, which is contrary to the revelation.
In ordaining those who have not
yet received tho Aaronic Priesthood, to any office therein, the words of
John the Baptist to Joseph Smith, Jr., and Oliver Cowdery, would be appropriate
to immediately precedes the act of ordination, they are:
"Upon you my fellow servants (servant),
in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron."
Of course, it would not necessarily
follow that these exact words should be used, but language should be consistent
with the act of conferring the Aaronic Priesthood. (The Improvement
Era, 4:394, March, 1901, also Gospel Doctrine, p.137.)
It is claimed by Fundamentalists that this is the order which has come down from the very beginning of the restoration although President Joseph F. Smith himself makes no such contention. Joseph W. Musser records the following in his writings:
It was revealed to President Joseph F. Smith by the mouth of his Uncle Joseph Smith, the Prophet, that offices in the Priesthood, such as Deacon, Teacher, Priest, Elder, Seventy, etc., were but appendages to the Priesthood, and that the Priesthood itself must be conferred before the office is given. Thus, the present plan (1921-1951) is in error---the plan of ordaining a man to an office only.
President John Taylor, learning from Pres. Smith of this revelation said, "Of course that is the proper order;" that is, confer the Priesthood before ordaining to the office. (Items p. 18; see also Truth, 14:324; also 3:152.)
There is no record in any of President Joseph F. Smith's
writings or sermons that would indicate that he received such a revelation
and he surely would have mentioned it, to give his doctrine the divine
stamp of approval, if he had. There is, likewise, no record of President
Taylor being informed of such a revelation. On the other hand, there is
much in President Smith's writings which indicates that he accepted the
direct ordination method as being a proper and historic one. (We will subsequently
review President Taylor's views on the ordination-conferral issue as it
arose during his Presidency as well.) Fundamentalists allege there were
already influences afoot in the days of President Joseph F. Smith to have
the ordinance of Priesthood conferral changed. Joseph W. Musser writes:
We are informed that Charles W.
Penrose had the ordinance (of Priesthood conferral) changed after the death
of President Joseph F. Smith. President Smith, discovering Brother Penrose
was teaching the new method during his presidency, forbid him to do so
any more, "or I will have you tried for your fellowship." After Heber J.
Grant came to the presidency, Brother Penrose's theory was adopted; the
change came in 1921. President Grant stated publicly, "I know nothing concerning
the Gospel; I am a financial man; when I want information I go to President
Penrose, James E. Talmage or Joseph Fielding Smith." Brother Penrose held
that when "We give the men the Priesthood, we give them all we have; and
if we cut them off later, not being able to take their Priesthood away
from them they still have all that we have." (Truth 12:41, 14:325.)
The statements attributed to Presidents Grant and Penrose
in this quotation certainly support Fundamentalist teachings. We can understand
why Fundamentalists would be so anxious to believe them. However, there
is absolutely nothing to support their validity. They are not a matter
of record and no documentation is given that may be verified. Luckily,
many historical documents are available to help us understand what really
DIVISIONS OF AUTHORITY, NOT PRIESTHOOD
Fundamentalists may assert that ordaining directly to
an office in the priesthood constitutes "cutting the Priesthood into pieces,"
and that no Priesthood could be conferred "in the shuffle." Joseph Musser
President Joseph F. Smith taught
that the Priesthood was indivisible; that it cannot be conferred by fragments;
that in conferring the Priesthood and ordaining to an office, the former
should precede the latter--Priesthood being conferred first, and then the
office given... an attempt is made to confer a fragment of the Priesthood,
that part pertaining to the office involved, but the theory of dividing
the Priesthood into fragments and conferring it as such is faulty. The
result is, thousands of our brethren are being ordained to the office of
Deacon, Teacher, Priest, elder, Seventy, High Priest, and perhaps Apostle
and Patriarch, without in fact being given the Priesthood. The Catholic
and sectarian Churches have such officers but no Priesthood. What better
are those ordained by the present formula than they (Truth 4:144)
And he further clarified:
The method of conferring the Priesthood
... ... ... (was) changed so that the recipient should only receive the
office, with such portion of the Priesthood as might function in the office.
The fallacious idea was advanced that a man could receive a portion or
fragment of the Priesthood, or in other words, that each branch of the
Priesthood was divisible. (Truth 3:151.)
However, Fundamentalists err because they confuse divisions
of authority with divisions of priesthood. There is only
one priesthood, but divisions of authority are found within
All priesthood is Melchizedek, but
there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion
which brought Moses to speak face to face was taken away; but that which
brought the ministry of angels remained. (TPJS pp. 180-181.)
There is authority and there are
degrees of authority, and there is a difference in degrees, callings
and authority of the Priesthood. (Deseret News, 26:275, May 25,
All are not called to be one of
the Twelve Apostles, nor are all called to be one of the First Presidency,
nor to be one of the First Presidents of all the Seventies, nor to preside
over the High Priest's Quorum; but every man in his order and place, possessing
a portion of the same Priesthood, according to the gifts and callings
to each. (JD 9:89.)
JOSEPH F. SMITH:
It is the duty of every one who
possesses any portion of the authority of the Holy Priesthood to
magnify and honor that calling. (Gospel Doctrine, p. 168.)
The Priesthood in general is the
authority given to man to act for God. Every man ordained to any degree
of the Priesthood has this authority delegated to him... He (the President)
may delegate any portion of this power to another. (Gospel Doctrine,
In conjunction with ordaining to priesthood office, the
receiver will receive (or have already received) the priesthood,
totally and completely. Ordinations to the priesthood will vary in the
amount of authority given. Musser's theory that the priesthood
could possibly be "cut in pieces" simply reflects a poor understanding
of the priesthood itself.
BOTH CONFERRAL METHODS ARE FOUND
IN THE SCRIPTURES
Fundamentalists claim that specific instructions were
issued from the beginning of the restoration with regard to Priesthood
ordination which may not be altered:
The manner of conferring the Priesthood
is definitely fixed and unless followed in accordance with the word of
the Lord, there can be no assurance of heaven's acceptance. (Truth
It is important at this point to note that nowhere in the Standard Works of the Church, the Prophet's teachings, or the official history of the latter-day restoration (where such an important item as this would most certainly be recorded) is there any indication that "the manner of conferring the Priesthood as definitely fixed" or that the Lord has revealed the words or phraseology to be used in the ordinance of Priesthood bestowal. It is true that suggestions have been made for the performance of this ordinance, but it has only been in recent years that any policy has been set down, but even that has, until very recently, been open. For this reason throughout the later history of the Church there have been different interpretations of the revelations and, consequently, different instructions issued on the subject.
There are only two sources in scripture to which we may
refer for a precedent in this matter. The first is the Prophet's account
of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood by John the Baptist. He stated:
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; (D.& C. 13.)
The second source is found in the Book of Mormon. Moroni writes:
The manner which the disciples, who were called the Elders of the Church, ordained Priests and Teachers---
In the name of Jesus Christ I ordain you to be a Priest, (or, if he be a Teacher) I ordain you to be a Teacher, to preach repentance and remission of sins through Jesus Christ, by the endurance of faith on his name to the end. Amen.
And after this manner did they ordain
Priests and Teachers, according to the gifts and callings of God unto men;
and they ordained them by the power of the Holy Ghost, which was in them.
Fundamentalists assume the teachers and priests mentioned in the Book of Mormon had previously received the Aaronic Priesthood through an ordination to the office of deacon prior to being ordained teachers or priests. They thereby maintain that Moroni was not instructing us on the method of conferring priesthood on unordained men, but only upon how to advance men to higher callings within the Aaronic Priesthood. This argument is not valid, however, since the office of Deacon is a later appendage to the Priesthood. It was not instituted in the Church until New Testament times, so obviously there is no mention of it in either the Old Testament or the Book of Mormon. If it were deemed mandatory, therefore, the Lesser Priesthood would have been conferred before ordaining Teachers and Priests, which the record does not indicate was the case.
Those who espouse the confer/ordain method of Priesthood
bestowal cite D&C 13 and those who maintain that a direct ordination
to office automatically bestow is Priesthood cite Moroni 3:1-4. Thus, without
a direct revelation on the subject, we have the seeds for controversy.
PRESIDENT SMITH ACCEPTED BOTH METHODS
President Heber J. Grant recognized that President Joseph
F. Smith was promoting his own preferences when dictating the terminology
to be used during priesthood conferral. Consequently, when President Grant
became President of the Church he felt to return to the older, more established
doctrine and terminology taught in the earlier days of the Church of ordaining
directly to office in the Priesthood. In consequence, he issued the following
addendum to President Smith's remarks cited above:
Conferring the Priesthood. To prevent disputes over this subject that may arise over the procedure presented on page 136, we draw attention to the fact that until recently, from the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ordinations to the Priesthood were directly to the office therein for which the recipient was chosen and appointed, in form substantially as follows:
As to the Melchizedek Priesthood---"By authority (or in the authority) of the Holy Priesthood and by the laying on of hands, I (or we) ordain you an Elder, (or Seventy, or High Priest, or Patriarch, or Apostle, as the case may be), in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and confer upon you all the rights, powers, keys and authority pertaining to this office and calling on the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen."
As to the Lesser Priesthood---"By (or in) the authority of the Holy Priesthood I (or we) lay my (or our) hands upon your head and ordain you a Deacon (or other office in the Lesser Priesthood) in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and confer upon you All the rights, powers, and authority pertaining to this office and calling in the Aaronic Priesthood, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen." In reference to the form of procedure mentioned on page 136, and that set forth in this addendum as adopted by the leading authorities of the Church from the beginning, our beloved and departed President, Joseph F. Smith, when questioned concerning them, decided, as of record, "It is a distinction without a difference," and "Either will do."
Persons, therefore, who have been
ordained in either way hold the right to officiate in all the duties of
their respective offices in the Priesthood.
Heber J. Grant
Anthon H. Lund
Charles W. Penrose
(Gospel Doctrine, by Joseph
F. Smith, Addenda A.)
This instruction was sent to all Stake Presidencies and
missions throughout the Church with the following notice:(3)
At a meeting of the First Presidency
and Council of Twelve Apostles held April 7, , the foregoing was
unanimously endorsed for the instruction of the stake and ward quorum authorities
in the Priesthood, so that there may be no difference of opinion or action
in regard to the proper method of ordinations to the offices in the Melchizedek
or Aaronic Priesthood. The forms furnished in the addendum, of which the
above as a copy, contain all that is really necessary in ordaining persons
to those offices, and it is desirable to omit anything further, so as to
avoid confusion and needless discussion.
Heber J. Grant
Charles W. Penrose
April 26, 1921
For obvious reasons Joseph Musser has refused to accept
President Grant's claim that Joseph F. Smith when questioned "decided,
as of record," that "it is a distinction without a difference," and "either
will do." Musser writes:
The correction does not sound like President Joseph F. Smith, nor does it conform to his positive language given in the Improvement Era article quoted. Upon the subject of Priesthood President Smith was most positive, and showing the nature and integrity of the man as we did, we cannot now conceive of his agreeing to the statement, "it is a distinction without a difference," and "Either will do." Nor have the authorities been able to provide, properly authenticated the record of such a reversal; nor can the authorities now show that the form cited in the Addendum, and which is now [June, 1946] being followed by the Church was the form "adopted by the leading authorities of the Church from the beginning."
The present leaders of the Church
have proclaimed that there is no essential difference in the two methods
of conferring Priesthood --- that advocated by President Joseph F. Smith
and the present formula of trying to divide the Priesthood and confer only
part at a time; and yet the leaders will not countenance the use of the
formula set out by President Smith, and which, in meaning, has been followed
from the beginning. (Truth 12:44-45.)
Joseph Musser has been most emphatic in his argument against
President Grant's Addenda and seems to have pursued it with vigor. He argues:
The "as of record" alibi seems not
to exist; at least that is the word emanating from the office of Church
Historian. Latter-day Saints in good standing have asked to see the "record"
mentioned in the "Addenda," but it has not been produced and they have
been told, "no such record exists." The only logical conclusion is that
there is no such "record," and that the "Addenda" mentioned, based perhaps
on a half forgotten conversation had with the President some years before
his death, was fabricated after his death to appease the Saints... Had
President Smith reversed himself, as the "Addenda" statement claims he
did, surely some word of it would have leaked out to the Saints during
the long years of his official career as President of the Church. (Truth
In another place, Musser writes:
Some time after the death of President
Smith, a claim was made by the succeeding authorities, that he reversed
his opinion as expressed, claiming that either method of ordination would
be correct. No written statement to this effect has been adduced. We are
informed there is no such statement in existence. The alleged statement
was not included in the first edition of Gospel Doctrine, but was
published in a later editorial and, of course, after the death of President
Smith even if such a statement were made, it would not change the truth,
for the manner of conferring Priesthood is definitely fixed and unless
followed in accordance with the word of the Lord, there can be no assurance
of heaven's acceptance. (Truth 4:144, footnote.)
It seems that through the years many people have been
troubled over which method of Priesthood conferral is valid and proper.
President Joseph F. Smith was queried on this subject many times, especially
in view of his rather dogmatic answer published in the March, 1901 issue
of the Improvement Era cited earlier. (He was not the President
of the Church at that time.) Many wrote concerning the proper method in
light of this statement. Later, as President of the Church, he, in connection
with his counselors, answered one such inquisitor thus:
November 14, 1905
Elder Maynard E. Nelson
It is our understanding that when a person is ordained a Deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood, with all that pertains to that office sealed upon him, it is tantamount to conferring upon him the Aaronic Priesthood and ordaining him to the office of a Deacon.
Of course all ordinations are not
worded alike, and it may be true also that some ordinations may be somewhat
defective in fully expressing their full scope and meaning; but the fact
remains nevertheless that when a person is ordained a Deacon, for instance,
even in the language said to have been used by the Elder on the occasion
referred to by you in your letter, the ordination is lawful and valid.
In this connection we refer you to the third chapter of the Book of Moroni.
Joseph F. Smith
John R. Winder
Anthon H. Lund
Thus President Joseph F. Smith did not take the rigid
and dogmatic stand on this issue that Fundamentalists attribute to him.
One Saint with the inflexible attitude of present day Fundamentalists received
the following response from President Smith:
January 5, 1906
Elder James R. Moffett
This is in answer to yours of the 1st inst. The Lord has given us no particular form for ordination to the Priesthood, and the Church recognizes none. Moroni in the first three verses of the third chapter of the Book of Moroni, gives the manner which the disciples on this continent ordained Priests and Teachers; and we may add that the same simple manner would apply to all the other offices in the Priesthood.
It is our understanding that when a person is ordained a Deacon, with all that pertains to that office sealed upon him, it is tantamount to conferring upon him the Aaronic Priesthood, and ordaining him to the office of Deacon. And so also in regard to the ordination of an Elder. When a man is ordained an Elder it is understood that the Melchizedek Priesthood is conferred upon him whether the officiating Elder expresses that fact or not in the ordination; and it is by virtue and authority of this Priesthood that the Elder performs the duties of his office.
Brethren have been criticized for using this language "we lay our hands upon your head to ordain you, etc.," because the language fails to express the full intent of the officiating Elder, and for that reason brethren have been instructed to use the word "and" in that connection instead of the word "to."
Of course all ordinations are not
worded alike, and it may be true also that some ordinations may be somewhat
defective, grammatically or otherwise, in fully expressing their full scope
and meaning but while it is true that the Lord accepts of the intent, it
is nevertheless true also that officiating elders should learn to express
themselves as fully and clearly as possible in ordaining to the Priesthood
as well as in the performance of every other duty or labor.
Joseph F. Smith
John R. Winder
Anthon H. Lund
It seems as though some Latter-day Saint: have always
had difficulties accepting two differing forms of Priesthood ordination.
The First Presidency wrote the following letter to again clarify this issue
for some contenders in Cache Valley:
February 26th, 1909
President Alma Merrill
This is in answer to yours of the 16th inst., also in answer to a letter of the 17th from Elder Andrew Morrison of your town on the same subject, in substance as follows: In ordaining to the Priesthood which form should be followed, that of John the Baptist bestowing the Priesthood, and then (in order to accommodate our conditions to it) ordain to the offices, and confer all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto, or to ordain directly to office in the Priesthood...
Brother Morrison's letter indicates a difference of opinion existing in Richmond on this subject, some failing to see that any Priesthood is bestowed by ordaining to the offices.
In considering this subject it is important that we have in mind these thoughts:
1. In ordaining there is no set form revealed for us to follow, and therefore it is proper that the party officiating use his own language as appropriately and concisely as he can.
2. That the intent of the ordination, whether the language used by the ordainer [sic] is strictly appropriate or not, validates the ordination.
With these thought in mind we will briefly consider the two ways referred to, in the understanding however that both ways are recognized by us as legitimate and proper, according to the intent of the person officiating.
The ordination of Joseph and Oliver by John the Baptist's appropriate, concise and comprehensive. Its intent was to bestow the Aaronic Priesthood in its fullness, with the keys thereof, meaning the Aaronic Priesthood with its rights of Presidency in all the world. After this was done Joseph, as President and head, possessed all the authority, and all the jurisdiction in the exercise thereof, that John himself possessed while on the earth.
It is thought by some that in ordaining to the offices no Priesthood is bestowed, and therefore John's mode of ordaining should be followed, and then (in order to accommodate our present conditions to it) the candidates for ordination should be set apart to the offices. Where this is the case in the brethren officiating in ordinations, they are at liberty to confer the Priesthood and ordain to the offices.
But where brethren officiating in ordinations feel otherwise, they may consider themselves at perfect liberty also to follow the method you say is practiced in the Temple, namely, that of ordaining to the offices, which was the method practiced by the Nephites, as recorded in the third chapter of Moroni. And we may here add that although we have no record of any direct instruction having been given by the Prophet Joseph on this subject, from the fact that in ordaining others he himself did not pattern after John's language, but on the contrary ordained to the offices, it is only fair for us to assume that the subject had been considered by him; and from the fact that the practice of the Church from his day to the present time has been to follow his example in this respect, it is consistent for us to assume that he did give instruction accordingly. And this assumption is emphasized in the fact that if by ordaining to the offices the argument be true that no Priesthood is bestowed, then the Church itself would be without authority, a thing so untenable as to be unworthy of a moment's consideration.
No contention therefore need be
indulged in on this subject, as both ways are recognized by the Church
as being correct, and it is therefore a matter of choice which of the two
methods shall be followed.
John R. Winder
Anthon H. Lund
On behalf of the First Pres.(6)
This communication corroborated the contention made by
President Grant cited about that "until recently, from the days of the
Prophet Joseph Smith, ordinations to the Priesthood were directly to the
offices therein." This being the case it is understandable there would
be some resistance expressed about Joseph F. Smith's interpretations of
Priesthood doctrine as published in the March, 1901 Improvement Era
Brigham Young, Jr., acting President of the Quorum of Twelve, challenged
Joseph F. Smith's doctrine. He raised the issue several times during meetings
of that quorum. The following account, which occurred four months after
Smith's Improvement Era editorial illustrates this:
Meeting at Eleven A.1-1. Some business
when question of Priesthood came up again, raised by me. I have been called
to order for teaching that Priesthood is "Divine Authority" and when a
Deacon as ordained, all the rights, keys, blessings, etc., are conferred
pertaining to this office in the Aaronic Priesthood. Bro. Jos.(F. Smith)
contended that the whole Priesthood of Aaron was given in the ordination.
This view I cannot see now and take. Bro. Jos. (F. Smith) was more than
earnest and was brotherly and kindly reprimanded by Pres. Snow. (Brigham
Young, Jr., Diary, June 20, 1901.)
Brigham Young, Jr., may well have argued that since the offices of Deacon and Teacher are but appendages to the Aaronic Priesthood following D.& C. 84:30 and since only the office of Priest held the fulness of the Aaronic Priesthood it would be a fallacy to attempt to confer the whole Priesthood of Aaron as Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received when ordaining a Deacon.
He may likewise have argued that since the office of Elder was merely an appendage to the Melchizedek Priesthood following D.& C. 84:29 it would be fallacy to presume to confer the whole Priesthood of Melchizedek as Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received when ordaining an Elder.
He may have argued further that since all offices in the Church are appendages to the Melchizedek Priesthood which holds the right of presidency and has power and authority over all the offices in the Church following D.& C. 107:5, 8, 9, it would be fallacy to presume to confer this authority on anyone but the President of the Church who holds this right exclusively.
Brigham Young, Jr., shared the same feeling with Heber J. Grant who later stated that the direct ordination method "contains all that is really necessary in ordaining persons to those offices, and it is desirable to omit anything further," and "We have been making a mistake in ordinations. We have been conferring Priesthood on a man, we give him all the offices in the Church. We should ordain directly to the office in the Priesthood."
This meeting was but one in a series of meetings in which
Joseph F. Smith's views on the Priesthood were discussed following his
statement in the March, 1901 Improvement Era. John Henry Smith reports
a meeting held on March 7th immediately after the article appeared. In
his daily journal on this date we read:
All of the First Presidency and
all of the Apostles but H. J. Grant and M.W. Merrill met in the Temple...
Some talk was had in regard to the Priesthood and the offices growing out
Brigham Young, Jr., reports this meeting in his journal:
Twelve met at 10 a.m. Discussed several important matters. Pres. (Snow) came in at eleven-thirty... Pres. Snow explained Priesthood. What is it? Divine authority, divided into heads. Melchizedek: Apostles, High Priests, Seventies and Elders. Aaronic: Bishops, Priests, Teachers and Deacons. These are the active Priesthood. Different degrees and power acting under same authority, each holding that portion attached to the office conferred, Apostles holding Priesthood in its entirety.
It is evident President Snow, who had been associated
with the Prophet since 1836 and an Apostle since 1849, recognized that
Brigham Young, Jr., took the historic position of the Church in this matter
and gently reprimanded Joseph F. Smith for urging his views too strongly
and explained that there are different degrees of Priesthood "each holding
that portion attached to the office conferred." Fundamentalists have arbitrarily
assumed that President Snow approved Joseph F. Smith's doctrine, but the
above accounts indicate that such was not the case. Joseph Musser writes
The fallacious idea was advanced that a man could receive a portion or fragment of the Priesthood; or in other words, that each branch of the Priesthood was divisible.
It is understood that this idea gained the ascendancy under the Presidency of Lorenzo Snow; and a few, it is reported, were ordained to an office in the Church without being given the Priesthood to which such office belonged. However, in justice to President Snow we should say that this action was probably taken without his knowledge or consent...
It will be observed that President
Smith's first statement above (March, 1901) was published while his predecessor
in the Presidency, Lorenzo Snow, was yet alive, and it presumably had his
sanction. (Truth 3:151-152.)
It appears that Musser was simply uninformed. Had he been
able to access more historical documents pertinent to this issue, he might
have avoided the inaccurate charges he penned in the pages of Truth
DIRECT ORDINATIONS WERE ROUTINE
The evidence presented thus far demonstrates that in the
early days of the Church, Priesthood was received by the direct ordination
method. Let us now turn to the record of ordinations in the early days
of the Church. If it were deemed necessary to first confer Priesthood this
would have been done in connection with ordination to the first office
in each Priesthood. Several accounts of ordination to the office of Elder
by the Prophet Joseph Smith and his associates are found in the records
of the Church. Following are some typical examples from the Kirtland period.
Aldin Burdick: We ordain you
to be in elder in the Church of the Latter-day Saints. When you did obey
the Gospel the eye of the Lord was upon you and you are called and set
Peter Buchanan: We ordain you
to be an Elder to go forth and preach the gospel, baptize and lay on hands.
Thou are a vessel chosen of God to bear the news of salvation to the Gentiles...(8)
Burr Riggs: We ordain you to
be an Elder in the Church of God to go forth and preach the Gospel... (Kirtland
Council Minutes, 1835, pp. 165-185.)
The Prophet recorded the following in his history for
January 2, 1836:
Elijah Fordham, Hyrum Dayton,
Samuel James and John Herrot were also appointed by council to be ordained
Elders under my hands. (HC 2:354.)
The ordination of Elijah Fordham is contained in an extant
letter written by W. W. Phelps to his wife:
Jan. 3, 1836
The ordination and blessing of E[lijah]
Brother, we lay our hands upon thy
head in the name of the Lord Jesus and we ordain thee to be an Elder in
the Church of the Latter-day Saints, praying our Heavenly Father that he
will bless thee with all the blessings of this ministry... (W.W. Phelps
Family History, Utah Genealogical Society, S.L.C. Utah.)
Extant records indicate the Prophet's brother, Hyrum Smith,
also ordained directly to office without first conferring the Priesthood.
The two following ordinations were performed by him. This procedure followed
the Prophet's example.
Samuel Merrill: January 2, 1841
...I ordain you an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
to preach repentance and remission of sins through faith in the name of
Jesus Christ and the endurance of faith unto the end...(9)
Philemon Merrill: January 2,
1841 ...I ordain you an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints and ordain you to that office to preach repentance and baptism for
the remission of sins through faith in the name of Jesus Christ and the
endurance through faith unto the end. (10)
It is evident from the above wording that Hyrum Smith
followed the form specified in the Book of Mormon. Moroni writes:
In the name of Jesus Christ I ordain
you to be a Priest, (or if he be a Teacher) I ordain you to be a Teacher,
to preach repentance and remission of sins through Jesus Christ, by the
endurance of faith on His name to the end. Amen. (Moroni 3:3.)
The wording of Elder's licenses in the early days of the
restoration indicates Moroni 3:3 was followed as the form for ordination.
Note the following license of William Smith, a younger brother of Joseph
Kirtland, Ohio, Dec. 19th, 1833
License, liberty, power and authority
are given to William Smith, the bearer of this, to preach the Gospel of
our Lord and Savior, by the endurance of faith on His name unto the end.
Also certifying that he has been received into the Church of Christ; which
was organized on the 6th day of April, 1830, according to the articles
and covenants of said Church. Furthermore, stating that he has been regularly
ordained an Elder in the Church, under the hands of Lyman Johnson, who
is also an Elder in the Church.
F. G. Williams, Clerk of Conference(11)
After the Saints came west to the Rocky Mountains, the
form of Priesthood bestowal remained the direct ordination method under
Brigham Young. The following two ordinations are typical:
Sunday 23rd Dec. 1855
Was ordained to the office of a
Deacon under the hands of Elder L. D. Young [Bro. Robert Crookston] when
the following blessing was pronounced:
Bro. Crookston in the name of the
Lord Jesus of Nazareth we lay our hands on you to ordain you to the office
of a Deacon in the 18th Ward and pray our Heavenly Father to pour his spirit
on you that you may go forth and discharge all the duties of this office
that devolves on you. We ordain you even to the office of a Deacon in the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that your mind may be quick
of understanding that you may perform the duties of your office and [I]
seal this blessing on you and this we do in the name of Jesus Christ of
Nazareth, even so Amen. (18th Ward Record no. 1, pp. 17-18, March 18, 1855.)
Wednesday, Dec. 19th (1855) Was ordained to the office
of an Elder [Oscare B. Young son of Brigham and Harriet Elizabeth Young]
under the hands of Bishop L. D. Young when the following blessing was pronounced:
Bro. Oscar in the name of the Lord
Jesus I lay my hands on your head to ordain you an Elder in the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and pray God the Eternal Father in
the name of Jesus His dear son to pour His Holy Spirit upon you that you
may be healed up and made whole that your system may be renovated and I
seal upon you according to your faithfulness all the blessings and privilege
pertaining to the Holy Priesthood and seal you up unto eternal lives that
you may come forth in the morning of the First Resurrection. Therefore,
I say unto you Oscar, be humble and prayerful and obedient to your parents
that your mental faculties may be strengthened and that you may grow up
and become a mighty man in Israel to help to prune the vineyard of the
Lord for the last time and if you are faithful and obedient and humble
I seal all these blessing upon you together with all others pertaining
to this holy ordination in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Ghost. Amen. (Ibid.. pp. 15-16.)
The direct ordination method continued as the primary
method of bestowing Priesthood until Wilford Woodruff's presidency when
the confer/ordain method arose and began to be used on an increasing
basis. By the presidency of Joseph F. Smith we find it being suggested
as the preferable method of the two although the direct ordination method
was permitted. When Heber J. Grant came to the Presidency, he felt to return
to the historic form of direct ordination. One might wonder why all this
vacillation through the years in the ordinance of Priesthood bestowal.
Let us examine more deeply into the problem.
TO ORDAIN, CONFER AND SET-APART
In review, the ordination-conferral controversy in Church
history is based on the two following alternate considerations:
1. If Priesthood is properly received by direct ordination
to office, then conferring priesthood is redundant.
2. The Priesthood must first be conferred prior to ordination
to office in order to be effective.
Perhaps part of the misunderstanding or lack of agreement
is based upon the definition of terms. In the Prophet's day (1840), Webster's
dictionary contains the following definitions:
Ordain: V.T. 1. To set; to establish
in a particular office or order; hence, to invest with a ministerial function...
4. To set apart for an office; to appoint. Jesus ordained twelve, that
they should be with him.
Confer: V.T. To give or bestow;
followed by on. Coronation confers on the king no royal authority. This
word is particularly used to express the grant of favors, benefits, and
privileges, to be enjoyed, or rights which are to be permanent; as to confer
on one the privileges of a citizen; to confer a title or honor.
Set (apart): V.T. To set, to
lay, to put, to establish, to ordain... to place or station; to appoint
to a particular duty... to set apart; to separate to a particular use;
to separate from the rest.
Thus, we see the terms were used synonymously according
to the definition. Today these three terms have received separate and distinct
meanings as doctrine and terminology has become more refined. Consider
the present definitions:
Priesthood is conferred upon
an individual; he is ordained to an office in the Priesthood; and
he is set apart to a position of presidency or administration. Thus
a man has the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred upon him; he is ordained
an Elder in that Priesthood; and he is set apart as a President of an Elder's
Quorum. Similarly a man is ordained an Apostle, but set apart a member
of the Council of the Twelve; he is ordained a Bishop, but set apart to
preside over a ward; he is ordained an High Priest, but set apart to preside
over a stake or serve as President of the Church. (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon
Doctrine, p. 549.)
In the Prophet's day, before our more distinct definitions
were applied to these three terms, they were used interchangeably. Consider
the usage of the words ordain and confer in describing the
restoration of the Priesthood:
A messenger from Heaven descended
in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained
Upon you my fellow servants, in
the name of the Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which
hold the keys of the ministering of angel, and the Gospel of repentance,
and of baptism by immersion for the remission 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.
He said this Aaronic Priesthood
had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but
that this should be conferred on us hereafter; ...I laid my hands
upon his head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and afterwards
he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same Priesthood ---
for so we were commanded. The messenger who visited us on this occasion
and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said his name was John, the
same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he
acted under the direction of Peter, James and John who held the keys of
the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood he said would in due time
be conferred on us, and that I should be called the First Elder
of the Church, and he (Oliver Cowdery) the Second. It was on the 15th day
of May, 1829, that we were ordained under the hand of this messenger
and baptized. (HC 1:39-41.)
Oliver Cowdery, like the Prophet, also used the terms
ordain and confer synonymously in his descriptions of the
restoration of the Priesthood. Note the following:
I was present with Joseph when an holy angel from God came down from Heaven and conferred on us, or restored, the lesser or Aaronic Priesthood, and said to us, at the same time, that it should remain upon the earth while the earth stands. I was also present with Joseph when the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood was conferred by the Holy Angel from on high. This Priesthood, we then conferred on each other by the will and commandment of God.
John the Baptist, holding the keys
of the Aaronic Priesthood; Peter, James and John, holding the keys of the
Melchizedek Priesthood, have also ministered for those who shall be heirs
of salvation, and with these administrations ordained men to the
same Priesthood. (HC 1:41-42.)
That the terms ordain, confer and set
apart were used interchangeably in the early days of the restoration
is evidenced by the following accounts of the institution of the office
of High Priest in the Church:
June 3, 1831. A general conference
was called... The Lord made manifest to Joseph that it was necessary that
such of the Elders as were considered worthy, would be ordained
to the High Priesthood. (John Whitmer's History, ch. 7.)
About fifty Elders met, which was
about all the Elders that then belonged to the Church... The Melchizedek
(High) Priesthood was then for the first time introduced, and conferred
on several of the Elders. (John Corrill, A Brief History of the Church
of Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1839, p. 18.)
He (Ezra Booth) was present when
the Elders first received the ordination of the High Priesthood.
They met together in June, 1831... The manifestation of the power of God
being on Joseph, he set apart some of the Elders to the High Priesthood.
(George A. Smith, JD 11:4.)
In the early days of the restoration the word ordain
was used in a broad sense to describe any type of delegation of authority
in the Church. Notice the following instances which today would properly
be termed set apart instead of ordain:
Verily I say, let him be ordained
as an agent (Newel K. Whitney as a Bishop's Agent) unto the disciples that
shall tarry, and let him be ordained unto this power. (D&C 63:45, see
I, the Lord, have appointed
them, and ordained them to be stewards over the revelations and
commandments which I have given unto them, and which I shall hereafter
give unto them. (D&C 70:3.)
Every President of the High Priesthood
(or Presiding Elder), Bishop High Councilor, and High Priests, is to be
ordained by the direction of a High Council or General Conference.
It was not until 1901 that High Councilors were set
apart to office. Prior to this time they too were ordained.
Apostle Marriner W. Merrill noted this change in procedure in his journal
on June 13, 1901:
I attended meeting with the First
Presidency and seven of the Apostles. It was decided to ordain High
Councilmen as High Priests and set them apart as High Council...
(Merrill, M.C., Utah Pioneer and Apostle Marriner W. Merrill and His
Family, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1937, p. 262.)
Concerning the First Presidency of the Church, we read:
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.)
Joseph Smith describes this ordinance in his history:
On the 26th [April, 1832], I called
a general council of the Church, and was acknowledged as President of the
High Priesthood, according to a previous ordination at a conference
of High Priests and Elders and member, held at Amherst, Ohio, on the 25th
of January, 1832. (HC 1:267.)
Counselors to the President of the Church were also ordained
in early days, whereas following Joseph F. Smith they are set apart
to office. Note this ordinance in connection with Joseph Smith's two counselors
(compare D&C 20:67):
Accordingly I laid my hands on Brother
Sidney [Rigdon] and Frederick [G. Williams], and ordained them to
take part with me in holding the keys of this last kingdom, and to assist
in the presidency of the High Priesthood as my counselors. (HC 1:334.)
By 1877 we find Orson Pratt stating that the proper term
in installing a President of the Church is set apart, not ordain:
So in relation to the First Presidency,
they carry no new office, but new duties are required at their hands, which
they are chosen by the Priesthood and set apart, not ordained
to a new office, but set apart to preside. (JD 19:115.)
This concept was further amplified by Franklin D. Richards
Neither Joseph Smith, Brigham Young,
John Taylor nor Wilford Woodruff were ordained Presidents of the
Church. It is not according to the order of the Church to ordain Presidents
of the Church... Offices in the Church are conferred by ordination, but
offices of position to honor and labor (i.e. Presidency) are conferred
by calling or appointment, and not by ordination. (P. J. Sanders,
A Key to Succession in the Presidency of the Church, N.p., 1909,
The term set apart also has an interesting history
in the Church. In the calling of Bishops the Lord revealed:
No man has a legal right to this office, to hold the keys of this Priesthood, except he be a literal descendent and the firstborn of Aaron.
But, as a High Priest of the Melchizedek
Priesthood has authority to officiate in all the lesser offices, he may
officiate in the office of Bishop when no literal descendant of Aaron can
be found, provided his is called and set apart and ordained
unto this power, under the hands of the First Presidency of the Melchizedek
Priesthood. (D&C 68:18-19. See also 107:16-17.)
Present practice and terminology conform with this revelation.
This same concept was apparently applied to the office of Seventy in 1835.
Candidates were sometimes ordained Elders and set apart as Seventies. Note
the following ordinations:(12)
William Pratt: We ordain you
and set you apart to be one of the Seventy...
William F. Cahoon: We set you
apart to be one of the Seventy...
Willard Snow: We confirm your
ministry and set you apart as one of the Seventy to be a witness of the
Joseph Young: We seal your ministry
upon you and also set you apart to be one of the Seventy...
In light of these historical observations, it is difficult to believe that the confer/ordain method of priesthood bestowal could be considered fundamental. If we wish to be technical, just the opposite appears to be true. The current stance by Mormon Fundamentalists on this issue seems a little inconsistent..
It is uncertain how early the terms ordain, confer
and set apart began taking on separate and distinct meanings. Perhaps
as the revelations were more carefully scrutinized in the light of a total
doctrinal philosophy, interpretation demanded a more precise terminology
than was exhibited during the inception of the restoration. Since it was
declared (D&C 84:29-30, 107:5) that "offices in the Church were appendages
to [the] Priesthood," some began to feel that perhaps Priesthood per
se should be conferred with ordination to office. A related concept
arose in connection with the Apostleship of the Seventies. President Abraham
H. Cannon of the First Council of Seventy recorded the following in his
A question was asked as to whether
a man who held not Priesthood and on being ordained a Seventy, [who] did
not have the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred upon him, was really the
possessor of the Priesthood. I maintained that it was necessary to say
in the ordination that this was conferred upon him, otherwise he did not
possess it. There being some difference of opinion on this point it was
decided to refer the matter to the First Presidency for an answer. (March
The official minutes of the First Council of Seventy yield
the following information with regard to this matter as it came up in their
F.G. Froerer and Angus McKay, President of the 45th Quorum write from Huntsville as follows: "That in 1885 Priest. Seymour B. Young organized the 45th Quorum and ordained, by himself and the quorum presidents, one who previously held no Priesthood. One of the latter ordained him and sealed all the blessings pertaining to that office, but as the words Melchizedek Priesthood were not mentioned, it was held that he holds no Priesthood -- that in another instances, (the phrase) 'in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' was not mentioned and they held the ordination invalid and they ask for explanation and instruction thereon."
On motion of Brother Gates the letter
will be sent to the First Presidency of the Church to obtain their counsel
and decision in relation to it.(13)
The minutes of council meeting the following week report:
The following letter was received
from President John Taylor in answer to the one from F. G. Froerer and
Angus McKay of Huntsville from the 45th Quorum.
Salt Lake City, Utah
March 25, 1887
Elder Robert Campbell
We might answer the question contained
in the letter of F. G. Froerer and Angus McKay by asking another question:
Did the Priest (after the order of Aaron) who was ordained according to
the form given by Moroni in the 3rd chapter of his book, on page 609, of
the Book of Mormon, receive the Aaronic Priesthood when there was no mention
of its bestowal upon him or anything said concerning his being in the Church
When a man is ordained to an office
and to all the gifts and blessings pertaining to that office, if the man
who ordains him has the authority necessary to ordain him, he certainly
receives all that is conferred upon him.
It is very wrong for Elders in the
Church to be caviling and getting up disputes upon such questions as are
mentioned in this letter. Instead of contending upon such a subject, if
there be any doubt respecting the sufficiency of the ordination, (it would
be) far better to remove it by giving him another ordination that will
leave no room for question than to have disputes about its validity.
With kind regards
Thus, it is evident that President Taylor held to the
established practice in the Church of ordaining directly to office in the
Priesthood following Moroni 3:3. It is interesting to note his synonymous
use of the terms ordain and confer also following early practice.
If President Taylor's letter sustained the historic position of the Church
in ordaining directly to office, it also left the door open for those espousing
the conferral method. It seems that with its philosophical appeal, this
form began to gain wider acceptance in the Church until in the 1890's it
became a frequent topic of discussion and inquiry.
George Q. Cannon's Unambiguous Counsel Given After
the Alleged 1886 Prophecy
George Q. Cannon wrote the following concerning this issue
Ordaining to the Priesthood. We have been asked by several persons whether in ordaining a brother, it is right to confer the Priesthood first and then ordain him to the particular office to which he is called, or to directly ordain him to that office in the Priesthood. That is in ordaining a man an Elder, should the one officiating say: "I confer upon you the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordain you an Elder," or "I ordain you an Elder in the Melchizedek [Priesthood]" or whatever the office conferred may be?
So far as we know, the Lord has
revealed no particular form or words to be used in the ceremony of ordination
to the Priesthood as he has done in the rite of baptism, neither has he
given any direct instructions on the point presented by the inquirers.
Certain it is that both forms have been and are being used by those officiated,
ordained in either way. Consequently, we are of the opinion that both
are acceptable to him, and will be until it pleases him to give the
Church further light on the subject, either by direct revelation or by
inspiring his servants of the First Presidency of the Church to direct
exactly what shall be said. (Juvenile Instructor, 29:114.)
Thus it is evident that in 1894 "both forms [of ordination]
have been and are being used by those officiating." Further, "it is equally
certain that the Lord recognized and honors those ordained in either way."
Fundamentalists claim that shortly before his death in 1901, George Q.
Cannon stated the following at a meeting in Draper:
The day will come when men's Priesthood
and authority will be called into question, and you will find out that
there will be hundreds who have no Priesthood, but who believe they have
it, they holding only an office in the Church. (Truth 14:323, also
Cannon's counsel quoted from the Juvenile Instructor above appears to be in direct conflict with the criticisms made in Fundamentalist literature. Generally, Fundamentalist authors do not provide any official documentation for their statements, only the mere assertion that they were made. We wonder how hundreds of brethren in the Church could be "holding only an office in the Church" when it is obvious that "the Lord recognized those ordained in either way?"
On January 19, 1895, a Conference of Elders was held in
the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. The meeting was opened to questions
and among others the following question relating to Priesthood ordination
In ordaining brethren, should we
say: "Receive ye all the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood," or simply
say: "We ordain you and Elder?" Does he receive a fulness of authority
and Priesthood when ordained an Elder?
Counselor Joseph E. Taylor took up the questions asked
at the opening of the meeting, and answered them as follows:
In ordaining Elders, say after this manner: "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the authority of the Holy Priesthood vested in me (or us) I (or we) ordain you an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and seal upon you every key, power, right and privilege pertaining to this high and holy calling. Amen."
If you have the proper authority
such a man is ordained an Elder. Never mind considering the question as
to whether he is more than an Elder. Let him magnify this calling or office,
and there is ample scope for the exercise of all his talents and ability,
and if he will faithfully perform his duty he will thus qualify himself
to act in other offices of the Priesthood to which he may hereafter be
called and ordained. (Deseret News, Jan. 26, 1895, p. 9; also Salt
Lake Stake minute book, pp. 310, 318.)
Thus, Joseph E. Taylor is teaching conformity to the old established method of ordaining directly to office in the Priesthood. This statement also confirms President Grant's assertion cited earlier that "until recently, from the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ordinations to the Priesthood were directly to the offices therein." If it were deemed mandatory that the Melchizedek Priesthood be conferred before ordaining to offices in that Priesthood it would have been so stated at this important Conference.
It seems that many Fundamentalists have become sticklers
for words and do not allow that "the intent validates the ordination" or
that conferees are ordained "by the power of the Holy Ghost" irrespective
of the phraseology used. They have written:
It isn't that the Lord will not
overlook an awkward word used by our inexperienced Elders who are called
upon to perform these ordinances, excusing their mistakes and taking the
will for the deed; but we cannot conceive Him condoning the changing of
positive instructions and introducing forms that in no sense express the
intention. (Truth 14:12.)
There is only one way to confer
Priesthood, and that is to confer it. The conference [conferral] precedes
the ordination to office. Presidents John Taylor and George Q. Cannon both
so contended that they predicted the time when Men's Priesthood would be
called into question, because of it not having been properly conferred.
That time is now (1943). Men's Priesthood is being challenged, and with
good reason. (Truth 9:117.)
Fundamentalists aren't the first to fall into such a dogmatic
pitfall. George Q. Cannon, whom they claim contended otherwise, took such
sticklers to task in his day as follows:
We receive communications from time
to time, from theological classes and from others, making inquiries concerning
the language to be used in ordaining different officers in the Church.
On this and many other points there is a very manifest disposition to be
technical and to attach importance of certain phraseology. Of course, no
one can object to the exercise of proper care in administering the different
ordinances of the Gospel, whether the ordinance of baptism, laying on of
hands, administering to the sick, or the ordaining of men to various offices
in the Priesthood. But while this is right, and there should be no looseness
about this, people should not become too critical and technical... We have,
on page 609 in the Book of Mormon [Moroni chapter thee], described to us
the manner in which John, who was known as John the Baptist, ordained Joseph
Smith and Oliver Cowdery. It is simple and to the point, and contains not
an unnecessary word. Of course, in all ordinations care should be taken
to bestow the authority, and should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus,
and, as the Book of Mormon says, by the power of the Holy Ghost which is
in the men who ordain. (Juvenile Instructor, March 15, 1896, vol.
31:174-175, Ed. George Q. Cannon, Editor.)
It seems the ordination-conferral issue was a subject
of great interest and concern in the late 1890s, being commented upon frequently.
The Deseret News of March 20, 1897, contains the following editorial
on this subject:
A subscriber, writing from Idaho
falls, Idaho, makes the following inquiries of the News:
"Will you kindly answer the following
questions through the News and oblige several subscribers and Latter-day
1. If a man is worthy to be ordained
to the Priesthood should the Elder being mouth use the words, I confer
upon you the Aaronic Priesthood and ordain you a Deacon, Teacher or Priest,
whichever is intended? Some claim that we do not need to confer the Priesthood,
but just ordain him to the office in the Priesthood.
2. If a man is worthy and is recommended
by the Bishop to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, should the Priesthood
be conferred and then he be ordained to the office of an Elder, etc? Some
claim that it is not necessary to confer the Priesthood, but in ordaining
to the office it gives the Priesthood. The argument is that a man cannot
receive the right of a citizen in the nation by receiving an office in
When a person is properly ordained
to an office in the Priesthood, he receives all the Priesthood pertaining
to the office conferred. The order is to ordain Elders, Priests, Teachers,
Deacons, and all other officers. See Doctrine and Covenant, 18:32, 20:39,
and all other references to ordinations of officers; also Book of Mormon,
The Church authorities have given
frequent instructions upon this point, a recent notable instance being
at the Conference of Elders in the Salt Lake Stake in 1895, the minutes
of which were published at length in the News, so that all could
learn precisely what was required. As to the argument that a man cannot
receive the right of a citizen by receiving an office in the Government,
ordination in the Church does not make a man a citizen or member. He becomes
a member in the prescribed manner, and being a member and otherwise qualified,
he is eligible to ordination to office, which confers all the powers of
office bestowed. (See also Truth 12:43.)
The above quotations give us glimpse of the background
out of which Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant each formulated his position
with respect to the matter. It is also part of the doctrinal milieu in
which Joseph Musser grew up. It appears obvious that Lorin Woolley took
issue with Heber J. Grant's position, naively thinking that Joseph F. Smith's
views on the matter reflected the historic position of the Church. This
is reflected in his 1929 account (of alleged 1886 activities) and thus
strongly suggests a much later date for a dogmatic stance respecting priesthood
conferral methodology. This concern was also absent from Woolley's accounts
prior to 1921. The whole matter goes far in demonstrating the assertion
that Lorin Woolley's 1929 statement is a product of the era of the 1920s,
and that his story was added to as disagreements arose with actions taken
by the Church under the administration of Heber J. Grant whom both he and
Joseph W. Musser seemed to hold in contempt for, among other reasons, having
had them excommunicated from the Church.
In recapitulation, we notice the following important points:
1. President Joseph F. Smith in his statement of March, 1901, when he was not Church President, did not say that conferral of the Priesthood must precede ordination to office, but that it should, which makes a difference. He considered it more proper according to his terminology but he certainly did not say or mean that ordinations would be invalid if not performed according to his views.
2. President Heber J. Grant's statement that when President Smith was questioned concerning the matter he decided "as of record," "it was a distinction without a difference," and "either will do," is borne out by George Q. Cannon as well as by President Smith and his two counselors in the First Presidency who state that "both ways are recognized by the Church as being correct, and it is therefore a matter of choice which of the two methods shall be followed," and the one is "tantamount" to the other. (Incidentally, the phrase "distinction without a difference" is uniquely characteristic of President Smith. He uses the phrase "Distinction without a difference" and "distinction with a difference" also in connection with other matters in various correspondence and other records.)
3. The statement of Joseph Musser that the method of ordaining directly to office was a "new method" instituted during Heber J. Grant's presidency is false. As we have seen both methods had been in use for years prior to his presidency.
4. The statement that "there is only one way to confer Priesthood and that is to confer it" is likewise fallacious. It may seem semantically correct, but in light of the historical record, is untenable. It is as President Joseph F. Smith's counselors stated: "if by ordaining to the offices, the argument be true that no Priesthood is bestowed, then the Church itself would be without authority, a thing so untenable as to be unworthy of a moment's consideration."
5. The idea propagated by Joseph Musser that by ordaining directly to office in the Priesthood means "cutting the Priesthood into pieces to fit into the offices, and in the shuffle conferring no Priesthood at all" is erroneous. It is an as the editor of the Deseret News stated in 1897: "When a person is properly ordained of an office in the Priesthood he receives all the Priesthood pertaining to the office conferred," or as Brigham Young stated in 1861 that each office in the Priesthood possessed "a portion of the same Priesthood," or as Lorenzo Snow stated: "Each holding that portion attached to [the] office conferred." The early leaders cited stated emphatically that the Prophet Joseph Smith "himself ordained to the offices" and that "the practice of the Church from his day to the present time (early 1900s) is to follow his example in this respect."
6. The purported statement of George Q. Cannon allegedly given at Draper is obviously spurious because Cannon's views are a matter of public record and they do not support such a contention. In fact they emphatically oppose such a proposition.
7. It is evident, in light of his communication in 1887, that the statement attributed to John Taylor is likewise false. President Taylor's views of the matter were to follow Moroni 3:3, but not to cause contention over the method used. This allegation of Woolley is a reflection of the 1900-1930 era and is, consequently, additional evidence in support of a late date (post 1921) for the origination of this aspect of his statement.
2. This condition is purported to be the fulfillment of John Taylor's prediction in the 1929 Woolley. For additional treatment of this subject see also: B. Harvey Allred, A Leaf In Review 78-85; Newson, Is the Manifesto a Revelation? pp. 9-20; Bishop, Our Founding Fathers and the Church, pp. 13-16; Kraut, Principles or Personalities? pp. 134-136.