Most Fundamentalists today consider The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints as the only true Church on the face of the
earth. While they are usually not members of it, having never joined or
having been excommunicated, their expressed reverence for that institution
as "God's Church" is commonly acknowledged.(292)
The ability of modern polygamists to proclaim the divinity of The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while not being members of it, is
derived from two misguided tenets of Fundamentalist faith:
1. Though The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
is true, supposedly it is presently "out of order."(293)
2. The PRIESTHOOD can
and does exist outside of the Church as a separate organization.
Fundamentalists often believe they are members of the
external Priesthood organization and therefore do not need membership in
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
MUSSER CITES HIS EVIDENCE
Fundamentalists have promoted their external Priesthood organization widely. Should any Church member question the Priesthood's legitimacy, it is likely that any Fundamentalist would respond with an immediate rebuttal, reflecting the fact that most Fundamentalists "take for granted" the idea. However, an analysis of the origin of the teaching provides understanding regarding its true beginning. An examination of when Musser first became aware of the doctrine, as well as the first mention of the concept in modern polygamist publications, is useful.
We have already discussed the history of the Council of
Friends which supposedly provided leadership for the proposed Priesthood
from 1829 to the present, but clearly did not exist. Through the pages
of several of his many publications, Mussser promoted his external Priesthood
organization which he was able to recognize historically. An analysis of
his evidence resulted in the identification of the 15
groups of a Council of Friends previously examined. It also produced
four different periods when the Priesthood was supposedly functioning in
a manner similar to the various(294) Priesthood
organizations existing today. According to Fundamentalists therefore, the
Priesthood, as a distinct organization external to God's Church, was supposedly
1. Prior to April 6, 1830 and the formal organization of the Church.
2. 1830's-1852 while Latter-day Saints practice plural marriage prior to acceptance of the doctrine by a Church conference.
3. In post-1890 Manifesto plural marriages.
4. As a Book of Mormon religious organization.
A brief examination of these periods is useful in determining
whether an external Priesthood organization was really operating as Musser
In his writings, Musser repeatedly observed that Joseph
Smith and Oliver Cowdery received their ordinations to the priesthood in
May and June of 1829, which was prior to the formal organization of Church
which occurred in April of 1830. He wrote:
This Priesthood group began to function with Joseph Smith, its head, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, as early as June, 1829. (Supplement, p. 96.)
First then, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were endowed with the Priesthood - the Aaronic and then the Melchizedek.
This was all done before the Church
was organized. The Priesthood first functioned in Joseph Smith and Oliver
Cowdery and, later in others. The "Gospel of the Kingdom" was preached,
converts were baptized and the "Gift of the Holy Ghost" bestowed, still
no church organization, according to the laws of the land, was in existence.
The Priesthood could and did function without the Church. (A Priesthood
Issue p. 5.)
Musser correctly observed that there was no Church "according
to the laws of the land" in 1829. The question still exists however, "Was
there a Church in the land according to the Lord?" Prior to the restoration
of the priesthood to Joseph Smith in 1829,(295)
the Lord gave a definition of His Church found in D&C 10:67-68:
Behold, this is my doctrine -- whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
Whosoever declareth more of less
than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not
of my church.
By this definition, one would assume that as soon as Joseph Smith "repented and came unto the Lord" in 1820 that a "church" was upon the land as far as the Lord was concerned. It is problematic to claim that no church could exist in the eyes of the Lord until the laws of the land were complied with. Fundamentalists are sometimes quick to criticize the ways of "men," but Musser seems comfortable requiring the Lord to observe the laws of "men" before a "church" could be established in the land.(296) Today, concerns about the membership status for Church members who live in countries that do not officially recognize The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would exist if Musser's ideas were correct. Would "Church members" suddenly become "Priesthood members" upon entering a country where the Church was not yet officially established?
A second problem concerns the lack of evidence that those
men who were given the priesthood prior to April 6, 1830 ever saw themselves
as presiding in a Priesthood organization. No evidence exists to support
the notion that the six elders who formed the Church of Christ on that
date believed they were doing so as members of a superior Priesthood organization
as Musser affirmed.
Sometime in the 1830's, Joseph Smith and other Church
members began practicing polygamy without the knowledge of the general
membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since no
General Conference of the Church had voted to accept the doctrine until
1852, Musser taught that no member of the Church could have lived the principle
of plural marriage. This assertion is based on D&C 26:2:
And all things shall be done by
common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things
you shall receive by faith.
Musser contended that until the Church complied with the law of common consent, any believers practicing the principle of plural marriage were doing so as members of the Priesthood.(297) If we therefore assume that all polygamists were practicing plural marriage as members of the Priesthood prior to 1852, a question concerning their "Church" and "Priesthood" standing after the conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepted the doctrine in 1852 exists. Were the participants then thrust back into the Church leaving the Priesthood with only its proposed leadership? It is more than confusing.
The greatest difficulty with Musser's belief that no member of the Church can live a doctrine until the Church has voted to abide by it concerns the introduction of the temple endowment in 1842. The ordinances associated with the temple are closely tied to Celestial Marriage.(298) Based on Musser's teachings of the law of common consent, participation in the ordinances of the Temple, which have never been accepted by a General Conference of the Church, could only be accomplished by members of his contrived Priesthood organization. Do we therefore conclude that the five thousand Latter-day Saints who received their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple in the winter of 1845-46(299) became members of the Priesthood afterwards because the ordinances had not been previously accepted through the "law of common consent" (D&C 26:2) by a conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
As illustrated, several problems exist for Fundamentalist
authors who wish to draw a parallel between the polygamists of the Nauvoo
era and the Fundamentalist movement of today.
Fundamentalists teach that the Priesthood authorized hundreds
of plural marriages after the 1890 manifesto.(300)
Since the signing of the Manifesto
and prior to that time, other men were set apart under the direction of
the Presidency of the Priesthood to keep the principle alive - notwithstanding
the Manifesto and the covenant of the Church with the Government concerning
this law. Among the men so ordained and placed under covenant after those
previously mentioned were Anthony W. Ivins, John Henry Smith, John W. Taylor,
Matthias F. Cowley, and Patriarch Tolman. (Truth 9:10.) [Underlining
by the authors.]
Joseph Musser repeatedly taught that plural marriages occurred after the Manifesto under the direction of his Priesthood organization. To support his belief, he listed the men he believed were ordained by his Priesthood, to continue plural marriage. If Musser was correct, those men should have had first-hand knowledge of the existence of the Priesthood. The names given include: Anthony W. Ivins, John Henry Smith, John W. Taylor, Matthias F. Cowley, and Patriarch Tolman. The inclusion of John Henry Smith as a member of Musser's Priesthood is pure conjecture. Musser inserted his name, but gives no additional evidence for his assertion.
As noted earlier in this book both Matthias F. Cowley and John W. Taylor resigned from the Quorum of the Twelve because they were out of harmony with their file leaders. The latter was later excommunicated from the Church in 1911 for marrying a plural wife after resigning from the Quorum.(301) Despite his being excommunicated from the Church, John W. Taylor never joined with any schismatic polygamous sect, though he was invited to do so.(302) To his death, he recognized the authority within the Church and was entirely oblivious to any proposed external Priesthood group.
Matthias Cowley remained a faithful member of the Church and in the 1930's served a mission to England. He remained separate from all polygamists who were forming groups in the 1920's and 1930's. The Priesthood was supposedly functioning among those groups (though evidence supporting that idea is lacking). His actions show clearly he was never affiliated with any kind of Priesthood organization as described by Musser.
Patriarch Tolman was excommunicated in 1910 for performing unauthorized plural marriages. Incorrectly, he claimed his authority from his ordination as a Patriarch.(303) Musser wrote that Tolman received authority from the Priesthood directly. Why then would Tolman have needed to assume sealing authority from his position as a patriarch if he had been ordained by the Priesthood as Musser described? The case of Patriarch Tolman shows clearly that he was unaware of any Priesthood organization.
It is ironic that Joseph Musser chose to include Anthony
Ivins for Ivins' actions suggest quite strongly that he was entirely unaware
of Musser's theories. In 1923, Elder Ivins wrote to an excommunicated polygamist:
The Lord made known to Joseph Smith that all bonds, covenants, contracts, obligations, oaths, vows or performances whatsoever, which men enter into while in mortality, are void, and of no effect in the life to come, unless they are sealed by the holy spirit of promise, (the power of the priesthood) they are of no effect after men are dead. He also makes it plain that there is but one person on the earth at the same time, who is authorized to exercise the sealing power, as it applies to this ordinance... When a worthy man can have more sealed to him it will be the same way, it will be done by proper authority.
Joseph F. Smith, who held the keys
to this ordinance, [issued] a proclamation to the Church... It is sufficient
for me to say that the obligation is not at present upon any man to enter
into this order of marriage. (Reminiscences of John W. Woolley and Lorin
C. Woolley, vol. 2, appendix A.)
If Ivins was aware of any Priesthood organization whose
purpose was to continue plural marriage, it is illogical to think he would
reprimand a man trying to live plural marriage in this manner. Ivins was
very active in discovering and excommunicating the individuals who disregarded
the directives of the Church Presidents. This caused Musser to write in
his journal after Elder Ivins' demise:
Within 3 1/2 days after Lorin [Woolley]
was called [home], Anthony W. Ivins was stricken with heart failure and
died the next morning (Sunday at 4:30). Since Elder I. had assumed the
place of Jas. E. Talmage in ferreting out and persecuting the Saints who
are living in the Patriarchal Order of marriage, and since he has recently
denied the word of the Lord as given through Wilford Woodruff in 1880 and
John Taylor in 1886, and repudiated and attempted to make null and void
eternal laws as pertaining to the Gospel of Salvation. I am of the firm
opinion that Anthony's passing so near on the heels of Lorin, resulted
from the labors of Lorin as soon as he arrived there [next life]. (Entry
for September 30, 1934.)
It is apparent that Anthony Ivins knew nothing of Musser's
proposed external Priesthood organization and its leadership.
Many Fundamentalist apologists have labored extensively
in attempts to show that polygamy and their Priesthood organization existed
among the Nephites in the Book of Mormon.(304)
The need becomes apparent as LDS authors often rebut the ideas by quoting
Jacob 2:26-27 where the Lord commanded:
Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.
Wherefore, my brethren, hear me,
and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among
you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
Despite this command and the obvious absence of authorized polygamy among the Nephites, some Fundamentalists have suggested that they did indeed practice it.
The greatest support for any parallel between the Fundamentalist Priesthood organization and anything in the Book of Mormon is the fact that the Nephite religious organization is not called a "church" until 147 B.C. in Mosiah 18:17. Fundamentalists are quick to conclude that the Priesthood must have been the Nephite religious organization up until that time. The problems with this conclusion are numerous and a detailed analysis can not be included here.(305) In reality, the only parallel that appears to exist is that neither the modern Fundamentalist Priesthood organization nor the Nephite religious organization prior to Mosiah 18 carry the title of "church."(306)
A second attempt to draw a parallel is to observe that Mosiah II(307) in Mosiah chapters 25-26 presided over Alma (the Elder) who appeared to be the head of the "Church." As they strive to justify their theories about priesthood leadership positions, Fundamentalist apologists will attempt to manipulate Mosiah II into being their "Senior member of the Council of Friends" and therefore the presiding "High Priest Apostle." Then they claim Alma was made "President of the Church," thus explaining his apparent subordinate calling in the Church that was organized.(308) Besides the multitude of obvious dissimilarities between the two situations, we also remember that Mosiah II was serving in a dual civil and ecclesiastical capacity as "King" to his people. His position as presiding officer to the people was unlike anything found today. The Senior High Priest Apostle is not referred to as "King," nor does he always preside over temporal things.(309) It appears to require an excessive amount of "stretching" to manipulate these Book of Mormon incidents into supports for the existence of Musser's Priesthood organization or its leadership.
The Lord gave a definition of His "Church" in Mosiah 26:22:
For behold, this is my church; whosoever
is baptized shall be baptized unto repentance. And whomsoever ye receive
shall believe in my name; and him will I freely forgive.
While it is true that the Nephite religious organization
was not called a "church" until Mosiah 18, the Nephites certainly had complied
with the definitions(310) given by the
Lord to identify His Church before that time.
JOSEPH MUSSER - WHEN DID HE LEARN OF THE "PRIESTHOOD"?
Joseph W. Musser has been the primary teacher of the doctrine
of an external Priesthood organization. An excerpt from his journal, July
20, 1935, relates the following:
Thursday held meeting at home of Edwin Barlow...
I spoke, calling the Saints to repentance
from their criticisms of the Priesthood, their selfishness and jealousies...
Told of a brother who said: "It is alright [sic] for the Priesthood
to direct in spiritual matters but not in Temporal matters, in the latter
they make mistakes." To, think that people will risk their eternal salvation
with men with whom they are afraid to trust their property or a few paltry
dollars. It is like a jeweler placing his glass settings under lock and
key and exposing his diamonds. All is spiritual with the Lord. The Priesthood
is His voice... [Underlining added.]
This entry suggests that at least by July of 1835, the doctrine of "the Priesthood" was firmly understood in the mind of Joseph Musser. He referred to the Priesthood as a distinct organization three times without hesitation. By examining his teachings as reflected in his publications and various entries in his personal journal, it becomes possible to approximate the month and year prior to 1835 that Musser became aware of this important doctrine.
Musser himself admitted that the teaching of an external
priesthood is "generally unknown to the Church,"(311)
therefore he certainly would not have been introduced to the concept through
the standard Church curriculum. A review of the life of Joseph White Musser
reveals several occasions when he might have been introduced to the existence
of an external Priesthood organization by individuals who should have known
about the group if it ever existed. Listed chronologically they are:
1. During his youth - taught by his father A. Milton Musser
2. 1899 - when purportedly selected to continue plural marriage
3. 1915 - when supposedly given the sealing keys
4. 1921 - when excommunicated from the Church
5. 1922 - listening to the teachings of Lorin C. Woolley
6. 1929 - when purportedly ordained a "High Priest Apostle"
An examination of these incidents is useful in determining
when Joseph Musser first became aware of this important doctrine.
A. MILTON MUSSER - A TEACHER OF THE DOCTRINE OF AN
Joseph Musser's father, A. Milton Musser, served as a traveling bishop for the Church between 1858 and 1876 and was later imprisoned for his obedience to the principle of Plural Marriage.(312) In 1902 he was sustained as an assistant Church historian, a position he held until his death in 1909.(313) It has been suggested to one of the authors that A. Milton Musser, while serving as assistant Church historian, gained access to information that provided "incontrovertible evidence" concerning the existence of a Priesthood group outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after 1886.(314) As one reviews the actions and writings of Joseph Musser, it appears that if A. Milton Musser ever uncovered anything that supported Lorin C. Woolley's story or the doctrine of an external Priesthood, he never informed his son, Joseph.
If Joseph Musser had been taught by his father about an external Priesthood organization, it is quite likely that Joseph would have followed after its purported leaders and maintained contact with their religious organization. As late as the 1920's, Joseph Musser was confused as to who represented the Lord as His mouthpiece upon the earth. This is readily illustrated by observing Joseph Musser's interactions with John T. Clark.
John T. Clark was a charismatic self-proclaimed prophet
who professed to be the "One Mighty and Strong" mentioned in D&C 85:7
who was to "set in order the house of God." Clark also declared himself
to be "the most literal descendent of Jesus Christ on earth today" and
to carry "indian blood in his veins."(315)
Joseph Musser wrote in 1922 that he was "deeply impressed with his claims"(316)
and while Joseph Musser did not espouse all of the teachings of John T.
Clark, he later recorded in his journal: "That he has important work to
do, I do not doubt..."(317) To demonstrate
his support for John T. Clark, Joseph Musser aided him for many hours(318)
as Clark wrote a book titled The One Mighty and Strong.(319)
That book contains nothing about a Council of Friends, the office of High
Priest Apostle or an external Priesthood organization. It also contradicts
Musser's later teachings on the subordinate position of the Church President.
A comparison of the doctrine found in Clark's book, The One Mighty and
Strong, and Musser's later teachings is found in figure below:
In 1927 and again in 1928, Joseph Musser transported Clark and others to a farm at Alpine, Utah where Clark claimed "hidden great treasure of Ancient Mexicans and possibly many divine records the Lord [was] preserving to come forth shortly" were held.(320) John T. Clark was also invited to bless members of Musser's family.(321)
John T. Clark died September 16, 1932. None of Clark's
prophecies had been fulfilled and Musser admitted in his journal, "it appears
he was misled by the spirit he followed."(322)
It appears unlikely that Joseph Musser would have expended such energies
with John T. Clark(323) if Joseph had
been taught by his father, A. Milton Musser, about an external Priesthood
led by John W. and Lorin C. Woolley. Embracing the Woolleys and their teachings
at a very early date would have been the most likely course for Joseph
Musser to have taken but he did not.
1899 - MUSSER SELECTED TO ENTER PLURAL MARRIAGE?
Musser claimed that he was selected to enter plural marriage
in December 1899:
A messenger came to me from President
Snow, stating I had been selected to enter plural marriage and to HELP
KEEP THE PRINCIPLE ALIVE. (Truth 20:17.)
There are many serious problems believing that Joseph
Musser might have been selected by Lorenzo Snow to participate in plural
marriage.(324) However, if such a selection
had taken place, it would have been an excellent time for the "messenger"
to have introduced Joseph Musser to the Priesthood and its leaders. Again,
Musser's actions and writings of the 1920's strongly argue that Musser
was entirely unaware of any external Priesthood organization until much
1915 - MUSSER GIVEN THE SEALING AUTHORITY?
Musser claimed that: "In the year 1915 an Apostle conferred
upon me the sealing power of Elijah, with instructions to see that plural
marriage shall not die out."(325) The
identity of the "Apostle" is never given, but if that Apostle were promoting
plural marriage as asserted by Musser, it is likely that he would have
had some knowledge of an external Priesthood and its leadership. Nothing
exists to suggest that Musser believed in a Priesthood organization or
its leadership until years later.
1921 - MUSSER EXCOMMUNICATED
Joseph White Musser was excommunicated from The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on March 21, 1921, for practicing
plural marriage.(326) Since he lost his
Church membership on that date, it seems likely that he might have immediately
joined with the external Priesthood organization in order to fill the void
made by his excommunication if any such religious group existed.(327)
However, there is nothing in his journal to suggest he had even heard of
such a group. His journal is entirely silent with respect to dealings with
other polygamists until March 12, 1922 where he recorded:
Attended special meeting held at home of Brother Baldwin(328)
in East Mill Creek, and attended generally by those
in sympathy with plural marriage...
In contrast to Musser's journal entry from 1935 where
he referred to the Priesthood several times as an organization, Musser
is found joined with a much less illustrious group: "those in sympathy
with plural marriage." One week after the meeting mentioned above, Musser
wrote of another gathering:
Attended meeting with "Fellow Sufferers"
in plural marriage, at Dr. Gamble's, Forest Dale. About 25 present. Excellent
spirit. Everyone felt under obligation to sustain the present Authorities
and patiently await the Lord's pleasure in all things. (Journal of Joseph
W. Musser, March 19, 1922) [Underlining added.]
Any reference to the Priesthood is conspicuously absent. Likewise, those in attendance appeared unaware of any external Priesthood leadership as they "felt under obligation to sustain the present Authorities." This behavior seems very inconsistent if they understood, as Musser would later teach, that the Priesthood as an organization had existed for over one hundred years (since 1829) and that they were members of it by virtue of their participation in post-manifesto polygamy.
It appears that no acquaintance of Joseph W. Musser was
aware of the purported Priesthood organization in the 1920's. We recall
that Musser had been in contact with many people sympathetic to polygamy
and his excommunication had been published in the newspaper.(329)
If such an organization existed, it is quite likely some member of it would
have known of Joseph W. Musser and his conviction to the principle of plural
marriage. It is likely that they would have invited him to join with them
since he already qualified as a member through his polygamous activities.
There is absolutely nothing to suggest that this occurred or that any external
Priesthood existed in 1921.
1922 - TEACHINGS OF LORIN WOOLLEY
Since Musser would claim in the 1930's that the President of the High Priesthood(330) after Joseph F. Smith died in 1918 was the father of Lorin C. Woolley, John W. Woolley,(331) one might assume that when Musser met with the Woolleys, he would have been taught about the Priesthood from its president. However, there is no evidence to support the idea that Musser ever discussed any doctrine with the elder Woolley.
John W. Woolley was born in 1831 and was in his nineties when his son, Lorin C. Woolley, started to make his claims to priesthood authority through 1886 ordinations.(332) Notwithstanding John Woolley's proposed position as God's representative on earth, Joseph W. Musser apparently never sought him out to learn from his alleged prophetic knowledge. At least if he did, Musser never mentioned it in his journal. The first reference to John W. Woolley was of his death in 1928.(333) However, as Musser began to expound the doctrine of the Priesthood in the mid-1930's, he appears to have recruited John W. Woolley as the senior member of the Council of Friends posthumously.(334)
Several secondary sources suggest that John W. Woolley did agree with the claims of his son. Nevertheless, the evidence is quite limited and contrasts sharply with other of God's prophets who boldly declared the Lord's word to His people.
Notwithstanding the paucity of teachings from John W.
Woolley, his son Lorin loved to vocalize the things he "had forgotten,
but was gradually remembering"(335) about
the purported 1886 events. In addition, Lorin C. Woolley was active in
teaching other doctrines as well. Musser's first entry in his journal with
teachings of Lorin Woolley is found April 9, 1922. During that meeting,
Musser recorded that Woolley discussed over a dozen different topics which
comprised several pages in Musser's typed record.(336)
Woolley taught the importance of continuing plural marriage and addressed
priesthood topics including leadership. He even talked of his alleged ordination
as an "apostle."(337) Throughout it all
however, there was no mention of the Priesthood, High Priest Apostles or
a Council of Friends. There were no admonitions to join with him in his
Priesthood organization or to recognize the purported priesthood calling
of his father John W. Woolley (supposedly the senior member of their Council).
Musser listened to Lorin C. Woolley teach at least five times in 1922 and
recorded pages of notes of his teachings, however, nothing is mentioned
of the Priesthood as Musser would later describe it.(338)
Neither did Musser feel any need to look outside The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints for priesthood leadership after hearing Lorin Woolley's
1922 teachings. On January 5, 1923, he recorded in his journal:
Routine at office.
In evening attended meeting at home of Nathan Clark of
Bountiful. Several assembled with Bro. Alder, Hansen, Clark, and myself
and same splendid sisters. Bore testimony to the Gospel and counseled
those present to sustain the leaders of the Church as loyally as possible.
Additional insight can be gained by noting Joseph Musser's religious activities during the years after he listened to the teachings of Lorin C. Woolley in 1922. Rather than join with him and his father (the alleged senior High Priest Apostle) in the Priesthood organization, Musser apparently lost contact with him since there is no mention of him again until 1928.(339) During the period between 1922 and 1928, Musser met with those sympathetic to polygamy a few times, but Woolley was absent and there was no sign of the Priesthood.(340) When he participated in Sabbath worship, he would usually attend Church at an LDS ward.
If there was an external priesthood organization existing
in the 1920's, Lorin C. Woolley should have known about it since he was
supposedly one of its leaders. Woolley undoubtedly would have introduced
it to those he was so eager to impress with his fantastic teachings. He
would have plainly taught Musser that his father, John Woolley was God's
prophet and Musser would have followed him. However, an examination of
that period fails to detect any established Priesthood group or leadership
existing exterior to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At
least if one did exist, it was apparently unknown to Lorin C. Woolley and
Joseph W. Musser.
1929 - MUSSER IS ORDAINED A HIGH PRIEST APOSTLE (?)
In a history of Joseph W. Musser published in the periodical
Truth the authors of the article claimed that his journal entry
from May 14, 1929 read:
I was ordained a High Priest Apostle
and a Patriarch to all the world, by a High Priest Apostle, and I was instructed
to see that never a year passed that children were not born in the covenant
of plural marriage... (Truth 20:28 and Journal of Joseph W. Musser
The source of this quotation is not Joseph W. Musser's
personal journal, but an autobiography which was entitled The Journal of
Joseph White Musser. However, his personal journal for that date actually
Received most wonderful blessing from Bro. Lauren [sic] C. Woolley. Spent 2 1/2 hours with him listening to his past experiences. I rejoice greatly in his friendship and the Lord's blessing.
Vital points to be considered:
Family ties - Sustain - Sacred
Great in Kingdom & Church
Just as the Musser journal account apparently evolved during the period between his 1929 journal entry and the writing of his autobiography, so too did the significance of the "blessing" that later became an ordination as a "High Priest Apostle." It appears likely that if Musser was indeed ordained to a lofty priesthood quorum in May, 1929, he might also have been taught of the Priesthood since he was supposedly a member of its presiding quorum. Nevertheless, there is no mention in Musser's diary of meeting with the Priesthood or serving in a leadership role for several years. If Lorin C. Woolley understood the doctrine of the Priesthood, there is nothing to suggest that he taught it to Musser in 1929.
It is also interesting to observe Musser's activities during the latter part of 1929 and 1930 with John T. Clark. As noted earlier, Clark made many incredible claims and prophecies including several of priesthood leadership. Musser did not accept them all, but he spent a great deal of time with him. In December of 1929, Musser "had conference and prayers with John T. Clark."(341) On March 31, 1930, Musser received instruction from Lorin C. Woolley concerning "my friend John T. Clark as [being] in error in supposing he is the `one Mighty and Strong,' like unto Moses," though Woolley did not entirely discount Clark's claims.(342) Despite that assessment by Joseph Musser's alleged file leader, Lorin C. Woolley, who was purportedly senior member of the Council of Friends and therefore supposedly God's prophet and President of the High Priesthood, Musser continued to follow after John T. Clark and met with him several times, listening to his prophecies and recording them in his journal.(343)
Musser's actions with John T. Clark after Clark's claims were discounted by Lorin C. Woolley, seem inconsistent with a man who was supposed to have been an ordained High Priest Apostle and was presiding over the Priesthood as a member of the Council of Friends. The months and years immediately after Musser's purported ordination find him continuing to indulge in Clark's speculative prophesying. Likewise, Musser's journal fails to record any activity with an established religious organization such as the Priesthood or a Council of Friends.
The activities of Joseph Musser after his alleged ordination
by Lorin C. Woolley in 1929 significantly contrast the behavior expected
of a man actually ordained to such a lofty priesthood office.(344)
We would expect him to begin to function in his calling immediately after
receiving the authority to do so. Musser taught that High Priest Apostles
had existed for over a century, so the duties should have been well understood
by his superiors. Musser's journal fails to support that notion that he
was presiding over a Priesthood (or functioning in a Council of Friends)
after the proposed ordination. Moreover, it is entirely silent about even
the existence of the Priesthood until years after the "blessing" of May
14, 1929. It appears that the Priesthood was yet to be established among
those modern polygamists along with its leadership group, the Council of
It seems likely that the doctrine of the Priesthood was
developed by Joseph Musser, with the assistance of Joseph Leslie Broadbent,
in late 1933. The issue of the location of the keys of sealing authority
was emphasized in a statement by the First Presidency distributed June
17, 1933. The First Presidency of the Church taught:
The keys of the sealing ordinances
rest today solely in President Heber J. Grant, having so passed to him
by the ordination prescribed by the Lord, at the hands of those having
the authority to pass them, and whose authority has never been taken away
by the Lord, nor suspended, nor interfered with by the Church. President
Grant is the only man on the earth at this time who possess these keys.
He has never authorized any one to perform polygamous or plural marriages;
he is not performing such marriages himself... (Messages of the First
Presidency,(345) 5:315-330, Truth 16:292-302.)
This clear claim to the sealing keys by the Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints placed the polygamists somewhat on the defensive with respect to the issue of authority. If the statement were true, their polygamous marriages "would not be valid, nor of force in the world to come."(346) The issue of priesthood authority was pushed to the forefront in the conflict between the excommunicated polygamists and the Church.
A question arises over why those practicing plural marriage outside the Church had not addressed the issue of sealing keys before 1933. Undoubtedly they were aware of the Lord's statement that "there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred."(347) We know that Lorin C. Woolley was claiming authority to seal polygamous marriages as early as 1922, but he did not claim, at that time, to be the "one" anointed and appointed.
Part of the explanation may be found by reviewing the
vernacular used by both President Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant to
inform the Church and the world that those performing polygamous marriages
after the Manifesto were doing do without authority. In 1910, President
Joseph F. Smith taught:
Plural marriages have ceased in
the Church. There isn't a man today in this Church or anywhere else outside
of it who has authority to solemnize a plural marriage, not one. (Quoted
in April conference, 1911, Gospel Doctrine, pp. 280-281)
Heber J. Grant taught similarly in 1921:
No man upon the face of the earth
has any right or any authority to perform a plural marriage, and there
are no plural marriages today in the Church of Christ.(348)
Since both of these Church Presidents stated that "no man" had authority to seal a plural marriages, the polygamists concluded that Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant did not hold the sealing keys themselves. By assuming that those keys were lost from the Church, it was easy for the polygamists to assume they had access to them, though the issue of the "one man" who held the keys to the sealing power mentioned in D&C 132 was not directly addressed until 1933.
While it is true that Presidents Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant stated that "no man" could seal a plural marriage, there are significant problems believing the polygamist's interpretation that President Smith and President Grant were also declaring that they had lost the keys of sealing prior to making their statements. The actions of these Church Presidents show that they indeed possessed the sealing authority for it was being used to seal monogamous marriages for the living and both monogamist and polygamous marriages for the dead regularly within the LDS Temples before and after both of these statements were made.
Since polygamous marriages for the living were not being performed, Fundamentalists sometimes attempt to extract from the sealing keys, the authority to seal plural marriages for the living. However, this is impossible to do. All of the verses in D&C 132 which refer to the "one man" anointed and appointed, refer to only one set of sealing keys.(349) No priesthood leader has ever taught that it was possible to extricate the portion of the keys of sealing necessary to seal plural marriages for the living from the Keys of Elijah restored to Joseph Smith in 1836.(350) Despite their desire to do so, modern polygamists cannot legitimately claim possession of a "limited sealing authority." Such teachings contradict the scriptures and all the instructions of prophets in this dispensation.
1933 appears to be the first year that anyone ever wrote or taught about an external Priesthood organization. Publications written in 1932(351) such as the popular A Leaf In Review by B. Harvey Allred contained nothing about a presiding Council of Friends or teachings on the external Priesthood. In fact, the book taught that the First Presidency of the Church presided over both priesthoods and that the First Presidency was to be ordained by the Twelve Apostles.(352) Allred was consistent in referring to the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the presiding priesthood authority.(353) There is no hint of the priesthood doctrine that Musser was to introduce a year or so later.(354) It is interesting to note also that Lorin C. Woolley is quoted as saying that "Every word of [A Leaf in Review] is scripture."(355)
A second volume, Celestial Marriage? written by J. Leslie
Broadbent in 1927 is also devoid of any reference to Musser's doctrine
of an external Priesthood, High Priest Apostles or a Council of Friends.
1933-1934 THE "PRIESTHOOD" IS BORN
The first reference to the Priesthood by Joseph W. Musser
is in his September 1933 publication: The New and Everlasting Covenant
of Marriage. Musser wrote:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints is simply a vehicle used by the Priesthood for the accomplishment
of certain ends, and is, in connection with the Kingdom of God on earth,
subject to this body of Priesthood. (The New and Everlasting Covenant
of Marriage, p. 78.) [Underlining added.]
While it appears that this reference to the Priesthood is actually referring to the leadership of the external priesthood (the Council of Friends), it does introduce a new utilization of the term "priesthood." The new definition uses the word to refer to distinct organization which could apparently exist external to the subordinate Church.(356) Despite this usage, readers were going to have to await two additional publications, Supplement to the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage printed in July, 1934 and Priesthood Items published in August of the same year to acquire additional enlightenment on this important topic. Musser expanded his ideas in a later publication entitled A Priesthood Issue which has been reprinted several times.
An examination of Musser's journal also supports a 1933-1934 emergence for the concept of the Priesthood. The first utilization in his journal of the term "priesthood" as a separate organization occurred in February of 1934.(357) Afterwards, the term is used frequently and without apology.(358) In conjunction with the introduction of the Priesthood into his journal entries, we also discover that Musser's references to other members of the proposed Council of Friends, such as J. Leslie Broadbent and John Y. Barlow, carry the title of "President" starting in 1934.(359) This is consistent with Musser's teaching that members of the Council of Friends were all called "President."(360) The question arises as to why these men were not referred to as presidents back in 1929 when they were all supposedly ordained members of that lofty priesthood quorum?
In conjunction with the development of the doctrine of
the external Priesthood, Musser noted several times in his journal that
he had spent time teaching the polygamists about the priesthood "set-up"
or "situation."(361) This was necessary
because undoubtedly his listeners were as unfamiliar with Musser's teachings
of the external Priesthood as Musser had been just years before.(362)
Musser's ideas legitimized the authority of the modern polygamists and
were readily accepted by them.
THE PROPER ELEMENTS COMBINED IN 1933 TO FORM THE "PRIESTHOOD"
It appears that three things came together in 1933-34
to form an enduring doctrine of an external Priesthood:
1. Authority was alleged through the claims of Lorin C. Woolley and his 1886 ordinations.
2. Leadership was obtained by recruiting the five men purportedly ordained in 1886 and transforming them into a COUNCIL OF FRIENDS.
3. Musser developed the idea for an external PRIESTHOOD
organization and retrospectively identified its existence historically.
In order to support his theories of an external Priesthood organization, a Council of Friends and High Priest Apostles, Musser searched through the scriptures and the historical sources that he had at his command. These included books such as the seven volume History of the Church, volumes five through eight of the Historical Record, the Journal of Discourses, issues of Church periodicals like the Times and Seasons, Millennial Star, Messenger and Advocate, Juvenile Instructor and the Deseret News. Musser and other modern polygamists generally acknowledge that no early priesthood leader overtly taught about a Priesthood organization that was capable of existing external to the Church or a higher leadership council and office. Nonetheless, Musser was able to comb the early historical sources for references that might apply to his newly created entity. An examination of those citations shows they are tangential references at best. Regardless, Musser was able to utilize these quotations by taking them out of context and shaping them with his own narrative.
The issue of why no other monogamist or polygamist before Musser had been inclined to discuss openly the alleged Priesthood organization as Musser did is not addressed by Fundamentalists. Modern polygamists believe that early priesthood leaders knew about it, its Council of Friends and High Priest Apostles, but were very careful not to ever mention them directly (for they never did).(363) Musser taught that the doctrine was for "general circulation"(364) though he never explained what authorized him to be the only man in over a century to publicize it, since previous priesthood leaders had purportedly kept it so secret.
In December of 1942, some eight years after introducing
the concept of an external priesthood organization, Musser reflected on
his doctrine and wrote:
I am convicted with the feeling
that the Priesthood is one organization and the Church is another, and
that Pres. [Heber J.] Grant has jurisdiction in the Church. If I am wrong
I pray the Lord to correct me and to assist me in getting back into the
proper channel. Up to date, however, in all the reasoning power I have,
and listening to the voice of the Spirit of the Lord, I am convinced that
I am right. (Journal of Joseph W. Musser, December 28, 1942.)
In this journal entry, Musser ascribes the doctrine of the external priesthood to "all the reasoning power" he possessed and "the voice of the Spirit of the Lord." Fundamentalists would prefer to attribute their priesthood organization to the teachings of the Lord through the Prophet Joseph Smith. However, as has been illustrated, the Priesthood, as an organization, is of a much more recent origin.
293. This concept is derived from D&C 85:7 where the Lord referred to "One Mighty and Strong" who would come to "set in order the house of God." Most polygamists interpret the "house of God" to mean the Church, though every other reference to the "house of God" in the D&C is referring to the Temple (see 45:18, 88:119, 129, 130, 136, 109:8, 138:58). Additionally, Fundamentalist prophet Lorin C. Woolley also purportedly taught that not only would the "Church" someday be out of order, but that also the polygamists would be "out of order." See Keys of the Priesthood Illustrated pp. 285-288 and Reminiscences of John W. Woolley and Lorin C. Woolley, Volume I, Number 1, (interview with Olive Woolley Coombs), p. 10. Also, it is likely that Apostle Orson Pratt would have disagreed with this Fundamentalist interpretation of D&C 85:7 (see JD 12:323, 17:305, 21:150-151).
294. Today several entirely separate PRIESTHOOD organizations exist each with their own distinct COUNCIL OF FRIENDS. Of course each separate PRIESTHOOD group claims they are the true PRIESTHOOD and that all others are false and without authority.
295. The exact date for section ten from which this scripture is quoted is unclear. Copies of the Doctrine and Covenants prior to the 1921 listed a May, 1929 date. Later research suggests that at least parts of the section were composed as much as a year earlier than that date. See The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 17-19, 122-123 and Max H. Parkin, "A Preliminary Analysis of the Dating of Section 10," Seventh Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1979, pp. 68-84. Regardless, these verses were given prior to the complete restoration of the Priesthood.
III, And be it further enacted, that it shall be lawful for the male persons of full age, belonging to any other church, congregation or religious society, now or hereafter to be established in this state... to elect any number of discrete persons of their church, congregation or society, not less than three, nor exceeding nine in number, as trustees, to take the charge of the estate and property belonging thereto, and transact all affairs relative to the temporalities thereof... That on the said day of election, two of the elders or church wardens and if there be no such officers, then two of the members of the said church, congregation or society, to be nominated by a majority of the members present, shall preside at such election, receive the votes of the electors, be the judges of the qualifications of such electors, and the officers to return the names of the persons who, by plurality of voices, shall be elected to serve as trustees for the said church, congregation or society. (Laws of the State of New York, 1813, vol. 2, p. 214.) [Underlining by the authors.]
297. A Priesthood Issue, p. 24. It is true that polygamists of the Nauvoo Era were at times referred to as the "Secret Priesthood" (Journal of William Clayton, May 23, 1843). However, the Nauvoo "Secret Priesthood" group was in no way related to Musser's external PRIESTHOOD organization with its COUNCIL OF FRIENDS and High Priest Apostles.
305. For an excellent treatise of the Church and authority in the Book of Mormon, see Daniel C. Peterson, "Authority in the Book of Mosiah," Provo, Utah: F.A.R.M.S., 1991. The issue and its relationship to Fundamentalism have been examined in an unpublished manuscript by one of the authors.
309. While serving as the senior
member of a COUNCIL OF FRIENDS in 1936, John Y. Barlow was put in charge
of the temporal dealings with the believers in Short Creek (now Colorado
City), Arizona. The participants became disillusioned with his temporal
leadership and complained to Musser. Musser recorded in his journal for
November 13, 1936:
J.W. Musser explained his views on Priesthood matters: That the special mission and labors of the Priesthood group was to keep plural marriage alive; that we were not called upon to colonize only as the Lord might dictate such a move; that it was the feeling of the Priesthood that the affairs of the Saints should be conducted by them in their local communities and not by the Priesthood...
To me, John [T. Clark]'s claim's
do not ring true in their entirety. That he has an important work to do,
I do not doubt, but that he is chosen to lead the people I do doubt. And
shall continue to doubt, until at least the Lord shall make his mind
and will known to me.
This reference strongly suggests that Joseph W. Musser was unaware of Lorin C. Woolley's alleged priesthood calling and the 1886 ordinations as late as June of 1928, even though Musser had been listening to the teachings of Lorin C. Woolley's for several years.
Took typewriter to Kenyon Hotel
to assist John T. Clark in preparing a pamphlet on "The One Mighty and
Strong" for publication.
This entry was handwritten, while previous journal entries were typed. For days after May 20, the entries continued to be written, not typed, apparently until Musser was able to reacquire his typewriter.
323. Entries that include mention of John T. Clark from Joseph Musser's 1920-1944 journal are: 1921, February 28; 1922, May 12,13,16,20,22,24, June 14, July 21,29,30,31, Aug. 4,6,7, Dec. 18; 1927, Aug. 2; 1928, Feb. 25, April 19,20, May 16,19, June 10, Oct. 3; 1929, Jan. 28, Feb. 10, March 3,10, Aug. 25, Dec. 29; 1930, Feb. 23, March 31, May 6,15,16,25, July 27, August 4,6,7,8,11, Sept. 30, Oct. 23, Dec. 10; 1931, Jan. 14, March 14,15, July 15,17,23, August 12, Nov. 23; 1932, May 7, Sept. 16,18.
324. A review of Musser's personal
journal for that period contains nothing regarding the proposed "messenger"
or Musser's being "selected" to become a polygamist. The very idea that
President Snow would suggest such a thing goes contrary to other actions
and statements he made supporting the 1890 Manifesto. Brigham Young, Jr.,
quoted President Snow in his journal:
There cannot be a plural marriage
solemnized in this church without my consent and I have never given consent
for this to be done since President of the Church. God has removed this
privilege from the people and until he restores it, I shall not consent
to any man taking a plural wife. It is just as fair for one as it is for
all to go without. The business is taken out from our hands and we cannot
fight the United States. It is for them and God to settle this question.
We are not in it. There is no such thing as men taking plural wives and
keeping it secret. It cannot be done. Has any one of the apostles a right
to seal plural wives to men by reason of former concessions made to them
by the Presidency? No, sir, such right must come from me and no man shall
be authorized by me to break the law of the Land. (Brigham Young, Jr.,
Journal, B.Y.U. typescript, pp. 36,37.)
Fundamentalists are quick to point out that the first sentence states that no plural marriages could be performed in this church, but he also states clearly that God had removed "this privilege from the people," "it is just as fair for one as it is for all to go without," and "there is no such thing as men taking plural wives and keeping it secret." These passages show clearly that he was unaware of any external PRIESTHOOD movement commissioned to continue plural marriage, nor would he, as holder of the keys of sealing, approve of such.
327. This commonly occurs today. Any member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who practices polygamy, does so without any authority whatsoever and is immediately excommunicated. They often thereafter join with one of the contrived Fundamentalist PRIESTHOOD organizations.
328. Nathaniel Baldwin was a successful inventor who used his resources to support the polygamist movement in the 1920's. See Merrill Singer, "Nathaniel Baldwin, Utah Inventor and Patron of the Fundamentalist Movement," Utah Historical Quarterly, 47 (Winter 1979)1:42-53.
331. Several Fundamentalist quotes exist alleging that the Sealing Keys of Elijah left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after Wilford Woodruff signed the Manifesto (Truth 6:21-22, 8:262, 9:142, 144, 251; 16:79; and Sermons of Leroy S. Johnson, vol. 1, p. 211), however, most Fundamentalists probably hold to the idea that the keys left after the death of Joseph F. Smith during the presidency of Heber J. Grant. With either approach, many questions arise that are difficult for Fundamentalist apologists to explain. See chapter five.
335. Lorin C. Woolley described his recollections of the 1886 meetings and ordinations as "things I forgot, but they are coming to me gradually..." (Supplement, p. 60 and the appendix to chapter four).
339. See Journal of Joseph W. Musser October 16, 1928. Fundamentalists will claim that Musser might have met with Woolley during the period between 1922 and 1928 and just not recorded it in his journal. Musser held Woolley in high regard and wrote a daily entry for most of that period. The detail of Musser's journal included a record of the drilling depths of the oil well he was managing (for example: May 26, 1923) and other activities. It is highly unlikely that any interaction with Lorin C. Woolley would have escaped his record.
344. Available evidence also fails to support the idea that John W. Woolley ever functioned as a High Priest Apostle prior to his death in 1928, though purportedly he was the senior member of the COUNCIL OF FRIENDS for several years.
354. It is interesting to observe that B. Harvey Allred approached the "Priesthood Council" (COUNCIL OF FRIENDS) in January of 1934 with a response to the 1933 First Presidency's Message that Heber J. Grant held the keys of sealing. Musser recorded on January 22: "We did not favor its publication." Since there was no hint of an external PRIESTHOOD organization or a COUNCIL OF FRIENDS in Allred's first publication, A Leaf in Review, one wonders if Allred's response to the 1933 First Presidency's Message agreed with the doctrine being developed by Musser?
357. Journal of Joseph W. Musser, February 25, 1934. The reference to the PRIESTHOOD came after Musser recorded a portion of the 1882 revelation (My Kingdom Shall Roll Forth pp. 50-51. Also in The Four Hidden Revelations p. 11.) given to John Taylor. In that revelation the Lord states that: "It is not meet that men who will not abide my law shall preside over my Priesthood." Musser interpreted "abiding my law" as meaning participating in plural marriage. Thus, the idea of a presiding PRIESTHOOD, composed of polygamists, was likely born. Apparently President John Taylor understood the revelation differently because over one-third of the General Authorities called by him were monogamists.
Clyde Nielson and Roy Wilson came to office and got Chas. Zitting out in the hall, informing him that the four of us, myself, John Y. Barlow, he and Lewis A. Kelsch were going to die pre-mature deaths unless we reversed our statements on the Priesthood set-up. Clyde was speaker. He said he had dedicated his life to the destruction of the Sanhedrin idea.
363. Most modern polygamists assume that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor etc. all privately taught about the PRIESTHOOD, COUNCIL OF FRIENDS and High Priest Apostles, though neither Woolley nor Musser ever listed them as the source of these ideas. While some contemporary historians have unfortunately gained access to private writings and teachings of these men, even things that are sacred, they have not found among them any doctrines that even remotely resemble Musser's beliefs on the priesthood.