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Chapter Two

Before examining the specific aspects of the priesthood of modern polygamy, let us review the beliefs of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints concerning their:

1. Priesthood Line of Authority

2. Presiding Priesthood Office

3. Presiding Leadership Council

4. Church organization


The line of priesthood succession which includes the Senior Apostle who, in every case became the Church president, was briefly discussed in chapter one.


Latter-day Saints believe that the highest priesthood office is that of apostle.(31) Brigham Young explained:

The keys of the eternal Priesthood, which is after the order of the Son of God, are comprehended by being an Apostle. All the Priesthood, all the keys, all the gifts, all the endowments, and everything preparatory to entering into the presence of the Father and the Son, are in, composed of, circumscribed by, or I might say incorporated within the circumference of, the Apostleship. (JD 1:134-135.)

President John Taylor taught:

This is embraced in the Apostleship, which has been given by the Almighty, and which embraces all the keys, powers and authorities ever conferred upon man. (JD 19:124.)

While all apostles hold the same "keys, powers and authorities" by ordination, only the Senior Apostle controls the sealing keys as the "one" anointed and appointed. George Q. Cannon, a member of the First Presidency for many years, instructed:

While it is the right of all the Twelve Apostles to receive revelation, and for each one to be a Prophet, to be a Seer, to be a Revelator, and to hold the keys in the fullness, it is only the right of one man at a time to exercise that power in relation to the whole people. (JD 19:233-234.)

Concerning the period after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Elder Cannon observed:

We knew that there was only one man at a time upon the earth that could hold the keys of the kingdom of God, and that man was the presiding Apostle. (JD 23:363-364.)

Prior to his death, Joseph Smith had given his priesthood keys to all of the Apostles, but Brigham Young, as President of the Quorum of the Twelve, received a special confirmation. Parley P. Pratt taught:

[Joseph Smith] proceeded to confer on Elder Young, the President of the Twelve, the keys of sealing power, as conferred in the last days by the spirit and power of Elijah, in order to seal the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth should be smitten with a curse.

This last key of the priesthood is the most sacred of all, and pertains exclusively to the First Presidency of the Church, without whose sanction and approval or authority, no sealing blessing shall be administered pertaining to things of the resurrection and the life to come. (Millennial Star, 5:150.) [Underlining by the authors.]

Therefore, when the Prophet Joseph died, Brigham Young was the one man who held the sealing keys by virtue of his position as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Heber C. Kimball, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, advised the Saints at that time:

As to the power and authority invested in brother Brigham, do I doubt it? Have I the least hesitation as to his calling as President of this Church? No, no more than I have that God sits upon His throne. He has the same authority that brother Joseph had. That authority was in the Twelve, and since brother Joseph stepped behind the veil, brother Brigham is his lawful successor. (JD 1:206.) [Underlining by the authors.]

George Q. Cannon publicly identified the next Senior Apostle after the death of Brigham Young:

Now that he [Brigham Young] has gone, one man only can hold this power and authority to which I refer, and that man is he whom you sustained yesterday, as President of the Quorum of the Twelve, as one of the Twelve Apostles and of the Presidency, John Taylor by name... and while the Twelve are associated with him, one in power, one in authority, they must respect him as their President, they must look to him as the man through whom the voice of God will come to them, and to this entire people. (JD 19:234-235.) [Underlining added.]

And after John Taylor passed away:

President Woodruff is the only man upon the earth who holds the keys of sealing power. These Apostles all around me have the same authority that he has. We are all ordained with the same ordination. We all have had the same keys and the same powers bestowed upon us. But there is an order in the Church of God, and that order is that there is only one man at a time on the earth who holds the keys of sealing, and that man is the President of the Church, now Wilford Woodruff. (Deseret New Weekly, 41:551.(32)) [Underlining added.]

And so the apostleship holds all the keys, but the one who controls the keys of sealing is the Senior Apostle. The Senior Apostle rises to that position through seniority of ordination in the Quorum of the Twelve.(33) Upon the death of the President of the Church, who has in every case been the Senior Apostle, the next senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve becomes the "one" anointed and appointed and presides over all the other apostles upon the earth.


For Latter-day Saints, the presiding priesthood council upon the earth is the First Presidency.(34) This belief is based on several scriptures:

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.)

No priesthood quorum can exist which is superior to the First Presidency. The Lord instructed Frederick G. Williams, a counselor in the First Presidency in 1833 that the Presidency of the High Priesthood would always hold the "keys of the kingdom:"

Verily, verily, I say unto you my servant Frederick G. Williams: Listen to the voice of him who speaketh, to the word of the Lord your God, and hearken to the calling wherewith you are called, even to be a high priest in my church, and a counselor unto my servant Joseph Smith, Jun.:

Unto whom I have given the keys of the kingdom, which belong ALWAYS unto the Presidency of the High Priesthood. (D&C 81:1-2.) [Emphasis added.]

Regarding the authority of the First Presidency, Brigham Young taught:

In last week's [Deseret] News I published a portion of a revelation, showing the authority of the First Presidency of the Church, composed at first of Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams. When this revelation was given, the two last-named brethren were Joseph's counselors, and this First Presidency possessed the power and authority of building up the kingdom of God upon all the earth, and of setting the Church in order in its perfection. (JD 9:87.)

John Taylor instructed:

...Zion will continue to grow until the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God and his Christ, and that as a matter of course means that is this is the kingdom of God and the Priesthood is the representation of that kingdom, the proper authorities of the holy Priesthood, wherever they go to represent the Priesthood, must be respected in their position; and as these brethren represent the First Presidency where they are going, they must be respected and their counsels adhered to as such. (JD 21:363.)

Joseph F. Smith declared:

It is the duty of him who holds the High Priesthood, which is after the order of the Son of God, to preside over all the officers of the Priesthood and over all the members of the Church, when he is chosen and set apart to preside. For instance, the Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is composed of three High Priests, who are chosen from the body of the High Priests, and who are sustained by all the Priesthood and members of the Church. (Collected Discourses, 3:95.)

The First Presidency presides over all priesthood on the earth. Other offices are contained within the Melchizedek Priesthood which were specified by the Lord in 1841 and recorded in the D&C Section 124:

Verily I say unto you, I now give unto you the officers belonging to my Priesthood, that ye may hold the keys thereof, even the Priesthood which is after the order of Melchizedek, which is after the order of mine Only Begotten Son. (Verse 123.) [Underlining added.]

The Lord also identified the officers to His Priesthood which all function within the bounds of the Church as:

Church Patriarch - verse 124
Presiding Church Elder and Prophet - verse 125
First Presidency with Counselors - verse 126
President of the Quorum of the Twelve - verse 127
Twelve Apostles - verses 128-30
High Council in Zion - verses 131-2
President of the High Priests - verse 133
Counselors to President of the High Priests - verse 136
Presidency of the Elders Quorum - verse 137
Presidency of the Seventies - verse 138
Bishopric - verse 141

In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord taught that those ordained needed to be known to the Church, thus precluding the possibility of any person claiming to receive a "secret ordination" to a purportedly higher concealed priesthood council:

Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church. (D&C 42:11.) [Underlining by the authors.]

The Lord, through His prophets, has taught us concerning the presiding councils in His priesthood. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feel confident that no priesthood council could exist outside the Church or superior to the First Presidency.


On April 6, 1830, the Church of Christ,(35) later called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,(36) was organized according to the laws of the State of New York. That entity has continued to exist and expand until today its membership includes several million people. The structure of the Church includes congregations called Wards which are grouped into Stakes. Several Stakes form a region and regions are combined to comprise an Area. The presiding officers in an "Area Presidency" are all General Authorities of the Church and answer to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency.

The local Wards or congregations are presided over by a Bishop with two counselors. Priesthood Quorums of High Priests, Elders, Priests, Teachers and Deacons exist for male members over the age of 12. Other organizations exist for the women, youth and children.

The arrangement of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is consistent with the directives found in the Doctrine and Covenants and the guidance given to the Church from modern Prophets.


Besides possessing the correct "church" organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declares it will endure until the Lord comes to usher in the millennium as the kingdom the prophet Daniel foresaw. He prophesied of a kingdom that would be set up in the last days that would never be destroyed:

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. (Daniel 2:44.)

Brigham Young explained the relationship between the kingdom Daniel saw and the restored Church:

Out of this Church will grow the Kingdom which Daniel saw. This is the very people that Daniel saw would continue to grow and spread and prosper; and if we are not faithful, others will take our places, for this is the Church and people that will possess the Kingdom for ever and ever. (JD 8:143-144.)

Therefore, the Latter-day Saints believe that the Church will continue on earth until the millennium. They also believe they will comprise the Saints which Nephi saw would be battling against the Church of the Devil in the last days:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory. (1 Nephi 14:14.)

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are grateful for the efforts of Joseph Smith and subsequent prophets for establishing and perpetuating the Lord's Church upon the earth in these latter days.


An examination of the Priesthood as professed by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reveals a claim to a continuous line of authority through the Senior Apostle of the Church down to their present leader, Ezra Taft Benson. Their presiding priesthood council is composed of the First Presidency and their religious organization is comprised of the Church formally established by Joseph Smith in 1830 and continued to the present day.



31. This will be discussed in greater detail in chapter six.

32. Quoted by Brian Stuy, in Collected Discourses Sandy Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987-1992, 2:132.

33. The Senior Apostle has always risen to that position through his seniority as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. For example, Brigham Young Jr. was ordained to the apostleship in 1864, but did not become a member of the Quorum of the Twelve until 1868. Joseph F. Smith was ordained an apostle in 1866 and became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1867 and became the Senior Apostle after the death of Lorenzo Snow in 1901. The precedence of the Senior Apostles has always been derived from the date they entered the quorum, not the date of their ordinations to the apostleship. For more discussion, see Prophets, Priesthood Keys, and Succession, pp. 87-89 and Reed C. Durham, Jr. and Steven H. Heath, Succession In The Church, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1970, pp. 69-72.

34. John A. Widstoe, Priesthood and Church Government, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1963, p. 108.

35. D&C 20:1.

36. D&C 115:3-4.