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Prince’s Research Excerpts: Priesthood & Mormonism – 1957

Below you will find Prince’s research excerpts titled, “Priesthood, 1957.” You can view other years here.

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1957:  5 Apr.:  Increase in Sacrament Meeting attendance.

“From 1945 to 1955 there has been a gradual increase of attendance at Sacrament meetings of eleven percent.”  (David O. McKay, 5 Apr., 1957; CR Apr., 1957, p. 5)

Jun.:  Boys and the Aaronic Priesthood.

“Question:  I have been unable to find anything in Church literature as to when and under what circumstances there began the bestowal of the Aaronic Priesthood upon boys.  In the earliest days of the Church, it appears to have been restricted to men.  As nearly as I have been able to ascertain, this priesthood, as well as the Melchizedek Priesthood, was considered men’s work in New Testament times, although there seem to have been some exceptions.

Will you enlighten us, through the columns of the Era, as to when and why present Church practice came into being?

Answer:  From the records of the Church, there seems to be no definite time when the Aaronic Priesthood was first given to boys.  Some ordinations were given to very young men who showed aptitude as far back as the days of Kirtland; for instance, Don Carlos Smith, youngest brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, was ordained and labored as a missionary when only fifteen years of age.  (HC 4:393)  George A. Smith, father of John Henry Smith, was active in the ministry when about fifteen years of age, and also was a member of Zion’s Camp in 1834.  He was ordained a seventy when the first seventies were chosen in 1835 and was called into the Council of the Twelve when twenty-one years of age.  Other young men who were worthy were ordained in those early days and sent out to preach the gospel.  President Joseph F. Smith was ordained an elder and setn on a mission when he was fifteen.  So we see the conferring of the priesthood was not completely confined to men in the days of Kirtland, Nauvoo, or in the Salt Lake Valley.

There is ample evidence that boys were called and ordained in ancient times.  In antediluvian times, when the lives of men were greatly prolonged, some were called to act at comparatively tender years.  Enoch was but twenty-five when he was ordained by Adam; Lamech was but thirty-two; and Noah received the priesthood when he was but ten years of age.  (D&C 107)  How old Joseph, son of Israel, was when he receive the priesthood is not recorded; but it must have been when he was very young.  He was sold by his brethren when he was only seventeen, and he must have had the priesthood before that time, for he exercised it in the land of Egypt.  We do not know the age of nephi when he left Jerusalem but he must have been in his ‘teens.’  We gather this from his remark that he ‘being exceeding young,’ nevertheless ‘large in stature.’  He held the priesthood, otherwise he could not have had the authority to rebuke his brethren and have the wonderful manifestations which were given to him.  We may also conclude that Mormon received the priesthood at a very tender age.  He was only ten years old when Ammaron counseled him and placed in him the wonderful trust as guardian of the sacred plates.  Moreover, when he was fifteen years of age he had a visitation by the Lord and ‘tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus.’

It is true that the Lord revealed to Moses that the priests of Aaron and Levi were to be men thirty years of age.  (Num. 4:3, 47)  This custom was followed in Israel down to the days of Paul.  Therefore, it was in keeping with the law that Paul instructed Timothy that a deacon should have a wife, for a man thirty years of age holding the priesthood should be married.  It was in harmony with this law given to Moses, that John the Baptist waited until he was thirty years of age before entering the ministry, and the same is true of the ministry of our Savior.  What was practiced  in the days of Paul and the ancient apostles, however, does not necessarilyi apply always and under all conditions in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times any more than it did with those living before the days of Moses.  Therefore, it is due to ignorance of the facts that some maintain that only mature men should hold the priesthood.

We see that boys were ordained from the time of the organization of the Church, when the priesthood was restored; but our records are not quite clear as to the extent of such ordinations, although we do have some light revealed on this question.  At the general conference held in October 1854, President Brigham Young made the following remarks:

When you have got your Bishop, he needs assistance, and he ordains counselors, priests, teachers and deacons, and calls them to help him; and he wishes men of his own heart and hand to do this.  He says ‘I dare not even call a man to be a deacon, to assist me in my calling, unless he has a family.’  It is not the business of an ignorant young man, of no experience in family matters, to inquire into the circumstances of families, and know the wants of every person.  Some may want medicine and nourishment, and to be looked after, and it is not the business of boys to do this; but select a man who has got a family to be a deacon, whose wife can go with him, and assist him in administering to the needy in the ward.  (JD 2:89)

The remarks of President Brigham Young in 1854 can hardly be interprested to the extent that boys shoulid not receive the priesthood at any time.  The duties he mentioned are not the duties of a deacon, and even then some boys had been ordained.  However, it required men of experience to carry on the work of taking care of the sick and the needy and administering to those who were in difficulty.  This is true today as much as in 1854.  In July 1877, the First Presidency, who were President Brigham Young, John W. Young, and Daniel H. Wells, issued a circular in which we find the following:

When priests and teachers visit the Saints, according to the instruction in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, the experienced priests or teachers should have as a companion a young man, so that the latter may have the opportunity of learning the duties of his calling, and becoming thoroughly wise and efficient in the discharge thereof.

It would be excellent training for the young men if they had the opportunity of acting in the offices of the lesser priesthood.  They would thereby obtain very valuable experience, and when they obtain the Melchizedek Priesthood they would be likely to place a higher value upon it.  (Ref. Pamphlets #080.8, HDC)

This same year (1877), there was a general reorganization and setting in order of the wards of the Church, and counsel was given regarding the activities of the quorums of the priesthood.  President John Taylor, in the First Ward, Salt Lake Stake, said that the First Presidency and Apostles had been organizing stakes of Zion in various parts of the Church.  ‘The servants of God being moved upon to place every man in his place, that all may work in their proper order.’  Quorums of the lesser priesthood were set in order.  In the Twelfth Ward, Elder George Q. Cannon said, ‘We have found the priesthood alive in their duties and a good spirit generally prevailing among them.  We have felt especially blessed in ordaining the young men to positions in the priesthood and the results, so far, have proved satisfactory, not only to those ordained, for their example gave others a great regard for the priesthood.’  [no reference given]

At this same time a correspondent of the Juvenile Instructor asked why boys were ordained to the priesthood, when in the days of Paul, only married men were chosen.  President Cannon answered:

With our elders even in these days it is a very common thing to ordain, while in the world, very young men to any office.  Mature men are frequently ordained as deacons and to act as such.  But the circumstances which surround us here in Zion are entirely different from those which surrounded the Saints in the days of Paul, and of which he wrote.  There is no impropriety whatever in young men, even early as at the age of twelve or fourteen years, acting as deacons.  They receive a training that is very valuable to them, and we know of many who have been and are greatly benefited to act in this position, meeting with the deacons’ quorum and receiving such instructions as are proper to be imparted to them in this capacity.  (JI 34:48)

Addressing the deacons in the Council House, June 23, 1877, Bishop Alexander McRae said, 

I am pleased to meet with you, owing to the position I hold, I feel I am associated with the lesser priesthood.  I feel your quorum will be better attended than it has been, this reorganization will be good.  I was a middle-aged man before I obeyed the Gospel and then took it to my parents, and these little boys can’t be expected to have the knowledge of an oder person, but if they use the office of a deacon well, they will by and by be raised to the office of a teacher. . . . You have a better opportunity than I had.  The first office I held in the Priesthood being that of a Seventy, and I was very poorly prepared to fill it, but Joseph {Smith} called me and I was pleased to do as I was told.  (Salt Lake Stake Deacons Quorum Minutes, #1809, page 241)

In a meeting held in the Nineteenth Ward, Salt Lake Stake, June 1, 1877, President Alfred Solomon admonished the young men of the lesser priesthood and counseled them in their duties.  He was followed by Elder William Asper, who said, ‘I am glad that the time has arrived when the young men of the Latter-day Saints are being called to the priesthood’ and he demonstrated in a ‘lucid manner the benefits to be derived by magnifying and living faithful to the requirements of the priesthood.’  (Nineteenth Ward Records of Minutes, #2498, page 8)

Other meetings were held in other wards throughout the Church in the summer of 1877, where brethren of the Council of the Twelve and others admonished the boys holding the priesthood to be faithful in the discharge of their duties.  These minutes indicate that there had been a universal movement throughout the Church to have the boys twelve years of age and upward organized in quorums of deacons, teachers, and priests.  Previous to this time the ordination of boys of twelve was not the universal practice, although such had been the practice in certain places.”  (Joseph Fielding Smith, “Your Question,” IE 60(6):382-383, Jun., 1957)

Jun.:  Aims of Priesthood Reactivation.

“For eighteen months now in all the stakes of the Church the brethren have been teaching the principles and procedures governing the program for priesthood reactivation.  Now let us orient ourselves on what has been done and what should be done.  Let us see if we really know what priesthood reactivation is all about.

What is the Church program of priesthood reactivation?  Has it taken hold in our stakes and among our quorums?  Are we really getting results and bringing our inactive brethren into the full priesthood program?  Do our quorums know how to use the white cards?  [Picture of a “white card” is included in the article.]  The recapitulation sheets?  Have they learned (if need be) to create and use quorum projects for the sole purpose of reactivating those who need it?  Where does the personal missionary approach fit into priesthood reactivation?  Are our week-night schools for senior members of the Aaronic Priesthood effective?  Have we started our separate week-night schools for inactive Melchizedek Priesthood holders yet?  How are our cottage meetings going with our senior members of the Aaronic Priesthood?  With our inactive elders?

Priesthood reactivation!  It is a program that will bring light and progress into every quorum and stake.  Throughout the Church thousands will be brought into Church service (and eventually will gain salvation!) because of this great work.  What are we doing about it?  Will our skirts be clean, as priesthood officers, unless we accept the counsel of the Brethren and with all energy and diligence do our part in this mighty movement?

Need for Priesthood Reactivation

The need for this work of reactivation is apparent; it is assumed by every well-grounded priesthood worker.  There are senior members of the Aaronic Priesthood in every stake in the Church.  Until these brethren receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, the door to celestial marriage and exaltation is closed to them.  There are elders, seventies, and high priests in every stake who are not living according to the high standards which the gospel teaches.  Some, for instance, do not pay a full tithing, honor the Sabbath, or keep the Word of Wisdom.  Every year in every stake there are young people getting married who do not go to the Lord’s House, the only place in which they may enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage.  These things are known to all who work in the Church.  But these conditions must be changed.  Priesthood reactivation will guide many of these brethren into the joy of Church service in this life and the fulness of reward in the life to come.

Objectives of Priesthood Reactivation

1. A Church Assignment. . . .

2. Temporal and Spiritual Progression. . . .

3. Celestial Marriage. . . .

4. Eternal Life. . . .

Procedures of Priesthood Reactivation

These are very simple and easy to apply.  For some reason they do not seem to be understood as they should be.  But if priesthood officers will catch the vision of these successive steps and will follow them diligently, priesthood reactivation will work within the field of their assignments.

1. Make out the white cards entitled, ‘Record of Priesthood Quorum Member,’ and fill in the data in the roll books for all senior members of the Aaronic Priesthood.  These white cards must be used for all holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and they are available to those who desire them for use also for the senior members.  Fact-finding and reporting committees of the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums are to collect the information for their quorums.  Data in the roll books for the senior members of the Aaronic Priesthood should be compiled in the usual way under the direction of the ward bishop.

2. Make out the recapitulation sheets, copying onto them the pertinent data from the white cards.  These are work sheets by the use of which the quorum officers and others can have conveniently before them the data which will give a general picture of the activity status of all quorum members.  New recapitulation sheets should be made out every two months.  Copies of all recapitulation sheets should be in the hands of the stake president, quorum president, and group leaders concerned.

3. Go over the recapitulation sheets with the bishopric so that a ward assignment can be given every unassigned brother who will take one.  Roll books of the senior members of the Aaronic Priesthood should be reviewed by the bishopric with the same object in view.

4. Create as many quorum, group, or individual projects as are necessary to provide assignments for those still unassigned.  It should be understood that this means many projects.  It might mean as many different projects as there are inactive brethren in the quorum.  Remember that the project is being created, manufactured, devised, for the sole purpose of bringing an inactive brother into Church service.  Preferably it should be of such a nature as to permit him to rub shoulders with one or more active brethren so that a feeling of friendship will result.  These projects may be as diverse and varied in nature as the inclinations and aptitudes of the brethren for whom they are created.  Manifestly their creation requires forethought and inspiration.

5. Institute the personal missionary approach for those who have declined Church activity and who are apparently spiritually dead; that is, those who will not accept an assignment from the bishop and who will not work on a quorum project.  Under this approach, an active member is asked to work with an inactive brother on a confidential basis.  Approaches are to be made on whatever basis is appropriate in the individual case.

6. Correlated with the foregoing steps, it is understood that quorum presidencies will be making their annual confidential visits; that week-night schools for inactive holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood will be held; that week-night schools for senior members of the Aaronic Priesthood will be held; that cottage meetings will be arranged for inactive brethren; that the work of the advisers with the senior members will continue; and that the whole program of the Church will be carried forward.  (These items will be considered in detail on these pages from time to time.)”

(“Melchizedek Priesthood,” IE 60(6):460-461, Jun., 1957)

Jul.:  Use of Committees in Priesthood Reactivation.

[“Use of Committees in Priesthood Reactivation,” in the “Melchizedek Priesthood” section, IE 60(7):528-529, 539, Jul., 1957)]

Aug.:  Reactivation w/ the “personal missionary approach.”

[“The Personal Missionary Approach,” in the “Melchizedek Priesthood” section, IE 60(8):592-593, 606, Aug., 1957)]

Sep.:  Priesthood Reactivation and Magnifying Our Callings

[“Priesthood Reactivation and Magnifying Our Callings,” in the “Melchizedek Priesthood” section, IE 60(9):672-673, 686, Sep., 1957)]

Sep.:  Deacons and Teachers have no authority to ordain.

“Teachers and Deacons in the Aaronic Priesthood do not have the authority to perform, or to assist in performing ordinations in the priesthood.

The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith:

But neither teachers no deacons have authority to baptize, administer the sacrament, or lay on hands.  (D&C 20:58)

Since all ordinations are performed by the laying on of hands, and since teachers and deacons do not have authority to ‘lay on hands,’ they may not take part in any way in ordaining others to the Aaronic Priesthood.

According to the word of the Lord, the priest is the only officer in the Aaronic Priesthood who has the authority to perform ordinations:

And he may also ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons.  (D&C 20:48)”

(“The Presiding Bishopric’s Page,” IE 60(9):675, Sep., 1957)

Oct.:  Quorums, reactivation, and salvation.

[“Quorums, Reactivation, and Salvation,” in the “Melchizedek Priesthood” section, IE 60(752-753, Oct., 1957)]

Nov.:  Reactivation and the annual confidential visits.

“1. What is the Annual Confidential Visit?

Each year a special visit for a particular purpose should be made to every holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

2. What is the purpose of this visit?

It is designed to give the responsible quorum officers the information they need to do the work assigned them; that is, to lead their quorum members to eternal life in our Father’s kingdom.

3. How does it fit into the Priesthood Reactivation Program?

Few occasions ever arise between quorum members and their presiding officers during which there is better opportunity to discuss the standards of personal righteousness which are part of the gospel.  This interview provides an ideal opportunity to teach a priesthood bearer his duty, to counsel him in any appropriate way, and to encourage him to abide by the standards of the Church.

4. Who makes the Annual Confidential Visits?

Members of the quorum presidency only.  This does not include secretaries or group leaders unless those group leaders are also serving in the presidency of the quorum.

5. How should the interview be made?

One member of the quorum presidency should sit down with one quorum member at a time, alone, in the absence of his family, and have a frank discussion on the assigned items.  The interview is a missionary visit–not an inquisition.  It shouild be made on a friendly basis, with a view to convert a quorum member to keep any standard which he has not fully kept in the past.  Salesmanship is involved.  The Spirit of the Lord must guide.  The purpose is to draw brethren more completely into the programs of the Church, not to drive them away or raise a barrier between them and their priesthood officers.

6. May questionnaries be used?

Absolutely not.  Do not pass out questionnaries.  Do not take notes in the presence of the person being interviewed.  Do not be formal or ritualistic.

7. When should these interviews be made?

Begin in January; end in December.  Divide the number of quorum members into twelve equal groups and interview one group each month.  Do not put the interviews off to the end of the year.

8. What questions should be asked?

Those covered on the report form.  [Tithing, sabbath observance, sabbath meeting attendance, family prayer.]  But the interview is more than a matter of collecting data; it is an occasion for teaching.  Take time to discuss any matter with a quorum member that needs to be considered with him.  Teach him what is meant by Sabbath observance, by tithepaying, or whatever may be needed in his case.

9. How is the tithing status of quorum members determined?

Bishops are authorized to reveal to quorum presidents whether their members are full, part, or non-tithepayers.  Amounts are not to be disclosed.

Please read the instructions on pages 21 and 59 of the Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook.  It is wholly unsatisfactory for a bishop to give tithing data in the form of statistics; it must be by name; otherwise quorum presidents cannot be nearly as effective in leading their quorum members along the paths of righteousness.

10. What is the Annual Confidential Report?

It is a statistical compilation growing out of the Annual Confidential Visits.  But the important thing about the data collected is its use by the quorum presidency and not its tabulation in report form.

Read the instructions on pages 58 and 59 of the Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook.”

(“Melchizedek Priesthood,” IE 60(11):838, Nov., 1957)

Nov.:  Membership of stake AP committee may be increased.

“The suggested organization of the stake committee for Aaronic Priesthood under 21 is charted on page four in the handbook.  We emphasize that the chart suggests only the ‘minimum organization.’ 

Stakes feeling the need for larger committees should not hestitate to make additional appointments.”  (“The Presiding Bishopric’s Page,” IE 60(11):840, Nov., 1957)