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Prince’s Research Excerpts: Priesthood & Mormonism – 1968

Below you will find Prince’s research excerpts titled, “Priesthood, 1968.” You can view other years here.

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1968:  5 Oct.:  Changing roles of 70s through history.

“In 1845 Elder Parley P. Pratt stated why, in his opinion, the seventies were organized with 70 men and seven presidents.  He explained that a given territory could be divided into seven geographical areas, and that ten seventies, including a president to preside, could do the missionary work in each area.  These units would be efficient flying columns to convert the people in their areas.

In times past I have tried to imagine how a quorum of seventy could be thus divided in this modern day.  Now, lo, the plan is already in action.  In each stake the quorum of seventy is divided into groups, one for each ward, each under a president or a group leader.  While the exact number is not always ten, the pattern of the organization projected by Elder Pratt is present.

This is the day when the seventies are to find those within the organized wards who can be interested in the gospel.  If we do that work well enough, the time may come when the same principle of organization may be applied to the full-time mission areas.

There are some who see no opportunity in this plan of action in the stakes.  For these I should like to read a portion of a letter from a seventies quorum president acting as a group leader in his ward:

We have divided our ward into eight geographical areas.  Within each group we have chosen two couples to be ‘neighborhood group leaders.’  I, as the seventies group leader for the ward, coordinated the work.  Each group has about twelve families with about two or three nonmember or part-member families.  We don’t have a large non-member population.  We started by calling all the neighborhood group leaders together, and with the help of the stake missionaries we oriented them to the goals.  We then followed up with the group leaders, sending out printed invitations to the ‘active’ members in their group area to attend a cottage meeting where the missionaries explained how all members could help through fellowshiping, etc.

A social was planned which was held the next month where every family was invited–inactive, active, non-member and part-member.  Seven of the groups have now had successful socials.  The group that I live in has four nonmember families, and all were at the social.  One traveling salesman even arranged his business affairs in order to come.

We are now encouraging continued effort with these people.  This is the means by which we have endeavored to carry out the program for finding families.  The whole ward is excited about it.  Our bishop is behind it one hundred percent.

What is described here may not be the way to organize the ward in which you live.  However, each group leader, in cooperation with the quorum council, the stake mission president, and his bishop, will be able to find a way that will fit his ward and the non-member population therein.

. . . .

The activities of an active seventies quorum today bear little resemblance to those of the quorums organized in 1835, 1845, 1890–but then, a fast-moving automobile or a fast-flying jet bears little resemblance to the ox-drawn wagons of those times, which at best could make 15 miles per day.

Fundamentally, today, as in that day, the calling of a seventy is to prepare the minds of men to receive the gospel and to convert them by whatever means are available or creatable.  Perhaps for those of us with like responsibilities, the Savior’s injunction on a different occasion might be applied: ‘Go, and do thou likewise.’  (Lk. 10:37.)”  (S. Dilworth Young, 5 Oct., 1968; CR Oct., 1968, pp. 69-71)

Nov.:  Blessings in ordinances.

“We call your attention to the occasional practice, when some elders perform certain ordinances, of only stating the essentials and then ending without any additional blessing.  An ordinance shoiuld be made more impressive, not by way of a lengthy prayer, but by expressing such brief words of blessing, counsel, instruction, admonition, and guidance as the Spirit dictates that would add greater meaning to the mere requirements of the ordinance.  A confirmation, for example, could make the newly baptized person aware of the precious gifts that are his if he lives worthy of the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Additional words of blessing are also desirable in naming children, priesthood ordination, setting apart, and sealing the anointing of the sick.  Those responsible for overseeing the performance of these ordinances should be sure that sufficient instruction is given that this counsel is remembered by those authorized to perform such ordinances.”  (“The Priesthood Bulletin,” 4(1):7, Nov., 1968)

Marvin Hill, on MP Restoration controversy.

“There is considerable controversy which goes far back in Mormon history as to when the priesthood was conferred upon the male members of the church.  The disagreement revolves largely around the ‘Melchizedek’ priesthood, not the Aaronic, the lesser of the two.  Fielding insists that the higher priesthood was an afterthought of the prophet and not conferred upon the elders until a conference in Ohio in June, 1831.  See ‘The Growth of the Mormon Church,’ pp. 111-13.  There is much evidence to suggest that the Melchizedek priesthood was not a firmly fixed principle in the church in 1829 and 1830, but some of it is contradictory.  Several prominent men in the early movement, most of whom later left the main body, insisted that this priesthood was not introduced until the church was in its second year.  Among these were David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, William E. McLellin, John Corrill, J. C. Brewster, and the prophet’s brother, William.  Even the prophet recorded in his journal that in 1831 ‘authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the elders.’  See D.H.C., I, 175-76.  John Whitmer described this occasion, saying that Joseph Smith ‘laid his hands upon Lyman Wight and ordained him to the high priesthood after the holy order of God.’  Whitlock and Hyrum Smith were also ordained in like manner.

Parley Pratt lends support to Fielding’s view.  He wrote that in a June conference of 1831 ‘several were selected by revelation, through President Joseph Smith, and ordained to the High Priesthood after the order of the Son of God; which is after the order of Melchizedek.  This is the first occasion in which this priesthood had been revealed and conferred upon the Elders in this dispensation, although the office of an Elder is the same in a certain degree, but not in the fulness.  On this occasion I was ordained to this holy ordinance and calling by President Smith.’  (The italics are mine).  Parley Pratt had previously been made an elder, about September 1, 1830.  See Autobiography, pp. 42, 68.  Much documentation supporting Fielding’s view can be found in D. Whitmer, pp. 62-65, Cowdery, pp. 1, 4, ‘Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith,’ Millennial Star, XL (December, 1878), 770 (for McLellin’s position), and The Olive Branch, II (December, 1849), 89-91, where Brewster describes his views and insists that in the early church there was only one priesthood with the offices of elder, teacher and deacon.  Brewster says the true priesthood was after the Son of God.  See also the ‘Book of John Whitmer,’ pp. 8-9, and Corrill, p. 18, who indicates that previous to May, 1831, the ‘Melchizedek priesthood was then for the first time introduced and conferred on several of the elders.’  William Smith adds to this evidence by explaining that it was in Orange, Ohio, that ‘Elders, Priests, Teachers, and Deacons received some general instructions from the Church concerning the priesthood of Melchizedek, to which they had not as yet been ordained for they had not attained to all the power of their ministry.’  See William Smith on Mormonism, p. 20.

The Mormon historian, B. H. Roberts, argues, however, that the priesthood problem here is simply one of nomenclature, that when Joseph Smith and others speak of the high priesthood they mean the office of High Priest.  See his contention in D.H.C., I, 175-76.  Roberts is right that the office of High Priest was established in 1831, and there was some confusion at first on what relationship this had to the priesthood generally and to the other offices therein.  But this does not entirely offset the clear statements of Pratt, the Whitmers, Corrill, William Smith and the prophet that the Melchizedek priesthood was also introduced here.

Nonetheless, Fielding overlooks certain evidence which suggests that the priesthood did not come as an abrupt addition to Mormon doctrine.  It is possible that the lesser priesthood, the Aaronic, was conferred in 1829, as the church tradition maintains.  On this see the statement of Cowdery, p. 2, where he tells of the visit of the angel, John the Baptist, which visit he ‘did not doubt.’  Compare Oliver’s earlier statement in 1834 in the Messenger and Advocate, I (October, 1834), 15.  Here he describes how the ‘angel of God’ appeared and how ‘we received under his hand the holy Priesthood.’  That this was the Aaronic Priesthood is evident from the phraseology which Cowdery employs.  Compare this to sec. 13 of the D. and C.  Cowdery’s 1834 statement also appears in Kirkham, I, 82-83.  A difficulty is, however, that no Aaronic priesthood is bestowed by the disciples when they ordain teachers and priests in the Book of Mormon.  See p. 575 of the 1830 edition and compare Moroni 3 in the 1920 edition.

David Whitmer’s position is puzzling.  He staunchly insisted in 1887 that there was no High Priesthood in the church, but in 1847 when he and William E. McLellin attempted an abortive church reorganization they ordained Jacob Whitmer and Hiram Page as High Priests.  See David’s letter of September 8, 1847 to Oliver Cowdery in The Ensign of Liberty of the Church of Christ, I (May, 1848), 93.  This is referred to below as Ensign of Liberty.  But Austin Cowles, a supporter of James J. Strang in 1848, reported in the Gospel Herald that Whitmer later split with McLellin on this issue.  See III (May 11, 1848), 32.  Compare also Mario S. DePillis, ‘The Quest for Religious Authority and the Rise of Mormonism,’ Dialogue, I (Spring, 1966), 68-88.

Whatever the status of the priesthood in the first year or two of Mormon history, it is quite clear that great stress was placed upon authority, as the Autobiography of P. Pratt shows.  See especially pp. 38 and 42 and compare Corrill, p. 10.  Also Painesville Telegraph, December 7, 1830, p. 3, where Cowdery on his visit to Ohio proclaimed that ‘he and his associates are the only persons on earth who are qualified to administer in his name.’  That the conception of priesthood may not have solidified into a hard and fast doctrine perhaps only indicates that early Mormonism was a movement which was first lived intensely by its advocates and then, in time, reflected upon and molded into a theology.”  (Marvin Hill, Ph.D. dissertation, footnote #2, pp. 110-112; xerox attached to Ian Barber letter of 11 Aug., 1986)

Regional representatives.

“To assist the General Authorities in the operation of Church programs, Regional Representatives of the Twelve are appointed to serve in the various regions.  These brethren represent the General Authorities and serve on much the same basis as do stake presidents, giving their full Church service time to their positions.  They attend regional and other meetings and give counsel and direction to stake and ward officers in the fields of home teaching, missionary, welfare and genealogical work.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 10)

New name:  Stake Priesthood Executive Committee.

“Duties of the Stake Presidency.

. . . .

4. Hold regular (preferably weekly) stake high council meetings, which also constitute the meetings of the Stake Priesthood Executive Committee (such meetings should not conflict with priesthood meetings).”

(General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 11)

New duties for Stake Pres. regarding home teaching.

“Duties of the Stake Presidency.

. . . .

11. See that priesthood bearers engage in home teaching and that all priesthood quorums and groups function effectively in home teaching.

12. Conduct separate monthly oral home teaching evaluations with bishops and branch presidents.”

(General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 11)

Stake President to be President of High Priests Quorum.

“Duties of the Stake Presidency.

. . . .

20. Serve as the presidency of the high priests quorum.”

(General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 12)

High Council to speak monthly in wards.

“Duties and Assignments of High Councilors.

. . . .

k. Make monthly visits to the several wards and branches in the stake as assigned by the stake president, speaking in the sacrament meetings on doctrinal subjects.  High councilors may be accompanied on these visits by recently returned missionaries.”  [Note that this is the first time that there is no mention of “home missionaries.”]

(General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 14)

All MP and AP to be involved in home teaching.

“Duties of the Ward Bishopric.

. . . .

16. Provide through home teaching for all Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthood bearers in the ward to perform their duties as specified in the 107th and 20th Sections of the Doctrine and Covenants.”

(General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 29)

New name:  Ward Priesthood Executive Committee.

“All priesthood members and groups are represented on the ward priesthood executive committee by the following:  bishopric; ward clerk (to take minutes); executive secretary; high priest group leader (who is also genealogy adviser); seventies group leader (who is also missionary adviser); elders president or group leader (who, under the direction of the bishop, also assists in welfare production projects and employment activities); general secretary of Aaronic Priesthood-Adult; and general secretary of Aaronic Priesthood-Youth (who is also education adviser).  [Note the absence of the Relief Society.]  The priesthood executive committee provides the bishop with a maximum amount of flexibility in administering the programs within his ward, and it can be used to handle the details of many ward activities including the correlation of all Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood responsibilities pertaining to home teaching, and programs concerned with missionary, genealogy, and welfare work.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 35)

Family Home Evening.

“To aid parents in holding a weekly ‘Family Home Evening’ with their children, a uniform evening should be set up in each stake, which will be kept free of ward or stake activities.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 37)

Non-member fathers and blessing of children.

“Only those holding the Melchizedek Priesthood should be invited to participate in the ordinance of blessing children; but where a father, whether a member of the Church or not, requests permission to hold his child while the officiating elder gives the blessing, he may be permitted to do so, but he should not be encouraged to make the request.  If a father who does not hold the Melchizedek Priesthood participates, then the one acting as voice in the prayer might well say that the ordinance is being performed by the authority of those in the circle who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 82)

Bathing caps may be worn at baptism, on doctor’s orders.

“Hair nets may be worn by women, but bathing caps should not be worn unless a doctor so directs.”  [Previous GHI prohibited bathing caps under all conditions.]  (General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 84)

Fathers to be encouraged to baptize children.

“Worthy fathers holding the proper priesthood may be invited and encouraged by the bishop to baptize their own children.”  [The word “encouraged” was added to prior GHI instructions.]  (General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 84)

Fathers to be encouraged to confirm children.

“Worthy fathers holding the Melchizedek Priesthood may be invited and encouraged by the bishop to confirm their own children.”  [The word “encouraged” was added to prior GHI instructions.]  (General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 86)

Set forms for most ordinances discouraged.

“There are no set forms for priesthood ordinances performed outside the temples with the exception of baptism and the administration of the sacrament.  However, all ordinances are performed in the name of Jesus Christ and in the authority of the priesthood.

All priesthood holders should know how to perform such ordinances as they are authorized to perform, and brethren performing ordinances should live so as to have the guidance of the Holy Ghost.  They should seek to use the most appropriate language in specifying what is being done in any ordinance and in expressing the thoughts placed in their minds by the Spirit.

Publications, other than those authorized by the First Presidency of the Church, setting forth instructions about ordinances and giving forms of suggested prayers are not approved.  Such in the past have resulted in something akin to prayer books, all of which are contrary to the counsel of the Presiding Brethren.  Priesthood leaders should not sponsor, encourage, or permit their publication or use.  Instructions in ordinance work are to be given in the quorums under the direction or supervision of the stake presidency and the Melchizedek Priesthood Committee (see the following paragraphs for essential ordinances).”  (General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, pp. 86-87)

Dedication of graves listed as ordinance for first time.

“Important Priesthood Ordinances.

. . . .

9. Dedication of Graves

(This should be done by one holding the Melchizedek Priesthood as designated by the bishop, after consultation with the family.)”

(General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 89)

Members joining other churches.

“Members who join other churches should be labored with and encouraged to return to the Church.  If they insist that their names be taken from the records of the Church, they should be excommunicated unless there are some extenuating circumstances.  Those who attend or join other churches, but who are not excommunicated, may be received back into fellowship without being baptized again.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 119)

Transgression list.

“Cases Handled by Church Courts.

These include, but are not limited to:  Fornication, adultery, homo-sexual acts, or other infractions of the moral code; intemperance; criminal acts involving moral turpitude such as burglary, dishonesty, theft, or murder; apostasy; open opposition to, and deliberate disobedience of, the rules and regulations of the Church; cruelty to spouse or children; advocating or practicing so-called plural marriage, or any un-Christian like conduct in violation of the law and order of the Church.  When young unmarried people are involved in sexual sin, every consideration should be given to help them adjust their situation so that if possible they may live normal lives.  Too severe action often defeats the ends of justice.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 122)

Voluntary withdrawal still requires excommunication.

“Members who seek to withdraw their membership from the Church should be labored with in kindness and patience in an endeavor to bring them into active fellowship.  If this fails after long and patient effort, the regular court procedures leading to excommunication should be followed.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 123)

Announcement of court decisions.

“All excommunications and disfellowshipments of Melchizedek Priesthood bearers in a stake are to be announced by the stake president in a stake priesthood meeting unless an appeal is pending.  Announcement of the excommunications and disfellowshipments of others is to be read by the bishop in a ward priesthood meeting after the Aaronic Priesthood members have been excused from the meeting.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 130)

Transgressions of missionaries handled by First Presidency

“A missionary guilty of immoral conduct while in the mission field is to be dealt with as directed by the First Presidency.  If the offense does not become known or he does not confess until his return home, he should be dealt with as directed by the First Presidency.  A missionary excommunicated for an offense committed while in the mission field cannot be readmitted into the Church by baptism and confirmation without the approval of the First Presidency.  A returned missionary who is disfellowshiped or excommunicated for offenses committed after returning home may be reinstated or baptized on the same basis as applies in other cases.  His case need not be referred to the General Authorities for disposition.”  (General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, p. 131)

Moral fitness of full-time missionaries.

“Interviews are to inquire specifically and in detail into all phases of moral worthiness.  Any prospective missionary who has been guilty of fornication or has engaged in any sex perversion, or who has committed a serious violation of the law of the land, must have his case reviewed by a General Authority.

These special cases are to be handled as follows:

After ascertaining all the facts, the stake president must consult a General Authority and in detail discuss the situation prior to giving the missionary candidate any assurance of approval, further interview or call.  No prospective missionary is to be sent to a General Authority for interview until the bishop and the stake president are satisfied that the candidate has repented and is worthy of a mission, the stake president has discussed the situation with the General Authority, and the General Authority has indicated a willingness to interview the prospective missionary or to endorse the recommendation of the stake president and the bishop as the circumstances may warrant.

The stake president is to hold an additional interview with all prospective missionaries just before they leave to enter the mission home.

In all cases the seriousness of immorality in the mission field, with its inevitable punishment of excommunication, should be brought to the attention of all candidates interviewed.

Neither the bishop, the stake president, the missionary nor his family, should announce the possibility of a mission until after the call from the President of the Church has actually been received.”

(General Handbook of Instructions, No. 20, 1968, pp. 173-174)