On May 4th, 1842, Joseph Smith met with nine men in the upper room of his Red Brick store. He initiated them into a new order of the priesthood and established a new quorum in the Church. This quorum was intended to be secret during Joseph’s life and it was called by many names. Contemporarily, it is often referred to as the “Anointed Quorum” and is not well known among the Saints. While there is reason to believe that the Quorum still exists, it no longer functions as such.
Many have heard about the May 4th meeting as this was the day that Joseph first revealed part of the Temple ordinances. That there was a quorum created is more obscure. Seven of the nine persisted with the quorum and they are the foundation for the Restored Church.
While the Nine received the majority of the Temple ordinances on that day, the requirement for entry into the Quorum was the initiatory ordinances of washing and anointing. Sometimes, months or years separated the reception of the various ordinances (1).
Admittance to and expulsion, in cases of disfellowship, from the quorum was a matter of common consent. All initiates required the unanimous approval of the Quorum members before they were received in fellowship. Joseph was voted president of the Quorum.
At first, for Joseph, the most important aspect of this new quorum was a new form of prayer. Prayer Circles are an integral part of contemporary Temple liturgy. In Nauvoo, they were an integral part of life. George Albert Smith preached in the completed Temple in 1845:
When we come together * * and unite our hearts and act as one mind, the Lord will hear us and will answer our prayers…Said that whenever they could get an opportunity they retired to the wilderness or to an upper room, they did so * * * and were always answered. It would be a good thing for us * * every day and pray to God in private circles. (2)
Not too long after the Quorum was organized, John Bennett assailed the church and the quorum ceased to meet. Moreover, Hyrum, Joseph’s successor, crusaded against polygamy in the Church, which created obvious stress for Joseph. Finally in May 1843, Hyrum accepted all of Joseph’s teachings and all the quorum was re-initiated into the Priesthood order.
Converted, Hyrum sought to persuade Emma, who was still antagonistic to Joseph’s teachings. It would not be until the latter portion of the year that Emma would acquiesce for a season. On Thursday, September 28, 1843, Joseph Smith and Emma were received into the highest and holiest order of the priesthood.
Section 124 of the Doctrine and Covenants has a peculiar verse explaining the need for the Nauvoo temple:
For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.
Wilford Woodruff recorded a letter from Brigham Young that was included in the History of the Church (vol. 5 pg. 527) that states that “[f]or any person to have the fullness of that priesthood, he must be a king and priest.” Indeed, the fullness was extended to both men and women, making them Kings and Queens, Priests and Priestesses. Joseph taught that the Fullness of the Priesthood was issued by the Spirit and Power of Elijah (3).
While the Quorum governed the spiritual blessings of the church, they were not a governing body. Still, it is important to note that women held the same status in the Quorum as men. They acted as priestesses in administering the ordinances of the Temple. They also acted in common consent to select members of the quorum. (4)
Upon Joseph’s death, it was the Quorum that served to stabilize the Church. It was the only quorum where a majority was not needed to convene (most of the Twelve, council of fifty and 100 other missionaries were out of Nauvoo preparing for Joseph’s Presidential bid). It is also important to note that the Quorum is tied to the succession crisis after Joseph’s death. The Twelve ultimately governed the Church because they were the only ones with the Fullness of the Priesthood and the mandate to administer it to others.
While in Joseph’s life, the Quorum met for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the church, after his death, the amount of people with Temple ordinances ballooned to over 5,000. The concept of a quorum became too unwieldy and, as it was not reformed like other quorums in the church, it was left to history. In lieu of Quorum meetings, Prayer Circle groups formed and met regularly, sometimes keeping minutes, until the First Presidency ended all extra-temple Prayer Circles in 1978 (see the BYU Studies article in footnote 2 for more information).
164 years ago, Joseph’s most revolutionary doctrines began to crystallize. Over the next 18 months Joseph wielded God’s forge to not only bind man and woman, but human to God.
- E.g., see Joseph Kingsbury Diary. University of Utah Archives. pg 21-23. Images available at both the UU and BYU digital archives.
- Helen M. Kimball, Woman’s Exponent. 15 July 1883. vol. 12, no. 4, pg. 26; reprinted in A Woman’s View pg. 299. See George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton, (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1995), 221 for expanded transcript. For more information on Prayer Circles see D. Michael Quinn (1978) Latter-Day Saint Prayer Circles. BYU Studies, vol. 19 No. 1 pg. 79
- WoJS pg. 327-336
- For more information on how this ordinance relates women and the priesthood, see this post: Women and the Priesthood. Part I.