The Seventy. Part 3: John Taylor.

John Taylor produces two written revelations on the Seventy - and a cool beard

[See part 1 and part 2.] The year Brigham died (1877) a massive reorganization took place in local church operations. President Young staffed Intermountain West stakes (getting apostles out of the business of being stake presidents), releasing the corps of “acting” bishops, filling out bishoprics with high priests as counselors, filling high council vacancies, redrawing stake boundaries for more effective work, etc. (12 stakes were organized in 1877, an unheard of number). The effect on the seventies was large -they filled the gaps in high priest need by being ordained to the high priesthood – and at the same time, a moratorium was instituted on ordaining new seventies. After Brigham’s death and the 1880 reorganization of the First Presidency, John Taylor began to pressure the First Council (three of whom were non-functioning and one deceased without being replaced) to deliver names of seventies to fill mission assignments.

Unlike elders and high priests, seventies quorums did not coincide with church units. A quorum might have members scattered over several states. To make it easier to contact seventies and enumerate them a couple of temporary measures were tried.[1] Finally, after considerable consultation between the First Presidency, Q12 and First Council, John Taylor received a revelation (13 Oct. 1882)[2] directing some reorganization of the depleted First Council and a new missionary program among the “Lamanites.” Effectively this was interpreted by many as the end of the “Times of the Gentiles” and a first whack at sending the gospel to the Jews. The following year Taylor received another revelation[3] confirming a decision to reinstitute the first quorum, dissolved in Nauvoo, in a fascinating way: the senior presidents of the first 63 existing seventies quorums would reconstitute the first quorum together with the First Council. It was a great idea, but it never panned out. Too much dispersal perhaps, too many other pressing issues (like federal officers prowling around for polygamists – the 1882 revelation required all church leaders, even local ones, to become polygamists).

Seymour Bicknell Young - Senior President 1893-1924 - Also ran the SLC insane asylum -Seventies are versatile


But at least the First Council got going again, rejuvenated by men like Abraham Cannon, Seymour B. Young, Christian Fjeldsted, John Morgan and yes, B. H. Roberts.

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[1] William G. Hartley, “The Seventies in the 1880s” Dialogue, A Journal of Mormon Thought 16 (Spring 1983) 62-88.

[2] The revelation reads:

Thus saith the Lord to the Twelve, and to the Priesthood and people of my Church: Let my servants George Teasdale and Hebr J. Grant be appointed to fill the vacancies in the Twelve, that you may be fully organized and prepared for the labors devolving upon you, for you have a great work to perform; and then proceed to fill up the presiding quorum of Seventies, and assist in organizing that body of my Priesthood who are your co-laborers in the ministry. You may appoint Seymour B. Young to fill up the vacancy in the presiding quorum of Seventies, if he will conform to my law; for it is not meet that men who will not abide my law shall preside over my Priesthood; and then proceed forthwith and call to your aid any assistance that you may require from among the Seventies to assist you in your labors in introducing and maintaining the gospel among the Lamanites throughout the land. And then let High Priests be selected, under the direction of the First Presidency, to preside over the various organizations that shall exist among this people; that those who receive the Gospel may be taught in the doctrines of my Church and in the ordinances and laws thereof, and also in the things pertaining to my Zion and my Kingdom, saith the Lord, that they may be one with you in my Church and my Kingdom.

Let the Presidency of my Church be one in all things; and let the Twelve also be one in all things; and let them all be one with me as I am one with the Father.

And let the High Priests organize themselves, and purify themselves, and prepare themselves for this labor, and for all other labors that they may be called upon to fulfill.

And let the Presidents of the Stakes also purify themselves, and the priesthood and people of the Stakes over which they preside, and organize the Priesthood in their various stakes according to my law, in all the various departments thereof, in the High Councils, in the Elders Quorums, and in the Bishops and their Councils, and in the Quorums of Priests, Teachers, and Deacons; that every Quorum may be fully organized according to the order of my Church; and, then, let them inquire into the standing and fellowship of all that holy my Holy Priesthood in their several Stakes; and if they find those that are unworthy let them remove them, except they repent; for my Priesthood, whom I have called and whom I have sustained and honored, shall honor me and obey my laws, and the laws of my Holy Priesthood, or they shall not be considered worthy to hold my Priesthood, saith the Lord. And let my Priesthood humble themselves before me, and seek not their own will but my will; for if my Priesthood, whom I have chosen and called, and endowed with the spirit and gifts of their several callings, and with the powers thereof, do not acknowledge me I will not acknowledge them, saith the Lord; for I will be honored and obeyed by my Priesthood. And, then, I call upon my Priesthood and upon all of my people, to repent of all their sins and shortcomings, of their covetousness and pride and self-will, and of all their iniquities wherein they sin against me; and to seek with all humility to fulfill my law, as my Priesthood, my Saints and my people; and I call upon the heads of families to put their houses in order according to the Law of God, and attend to the various duties and responsibilities associated therewith, and to purify themselves before me, and to purge out iniquity from their households. And I will bless and be with you, saith the Lord; and ye shall gather together in your holy places wherein ye assemble to call upon me, and ye shall ask for such things as are right, and I will hear your prayers, and my Spirit and power shall be with you, and my blessings shall rest upon you, upon your families, your dwellings and your households, upon your flocks and herds and fields, your orchards and vineyards, and upon all that pertains to you; and you shall be my people and I will be your God; and your enemies shall not have dominion over you, for I will preserve you and confound them, saith the Lord, and they shall not have power nor dominion over you; for my words shall go forth, and my work shall be accomplished, and my Zion shall be established, and my rule and my power and my dominion shall prevail among my people, and all nations shall yet acknowledge me. Even so, Amen.

[3] This one was a short confirmatory paragraph for the policy statement on the Seventy.

Comments

  1. Thanks, WVS. I came at this bit of history a couple of years ago from the angle of researching the life and times of John Morgan, who is mentioned in this post, and I’ve been enjoying the context that your series has given to his church service.

    It sure made me feel ignorant a couple of years ago when I read the Hartley article about the Seventies in the 80s and realized that was the first I’d ever realized that the church had written “thus saith the Lord” revelations that weren’t in the Doctrine and Covenants. I wish this one was in there.

    And, finally, I guess there was a lot of millennialism at the time; people were evidently looking to 1890 (Joseph Smith’s 85th birthday) as being the date of the Second Coming, and coupled with the drive for missionary work among the Native Americans, as you mention above, it was the time and place for a little bit of common sense. Here is a note from a meeting of a Seventies Quorum in September 1890:

    John Morgan said there are likely to be many more quorums of 70s organized (there were now over 100), there are many erroneous notions entertained by the 70s in regard to preaching the Gospel, that their missions would necessarily be short; that the end is very near and the Elders about to be called home &c, but in such things they are mistaken, as the Gospel is to be preached to all nations and will necessarily take a long time; the work has hardly commenced….not half the counties in the United States (Southern States especially) have ever heard the Gospel preached.

  2. Good point Researcher and thanks for the quote. The JS “negative” prediction often repeated by him, that Jesus wouldn’t come before JS turned 85 almost immediately developed a positive interpretation. Jesus “would” come then. The pressures of the raid brought the idea back in private if not in public. Also, Morgan gets a mention in part 4.

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