Your October Conference Prep: Textual Origins of LDS Priesthood Organization, Part V.

Part 4 is here.

Here I give the “second” revelation of November 11, 1831, again in comparison with the KRB text. The KRB text is in the hand of Frederick G. Williams and it suggests perhaps more strongly that the November 11 revelation represents two revelations.[1] Observe again that the text never uses the word “quorum.” My use of the word in reference to these texts is only to provide context. The word appears in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. Meanwhile, like the word “priesthood,” during Joseph Smith’s lifetime it came to be used in a much looser way than Latter-day Saints use it now.[2]

Note the comparison of the president of the high priesthood to Moses. While there was no such president at the time this revelation was given, Joseph Smith eventually filled the office and then this marked one of several times a revelation drew parallels between Moses and Joseph Smith (D&C 28, 103). The parallel with the OT prophet is apt for several reasons. Smith was an Old Testament (OT) prophet in a number ways, with many of his sermons, visions and revelations appealing to OT prophets. This clear from the beginning: the Moroni visits and their extensive OT references. In contrast to the other restorationists like Stone-Campbell et al., Joseph Smith restores both the Patriarchal Old Testament and the New. The present revelation itself is a puissant example.[3]

Part 3 of this post discussed some of the organizational matters and terminology touched on in the following verses. JSP Revelations and Translations volumes 1 and 2 briefly speak to the dependence of the 1835 D&C on the following texts. I recommend them to you for their accuracy and as a way to arrive at some further context for this revelation in particular.

Revelation Book 1 Revelation Book 2 (KRB)
A few more words in addition to the Laws of the church. And again, verily I say unto you, the duty of the president over the office of a Deacon, is to preside over twelve Deacons, to set in council with them, & to teach them their duty, edifying one another as it is given according to the covenants. A few more word in addition to the laws of the church and again verily I say unto you the duty of the President over the office of a deacon is to preside over twelve Deacons to sit in council with them and to teach them their duty edifying one another as it is given according to the covenants
And also the duty of the president over the office of the Teachers, is to preside over twenty four of the Teachers, & to set in council with them, & to teach them the duties of their office as given in the covenants. Also the duty of the president over the priesthood is to preside over forty eight priests, & to set in council with them, & to teach them the duties of their office, as given in the covenants. and also the duty of the president over the office of the Teachers is to preside over twenty four of the Teachers and to sit in council with them teaching them the duties of their office as given in the covenants also the duty of the president over the priesthood[4] is to preside over forty eight Priests and to sit in council with them and to teach them the duties of their office as given in the covenants.
And again the duty of the president over the office of the Elders, is to preside over ninety six Elders, & to set in council with them, & to teach them according to the covenants. And again the duty of the president of the office of the High Priesthood, is to preside over the whole church, & to be like unto Moses. and again the duty of the President over the office of the Elders is to preside over Ninety six Elders and to set in council with them and to teach them according to the covenants and again the duty of the President of the office of the high Priesthood is to preside over the whole church and to be like unto Moses.[5]
behold here is wisdom: yea, to be a Seer, a revelator, a translator, & prophet, having all the gifts of God, which he bestoweth upon the head of the chuch: Wherefore now let every man learn his duly duty, & to act in the office in which he is appointed., in all diligence. he that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand. & he that learneth not his duty & sheweth himself not approved, shall not be counted worth to stand; even so: Amen. Behold here is wisdom yea to be a seer, a revelator a tranlator and a prophet having all the gifts of God which he bestoweth upon the head of the church wherefore let every man learn his duty and to act in the office in which he is appointed in all diligence he that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand and he that learneth not his dury and showeth himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand even so amen

Part 6 coming up.

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[1] As the usage became more formal after Smith’s death, the early editions of the revelations came to be seen as the only acceptable use of the term. It seems clear for example that later groups like “prayer circles” may have been (and occasionally were) called quorums reflecting the earlier idiom.

[2] In editing Joseph Smith’s revelations for publication, it was not terribly uncommon to see revelations combined into a single text or divided into multiple texts. The current LDS D&C contains a number of important examples of this, D&C 107 being the most interesting perhaps.

[3] For a comparison between KRB and other texts see Scott Kenney’s text. I will have more to say on the KRB, later.

[4] Recall that the meaning here of “president over the priesthood” is president of the priests. The language does not require the existence of the later policy of a bishop functioning as president of the priests. The nature of “presidencies” in this revelation (a term not actually used there) is a solitary president. Somewhat ironically perhaps, this situation would change for everyone but the priests. In modern usage this language translates in a curious way to President of the Aaronic Priesthood. See part 7 for more on this.

[5] Previously, I mentioned that these were not necessarily local quorums in the sense of modern practice. Kirtland and Nauvoo would set a partial precedence so that LDS practice would confine the deacons, teachers, priests and elders as “stake” quorums in Utah. Bishops in the stake would select men but gradually, boys, to fill the ranks of deacons (boys finally filled the teachers and priests quorums as well) with perhaps a number of quorums of each rank, but the quorums would not be effected by “ward” boundaries. See the afore mentioned series on bishops for more.

Comments

  1. I could probably look this up, but I am feeling lazy. Is there early evidence of formal presidents for these groups being selected as opposed to having an ad hoc president at a meeting of, say, teachers?

  2. An interesting question. Even though quorums were organized in the Kirtland area at least by 1833-4, they still often functioned with temporarily self-elected officers. Permanent officers don’t seem to get replaced much but I’m away from data right now. I think most of these Kirtland quorums had new permanent leaders installed early in 1836. Officers might be appointed but usually I think the quorums elected them, for example, in 1842 Nauvoo, the teachers quorum organized itself. The numbers thing was not hard and fast. I think Kirtland had one quorum of elders with more than 300 members. The whole thing was wonderfully circumstantial. Hence, chaotic.

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