History and Faith
by Richard D. Poll

Chapter 7.
Our Changing Church

In October 1984, Elder Ronald E. Poelman, a member of the LDS church’s First Quorum of the Seventy, spoke on “The Gospel and the Church.” Several sentences from that address express the concept that underlies this essay (what eventually happened to the address is described in a later essay):

“Both the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ are true and divine. However, there is a distinction between them and it is very important that this distinction be understood.… The Gospel is the substance of the divine plan for personal, individual salvation and exaltation. The Church is the delivery system that provides the means and resources to implement this plan in each individual’s life.… In the scriptures we discover that varying institutional forms, procedures, regulations, and ceremonies are utilized, all divinely designed to implement eternal principles. The practices and procedures change; the principles do not.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is my subject here, is an institution of this world, at least in the sense that it will be radically different in structure, programs, and membership when it is transplanted into the next world. The church is to serve us in the here and now.

As a student and observer of human experience, I suggest that in this world institutions have two options. They either change or they die. They become obsolete and disappear, as did the Roman empire, or they show sufficient flexibility to accommodate a [p.74] changing context and so remain vigorous, as has the government of the United States—so far.

We Latter-day Saints have a tendency, in dealing with our own relatively short history, to telescope it into a shorter time span than it has actually occupied and to overlook the changes that have occurred. The president of the United States at the time of Joseph Smith’s first vision was James Monroe, only the fifth man to hold that office and one of the founding fathers. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were still alive and writing to each other. The Monroe Doctrine came three years later, about the time of the Angel Moroni’s first visitation to Joseph Smith. As much time has elapsed from then to now as had elapsed going backward from then to the days of the Salem witch trials. The tempo of changes has been much more rapid, and the context of life has changed much more radically in the last one hundred and fifty-odd years than in any period of similar length since historical annals began. A great historian once said that George Washington, if he were to come back in the twentieth century, would feel more a stranger than if he returned to the time of the Egyptian pharaohs. The work of the Restoration has been carried forward in a changing world.

One of the interesting things about the process of historical myth-making is that it tends to lift an institution out of its context. Everybody who is into Mormon history knows how U.S. president Martin Van Buren turned the prophet Joseph Smith aside, saying something that led him to be remembered as an enemy of the Saints. But some of us would be hard-pressed to remember anything else about President Van Buren. It is the same way with Senator Stephen A. Douglas. All we know about him is that he failed to become president of the United States because of a prophecy that Joseph Smith is said to have spoken about him. We are oddly ambiguous about Abraham Lincoln, because he has his own set of good myths and we modern Mormons no longer see the United States as an enemy of the Kingdom of God. So we have forgotten that Lincoln ran on a Republican platform which attacked polygamy, that he baited Stephen A. Douglas for being soft on the Mormons, and that he signed the first anti-polygamy act passed by Congress. We have selective memories about our heroes in both our political and ecclesiastical traditions.

An interesting illustration of this tendency is being explored by Carma DeJong Anderson, an authority on the history of clothing [p.75] and fashions. She argues persuasively that we have clothed all the historic figures of the founding generation of the Mormon church in the wrong kinds of clothes—styles which were not worn in their period of time. (The clothes are never dirty either, even in representations of Liberty Jail.) It is unlikely that anyone living or dead will be upset by this disclosure, but the little things add up to big things and the big things may become important. We do not want to get to the point where something important depends upon whether Joseph Smith wore a certain kind of suit when he did this or that as a New York farm boy or as mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois.

Context affects all kinds of institutions in this world, including churches. Persecution produces one institutional reaction; acceptance produces another. Hard times produce one set of challenges; prosperity another. War and peace have their effects, as do changes in demographics and in technology. Diverse cultural environments obviously affect institutions, and one of the exciting things to observe now is how becoming a worldwide church is influencing many aspects of our ecclesiastical organization and the way we approach our mission.

My thesis is that this church has changed significantly as it has pursued its mission in a changing world. I will illustrate the thesis with specific cases, some trivial and some substantial. I will comment in some cases on the causes which may have given rise to the changes, but I am primarily concerned that we simply reaffirm, or discover, that changes have occurred. I will then draw one or two general conclusions.

For much of what follows, I acknowledge my indebtedness to the most useful single volume of Mormon history to appear in the last half-century, James B. Allen’s and Glen M. Leonard’s The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976). It is valuable for at least three reasons: it is a comprehensive and well proportioned survey of developments from the days of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young down to our own day; it places these developments in a larger context, so that the reader is aware of circumstances and events that impinged upon the church at the time new revelations were received and changes occurred; and it has a very extensive and useful bibliography.1

Let us first note some changes in visible externals, including the name of the church itself. It has been The Church of Jesus Christ [p.76] of Latter-day Saints for so long that some of us have forgotten it was first the Church of Christ, then the Church of Jesus Christ, and then, for a while, the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Not until an 1838 revelation was the name adopted which has become part of our institution (Allen and Leonard, 47). An interesting bit of trivia is that the Utah church uses the form “Latter-day Saints,” while the RLDS church uses a capital “D” and no hyphen, “Latter Day Saints.” I have no idea how the difference developed, but I do know that it is important to observe the customs of each culture in this matter.

The nature of the buildings in which we gather to worship has, of course, changed over the years. Who is old enough to remember “cry rooms”? Boy Scout rooms? Relief Society rooms that were for Relief Society only? Who remembers bishops’ storehouses and tithing offices? The conversion of tithes and offerings from in-kind to cash made most of these ward and stake storage facilities obsolete. Our children will be unable to remember when stake centers lacked satellite dishes, and some of them may imagine that Book of Mormon King Benjamin’s sermon was transmitted by such devices.

In the days of Joseph Smith there were no meeting houses; the Saints usually met in homes. Sometimes they gathered in other people’s churches, if they could get permission, and sometimes they converted whole congregations in the process. They met in the open air when weather permitted, and when the first temples were completed, they sometimes met there. The plan of Joseph Smith’s City of Zion shows twenty-four temples, which would suggest many functions other than those we now specifically associate with temples. Some of the most interesting meetings in Nauvoo were on the second floor of the prophet’s store; there the first Relief Society meetings were held and the first temple endowments were performed. In the Brigham Young era the Saints met in boweries made of brush and other natural materials and in tabernacles. They built meeting houses which were also schools and community centers, and of course they built temples, too.

The Latter-day Saints have generally been practical in architecture. Form has followed function. There was a time when one feature of meeting houses was so conspicuous that a non-Mormon visitor asked if basketball was a part of the Mormon religion. The ward library has become a more important feature in the last few years, and that is a heartening trend. Changes in temple design and size have [p.77] been apparent to all whose first recommends were received a generation or more ago.2

A change in doctrinal emphasis is relevant to the changed attitude toward physical facilities. The failure to build meeting houses in the early days reflected the poverty of the Saints, but it also reflected their immediate expectation of the Millennium. When I helped build a chapel in Macomb, Illinois, the contractor said he had never seen such specifications; it looked like the building was meant to last for eternity. I pointed out that that was the idea.

Church publications have changed in amazing ways. The early generations produced doctrinally-oriented tracts with names such as A Voice of Warning and Rays of Living Light. People were converted on the basis of reading the closely reasoned and scripture-based arguments set forth. Now the tracts are largely public relations pieces meant to persuade readers that they ought to contact the missionaries or otherwise expose themselves to the conversion opportunity. The style has changed; even the packaging of Joseph Smith’s own story has evolved over the years.

As for newspapers, it is a long evolution from The Evening and Morning Star and The Times and Seasons to the Deseret News. Magazines have come and gone, too. The first were published in the missions and by the auxiliary organizations. It was a sad milestone, at least from the historian’s point of view, when the Millennial Star died not too many years ago after having been published for over a century—the longest continuous publication of the church. Once LDS women had their own magazines—The Women’s Exponent and The Relief Society Magazine. Now we have magazines oriented to age groups, not to the sexes or particular programs. The best media technology and talent are now brought to bear. The computer in the clerk’s office, like the meeting-house TV set and VCR, are recent signs that in the communications and public relations fields, the church “has come a long way.”

For a long time the Tabernacle Choir was almost the only public relations asset that the church had. In the last three decades visitors’ centers at historic sites and world fairs, advertisements in Readers Digest, television spots, and other promotional techniques have been employed to produce a favorable disposition toward the Mormons and their religion.3

[p.78] The eternal principle of priesthood is that God delegates authority to act in his name. Changes in the institutional expression of that concept are well-documented and continuing. Most of us are familiar with the development of priesthood organization in the days of the prophet Joseph, when new offices and quorums appeared as church growth occurred and experience showed what worked and what did not work so well. Some of these early institutions are still undergoing significant change. The offices of regional representative and area president have appeared within the last generation, for example, while the calling of assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has come and gone and the office of Patriarch to the Church, once held by Joseph Smith, Sr., and Hyrum Smith, has disappeared.

A few years ago members interested in church history were excited by the rediscovery of a leadership agency which had disappeared from our collective memory. The Council of Fifty was organized in Nauvoo at a time when the prophet anticipated the early establishment of what was then called the Kingdom of God. The kingdom was not then conceived in the spiritual or other-worldly terms which we talk about now; it was to be a community of Saints standing alone in this world, and it was coming soon. The Council of Fifty was to plan for this kingdom and in time to legislate for it. It was a secular, political, this world-oriented planning group. Non-Mormons who were sympathetic to the church might be invited to participate; Daniel H. Wells joined the council before he joined the church and went on to become one of Brigham Young’s counselors.

Joseph Smith died before the mission of the Council of Fifty had been very clearly defined; what it might have become had he lived is impossible to say. During the apostolic interregnum and first years of Young’s presidency the council handled some of the secular business of the church, but it gradually declined for want of a primary function. The Council of the Twelve and other ecclesiastical bodies did the work. President John Taylor made an effort to revive the Council of Fifty in the 1880s, but if it did anything then or thereafter, those doings are not publicly documented. As far as I know, it is only a historic phenomenon now.4

Within the Melchizedek priesthood, nothing has changed more than the calling and organization of the seventy. The first quorum of seventies with its seven presidents was formed in the Kirtland era to provide missionary support to the Quorum of the Twelve and the [p.79] standing high councils (D&C 107:25-26, 34, 93-97; 124:138-39). Several additional quorums followed. Then, in connection with the movement to Utah and subsequent organizational developments there, the first quorum lost membership and the seven presidents were co-opted into the leadership group. They became General Authorities, and the rest of the quorum was left unmanned. After the thirty-five-year experiment with the assistants to the Quorum of the Twelve, it was decided in the 1970s to revive the First Quorum of the Seventy and make it the center of bureaucratic leadership for the church. The titles “executive director” and “managing director,” carried by so many of the members of this quorum, are suggestive. The recently implemented policies of emeritus status and rotation in office and the newly created Second Quorum of the Seventy further suggest that these quorums have become a pool of experienced and dedicated managerial people to help a worldwide and multi-million-member community of believers move forward.

Parallel developments have affected the priesthood office of seventy itself. B. H. Roberts, one of the presidents of the First Quorum of the Seventy in the Joseph F. Smith/Heber J. Grant era, argued persistently that the seventies under the direction of his quorum should have the primary missionary responsibility. What has unfolded is not what Roberts had in mind at all. One interesting aspect of the First and Second Quorums is that their members are all ordained high priests as well as seventies, because some of the assignments which must be performed at that level of church administration require the authority of a high priest. Decades ago the practice of ordaining young male missionaries as seventies began to be discontinued. Now, with the 1986 dissolution of all quorums of seventy except these two nontraditional bodies, it appears that the office of seventy as a separate priesthood calling will eventually disappear.5

The Aaronic priesthood has also undergone significant developments. Priests, teachers, and deacons were adults in the early days of the church. Sometime after the Saints came West, the ordination of young men to these offices began, the rationale being that it would involve the youth in church activity and help to make them readier for missions. Teachers, who in the early days had been given an adult responsibility to straighten up the Saints, now were young men without the same competencies for the task. What happened to the home teaching program then? Mormons who have been around for a long [p.80] time know that there has been an ongoing search for the best way to make a program, superb in concept, work with teaching pairs who are often unequally yoked together. When holders of the Melchizedek priesthood were first called to go with the Aaronic priesthood teachers, they were called “acting teachers” and were set apart for that function. Now, of course, the whole body of the priesthood has been involved in home teaching, and the program bears the onus of a law of institutional dynamics—few people assign high priority to work which is everybody’s responsibility. The recent authorization of home teaching by married couples—an approach considered by the hierarchy and rejected a generation ago—shows that the search goes on.

There have been other changes in priesthood quorum functions. Under Joseph Smith, quorums developed in the various centers of activity following revelations which responded to institutional needs. In the tough business of settling the West, the quorums tended to be used, to the extent that they were used at all, on an ad hoc basis for getting specific jobs done. (A parallel would be the way the priesthood organizations were used for spring flood fighting in 1983.) What actually happened was a rather serious deterioration in quorum organization and activity in the early Utah days. One of the notable but hardly remembered highlights of Brigham Young’s ministry was the wholesale reorganization of priesthood quorums and programs which he initiated just before his death in 1877.6 With regular meetings came a need for priesthood instruction; B. H. Roberts wrote a great course of lessons for the seventies, and others wrote good lessons for various constituencies. Then began the quest for the best times to meet. Anybody as old as I am can remember when high priests met on week nights, Sunday mornings, or Sunday afternoons, always in competition with the activities of the church auxiliaries.

Only in the last twenty-five years has there been, in the Correlation Program, an effort to put the priesthood back into the center of things and to train and motivate its holders to fulfill the mission defined in the principle. The impact of this effort on institutional procedures, relations between the sexes, and the content and thrust of church educational programs is still being felt.

We have been a “gathering” people from the beginning, but the pattern of congregational structuring has changed significantly. Stakes came and went during the early years. At the time Brigham [p.81] Young instituted the priesthood reforms of 1877, there were eight stakes in the whole church; Salt Lake Valley was one stake. As far as organized missions were concerned, the only permanent mission installation was in Liverpool, England. It published The Millennial Star, coordinated the activities of the European missions, and was the funnel through which the gathering to Zion moved.

In the 1877 reform, the apostles, some of whom had been running church affairs in various locations—for example, Erastus Snow in southern Utah, Lorenzo Snow in Brigham City, and Charles C. Rich in Cache Valley—were called back to participate in overall church management. Stake presidencies were organized and the number of stakes was increased immediately to eighteen. The stake presidents were given counselors and were instructed to hold quarterly conferences, submit reports, and more systematically supervise the wards and branches within their jurisdictions.

This pattern of gradually developing new stakes according to need and holding quarterly conferences in conjunction with apostolic visits continued to my day. Since the David O. McKay era the trend has accelerated; more and more stakes have been created and smaller stakes have become the norm. The first overseas stake came in 1959, 129 years after the church was organized. A century before, when there were more Latter-day Saints in England than in Utah, there was no overseas stake organization because gathering to America was the thing to be done. Now there are stakes almost everywhere there are missions, and most of the missionary activity is within the boundaries of stakes.

The wards have also changed radically. There were no wards until the Nauvoo period, when the first were formed primarily as units of economic management. The bishop was assigned to look after the poor and take care of certain secular functions, a pattern which continued under Brigham Young in Utah. The bishop was the man through whom instructions might be sent to call for men, wagons, and livestock to meet the annual immigration. He was the man who collected tithing, dispensed some of it locally, and sent the rest through one of the traveling bishops into the Salt Lake City tithing center. The job was demanding at times but not as demanding in terms of total time commitment as the calling of bishop is now. Bishops then served for years and years, sometimes dying in office. The same was true of stake presidents.

[p.82] In the 1877 reforms, the office of bishop was institutionalized with two counselors who were to be high priests. That pattern continued until recent times. Then it was discovered that student wards at BYU and other universities were flooding the church with very young high priests, who had become members of bishoprics in campus communities. So policies were modified to permit a bishop to have non-high priests as counselors in such non-typical wards.

In response to changing circumstances the pattern of ward meetings has also changed. Latter-day Saints were not so habituated to meetings in the founding generations as we have since become. Meetings were less frequent, but they were also long, as reports of sermons in the Messenger and Advocate, The Evening and the Morning Star, and Joseph Smith’s history disclose. One of the amusing things about Wilford Woodruff’s diary is that he reports how many minutes everybody spoke at almost every meeting he attended for a period of about sixty years. To add up some of those numbers is to become aware that meetings in those days were regarded not only as instructional and inspirational but also as a form of recreation for those who chose to attend.

In my youth, participation in sacrament meetings was just beginning to be stressed, and a 25 percent attendance rate was phenomenal. As the meetings became more important, there was a period within recent memory when it was not a proper sacrament meeting unless it went for an hour and a half. Now if it goes more than an hour and ten minutes, a lot of Sunday school teachers become nervous. The three-hour block schedule is one of those innovations responsive to changing circumstances which one can easily identify, and its own problems are already becoming apparent.

With fair frequency, possible solutions to problems are tested through pilot programs in one or more localities. It was so with the block plan for meetings, and it is likely to be so with whatever meeting arrangement supplants it. Without special insight or authority, I suggest that the next format for meetings may incorporate a sacrament meeting and a Sunday school (with opening exercises), separated by an interval long enough to permit some social visiting and the transaction of some person-to-person business; Relief Society and priesthood quorum business meetings will supplant Sunday school lessons once a month, but gender-segregated courses of instruction will disappear.

[p.83] A generation ago many sacrament meetings featured itinerant preachers who were invited to ward after ward because they gave unusually interesting talks. Every once in a while a charismatic convert got on the circuit, became a cult figure, and then disappeared without a trace. Now almost all sacrament meeting programs are homegrown, and fully developed gospel sermons are almost as rare as appearances by “celebrities” and testimonies in tongues.

Even the criteria for fellowshipping have changed. In the nineteenth century the Word of Wisdom received much less emphasis, particularly in its tea and coffee dimensions. Only within my lifetime has full compliance become a requirement for holding offices and callings in the church. On the other hand, under Joseph Smith and Brigham Young some Mormons were excommunicated for attending non-Mormon dances, failing to accept mission calls, using tobacco and intoxicants, gossiping, failing to tithe, Sabbath-breaking, patronizing non-Mormon businesses, and failing to follow counsel. At the same time rebaptism was readily available, not only for readmission to the church but as a token of repentance and rededication for members in good standing.

The proselyting program is another good example of operational changes to serve enduring principles. In the early days missionary work was epitomized by the phrase “without purse or scrip.” Missionaries went out, often leaving families behind, and some of the ways they survived seem marvelous, even miraculous. Theirs was an individual enterprise. They wrote their own tracts and letters to editors. Once they made converts to the idea that the gospel had been restored, they preached the doctrine of gathering, which retained a powerful appeal for converts until the end of the nineteenth century. Echoes of it were still heard in the mission field in the 1930s, when I was at work in Germany, Denmark, and Canada.

Around the turn of the century, the missionary program evolved away from calling husbands to leave their families and into the pattern of calling young unmarried men and some young single women. The missionary environment became somewhat more structured, but what actually happened depended on the temperament and leadership style of the mission president and the motivation and temperament of the individual missionary. At a recent reunion of Canadian missionaries of the David A. Smith era, 1939-43, we agreed that [p.84] it had not been the best period of missionary work, if one thought in terms of “the field is white, ready for the harvest.” I baptized one young man in my two years; some others did better and some did worse.

Since World War II there have been significant changes in the missionary program. The idea that missionaries might do better if they had some formal instruction and a plan to follow gave rise to an elaborate and now world-wide training program. A structured proselyting plan was given churchwide application in 1961; it has undergone several modifications since. Building missionaries, health missionaries, and school teachers have performed specialized functions under church calls. Missionaries from the mission fields have now ended what was for a century a virtual monopoly of Saints from the American West. More recently, the use of senior people has opened a tremendous manpower—and womanpower—pool. President McKay’s dictum “Every member a missionary” gave this aspect of Mormonism a thrust which President Kimball’s “Lengthen your stride” reinforced.

Church programs for women have also changed. The special role of women was recognized in the founding of the first Relief Society and in the definition and the content of some of the sacred ordinances of the Nauvoo period. Historians, some of them not surprisingly women, are finding much evidence in diaries and other documents that their female progenitors enjoyed helping with these ordinances, anointing and blessing one another, speaking in tongues, and doing other things which manifested the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The Relief Society fell into disorganization during the move west and then was revived as a service organization, with assignments including moral and economic retrenchment, producing silk, defending plural marriage, and promoting women’s suffrage. Particularly under the vigorous leadership of Eliza R. Snow and her immediate successors, the Relief Society had a broad influence on the cultural and community life of Utah. Then, as the church began to be transformed from an organized community into a religious institution, the roles of women changed. The autonomy of their organizations was curtailed. They were specifically instructed in 1914 to desist from anointing and blessing one another or their children. World War I saw [p.85] the disposing of the Relief Society wheat supply, and later the funds accumulated from that enterprise were merged with the general funds of the church. The Relief Society Magazine is something remembered with affection now that it is gone.7

Both the women’s movement and the entry of LDS women into the work force are modifying rank-and-file commitment to the Victorian middle-class family model as the only gospel standard; the growth of the church worldwide is apparently reinforcing this trend. But the dedication to church service remains strong. “Were they but given the opportunity,” a prominent female historian recently said of her Mormon sisters, “[women might] take over.” Viewed in the context of the movement for women’s rights, the Priesthood Correlation Program of the past generation might be seen as an effort to protect the church against that possibility.

A major organizational development of the twentieth century, and particularly the last generation, has been the bureaucratization of the church. I do not use the term in a pejorative sense. Any organization that grows beyond a certain size is bound to develop a bureaucratic structure. From the directors of headquarters divisions and the area presidencies to the property managers and educational supervisors in the missions, more and more professional people are conducting various activities of the church. There may still be no “paid ministry,” but the church civil servants receive almost competitive salaries and the leaders who minister full time are compensated according to their needs. The skyscraper at 50 East North Temple Street symbolizes the administrative requirements of growth. If Joseph Smith were to drop in on the Monday morning staff meeting of almost any department in the church tower, I wonder what he would say.

So many changes! Whatever happened to the M Men and Gleaner Girls? Who can remember the common sacrament cup? Or the time when priests, in blessing the sacrament, raised their right arms to the square and the deacons, in passing the emblems, put their left hands behind them? When taking the sacrament with the wrong hand was an offense comparable in moral significance to using “you” instead of “thou” in prayer? So many things remind us that “The old order changeth, yielding place to the new, and God fulfills himself in many ways.”

[p.86] The time to prepare children to cope with institutional changes is when you are trying to explain what happened to Santa Claus, or “You Who Unto Jesus,” or Daddy’s seventies quorum. I do believe in giving milk before meat, but I do not think children should be taught anything, the unlearning of which will be traumatic. If we create in them the impression that the church does not change, or that only trivial things change, we create a risk, because some changes are substantial. One valuable consequence of believing in a living prophet—as child or adult member—is that the concept legitimizes change, not only by addition, but by deletion and modification. Even simple faith can cope with the idea that some institutional policies and practices are abandoned because they are outgrown and others because they simply do not work out as planned.

The student who looks at LDS history finds everywhere confirmation of Elder Poelman’s distinction between eternal principles, which are accessible through the eye of faith, and changing institutions, which may be studied through documents and other tools of the historian’s craft. Given what history and other disciplines tell us about institutional dynamics, the current vigor of the church is prima facie evidence that it has changed since the 1830s. Finally, in the perspective of the Ninth Article of Faith, past changes should not surprise us, nor should the virtual certainty of future changes cause distress. [p.89]


1. A revised and updated edition of The Story of the Latter-day Saints is now in preparation. Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, The Mormon Experience (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), is another useful survey, written primarily for a non-LDS audience.

2. This is probably not the place to discuss the ordinances and practices associated with the temple, but they have not been immune to change. See David John Buerger, “The Development of the Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 20 (Winter 1987), 4:33-76; Buerger, “‘The Fullness of the Priesthood’: The Second Anointing in Latter-day Saint Theology and Practice,” Dialogue 16 (Spring 1983), 1:10-44; and D. Michael Quinn, “Latter-day Saints Prayer Circles,” Brigham Young University Studies 19 (Fall 1978), 4:79-105.

3. One of Mormon humorist Calvin Grondahl’s cartoon books which makes friendly fun of Mormon folkways carries the title Marketing Precedes the Miracle (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987).

4. See Klaus J. Hansen, Quest for Empire: The Political Kingdom of God and the Council of Fifty in Mormon History (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1967).

5. It is interesting that the principle of common consent was not invoked to sustain the abandonment of the priesthood offices of seventy or church patriarch. The curtailment of the traditional voting by priesthood quorums when Ezra Taft Benson was sustained as president of the church may be another evidence of how the concept of common consent has over time been transformed from a substantive procedure to a ceremonial rite.

6. William G. Hartley, “The Priesthood Reorganization of 1877: Brigham Young’s Last Achievement,” Brigham Young University Studies 20 (Fall 1979), 1:3-36.

7. See Maureen Ursenbach Beecher and Lavina Fielding Anderson, eds., Sisters in Spirit: Mormon Women in Historical and Cultural Perspective (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987); Claudia L. Bushman, ed., Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah (Cambridge, MA: Emmeline Press, 1976); and Vicky Burgess-Olson, ed., Sister Saints (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1978).