Power from on High
by Gregory A. Prince

Chapter 2.

[p.47]When Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were given authority to baptize, they were not ordained to a specific office. The earliest first-hand account of the event is in Smith’s 1832 history which describes “the reception of the holy Priesthood by the ministring of Aangels to administer the letter of the Gospel.1 Later accounts by both Smith and Cowdery, while reflecting the developing nomenclature, made no mention of a specific office. Cowdery wrote: “we received under his hand the holy priesthood, as he said, `upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer this priesthood and this authority.’”2 He added that “He [Smith] was ordained by the Angel John, unto the lesser or Aaronic priesthood, in company with myself…”3 Smith elaborated:

While we were thus employed, praying, and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying unto us, “Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the [p.48]gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion, for the remission of sins” … and he commanded us to go and be baptized …

Accordingly we went and were baptized, I baptized him first, and afterwards he baptized me, after which I laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the Aaronic priesthood, and afterwards he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same priesthood, for so we were commanded.4

By August 1829, as Mormons began proselyting, adult male converts were ordained to one of the three offices described in the Book of Mormon: teacher, priest, and elder/disciple.5 The offices of bishop and deacon, neither of which was mentioned in the Book of Mormon, were introduced early in 1831, followed by high priest in late 1831, patriarch in 1833, and seventy and apostle in 1835. Thus all nine ordained offices currently recognized in the Latter-day Saint churches were in place by 1835, whereas the larger concept of “priesthood,” of which they were part, continued to evolve through 1844, the year of Smith’s death.

The manner in which these offices were introduced, occurring over six years and with no indication of a prior blueprint, raises the question of why these and not other offices of a similar nature became attached to priesthood through ordination. For instance, a case may be made that the office of high councilor functioned much like that of apostle. Indeed, two types of high councils were formed in the mid-1830s: the “Standing High Council,” with responsibility over stakes (dioceses), and the “Traveling High Council,” with responsibility outside of stakes. Yet the latter body was composed of apostles, an ordained office, while the former consisted of high councilors, which were never considered officers, even though some men were “ordained” to the calling.6

A related case is that of “pastor.” Although included in Smith’s [p.49]1842 “Articles of Faith” as part of the primitive church organization mirrored by the Mormon restoration,7 pastor did not become an ordained office during Smith’s lifetime. In 1856 Apostle Franklin D. Richards created the ordained office of pastor in the British Mission “to take charge of three or four Conferences, to preside over the Presidents, and to teach and counsel them by the light of the spirit of Zion.”8 The following year Apostle Orson Pratt endorsed the concept and further outlined its duties.9 The office apparently did not extend beyond the British Isles, and by 1861 its name was changed to district president.10

In attempting to define the rationale behind the nine offices now recognized by the Utah church, one is thus constrained by historical irregularities, complicated by the fact that no comprehensive list of offices was ever contained in canonical writings. While it may seem appropriate to define “office” as something to which one is “ordained,” use of the word “ordain” during Smith’s ministry carried a broader connotation, with men and women often “ordained” to callings and responsibilities never associated with priesthood offices. An alternative definition might assume that offices named in Latter-day Saint revelations would all be included in the priesthood umbrella. However, high councilors were the subject of an entire revelation.11 Another definition might rest upon biblical precedent. All nine offices are mentioned in the Bible, although the assigned functions were often without biblical precedent. As with pastors, inclusion in the Bible did not guarantee a place in the Restoration. Therefore, one is left with a circular and not entirely satisfactory definition of “office” as a calling with a biblical precedent to which men were ordained and which [p.50]gradually became accepted in the church as an office. In other words, offices became such by convention.


The distinction between the offices of teacher and priest is ambiguous in the Book of Mormon. Nephi “consecrate[d] Jacob and Joseph, that they should be priests and teachers over the land of my people” (BM, LDS, 2 Ne. 5:26). A later passage confirms this dual consecration: “For I, Jacob, and my brother Joseph had been consecrated priests and teachers of this people, by the hand of Nephi” (BM, LDS, Jacob 1:18). Responsibilities were common to the two offices. Both were commissioned to baptize (BM, LDS, Alma 15:13) and preach (BM, LDS, Moro. 3:3), although priests, not teachers, were authorized to administer “the flesh and blood of Christ unto the church” (BM, LDS, Moro. 4:1).

An 1829 revelation to Oliver Cowdery12 repeated verbatim the job description of Moroni 3:3 but mentioned only priests. By April 1831 the duties of teachers had been expanded and further differentiated:

The teacher’s duty is to watch over the church always, and be with them and strengthen them, and see that there is no iniquity in the church, nor no hardness with each other, nor no lying nor backbiting nor no evil speaking; and see that the church meets together oft, and also see that every member does his duty, and he is to take the lead of the meetings in the absence of the elder or the priest, and is to be assisted always and in all his duties in the church by the deacons. But neither the teacher nor the deacon has the authority to baptize nor administer the sacrament; but are to warn, exhort, expound and teach and invite all to come to Christ.13

This statement is significant both for what it says and for what it does not say. The first phrase, “to watch over the church always,” became the primary role for teachers for the rest of the nineteenth century until a decision was made to encourage the ordination of boys [p.51]rather than men to this office. Also of significance is its silence regarding any ordinances which teachers could perform.14 At no time during Joseph Smith’s ministry did teachers receive specific authorization to perform ordinances.

The same revelation which outlined the duties of teachers specified those of priests. Ironically, the injunction to priests to “visit the house of each member”15 became the main function of teachers. Lucy Mack Smith, mother of Joseph Smith, wrote: “I will now return to Waterloo after Joseph and his father left [1831]. William being one of the teachers visited the Church calling on every family (as our custom is) [and] he prayed with them and did not leave the house untill every member of the family prayed vocally that was over eight years old.”16 The pastoral role of teachers was strengthened by an 1832 revelation which mandated that high priests, elders, and priests were to travel and preach, while “the deacons and teachers should be appointed to watch over the church, to be standing ministers unto the church” (DC, 1835 IV:22, 22 and 23 Sept. 1832). For the remainder of Smith’s ministry they functioned both in watching over church members and as standing ministers—or presiding officers—over church congregations.

When teachers were organized into a quorum in December 1834 a more systematic oversight became possible.17 Beginning with the entry for 25 December 1834, the quorum minutebook frequently detailed the teachers’ concern for errant members. Assignments were given to labor with specific individuals. An 1835 church newspaper article commented on the teachers’ activities: “They must strengthen the members’ faith; persuade such as are out of the way to repent, and turn to God and live; meekly persuade and urge every one to forgive one another all their trespasses, offences and sins, that they may work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.”18 Teachers mediated disputes to avoid the necessity of formal church or civil judicial proceedings. Church historian John Corrill wrote: “If two members [p.52]had a difficulty, they were to settle it between themselves, or by the assistance of another, according to the scriptures; but if they could not do this, then it went before the bishop’s court for trial.”19

That the teachers’ function was crucial to the welfare of the Saints was stated most eloquently by First Presidency member Sidney Rigdon in 1838:

[President Rigdon said] that the foundation of the happiness of the Church rests upon the heads of the Teachers and Deacons, whose duty it is to go from house to house and see that each family in the Church is kept in order, and that the children are taught the principles of righteousness …

He compared the Elders to quarriers of stone, who merely quarried the stones and brought them to the building, where the Priests, Teachers, and Deacons, are polishers, whose duty it is to prepare them for the building.20

A second function of teachers was to preside over congregations.21 Corrill wrote: “The high priests, elders, and priests, were to travel and preach, but the teachers and deacons were to be standing ministers to the church. Hence, in the last organizing of the church, each branch of the church chose a teacher to preside over them, whose duty it was to take particular charge of that branch, and report from time to time to the general conference of elders.”22 A meeting of the high council at Far West, Missouri, in 1838 formally acknowledged the presiding authority of the teacher:

Resolved, by the High Council that it be considered that no High Priest, Elder or Priest (except the Presidency, High Council and Bishoprick) has any right or authority to preside over or take the charge of any Branch, Society or neighbourhood within the bounds of this Stake: but that the teachers, assisted by the deacons, be consid-[p.53]ered the standing ministry to preside each over his respective branch of the Stake agreeable to the covenants.

3rd Resolved that we recommend to all High Priests, Elders and Priests who are in good standing & friends to Joseph Smith jr, the Prophet that they do not take the lead of nor appoint meetings in any branch or neighbournood of Saints within the bounds of this Stake without the invitation or consent of the Presiding officer of that branch. We also, consider that the teacher, who is the presiding officer, has a right to object to any official character, who may come among them to officiate, who is not in good standing or a friend to the true cause of Christ. And also, that the teacher report, to the High Council, such as are unruly or teach corrupt doctrine among them.

4th Resolved that the High Council recommend to each neighbourhood or settlement of Saints, within the bounds of this Stake, to choose for themselves a teacher, who is skilled in the word of God, faithful in his ministry, full of the Holy Ghost, and a friend to Joseph Smith jr, the Prophet of God, to take the watchcare over them, and preside agreeably to the covenants, who shall be assisted by the other teachers and deacons in the Branch.23

Of the nine priesthood offices, eight were organized for group function during Smith’s ministry, the exception being the office of patriarch. Of those eight, it appears that teachers had the greatest impact in terms of ministering to lay members.


As seen in the previous section, the one duty which priests in the Book of Mormon could perform that teachers could not was administering the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. By 1831 the role of priests as baptists was clarified.24 Priests were also allowed to ordain certain other officers: “The priests’ duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize and administer the sacrament, and to visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret, and also to attend to all family duties, to ordain priests, teachers and deacons, and to take the lead in meetings.”25

[p.54]Although an 1832 revelation established a hierarchy of offices with deacon and teacher subservient to priest (DC, 1835 IV:5, 22 and 23 Sept. 1832), this distinction was not significant. There is no record of priests supervising the other officers. The relative sovereignty of teachers was later indicated by a question asked of Apostle Wilford Woodruff: “Is it right for a Priest to be appointed to accompany a Teacher to visit the houses of each member?”26

Although priests could act as proselyting missionaries (DC, 1835 IV:22),27 their inability to confer upon converts the gift of the Holy Ghost limited their utility. As a result most missionaries held higher offices. Thus, priests appear to have served primarily as officiators in the ordinances of baptism, administering the sacrament, and ordaining some officers. The organization of priests into quorums did not result in a significant record of group function during Smith’s lifetime.


After baptism, David Whitmer took Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery from Pennsylvania to his father’s farm in New York where, in early June 1829, Smith and Cowdery ordained each other to the office of elder.28 The Book of Mormon described the office as superior to both teacher and priest since only elders could confer the gift of the Holy Ghost (BM, LDS, Moro. 2:1-3) and ordain other officers (3:1-4).

Initially, the responsibilities of elders paralleled those described in the Book of Mormon:

It is his calling to baptize and to ordain other elders, priests, teachers, and deacons, and to administer the flesh and blood of Christ according to the scriptures, and to teach, expound, and exhort, and to baptize and to watch over the church, and to confirm the church by the laying on of hands and the giving of the Holy Ghost, and to take the lead of all meetings.29

[p.55]For the first year after the formal organizing of the church in 1830, elder remained the highest ordained office. During this year four additional ordinances were introduced—blessing babies, cursing, healing the sick, and casting out evil spirits—and all were performed by elders. With the introduction of the High Priesthood in June 1831, a subdivision in the office of elder occurred, and a new ordinance was introduced. Thereafter only elders who also had been ordained to the High Priesthood could seal people to eternal life. By the end of 1831 the High Priesthood had evolved into the office of high priest. With the introduction of the offices of bishop (1831), patriarch (1833), seventy (1835), and apostle (1835),30 each of which was associated with special responsibilities, the office of elder gradually diminished in importance. In some instances, duties previously performed by elders were reassigned to higher offices. For example, an 1831 revelation outlined a judicial role for Elders, stating that “if any man shall commit adultery, he shall be tried before two elders of the church or more.”31 The subsequent introduction of the office of bishop, and the formation of high councils composed of high priests, removed elders from judicial and regulatory responsibilities: “The Elders in Zion or in her immediate region, have no authority nor right to meddle with her affairs, to regulate or even hold any courts. The high council has been organized expressly to minister in all her spiritual affairs; and the Bishop and his council are set over her temporal matters; so thus the Elders acts are null and void.”32 The term “elder” continued to be used in a generic sense referring to any officer holding the higher authority later known as Melchizedek Priesthood.33


Understanding the office of apostle is complicated by the fact that apostles existed since 1830, five years before the Quorum of Twelve Apostles was organized in February 1835. A group of twelve apostles functioned as early as 1830, and the primary mission of both groups was the same: declaration of the gospel to gentile and Jew.

The model for the early apostles came from the Book of Mormon, in which the Nephite twelve (BM, LDS, Moro. 3:1) held unique authority to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost (2:1-3) and to ordain other officers (3:1-4). In deference to the twelve apostles in Jerusalem, the twelve Nephites were called “disciples,” a term also used in the earliest reference to the twelve of the Restoration (BC XV:27-43, June 1829). By the time the church was organized a year later the biblical term “apostle” was used.34

One week prior to the church’s formal organization David Marks, an itinerant preacher, stayed at the Whitmer home and later wrote of his visit, “They further stated, that twelve apostles were to be appointed, who would soon confirm their mission by miracles.”35 A revelation dated the following week confirmed that two apostles had already been chosen: “There shall be a record kept among you, and in it thou [Joseph Smith] shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church … Wherefore, it behooveth me, that he [Smith] should be ordained by you, Oliver, mine apostle” (BC XXII:1, 13, 6 Apr. 1830).

On 9 June 1830 ten officers of the new church received licenses for the ministry. The license of John Whitmer, an elder, confirmed the relationship between elder and disciple/apostle: “A License Liberty Power & Authority Given to John Whitmer signifying & proveing that he is an Apostle of Jesus Christ an Elder of this Church of Christ.”36 A revelation similarly stated that “an apostle [p.57]is an elder,”37 William McLellin, a member of the 1835 Quorum of Twelve Apostles, explained that “an Apostle is not an administrative officer. When they ministered they did it as Elders.”38 Although some were called apostles as late as 1832, they continued to function as elders, and it was not until 1835 that apostles were ordained as a separate office.

Direct evidence of a group of twelve apostles as early as 1830 comes from two contemporary sources. Describing attempts to sell the Book of Mormon, an 1830 newspaper article stated: “[They] have therefore sent out twelve Apostles to promulgate its doctrines … “39 A letter written by Ezra Booth in 1831, just weeks after he left the movement, described his journey from Kirtland to Independence, Missouri. He wrote: “While descending the Missouri river, Peter [Whitmer] and Frederick [G. Williams], two of my company, divulged a secret respecting Oliver [Cowdery], which placed his conduct on a parallel with Ziba’s; for which Ziba [Peterson] was deprived of his Elder and Apostleship… . And thus by commandment, poor Ziba, one of the twelve Apostles, is thrust down; while Oliver the scribe, also an Apostle, who had been guilty of similar conduct, is set on high.”40

There is not a complete listing of the apostles chosen in 1830, though indirect evidence suggests that the number did not exceed twelve. The “Elder’s license” of Edward Partridge, issued on 15 December 1830, stated that he was “ordained as an Elder under my hand” but made no mention of apostleship.41 That twelve apostles continued to function after 1830 is suggested by Booth’s letter, as well as an 1832 revelation stating “for you are mine Apostles even Gods high Priests.”42

[p.58]Between 1832 and the formation of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1835, no other records describe further activities of the 1830 apostles or the ordination of additional members. However, two sources written in 1833 anticipate that additional apostles would eventually be called. Following a vision associated with the opening of the School of the Prophets in 1833, Smith said, “Brethren now you are prepared to be Apostles of Jesus Christ, for you have seen both the Father and the Son.”43 This statement is particularly significant for it represents the first time that the Latter-day Saint office of apostle reached back to its New Testament precedent which required an apostle to be an actual eyewitness to Jesus (Acts 1:21-26). Several months later a revelation gave directions “concerning the building of mine house for the preparation wherewith I design to prepare mine Apostles to prune my vineyard for the last time.”44

For nearly two years after this revelation no further reference was made to apostles. The catalyst for the formation of the quorum in 1835 appears to have been a vision as Smith prayed to know the fate of his brethren who died during the Zion’s Camp expedition. Joseph Young described Smith’s account of the vision:

When he had relieved himself of his feelings, in describing the vision, he resumed the conversation, and addressed himself to Brother Brigham Young. Said he to him, “I wish to notify all the brethren living in the branches, within a reasonable distance from this place, to meet at a General Conference on Saturday next. I shall then and there appoint twelve special witnesses, to open the door of the gospel to foreign nations, and you,” said he (speaking to Brother Brigham), “will be one of them.”45

On 14 February 1835 a meeting was held to choose “twelve men from the Church, as Apostles, to go to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.”46 Smith delegated to Cowdery, David Whitmer, and [p.59]Martin Harris, the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon, the task of selecting twelve men, one of whom described the event:

These brethren ordained us to the apostleship, and predicted many things which should come to pass, that we should have power to heal the sick, cast out devils, raise the dead, give sight to the blind, have power to remove mountains, and all things should be subject to us through the name of Jesus Christ, and angels should minister unto us, and many more things too numerous to mention.47

Mastery of the elements and spirits promised a continuity with the Jerusalem twelve (Mark 16:15-18) and the Nephite twelve (BM, LDS, 4 Ne. 1:5). Another thread of continuity was related in the charge given the twelve by Cowdery:

You have been indebted to other men in the first instance for evidence [of God’s existence, and] on that you have acted. But it is necessary that you receive a testimony from Heaven for yourselves, so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon. And that you have seen the face of God; that is more than the testimony of an Angel. When the proper time arrives you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God. This testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out. Although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will, therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from heaven. Never cease striving until you have seen God, face to face. Strengthen your faith, cast off your doubts, your sins and all your unbelief and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid his hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us. God is the same. If the Saviour in former days laid his hands upon his deciples. Why not in the latter Days.48

A letter written several decades later by another of the original twelve apostles (who had since defected) underscored both the seriousness with which this charge was taken and the contingency of its fulfilment: “[Smith’s] calling and ordination of Apostles in Feb. 1835, instead of having Christ personally to call, and appoint, and ordain [p.60]them was wrong in the extreme. They could not be Apostles of Jesus, but they were only Apostles of Joseph Smith. An Apostle is witness, and he (as Paul) must see Jesus in order to be his witness.”49

The apostles’ primary responsibility during Smith’s lifetime was missionary activity “to all nations, kindreds, tongues and people.”50 This was re-emphasized one week after their calling by Cowdery who said, “You are to preach the gospel to every nation,”51 and one week thereafter by Smith who stated: “[The apostles] are to travel and preach among the Gentiles, until the Lord shall command them to go to the Jews. They are to hold the keys of this ministry to unlock the door of the kingdom of heaven unto all nations and to preach the gospel to every creature. This is the power, authority and virtue of their Apostleship.”52 The following month the same responsibility was further emphasized by revelation: “The twelve travelling counsellors are called to be the twelve apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ, in all the world: thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling” (DC, 1835 III:11, 28 Mar. 1835). Their role in foreign proselyting efforts is beyond question,53 with initial activities in 1837 followed by considerable success in the British Isles beginning in 1839. At that time, the majority of apostles was serving overseas missions, something which would never recur following Smith’s death.

The secondary role of the apostles was regulation of the church. Their regulatory duties were defined two weeks after their ordination when, in response to the question, “What importance is there attached to the calling of these twelve Apostles different from the other callings or offices of the Church?” Smith answered: “They are the Twelve Apostles, who are called to the office of traveling high council, who are to preside over all the churches of the Saints among the Gentiles, where there is no presidency established.”54

[p.61]In other words, the presiding authority of the twelve apostles was unquestioned in all areas of the world except the organized stakes in Ohio and Missouri. Although this response suggested that they would have no regulatory role in the stakes, a revelation one month later described one duty whose fulfillment clearly extended into the stakes, another which might be interpreted as involving stakes, and verification that the authority of the twelve was unsurpassed by any other ruling body. The revelation stated that “it is the duty of the twelve, also, to ordain and set in order all the other officers of the church” (DC, 1835 III:30, 28 Mar. 1835). Although Smith, as church president, retained the right to ordain men to any office, only the twelve apostles, among all other individuals or groups in the church, were given this authority. Further suggesting authority that might not end at stake boundaries, the revelation continued: “The twelve are a travelling, presiding high council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the presidency of the church, agreeably to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same, in all nations: first unto the Gentiles, and secondly unto the Jews” (ibid., v. 12, emphasis added). The apostles were said to “form a quorum equal in authority and power to the three presidents” (ibid., v. 11), possibly foreshadowing their ascendancy to lead the church following Smith’s death.

This revelation caused confusion concerning the relative authority of high councils in the stakes. In a meeting one month later Smith attempted to clarify the relationship: “The Twelve will have no right to go into Zion or any of its stakes and there undertake to regulate the affairs thereof where there is a standing High Council. But it is their duty to go abroad and regulate all matters relative to the different branches of the church.”55 But a revelation later the same year again emphasized the priority of the apostles: “There is a distinction between the high council of travelling high priests abroad, and the travelling high council composed of the twelve apostles, in their decisions: From the decision of the former there can be an appeal, but from the decision of the latter there cannot” (DC, 1835 V:13). Several months later Smith returned to the subject, this time stating that the twelve had “authority which is next [p.62]to the present Presidency,” and that they were “not subject to any other than the First Presidency.”56

After the 1836 endowment in the Kirtland House of the Lord, the primary focus of the twelve apostles was missionary work. Yet a statement by Smith on 16 August 1841, following their return from their second mission to the British Isles, signalled a shift in their role away from proselyting and towards governing: “[Joseph Smith stated] that the time had come when the Twelve should be called upon to stand in their place next to the First Presidency, and attend to the settling of emigrants and the business of the Church at the stakes, and assist to bear off the kingdom victoriously to the nations.”57

Although this statement clearly cemented the standing of the apostles, neither it nor any other public statement or document prior to Smith’s death stated explicitly that the twelve would succeed Smith if he died. That he probably intended to have the twelve succeed him is best evidenced by the fact that all of the twelve apostles received their second anointing prior to Smith’s death, whereas the other major aspirant, Sidney Rigdon, did not. This was the primary argument used by the twelve in successfully rebuffing Rigdon’s claim. On 25 August 1844, two months after Smith’s death, Apostle Wilford Woodruff wrote: “Elders O. Hyde and P. P. Pratt testifyed that Joseph Smith the Prophet and Seer had ordained, anointed, and appointed the Twelve to lead the Church.”58 Two weeks later, when Rigdon was tried for his membership and excommunicated, Apostle John Taylor wrote: “He [Rigdon] has been holding secret meetings; he has ordained men illegally, and contrary to the order of the priesthood; he has been ordaining men to the offices of prophets, priests and kings; whereas he does not hold that office himself; who does not know that this is wrong?”59


The office of bishop had no precedent in the Book of Mormon, [p.63]although it was named in the New Testament (see 1 Tim. 3:1-7). While it is not clear how the office came to be introduced to the Restoration, evidence suggests that Sidney Rigdon, a convert from Campbellism, played the pivotal role in bringing the matter to Joseph Smith’s attention.

The central feature of Campbellism was a return to “primitive” Christianity, that is, to an organization and belief system felt by its adherents to reflect more accurately the church of the New Testament than contemporaneous Catholic and Protestant traditions. The founder of the movement, Alexander Campbell, argued strongly that there were only two legitimate offices in the ancient church, bishop and deacon, and that only these two should be present in the modern church: “Instead of the divinely established order of bishops and deacons … we have popes, cardinals, archbishops, metropolitan bishops, diocesan bishops, rectors, prebendaries, deans, priests, arch deacons, presiding elders, ruling elders, circuit preachers, local preachers, licentiates, class leaders, abbots, monks, friars, etc., etc.”60

Campbell’s assistant, Walter Scott, echoed this sentiment the following year when he wrote, “To manage the business of the church in all ages, it pleased the Head of the church to appoint bishops and deacons.”61 By 1828 Rigdon had joined the Campbellite movement and risen to the office of Bishop.62 Eventually he and Campbell parted ways over gifts of the spirit, which Campbell, despite his attraction to primitivism, refused to accept as part of a modern church. Shortly thereafter, Oliver Cowdery, Ziba Peterson, Parley P. Pratt, and Peter Whitmer preached in Kirtland and converted Rigdon. Within weeks Rigdon and fellow Campbellite Edward Partridge journeyed to New York to meet Joseph Smith, arriving there in December 1830. Although direct evidence is lacking to prove that Rigdon presented the concept of bishops to Smith, it is significant that the first bishop of the [p.63]Restoration was Partridge and that he was ordained by Rigdon63 in Smith’s presence.

Partridge was called to his office by a revelation given the same day he was ordained:

A commandment given February 4th 1831 to choose a Bishop &c.

And again I have called my servant Edward and give a commandment that he should be appointed by the voice of the church and ordained a Bishop unto the church to leave his merchandise and to spend all his time in the labours of the church to see to all things as it shall be appointed in my law in the day that I shall give them and this because his heart is pure before me for he is like unto Nathaniel of Old in whom there is no guile.64

Although this revelation did not describe the bishop’s duties, it indicated that such would be forthcoming. A revelation five days later outlined what would remain the primary function of bishops during the remainder of Smith’s ministry, the redistribution of personal wealth for the dual purposes of assisting the poor and financing the operations of the church (BC XLIV, 9 Feb. 1831). Subsequent revelations added secondary and tertiary functions. Bishops were to sit in judgment of transgressors (BC XLVII, 23 Feb. 1831) and preside over the Lesser Priesthood (DC, 1835 III:40, 28 Mar. 1835).

In the June 1831 general conference Isaac Morley and John Corrill were selected as counselors or assistants to Partridge.65 Shortly afterwards Smith and several other elders, including Partridge, traveled to Independence, Missouri, to dedicate a temple site and proclaim that area “Zion,” with Partridge as bishop. Although Missouri was designated the eventual gathering place of the Saints, most of the church remained in Kirtland. A revelation in November 1831 acknowledged the necessity of calling other bishops for Kirtland and other locales: “There remaineth hereafter in the due time of the Lord, other bishops to be set apart unto the church, to minister even according to the first; wherefore it shall be an high priest who is worthy; and he shall be appointed by a conference of high priests.”66

[p.65]In spite of the instruction, the calling of the second bishop the following month was not accomplished by a conference of high priests but rather by a revelation: “Verily saith the Lord it is expedient in me for a bishop to be appointed u[n]to you or of you unto the Church in this part of the Lords viniard … and verily I say unto you my servant Knewel Whitney is the man which shall be appointed and ordained unto this power.”67 Thereafter, Partridge served as bishop in Zion, while Newel K. Whitney served as bishop in the other center of the Saints, Kirtland. In June 1833 two additional bishops were called to assist Partridge with the growing body in Missouri: “Concerning Bishops, we recommend the following: Let Brother Isaac Morley be ordained second Bishop in Zion, and let Brother John Corrill be ordained third.”68

With the disintegration of both centers of the church in the late 1830s and the subsequent regrouping of the Saints in Illinois, reorganization of the bishops became necessary. On 5 October 1840, Commerce (later renamed Nauvoo) was divided into three wards,69 with the two original bishops, Partridge and Whitney, serving the Upper and Middle Wards and newly called Vinson Knight over the Lower Ward. In addition, Alanson Ripley was called to serve as bishop on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River.70 One year later the Lima, Quincy, Mt. Hope, Freedom, Geneva, and Springfield stakes were organized, each with one bishop. In addition, William Allred and William Whiteman were called as bishops in Pleasant Vale and Ramus, both outside of organized stakes. Similarly, John M. Bernhisel was chosen bishop in New York City on 15 April 1841, although no stake existed there.71 Thus jurisdiction was quite different from that of [p.66]current Latter-day Saint bishops, for while their primary function is to preside over ecclesiastical wards, early bishops never presided over congregations.

When Partridge was called as the first bishop, no other office was specified as prerequisite to his calling. Shortly thereafter, the High Priesthood was introduced, and by the end of 1831 the office of high priest emerged. By the time Whitney was called to be the second bishop, it was necessary that he and all bishops be ordained high priests.72

An interesting theoretical exception to this rule was introduced by Smith in 1835. In preparing the collection of revelations for publication that year, he made significant additions to two previous texts regarding the office of bishop. A man could serve as bishop without being a high priest and without counselors if he could demonstrate that he was a literal descendant of Aaron (DC, 1835 III:8, 31-34; XXII:2). These passages remain enigmatic because they occurred without precedent, there was no indication of how one would document that he was a literal descendant of Aaron, and the provision was never implemented. An 1837 church newspaper article explained: “The Bishop was a high priest, and necessarily so, because he is to preside over that particular branch of church affairs that are denominated the lesser priesthood, and because we have no direct lineal descendant of Aaron to whom it would of right belong.”73

On 9 February 1831, only five days after Partridge was called as the first bishop, a revelation instructed the Saints to “consecrate all thy properties … and they shall be laid before the bishop of my church” (BC XLIV:26). The bishop, in turn, was to determine what each donor family needed and appoint back to them that amount. It was assumed that there would be a residue after these transactions, which the bishop would then use to support the poor, himself and his assistants, and “for the purpose of purchasing land and building up the New Jerusalem” (vv. 27-29, 54). The scope of activities to be financed in this manner [p.67]was broadened by a revelation that December which authorized use of these assets for subsidizing “the literary concerns of my church.”74

Because of the broad authority initially given the bishop, dissatisfaction occurred. In an attempt to develop a more equitable system, Smith wrote to Partridge in 1833:

The matter of consecration must be done by the mutual consent of both parties; for, to give the bishop power to say how much every man shall have, and he be obliged to comply with the bishop’s judgment, is giving to the bishop more power than a king has; and, upon the other hand, to let every man say how much he needs, and the bishop be obliged to comply with his judgment, is to throw Zion into confusion, and make a slave of the bishops. The fact is, there must be a balance or equilibrium of power, between the bishop and the people; and thus harmony and good will, be preserved among you.75

In spite of this attempt at reformation, the system of progressive redistribution soon failed and was replaced in 1838 by the regressive system of tithing, wherein all members paid a tenth of their “increase.”76 In spite of the change, the bishop continued to administer the assets.

Three weeks after Partridge was ordained, a revelation indicated the advisability of the bishop assisting elders in judging transgressors: “If any man shall commit adultery, he shall be tried before two elders of the church or more … And if it can be, it is necessary that the bishop is present also” (BC XLVII:5, 8, 23 Feb. 1831). Although this revelation made the role of the bishop secondary to that of the elders, a revelation the following month, which spoke of judging spiritual gifts, reversed the order of priority, placing bishop first: “And unto the bishop of the church, and unto such as God shall appoint and ordain to watch over the church, and to be elders unto the church, are to have it given unto them to discern all those gifts” (BC XLIX:23, Mar. 1831).

[p.68]A revelation five months later extended the judicial role, giving the bishop sole responsibility for judging church members:

And whoso standeth in this mission [the office of bishop], is appointed to be a judge in Israel, like as it was in ancient days, to divide the lands of the heritage of God unto his children; and to judge his people by the testimony of the just, and by the assistance of his counsellors, according to the laws of the kingdom which are given by the prophets of God (BC LIX:21, 1 Aug. 1831).

Although a revelation one month later added another layer of judicial authority in the form of “the court of the church before the President of the high Priesthood” to judge “the most difficult cases of the church,”77 the bishop remained a key judicial figure.

Much later, in 1835, a revelation stated: “The duty of the president over the priesthood of Aaron, is to preside over forty-eight priests, and sit in council with them, to teach them the duties of their office, as is given in the covenants. This president is to be a bishop; for this is one of the duties of this priesthood” (DC, 1835 III:40, 28 Mar. 1835).78 In spite of the apparent clarity of these instructions, this role was not consistently followed during Smith’s ministry. For example, Smith himself recorded in his diary the following year: “Bishop Whitney and his counselors then proceded to ordain Wm. Cowdery to the office whereunto he had been called, viz. to preside over the priests of the Aaronic priesthood in Kirtland.”79

A conference in Missouri the following year revisited the issue and “resolved unanimously that … the Bishop shall take charge of the Lesser Priesthood.”80 Nonetheless, the organization of the Lesser Priesthood in Nauvoo in 1841 failed to include a bishop in the prescribed presiding role: “The Lesser Priesthood was organized in the City of Nauvoo, March 21, 1841, by Bishops Whitney, Miller, Higbee, and Knight. Samuel Rolf was chosen president of the Priests’ quorum.”81


As with bishop, the office of deacon likely was introduced into the Restoration at the suggestion of Sidney Rigdon. It was not mentioned in the Book of Mormon or in any document prior to April 1831 but drew upon New Testament precedent (1 Tim. 3:8-13). Although it is mentioned in Section 20 of the current LDS Doctrine and Covenants, which carries a date of April 1830, several lines of evidence show that it was a later addition whose retroactive insertion was never commented on by the redactor. The earliest version of this revelation, addressed to Oliver Cowdery in 1829, mentions teachers, priests, and elders but not deacons.82 In the later versions, the mention of deacons is awkward and not parallel with the other offices. For instance, the offices of teacher, priest, and elder are juxtaposed to a detailed job description, while that of a deacon appears to be an afterthought with no mention of unique duties: “[The teacher] is to be assisted always in all his duties by the deacons.”83 Furthermore, a phrase in the 1835 version of this revelation, “Each priest, teacher, or deacon, who is ordained by a priest” (DC, 1835 II:15), did not contain the word “deacon” in earlier versions,84 although the word is used in other verses, suggesting carelessness on the part of the redactor in inserting it retroactively in all appropriate verses. A revelation given in January 1831, which mentions in descending order the offices of the church, makes no mention of deacons: “I give unto you a commandment, that every man both elder, priest, teacher and also member, go to with his might … ” (BC XL:35, 2 Jan. 1831). The first record of deacons having been ordained was a general conference on 25 October 1831.85

The office of deacon remained enigmatic for the rest of Smith’s ministry, for it was never given unique functions, serving instead to help teachers. There were numerous instances in which the role of “teachers and deacons” was mentioned, but not a single reference to the role of deacons in the absence of teachers. That the office could have had significant (though not unique) function was indicated by the policy that “the Teachers and Deacons are the standing ministers [p.70]of the Church,”86 yet there is only one known reference of a deacon, rather than a teacher, presiding over a branch of the church,87 and no record of significant group activity by deacons’ quorums. The function generally associated today with Latter-day Saint deacons, distributing the bread and water of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, was never mentioned during Smith’s lifetime.

High Priest

The office of high priest is unique, for it is the only office mentioned in the Book of Mormon not incorporated in the church at its inception. Within the “pre-Christian” portion of the Book of Mormon high priest was an important and benevolent figure: “And now, Alma was their high priest, he being the founder of their church. And it came to pass that none received authority to preach or to teach except it were by him, from God. Therefore he consecrated all their priests and all their teachers; and none were consecrated except they were just men” (BM, LDS, Mosiah 23:16-17).

In the Christian portion of the Book of Mormon, the office of high priest had degenerated to the point where its holders became antagonists of those who spoke of Christ: “Now there were many of the people who were exceeding angry because of those who testified of these things; and those who were angry were chiefly the chief judges, and they who had been high priests and lawyers” (BM, LDS, 3 Ne. 6:21).

Whether Joseph Smith’s initial failure to ordain high priests was due to this passage, or to a desire to emulate the organization described in the Christian portion of the book, is not clear. What is clear, however, is that one of Smith’s closest associates credited Sidney Rigdon with successfully proposing to Smith that high priests be added in 1831:

As you know, the teachings of Christ are the same at Jerusalem and upon this land; but on account of the plain and precious things being taken from the Bible, there is room therein for disputation on [p.71]some points; but the teachings of Christ in the Book of Mormon are pure, plain, simple, and full. Christ chose “twelve” and called them disciples, or Elders,—not apostles, and the “twelve” ordained elders, priests, and teachers. These are all the spiritual offices in the Church of Christ, and their duties are plainly given… .

But they did not rely upon the Book of Mormon in building up the church; but Joseph “went on in the persuasion of men,” as he did while translating, and heeded Rigdon who expounded the old scriptures to him and showed him that high priests and other offices should be added to “elders, priests and teachers.”88

While Smith’s and Rigdon’s silence on the subject disallows verification of David Whitmer’s assertions, they are consistent with the historical record, for there was no known mention of high priests prior to Rigdon’s arrival in New York, and the first Restoration document mentioning the office was Smith’s revision of Genesis written late in the winter of 1830-31, for which Rigdon served as scribe. That document, based on Genesis, Chapter 14, placed the office of high priest in a positive light, one consistent with the developing theology of endowment:

Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; …

And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch …

For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed, with an oath by himself; [said] that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the sea, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;

To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will …

And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order (Joseph Smith Translation, Gen. 14:26-33).

Ordination to the High Priesthood was a prerequisite to the promised endowment of “power from on high,” which first occurred in June 1831. Those ordained to the High Priesthood were still considered elders.89 However, by October these men began to use the [p.72]title High Priest.90 A revelation the following month established the priority of the office of high priest over all other offices:

Then cometh the High Priesthood which is the greatest of all wherefore it must needs be that one be appointed of the high Priesthood to preside over the Priesthood, and he shall be called President of the high priesthood of the Church, or in other words the presiding high Priest over the high priesthood of the Church [and] from the same cometh the administering of ordinances and blessings upon the church by the laying on of the hands wherefore the office of a Bishop is not equal unto it.91

Whereas prior to this time bishop was the highest judicial officer in the church, high priest now filled that role:

And again verily I say unto you the most important business of the church and the most difficult cases of the church inasmuch as there is not satisfaction upon the decision of the judges [i.e., bishops] it shall be handed over and carried up unto the court of the church before the President of the high Priesthood and the President of the court of the high priesthood shall have power to call other high priests even twelve to assist as councellors and thus the president of the high priesthood and his councellors shall have power to decide upon testimony according to the laws of the church.92

The priority of the office of high priest was given further emphasis in an unpublished revelation in March 1832. Although addressed to Bishop Newel K. Whitney regarding the office of bishop, the revelation also affirmed the presiding function of the High Priesthood: “Unto the office of the presidency of the high Priesthood I have given authority to preside with the assistence of his councellors over all the concerns of the church.”93

The same month, in commenting on a passage from the Book of Revelation, Smith reemphasized the superiority of high priests:

[p.73]Q. What are we to understand by sealing the one hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel—twelve thousand out of every tribe?

A. We are to understand that those who are sealed are high priests, ordained unto the holy order of God, to administer the everlasting gospel (DC, LDS 77:11).

A revelation later the same year stated that “the office of elder and bishop are necessary appendages belonging unto the high priesthood” (DC, 1835 IV:5, 22/23 Sept. 1832). Similarly, when the first high council was organized in February 1834, it consisted solely of high priests (DC, 1835 V:1).

The most detailed statement came in a revelation in March 1835:

High priests, after the order of the Melchizedek priesthood, have a right to officiate in their own standing, under the direction of the presidency, in administering spiritual things, and also in the office of an elder, priest, (of the Levitical order,) teacher, deacon and member… .

As a high priest, of the Melchizedek priesthood, has authority to officiate in all the lesser offices, he may officiate in the office of bishop when no literal descendant of Aaron can be found …

And again, I give unto you Don C. Smith to be a president over a quorum of high priests;

Which ordinance is instituted for the purpose of qualifying those who shall be appointed standing presidents or servants over different stakes scattered abroad;

And they may travel also if they choose, but rather be ordained for standing presidents; this is the office of their calling, saith the Lord (DC, 1835 III:5, 8, 133-35).

No significant changes in the office of high priest occurred during the remainder of Joseph Smith’s ministry.


While the Book of Mormon and the New Testament served as models for previous offices, that of patriarch reached back to an Old Testament model wherein Jacob blessed his sons and grandsons shortly before his death (Gen. 49:1-28). In blessing his parents and siblings in December 1833, Joseph Smith blessed his father to hold the same title as Jacob and the other ancient patriarchs:

He shall be called a prince over his posterity; holding the keys of the patriarchal priesthood over the kingdom of God on earth, even of [p.74]the Latter Day Saints, and he shall sit in the general assembly of patriarchs, even in council with the Ancient of Days, when he shall sit and all the patriarchs with him, and shall enjoy his right and authority under the direction of the Ancient of Days. And blessed also is my mother, for she is a mother in Israel, and shall be a partaker with my father in all his patriarchal blessings.94

Although Joseph Smith, Sr., was ordained to the office of patriarch the same day, there is no evidence that he gave any patriarchal blessings for a full year thereafter. When he blessed his family in December 1834, he appeared to acknowledge this when he said, “I desire, and for a long time have, to bless my children before I go hence.”95 Joseph Young, father of Brigham Young, who was ordained a patriarch several months after Joseph Smith, Sr., blessed his own family prior to Smith.96

Although a revelation in March 1835 stated that the office was intended to pass from father to son (DC, 1835 III:17-18), only in the case of the Smith family did this occur. Other patriarchs, starting with Isaac Morley in 1837,97 served without regard to lineage and did not automatically pass the office to a son. Instead, as noted by the Church Historian at the time, the office generally went to an old man: “It also was a rule in the church to have one in each stake (most generally the oldest, if suitable) appointed and ordained a patriarch, whose duty it was to be a sort of father to the church, and bless such children as had no natural father to bless them.”98

For all patriarchs except Joseph Smith, Sr., and his lineal successors, the sole duty of the office was to give blessings to church members. In addition, the Smiths served as “Presiding Patriarchs,” and as such bore other responsibilities. For instance, an account of the regular meetings being held in the Kirtland House of the Lord stated: “On Thursday P.M. a prayer meeting is held in the lower part of the house where [p.75]any and all persons may assemble and pray and praise the Lord. This meeting, though free for all, is conducted more particularly by J. Smith senior, the patriarch of the church.”99

By the time Hyrum Smith succeeded his father as Presiding Patriarch, the theology of sealing had undergone significant development, part of which was assigned by revelation to that office:

And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant William be appointed, ordained, and anointed, as counselor unto my servant Joseph, in the room of my servant Hyrum, that my servant Hyrum may take the office of Priesthood and Patriarch, which was appointed unto him by his father, by blessing and also by right;

That from henceforth he shall hold the keys of the patriarchal blessings upon the heads of all my people,

That whoever he blesses shall be blessed, and whoever he curses shall be cursed; that whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

And from this time forth I appoint unto him that he may be a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church, as well as my servant Joseph;

That he may act in concert also with my servant Joseph; and that he shall receive counsel from my servant Joseph, who shall show unto him the keys whereby he may ask and receive, and be crowned with the same blessing, and glory, and honor, and priesthood, and gifts of the priesthood, that once were put upon him that was my servant Oliver Cowdery; …

First, I give unto you Hyrum Smith to be a patriarch unto you, to hold the sealing blessings of my church, even the Holy Spirit of promise, whereby ye are sealed up unto the day of redemption, that ye may not fall notwithstanding the hour of temptation that may come upon you (DC, LDS 124:91-95, 124).

At Hyrum’s death this function ceased to be part of the office.


On 8 February 1835 Joseph Smith related to Brigham and Joseph Young a vision he had experienced regarding the fate of the men who had died during the Zion’s Camp expedition. It appears that the vision included details regarding the final two governing bodies of the Restoration, the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and the First Quorum [p.76]of Seventies. Joseph Young later described the manner in which the latter group was introduced: “He [Smith] then turned to Elder Joseph Young with quite an earnestness, as though the vision of his mind was extended still further, and addressing him, said: `Brother Joseph, the Lord has made you President of the Seventies.'”100

Three weeks later the First Quorum of Seventy was organized, and Smith gave this explanation of the role Zion’s Camp had played:

Brethren, some of you are angry with me, because you did not fight in Missouri; but let me tell you, God did not want you to fight. He could not organize his kingdom with twelve men to open the gospel door to the nations of the earth, and with seventy men under their direction to follow in their tracks, unless he took them from a body of men who had offered their lives, and who had made as great a sacrifice as did Abraham.

Now, the Lord has got his Twelve and his Seventy, and there will be other quorums of Seventies called, who will make the sacrifice, and those who have not made their sacrifices and their offerings now, will make them hereafter.101

Although the primary function assigned to the seventies, “to constitute traveling quorums, to go into all the earth,”102 appeared straightforward, both the nature of the office and its actual functions remained enigmatic not only during Smith’s ministry but for over a century thereafter. From the outset the nature of the office of seventy was ambiguous, as indicated by an account of the ordination of Joseph Young on 28 February 1835: “Prior to his [Young’s] ordination the Prophet instructed his counselor, Sidney Rigdon, to confer upon him all the Priesthood, powers, blessings, keys and authority that they themselves possessed, which was strictly observed.”103

Since Smith was an apostle, president of the High Priesthood, and president of the church, and Rigdon was a high priest and member of the First Presidency, one cannot infer exactly what Smith had in mind in instructing Rigdon. Indeed, discussions in the decades following Smith’s death which debated whether a seventy was also an apostle are consistent with this initial ambiguity.

[p.77]Adding to the uncertainty was a revelation one month later which simultaneously placed the seventy “under the direction of the twelve,” yet stated that “they form a quorum equal in authority to that of the twelve especial witnesses or apostles” (DC, 1835 III:11, 13, 28 Mar. 1835). Similarly confusing was the contrast between a statement by Smith in May 1835 that more seventies could be called, “even until there shall be one hundred & forty and four thousand,”104 an apparent reference to the 144,000 spoken of in the Book of Revelation which an 1832 revelation had proclaimed to be high priests (DC, LDS 77:11), and an 1837 statement by Smith that “the seventies are to be taken from the quorum of elders and are not to be high priests.”105 In fact, a second account of the same meeting recorded that “it was decided by Joseph Smith that the Seventies were not High Priests, as they had been previously taught.”106

Although the latter statement would appear to have clarified the issue, the same dispute arose again in a general conference in 1840:

A letter was read from presidents of the seventies, wishing for an explanation of the steps, which the high council had taken, in removing Elder F. G. Bishop, from the quorum of the sev[en]ties, to that of the High Priest, without any other ordination than he had when in the seventies, and wished to know, whither, those ordained into the seventies at the same time F. G. Bishop was, had a right to the High Priesthood, or not. After observations on the case by different individuals, the president gave a statement of the authority of the seventies, and stated that they were Elders and not High Priests, and consequently brother F. G. Bishop had no claim to that office. It was then unanimously resolved that Elder F. G. Bishop be placed back again into the Quorum of the seventies.107

Given the persistent controversy over the nature of the office, and the fact that no more definitive guidance was given by Smith prior to his [p.78]death, it is perhaps not surprising that the office of seventy remained problematic for more than a century thereafter.

In establishing the office, Smith stated what would remain the ideal of their function: “to go into all the earth, whithersoever the Twelve Apostles shall call them.”108 This was endorsed by revelation the following month: “The seventy are also called to preach the gospel, and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles and in all the world. Thus differing from all other officers in the church in the duties of their calling” (DC, 1835 III:11).

By the end of 1838, however, the expectation had not been fulfilled, leading several apostles to stress “the necessity of their going immediately into the vineyard of the Lord to labor therein in righteousness for him.”109 The same apostles again called on the seventies the following week “to go on their mission as soon as their circumstances would admit,”110 yet despite the pleas, and even the added impetus of an 1841 revelation mandating that the seventies were “to travel continually” (DC, LDS 124:140, 19 Jan. 1841), no consistent record of missionary labor was established by the seventies during Smith’s lifetime. In fact, the most significant example of group activity by the seventies, the successful organizing and moving of the Saints from Ohio to Missouri in 1838,111 had nothing to do with their scriptural mandate.


1. Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984), 4. Although the Book of Mormon made it clear that priests were authorized to baptize, it implies that teachers could perform the same ordinance (Alma 15:13, in The Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981], hereafter cited in the text as BM, LDS).

2. Cowdery in Messenger and Advocate 1 (Oct. 1834): 15-16.

3. Cowdery in, “Patriarchal Blessing Book,” Vol. 1, Sept. 1835, archives, Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah (hereafter LDS archives).

4. Smith, in Times and Seasons 3 (1 Aug. 1842): 865-66.

5. David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, MO: the Author, 1887), 32.

6. For example, in 1836 Thomas Grover, Noah Packard, Joseph Kingsbury, and Samuel James were all “ordained” high councilors in Kirtland (“Kirtland Council Minutes,” 13 Jan. 1836, LDS archives). Similarly, in 1841 James Allred and Leonard Soby were “ordained … to the office of High Councellors of Nauvoo” (“Nauvoo High Council Minutes,” 6 Apr. 1841, LDS archives).

7. “We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, viz., apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc.”

8. “Minutes of a Special Conference of the Authorities of the European Missions,” 21 July 1856, in Millennial Star 18 (30 Aug. 1856): 545-46.

9. “Duties of Pastors and Presidents,” Millennial Star 19 (8 Aug. 1857): 504-505.

10. George Q. Cannon, in Millennial Star 23 (12 Jan. 1861): 24-25.

11. See Doctrine and Covenants of The Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God (Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams & Co., 1835): V; hereafter cited in the text as DC, 1835.

12. “The Articles of the Church,” in Robert J. Woodford, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants,” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1974, 288.

13. “The Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ,” Painesville Telegraph, 19 Apr. 1831.

14. The 1835 revision of this revelation further restricted teachers and deacons by forbidding them to “lay on hands” (DC, 1835 II:11).

15. “The Articles of the Church,” in Woodford.

16. Lucy Mack Smith Manuscript, 131, LDS archives.

17. The activities of teachers are chronicled in “Teacher’s Quorum Minutebook, Dec., 1834-Dec., 1845,” LDS archives.

18. Messenger and Advocate 1 (June 1835): 138.

19. John Corrill, Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints … (St. Louis: Printed for the Author, 1839), chap. 13.

20. Donald Q. Cannon and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., Far West Record: Minutes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1930-1844 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983), 199, 6 July 1838.

21. Although this role is foreign to Latter-day Saints today, it must be recalled that bishops did not preside over congregations until the Utah period of LDS history.

22. Corrill, chap. 13.

23. Far West Record, 142-43, 24 Feb. 1838.

24. “The Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ,” Painesville Telegraph, 19 Apr. 1831.

25. Ibid. Prior to this, only elders/apostles could ordain other officers. While no explanation was given for the change, the expansion of the early church likely made it advisable to decentralize this function.

26. Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983), 2:278-80, 26 Aug. 1843.

27. Wilford Woodruff, for example, served his first mission as a priest.

28. “Questions asked of David Whitmer at his home in Richmond Ray County Mo. Jan 14—1885. relating to Book of Mormon, and the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS by Elder Z H. Gurley,” LDS archives.

29. Painesville Telegraph, 19 Apr. 1831.

30. Although there were “apostles” in the Restoration by 1830, the separate office of apostle was not introduced until 1835.

31. A Book of Commandments, for the Government of the Church of Christ, Organized According to Law, on the 6th of April, 1830 (Independence, MO: W. W. Phelps & Co., 1833), XLVII:5, Feb. 1831; hereafter cited in the text as BC.

32. W. W. Phelps to John M. Burk, 1 June 1835, in Journal History, 1 June 1835, LDS archives (emphasis in original). See also Whitmer, chap. 16.

33. One early example involved the 1834 designation of the “first elders” to receive an endowment in the Kirtland House of the Lord, all of whom had previously been ordained high priests (Far West Record, 68-69, 23 June 1834).

34. The same revelation implied that Oliver Cowdery was already (1829) an apostle: “I speak unto you, even as unto Paul mine apostle, for you are called even with that same calling with which he was called” (BC XV:11).

35. Mariella Marks, ed., Memoirs of the Life of David Marks, Minister of the Gospel (Dove, NH: Free-Will Baptist Printing Establishment, 1846), 236-37. The first edition was published in 1831.

36. A photograph of the license is in Library-Archives, The Auditorium, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Independence, Missouri (hereafter RLDS Library-Archives).

37. Painesville Telegraph, 19 Apr. 1831.

38. William E. McLellin to Joseph Smith III, July 1872, RLDS Library-Archives.

39. The Cleveland Herald, 25 Nov. 1830. This article was reprinted in at least two other Ohio newspapers, the Ashtabula Journal (4 Dec. 1830) and the Western Reserve Chronicle (9 Dec. 1830).

40. Ezra Booth to Rev. I. Eddy, 21 Nov. 1831, in Painesville Telegraph, 6 Dec. 1831.

41. Orson F. Whitney, “Aaronic Priesthood,” The Contributor 6 (Oct. 1884): 5.

42. “Kirtland Revelation Book,” 25, revelation dated 22/23 Sept. 1832, LDS archives; also DC, 1835 IV:10.

43. Zebedee Coltrin diary, Jan. 1833, LDS archives.

44. “Kirtland Revelation Book,” 59, revelation dated 1 June 1833; also DC, 1835 XCV:1.

45. Joseph Young, Sr., History of the Organization of the Seventies (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Steam Printing Establishment, 1878), 1.

46. B. H. Roberts, ed., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1971), 2:186 (hereafter cited as HC).

47. Heber C. Kimball diary, in Stanley B. Kimball, ed., On the Potter’s Wheel: The Diaries of Heber C. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1987), 207.

48. “Kirtland Council Minutes,” 21 Feb. 1835. Compare Smith’s admonition at the opening of the School of the Prophets in 1833.

49. William E. McLellin to Joseph Smith III, July 1872, RLDS Library-Archives.

50. HC, 2:186.

51. “Kirtland Council Minutes,” 21 Feb. 1835.

52. Ibid.,1835.

53. See James B. Allen, Ronald K. Esplin, and David J. Whittaker, Men With a Mission: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles, 1837-1841 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992).

54. “Kirtland Council Minutes,” 27 Feb. 1835.

55. Ibid., 2 May 1835.

56. Scott H. Faulring, ed., An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1987), 110, 16 Jan. 1836.

57. HC, 4:403.

58. Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 2:455, 25 Aug. 1844.

59. John Taylor, “Trial of Sidney Rigdon,” 8 Sept. 1844, in Times and Seasons 5 (1 Oct. 1844): 661.

60. Alexander Campbell, “The Christian Religion,” Christian Baptist, 3 Aug. 1823.

61. Walter Scott, “Primitive and Modern Christianity,” Christian Baptist, 6 Sept. 1824.

62. See Christian Baptist, 2 June 1828; and “Minutes of the Mahoning Baptist Convention” for 1828 and 1829, The Disciples of Christ Historical Society, Nashville, Tennessee.

63. This occurred on 4 February 1831. A copy of Partridge’s license was published in The Contributor 6 (Oct. 1884): 5-6.

64. “Kirtland Revelation Book,” 93-94; also BC XLIII:11-12.

65. Far West Record, 7, 3 June 1831.

66. Evening and Morning Star, Oct. 1832; revelation dated Nov. 1831. A revised version of this revelation, containing substantial additions regarding the office of bishop, was published in DC, 1835 XXII.

67. “Kirtland Revelation Book,” 13; revelation dated 4 Dec. 1831. Also DC, 1835 LXXXIX:1-2.

68. Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams (Kirtland) to W. W. Phelps “and others in Zion,” 2 July 1833, in Times and Seasons 6 (15 Feb. 1845): 801.

69. Wards initially served as political units, as in eastern cities. It was not until the migration to Utah that the ward became an ecclesiastical unit whose leader was the bishop.

70. Orson F. Whitney, “The Aaronic Priesthood,” The Contributor 6 (Aug. 1885): 404.

71. Ibid. Other subdivisions of Nauvoo wards occurred on 1 March 1842 and 20 August 1842. In each case, one bishop was called to serve in each new ward (HC, 5:119-20).

72. Evening and Morning Star, Oct. 1832; revelation of Nov. 1831. See also DC, 1835 XXII:2.

73. Warren Cowdery (ed.), Messenger and Advocate 3 (Apr. 1837): 486-87.

74. “Kirtland Revelation Book,” 15, revelation of 4 Dec. 1831; also DC, 1835 LXXXIX:4.

75. Letter of 2 July 1833, in Times and Seasons 6 (15 Feb. 1845): 801.

76. Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981), 119:1-3 (hereafter cited in the text as DC, LDS).

77. “Kirtland Revelation Book,” 85, revelation dated Nov. 1831. This revelation later became part of DC, 1835 III.

78. The first part of this verse dates to 1831, but that describing the role of the Bishop was added in 1835.

79. Joseph Smith Diary, 106, 15 Jan. 1836.

80. Far West Record, 117, 1 Aug. 1837.

81. HC, 4:312.

82. “Articles of the Church,” in Woodford.

83. Painesville Telegraph, 19 Apr. 1831; also BC XXIV:40.

84. Painesville Telegraph, 19 Apr. 1831; Evening and Morning Star 1 (June 1832): 1-2; BC XXIV:44.

85. Far West Record, 19, 25 Oct. 1831.

86. Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, W. W. Phelps, and John Whitmer (Kirtland) to John M. Burk (Liberty, Missouri), 1 June 1835, in Journal History, 1 June 1835.

87. “[B]rother Caswell Medlock was ordained A Deacon over the Egle Creek branch” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1:33, 28 June 1835).

88. David Whitmer to Joseph Smith III, Saints’ Herald 34 (1887): 92-93, emphasis in original.

89. Similarly, Roman Catholic priests who are of a religious order such as the Society of Jesus are still priests.

90. Luke S. Johnson diary, in Journal History, 25 Oct. 1831.

91. “Kirtland Revelation Book,” 84-85; revelation dated Nov. 1831. This revelation was later incorporated into DC, 1835 III.

92. Ibid., 85.

93. Unpublished revelation dated Mar. 1832, Newel K. Whitney papers, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

94. “Patriarchal Blessings Book,” Vol. 1, 18 Dec. 1833, LDS archives.

95. Oliver Cowdery minutes of the Smith family patriarchal blessing meeting, 9 Dec. 1834, typescript, Irene Bates Collection, RLDS Library-Archives.

96. Brigham Young discourse, 30 June 1873, Deseret Weekly News 22 (23 July 1873), 25:388. There is no evidence that Father Young gave blessings to anyone other than his own family.

97. Elder’s Journal 1 (Nov. 1837): 30.

98. Corrill, chap. 27.

99. Messenger and Advocate 3 (Jan. 1837): 444.

100. Joseph Young, Sr., History of the Organization of the Seventies (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Steam Printing Establishment, 1878), 1-2.

101. Ibid., 14.

102. HC, 2:201-202.

103. “Seventies Minute Book #1,” 281, LDS archives.

104. “Kirtland Council Minutes,” 2 May 1835.

105. Messenger and Advocate 3 (Apr. 1837): 486-87.

106. “Seventies Record,” A 17, in Journal History, 6 Apr. 1837. Attempting to resolve the issue, Smith thereupon released six of the seven presidents of the First Quorum of Seventy who were found to have been high priests prior to their calling to the seventies.

107. Conference minutes of the general conference in Nauvoo, 6 Apr. 1840, in Times and Seasons 1 (Apr. 1840): 92.

108. HC, 2:201-202.

109. “Seventies Record,” A 53, in Journal History, 28 Dec. 1838.

110. “Seventies Record,” A 57, in Journal History, 5 Jan. 1839.

111. HC, 3:87.