Power from on High
by Gregory A. Prince

Chapter 6.
Ordinances: The Second Anointing

[p.187]When the elders at the Kirtland solemn assembly were washed and anointed in March 1836, Joseph Smith stated that the church organization was complete and that the elders “had passed through all the necessary ceremonies.”1 In spite of this assurance, the vision of Elijah four days later signalled further developments in Latter-day Saint doctrine and ordinances. Elijah delivered “the keys of this dispensation,”2 the importance of which was not fully clarified for another four years when Smith explained that there would yet be other ordinances introduced into the church through the auspices of Elijah, including animal sacrifice.3 Although animals were never incorporated into church rituals, other ordinances were introduced. Three months later a revelation concerning the Nauvoo temple used for the first time a term which became synonymous with the ordinance of “second anointing,” namely the “fulness of the priesthood”:

There is not place found on earth that he may come and restore [p.188]again that which was lost unto you, or, which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood …

And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people; for I design to reveal unto my church, things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world.4

This concept was soon in the public consciousness, as indicated by a letter written the same year and published in the church newspaper: “In the Temple built by divine command, I am informed we are to have made known to us the fulness of the priesthood.”5

Patriarchal blessings given during the following weeks confirmed this expectation. The blessing of James Twist (11 February 1842) promised him “the Priesthood after the Order of Melchesidec with all its glory and fullness.” His wife’s blessings contained no such promise. Similarly, the blessing of Heber C. Kimball (9 March 1842) promised him the priesthood “with a fulness,” but that of his wife, given the same day, said nothing about such a promise. The fact that the ordinance when given a year and a half later involved both men and women suggests that the form continued to develop in Smith’s mind prior to its initiation. An article later the same year emphasized the importance of the fulness of the priesthood but added no details: “Now brethren, if so great and glorious have been the blessings realized in so early a stage of the work[,] what may we expect when the building is completed, and a house prepared where the Most High can come and restore that which has been taken away in consequence of transgression; even the FULNESS of the priesthood.”6

On 16 July 1843 Smith indicated a link between the marriage relationship and fulness of the priesthood: “[Smith] showed that a man must enter into an everlasting covenant with his wife in this world or he will have no claim on her in the next. He said that he could not reveal the fulness of these things untill the Temple is completed &c.”7 [p.189]The following week Smith gave for the first time details of the ordinance: “Here we learn in a priesthood after the order of Melchisedeck—Prophet priest & king. & I will advance from prophet to priest & then to King[,] not to the kingdoms of this earth but of the most high god.”8

Two weeks later, in an apparent reference to this statement, Brigham Young clarified the relationship between fulness of the priesthood and the titles of king and priest, with the latter serving to enable the former:

For any person to have the fulness of [the Melchizedek] Priesthood [he] must be a king & a Priest. A person may have a portion of that Priesthood the same as Governors or Judges of England have power from the King to transact business but yet he is not the king of England. A person may be anointed king & priest before they receives their kingdom.9

While fulness of the priesthood up to this time had been portrayed as a special order in the Melchizedek Priesthood, a discourse by Smith later in August took a different thrust by stating that there were three priesthoods, not two, and that what had previously been called Melchizedek Priesthood was now Patriarchal Priesthood. The fulness of priesthood—which, he indicated, had not yet been experienced in the church—was now called Melchizedek Priesthood.10

One month later, shortly after Emma Smith became the first female to be given the endowment, Joseph and Emma became the first recipients of the fulness of the priesthood, or second anointing. The account in Smith’s diary is cryptic: “Baurak Ale [Joseph Smith] was by common consent, & unanimous voice chosen president of the quorum. & anointed & ord[ained] to the highest and holiest order of the priesthood (& companion).”11 That this anointing included the title of [p.190]”king” was confirmed by William Clayton.12 A later account, written by Wilford Woodruff, clarified the diary entry: “Joseph Smith led in prayer he prayed that his days might be lengthened & ha[ve] dominion over his Enemies, and all their Households be blessed … Then by common consent Joseph Smith the Prophet Received his second Anointing of the Highest & Holiest order.”13 Second anointings were conferred throughout the autumn and winter,14 usually involved ranking church officers, and, with a single known exception,15 were given to husband and wife simultaneously.

On 10 March 1844 Smith delivered a discourse on the subject of Elijah in which he gave his most complete explanation of the second anointing. He said, “The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that he have power to hold the keys of the revelations, ordinances, oricles, powers and endowments of the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood.”16 The function of the ordinance was to assure salvation: “The [p.191]power of Elijah is sufficient to make our Calling & Election sure, & the same doctrin whare we are exhorted to go on to perfection.”17 Another account of the discourse employed the term “sealed up unto eternal life,”18 which had been used in similar contexts since 1831. Other ordinances considered essential for exaltation19 were generally held to be conditional—that is, the ordinance enabled exaltation, but the subsequent righteousness of the recipient secured it. By contrast, the second anointing guaranteed one’s exaltation, and thus may be viewed as the crowning ordinance of Smith’s ministry.20



1. 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), 153-

2. Joseph Smith Diary, 157-58, 3 Apr. 1836; see also Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981), sec. 110 (hereafter cited in the text as DC, LDS).

3. Joseph Smith discourse, 5 Oct. 1840, in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Words of Joseph Smith (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980), 43.

4. Revelation of 19 Jan. 1841, in Times and Seasons 2 (1 June 1841): 425-27; see also DC, LDS, 124.

5. Joseph Fielding to Br. Robinson, 28 Dec. 1841, Times and Seasons 3 (1 Jan. 1842): 648-49.

6. “The Temple of God in Nauvoo,” 28 Oct. 1842, in Times and Seasons 4 (15 Nov. 1842): 10-11.

7. George D. Smith, ed., An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1991), 110-11, 16 July 1843.

8. Joseph Smith Diary, 398-400, 23 July 1843.

9. Brigham Young Manuscript History, 6 Aug. 1843; see also Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983), 2:271-72, 6 Aug. 1843.

10. Discourse of 27 Aug. 1843. Five accounts of this discourse were published in Ehat and Cook.

11. Joseph Smith Diary, 416, 28 Sept. 1843.

12. William Clayton Journal, 122, 19 Oct. 1843.

13. “Historian’s Private Journal,” 1858, typescript, 24, archives, Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah (hereafter LDS archives).

14. Second anointings during this period were recorded in the diaries of Joseph Smith, William Clayton, Wilford Woodruff, and Heber C. Kimball.

15. The exception was Apostle Parley P. Pratt. Wilford Woodruff wrote in his diary for 21 January 1844: “P. P. P. received his 2d Anointing. Joseph [Smith] said Concerning Parley P. Pratt that He had no wife sealed to him for Eternity as He would want a wife in the Resurrection or els his glory would be Cliped. Many arguments He used upon this subject which ware rational & consistant. Br. Joseph said now what will we do with Elder P. P. Pratt. He has no wife sealed to him for Eternity. He has one living wife but she had a former Husband and did not wish to be s[e]aled to Parly, for Eternity” (Wilford Woodruff Journal, 2:340). Although an exception was made in the case of Pratt, perhaps because of his membership in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, the implication was that the exception was temporary. Indeed, Woodruff’s biographer Matthias F. Cowley explained that Pratt “had been instructed by the Prophet that it was his duty to have his wife sealed to him for eternity in order that his glory might be full” (Matthias F. Cowley, Wilford Woodruff—History of His Life and Labors [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1909], 197-98).

16. Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 2:359-66, 10 Mar. 1844.

17. Ibid.

18. James Burgess account, in Ehat and Cook, 333-34.

19. The term “exaltation” generally refers to the post-mortal attainment of the highest possible level of immortal existence, defined as the highest degree in the Celestial Kingdom.

20. Two uncommon sins, the shedding of innocent blood and “sin against the Holy Ghost,” could negate the second anointing (see the Burgess account of the discourse, in Ehat and Cook).