Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism
by Dan Vogel

Chapter 6
The Church

[p.129]A sense of what the restored Christian church would be like was closely related to the kind of power and authority thought necessary to found such a church. As Mormons built their temple in Kirtland to embody physically a developing sense of priesthood and hierarchy, with tiered pulpits for the holders of priesthood authority, they also articulated the way in which their developing priesthood structure recapitulated the organization which Jesus was thought to have established for his church. “Their avowed object is to restore christianity to its primeval purity,” wrote Presbyterian minister Truman Cue of Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836. “After the example of our Savior they have recently ordained and commissioned twelve apostles and seventy elders, to go throughout this heathen country and to give a final call to repent and be baptised and believe in Mormonism before the wicked are cut off.”1

Four years later, in 1840, John Taylor, a Mormon apostle, published a pamphlet singing the virtues of the Mormon hierarchy and assailing Methodism for its unscriptural offices. Mormonism, Taylor asserted, was built up according to the New Testament order of church government: apostles, prophets, teachers, gifts of healing, and “diversities of tongues” (1 Cor. 12:28). “Methodism,” according to Taylor, “has placed in the church, first, a president of conference; secondly, presidents of districts; thirdly, superintendant preachers; afterwards, itinerant and local preachers, class leaders, tract distributors, missionary collectors, &c., &c.”2

When we look at the sectarians, Apostle Parley P. Pratt said in 1837, “instead of apostles and prophets, we . . . see false teachers.”3 Pratt’s brother Orson made a similar observation. “Instead of having apostles, prophets, and other inspired men in [p.130]the church now, receiving visions, dreams, revelations, ministrations of angels, and prophecies for the calling of officers, and for the government of the Church, they have a wicked, corrupt, uninspired pope, or uninspired archbishops, bishops, clergymen, etc., who have a great variety of corrupt forms of Godliness, but utterly deny the gift of revelation, and every other miraculous power which always characterized Christ’s Church.”4

Such Mormon claims to an inspired apostleship resonated for many Seekers. Although both Primitivists and Seekers believed in the “restoration of the ancient order of things,” their conceptions of the restored church differed. Both followed the example of the cautious inquirers of the city of Berea, mentioned in Acts 17:10-12, who searched the Bible to test the message brought by Paul and Silas.5 But their biblical searches brought them to different conclusions, even though contemporary thinking about the nature of Jesus’ church necessarily influenced both Seekers and Primitivists, as well as Mormons.

The Puritan notion of the visible and invisible church, for example, can be seen as the implicit conceptual framework for Seekers and other Primitivists looking forward to a church like the one Jesus established. Early Mormon notions about the nature of the Christian church can also be illuminated against the backdrop of this concept. The Puritan concept, derived from the teaching of fourth century theologian St. Augustine, involved the idea of two churches: one earthly, the other heavenly. The heavenly church was pure but invisible. It included everyone—living, dead, and those yet to be born—whom God had predestined for salvation. The earthly church was visible but not entirely pure; it included all living persons who professed to believe in Jesus, but of course not all such persons would necessarily be saved.6

The Puritan goal was to form congregations consisting of only God’s elect, those who had predestined membership in the heavenly church. Consequently, the quest for a pure church led Puritans to adopt strict church discipline, including the Lesser Ban (“fencing the table,” or permitting only those in good standing to take communion) and the Greater Ban (excommunication or expulsion). In addition, the Puritans in New England developed a test of faith which required anyone desiring membership in the Congregational church to receive instruction from the elders, to make a confession of faith, and to submit to an examination for “saving faith” before the elders and the congregation. If the candidate could show evidence of the work of grace in his life, [p.131]then he could become a member by covenant, a “visible saint.”7 Thus, when an individual sinned or transgressed, he not only violated God’s law but also broke the solemn covenant which he made with God before his church.

Puritans objected to the Anglican practice of open communion, believing it had brought God’s displeasure upon them. The Apostle Paul’s instructions to “let a man examine himself” before partaking of the emblems of Christ’s blood and body (1 Cor. 11:28) was transferred to examination by church authorities. The Puritans of New England practiced closed communion until the Half Way Covenant of 1662.8 John Higginson was one Puritan who regretted the decreased piety. He wrote in 1663, “Our Fathers fled into this Wilderness from the face of a Lording Episcopacie, and humane injunctions in the Worship of God: now if any of us their children should . . . admit ignorant and Scandalous Persons to the Lord’s Table, This would be a backsliding indeed.”9 However, if the crime were vile enough or the sinner unrepentant, they could be excommunicated and banished from the colony. They were, as Jonathan Edwards said, “cast out” and “delivered up to Satan.”10

Despite their exclusivity, Puritans of New England did not claim to be the only true church. They saw themselves as a church within a church, as a pure branch of the Anglican tree. Other Puritans—Separatists or Independents—believed it was necessary to withdraw completely from all forms of spiritual Babylon in order to escape the predicted plagues. For preaching this extreme separatist position, Roger Williams was banished from the Puritan colony: he forbade people, when they traveled to England, to “heare the word of God preached by godly Ministers in the Parish Churches.”11

Seekers believed in the total loss of the visible church during the apostasy, but they allowed for the continuing existence of an invisible church. Thus, despite the total apostasy, Williams believed God had from time to time called and inspired men to witness against spiritual Babylon.12

While awaiting the return of the visible church, literalistic Seekers lived so as to be members of the invisible one. “The Kingdom of God is within you,” Williams declared,

and is the dominion of God in the conscience and spirit of the mind. . . . This kingdom of Christ is capable of subsisting and being managed inwardly in the minds of His people, [p.132]in hidden state concealed from the world. . . . Those that are in this Kingdom, and in whom the power of it is, are fitted to fly with the Church into the wilderness, and to continue in such a solitary, dispersed, desolate condition till God call them out of it. They have wells and springs opened to them in the wilderness, whence they draw the waters of salvation, without being in bondage to the life of sense.13

Spiritualistic Seekers, however, spiritualized even the visible church.14 Church membership, closed communion, and excommunication were not issues for them. Although they were sympathetic to the congregational concept of church government, which was democratic and self-contained in each parish, they believed that no churches could be properly organized until the restoration of the apostleship.15

Early Mormonism also seems to have distinguished between the visible and invisible church. In a revelation received probably some time in May 1829, God declared his intentions respecting the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the visible church.16 In the following passage from the revelation, the addition of “visible” and “invisible” in the appropriate places helps to illuminate what otherwise seems an obscure distinction:

I do not bring it [the Book of Mormon] to destroy that which they have received [the Bible], but to build it up. And for this cause have I said: If this generation harden not their hearts, I will establish my [visible] church among them. Now I do not say this to destroy my [invisible] church, but I say this to build up my [invisible] church. Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my [invisible] church need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. But it is they who do not fear me, neither keep my commandments but build up churches unto themselves to get gain, yea, and all those that do wickedly and build up the kingdom of the devil–yea, verily, verily, I say unto you, that it is they that I will disturb, and cause to tremble and shake to the center (D&C 10:52-56).

This revelation came in response to questions raised about a previous revelation given in March 1829 in which God promised, “if the people of this generation harden not their hearts, . . . I will establish my church, like unto the church which was taught by my disciples in the days of old” (BofC 4:5). But, God also promised, “if this generation do harden their hearts against my word, . . . the sword of justice hangeth over their heads, and . . . the time cometh that it must fall upon them” (v. 6). Apparently, some of Smith’s early followers were concerned about their fate [p.133]should the world reject the restoration of the church. Despite the corruption of the visible church, the revelation assures, those of the invisible church “need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven” (D&C 10:55). This theme is developed more clearly as section 10 elaborates on the Book of Mormon’s role in reestablishing the primitive gospel:

I will also bring to light my gospel which was ministered unto them [the Nephites], . . . that there may not be so much contention; yea, Satan doth stir up the hearts of the people to contention concerning the points of my doctrine; and in these things they do err, for they do wrest the scriptures and do not understand them. Therefore, I will unfold unto them this great mystery. . . . Behold this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my [invisible] church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church. And now, behold, whosoever is of my [invisible] church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them (D&C 10:62-64, 67-69).

Interpreting section 10 as referring to members of the invisible church resolves the difficulty associated with this passage, which was received about one year before the Church of Christ was organized but nevertheless speaks of the church in the present tense. Moreover, if the revelation did not refer to the invisible church, the emphatic statement that only a change of heart, or a spirit baptism, was necessary for membership, and that whoever taught “more or less than this” was “against” Jesus, directly contradicted the requirements given to the Nephites, which Smith translated from the plates about the same time (3 Ne. 11:32-41).

Those reading the Book of Mormon from a Seeker position could easily have interpreted the book as an endorsement of the idea that although the visible church was in the wilderness of apostasy, the invisible church, though few in number, remained. Describing the condition that would exist among the churches just prior to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, Nephi declares: “they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men” (2 Ne. 28:14).

[p.134]Nephi’s vision of the rise and fall of the “great and abominable church” also seems to rely on the distinction between a visible and an invisible church (1 Ne. 13-14). Although the wicked church persecuted the saints, it never completely destroyed them; some saints were murdered while others were tortured and brought “down into captivity” (1 Ne. 13:5). The Puritans, on the other hand, were “the saints of God” (implied by comparing 13:9 and 13:13) who were led by “the Spirit of God . . . out of captivity” (13:13). In the American wilderness they enjoyed the “power of God” and the “Spirit of the Lord” (13:15-19, 30), though they stumbled in doctrine because of the altered condition of the Bible (13:29). However, even though they were members of the invisible church, American Gentiles would perish if they rejected the restoration of the visible church. “Thou has beheld that if the Gentiles repent it shall be well with them,” the angel reminds Nephi. “Thou also knowest concerning the covenants of the Lord unto the house of Israel; and thou also hast heard that whoso repenteth not must perish. Therefore, wo be unto the Gentiles if it so be that they harden their hearts against the Lamb of God” (1 Ne. 14:5-6).

Subsequent revelations distinguished even more clearly the two churches. A vision, received on 16 February 1832, described the heavenly and earthly churches explicitly. Those who are saved are not only members of an earthly church, but, as the revelation explained, they are also members of “the church of the Firstborn . . . [and] have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn” (D&C 76:54, 67). In March 1835, another revelation explained that those holding the Melchizedek Priesthood “have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn” (D&C 107:19; cf. Heb. 12:22-24).

Early Mormons, like Seekers and Puritans, were initially sympathetic towards the congregational notion of governance. But as pressures caused Smith to emphasize order and stability, Mormons increasingly responded to an episcopal ideal of church discipline. Anthropologist Rex Eugene Cooper has noted that the methods Smith followed to organize a church “had close affinity to Congregationalist concepts of church government.” Cooper asserted that the organization of the church on 6 April 1830 was performed “according to commandment” of God and “consented [p.135][to] by unanimous vote,” and that “common consent” was “basic to the Mormon notion of Church government.” Cooper found that “during the earliest years of the Church’s existence there was considerable conflict over the issue of whether a man’s authority within the Church resulted from the collective will of the people over whom he had jurisdiction or from the priesthood power and keys which he possessed and which were ultimately traceable to divine ordinations.” As the idea of lineal descent of priesthood came to dominate Mormon thinking, “the Congregational-like procedure of sustaining ecclesiastical officers became essentially a formality.”17

The Mormon church also came to require a test of “saving faith” similar to Puritan practice. “The Articles and Covenants” of the newly founded church instructed:

Whosoever humbleth himself before God and desireth to be baptized, and comes forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnesseth unto the church, that they have truly repented of all their sins and are willing to take upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him unto the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, then shall they be received unto baptism into the church of Christ (BofC 24:30; cf. D&C 20:37).

The injunction to allow no one into church fellowship who had not “manifest[ed] by their works that they have received the spirit of Christ” placed a great deal of discretion in the hands of church leaders. For this reason, in July 1830 Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmer family objected to the above passage. According to Smith, Cowdery wrote in a letter, “I command you in the name of God to erase those words, that no priestcraft be amongst us!” However, Smith finally convinced them that “the sentence was reasonable, and according to Scripture.”18

Both Mormons and Puritans recognized baptism as a covenant. Alma, for example, asked people, “What have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?” (Mos. 18:10). Baptism in Mormonism came to be regarded as entering into “a new and an everlasting covenant” (D&C 22:1).

Mormon communion also echoed Puritan patterns. The words of Mormon prayers over the bread and wine endorsed Puritan [p.136]covenant-church theology, in that those who partake “witness” before God to “keep his commandments” (D&C 20:77, 79; cf. Moro. 4:3, 5:2). The early Mormon church also advocated closed communion. Jesus institutes the sacrament among the Nephites with this instruction:

This is the commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it; for whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him (3 Ne. 18:28-29).

When the Nephites later apostatize from the true gospel, Mormon writes that the churches “did receive all manner of wickedness, and did administer that which was sacred unto him to whom it had been forbidden because of unworthiness” (4 Ne. 1:27). Moroni speaks to his latter-day readers and advises them not to perform their religious duties unworthily. “See that ye are not baptized unworthily; see that ye partake not of the sacrament of Christ unworthily” (Morm. 9:29). J. J. Moss, a Campbellite who taught school in Kirtland, Ohio, described the early Mormon practice of closed communion. “They partook of the Lords supper at night with darkened windows & excluded from the room all but their own till they got through & then they opened the doors & called [in] the outsiders.”19

Excommunication was an important aspect of Mormon discipline as well. When Alma established a church in Zarahemla, he was troubled about what to do with “those who committed sin” (Mos. 26:6-12). As high priest of the church, Alma received a revelation which instructed him to excommunicate the unrepentant (26:13-32):

And it came to pass that Alma went and judged those that had been taken in iniquity, according to the word of the Lord. And whosoever repented of their sins and did confess them, them he did number among the people of the church; and those that would not confess their sins and repent of their iniquity, the same were not numbered among the people of the church, and their names were blotted out. And it came to pass that Alma did regulate all the affairs of the church (Mos. 26:34-37).

Moroni described the effort by the Nephite disciples to keep the church pure: “They were strict to observe that there should [p.137]be no iniquity among them; and whoso was found to commit iniquity, and three witnesses of the church did condemn them before the elders, and if they repented not, and confessed not, their names were blotted out, and they were not numbered among the people of Christ. But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven” (Moro. 6:7-8).

The early Mormon church followed the Book of Mormon’s teaching concerning excommunication. “Any member of the church of Christ transgressing, or being overtaken in a fault, shall be dealt with as the scriptures direct” (D&C 20:80). Those who were excommunicated were “delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption” (D&C 78:12; 82:21; 132:26; 43:11, 14).

Unlike Mormons and Puritans, some early Primitivists pushed for open communion in order to further the cause of Christian unity.20 James O’Kelly urged the Baptists to “open a more charitable door, and receive to their communion those of Christian life and experience.”21 Alexander Campbell’s father, Thomas Campbell, withdrew from the orthodox (Associate) Presbyterians in Pennsylvania after being found guilty of violating the closed communion principle.22 Alexander Campbell wrote in the Christian Baptist in 1826 that he “was once so strict a separatist that I would neither pray nor sing praises with any one who was not as perfect as I supposed myself. In this most unpopular course I persisted until I discovered the mistake, and saw that on the principle embraced in my conduct there never could be a congregation or church upon the earth.”23 That same year Campbell also said, “I am inconsistent with my own principles when ‘any evangelical sect or congregation’ shall have welcomed me to their communion, and I have refused it.”24 However, many Disciples advocated closed communion despite Campbell’s view, and the issue was never entirely resolved until the latter part of the nineteenth century.25 Some in the primitive gospel movement also rejected tests of faith, public confessions, and theological examinations for church fellowship.26 Mormonism emerged during the time that these issues were being debated, and while Primitivists generally were softening on these points, Mormonism sided with the conservatives in attempting to revive the concept of a pure church through the use of greater and lesser bans and firm hierarchical control.

Mormons, Primitivists, and Seekers did agree on the name of the church. The passage which inspired most Primitivists was [p.138]Acts 11:26, which says, “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” Justifying his separation from the various churches, Roger Williams complained in 1644 that “their religion is so corrupt, as that there is not the very Name of Jesus Christ amongst them.”27 Abner Jones, who eventually withdrew from the Baptists, was troubled by the name of his church: “When I searched the New Testament through, to my great astonishment I could not find the denomination of baptist mentioned in the whole of it. . . . In the time of the apostles, the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. After this search, I denied the name of baptist.”28 In 1801 Jones headed a group in Lyndon, Vermont, known “by the name of Christians only.”29

Other Primitivists also started groups which used the title of Christ—”Christian Connexion,”30 “Christians,”31 or simply “Christian,”32 for example. When James O’Kelly left the Methodist church, he openly criticized sectarian names and expressed a desire for Christian unity: “Again as each Church is called by a different name, suppose we dissolve those unscriptural names and for peace’s sake call ourselves Christians. . . . All may see what I am at, I wish the divine Savior to be the only head and governor of the Church, her law and her center of union.33

In 1825, five years before organizing the Disciples of Christ, Alexander Campbell argued, “God makes it the duty of every Christian to oppose every sectarian name and creed.”34 Earlier that year he had said:

Look into the New Testament. There the church is the Church of Christ, and his disciples are Christians. Look out of the New Testament, and look into the creeds and confessions. Here we see a Baptist church, a Methodist church, and a Presbyterian church, &c. . . . The New Testament names, which all must approve of, are thrown aside to give place to sectarian names. . . . When we give a name and a creed to a church, other than the name of Christ, or Christian, and the New Testament, or the Gospel, that church acquires immediately in our imaginations and feelings, and in fact, a character altogether different from what the Church of Christ really possesses in the light of the New Testament.35

Although the term “church of God” is used most frequently in the New Testament, Paul addresses the “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16). Similarly the Book of Mormon uses the term “church of God” far more frequently than the term “church of Christ,” but there is only one reference to the “church of God” in the [p.139]Book of Mormon after Jesus’ birth and only one reference to the “church of Christ” before his birth (3 Ne. 26:21, 28:23; 4 Ne. 1:1, 26, 29; Moro. 6:4; Morm. 8:38). When Nephi uses the word “Christ” in the sixth century B.C., he quickly explains: “for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name” (2 Ne. 10:3). The importance of the title “Christ” is thus emphasized even in the Old Testament portion of the Book of Mormon. Nephi stresses the need to “take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism” (2 Ne. 31:13), and to “pray unto the Father in the name of Christ” (32:9). King Benjamin echoes a favorite primitive gospel passage when he proclaims: “There shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ” (Mos. 3:17/ Acts 4:10-12). God tells Alma, “blessed is this people who are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are mine” (Mos. 26:18). General Moroni and his “band of Christians” are not unlike those in the New Testament who were “called Christians first in Antioch.” Writes Moroni of this group a full century before the Antioch saints: “for thus were all the true believers of Christ, who belonged to the church of God, called by those who did not belong to the church” (Al. 46:13-14).

When the resurrected Jesus Christ visits the Nephites, he finds them arguing about the proper name of the church. His words echo Primitivist reasoning:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing? Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day; and whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day. Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake. And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel (3 Ne. 27:4-8).

In the church which Jesus established among the Nephites “none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name [p.140]of Christ” (Moro. 6:3). Moroni criticizes the latter-day sectarian leaders when he asks, “Why have yet polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ?” (Morm. 8:38).

Following such patterns, Joseph Smith called the church he organized on 6 April 1830 “The Church of Christ” (D&C 20:1). Nearly a year before, a revelation commanded: “take upon you the name of Christ. . . . there is none other name given whereby man can be saved” (D&C 18:21, 23). However, by 1834 the name had been changed to “The Church of the Latter Day Saints.”36 After some debate over this name, Smith received a revelation on 26 April 1838 announcing that the new name should be: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (D&C 115:4).

The Mormon form of church government developed within a framework congruent with that of most Seekers, with offices that functioned in the primitive church. In contrast Primitivists, such as Alexander Campbell, expected the restored church to follow the teachings of the early apostles and prophets but did not expect a return of the offices of apostle and prophet.

Richard Baxter, a seventeenth-century Presbyterian, believed that in the primitive church there were apostles, prophets, and evangelists—the “converting ministry”—who acted under the direct inspiration of God. These ministers, according to Baxter, were required to provide some “infallible Evidence to prove their own call, before the hearers could receive their Doctrine.” Then there is the “feeding ministry.” This second sort of minister “is not to receive from God any new Doctrine, Law, or Message; but to proclaim the Laws already delivered, and teach men the doctrine already revealed, and to Oversee and govern the Churches of Christ according to his Laws, and to go before the people in the worship of God.”37 Baxter then argued that only the first kind of minister need prove their calling by miracles and that the ministers of England need only preach the Bible. “Seekers,” Baxter charged, “cheat men by jumbling all together, as if there were no Ministers of Gods [sic] appointment but those of the former sort.”38

Baxter apparently was unaware that John Jackson had used the distinction between the “breeding” and the “feeding” ministry to prove a Seeker point. In 1651, Jackson explained that the first type of minister consisted of apostles, prophets, and evangelists, the second of pastors and teachers. He then argued that it could be possible to have a true breeding ministry without a feeding ministry, but never the reverse.39 Thus Jackson believed the [p.141]presence of charismatic leadership was indispensable to the continuance of a true church. Moreover, without apostles who could prove their call by miracles, Jackson wondered how the Church of England could justify its ministry. Indeed, nurturing ministers, who had not received their call from God through the breeding ministry, were intruders. Without new apostles and without miracles in the reformed churches, Jackson believed, the result was that “a powerless People give Call to a Giftless Ministery, (for, as they have not power, so they confer not any).”40

Seekers from the beginning had anticipated the restoration of the charismatic apostleship. Christopher Lawne, who broke with the Separatists and returned to the Church of England, wrote in 1612 that Seeker John Wilkinson and his disciples “will have Apostles.”41 In 1623 Edmond Jessop, in his Discovery of the Errors of the English Anabaptists, described the expectations of Wilkinson and the Legatine-Arians:

Wilt thou have Apostles againe, to lay a new foundation, and must they ordaine new Elders before there can be a true constituted Church with her offices and ordinances, as thou termest them? Is this thy judgment? It may be. . . . It hath beene the opinion of some of thy predecessors, that held themselves as wise as thy self. . . . For instance, there were (among others) three Brethren, ancient Separatists from the Church of England, living sometimes in the Cittie of London, their names were Legat, these held it stifly that their [sic] must be new Apostles, before their [sic] could be a true constituted Church. . . . These Legats had a conceit, that their name did (as it were) foreshew and entitle them, to be the new Apostles, that must doe this new worke. . . . There was also one John Wilkinson, another ancient stout Separatist, who with divers that followed him, held the same likewise.

Jessup challenged those who were expecting the restoration of the apostleship. “Whence must they come? who shall send them? Christ is ascended, and he doth not now appeare to call, and send any, as he did the Apostle Paul; and Apostles must be such as come from the presence of the Lord; and have seene him; For which cause Saint Paul saith in the defense of his Apostleship, Have not I seene the Lord? [1 Cor. 9:1]. . . . If there can be no true Church, till there be new outward ordination, then there will never be a true Church.”42

Seekers in America were also looking for the restoration of the apostleship. There are many testimonies that Roger Williams [p.142]was waiting for “new apostles.” John Cotton, for example, reported that Williams was looking for the restoration of the apostleship, and that he was waiting “till Christ shall send forth new Apostles to plant Churches anew.”43 Asa Wild did not use the term apostle, but he anticipated charismatic ministers with “higher authority, greater power, superior inspiration, and a greater degree of holiness, than was ever experienced before.”44 The leader of a Seeker-like group in Bowling Green, Kentucky, called “twelve men” as special witnesses.45

It seems clear that the Seekers were not merely looking for founding apostles to inaugurate the restoration of the true church but rather for a perpetual apostleship. “There is a great dispute [in the church],” wrote Roger Williams in 1652, “whether the Ministry of the twelve (Matth. 10.) or of the 70 (Luk. 10.) [should] be continued since they both had an immediate call from Christ.”46 For Williams the apostasy had occurred with the loss of the apostleship.47 Moreover, Williams argued that it was the exclusive function of the apostleship to make converts. Without such a “Begetting Ministry,” according to Williams, churches could not be established.48 He made this point in his Bloudy Tenent, stating that there is “no president [precedent] of any people in the Gospell converting & gathering themselves, without some Messenger sent from the Lord to effect those ends.”49 And in Hireling Ministry, Williams lamented hireling ministers who “pretend to the Apostles Commission, and to succeed them . . . [yet] have never pretended to the Gifts and Qualifications of such a Ministry. . . . [If] extraordinary gifts be ceased, how shall now the people of this Nation be supplyed with Minsters[?]”50

John Cotton objected to Williams’s insistence on a converting ministry, asserting that “ordinary Ministers” could both convert and nourish. “To looke for another new Ministry (say of Apostles or Evangelists) to attend conversion of soules onely,” Cotton charged, “is to looke for a blessing which the Lord hath not promised.”51 Primitivist Alexander Campbell agreed that “as to the nature of the apostolical office be it observed . . . that it was essentially incommunicable. Holy writ recognizes but three orders of apostles, and none of them had lineal successors.”52 Campbell undoubtedly rejected Mormon claims of apostleship on the same grounds,53 for the early Mormon notion of church government evolved within a framework congruent with that articulated by Seekers.

[p.143]The Book of Mormon describes both a converting and a feeding ministry. Alma was a charismatic leader with “power and authority from God” who ordained priests and teachers to “nourish” the church “with things pertaining to righteousness” (Mos. 18:18; 23:17-18). The nourishing ministry received their authority directly from the charismatic leader (23:17). A similar pattern was followed after the coming of Jesus. The twelve Nephite “disciples,” whom Jesus called in the New World, ordained priests and teachers (Moro. 3:1-4), and only these disciples could give the Holy Ghost to others (3 Ne. 18:36-38; Moro. 2:1-3). The disciples were the “converting” or “breeding” ministry, while priests and teachers were nourishers. Angels showed themselves unto those of “strong faith and a firm mind, . . . declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him. And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts,” Moroni declared (Moro. 7:30-32).

Two types of ministers were evident in the early Mormon church, although names and responsibilities given to various offices fluctuated and evolved over time (D&C 20:38-60). With Seeker-like reasoning, Sidney Rigdon explained in 1835 the meaning of “the restoration of the ancient order of things.” This, he said, “has engrossed the attention of the religious public to some extent in modern times, and has given rise to many parties and sects in the so called christian world; each one in their turn supposing that they had the ancient order of things among them.” Rigdon argued that the Reformers had not followed the order of the church as set down in the New Testament. For in ancient times, the apostleship was set up first, “and out of this all the rest of the order grew.” Rigdon continued:

It was necessary that an order of things be established, beginning with apostles, and then to have prophets, and then evangelists, and after that pastors, teachers, &c. [1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11]. . . . No church need say to their fellow men, lo here is the ancient order of things, or lo it is there, unless they have the order before mentioned. . . . For no teacher can be found in the world, of whom God approves but one who has obtained his office by reason of an apostle, whom God first called, and through him others were called,—we do not mean a dead apostle but a living one; for whenever there ceases to be apostles on earth, then the order of God has [p.144]ceased, and the order of men, or devils, or of both has got its place.54

Such a notion of leadership was more complex than a simple pastor-parishioner relationship. As sociologist Thomas O’Dea has noted:

The recognition of prophetic leadership implies the development of a hierarchical church structure, with authority flowing from top to bottom, at least as soon as the informal master-disciple relationship among a small group is replaced by the more formal relationship and membership in a large church organization. The process of binding charisma within organizational forms was one aspect of the evolution of such a hierarchical structure, and the original relationship between the prophet and his disciples evolved into a relationship between the prophet and an oligarchy of leading elders, which merged into and exercised ascendancy over the rank and file of the membership.55

The initial governance of the Mormon church was similar to a presbyterial system, which is governed by elders who are all of equal rank.56 Elders were the first governors or administrators in Joseph Smith’s Church of Christ. In the beginning the office of elder was ambiguously intertwined with the office of apostle—as it had been in the New Testament portion of the Book of Mormon where the only elders mentioned are the twelve disciples (Moro. 3:1). The sole authority to give the Holy Ghost rested with them (3 Ne. 18:36-37; Moro. 2:1-3). They were the charismatic leaders who ordained priests and teachers “by the power of the Holy Ghost, which was in them” (Moro. 3:1-3). As the original twelve disciples died, others were ordained so that, apparently, a quorum of twelve disciples could be maintained (4 Ne. 1:14). Later, when the Nephites apostatized, Mormon records, “the Lord did take away his beloved disciples, and the work of miracles and of healing did cease because of the iniquity of the people. And there were no gifts from the Lord, and the Holy Ghost did not come upon any, because of their wickedness and unbelief” (Morm. 1:13-14). The twelve disciples were the converting ministry. They also had authority to baptize (3 Ne. 11:18-22; 12:1) and to administer the sacrament (Moro. 4:1-3). They otherwise led the church (3 Ne. 19:4-7; 4 Ne. 1:1).

In the “Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ,” the link between apostle and elder is clear:

[p.145]An apostle is an elder, and 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, exhort, baptize, and watch over the church; and to confirm the church by the laying on of the hands, and the giving of the Holy Ghost, and to take the lead of all meetings. The elders are to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost (BofC 24:32-35/ D&C 20:38-45).

While it is true that an apostle was an elder, all elders were not necessarily apostles, although elders were also charismatic leaders. That the restored church would include twelve “disciples” was alluded to as early as June 1829 (D&C 18:27, 31, 37). Although the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was not formally organized until February 1835, evidence suggests that certain individuals had been denominated apostles prior to that time. Sanford Porter, who joined the church in Ohio in 1831, remembered that the Mormon missionaries “said they had a prophet and aposals [sic], as they had in antient [sic] Dayes, and they had the same gifts that the antients had.”57 Indeed, a June 1829 revelation refers to the apostolic calling of Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer (D&C 18:9). Also the “Articles and Covenants” mentions the apostleship of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (20:2-3; also 21:1, 10). Ezra Booth mentioned in 1831 that “Ziba [Peterson] was deprived of his Elder and Apostleship” and that Peterson had been “one of the twelve Apostles.”58

At this time no distinct quorum of apostles existed within the ecclesiastical structure. Instead these apostles had received their callings charismatically rather than institutionally and acted somewhat independently. The June 1829 revelation explains how these early apostles were called. The Lord told Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer that they had authority like unto “Paul mine apostle, for you are called even with that same calling with which he was called” (D&C 18:9). Paul declared himself “an apostle, not of men neither by man, but by Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:1). The apostleship was institutionalized in 1835 when the three special Book of Mormon witnesses (Cowdery, Whitmer, and Martin Harris) formerly ordained the twelve. Referring to the angel who appeared to the three witnesses in June 1829, Cowdery told the twelve that they were being ordained to the apostleship by “those who have the power and authority from an angel” and that their ordinations would not be complete “till God has laid His hand [p.146]upon you.” “It is necessary,” Cowdery said, “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.”59 These apostles were thus called institutionally before being confirmed charismatically. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles organized in 1835 formed an administrative body similar to the traveling high council, another body of converting ministers (D&C 102:30; 107:23, 26). However, by the time of Smith’s death in 1844, the twelve had become the dominant quorum in the Mormon hierarchy.

Parallelling this shift from charismatic to institutional apostleship was a deemphasis in the charismatic role of elders and the manner in which meetings were conducted. Again Mormons began with a notion roughly congruent with that of Seekers. Although Seekers had no formal church organization and observed none of the ordinances, they sometimes held meetings. Seeker meetings featured long periods of silence and impromptu sermons.60 Seeker meetings were thus similar to those of the Quakers and Quietists but markedly different from the general practice among Primitivists. Alexander Campbell and other Primitivists usually read from prepared sermons, relying on authority from the Bible, but Seekers made a point of speaking as they were “lead by the Holy Spirit.” Hence there was no set formula either for conducting meetings or for giving sermons. For example, Seeker Edward Burrough recorded they “met often together and waited upon the Lord in pure silence from our own words, all men’s words, and harkened to the voice of the Lord.”61 According to William Penn, the Seekers met together “not formally to Pray or Preach . . . but waited together in Silence, and as anything rose in any one of their Minds that they thought Savoured of a Divine Spring, they sometimes Spoke.”62

Similarly, the early “Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ” directed the elders to conduct the meetings “as they are led by the Holy Ghost” (BofC 24:35/ D&C 20:45). The following year this instruction was repeated (D&C 46:2). This harmonized with the practice of the Nephite church established by Jesus Christ. Moroni describes the meetings held by the Nephite Christians:

And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls. . . . And their meetings were conducted by the church [p.147]after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done (Moro. 6:5, 9).

Counseling the missionaries who were to preach to “the congregations of the wicked,” the Lord said in an 1831 revelation that “they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost” (D&C 68:1-2). God also instructed the missionaries: “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85; cf. Al. 17:2-3). Early Mormons were so insistent on speaking as moved upon by the spirit that many of them were offended when Joseph Smith read the dedicatory prayer at the Kirtland temple.63

By 1835 the charismatic office of elder had been stabilized, and the “Articles and Covenants” changed to reflect the subordination of elders to church hierarchy. The early ambiguities between the offices of “elder” and “apostle” was clarified, and in the process the early leadership role of the elders was diminished. In clarifying the role of elder the Mormon movement removed ambiguities which had been inherited from the New Testament as well as the Book of Mormon. Elders are mentioned in the New Testament, but their role in the church is not clear. That elders exercised pastoral duties may be inferred from 1 Peter 5:1-4 and James 5:14. But there had been some debate about the distinction between elders and other ministers such as “prophets and teachers” of Acts 13:1-3 and “bishops” of Titus 1:5-7. That apostles were elders is implied from 1 Peter 5:1, 2 John 1:1 and 3 John 1:1. Clearly elders who were apostles were missionaries, but other elders seem to have been stationary leaders of local churches.64

Other offices within the priesthood were similarly evolving within an institutional framework. In the Old Testament portion of the Book of Mormon, both priests and teachers ministered in local churches: teachers governing and priests preaching (Mos. 25:19-29). The teachers seem to have been subordinate to the priests, who in turn were subordinate to a presiding high priest over the whole church (26:7). Both priests and teachers apparently had authority to baptize (Al. 15:13). In the New Testament portion of the Book of Mormon, the authority of priests and teachers is subordinate to that of elders. Priests were distinguished [p.148]from teachers in that they shared with elders the right of administering the sacrament (Moro. 4:1). Little is said about the duty of priests and teachers.

In a revelation dictated in June 1829, one of the specific duties of the future twelve was to “ordain priests and teachers” (D&C 18:32). This instruction seemed to follow the pattern of the Nephite church (Moro. 3:1-4). However, instructions given the following year not only allowed elders to ordain priests and teachers (D&C 20:39) but also authorized priests to “ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons” (20:48). Once the church had been restored and priests and teachers had been ordained by the charismatic leaders, those leaders presumably could delegate ecclesiastical responsibilities. But elders retained their charismatic function by reserving to themselves the authority to bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The duties and powers of the priests, in addition to administering the sacrament (D&C 20:76), were outlined in June 1830 as follows:

The priest’s duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort and baptize, and administer the sacrament, and visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret, and also to attend to all family duties; and ordain other priests, teachers and deacons, and take the lead of meetings; but none of these offices is he to do when there is an elder present, but in all cases is to assist the elder (BofC 24:36-37/ D&C 20:46-52).

Nowhere in the New Testament is the term “priest” used as an office in the Christian ministry. The first to use the titles of “priest” and “high priest” in connection with the Christian ministry were the third-century theologians Tertullian and Hipplytus.65

The duties and powers of teachers were also outlined in June 1830:

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, neither hardness with each other, neither lying nor backbiting, nor evil speaking; and see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty; and he is to take the lead of meetings in the abscence [sic] of the elder or priest, and is to be assisted always, and in all his duties in the church by the deacons; [p.149]but neither the teachers nor deacons have authority to baptize nor administer the sacrament, but are to warn, expound, exhort and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ (BofC 24:38-41/ D&C 20:53-59).

The early New Testament church had, at least in some areas, presiding teachers (Acts 13:1; Eph. 4:11). The exact role of the teacher in the early Christian church is unclear, but if the Jewish teachers of the synagogue provided a pattern, their primary duty would have been as exhorters and theological instructors to the church.66

In the early Mormon church, before the present age-rank system was established, teachers exercised more authority than they now do. In September 1832, elders and priests were instructed to travel, and “deacons and teachers should be appointed to watch over the church, to be standing ministers unto the church” (D&C 84:111). Later, when a system of bishops took over the responsibility of presiding over local churches, the teacher’s office declined.

The office of deacon did not apparently exist in the earliest days of the organization.67 What is apparently an early draft of D&C 20, given to Oliver Cowdery in 1829 with the heading “A commandment from god unto Oliver how he should build up his church & the manner thereof,” mentions the offices of elders, priests, and teachers but not that of deacon.68 In a revelation received in June 1829, the apostleship is said to include the authority to “ordain priests and teachers” (D&C 18:32). In a revelation given as late as January 1831, deacons are again conspicuously missing from the Lord’s commandment to “every man, both elder, priest, teacher, and also member” (D&C 38:40).

Indication that the office of deacon may have been added to the “Articles and Covenants” after its original composition is the manner in which the material dealing with the office is introduced into the document. Specific sections in the “Articles and Covenants” address the duties of the other offices. But deacons are discussed only parenthetically in connection with teachers, whom they are to assist (D&C 20:53-60; also 84:111).

The office of deacon is mentioned in the New Testament (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8-13). Unlike Mormon deacons, early Christian deacons held positions of great respect and responsibility in the church. The duty of distributing the sacrament to the church became the responsibility of Mormon deacons, although this duty is not mentioned in the “Articles and Covenants.” This possibly [p.150]reflects the early Christian tradition which survived in Catholicism.69

The office of bishop is not mentioned in the Book of Mormon, and the Church of Christ as constituted on 6 April 1830 did not include this office.70 The addition of bishops coincides with the growing deemphasis on charisma and the corresponding emphasis on hierarchy and lineal priesthood. Edward Partridge was the first bishop of the Mormon church. On 4 February 1831 Partridge was called by revelation to be “ordained a bishop unto the church, to leave his merchandise and to spend all his time in the labors of the church” (D&C 41:9-11). The following December Newel K. Whitney was appointed bishop over the church in Ohio; Partridge was assigned to preside over the church in Missouri (D&C 72). Bishops were to administer to the “temporal” or physical and economic welfare of the Saints. More explicit instructions on the office of bishop came in 1835 (D&C 72:9-23; 107:15-17, 68-76, 88). When the church established its headquarters in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1839, still more bishops were ordained, this time as leaders of “wards.” During this period, the office of elder lost its status.71 The ordination of high priests had begun in June 1831, and new bishops were thereafter taken from this hierarchical body (D&C 68:14-15, 19; 72:1-2; 107:69).

The office of bishop or “overseer” was important in the primitive church–much care was taken in the appointment of men to this office (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:6-9). Still the relation of New Testament bishops to other offices is unclear. Bishops may have been presiding elders.72 They were not high priests. The office of high priest under the old covenant was restricted to one individual and was not carried over into the New Testament church.

In the Old Testament portion of the Book of Mormon, a high priest presided over the church (Mos. 23:16; 26:7; 29:42; Al. 4:4, 18), although at one point there were at least three high priests (Al. 45:20-23; 46:6; 49:30; Hel. 3:25). When Jesus appeared, he appointed twelve disciples to lead the church. The twelve were elders, who ordained priests and teachers; high priests did not exist in the church Jesus established among the Nephites.

Joseph Smith ordained several of the leading brethren to the “high priesthood” on 3 June 1831. In the minutes of a meeting held on 4 August 1831, both elders and those previously ordained to the high priesthood are listed together under “Elders Present,” and this is the case for meetings held between 24 August [p.151]and 21 October 1831. But at a church conference held on 25 October 1831, the minutes list elders separately from the “Names of those ordained to the Highpriesthood [sic].” The high priesthood is referred to as an “office” in the minutes of meetings held on 1 and 8 November 1831, but both high priests and elders are listed under the heading “Elders Present.” On 28 January 1832, the minutes of the meeting list the “Names of Elders Present who were ordained to the H[igh]. P[riest]. H[ood].” and the “Names of Elders who were not ordained to the H[igh]. P[riest]. H[ood].” Thus there may have been a question of whether those ordained held a new office of high priest or were simply elders with additional authority. By 26 April 1832, when Smith was sustained in Missouri as president of the high priesthood, the minutes of the meeting list “High Priests” and “Elders” separately.73

At a conference held on 25 October 1831, Smith explained that “the order of the Highpriesthood [sic] is that they have power given them to seal up the Saints unto eternal life.”74 A revelation given in November 1831 told the high priests that “as many as the Father shall bear record, to you shall be given power to seal them up unto eternal life” (D&C 68:12). Zebedee Coltrin recorded in his missionary diary that on 15 November 1831 he and others visited the “Shalersville” branch and that “Br David seeled them up unto Eternal life.”75 However, the charismatic role of high priests was declining as revelations came outlining their administrative duties and powers. Not until a passage was added to the 1831 revelation prior to its publication in the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835 would it be explained that a high priest “has authority to officiate in all the lesser offices” of the priesthood, including that of bishop (D&C 68:19).76 In March 1835 Smith outlined the duties of the various priesthood offices. High priests, he explained, “have a right to officiate in their own standing, under the direction of the presidency, in administering spiritual things . . . agreeable to the covenants and commandments of the church; and they have a right to officiate in all these offices of the church when there are no high authorities present” (D&C 107:10, 12). Also prior to publication in 1835 material concerning the duties of high priests was added to the “Articles and Covenants” (D&C 20:66-67; cf. BofC 24).

In November 1831 a new revelation counseled that each of the priesthood offices, including that of high priests, was to have presidents (D&C 107:59-69).77 On 25 January 1832 at a conference of the church, Smith was ordained president of the high [p.152]priesthood. Orson Pratt recorded that “the Prophet was acknowledged President of the High Priesthood, and hands were laid on him by Elder Sidney Rigdon, who sealed upon his head the blessings which he had formerly received.”78 On 8 March, Rigdon and Jesse Gause, a little-known figure in Mormon history because he apostatized shortly after his appointment, were chosen as Smith’s counselors in the presidency.79 Gause was replaced by Frederick G. Williams on 18 March 1833.80 By March 1835 this quorum of three presidents had become the “Presidency of the Church” (D&C 107:22, 91-92).

On 28 February 1835, Smith began choosing men to fill the First Quorum of Seventy, stating that “the Seventies are to constitute traveling quorums, to go into all the earth, whithersoever the Twelve Apostles shall call them.”81 This first quorum represented a new addition to the hierarchy of church administration. In March 1835, the role of the first quorum was explained:

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 other officers in the church in the duties of their calling. And they form a quorum, equal in authority to that of the Twelve special witnesses or Apostles. . . . The Seventy are to act in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Twelve or the traveling high council, in building up the church and regulating all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and then to the Jews (D&C 107:25-26, 34).82

The office of seventy is not mentioned in the Book of Mormon, but both Moses and Jesus appointed seventy men to ecclesiastical duties (Ex. 24:1, 9-11; Lk. 10:1-24). However, Protestants have not generally considered that these seventy constituted an office in the church. Roger Williams wondered if the “Ministry of . . . the 70 (Luk. 10.) [should] be continued.”83 George Fox recorded in his journal that after Quaker churches had been established in the north, the Lord raised up seventy missionaries, as in Luke’s Gospel, and sent them two by two into the southern counties in the summer of 1654.84

The process of elaborating the function of various priesthood offices within the Mormon church thus played itself out within a framework consistent with Seeker expectations about restored apostolic authority and a feeding ministry deriving its authority from the restored apostleship. The governing practices of the Mormon church had at first been more or less presbyterial. [p.153]When Smith’s charismatic leadership was challenged, a more hierarchical or episcopal form of church government was developed which relied less on scriptural precedent for offices and procedures and systematically diminished the role of charisma. In addition, unlike Alexander Campbell’s democratically organized Disciples of Christ, Mormonism was becoming less democratic.85 This transformation discouraged challenges to institutional authority because an individual’s authority could now only be understood within the context of a new elaborate structuring of power.


[p.153]1. The Ohio Observer, 11 Aug. 1836, in Milton V. Backman, Jr., “Truman Cue’s 1836 Description of Mormonism,” Brigham Young University Studies 17 (Spring 1977): 354.

2. John Taylor, Truth Defended and Methodism Weighed in the Balance and Found Wanting (Liverpool: J. Tomkins, [1840]), 11.

3. Parley P. Pratt, A Voice of Warning and Instruction to All People (New York, 1837), 119.

4. Orson Pratt, A Series of Pamphlets on the Doctrines of the Gospel (Chattanooga, TN, 1899), 227.

5. John Jackson, A Sober Word to a Serious People (London, 1651), 60; Roger Williams, The Hireling Ministry None of Christs (London, 1652), unpaginated introduction [1]; [Roger Williams], The Examiner Defended (London, 1652), “To the Reader.”

6. For the Puritan concept of church, see Edmund S. Morgan, Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1963).

7. For a description of the development in New England of the test of faith in connection with church membership, see ibid., 64-112.

8. Ibid., 64-138.

9. John Higginson, The Cause of God and His People in New England (Cambridge, MA, 1663), 14.

10. Jonathan Edwards, The Works of President Edwards, 10 vols. (London, 1817; rep. New York: Burt Franklin, 1968), 6:513-22.

11. John Cotton, The Bloudy Tenent, Washed . . . Whereunto is added a Reply to Mr. Williams Answer, to Mr. Cottons Letter (London, 1647), 40; see also 54.

12. Williams, Hireling Ministry, 2.

13. Williams, An Epistle to the Mystical Body of Christ on Earth: The Church Universal in Babylon (London, 1662).

14. Thomas Collier, The Marrow of Christianity (London, 1647), 63; William Dell, The Way of True Peace and Unity (London, 1649), 19.

15. George Arthur Johnson has described spiritualistic Seekerism as Congregational. See “From Seeker to Finder: A Study in Seventeenth-Century English Spiritualism Before the Quakers,” Church History 17 (1948): 313.

[p.154]16. Because the revelation is dated May 1829 in both the Book of Commandments and the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants but placed in an 1828 setting in the manuscript history of the church, there has been some confusion on the dating. While various theories have been advanced, I prefer to follow the May 1829 date for at least the last part of section 10 (possibly verses 48-70). It is difficult to imagine the last part of this section was received before Book of Commandments 4:5, which promised that God would establish a church if people did not harden their hearts, a promise I think is reflected in section 10:53. For a discussion of this problem, see Stanley R. Larson, “A Study of Some Textual Variations in the Book of Mormon Comparing the Original and the Printer’s Manuscripts, and the 1830, the 1837, and the 1840 Editions,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1974, 17-18; Stephen Snow in Mormon History Association Newsletter 44 (June 1980): 15; Max Parkin in Mormon History Association Newsletter 45 (Nov. 1980): 2-4; and Max Parkin, “A Preliminary Analysis of the Dating of Section 10,” in Sidney B. Sperry Symposium (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 1979), 68-84.

17. Rex Eugene Cooper, “The Promises Made to the Fathers: A Diachronic Analysis of Mormon Covenant Organization with Reference to Puritan Federal Theology,” 2 vols., Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1985, 1:121-22.

18. Joseph Smith, Jr., et al., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2nd ed. rev., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1964), 1:104; hereafter HC.

19. J. J. Moss to J. T. Cobb, 17 Dec. 1878, in A. T. S. Schroeder Collection, Wisconsin State Historical Society.

20. I. Daniel Rupp, comp., He Pasa Ekklesia: An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present in the United States (Philadelphia: J. Y. Humphreys, 1844), 259.

21. Wilbur E. MacClenny, The Early History of the Christian Church in the South (Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton, 1910), 248-49.

22. Winfred Ernest Garrison and Alfred T. DeGroot, The Disciples of Christ (St. Louis: Christian Board of Education, 1948), 135-36.

23. Christian Baptist 3 (1826): 373, in Robert Robinson, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, 2 vols. (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Co., 1897-98), 2:137.

24. Christian Baptist 3 (1826): 238, in Royal Humbert, ed., A Compend of Alexander Campbell’s Theology (St. Louis: Bethany Press, 1961), 189.

25. See Garrison and DeGroot, The Disciples of Christ, 348-50.

26. Nathan O. Hatch, “The Christian Movement and the Demand for a Theology of the People,” Journal of American History 67 (Dec. 1980): 556.

27. [Roger Williams], The Bloudy Tenent ([London], 1644), 138.

28. Memoir of Elder Abner Jones by His Son. A.D. Jones (Boston, 1842), 27-28.

29. Ibid., 34-36, 48.

30. Ibid., 64. See also The Life, Conversion, Preaching, Travels and Sufferings of Elias Smith (Portsmouth, 1816), 58.

31. William Garrett West, Barton W. Stone: Early American Advocate of Christian Unity (Nashville: Disciples of Christ Historical Society, 1954), 61, 75.

[p.155]32. Wilbur E. MacClenny, The Early History of the Christian Church in the South (Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton, 1910), 117.

33. Ibid., 248-49.

34. Christian Baptist 3 (1 Aug. 1825): 9-10.

35. Ibid., 2 (4 July 1825): 237.

36. David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, MO, 1887), 73; see also HC 2:63.

37. Richard Baxter, A Second Sheet for the Ministry, Justifying our Calling Against Quakers, Seekers, and Papists, and all that deny us to be the Ministers of Christ (London, 1657), 2.

38. Ibid., A2.

39. John Jackson, A Sober Word to a Serious People (London, 1651), 10-11.

40. Ibid., 15, 18.

41. Christopher Lawne, The Prophane Schisme of the Brownists or Separatists ([London], 1612), 55.

42. Edmond Jessop, A Discovery of the Errors of the English Anabaptists (London, 1623), 76-78; see also 88-89.

43. Cotton, Bloudy Tenent, Washed, 2, 9, 45, 124-27; Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana: or, The Ecclesiastical History of New-England (London, 1702), Bk. 7, 9; Jonathan Winthrop, Winthrop’s Journal “History of New England,” 1630-1649, ed. James Kendall Hosmer, 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908), 1:309, 2:39.

44. Wayne Sentinel, 22 Oct. 1823.

45. Ibid., 8 Oct. 1823.

46. Williams, Hireling Ministry, 20.

47. Winthrop, Winthrop’s Journal, 2:39; Williams, Hireling Ministry, 17.

48. Cotton, Bloudy Tenent, Washed, 125-27; [Williams], Bloudy Tenent, 28, 165-67, 236; Williams, Hireling Ministry, 4, 9; Roger Williams, Mr. Cotton’s Letter Lately Printed, Examined and Answered (London, 1644), 42.

49. [Williams], Bloudy Tenent, 166; see also R[oger] Williams, The Bloudy Tenent Yet More Bloudy (London, 1652), 2; Williams, Hireling Ministry, 3-4, 9, 17, 20.

50. Williams, Hireling Ministry, 4, 6, 16-17.

51. Cotton, Bloudy Tenant, Washed, 124-27.

52. Humbert, Compend of Alexander Campbell’s Theology, 155.

53. See Alexander Campbell, “The Mormonites,” Millennial Harbinger, Feb. 1831, 93.

54. [Sidney] R[igdon], “The Ancient Order of Things,” Messenger and Advocate 1 (Sept. 1835): 182-85.

55. Thomas F. O’Dea, The Mormons (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 160.

56. Whitmer, Address to All Believers in Christ, 32-34. D. Michael Quinn has written: “From the 1820s to the 1830s, Mormonism moved from being a collection of individuals whose equally valid personal revelations revolved around Joseph Smith’s theophany to being a church membership with vaguely defined obligations to Joseph Smith as president and to his evolving hierarchy. . . . An immediate problem in the new Church was that [p.156]individuals who had supernatural, revelatory experiences of their own could not see that these were in any way inferior to the theophanies and revelations of Joseph Smith. This view posed no threat to pre-1830 Mormonism, but it invited disaster to the newly restored Church of Christ in which Joseph Smith was designated by revelation on 6 April 1830 as ‘a’ [not ‘the’] seer, a translator, [and] a prophet’ (D&C 21:1; italics added). Joseph Smith responded to the problem by dictating a revelation in February 1831 in which the Lord stated that only Joseph Smith and his successors could give commandments and revelations to the Church (D&C 43).” See “From Sacred Grove to Sacral Power Structure,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17 (Summer 1984): 12-13.

57. J. Grant Stevenson, ed., Porter Family History (Delta, UT: J. Grant Stevenson, 1957), 1:5-91, in Davis Bitton, Guide to Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1977), 278. For the date of Sanford’s baptism, see Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City: Western Epics, 1971), 4:622.

58. E. D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed [sic]: or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, From Its Rise to the Present Time (Painesville, OH: E. D. Howe, 1834), 208. Concerning Ziba Peterson’s fall, see D&C 58:60.

59. HC 2:195-96.

60. See James Hastings, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, 13 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908-21), 11:350; M. J. Havran, “Seekers,” New Catholic Encyclopedia, 17 vols. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1967), 13:47.

61. George Fox, Great Mystery of the Great Whore (1658), see “Preface” by Edward Burrough.

62. W[illiam] Penn, A Brief Account of the Rise and Progress Of the People called Quakers (London, 1695), 22; see also William Penn’s Preface to Fox’s Journal (Philadelphia, 1831), 1:xxv.

63. See Brigham Young et al., Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (Liverpool: F. D. Richards, 1855-86), 11:9. When the “Articles and Covenants” was edited by Joseph Smith in 1835, a curb was put on the blanket statement that the elders were “to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost” (BofC 24:35). Four years earlier, at a conference of the church held in Hiram, Ohio, Smith complained that “the ancient manner of conducting meetings as they were led by the Holy Ghost . . . was not perfectly known by many of the Elders” (Donald Q. Cannon and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., Far West Record: Minutes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830-1844 [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983], 17). The passage was altered to read that the elders are to conduct their meetings “as they are led by the Holy Ghost, according to the commandments and revelations of God” (D&C 20:45).

64. George Arthur Buttrick, et al., eds., The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 4 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962), 2:73-75.

65. Ibid., 3:889-91.

66. Ibid., 4:522-23.

67. One interpretation of the available evidence indicates that the office of deacon was added sometime between 6 April 1830, when the Church of Christ was formally organized, and 25 October 1831, when they were [p.157]listed for the first time in the “Far West Record” as present at a church conference in Orange, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The earliest printing of the “Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ” (D&C 20) appeared in the Painesville Telegraph on 19 April 1831. The mention of “deacons” is probably the result of later redaction. See Cannon and Cook, Far West Record, 19. See also Whitmer, Address, 32, 50.

68. Robert J. Woodford, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants,” 2 vols., Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1974, 1:287-90.

69. Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1:785-86.

70. Reference to the office of bishop was added to the “Articles and Covenants” prior to its reprinting in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (cf. D&C 20:66-67).

71. See D. Michael Quinn, “The Evolution of the Presiding Quorums of the LDS Church,” Journal of Mormon History 1 (1974): 21-38; and Dale Beecher, “The Office of Bishop,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 (Winter 1982): 103-15.

72. Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1:441-43.

73. See Cannon and Cook, Far West Record, 6-7, 9, 11-18, 19, 26-29, 43-44.

74. Ibid., 20-21.

75. Zebedee Coltrin Diary, 15 Nov. 1831, in David John Buerger, “`The Fulness of the Priesthood’: The Second Anointing in Latter-day Saint Theology and Practice,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 16 (Spring 1983): 14.

76. On the dating of D&C 68:16-21, see Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith: A Historical and Biographical Commentary of the Doctrine and Covenants (Provo, UT: Seventy’s Mission Bookstore, 1981), 145n1.

77. On the dating of D&C 107:59-100, see Kirtland Revelations Book, 84-86; and Cook, Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 215-16, 326n1.

78. Eldon J. Watson, comp. and ed., The Orson Pratt Journals (Salt Lake City: Eldon J. Watson, 1975), 11.

79. In the Kirtland Revelations Book, Smith recorded: “March 8th 1832. Chose this day and ordained brother Jesse Gause and Broth[er] Sidney [Rigdon] to be my councellors of the ministry of the presidency of th[e] high Priesthood” (10-11). On Jesse Gause, see Robert J. Woodford, “Jesse Gause, Counselor to the Prophet,” Brigham Young University Studies 15 (Spring 1975): 362-64; H. Michael Marquardt, “The Strange Beginnings of the Mormon High Priesthood Presidency,” Journal of Pastoral Practice 4 (1980): 86-91; D. Michael Quinn, “Jesse Gause: Joseph Smith’s Little-Known Counselor,” Brigham Young University Studies 23 (Fall 1983): 487-93.

80. On the 18 March 1833 appointment of Frederick G. Williams, see Kirtland Council Book, 17. Early manuscripts indicate that a March 1832 revelation (now D&C 81) was originally intended for Jesse Gause, but when it was published in the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835 the name was changed to Frederick G. Williams. See Cook, Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 171.

81. HC 2:202. For a general history of the office of seventy, consult Quinn, “Presiding Quorums,” 31-32; James Norman Baumgarten, “The Role [p.158]and Function of the Seventies in L.D.S. Church History,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1960; and Richard D. Ouellette, “Seventies Quorums: 1835-1986,” Sunstone 11 (Jan. 1987): 35-37.

82. The vision authorizing the calling of the Seventy is apparently not extant in written form. See Quinn, “Presiding Quorums,” 31. Although the revelation said the Seventy formed “a quorum equal in authority to that of the Twelve” (D&C 107:26), in April 1837 Smith made it clear that the Seventy were subordinate to the Twelve. See Messenger and Advocate 3 (April 1837): 486-87; cf. D&C 107:34.

83. Williams, Hireling Ministry, 20.

84. George Fox, The Journal of George Fox, ed. John L. Nickalls (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952), 174.

85. “Each congregation [of the Disciples of Christ] is independent of every other, managing its own affairs, and electing its own officers” (Rupp, He Pasa Ekklesia, 259). For the primitive gospel movement’s appeal to the democratic impulse of those in the new republic, see Hatch, “The Christian Movement and the Demand for a Theology of the People, ” 545-67.