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A Forgotten Event in LDS History?

16 Jul

OneWhoIsWatching is “Searching for the Holy Order and 23 High Priests“:

From JST Exodus 34 we learn that as a result of the wickedness and idolatry of the children of Israel Moses breaks the first set of plates that contained the higher law and he was commanded to hew two other tablets containing the lesser law;

And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two other tables of stone, like unto the first, and I will write upon them also, the words of the law, according as they were written at the first on the tables which thou brakest; but it shall not be according to the first, for I will take away the priesthood out of their midst; therefore my holy order, and the ordinances thereof, shall not go before them; for my presence shall not go up in their midst, lest I destroy them.” Exodus 34: 1-2, 14

From this and modern revelation we can surmise that the fulness of the Gospel and the LAW OF ZION sometimes referred to as GOSPEL LAW and the LAW OF CONSECRATION as contained in section 42 of the D&C, was contained in the first set of plates that Moses broke.

We are also informed that it is the Holy Order of the Priesthood according to the Son of God that must administer the LAW of ZION and ESTABLISH ZION.

Section 84 provides additional clarity pertaining to the holy order or highest portion of the Priesthood that was taken out of the midst of the Children of Israel.

Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;

But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.

Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also;

And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;

Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until john, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb.”

It is evident that Moses was endeavoring to implement the LAW OF CONSECRATION, sanctify his people and establish ZION just as Enoch and Melchizedek had done among their peoples.

As a result of the rebelliousness of the people, Moses was taken out of their midst along with the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood, the higher law and the ability to establish Zion..

Old Testament Prophets however prophesied that in the latter days, the Highest Priesthood would be restored and Zion would be re-established after becoming “captive” for a period of time;.

Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.” href=”http://scriptures.lds.org/en/isa/52/1#1″>Isa. 52: 1

Providing additional clarity and context the prophet responded to a question about the above verses;

Questions by Elias Higbee: What is meant by the command in Isaiah, 52d chapter, 1st verse, which saith: Put on thy strength, O Zion—and what people had Isaiah reference to?

He had reference to those whom God should call in the last days, who should hold the power of priesthood to bring again Zion, and the redemption of Israel; and to put on her strength is to put on the authority of the priesthood, which she, Zion, has a right to by lineage; also to return to that power which she had lost.” href=”http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/113/7-8#7″>D&C 113: 7-8

It appears from ancient and modern scripture that God will send one like Moses to bring again Zion in the end times. He will enable the daughter of Zion who had previously lost the priesthood power to redeem Zion to put on their former strength and complete the final establishment of Zion!

If someone were to ask you to name the most significant events in the history of the Church between 1830 and 1836 what would you say?

Before studying this topic in depth, I would have suggested

However, I would submit to you that there is another event that took place in 1831 that rivals all of the amazing events listed above.

Curiously, it is not covered in lesson manuals nearly as often, or spoken of as frequently by LDS scholars and the details are not as widely known among members of the church.

I am speaking about the restoration of the Highest Priesthood upon the earth in 1831 at the Morley Farm in Kirtland Ohio.

On that occasion 23 priesthood holders were ordained to the High Priesthood after the Holy order of God according to the voice of God out of the heavens. It appears they were ordained to the same High Priesthood that Melchizedek and Enoch had been ordained to. Even the same priesthood that is required to establish Zion.

As we shall see as this story unfolds, it appears the restoration of this priesthood upon the earth in 1831 was necessary for the establishment of Zion. That is why Section 52 was given the day after this conference, detailing the commission God gave to these High Priests and other Elders to travel to Jackson County and begin the holy order of consecration at the designated place, even the center stake of Zion. Shortly after that, those not commanded to plant themselves in Zion were to also establish the holy order of the law of consecration in Kirtland.

In late spring of 1831 Joseph Smith called a conference in Kirtland, Ohio. Without any known previous recorded revelation directing the Prophet Joseph Smith to ordain individuals to the office of high priest, the office was restored and bestowed upon 22 elders and one priest.

Joseph Smith said, “the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the Elders. It was clearly evident that the Lord gave us power in proportion to the work to be done, and strength according to the race set before us, and grace and help as our needs required.” History of The Church, 1:175-177

Several others including Lyman Wight stated that the Melchizedek priesthood was bestowed for the first in this dispensatin time at that conference.

Church apologists such as Elder B.H. Roberts and others conclude that the statement made by the prophet and others concerning the bestowal of the “Melchizedek Priesthood for the first time” is not accurate and that it the special conference deals with the restoration of the “office” of high priest for the first time, not the bestowal of the “Melchizedek Priesthood” for the first time. (History of The Church,1:176)

As we review the events pertaining to this special conference in the context of ancient and modern scripture and the words of those involved in it we shall be better prepared to determine if Joseph Smith, Lyman Wight and others were correct in his declaration that the Melchizedek Priesthood was being bestowed for the first time in this dispensation.

This controversial event that took place at the Morley Farm created a lot of indigestion for several leaders of the Church back at that time and, I suspect, based on the lack of interest in this event in contemporary lesson manuals, articles and books by LDS gospel scholars, it continues to create indigestion for some clear up to today.

A few years ago on one of my pilgrimages to Kirtland, while talking to a guide, he confided in me that there was a “secret document” circulating around, in the possession of some of the tour guides that listed who the 23 people were that were called and ordained to the high priesthood on that fateful day.

The list graded each of the 23 as either an “F” for “faithful” or “A” for “Apostate”.

The apostates were then categorized into one of three sub-categories depending, according to the creator of the document, on how much light they had previously received and how far they fell, judging by how much they eventually persecuted Joseph Smith and the Church, and, ultimately, whether they supported Brigham Young during and after the succession crises.

The secrecy of the document intrigued me and I pleaded with him to obtain a copy of it for me which he did.

I didn’t really see the significance of the event back then so I simply cataloged the document for future reference.

Recently, as I have been studying some priesthood issues, it occurred to me how significant that event was and I desired to review the document.

Unfortunately I could not find it so I tried to find out who these 23 men were by googling the topic. To my surprise, I was not able to easily find who these 23 High Priests were on the internet by simply doing key word searches. (and I am not too shabby with key word searches)

I then called the Visitors Center in Kirtland Ohio and asked the tour guides. They were not aware of the document I had previously obtained from their predecessors and did not have any record of who the 23 High Priests were.

They did, however, give me the phone number of the Visitors Center at the Morley Farm. I called there and asked the guide.

He did not know either and he commented how strange it is that such information its not easily found and that the event that took place there at the Morley Farm is not as highly profiled as the visitations of John the Baptist and Peter James and John, the vision Joseph and Sidney had in section 76 or the visitation of Christ and Moses, Elijah and Elias in the Kirtland Temple.

He asked me to send him the names of the 23 High Priests if I ever found out who they were.

Still not wanting to go through the many religious documents that I have collected over the years in search of the missing document, I decided to simply go to the greatest source of information I had pertaining to the early history of the Church in Kirtland Ohio. I dug out my book entitled “Joseph Smiths Kirtland”, a book I highly recommend. This book is one of my prized possessions because it details so many of the incredible Pentecostal events that took place in Kirtland.

It was written by Karl Anderson, a member of the church who, as I recall, was a stake president in the Kirtland area and who has spent much of his life researching the events that took place in Kirtland Ohio. He is affectionately referred to a “Mr. Kirtland” by some members of the church.

To my surprise and utter amazement, the book did not list the 23 High Priests, in fact, it didn’t even detail the events that took place on the occasion in which the ordinations of the first High Priests in this dispensation that took place at the Morley Farm!

Very strange indeed!

Luckily, I eventually found the missing document I had obtained in Kirtland. Since finding it, I have been informed that the names of all the priesthood leaders attending the conference and the names of the 23 men given the High Priesthood are contained in the Far West Record. I was able to get a copy of that and verify that the names in the document that I had been given were accurate.

You can view a copy of the transcript of the Far West Record as well as the document I obtained in Kirtland by clicking here.

In part one and part two of this post I want to summarize from seven credible corroborating historical sources what took place on that remarkable day and also the dynamics that may have been taking place between the strong personalities involved.

Fortunately we have a pretty good record of what transpired from the diaries and journal entries of Levi Hancock, Ezra Booth, Zebedee Coltrin, Philo Dibble, John Whitmer, John Murdock and Lyman Wight.

John Whitmer was the conference clerk.

Admittedly, Ezra Booth had apostatized by the time he wrote his remarks and was a skeptic and an enemy of Joseph Smith and the Church. His remarks are tainted a little bit from his bias which, in my opinion makes his recollection just as important as the others in getting a balanced corroboration of testimony of what took place on that occasion.

In future parts of this series, we will review the role that the third and highest priesthood was to play in implementing the law of consecration and establishing Zion.

I will also detail what we learn about the three different divisions of priesthood from this event and other teachings of the scriptures and the words of Joseph Smith.

I will use this event and a discourse on priesthood given by Joseph Smith as a context in which the concept of priesthood can be viewed and the three different levels of priesthood can be examined.

The results of this summary and the implications of what was taking place at that conference at the Morley Farm may surprise you. It may challenge your current assumptions about the priesthood. Most importantly, we can learn from history what to expect in the prophetic future, when the first laborers of the last kingdom return.

Here is a brief outline of what happened during the first part of at that amazing conference.

According to John Whitmer, a conference was called by Joseph Smith which promised a “blessing” if the Elders were faithful.

June 3, 1831. A general conference was called, and a blessing promised, if the elders were faithful, and humble before him. Therefore the elders assembled from the East, and the West, from the North and the South. And also many members.”

Others remembered the “blessing” that was to be poured out as being referred to as an “endowment“. This is the early and more accurate use of the term endowment in LDS theology;

“… About this time Solomon Came to see me and brought Zebedee Coltrin along he held some metings and wanted I should go to Kirtland with him we started the latter part of May got there by the Last of the month I lerned that on the fourth of June there was to be an indowment of some Elders” Levi Hancock

Others described the promised events as the beginning of the “great and mighty work” and that it would involve the “work of miracles“. (spelling corrections from these accounts have not been made. Many of these good people spell the same way I do!)

As the 4th of June last was appointed for the sessions of the conference, it was ascertained, that that was the time specified, when the great and mighty work was to be commenced, and such was the confidence of some, that knowledge superceded their faith, and they did not hesitate to declare themselves perfectly assured that the work of miracles would commence at the ensuing conference. With such strong assurances, and with the most elevated expectations, the conference assembled at the time appointed. To give, if possible, energy to expectation, Smith, the day before the conference, professing to be filled with the spirit of prophecy, declared, that “not three days should pass away, before some should see their Savior, face to face.” (Ezra Booth)

In his introduction, the Prophet likened the kingdom of God to a grain of a mustard seed and that some would live to see it put forth its branches.

He prophesied that some of those present would become martyrs.

The fourth of June came and we all met in a little string of Buildings under the hill nere Isaac Morleys in Kirtland Geauga County Ohio we all went to a school house on the hill about one fourth of a mile asending nearly all the way it was builded of logs they was filled with slab benches here the elders were seated . the meeting was opened as usual Joseph began to speak he said that the kingdom that Christ spoke of that was like a grain of musterd seed was now before him and some should see it put forth its branches And the angels of heaven would some day come like Birds to its branches just as the Saviour had said and Some of you shall live to see it come with great glory some of you must die for the testimony of this work” (Levi handcock)

Philo dibble testified that in Joseph’s opening remarks he prophesied that there were some in their midst that would see the heavens opened and bear record of the coming of the Son of Man before the conference came to a close.

The Prophet also prophesied that the “Man of Sin” would be revealed during the conference as well.

I saw Joseph Smith the Prophet when he first came to Kirtland, and was with him in the first conference held in that place, which was in a small school house. When he arose in our midst he said that before the conference closed there were those present who should see the heavens open and bear record of the coming of the Son of Man, and that the man of sin should be revealed

Apparently Joseph had prophesied of these events the previous day as well. John Whitmer notes that “Joseph Smith Jr. Prophecied the day Previous that the man of Sin should be revealed”

According to Ezra booth, the Prophet cautioned those in attendance in his preliminary remarks tonot be overcome with surprise”

According to Jared Carter, Joseph Smith, who was not a gifted speaker, became a talented speaker as he became filled with Spirit;

“Before this [i.e., June 6, 1831] was that memorable day when God first gave the fullness of the high priesthood to the elders of the Church of Christ. At the interview, Brother Joseph, notwithstanding he is not naturally talented for a speaker yet he was filled with the power of the Holy Ghost so that he spoke as I never heard man speak for God, by the power of the Holy Ghost spoke in him and marvelous was the display of the power of the spirit among the elders present..” Journal of Jared Carter, typescript copy, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah

John Whitmer noted that;

“The Lord made manifest to Joseph that it was necessary that such of the elders as were considered worthy, should be ordained to the high priesthood.”

Lyman Wight becomes the First High Priest of this Dispensation

Next, Lyman Wight takes the spotlight as the first man in this dispensation to be ordained to the High Priesthood after the order of the Son of God, also referred to as the highest division of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

This of course seems contradictory to those who thought that the “higher” priesthood that Joseph and Oliver had previously received by Peter James and John, which included the calling of Apostles, was the highest division of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

As we will see in later parts of this article, there are three divisions of the priesthood;

1- The “lesser” priesthood (Aaronic or Levitical, named after Aaron)
2- The “Higher” priesthood
(Patriarchal named after Abraham & Moses)
3- The “Highest” priesthood (Named after Melchizedek)

Joseph Smith has stated that “all priesthood is Melchizedek”, nevertheless, there was obviously a higher division of priesthood than what Joseph and Oliver had received previously from Peter James and John.

According to section 84, the lesser priesthood after the order of Aaron and the higher priesthood after the order of Abraham and Moses are the two priesthoods necessary to govern the church, dispense the ordinances of salvation and reveal the mystery of Godliness.

Those two priesthoods are bestowed according to lineage and/or according to the “will of man”.

The highest priesthood which is called the Melchizedek Priesthood which was bestowed anciently and at the Morley Farm however, according to the scriptures, is not given based on a man’s lineage nor is it given according to the will of man. Rather, it is given according to the voice of God out of the heavens as we shall see from the following accounts of this amazing event that happened at the Morley Farm.

And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will..” (see href=”http://scriptures.lds.org/en/jst/4″>JST Gen. 14: 25-40 )

Opening events during the Conference at Morley’s Farm-

First let us review the recollection of Ezra Booth who states that Lyman Wight was the first to be ordained to the High Priesthood and to be given the honor of ordaining 16 of the 23 men who would be given the high priesthood, including Joseph and Sidney. It was Joseph’s privilege and responsibility to have it revealed to him from God who should be ordained to the high priesthood;

He then laid his hands on the head of Elder Wight, who had participated largely in the warm feeling of his leader, and ordained him to the High Priesthood. He was set apart for the service of the Indians, and was ordained to the gift of tongues, healing the sick, casting out devils, and discerning spirits and in like manner he ordained several others;

and then called upon Wight to take the floor Wight arose, and presented a pale countenance, a fierce look, with his arms extended, and his hands cramped back, the whole system agitated, and a very unpleasant object to look upon.

He exhibited himself as an instance of the great power of God, and called upon those around him “if you want to see a sign, look at me.” He then stepped upon a bench, and declared with a loud voice, he saw the Savior… It, however, procured Wight the authority to ordain the rest. So said the spirit, and so said Smith. The spirit in Smith selected those to be ordained, and the spirit in Wight ordained them…”.

Here is the recollection of John Witmer regarding the ordination of Lyman Wight

After he had prophecied, he laid his hands upon Lyman Wight (h) (swh) [and ordained him] to the High Priesthood after the holy order of God. And the Spirit [blank] fell upon Lyman and he prophecied concerning the coming of Christ He said that there were some in this congregation that should live until the Savior shoud decend from heaven with a shout, with all the holy angels with him.

He said the coming of the Savior should be like the Sun rising in the east and will cover the whole earth. So will the coming of the Son of man be. Yea, he will appear in his brightness and consume all before him. And the hills will be laid low, and valies be exalted, and the crooked be made straight, and the rough Smooth. And some of my brethren Shall suffer marterdom for the sake of the religion of Jesus Christ and seal the testimony of Jesus with their blood He saw the hevans opened, and the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the Father, Making intercession for his brethren, the Saints He said that God would work a work in these last days that tongue cannot express, and the mind {of} is not capable to conceive.

The glory of the Lord shone around At this conferen[c]e these were ordained to the high priesthood, namely Lyman Wight (h) (swh), Sidney Rigdon, John Murdock, Reynolds Cahoon, Harvey Whitlock, and Hyrum Smith were ordained by Lyman Wight excet S Joseph Smith Jr except Sidney Rigdon. The following [were ordained] by Lyman Wight by commandment. Parley P. Pratt (h), Thomas B. Marsh (h), Isaac Morley, Edward Partridge, Joseph Wakefield, Ezra Thayer, Martin Harris, Ezra Booth who denied the faith, Harvey Whitlock denied the faith, also Joseph Wakefield, Joseph Smith Sr., Joseph Smith Jr., John Whitmer. [In the Far West Record, Sidney Rigdon is ordained by Lyman Wight.

Levi Hancock recalled that Joseph “looked at Lyman Wight and said you shall see the Lord and met him nere the Corner of the house and laid his hands upon him and blessed him with the visions of heaven he then stepped out on the floor and said I now see God, and Jesus Christ at his right hand let them kill me, I should not feel death as I am now”

Zebedee Coltrine stated; “Then Lyman Wight was ordained a High Priest. Joseph told him he should see the heavens opened and after he was ordained he stood on his feet and testified that he could see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

Following this conference, the majority of the 23 High Priests would be called upon to travel to Jackson County, preaching the gospel along the way. As Elder Wight traveled on this mission and others he would inform people that “he was a preacher of the gospel after the order of Melchizedek”

In the next part of this article we shall consider the dramatic turn of events at this special conference that took place after Lyman Wight was ordained and bore witness of the Father and Son. After that, the power of the adversary was displayed and the “Man of Sin” was revealed.

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Posted by on July 16, 2009 in History, Scripture

 

One response to “A Forgotten Event in LDS History?

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