The Family Priesthood

By now most every Mormon is familiar with Elder Dallin H. Oak’s important talk about how the Priesthood can bless both men and women. Less well know is what could be considered a companion talk that describes the relationship between Church and family authority. He states, “The Church provides the teachings, authority, and ordinances necessary to perpetuate family relationships to the eternities.” He continues, “Each is so interrelated that service to one is service to the other.” The focus on families is not a Church preoccupation, but a doctrinal necessity that the Priesthood is there to nurture. The family organization is forever as opposed to the various offices of Priest, Elder, and President that exist to maintain order.

What we know of the Priesthood comes from Jesus Christ as given to him by God, and then passed down to others. Originally this power and authority began with Adam and continued down a father and son line of authority. It was first placed on the head of Adam by God after expulsion from the Garden of Eden. He in turn, according to Doctrine and Covenants 107:41-56, ordained other males who passed it on to their descendants:

” 41 This order was instituted in the days of Adam, and came down by lineage in the following manner:

42 From Adam to Seth, who was ordained by Adam at the age of sixty-nine years, and was blessed by him three years previous to his (Adam’s) death, and received the promise of God by his father, that his posterity should be the chosen of the Lord, and that they should be preserved unto the end of the earth;

43 Because he (Seth) was a perfect man, and his likeness was the express likeness of his father, insomuch that he seemed to be like unto his father in all things, and could be distinguished from him only by his age.”

The order of the Priesthood continued with the ordination of Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah:

“56 And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation.”

In Abraham 1:2-3 It is that same Patriarchal Priesthood that Abraham desired to obtain:

“2 And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.

3 It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me.”

Despite Abraham receiving the Priesthood of the fathers, he did not receive it through his father who had lost it by wickedness. He had to receive it either through a new dispensation of angelic messenger or another person who continued having the authority. As is the case, he sought out the administrator with the highest authority who then lived, “Which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers” (D&C 84:14). They then ate bread and drank wine together, with Abraham giving tithes to him as the greater authority (Gen. 14:17-20). It is clear from this, Priesthood didn’t have to be passed down from father to son or even first born. However, once distilled to another it did become a family promise as Abraham passed it to his posterity (Gen 26:3-5), who then will bless all nations. Continue reading

A Privileged Mormon Woman Defects

Bubbles

[My darling husband has finally read this post, and I am updating it based on some of his comments. One of his suggested edits was the title, which used to read "A Mormon Princess Defects." Though he mostly liked this post, there were a few areas where he felt I had written in a manner that invited misunderstanding. I have also invited Christine's daughter, Emily, to send me her edit of how she believes this post should have read, given my opinion but her knowledge of the hearts of Christine and Malcolm. This post will remain my work, and Emily's edit, if she submits it, will be a separate post.]

If you are familiar with me and Millennial Star, you know that we are always sorry when someone decides to constructively desert their faith in Mormonism. Some of my colleagues express this sorrow by attacking.

I express this sorrow by performing analysis, as I did with the discussions (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) posted by those supporting/requesting/demanding female ordination.

I don’t typically listen to John Dehlin’s podcasts, but I have been wondering what was happening with him, in the wake of the recent excommunication of Kate Kelly. And so I browsed to his Facebook page and looked at the chatter going on over there.

This is how I came to listen to John Dehlin’s recent four-part podcast covering roughly six hours of conversation with Christine Jeppson Clark. Christine is a long-time friend of John’s, and her father is the now-deceased general authority, Malcolm Jeppson.

There are four points of interest here for me, as Christine describes her father’s involvement in coordinating discipline for individuals suspected of apostasy and her path out of the Church:

  1. An expanded view of how Church discipline is both local and yet under supervision.
  2. The importance of schema in interpreting our past and our present.
  3. The danger of living in fear and isolation, taught incorrect “truths.”
  4. How blessed I have been, by contrast.

I see Christine’s decision to depart from the faith of her childhood as a natural consequence of various factors, but I don’t take her actions as a legitimate critique of the Mormon faith. T 1 to paraphrase Baruch Spinoza:

“What Christine says about Mormonism tells us more about Christine than about Mormonism”. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. Obviously Christine is acting based on what she legitimately believes. I merely feel that the defection of any high profile member of a group is not necessarily a valid reason for deciding a group or movement is wrong. If that were the legitimate criterion for determining a movement or goverment was wrong, then there is no right in this world.

For Eternity and Time

[This post is part of a series on Joseph Smith's Polygamy. To read from the beginning or link to previously published posts, go to A Faithful Joseph.]

Jonathan and Elvira

Jonathan Holmes and Elvira Annie Cowles [Holmes Smith] circa 1870, just prior to Elvira’s death

As the Nauvoo temple neared completion, the non-Mormons in Illinois tore down all pretense of civil protection for the people in Nauvoo.

First to go was the Nauvoo city charter, which had authorized creation of the Nauvoo legion. Lacking a charter, Nauvoo couldn’t even maintain a police force to protect against petty crime. 1

The next threat was the beginning of the “wolf hunts” that had been threatened in 1844, a euphemism for attacks on outlying Mormon settlements and dwellings. In the months before the temple was completed, the wolf hunt mobs burned over 100 homes. 2

There was an arrest warrant out for Brigham Young. Word came that federal troops were advancing on Nauvoo, coming up the Mississippi River. 3 It was a time of severe tension, and Brigham knew he would be responsible for moving his people west.

Brigham was faced with the question of what to do with women whose husbands had died. The women wished to be sealed to their beloved, departed spouses. But what man could be counted on to marry and care for a woman who was eternally sealed to another man?

And so Brigham apparently made a policy decision. If a woman wished to be sealed to a deceased spouse for eternity, she could–so long as the man standing proxy agreed to marry the woman for time. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy, p. 65.
  2. Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy, pp. 36, 70.
  3. Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy. Also documented at the Library of Congress, from research performed by Stephen Stathis circa 1978.

The Priesthood of God

The typical Protestant denomination, as implied, protested against the Catholic Church. There is often no hierarchical structure representing Priesthood functions. Many believe in what is known as the priesthood of all believers, meaning that proper faith alone gives authority. Seminaries and colleges are set up to teach the doctrines in preparation of ministry work. Theology degrees are handed out as de-facto representations of authorized congregation leadership. Decisions of the church are determined by those who feel called to leadership duty and then voted in by the membership to a group or committee tasked with governance. Mormonism’s authority doesn’t come from the doctrine, but more like the Catholic Priesthood hierarchical structure. Men are called by others without prior training or personal desire to different offices of authority and responsibility. The biggest difference is that all men can receive the Priesthood even without any offices, but it must be a formal recognition. No one can declare they have the Priesthood (Heb. 5:4) without ordination from someone who had it before them.

Both Mormons and Catholics believe they have been given the authority of the Priesthood through Peter, although in different ways. For the Catholic it came down directly from him to others while he lived without any break. Mormonism, of course, believe that the angel John the Baptist gave the right of outward ordinances and the angels Peter, James, and John the more spiritual higher authority. The reasoning is a continuation of the belief that God must have order in His Kingdom. Permission and power must be granted in a specific way for mortals to have any authority to bless the world. Any other way, no matter how sincere the individual, is not recognized by the Heavens. Continue reading

Kirby discusses an atheist Mormon kid, and gets some things right and others horribly wrong

Robert Kirby is a Mormon columnist for the SL Tribune. I have read 20 or so columns of his over the years, and some of them are really good and funny and others suffer from what I call the “straw man Mormon” argument.

The “straw man Mormon” argument is extremely common on the Bloggernacle, and it is this: invent an intolerant, holier-than-thou Mormon in your mind and then proceed to show how wrong this Mormon is. If this Mormon is wrong (which he is), then most Mormons (except for you) are wrong because in your mind this invented Mormons represents how most Mormons think. Therefore, we can assume that most Mormons are intolerant, holier-than-thou types because nobody wants to be like this (invented) Mormon.

This tactic is especially cruel because writers like Kirby will take one little characteristic that they have noticed in a few Mormons and then apply these negative characteristics to the entire Mormon population and inflate them into the dominant personality trait of all Mormons.

This Kirby column is a great example of the “straw man Mormon” argument at work. Here is Kirby’s point: if a good Mormon kid grows up and announces he is an atheist, then his very wrong Mormon parents will think the kid is lost and “going to hell” and “doomed,” etc, etc.

Kirby is of course correct that a loving God gives people lots of chances, on Earth and in the Spirit world, to change. He is also right that thinking the kid is doomed is short-sighted. He is also right that some parents probably overreact to their kids losing their testimonies.

Everybody reading this post probably knows some parents who have overreacted in this way. We could fill hundreds of pages on this blog with stories about these “wrong” parents.

But the truth is that everybody, including these parents, are human beings with nuances.

Continue reading