« PreviousContinue »
II—Heavenly Messengers Restore the Priesthood
When a man starts out to set up a church in the name of Christ, he ought to give some reasonable explanation for his authority in such procedure. This Joseph Smith did. He asserts that in May, 1829, no less a personage than John the Baptist, now a heavenly messenger, conferred upon himself and Oliver Cowdery the Aaronic Priesthood, which delegated the keys of the ministering of angels, the right to proclaim the doctrine of repentance,
and to baptize by immersion for the remission of sins. Shortly after this, three ancient apostles, Peter, James and John, being commissioned of God, conferred the higher
Melchizedek Priesthood. This latter endowment includes the apostleship and gives authority to build up the kingdom of God in the world; this priesthood also comprehends all spiritual powers and keys necessary to be exercised for the salvation of mankind.
111-Foundation Stones of
With this authority, on April 6, 1830, in the little town of Fayette, New York, the Prophet proceeded to organize the Church. It started
with six members JOSEPH B. KEELER
others were present. The
first foundation stones of the new government were firmly laid. It was definitely stated to those present, that the method of organizing and the form of the organization itself were in conformity to a command of God.
The new Church members were asked if they were willing to accept Joseph Smith and Oliver. Cowdery “as their teachers in the things of the Kingdom of God,” to which proposition they all voted affirmatively. “And all things shall be done by common consent,” is a command to the Church. This doctrine, then followed, has been strictly adhered to from that first day to the present. There can be no foisting of men or measures onto the organization. Every officer from president to deacon, must stand the test of a vote of the people, at least once a year. Even the revelations to the Church from the living Oracles (the leading authorities of the Church) must first be accepted and approved by the body before they are operative. In these matters the greatest freedom is accorded to all members, women voting with the men. It should be a self-evident proposition that no law, either human or divine, can be effective without its free and intelligent acceptance by those who are to obey it. IV-The Melchisedek Priesthood-and Offices Arising Therefrom
The primary offices of the Melchizedek or Higher Priesthood are those of Patriarch, High Priest, Apostle, Seventy, Elder. By virtue of his office and calling the President of the Church is President of the High Priesthood. From the body of High Priests, at present numbering over ten thousand, all the general officers are chosen, including also patriarchs, stake presidencies, and ward bishoprics. The subdivisions of this body of priesthood number sixty-four, corresponding with the number of organized stakes (or geographical divisions) of Zion; except, however, the priesthood in the mission fields are not regularly organized in quorums but meet generally for instruction and work. The High Priests, as a rule, are men of long service, mature years, and are usually well versed in principle, doctrine, and government. Most of them have performed missions, have traveled extensively, and have done service in the offices below their own grade; and, withal, are men of dignity, being rounded out by careers of varied experiences. V–The First Presidency–Some of Their Powers and Duties
The office of President of the Church is elective. The President is first selected by the council of Twelve Apostles, from among the High Priests, himself a High Priest; then at a general conference held in Salt Lake City, semi-annually, also at stake conferences, held four times each year, at the headquarters of each stake, he is by vote "upheld by the confidence, faith and prayer of the Church.” He has associated with him two Counselors who are chosen in a similar manner, and the three compose the First Presidency. Connected with this high office is the endowment and confirmation of prophet, seer, and revelator. The powers and duties of the First Presidency are co-extensive with the Church. To summarize the revelation designating their powers, it says they are “to receive the oracles,” or revelations, “for the whole church;” they hold the keys of all the spiritual blessing of the Church; they "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 First Born, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus Christ the Mediator of the new covenant."
VI–The Marriage Covenant The President is the only person who holds the keys of that priesthood which includes the eternity of the marriage covenant. Church marriages are solemnized only in temples, and only to the few who officiate therein is this power delegated. The Church, however, recognizes marriage under the civil law, but it does not encourage members to marry for time, yet some do. The perpetuity and strength of any government depends largely upon the esteem in which the marriage contract is held by its people. In the light of "Mormon" doctrine, "Man, in his fulness, is a twofold organization—male and female. Either being incapable of filling the measure of its creation alone, it requires the union of the two to complete man in the image of God. Outside of marriage, the salvation of man is incomplete.” This idea of permanency of the marriage bond, enduring not only for time but for eternity, has a wonderful effect on the integrity of the home —which fact may be attested, in one way, by the very small percentage of divorces. The statistics of 1912 show but fifty-three divorces after Church marriages; the year previous showed fiftytwo divorces for the whole organization.
VII-Temples, and Vicarious Work for the Dead
Another distinctive function which attaches to the office of the First Presidency is that of building temples, and the direction of the work therein. The first edifice of this kind was built in Kirtland, Ohio; the next in Nauvoo, Illinois; and four others have been erected in Utah, and one is now being constructed in Alberta, Canada. Paul's question to the Corinthian Saints, "Why are they then baptized for the dead?" is receiving a practical answer in the temples. A vicarious work for dead ancestors is constantly going on. Up to date deceased persons numbering over two millions have had the ordinance of baptism performed for them. Many of these have had the endowment of the priesthood; husbands and wives have been sealed in the marriage covenant, and other ordinances have been administered by living relatives and friends. Ordinances and covenants under the gospel necessary to salvation which may be embraced by the living, may also be applied to the dead, by proxy, in the temples. To keep this work going requires a great deal of time and means of members who labor for others, and a vast outlay by the Church for construction and maintenance.
VIII–The Twelve Apostles-Ambassadors of Christ to the World
Ranking next in authority and official position to the First Presidency, is the Council of Twelve Apostles. The duty of its members is to preach the Gospel to the world, to send it to all people, and to bear testimony of Jesus Christ, as living witnesses of His divine mission. The senior member is president. Under the direction of the First Presidency they have charge of the missionary work of the Church.
At present twenty-one missions are established; and they comprise all of the United States (outside of what is known as the stakes of Zion), parts of Mexico, all of the countries of Europe, except Russia, Spain, Greece and Turkey; the South African mission, embracing all the civilized parts of the continent of Africa, except the northern part; practically all of the Pacific Islands, including Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. About one thousand missionaries are sent annually to the various parts of the world. These are taken from any and all pccupations. They go on missions without salary, providing their own means of support, sometimes being assisted by friends, the Church paying only their transportation home. Their terms of service are about two to three years. These missionaries are inbued with a sincere love for their fellowmen, and manifest a patriotic devotion to God and to everything for which the Church stands.
IX—The Quorums of Seventy—“The Minute Men”
The body of priesthood standing next to the Apostles are the Seventies. These are elders whose special calling is to do actual service in the missionary field; they are the “minute men” of the Church. The last enumeration, (1912), placed their number at 10.442. They also are organized into groups or quorums of seventy members, (when complete) and each quorum is presided over by seven presidents, one senior and six associates. There are now organized one hundred fifty-nine quorums. A council of seven presidents has the supervision over these quorums, and looks after the details of their labors; the council being, of course, under the general direction of the Council of Apostles.
x-The Elders—The Home Ministry In a class below the High Priests is the great body of Elders, numbering 25,320 men. These are mostly young men. Their calling primarily is to assist the High Priests and to do service at home, not abroad, though thousands of them do go upon foreign missions. Those who are residing in stakes are organized into quorums of ninety-six Elders each (as near as may be) having a presidency of three of their own number as head. At present there are 329 quorums, and in this capacity they are engaged in systematic work, first by acquiring theological and sociological information, and second by active service among the people.
It may be remarked in passing that all of the quorums are similarly engaged, systematically pursuing educational coursesstudying the scriptures, history, social questions, government, and many other things that make for efficiency in their respective lines of work. In fact, it may be truthfully said of the membership of all the quorums taken together, numbering 84,406, that they form one immense college or “school of the prophets.”
XI–The Stakes of Zion Stakes of Zion are territorial, and governmental divisions of the Church. In form of organization they correspond mainly to the Church as a whole. At the head is a presidency of three High Priests; then a High Council of twelve men, Elders' quorums, and presiding boards of Relief Societies, Sunday Schools, Young Men's and Young Ladies' Mutual Improvement Associations, Primary Associations, and Religion Classes. The population of the Church, which in round numbers approximates half a million, is organized into stakes, wards, and missions. The sixty-four stakes now established are distributed in Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Alberta, Canada.
XII—The Local or Ward Organization The ward organization is a subdivision of the stake, and its presidency is a bishopric-a bishop and two counselors. Here may be observed the real life and activity of the people. It is so perfectly organized that each man, woman, and child almost daily feels the influence of its agency in their religious, moral and intellectual life. Often, also, through this medium are many of the secular or temporal needs of the members looked after and provided for. The population of a ward ranges from about 300 to 1,500, and there are now organized 720 of these miniature governments, and they are continually multiplying. The bishopric of the ward presides over the Aaronic Priesthood divided into quorums of Priests, Teachers, and Deacons. In membership, these quorums separately when complete number 12 deacons, 24 teachers, and 48 priests, with a presidency of three presiding over each group. The membership of the Aaronic Priesthood for the whole Church is 7,578 priests, with 258 quorums; 9,778 teachers, with 298 quorums; 20,608 deacons, with 797 quorums; or a total of 37,764 holding the lesser priesthood. The IMPROVEMENT ERA is the organ of these quorums.
All the quorums or parts of quorums meet weekly in each ward to study the principles of the gospel and to learn of their