Page images
PDF
EPUB

priests, presided over by the presidency of the stake.* The high council cannot act unless seven of its members are present; but seven have the power to call upon other high priests to act temporarily in the place of the absent councilors. Whenever a high council is organized, the twelve members draw lots for their places. Those who draw the even numberstwo, four, six, eight, ten, twelve-are to stand in behalf of the accused; those drawing the odd numbers in behalf of the accuser. In every case the accused has a right to half of the council, to prevent injury or injustice. The councilors who represent the accused and accuser respectively, do not become partisans bent on winning their case irrespective of its righteousness or justice; on the contrary every man is to speak according to equity and truth; and aside from that is merely to see that each party to the issue involved has justice accorded him and that he is not subjected to insult or injury.

There are three kinds of high councils in The Church. They are similar in organization, and the manner of procedure is practically the same before them all; but they differ in authority and jurisdiction. I.

The Traveling High Council: This council consists of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. They are a traveling, presiding high council; and, laboring under the direction of the First Presidency of The Church, they have the right to build up The Church and regulate all the affairs of the same in all the world. Whenever they sit as a high council, there is no appeal from their decisions—that is, they can only be called in question by the general authorities of The Church in the event of transgression.

II. The Standing High Councils at the Stakes of Zion: As already noted The Church is divided into branches or wards with appropriate officers; and these branches, wards, and settlements of the saints are grouped into stakes of Zion. In each stake there is a standing high council, limited in its jur

*In the absence of his counselors the president of the stake has power to preside over the council without an assistant; and in case that he himself is absent, his counselors have power to preside in bis stead, both or either of them. In the absence of all the presidency then the senior member of the council may preside.

isdiction to the affairs of that particular stake where it is located.

III. Temporary High Council: The high priests abroad, that is, outside of the organized stakes of Zion, whenever the parties to a difficulty, or either of them demand it, and the high priests abroad deem the case of sufficient importance to justify such action—are authorized to organize a temporary high council to try the case. The council is to be organized after the pattern and proceed in the same manner as those at the stakes of Zion. If the decision of any high council-except that of the Traveling, Presiding High Council—is unsatisfactory, an appeal lies to the First Presidency, who take such steps in the case as wisdom and the spirit of the Lord indicate. But whatever their decision is it is final.

The special court referred to above-consisting of the Presiding Bishop of The Church and twelve high priests especially called for each occasion-I must not neglect to mention, for the reason that it exhibits the fact that no one in The Church is so exalted but he is amenable to the laws and courts of The Church, as well as the humblest member. This special court is called into existence for the purpose of trying the President of the High Priesthood, who is also the President of The Church, if he should be found in transgression. It may investigate his conduct, subject him to the most rigid examination, and if the evidence showed him to be in transgression the court could condemn him and its action would be final, from its decision there would be no appeal.*

Thus none, not even the highest, is beyond the operation of the laws and councils of The Church. However great and exalted any single officer of The Church may be, The Church is still greater and more exalted than he; for though the President of The Church is God's mouthpiece-God's viceregent on earth-yet he may be tried and his conduct inquired into by this court to which I have called attention. Therefore if the time should ever come that The Church should be so unfortunate as to be presided over by a man who transgressed the laws of God and became uprighteous

*Doc. & Cov., Sec. CVII: 76, 82-84.

(and that such a thing could be, and that the President of The Church is not regarded as impeccable, is quite evident from the fact that provisions are made for his trial and condemnation), a means of deposing him, without destroying The Church, without revolution, or even disorder, is provided in The Church system of government. *

Of course the only punishment which is within the power of The Church to inflict if the decisions of its councils or courts are not respected, is to disfellowship or excommunicate such offenders. In the former case the transgressor is merely suspended from the privileges of church communion. In the latter case-excommunication—the person absolutely loses his membership in The Church, together with all the priesthood he holds; and if he ever regains a standing it must be by baptism and confirmation as at first. To those who hold lightly their standing in The Church, suspension of fellowship, or excommunication has no special terror; but to the man of faith, whose full hopes of eternal life with all its advantages stand or fall with his standing in The Church of Christ, no greater punishment can threaten him. The punishment of excommunication is a serious one in the estimation of the faithful, and since man in his imperfect state is influenced to righteousness by his dread of punishment, as well as by his hope of reward, the punishment of excommunication has a wholesome effect in preserving the discipline of The Church.

It is lar of The Church that the decisions of the quorums of the Priesthood are to be "made in all righteousness, in holiness, in lowliness of heart, meekness and long suffering, and in faith, and virtue, and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity; because the promise is if these things abound in them they shall not be unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord "+ There is nothing in this which justifies the exercise of arbitrary power or any improper authority over men.

In March, 1839, while the prophet was imprisoned in

*This special court was once organized; before it Sidney Rigdon, one of the Presidency of The Church, was tried and condemned in 1844.

+ Doc. and Cov., Sec. cvii.

Liberty jail he wrote a letter to The Church for its instruction and comfort, and in the course of that letter, in speaking of the priesthood and the exercise of its power, he remarks:

“There are many called but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen ? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—that the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled por handled only upon the principles of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon us," he continues, “it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control, or dominion, or compulsion, upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, amen to the priesthood, or the authority of that man. Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks; to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. We have learned by sad experience, that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise uprighteous dominion. Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness, and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile, reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost, and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the bands of death "*

As the letter from which the foregoing is quoted was inspired by the Spirit of the Lord, and is published in the Doctrine and Covenants, at least in part, † it stands as the word and law of God to The Church, and exhibits the spirit of the government of the priesthood.

"No power

[blocks in formation]

THE WRITTEN WORD-THE BIBLE, THE BOOK

PRESENT REVELATION.

Relative to the written word of God as revelation, The Church teaches in one of her Articles of Faith that,

* Doc. and Cov., Sec. cxxi.
+ Doc and Cov., Sec. cxxi. and cxxii.

"We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

"We believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God."

From this it will appear that The Church teaches no contracted views with respect to the revelations of God to mankind. The Bible contains the word of God; but it contains it as delivered to the ancient patriarchs, the Jews, and the early Christians. Modern christendom would have the world believe that the Bible alone contains the revelations of God; that the volume of scripture is completed and forever closed; that God will no more speak to mankind, since he has given the final revelation of himself in the Bible. But, as stated in the article of faith quoted, “We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” It is evident that not only the eastern hemisphere, but the western hemisphere was peopled by the children of God, although they were unknown to the Europeans until about four hundred years ago.

Here empires flourished, civilizations rose and fell, and in the centuries that passed away, hundreds of millions of God's children, if we are to accept modern Christian views in respect to revelation, perished without a knowledge of God, without a revelation of his being or character to them. The Church teaches no such narrow views with respect to God's dealings with his children on the subject of revelation as this. The Book of Mormon teaches a better doctrine concern ng revelation. One of the old Nephite prophets, speaking upon the subject, says:

Behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word; yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom according to that which is just and true.

This implies that the inspiration of God to a greater or less extent has rested upon all the great characters that have appeared among men to teach better things than those they found existing; and who, if they did not.teach the fullness of truth, taught at least such measure of it as the people of the

« PreviousContinue »