Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood Hardcover – August 15, 1995
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
A revelation to the three-year-old Church of Christ (also called Mormon) declared in 1833 that God would “give unto the faithful line upon line precept upon precept.”1The concept of authority was not initially addressed in the Restoration movement2but developed gradually, or “line upon line.” Now viewed as the founding Restoration event, the epiphany known as the “first vision” resulted from Joseph Smith’s mourning “for my own sins and for the sins of the world.”3 In response, “the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee.” Despite the importance attached to the first vision by subsequent generations of Latter-day Saints, it did not serve as Smith’s call to the ministry or claim to divine authorization.
That claim began with another vision, in the autumn of 1823, when “an angel of the Lord came and stood before me.” The angel called Moroni entrusted to Smith “plates of gold upon which there was engravings which was engraven by Maroni & his fathers the servants of the living God in ancient days and deposited by the commandments of God and kept by the power thereof and that I should go and get them.”4 Translating the plates into the Book of Mormon marked the beginning of Smith’s ministry. It established among his followers his credentials as a prophet. Such authority, however, was implied, for Smith never claimed that Moroni bestowed formal authority by the laying on of hands, the manner sanctioned by ancient and modern Christianity.
As the Mormon restoration unfolded, the essence of divine empowerment assumed a more concrete form. Almost six years after Moroni’s visit, angelic beings bestowed authority on Smith and his assistant Oliver Cowdery by the laying on of hands. Although in the Mormon church today the term “priesthood” refers to this bestowed authority, such a relationship did not develop until years after the founding of the church. Initially authority was understood to be inherent in what are now termed “offices.” Three offices—elder, priest, and teacher—were present by August 1829, as were the ordinances of baptism, confirmation, and ordination, but the word “priesthood” was not used in reference to these for another three years.
In June 1831 a modern “pentecost” occurred in which supernatural powers, similar to those reported in the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2, were bestowed upon latter-day disciples through their ordination to the “high priesthood,” thus coupling the concepts of “authority” and “power.” Between 1831 and 1835 an organizational consolidation occurred, resulting in the 1835 designation of the “Aaronic Priesthood” and “Melchizedek Priesthood,” which incorporated the elements of authority and power which had developed over the prior dozen years.
Perhaps the most important and certainly least understood development began in 1836 when Smith and Cowdery recorded a vision of Elijah, the Old Testament prophet. Although Elijah did not become associated with priesthood for another two years, he gradually became the most important figure for Latter-day Saint authority. Indeed, after 1840 Smith never associated Moroni, John the Baptist, or Peter, James, and John—previous angelic ministers—with the concept of priesthood, opting instead to emphasize Elijah.
The concept of bestowed authority was present prior to the organization of the church, but the structure and nomenclature developed gradually throughout the remaining years of Smith’s life. Although the development occurred along a continuum, the continuity was punctuated by several key events. In attempting to understand the developmental process, it is useful to divide the continuum into several phases on the basis of those events.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Gregory Prince shows that the development of the Mormon Priesthood was a process, not an event. There were several visitations and ordinations. In fact, the higher priesthood--the Melchezidek--was more accurately restored by Elijha, in the sense that the Prophet Joseph received more keys from Elijha than from Peter, James, and John.
Likewise, we see that the offices of the Priesthood were revealed and put into practice over time. Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants didn't suddenly appear with the outlines of a perfect organization. Questions of precedence were worked out through further revelations over time.
From the beginning the Mormon Priesthood was bestowed upon all men (and some boys) in the fledgling church. It was a gift and a source of power for every man, just as it is today. Women, too, recieved this "power from on high" to bless the sick and to perform washings and annointings in the temple. The author shows that although Women recieved "power from on high" they were not ordained to any priesthood offices, and neither was Joseph inclined to do so at any time in the future.
The research in this book is exact and comprehensive. The book has a dry tone and sparse style. It sticks to the facts, and is true to it's thesis. A good resource for anyone who wants to understand in more depth how we got this all-important doctrine and resource. It is remarkable that one can read the revelations, statements, and diary entries in this book and visit any Mormon church on Sunday and see the very same offices, keys, and organization practiced 170 years later.
This book is primarily of interest to members of the LDS church, but it is also a good historical reference that may be of assistance to researchers.
LDS author Gregory Prince apparently spent 8 years scanning more than a half million pages of research to produce this work on early Mormon priesthood development. The focus of this book is to chronologically organise early developments as they were written, not necessarily as they reportedly occurred. As a typical example, the term "Melchizedek Priesthood" did not exist within Mormonism until 1835, but in referring to earlier events, people who wrote after 1835 tended to use that term retroactively.
Prince shows that authority and priesthood were concepts that developed gradually, not as instant "restorations" but as ideas that acquired definition and evolution as time passed: "All the while the structure of higher and lower priesthoods fluctuated in response to pragmatic needs. Priests were needed to perform ordinances, teachers to lead congregations, bishops to manage church assets, and elders to proselytize - responsibilities which would be redistributed repeatedly throughout Smith's fourteen-year ministry."
While occasionally the author supplies his own interpretation on what he is quoting, he generally allows the reader to make their own assessment of the quoted historical record.
This is an impressive result of thorough research which I highly recommended.