D&C 107. Part 6. Interregnum.

You’ll want to read parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
Between the ca 1831 texts of the November 11 revelation and the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants text (section 3) there were several developments. One was the important revelation of September 22, 23, 1832. (LDS D&C 84) In this revelation we see the beginnings of a taxonomy of priesthood, more nuanced than previous classifications but not yet mature.

The revelation reviews the two priesthoods in the church at this point:

1) the lesser priesthood = the office of priest,[1]
and
2) the high priesthood = the office of high priest.

While it is very common in discussions of this section (84) to assume that lesser priesthood is actually the later concept of the Aaronic order and high priesthood is the Melchizedek order,[2] this is incorrect. That more refined and paradigm shifting notion had not surfaced at this point. As one can see, this both rationalizes but also changes considerably the currently assigned meaning of passages like this oft quoted one:

31 Therefore, as I said concerning the sons of Moses—for the sons of Moses and also the sons of Aaron shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord, which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the consecrated spot as I have appointed—
32 And the sons of Moses and of Aaron shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, upon Mount Zion in the Lord’s house, whose sons are ye; and also many whom I have called and sent forth to build up my church.
33 For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.
34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
38 And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.
39 And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.
40 Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.
41 But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.
42 And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens; and even I have given the heavenly hosts and mine angels charge concerning you. [Emphasis added.]

Sons of Aaron is a euphemism for the priests, sons of Moses a similar euphemism for those ordained high priests. Thus the oath and covenant, as the passage is commonly called, applies to those of the high priesthood. However, here is where the more careful taxonomy of the revelation applies:

29 And again, the offices of elder and bishop are necessary appendages belonging unto the high priesthood.
30 And again, the offices of teacher and deacon are necessary appendages belonging to the lesser priesthood, which priesthood was confirmed upon Aaron and his sons.

We find here that two subgroups of priesthood offices are now defined. One headed by the office of high priest, the other by the office of priest. The remaining offices are defined as “appendages” to these two. That is, something added to the principal idea or object, but not necessary. We see here the beginnings of the more mature taxonomy which would be laid out in March [April] 1835. But that reclassification would be considerably more radical in a number of ways.

Making the office of elder an appendage to the high priesthood brings the elders, riding the coattails of the high priests, into the covenant cycle mentioned above. March [April] 1835 would alter this relationship as well.

Just as the November 11 revelation exists in the Newel K. Whitney collection at the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library (BYU), so D&C 84 appears there as well as in the KRB. There is only one intriguing alternate reading in those texts and it does not apply to the passages above. Two other manuscript versions of the revelation exist but like the Whitney version, do not bear on our discussion.

In the next installment, we consider further revelations regarding the president of the high priesthood.

[Part 7, here.]
——————–
[1] The usage coincides with commonly understood meanings, i.e., the office of a priest. (For example, Webster’s 1828 edition, or the Oxford English Dictionary.)

[2] That is, Aaronic Priesthood and Melchizedek Priesthood as presently defined in Mormonism. For an excellent example of the confusion created by the adjustment of terminology, see Joseph F. Smith’s Gospel Doctrine chapter 9. Also part 11 of this series.

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10 Responses to D&C 107. Part 6. Interregnum.

  1. Clark says:

    Fascinating. I’d always made that Aaronic/Melchezedek connection myself.

    BTW – what do you think of the apologetic discussion of ancient texts talking about the Sons of Moses and Sons of Aaron back in Moses’ day as two rival priesthood groups that persisted to be the prophets of the Elijah texts. Yeah, plenty speculative but it always had an strong similarity to me.

    The issue of appendages is really interesting and I don’t think most people think about it that much. But if you think about it then it makes considerable sense.

    I look forward to your next post and hope you do a series on appendages proper.

    • WVS says:

      I don’t know what to make of the two groups re the sons of the prophets business. As far as the appendage thing, there’s a little more on that in part 8 coming up. It gets turned on its head there.

  2. Pingback: D&C 107. Part 7. Interregnum Continued. « Boap.org's Blog

  3. Pingback: D&C 107. Part 8. The March 28, 1835 Revelation. « Boap.org's Blog

  4. BrianJ says:

    I’m thoroughly enjoying this series. In a few places you point out that “While it is very common…to assume that lesser priesthood is actually the later concept of the Aaronic order and high priesthood is the Melchizedek order,[1] this is incorrect. “ and you suggest that this mistake leads to errors in understanding other passages or concepts. I’ve having a hard time seeing how it would though, unless for example it is truly essential for exaltation to be ordained a high priest and not ‘merely’ an elder. Would you mind spelling this out for me?

    • WVS says:

      BrianJ, it’s only “incorrect” in context. To read the revelation in its context requires the interpretation as mentioned. As far as the elder – high priest business, you gotta keep reading! (Also, as noted, the elders are still part of the covenant cycle even in this early version). The priesthood architecture gets changed in March 1835. The historical error terminological confusion comes in trying to read the March version back into earlier revelations. Further complications arise because the publication committee in 1835 decided to insert later information into the earlier revelations. Remember, the D&C was treated as a handbook. Nobody’s exaltation is on the line as far as I know. One of the things the whole episode teaches is — well I’ll let you keep reading.

      • BrianJ says:

        I just finished the whole series and I’m still having a hard time connecting the pieces to answer my question. I guess my question is: I totally understand how this could lead to proof-texting (that in turn leads to confusion), but I’m having a hard time pinpointing an example of a messy proof-text.

        Then again, I’m super tired and planned to go to bed 2 hours ago—until I saw your posts and couldn’t help but read them—so maybe I just need to come back when I can think more clearly!

      • WVS says:

        Joseph F. Smith provides the perfect example. If you read D&C 84 the way he suggests (by virtue of D&C 107) in his later career, the offices of priest and high priest just disappear in the revelation. An example showing that this sort of misreading began much earlier Allen Russel’s journal for 1902. He reports asking Abraham Smoot about the appendage business:

        Monday August 25, 1902 – I attended conference at 10 am. Good instructions were given by returned missionaries. Sister Yates and Elder Smoot spoke on the duties of the young men and women. After meeting I asked Brother Smoot how he understood the meaning of the words. The offices of Elders and Bishops were appendages to the [high] Priesthood and he said that all the offices in the church were appendages to the Melchizidek Priesthood.

  5. Pingback: D&C 10. Part 1. External Characteristics. « Boap.org's Blog

  6. Pingback: Juvenile Instructor » On Higher, and Lesser, Priesthoods

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