Joseph Smith and the Priesthood Mythos

Joseph Smith was very much in the mould of the Old Testament prophets, and cast Mormonism as a unification of Old and New Testament ideas and even ritual. The kind of dispensationalism that saw the Old Testament period as backward – the dwelling of a hidden God and only partially revealed truth was not for him. He saw that mould as formed by a priesthood mythos, only parts of which were evident in Scripture. Many of his statements and some revelations make this evident. For example, our old friend D&C 107. Verse 29:

Unless this is the case, their decisions are not entitled to the same blessings which the decisions of a quorum of three presidents were anciently, who were ordained after the order of Melchizedek, and were righteous and holy men.

I won’t belabor the “order of Melchizedek” and the evolution of understanding there, but the reference here is a kind of lens for seeing the First Presidency (or perhaps a stake presidency in the day) as a reflection of the ancient (though Scripturally unknown) order. JS does this elsewhere, for example here:

Bro Joseph then said he would show the order of councils in ancient days as shown to him by vision.[1]

This statement was made at the inaugural meetings establishing the first high council.

Going back further we see the same motif:

Certain points were discussed by br Joseph Smith Jr, who said that the Elders present were to tarry untill the Morrow & hold a meeting so that the members might understand the ancient manner of conducting meetings as they were led by the Holy Ghost Also said that this was not perfectly known by many of the Elders of this Church.[2]

The way in which meetings of early Mormons were conducted is probably too wide a subject to go into now, but its differences and similarities with Protestant forms are interesting.

——————
[1] From Orson Hyde report for 17 February 1834 (in Minute Book 1 or Kirtland Council Minute Book).

[2] John Whitmer report for 11 October 1831 (Minute Book 2 or Far West Record).

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6 Responses to Joseph Smith and the Priesthood Mythos

  1. DavidC says:

    Having just come from a series of dull council meetings, I hope you will eventually write about the subject.

  2. David G. says:

    Stake Council’s about to start, but let me also vote for a discussion of Mormon meetings in the broader context of Protestantism. Don’t tease us, WVS.

  3. J. Stapley says:

    JS’s involation of ancient councils in the February 12, 1834 minutes is also interesting.

  4. I think the allusion in DC 107:29 is to the “three pillars” Peter, James and John (Gal. 2:9) as a “presidency.”

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