Joseph Smith, John Pack and the High Priesthood, Part 3
August 5, 2010 7 Comments
In part 1 we gave some background on John Pack and Joseph F. Smith and their interaction over the issue of John Pack’s disagreement with some members of the 8th quorum of seventy early in 1880. Part 2 consist mostly of a letter written by Joseph F. Smith to Pack regarding Pack’s decision to go back on the agreement he made with John Taylor (president of the church’s quorum of the twelve apostles).
Joseph F. Smith uses his letter to try to persuade Pack that making a move to the office of high priest is a promotion, contrary to Pack’s feeling that it would amount to a demotion while moving him away from what he felt to be his duty to preach. Of course Pack was elderly and it’s not clear he would have been able to fulfill that promise. Pack would die five years later.
But perhaps the more interesting part of Smith’s letter involves his own view of the office of High Priest. Joseph F. Smith assigns his beliefs to quotations from Joseph Smith’s revelations and statements four or five decades previously. Observe his use of the term “High Priesthood” as a synonym for High Priest. This reflects early Mormon (1831) usage which in turn appears in several revelations cited by Joseph F. Smith in his letter to Pack. Smith clearly places (based on a November 1831 revelation and a September 1832 revelation) the office of high priest at the top of the list in terms of presiding authority in the church.
Moreover, Joseph F. put his money where his mouth was. For example, when ordaining George Albert Smith (who later became church president himself in 1945) an apostle and placing him in the quorum of twelve apostles, he also ordained George Albert a high priest, explaining that George could not preside in the church without the high priesthood. Joseph F’s view contrasted sharply with Brigham Young’s for example. Young stated the office of apostle was superior to the high priesthood and it was an insult to suggest that apostles needed to be ordained high priests.
The term “high priesthood” as a reference to the office of high priest in Mormon discourse gradually died out in the 20th century and its use in Mormon scripture became confused with “Melchizedek Priesthood.” Reading Joseph Smith’s revelations this way creates interesting potential paradoxes.
 George Albert Smith papers, University of Utah. Joseph F’s take would make for conflict during his presidency when a number of the first council of seventy suggested that they should be able to reorganize stakes.
 Loren Woolley, the supplier of authoritative tradition to modern polygamy sects, particularly the Musser, Allred, Johnson branches combined the two names into “high priest apostles.” Truly the best of both worlds.
 The difficulties arise in part because of the way the revelations were edited for publication. Revelations from different terminological eras were combined while some early revelations were edited using later terminology, making it appear that later terms were actually used much earlier. A naive reading can make for head scratching frustration.