Summertime and Recycling #8: D&C 107. Part 6. Interregnum.

Here’s what’s happening so far: D&C 107 is a compilation of revelations. There are two major parts in the compilation, one from November 1831 and another from April 1835. In D&C 107 these are arranged in reverse chronological order. So, we’ve spent some time looking at the last part of D&C 107 (which came first!). Later we will look at the April 1835 segment which is of a rather different character than the 1831 segment. As these two revelations were combined in the 1835 D&C, still other revelations and regulations were interleaved in these texts to form what we now know as D&C 107. But for now we consider what happened in between these two major components. You really should read the previous parts to understand (and believe) what I’m going to say here.

Between the ca 1831 texts of the November 11 revelation and the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants text (section 3 of that first edition, 107 of the present edition) 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 (or just “priesthood”) = the office of priest,[1]
2) the high priesthood = the office of high priest.

While it is very common in modern sermons and 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 term 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 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. 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.) Check out David Grua’s more recent call on this here. Also see the previous posts which show “priesthood” as a term for one ordained as a “priest” – not an umbrella term for offices. It was the office.

[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 see part 11 of this series and the previous parts of the series to see further remarks on terminology.

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