The first discourse we’ll use in this blog post was given by Joseph Smith at the funeral of Judge Higbee and took place on August 13, 1843. See pages 319-321 in the standard edition of TPJS and pages 359-361 in the Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (STPJS), which is the version I use.
The second is a Sunday sermon Joseph Smith presented on August 27, 1843 at the “Grove” in Nauvoo about the priesthood and mission of Elijah. It is on pages 321-323 in the standard version and pages 361 to 364 in STPJS.
The third discourse was given in front of Foster’s Hotel on the Main Street of Nauvoo on January 20th, 1844. It starts on 329 in the standard TPJS and runs through page 331; it is on pages 371-374 in STPJS.
The fourth is a Sunday sermon preached from “The Stand” in the Grove at Nauvoo on March 10, 1844. See pages 337-341 in the standard TPJS or 380-384 in STPJS.
Three Grand Orders of the Priesthood
Note: there is some confusion regarding the names of the Three Grand Orders of the priesthood or which names correspond with which powers or levels. Joseph Smith seems to refer to the highest Order of the priesthood as “Melchizedek”, the next “Patriarchal” and the third, “Aaronic.” Others reverse the first two, suggesting that Joseph was not ordering them in TPJS in order of highest to lowest level. The thought with this line of reasoning is that the highest level is called “Patriarchal” because it is an association directly with God the Father (or patriarch) and the ancient patriarchs held this priesthood, while the second level is called “Melchizedek” because D&C 107:1 says there are two priesthoods in the Church and names them as Melchizedek and Aaronic - and since the highest priesthood cannot be administered by the Church to its members, as it comes directly from God to man, the name of that priesthood must be patriarchal and wouldn’t be included in a list of priesthoods “in the Church”. Bottom line is that there are three Orders of One Priesthood.
READ TPJS 361:6-363:2
Respecting the Melchizedek Priesthood, the sectarians never professed to have it; consequently, they never could save anyone, and would all be damned together. There was an Episcopal priest who said he had the priesthood of Aaron but had not the priesthood of Melchizedek: and I bear testimony that I never have found the man who claimed the Priesthood of Melchizedek. The power of the Melchizedek Priesthood is to have the power of “endless lives”; for the everlasting covenant cannot be broken. The law was given under Aaron for the purpose of pouring out judgments and destructions.
There are three grand orders of priesthood referred to here. First, the King of Shiloam (Salem) had power and authority over that of Abraham, holding the key and the power of endless life. Angels desire to look into it, but they have set up too many stakes. God cursed the children of Israel because they would not receive the last law from Moses. The sacrifice required of Abraham in the offering up of Isaac, shows that if a man would attain to the keys of the kingdom of an endless life; he must sacrifice all things. When God offers a blessing or knowledge to a man, and he refuses to receive it, he will be damned. The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law. What was the power of Melchizedek? ’Twas not the Priesthood of Aaron, which administers in outward ordinances and the offering of sacrifices. Those holding the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings. In fact, that Priesthood is a perfect law of theocracy, and stands as God to give laws to the people, administering endless lives to the sons and daughters of Adam. Abraham says to Melchizedek, ‘I believe all that thou hast taught me concerning the priesthood and the coming of the Son of Man;’ so Melchizedek ordained Abraham2 and sent him away. Abraham rejoiced, saying, ‘Now I have a priesthood.’
Who are the “sectarians” and what priesthood do they have?
Under what circumstances does God give a people the Aaronic priesthood?
What keys do the Aaronic priesthood give the bearer?
How does one lose higher orders of priesthood?
What keys or powers does the Melchizedek Priesthood give the bearer?
How does one gain higher orders of priesthood?
READ TPJS 363:5-364:5
The anointing and sealing is to be called, elected and made sure. “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually.” The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right from the eternal God, and not by descent from father and mother; and that priesthood is as eternal as God Himself, having neither beginning of days nor end of life. The 2nd Priesthood is Patriarchal authority. Go to and finish the temple, and God will fill it with power, and you will then receive more knowledge concerning this priesthood. The 3rd is what is called the Levitical Priesthood, consisting of priests to administer in outward ordinances, made without an oath; but the Priesthood of Melchizedek is by an oath and covenant. The Holy Ghost is God’s messenger to administer in all those priesthoods. Jesus Christ is the heir of this Kingdom—the Only Begotten of the Father according to the flesh, and holds the keys over all this world. Men have to suffer that they may come upon Mount Zion and be exalted above the heavens. I know a man that has been caught up to the third heavens, and can say, with Paul, that we have seen and heard things that are not lawful to utter.
What are the Three Grand Orders of Priesthood?
What does it mean that men will have to suffer that they may be exalted above the heavens?
Elijah and the Covenants of the Fathers
READ TPJS 371:8-372:2
What shall I talk about to-day? I know what Brother Cahoon wants me to speak about. He wants me to speak about the coming of Elijah in the last days. I can see it in his eye. I will speak upon that subject then. The Bible says, “I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Now, the word turn here should be translated bind, or seal. But what is the object of this important mission? or how is it to be fulfilled? The keys are to be delivered, the spirit of Elijah is to come, the Gospel to be established, the Saints of God gathered, Zion built up, and the Saints to come up as saviors on Mount Zion.
Why will the Lord send Elijah back to the earth before the Second Coming?
What does “turn” mean?
What is the object of this mission of sealing or binding hearts together?
READ TPJS 380:2-381:4
Now for Elijah. The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the revelations, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth; and to receive, obtain, and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God, even unto the turning of the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the hearts of the children unto the fathers, even those who are in heaven. Malachi says, “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Now, what I am after is the knowledge of God, and I take my own course to obtain it. What are we to understand by this in the last days? In the days of Noah, God destroyed the world by a flood, and He has promised to destroy it by fire in the last days: but before it should take place, Elijah should first come and turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, &c. Now comes the point. What is this office and work of Elijah? It is one of the greatest and most important subjects that God has revealed. He should send Elijah to seal the children to the fathers, and the fathers to the children.
Now was this merely confined to the living, to settle difficulties with families on earth? By no means. It was a far greater work. Elijah! what would you do if you were here? Would you confine your work to the living alone? No: I would refer you to the Scriptures, where the subject is manifest: that is, without us, they could not be made perfect, nor we without them; the fathers without the children, nor the children without the fathers. I wish you to understand this subject, for it is important; and if you receive it, this is the spirit of Elijah, that we redeem our dead, and connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven, and seal up our dead to come forth in the first resurrection; and here we want the power of Elijah to seal those who dwell on earth to those who dwell in heaven. This is the power of Elijah and the keys of the kingdom of Jehovah.
Let us suppose a case. Suppose the great God who dwells in heaven should reveal himself to Father Cutler here, by the opening heavens, and tell him, I offer up a decree that whatsoever you seal on earth with your decree, I will seal it in heaven; you have the power then; can it be taken off? No. Then what you seal on earth, by the keys of Elijah, is sealed in heaven; and this is the power of Elijah, and this is the difference between the spirit and power of Elias and Elijah; for while the spirit of Elias is a forerunner, the power of Elijah is sufficient to make our calling and election sure; and the same doctrine, where we are exhorted to go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, &c. We cannot be perfect without the fathers, &c. We must have revelation from them, and we can see that the doctrine of revelation far transcends the doctrine of no revelation; for one truth revealed from heaven is worth all the sectarian notions in existence.
Again: The doctrine or sealing power of Elijah is as follows:—If you have power to seal on earth and in heaven, then we should be wise. The first thing you do, go and seal on earth your sons and daughters unto yourself, and yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory, and go ahead, and not go back, but use a little wisdom, and seal all you can, and when you get to heaven tell your Father that what you seal on earth should be sealed in heaven, according to his promise. I will walk through the gate of heaven and claim what I seal, and those that follow me and my counsel.
The spirit of Elias is first, Elijah second, and Messiah last. Elias is a forerunner to prepare the way, and the spirit and power of Elijah is to come after, holding the keys of power, building the Temple to the capstone, placing the seals of the Melchizedek Priesthood upon the house of Israel, and making all things ready; then Messiah comes to His Temple, which is last of all. Messiah is above the spirit and power of Elijah, for He made the world, and was that spiritual rock unto Moses in the wilderness. Elijah was to come and prepare the way and build up the kingdom before the coming of the great day of the Lord, although the spirit of Elias might begin it.
Who are the fathers whose hearts must be turned (“sealed”) to the children?
Who are the fathers we (the “children”) are to be turned or sealed to?
What is the spirit, power and calling of Elijah?
READ TPJS 360:5-361:1
The world is reserved unto burning in the last days. He shall send Elijah the prophet, and he shall reveal the covenants of the fathers in relation to the children, and the covenants of the children in relation to the fathers. Four destroying angels holding power over the four quarters of the earth until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads, which signifies sealing the blessing upon their heads, meaning the everlasting covenant, thereby making their calling and election sure. When a seal is put upon the father and mother, it secures their posterity, so that they cannot be lost, but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father and mother. To the mourners I would say—Do as the husband and the father would instruct you, and you shall be reunited.
The speaker continued to teach the doctrine of election and the sealing powers and principles, and spoke of the doctrine of election with the seed of Abraham, and the sealing of blessings upon his posterity, and the sealing of the fathers and children, according to the declarations of the prophets. He then spoke of Judge Higbee in the world of spirits, and the blessings which he would obtain, and of the kind spirit and disposition of Judge Higbee while living; none of which was reported.
READ TPJS 363:4
How shall God come to the rescue of this generation? He will send Elijah the prophet. The law revealed to Moses in Horeb never was revealed to the children of Israel as a nation. Elijah shall reveal the covenants to seal the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.
What will the “covenants of the fathers” do in the last days?
What is Elijah’s role with regards to these covenants?
What is implied by the fact that Joseph says He “shall” or “will” send Elijah?
Who does the actual sealing of the servants of God or in other words, who delivers their calling and election?
Why are they called the “covenants of the fathers” if it is Christ who administers them?
READ TPJS 372:3
But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion? By building their temples, erecting their baptismal fonts, and going forth and receiving all the ordinances, baptisms, confirmations, washings, anointings, ordinations and sealing powers upon their heads, in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead, and redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection and be exalted to thrones of glory with them; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah. And I would to God that this temple was now done, that we might go into it, and go to work and improve our time, and make use of the seals while they are on earth.
What is a Savior on Mount Zion?
How can you become a Savior on Mount Zion?
Difficulty Receiving the Things of God
READ TPJS 359:4-7
The great thing for us to know is to comprehend what God did institute before the foundation of the world. Who knows it? It is the constitutional disposition of mankind to set up stakes and set bounds to the works and ways of the Almighty.
But I will give you a more painful thought. Suppose you have an idea of a resurrection, etc., and yet know nothing at all of the Gospel, nor comprehend one principle of the order of heaven,5 but find yourselves disappointed—yes, at last find yourselves disappointed in every hope6 or anticipation, when the decision goes forth from the lips of the Almighty. Would not this be a greater disappointment—a more painful thought7 than annihilation? Had I inspiration, revelation, and lungs to communicate what my soul has contemplated in times past, there is not a soul in this congregation but would go to their homes and shut their mouths in everlasting silence on religion till they had learned something. Why be so certain that you comprehend the things of God,8 when all things with you are so uncertain. You are welcome to all the knowledge and intelligence I can impart to you. I do not grudge the world all the religion they have got: they are welcome to all the knowledge they possess.
READ TPJS 361:3-4
I say to all those who are disposed to set up stakes for the Almighty, you will come short of the glory of God. To become a joint heir of the heirship of the Son, one must put away all his false traditions.
Why does mankind set up stakes and bounds with regards to their knowledge of God?
Why are we so certain we understand the things of God without ever having seen Him or the heavens?
Why were things not uncertain for Joseph Smith?
READ TPJS 372:4-374:1
The Saints have not too much time to save and redeem their dead, and gather together their living relatives, that they may be saved also, before the earth will be smitten, and the consumption decreed falls upon the world. I would advise all the Saints to go with their might and gather together all their living relatives to this place, that they may be sealed and saved, that they may be prepared against the day that the destroying angel goes forth; and if the whole Church should go to with all their might to save their dead, seal their posterity, and gather their living friends, and spend none of their time in behalf of the world, they would hardly get through before night would come, when no man can work; and my only trouble at the present time is concerning ourselves, that the Saints will be divided, broken up, and scattered, before we get our salvation secure; for there are so many fools in the world for the devil to operate upon, it gives him the advantage oftentimes.
The question is frequently asked, “Can we not be saved without going through with all those ordinances? I would answer, No, not the fulness of salvation. Jesus said, There are many mansions in my Father’s house, and I will go and prepare a place for you. House here named should have been translated kingdom; and any person who is exalted to the highest mansion has to abide a celestial law, and the whole law, too. But there has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle. Even the Saints are slow to understand.
I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen.
Why did Joseph say that the Saints had “not too much time to save and redeem their dead” in January of 1844?
What doctrines or subjects did Joseph Smith have such difficulty getting into the heads of the Saints?
Why did Joseph have such a hard time teaching the Saints these doctrines?
What does Joseph think will be the likely consequence of the Saints unwillingness to learn and do these things?
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