The Mormons' Beliefs And Doctrines Church Government

The Mormons teach that, for fourteen hundred years to the time of

Smith's "revelations," there had been "a general and awful

apostasy from the religion of the New Testament, so that all the

known world have been left for centuries without the Church of

Christ among them; without a priesthood authorized of God to

administer ordinances; that every one of the churches has

perverted the Gospel."* As illustrations of this perversion are

cited the doing away of immersion for the remission of sins by

most churches, of the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy

Ghost, and of the miraculous gifts and powers of the Holy Spirit.

The new church presented a modern prophet, who was in direct

communication with God and possessed power to work miracles, and

who taught from a Golden Bible which says that whoever asserts

that there are no longer "revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts,

nor healing, nor speaking with tongues and the interpretation of

tongues,... knoweth not the Gospel of Christ" (Book of Mormon ix.

7, 8).

* Orson Pratt's "Remarkable Visions," No. 6.

It is impossible to decide whether the name "Mormon" was used by

Spaulding in his "Manuscript Found," or was introduced by Rigdon.

It is first encountered in the Mormon Bible in the Book of Mosiah

xviii. 4, as the name of a place where there was a fountain in

which Alma baptized those whom his admonition led to repentance.

Next it occurs in 3 Nephi v. 20: "I am Mormon, and a pure

descendant of Lehi." This Mormon was selected by the "author" of

the Bible to stand sponsor for the condensation of the "records"

of his ancestors which Smith unearthed. It was discovered very

soon after the organization of the Mormon church was announced

that the word was of Greek derivation, uopuw or uopuwv

meaning bugbear, hobgoblin. In the form of "mormo" it is

Anglicized with the same meaning, and is used by Jeremy Collier

and Warburton.* The word "Mormon" in zoology is the generic name

of certain animals, including the mandril baboon. The discovery

of the Greek origin and meaning of the word was not pleasing to

the early Mormon leaders, and they printed in the Times and

Seasons a letter over Smith's signature, in which he solemnly

declared that "there was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from

which I, through the grace of God, translated the Book of

Mormon," and gave the following explanation of the derivation of

the word:

* See "Century Dictionary."

"Before I give a definition to the word, let me say that the

Bible, in its widest sense, means good; for the Saviour says,

according to the Gospel of St. John, 'I am the Good Shepherd';

and it will not be beyond the common use of terms to say that

good is amongst the most important in use, and, though known by

various names in different languages, still its meaning is the

same, and is ever in opposition to bad. We say from the Saxon,

good; the Dane, god; the Goth, gods; the German, gut; the Dutch,

goed; the Latin, bonus; the Greek, kalos; the Hebrew, tob; the

Egyptian, mo. Hence, with the addition of more, or the

contraction mor, we have the word Mormon, which means literally

more good.

This lucid explanation was doubtless entirely satisfactory to the

persons to whom it was addressed.

In the early "revelations" collected in the "Book of

Commandments" the new church was not styled anything more

definite than "My Church," and the title-page of that book, as

printed in 1833, says that these instructions are "for the

government of the Church of Christ." The name "Mormons" was not

acceptable to the early followers of Smith, who looked on it as a

term of reproach, claiming the designation "Saints." This

objection to the title continues to the present day. It was not

until May 4, 1834, that a council of the church, on motion of

Sidney Rigdon, decided on its present official title, "Church of

Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints."

The belief in the speedy ending of the world, on which the title

"Latter-Day Saints" was founded, has played so unimportant a part

in modern Mormon belief that its prominence as an early tenet of

the church is generally overlooked. At no time was there more

widespread interest in the speedy second coming of Christ and the

Day of Judgment than during the years when the organization of

the Mormon church was taking place. We have seen how much

attention was given to a speedy millennium by the Disciples

preachers. It was in 1833 that William Miller began his sermons

in which he fixed on the year 1843 as the end of the world, and

his views not only found acceptance among his personal followers,

but attracted the liveliest interest in other sects.

The Mormon leaders made this belief a part of their early

doctrine. Thus, in one of the first "revelations" given out by

Smith, dated Fayette, New York, September, 1830, Christ is

represented as saying that "the hour is nigh" when He would

reveal Himself, and "dwell in righteousness with men on earth a

thousand years." In the November following, another "revelation"

declared that "the time is soon at hand that I shall come in a

cloud, with power and great glory." Soon after Smith arrived in

Kirtland a "revelation," dated February, 1831, announced that

"the great day of the Lord is nigh at hand." In January, 1833,

Smith predicted that "there are those now living upon the earth

whose eyes shall not be closed in death until they shall see all

these things of which I have spoken" (the sweeping of the wicked

from the United States, and the return of the lost tribes to it).

Smith declared in 1843 that the Lord had promised that he should

see the Son of Man if he lived to be eighty-five (Sec. 130).*

When Ferris was Secretary of Utah Territory, in 1852-1853, he

found that the Mormons were still expecting the speedy coming of

Christ, but had moved the date forward to 1870. All through

Smith's autobiography and the Millennial Star will be found

mention of every portent that might be construed as an indication

of the coming disruption of this world. As late as December 6,

1856, an editorial in the Millennial Star said, "The signs of the

times clearly indicate to every observing mind that the great day

of the second advent of Messiah is at hand."

* Speaking of W. W. Phelps's last years in Utah, Stenbouse says:

"Often did the old man, in public and in private, regale the

Saints with the assurance that he had the promise by revelation

that he should not taste of death until Jesus came." Phelps died

on March 7, 1872.

As the devout Mohammedan* passes from earth to a heaven of

material bliss, so the Mormons are taught that the Saints, the

sole survivors of the day of judgment, will, with resurrected

bodies, possess the purified earth. The lengths to which Mormon

preachers have dared to go in illustrating this view find a good

illustration in a sermon by arson Pratt, printed in the Deseret

News, Salt Lake City, of August 21, 1852. Having promised that

"farmers will have great farms upon the earth when it is so

changed," and foreseeing that some one might suggest a difficulty

in providing land enough to go round, he met that in this way:--

* The similarity between Smith's early life and visions and

Mohammed's has been mentioned by more than one writer. Stenhouse

observes that Smith's mother "was to him what Cadijah was to

Mohammed," and that "a Mohammedan writer, in a series of essays

recently published in London, treats of the prophecies concerning

the Arabian Prophet, to be found in the Old and New Testaments,

precisely as Orson Pratt applied them to the American Prophet."

"But don't be so fast, says one; don't you know that there are

only about 197,000,000 of square miles, or about 126,000,000,000

of acres upon the surface of the globe? Will these accommodate

all the inhabitants after the resurrection? Yes; for if the earth

should stand 8000 years, or 80 centuries, and the population

should be a thousand millions in every century, that would be

80,000,000,000 of inhabitants, and we know that many centuries

have passed that would not give the tenth part of this; but

supposing this to be the number, there would then be over an acre

and a half for each person upon the surface of the globe."

By eliminating the wicked, so that only one out of a hundred

would share this real estate, he calculated that every Saint

"would receive over 150 acres, which would be quite enough to

raise manna, flax to make robes of, and to have beautiful

orchards of fruit trees."

The Mormon belief is stated by the church leaders to rest on the

Holy Bible, the Mormon Bible, and the "Book of Doctrine and

Covenants," together with the teachings of the Mormon instructors

from Smith's time to the present day. Although the Holy Bible is

named first in this list, it has, as we have seen, played a

secondary part in the church ritual, its principal use by the

Mormon preachers having been to furnish quotations on which to

rest their claims for the inspiration of their own Bible and for

their peculiar teachings. Mormon sermons (usually styled

discourses) rarely, if ever, begin with a text. The "Book of

Doctrine and Covenants" "containing," as the title-page declares,

"the revelations given to Joseph Smith, Jr., for the building up

of the Kingdom of God in the last days," was the directing

authority in the church during Smith's life, and still occupies a

large place in the church history. An examination of the origin

and character of this work will therefore shed much light on the

claims of the church to special direction from on high.

There is little doubt that this system of "revelation" was an

idea of Rigdon. Smith was not, at that time, an inventor; his

forte was making use of ideas conveyed to him. Thus, he did not

originate the idea of using a "peek-stone," but used one freely

as soon as he heard of it. He did not conceive the idea of

receiving a Bible from an angel, but readily transformed the

Spaniard-with-his-throat-cut to an angel when the perfected

scheme was presented to him. We can imagine how attractive

"revelations" would have been to him, and how soon he would

concentrate in himself the power to receive them, and would adapt

them to his personal use.

David Whitmer says, "The revelations, or the Book of

Commandments, up to June, 1829, were given through the stone

through which the Book of Mormon was translated"; but that after

that time" they came through Joseph as a mouthpiece; that is, he

would inquire of the Lord, pray and ask concerning a matter, and

speak out the revelation, which he thought to be a revelation

from the Lord; but sometimes he was mistaken about its being from

the Lord."* Who drew the line between truth and error has never

been explained, but Smith would certainly have resented any such


* "Address to Believers in the Book of Mormon."

Parley P. Pratt thus describes Smith's manner of receiving

"revelations" in Ohio, "Each sentence was uttered slowly and very

distinctly, and with a pause between each sufficiently long for

it to be recorded by an ordinary writer in long hand."*

* Pratt's "Autobiography," p. 65.

These "revelations" made the greatest impression on Smith's

followers, and no other of his pretensions seems to have so

convinced them of his divine credentials. The story of Vienna

Jaques well illustrates this. A Yankee descendant of John

Rodgers, living in Boston, she was convinced by a Mormon elder,

and joined the church members while they were in Kirtland, taking

with her her entire possession, $1500 in cash. This money, like

that of many other devoted members, found its way into Smith's

hands--and stayed there. But he had taken her into his family,

and her support became burdensome to him. So, when the Saints

were "gathering" in Missouri, he announced a "revelation" in

these words (Sec. 90):--

"And again, verily, I [the Lord] say unto you, it is my will that

my handmaid, Vienna Jaques, should receive money to bear her

expenses, and go up unto the land of Zion; and the residue of the

money may be consecrated unto me, and she be rewarded in mine own

due time. Verily, I say unto you, that it is meet in mine eyes

that she should go up unto the land of Zion, and receive an

inheritance from the hand of the Bishop, that she may settle down

in peace, inasmuch as she is faithful, and not to be idle in her

days from thenceforth."

The confiding woman obeyed without a murmur this thinly concealed

scheme to get rid of her, migrated with the church from Missouri

to Illinois and to Utah, and was in Salt Lake City in 1833,

supporting herself as a nurse, and "doubly proud that she has

been made the subject of a revelation from heaven."*

* "Utah and the Mormons," p. 182.

These "revelations" have been published under two titles. The

first edition was printed in Jackson, Missouri, in 1833, in the

Mormon printing establishment, under the title, "Book of

Commandments for the Government of the Church of Christ,

organized according to Law on the 6th of April, 1830." This

edition contained nothing but "revelations," divided into

sixty-five "chapters," and ending with the one dated Kirtland,

September, 1831, which forms Section 64 of the Utah edition of

"Doctrine and Covenants." David Whitmer says that when, in the

spring of 1832, it was proposed by Smith, Rigdon, and others to

publish these revelations, they were earnestly advised by other

members of the church not to do so, as it would be dangerous to

let the world get hold of them; and so it proved. But Smith

declared that any objector should "have his part taken out of the

Tree of Life."*

* It has been stated that the "Book of Commandments" was never

really published, the mob destroying the sheets before it got

out. But David Whitmer is a very positive witness to the

contrary, saying, "I say it was printed complete (and

copyrighted) and many copies distributed among the members of the

church before the printing press was destroyed."

Two years later, while the church was still in Kirtland, the

"revelations" were again prepared for publication, this time

under the title, "Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the

Latter-Day Saints, carefully selected from the revelations of

God, and compiled by Joseph Smith, Jr.; Oliver Cowdery, Sidney

Rigdon, F. G. Williams, proprietors." On August 17, 1835, a

general assembly of the church held in the Kirtland Temple voted

to accept his book as the doctrine and covenants of their faith.

Ebenezer Robinson, who attended the meeting, says that the

majority of those so voting "had neither time nor opportunity to

examine the book for themselves; they had no means of knowing

whether any alterations had been made in any of the revelations

or not."* In fact, many important alterations were so made, as

will be pointed out in the course of this story. One method of

attempting to account for these changes has been by making the

plea that parts were omitted in the Missouri editions. On this

point, however, Whitmer is very positive, as quoted.

* In his reminiscences in The Return.

At the very start Smith's revelations failed to "come true." An

amusing instance of this occurred before the Mormon Bible was

published. While the "copy" was in the hands of the printer,

Grandin, Joe's brother Hyrum and others who had become interested

in the enterprise became impatient over Harris's delay in raising

the money required for bringing out the book. Hyrum finally

proposed that some of them attempt to sell the copyright in

Canada, and he urged Joe to ask the Lord about doing so. Joe

complied, and announced that the mission to Canada would be a

success. Accordingly, Oliver Cowdery and Hiram Page made a trip

to Toronto to secure a publisher, but their mission failed

absolutely. This was a critical test of the faith of Joe's

followers. "We were all in great trouble," says David Whitmer,*

"and we asked Joseph how it was that he received a 'revelation'

from the Lord for some brethren to go to Toronto and sell the

copyright, and the brethren had utterly failed in their

undertaking. Joseph did not know how it was, so he inquired of

the Lord about it, and behold, the following 'revelation' came;

through the stone: 'Some revelations are from God, some

revelations are of man, and some revelations are of the Devil.'"

No rule for distinguishing and separating these revelations was

given; but Whitmer, whose faith in Smith's divine mission never

cooled, thus disposes of the matter, "So we see that the

revelation to go to Toronto and sell the copyright was not of

God." Of course, a prophet whose followers would accept such an

excuse was certain of his hold upon them. This incident well

illustrates the kind of material which formed the nucleus of the


* "Address to All Believers in Christ," p. 30.

Smith never let the previously revealed word of the Lord protect

any of his flock who afterward came in conflict with his own

plans. For example: On March 8, 1831, he announced a "revelation"

(Sec. 47), saying, "Behold, it is expedient in me that my servant

John [Whitmer] should write and keep a regular history" of the

church. John fell into disfavor in later years, and, when he

refused to give up his records, Smith and Rigdon addressed a

letter to him,* in connection with his dismissal, which said that

his notes required correction by them before publication,

"knowing your incompetency as a historian, that writings coming

from your pen could not be put to press without our correcting

them, or else the church must suffer reproach. Indeed, sir, we

never supposed you capable of writing a history." Why the Lord

did not consult Smith and Rigdon before making this appointment

is one of the unexplained mysteries.

* Millennial Star, Vol. XVI, p. 133.

These "revelations," which increased in number from 16 in 1829 to

19 in 1830, numbered 35 in 1831, and then decreased to 16 in

1832, 13 in 1833, 5 in 1834, 2 in 1835, 3 in 1836, 1 in 1837, 8

in 1838 (in the trying times in Missouri), 1 in 1839, none in

1840, 3 in 1841, none in 1842, and 2, including the one on

polygamy, in 1843. We shall see that in his latter days, in

Nauvoo, Smith was allowed to issue revelations only after they

had been censored by a council. He himself testified to the

reckless use which he made of them, and which perhaps brought

about this action. The following is a quotation from his diary:--

"May 19, 1842.-- While the election [of Smith as mayor by the

city council] was going forward, I received and wrote the

following revelation: 'I Verily thus saith the Lord unto you my

servant Joseph, by the voice of the Spirit, Hiram Kimball has

been insinuating evil and forming evil opinions against you with

others; and if he continue in them, he and they shall be

accursed, for I am the Lord thy God, and will stand by thee and

bless thee.' Which I threw across the room to Hiram Kimball, one

of the counsellors."

Thus it seems that there was some limit to the extent of Joe's

effrontery which could be submitted to.

We shall see that Brigham Young in Utah successfully resisted

constant pressure that was put upon him by his flock to continue

the reception of "revelations." While he was prudent enough to

avoid the pitfalls that would have surrounded him as a revealer,

he was crafty enough not to belittle his own authority in so

doing. In his discourse on the occasion of the open announcement

of polygamy, he said, "If an apostle magnifies his calling, his

words are the words of eternal life and salvation to those who

hearken to them, just as much so as any written revelations

contained in these books" (the two Bibles and the "Doctrine and


Hiram Page was not the only person who tried to imitate Smith's

"revelations." A boy named Isaac Russell gave out such messages

at Kirtland; Gladdin Bishop caused much trouble in the same way

at Nauvoo; the High Council withdrew the hand of fellowship from

Oliver Olney for setting himself up as a prophet; and in the same

year the Times and Seasons announced a pamphlet by J. C.

Brewster, purporting to be one of the lost books of Esdras,

"written by the power of God."

In the Times and Seasons (p. 309) will he found a report of a

conference held in New York City on December 4, 1840, at which

Elder Sydney Roberts was arraigned, charged with "having a

revelation that a certain brother must give him a suit of clothes

and a gold watch, the best that could be had; also saluting the

sisters with what he calls a holy kiss." He was told that he

could retain his membership if he would confess, but he declared

that "he knew the revelations which he had spoken were from God."

So he was thereupon "cut off."

The other source of Mormon belief--the teachings of their leading

men--has been no more consistent nor infallible than Smith's

"revelations." Mormon preachers have been generally uneducated

men, most of them ambitious of power, and ready to use the pulpit

to strengthen their own positions. Many an individual elder, firm

in his faith, has travelled and toiled as faithfully as any

Christian missionary; but these men, while they have added to the

church membership, have not made its beliefs.

Smith probably originated very little of the church polity,

except the doctrine of polygamy, and what is published over his

name is generally the production of some of his counsellors.

Section 130 of the "Book of Doctrine and Covenants," headed

"Important Items of Instruction, given by Joseph the Prophet,

April 2, 1843," contains the following:--

"When the Saviour shall appear, we shall see him as he is. We

shall see that he is a man like ourselves....

"The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's;

the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and

bones, but is a personage of spirit. Were it not so, the Holy

Ghost could not dwell in us."

An article in the Millennial Star, Vol. VI, for which the prophet

vouched, contains the following:--

"The weakest child of God which now exists upon the earth will

possess more dominion, more property, more subjects, and more

power in glory than is possessed by Jesus Christ or by his

Father; while, at the same time, Jesus Christ and his Father will

have their dominion, kingdom and subjects increased in


One more illustration of Smith's doctrinal views will suffice. In

a funeral sermon preached in Nauvoo, March 20, 1842, he said: "As

concerning the resurrection, I will merely say that all men will

come from the grave as they lie down, whether old or young; there

will not be 'added unto their stature one cubit,' neither taken

from it. All will be raised by the power of God, having spirit in

their bodies but not blood."*

* Millennial Star, Vol. XIX, p. 213.

In "The Latter-Day Saints' Catechism or Child's Ladder," by Elder

David Moffat, Genesis v. 1, and Exodus xxxiii. 22, 23, and xxiv.

10 are cited to prove that God has the form and parts of a man.

The greatest vagaries of doctrinal teachings are found during

Brigham Young's reign in Utah. In the way of a curiosity the

following diagram and its explanation, by Orson Hyde, may be

reproduced from the Millennial Star, Vol. IX, p. 23:--

"The above diagram (not included in this etext) shows the order

and unity of the Kingdom of God. The eternal Father sits at the

head, crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Wherever the other

lines meet there sits a king and priest under God, bearing rule,

authority and dominion under the Father. He is one with the

Father because his Kingdom is joined to his Father's and becomes

part of it.... It will be seen by the above diagram that there

are kingdoms of all sizes, an infinite variety to suit all grades

of merit and ability. The chosen vessels of God are the kings and

priests that are placed at the heads of their kingdoms. They have

received their washings and anointings in the Temple of God on


Young's ambition was not to be satisfied until his name was

connected with some doctrine peculiarly his own. Accordingly, in

a long sermon preached in the Tabernacle on April 9, 1852, he

made this announcement (the italics and capitals follow the

official report):--

"Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, saint

and sinner. When our father Adam came into the Garden of Eden, he

came into it with a CELESTIAL BODY, and brought Eve, ONE OF HIS

WIVES, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is

MICHAEL, the ARCHANGEL, the ANCIENT OF DAYS, about whom holy men

have written and spoken.* HE is our FATHER and our GOD, AND THE

ONLY GOD WITH WHOM 'WE' HAVE TO DO... Every man upon the earth,

professing Christians or non-professing, must hear it and WILL

KNOW IT SOONER OR LATER.... I could tell you much more about

this; but were I to tell you the whole truth, blasphemy would be

nothing to it, in the estimation of the superstitious and over

righteous of mankind.... Jesus, our Elder Brother, was begotten

in the flesh by the same character that was in the Garden of

Eden, and who is our Father in heaven."**

* Young, in a public discourse on October 23, 1853, declared that

he rejected the story of Adam's creation as "baby stories my

mother taught me when I was a child." But the Mormon Bible (2

Nephi ii. 18-22) tells the story of Adam's fall.

** Journal of Discourses, VOL I, pp. 50, 51.

This doctrine was made a leading point of difference between the

Utah church and the Reorganized Church, when the latter was

organized, but it is no longer defended even in Utah. The Deseret

Evening News of March 21, 1900, said on this point, "That which

President Young set forth in the discourse referred to is not

preached either to the Latter-Day Saints or to the world as a

part of the creed of the church."

Young never hesitated to rebuke an associate whose preaching did

not suit him. In a discourse in Salt Lake City, on March 8, 1857,

he rebuked Orson Pratt, one of the ablest of the church writers,

declaring that Pratt did not "know enough to keep his foot out of

it, but drowns himself in his philosophy." He ridiculed his

doctrine that "the devils in hell are composed of and filled with

the Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost, and possess all the knowledge,

wisdom, and power of the gods, "and said, "When I read some of

the writings of such philosophers they make me think, 'O dear,

granny, what a long tail our puss has got.'"*

* Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 297.

The Mormon church still holds that an existing head of that

organization can always interpret the divine will regarding any

question. This was never more strikingly illustrated than when

Woodruff, by a mere dictum, did away with the obligatory

character of polygamy.

When the Mormons were under a cloud in Illinois, in 1842, John

Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat, applied to Smith for a

statement of their belief, and received in reply a list of 13

"Articles of Faith" over Smith's signature. This statement was

intended to win for them sympathy as martyrs to a simple

religious belief, and it has been cited in Congress as proof of

their soul purity. But as illustrating the polity of the church

it is quite valueless.

The doctrine of polygamy and the ceremonies of the Endowment

House will be considered in their proper place. One distinctive

doctrine of the church must be explained before this subject is

dismissed, namely, that which calls for "baptism for the dead."

This doctrine is founded on an interpretation of Corinthians xv.

29: "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if

the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the


An explanation of this doctrine in the Times and Seasons of May

1, 1841, says:--"This text teaches us the important and cheering

truth that the departed spirit is in a probationary state, and

capable of being affected by the proclamation of the Gospel....

Christ offers pardon, peace, holiness, and eternal life to the

quick and the dead, the living, on condition of faith and baptism

for remission of sins; the departed, on the same condition of

faith in person and baptism by a living kinsman in his behalf. It

may be asked, will this baptism by proxy necessarily save the

dead? We answer, no; neither will the same necessarily save the


This doctrine was first taught to the church in Ohio. In later

years, in Nauvoo, Smith seemed willing to accept its paternity,

and in an article in the Times and Seasons of April 15, x 842,

signed "Ed.," when he was its editor, he said that he was the

first to point it out. The article shows, however, that it was

doubtless written by Rigdon, as it indicates a knowledge of the

practice of such baptism by the Marcionites in the second

century, and of Chrysostom's explanation of it. A note on

Corinthians xv. 29, in "The New Testament Commentary for English

Readers," edited by Lord Bishop Ellicott of Gloucester and

Bristol (London, 1878), gives the following historical sketch of

the practice:--

"There have been numerous and ingenious conjectures as to the

meaning of this passage. The only tenable interpretation is that

there existed amongst some of the Christians at Corinth a

practice of baptizing a living person in the stead of some

convert who had died before that sacrament had been administered

to him. Such a practice existed amongst the Marcionites in the

second century, and still earlier amongst a sect called the

Cerinthians. The idea evidently was that, whatever benefit flowed

from baptism, might be thus vicariously secured for the deceased

Christian. St. Chrysostom gives the following description of


"After a catechumen (one prepared for baptism but not actually

baptized) was dead, they hid a living man under the bed of the

deceased; then, coming to the bed of the dead man, they spoke to

him, and asked whether he would receive baptism; and, he making

no answer, the other replied in his stead, and so they baptized

the living for the dead: Does St. Paul then, by what he here

says, sanction the superstitious practice? Certainly not. He

carefully separated himself and the Corinthians, to whom he

immediately addresses himself, from those who adopted this custom

.... Those who do that, and disbelieve a resurrection, refute

themselves. This custom possibly sprang up among the Jewish

converts, who had been accustomed to something similar in their

faith. If a Jew died without having been purified from some

ceremonial uncleanness, some living person had the necessary

ablution performed on him, and the dead were so accounted clean."

Other commentators have found means to explain this text without

giving it reference to a baptism for dead persons, as, for

instance, that it means, "with an interest in the resurrection of

the dead."* Another explanation is that by "the dead" is meant

the dead Christ, as referred to in Romans vi. 3, "Know ye not

that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were

baptized into his death?"

* "Commentary by Bishops and Other Clergy of the Anglican


This doctrine was a very taking one with the uneducated Mormon

converts who crowded into Nauvoo, and the church officers saw in

it a means to hasten the work on the Temple. At first families

would meet on the bank of the Mississippi River, and some one, of

the order of the Melchisedec Priesthood, would baptize them

wholesale for all their dead relatives whose names they could

remember, each sex for relatives of the same. But as soon as the

font in the Temple was ready for use, these baptisms were

restricted to that edifice, and it was required that all the

baptized should have paid their tithings. At a conference at

Nauvoo in October, 1841, Smith said that those who neglected the

baptism of their dead "did it at the peril of their own


* Times and Seasons, Vol. II, p. 578.

The form of church government, as worked out in the early days,

is set forth in the "Book of Doctrine and Covenants." The first

officers provided for were the twelve apostles,* and the next the

elders, priests, teachers, and deacons, Edward Partridge being

announced as the first bishop in 1831. The church was loosely

governed for the first years after its establishment at Kirtland.

A guiding power was provided for in a revelation of March 8, 1833

(Sec. 90), when Smith was told by the Lord that Rigdon and F. G.

Williams were accounted as equal with him "in holding the keys of

this last kingdom." These three first held the famous office of

the First Presidency, representing the Trinity.

* (Sec. 18, June, 1829.)

On February 17, 1834 (Sec. 102), a General High Council of

twenty-four High Priests assembled at Smith's house in Kirtland

and organized the High Council of the church, consisting of

Twelve High Priests, with one or three Presidents, as the case

might require. The office of High Priest, and the organization of

a High Council were apparently an afterthought, and were added to

the "revelation" after its publication in the "Book of

Commandments." Other forms of organization that were from time to

time decided on were announced in a revelation dated March 28,

1835 (Sec. 107), which defined the two priesthoods, Melchisedec

and Aaronic, and their powers. There were to be three Presiding

High Priests to form a Quorum of the Presidency of the church; a

Seventy, called to preach the Gospel, who would form a Quorum

equal in authority to the Quorum of the Twelve, and be presided

over by seven of their number. Smith soon organized two of these

Quorums of Seventies. At the time of the dedications of the

Temple at Nauvoo, in 1844, there were fifteen of them, and to-day

they number more than 120.

Each separate church organization, as formed, was called a Stake,

and each Stake had over it a Presidency, High Priests, and

Council of Twelve. We find the meaning of the word "Stake" in

some of Smith's earlier "revelations." Thus, in the one dated

June 4, 1833, regarding the organization of the church at

Kirtland, it was said, "It is expedient in me that this Stake

that I have set for the strength of Zion be made strong." Again,

in one dated December 16, 1839, on the gathering of the Saints,

it is stated, "I have other places which I will appoint unto

them, and they shall be called Stakes for the curtains, or the

strength of Zion." In Utah, to-day, the Stakes form groups of

settlements, and are generally organized on county lines.

The prophet made a substantial provision for his father, founding

for him the office of Patriarch, in accordance with an

unpublished "revelation." The principal business of the Patriarch

was to dispense "blessings," which were regarded by the faithful

as a sort of charm, to ward off misfortune. Joseph, Sr., awarded

these blessings without charge when he began dispensing them at

Kirtland, but a High Council held there in 1835 allowed him $10 a

week while blessing the church. After his formal anointing in

1836 he was known as Father Smith, and the next year his salary

was made $1.50 a day.* Hyrum became Patriarch when his father

died in 1840, his brother William succeeded him, his Uncle John

came next, and his Uncle Joseph after John. Patriarchal blessings

were advertised in the Mormon newspaper in Nauvoo like other

merchandise. They could be obtained in writing, and contained

promises of almost anything that a man could wish, such as

freedom from poverty and disease, life prolonged until the coming

of Christ, etc.** In 1875 the price of a blessing in Utah had

risen to $2. The office of Patriarch is still continued, with one

chief Patriarch, known as Patriarch of the Church, and

subordinate Patriarchs in the different Stakes. The position of

Patriarch of the church has always been regarded as a hereditary

one, and bestowed on some member of the Smith family, as it is


* The departure of the Patriarch from Ohio was somewhat dramatic.

As his wife tells the story in her book, the old man was taken by

a constable before a justice of the peace on a charge of

performing the marriage service without any authority, and was

fined $3000, and sentenced to the penitentiary in default of

payment. Through the connivance of the constable, who had been a

Mormon, the prisoner was allowed to leap out of a window, and he

remained in hiding at New Portage until his family were ready to

start for Missouri. The revelation of January 19, 1841, announced

that he was then sitting "with Abraham at his right hand."

* Ferris's "Utah and the Mormons," p. 314, and "Wife No. 19," p.


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