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Early LDS Priesthood: Similar to Ancient Christianity?

Greg Prince wrote a book[1] on the evolution of LDS Priesthood.  In our next conversation, I’ll talk to Greg and I’ll ask him more about this evolution.  He even touches on the variations in the First Vision accounts.

Greg:  Yes, I think you need to start by backing up to the time when there wasn’t even a church and look at phases that Joseph Smith went through.  The earliest phase was there wasn’t even talk of the church.  There wasn’t even talk of authority.  When he had his First Vision, if you looked at the earliest version of that as likely being the most authentic historically, it had nothing to do with churches.

He said in his account of it in 1832, [he] already knew from studying the bible that all the churches were wrong, which is diametrically opposed to what the canonized version says.  So he went to the grove for personal forgiveness, and that’s what that account said.  The Lord appeared and said Joseph had been forgiven; end of story, bye, bye.  [There was] no hint that there would be a church in his future.

When you start to get into the Moroni narratives, then you have implicit authority, meaning that people around Joseph believed that something extraordinary was going on, and when he got the plates, they saw that something extraordinary was going on, and nobody challenged his authority to do it.  Towards the end of the translation process, they become concerned about having authority to perform ordinances, baptism being the primary one.

Did you know that in the early Mormon Church, Bishops and Deacons weren’t even a part of the organizational structure?

The Nephite Christian Church described in the latter chapters of the Book of Mormon had only three offices:  teachers, priests, and elders, and there’s minimal description in there, but there was a differentiation between the teachers and priests on the one hand, and elders on the other hand.  The word “priesthood” was not used.  In fact “priesthood” was more likely to be interpreted as “priestcraft” in the Book of Mormon, the evil priests.

If you look at the Far West record, which is basically the minute book of the early church general conferences, in the first conference that is recorded in June 1830, there are only three offices to which people are ordained:  teachers, priests, and elders.  You have two others appended in 1831:  those were deacons and bishops.

There are lots of other surprising insights.

You can make the claim that this is a restoration of the primitive church structure, but you can’t make that stick.  Yes those offices are recognized both in the New Testament.  It’s about as far as you can take it.  The concept of a dual-tiered priesthood existing within an early Christian church isn’t there.  It’s taking parts of Old Testament theology, parts of New Testament theology, doing some cherry-picking, and eventually settling in pretty much on where we have it now.

He also talks about some of the circular reasoning we have regarding priesthood.  Check out our conversation!  (Check out our previous episodes on leadership vacuums and ailing leaders too!)

[1] Greg’s book is called Priesthood from on High and is found at http://amzn.to/2nqcCFM

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Was Joseph Smith Irish?

How do you figure out Joseph Smith’s DNA profile?  It turns out that Dr. Ugo Perego was actually doing a  lot of genealogy work in before doing these paternity tests.  He has tied these two complex sciences together.  Almost everyone has run into a dead end in their genealogy, and it turns out that the Joseph family is stuck in the United States as well!  Is Joseph Smith Irish, not English?

Ugo:  I was actually looking for his ancestry.  We don’t know where the Smith line came from in Europe, in England.  The furthest back that the Smith line has been traced is in New England.  Around 1620-1630, that’s when the first ancestor of Joseph Smith shows up, and he is 12 years old, and he’s by himself, no mom, no dad, and he comes and he shows up in Boston.  He’s an indentured servant.  His name is Robert Smith, and where does this kid come from?

Then we have all the Smiths.  We have Robert Smith, we have Samuel Smith, Samuel Smith, Asael Smith, Asael Smith (two Samuels, two Asaels), then we have two Josephs.

GT:  Joseph Sr.

Ugo nods:  Joseph Sr. and Joseph Jr, right.  That’s the line, the Smith line.  Genealogists have been looking left and right in England to find a connection with Robert Smith and where he came from.  No one has been able to do that, so I was reconstructing Joseph Smith’s Y-chromosome with the goal to compare that with a Smith in England and see if I could find a connection.

there was a genealogist [who] suspected that the Joseph Smith line to Robert Smith came from a particular town in northern England in Lancashire County.  The town was Turton, so I looked online in the white pages, how many Smiths live in Turton?  There were 1,100.

GT:  Oh my.

Ugo:  So I wrote to all of them.

GT:  No way!

Ugo:  I wrote a letter to all of them.  I sent 1,100 letters to Smiths in Turton… {chuckles}

GT:  That’s unbelievable.

Ugo:  …with a swab inside, asking for their DNA, and I had actually a good number, about 5% replying and sending their DNA back.  That’s a good sample size of a population, 5%.  I found nothing, absolutely no matches whatsoever.

Then I started using some databases and it became very clear as I was exploring this possibility that I was looking in the wrong place.  Robert Smith that first showed up in New England was not from England.

Was Joseph Smith Irish or English?  Check out our conversation…..

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Did Emma Deny Joseph Practiced Polygamy?

The RLDS Church was founded on the claim that Joseph Smith never practiced polygamy.  Even on her death bed, Emma Smith made the startling claim to some that Joseph never practiced polygamy.  Conservative bloggers such as Rock Waterman (see his post here) and even Denver Snuffer have made the claim that Joseph Smith was a monogamist.  However, current RLDS Church prophet/president Stephen Veazey has made the claim that historical records show that Joseph Smith did practice polygamy.  What does Dr. Brian Hales believe about these allegations about monogamy and Joseph Smith?

I have an article that I have been pitching to different people to publish on the denials.  To be quite honest with you, there are at least two other denials that clearly were not senility, were clearly not specially phrased questions where Emma just comes right out and they’re fairly well documented, said “Joseph did not practice polygamy.”

How do I deal with that?  I don’t know.  I do not have a good explanation.  I think Emma was an amazing woman.  I look forward to meeting her someday.  You know in our theology that’s a possibility.  She had the worst row to hoe of all the polygamist wives in my view.  She did remarkably well.  She stumbled, but I believe there’s plenty of forgiveness on these things for her, but I honestly don’t know how she was able to say these things that she said.  Hopefully these will be published. I’ve put them together, I just haven’t got them published yet.  It’s pretty clear that she just denied it flat out.  I don’t know how she made that work for her, but they’re there.

I also asked Brian how he deals with the idea that Joseph practiced only monogamy.

Brian:  You know it’s interesting, Rick, that you would bring that up because by the time this interview is aired, The Interpreter {a Mormon history journal} will have published a very long article that I have written where I don’t just give evidence that Joseph did it, but I actually attack the arguments by, I mention Rock Waterman, I mention the Prices, and then Denver Snuffer who is in my view just the latest false prophet.  Remember I started looking at Mormon fundamentalism and I documented and wrote articles on men or came as great leaders who came for this reason or that reason and then they just fall by the wayside.  There’s a number of these that I talk about in my book.  I think Denver is just the latest in all of this type of a pattern.

For those who have questions, the easiest way probably to detect Denver is he said Joseph didn’t practice polygamy, and then just look at the evidence.  I outline it all here.  It is true that most of the evidence that Joseph practiced plural marriage is from late sources, but not all of it.  The Nauvoo Expositor states right in there that Joseph Smith had a revelation.  It was read to the high council.  We’ve got testimonials from William Law and Jane Law saying that Joseph was teaching polygamy.  These are contemporaneous.  There are entries in William Clayton’s journal.  John C. Bennett clearly had heard some rumors.  I don’t know that he was ever in confidence of Joseph with it.  But to say that it’s all old is not true.  There are some very important contemporaneous sources.

What do you think of the arguments Brian makes against monogamy?  (As a reminder, this is part 10 of our conversation with Brian.  Check out parts 19 to learn the facts behind polygamy.)  Look below for a video and transcript.

Emma Denied Joseph Practiced Polygamy?