Posted on 1 Comment

How Did Nephites Get Priesthood? (Part 10 of 12)

According to the Law of Moses, priesthood holders had to be from the Tribe of Levi.  Lehi was from the Tribe of Joseph, so that’s a problem.  Nephi built a temple on the model of Solomon’s Temple.  So how did the Nephites get priesthood?  Historian Don Bradley says the answer might be in the lost pages, and speculates how Nephite priesthood functioned.

Don:  That model of priesthood, where you have a king, who is a priest, has biblical precedent. The precedent is not ancient Israel’s Levitical priesthood. The precedent goes back earlier to the time of Abraham, when you have Melchizedek who is portrayed as a king and a priest. So the idea of people being ordained kings and priests, the gendered equivalent of which might be queens and priestesses, might be familiar to some people associated with Mormonism. I don’t know, maybe, the model for that, and one that Joseph Smith explicitly invokes in Nauvoo, talking about people being made kings and priests, queens and priestesses is Melchizedek.

So the model of priesthood among the Nephites is not Levitical. They replace a Levitical model priesthood with a Melchizedek model of priesthood. Those terms, Levitical or Aaronic, among others, are so familiar to Latter-day Saints. But they’re kind of familiar to us mostly in a different context that would give a different twist on what they mean. The model of priesthood here is Melchizedek in the biblical sense of Melchizedek being both King and high priest. So that’s the Nephite model of Priesthood.

Check out our conversation….

Historian Don Bradley believes he has found historical records that explain how Nephites exercised priesthood despite having no Levites among them.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Don.

362: Who Stole the Manuscript?

361: Exonerating Lucy Harris

360: Masonic Golden Plates & Temple Theology

359: Temple Endowment in Lost Pages

358: Laban Killed During Passover

357: More than 116 Pages Lost?

356: How Much of BoM is Missing?

355: Re-Writing Oliver’s Words: Dirty, Nasty, Filthy Scrape?

354: Dating Fanny Alger

Posted on Leave a comment

History & Theological Implications of Baby Blessings (Part 6)

Welcome to Gospel Tangents, the best source for Mormon history, science, and theology.  I’m your host Rick Bennett.  Dr. Jonathan Stapley devotes an entire chapter in his book, The Power of Godliness, to baby blessings.  Given that baby blessings are not considered salvific, why spend so much time on that?  Jonathan says it was his favorite chapter of the book!

Jonathan:  There’s this exchange of letters between Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and Peter Whitmer in Zion.  Whitmer is the ward clerk. He has a Book of Remembrance.  Book of Remembrance is the book that Adam creates. And so, he has this sacred document in which he is to inscribe the inheritance of Zion. And if you come to Zion, you receive an inheritance, that is your inheritance for time and eternity, while the earth shall stand and in eternity when it’s renewed.  When babies are blessed, their name is written in the Book of Remembrance and they receive this inheritance.  They’re essentially brought into this salvific community where salvation is no longer an individual affair.  But it’s not really an individual affair in Mormonism ever.  But this explicitly communal salvation, in Zion that’s just really remarkable and that Zion essentially fails.  The Zion project, burns, and the saints moved to Illinois. And we have the Nauvoo Temple liturgy and the cosmological priesthood that reorders the world and universe of Latter-day Saints.  We see the baby blessing becoming an annunciation of children’s sealed position in the cosmological priesthood.

Had you considered that?  Check out our other conversations with Jonathan.

Dr. Jonathan Stapley says baby blessings are an "annunciation of children's sealed position in the cosmological priesthood."
Dr. Jonathan Stapley says baby blessings are an “annunciation of children’s sealed position in the cosmological priesthood.”

Check out our conversation…..

166:  Mormon History of Folk & Alternative Medicine (Stapley)

165:  Elder Oaks Groundbreaking Talk on Women & Priesthood(Stapley)

164:  The Mormon Priestess & Ordain Women (Stapley)

163:  Women Healers in LDS Temples (Stapley)

162:  Introduction to Cosmological Priesthood

Posted on Leave a comment

Introduction to the Power of Godliness

Welcome to Gospel Tangents, the best source for Mormon history, science, and theology.  I’d like to introduce Dr. Jonathan Stapley.  He has written a new book called the Power of Godliness, which talks about LDS priesthood. Jonathan introduces a new term into LDS lexicon:  cosmological priesthood.  What does that mean?

Jonathan:  I called that in the book, the “cosmological priesthood.” Now that I’ve done several book events, I’m tired of that, and I find it annoying and it is a little idiosyncratic and silly. I’m not saying that there was the Aaronic Priesthood, the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the Cosmological Priesthood.  It’s a heuristic device that we can use to understand the dynamics and what was the work that these rituals were doing in the community that performed them. And so, we have an ecclesiastical priesthood and what I’m framing is the cosmological priesthood, the Nauvoo temple liturgy. And there’s how Mormons viewed them and how they interacted with these concepts, a shift and change with successive waves of converts and generations of Mormons.

We’ll also talk about the trite phrase about priesthood and motherhood.

Jonathan:  When I talk to people about this, Mormons have created a dichotomy oftentimes between priesthood and motherhood, which I talk about in the book and I think isn’t particularly a historical, it is historical in the sense that it’s been around for a while, but isn’t, it doesn’t make a tremendous amount of sense within our tradition.  But I will often ask, what is “the motherhood?”  And that’s a phraseology that doesn’t really sound familiar to us. It doesn’t make, it doesn’t have an obvious meaning, because what motherhood is, is being a mother. That’s what it means. So, if you were to say, “the motherhood,” you could conceive of it as perhaps a group of mothers. That would be “the motherhood” perhaps.

But priesthood is a similar construction. So, early on, the earliest revelations and the earliest documents we have, construct a priesthood that it is essentially the capacity of a priest, just as motherhood is the capacity of a mother. So, you would ordain somebody to be a priest or an elder and that would be priesthood. And quickly, Joseph Smith has subsequent revelations that create larger cosmological valances to what priesthood is. But what I tried to do is create a framework in the book that makes all the shifts in bicycle dynamics within Mormon discussions of priesthood, sensible and, and the way I do that is by framing one area of priesthood as an ecclesiastical priesthood.

Dr. Jonathan Stapley introduces the concept of "cosmological priesthood."
Dr. Jonathan Stapley introduces the concept of “cosmological priesthood.”

Don’t forget to check out our conversation on priesthood with Greg Prince!  Check out our conversation…..