Priesthood Instruction

On October 5, 1840 in a conference at Nauvoo, Joseph Smith had Robert B. Thompson read the instructions on “priesthood” Joseph wrote for the conference. It is significant Joseph wrote the talk before the conference. His talks were almost always spontaneous, and our record relies on note-takers in the audience. Joseph thought his priesthood instruction was important enough to organize and write in advance.

He mentioned a high priesthood that “is the Grand head and holds the hig[h]est Authority which pertains to the priesthood–the keys of the Kingdom of God in all ages of the world to the latest posterity on the earth–and is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation and every important matter truth is revealed from heaven.”

This channel that reveals knowledge commenced with Adam and “he was the first to hold the spiritual blessings.” “Adam holds the keys of the dispensation of the fulness of times, i.e., the dispensation of all the times that have been and will be revealed through him from the beginning to Christ and from Christ to the end of ^^ all world the dispensations that have to be revealed.”

Joseph explained the dispensations are to gather together everything in Christ. The purpose of “the last dispensation is, that all things pertaining to that dispensation should be conducted precisely in accordance with the preceeding dispensations.”

Christ “set the ordinances to be the same for Ever and ever and set Adam to watch over them to reveal them from heaven to man or to send Angels to reveal them[.]” When angels do come to minister, “These angels are under the direction of Michael or Adam who acts under the direction of Christ.”

Joseph explained there was an order that heaven follows, and mankind is required to also conform to the pattern established by heaven. “Adam received commandments and instruction from God, this was the order from the beginning: that he received revelations, Commandments, and ordinances at the beginning[.]” And it was necessary to follow that pattern to be saved.

Dispensation after dispensation it has been Adam who has either ministered or sent angels to minister the conditions for salvation. Each dispensation is required to conform to the pattern ordained by Adam if people in the dispensation are to be saved.

“This then is the nature of the priesthood, every man holding the presidency of his dispensation and one man holding the presidency of them all even Adam.” Further, “the ordinances must be kept in the very way God has appointed, otherwise their priesthood will prove a cursing instead of a blessing.”

The “keys of this [patriarchal or presidency] priesthood consisted in obtaining the voice of Jehovah that he talked with him in a familiare and friendly manner, that he continued to him the keys, the covenants, the power and the glory with which he blessed Adam at the beginning and the offring of sacrifice which also shall be continued at the last time. for all the ordinances and duties that ever have been required by the priesthood under the directions and commandments of the Almighty in the last dispensation at the end thereof in any of the dispensations, shall all be had in the last dispensations[.]”

Animal sacrifice is most notably associated with the Law of Moses. However, Joseph clarified that, “It is not to be understood that, the law of Moses will be fully established again with all its rights and (variety of ceremonies) ceremonies this has never been spoken off by the prophets) but those things which existed prior to Mose’s day viz sacrifice, will be continued[.]”

The foregoing is taken from JS Papers, Documents Vol. 7, September 1839-January 1841, pp. 434-441, retyped as in the original. The entire talk goes through p. 442.

Joseph’s talk is best understood in the context of tying “dispensations” and “ordinances” to temple rites. Had he lived long enough to complete the rites he began, there would undoubtedly have been much more returned by Father Adam for the benefit of his posterity. We have the assurance that this process of restoring will continue and will eventually lead to a full and final restoration.

It is interesting that Joseph uses both the singular and the plural when he mentioned the “last dispensations.” Clearly when Joseph was slain the restoration was not completed. Therefore, another dispensation will be needed to finish the work. Perhaps it will come as a “thief in the night” and arrive while the vast majority of ignorant mankind will believe they cannot and will not be surprised by God.