The Three Orders of the Priesthood
President Joseph Smith
President of the Church
(The Words of Joseph Smith, p.243-248; Given 27 August 1843, Sunday Morning in the Temple Grove 1)

Click to read the History of the Church version of this talk.

Joseph Smith Diary By Willard Richards

10 A M. President Marks 2 prayed.-

Joseph said 2 weeks to day something said about Elder Rigdon-vote taken to take away his license. on account of a report brought by Elder Hyde 3 from Quincy.-

The letter is one of the most evasive things.-and carries with it a design to hide the truth….

In answer to S. Rigdon of the 15. inst Thom Carlin.-Has any man been concerned in a conspiracy to deliver Joseph Smith to Mo? if so who?

Read 7th Hebrews. Salem is designed for a hebrew term. it should be Shiloam-which signifies Righteousness & peace. 4 as it is, it is nothing, neither Hebrew, Greek, Latin french or any other To all those who are disposed to say to set up stakes for the almighty-will come short of the glory of god. To become a joint heir of the heirship of the son he must put away all his traditions. 5

I bear record this morning that all the combined powers of earth & hell shall not over come this boy.-

If I have sinned I have sinned outwardly-but secretly I have contemplated the things of God.

Told an anecdote of the Episcopalian priest-who said he had the priesthood of Aron-but not of Melichisedek-and bore this testimony that I never have found the man who claimed the priesthood of Melchisidek.

The law was given under Aaron for the purpose of pouring out Judments and destructions.

The sectarian world are going to hell-by 100s 1000s 1000 000!

3 grand orders of priesthood referred to here. 6

1st. King of Shiloam-power & authority over that of Abraham holding the key & the power of endless life.-angels desire to look into it, but they have set up to many stakes. god cursed the children of Israel because they would not receive the last law from Moses. 7-

By the offering of Isaac. 8-if a man would attain-he must sacrifice all to attain to the keys of the kingdom of an endless life

What was the power of Melchisedick twas not P. of Aaron &c. a king & a priest to the most high God. a perfect law of Theocracy holding keys of power & blessings. stood as God to give laws to the people. administering endless lives to the sons and daughters of Adam 9 kingly powers. of anointing. 10-Abram says Melchisedek.-away I have a priesthood.-

Salvation could not come to the world without the mediation of Jesus Christ.

How shall god come to the rescue of this generation. he shall send Elijah law revealed to Moses in Horeb-never was revealed to the C. of Israel and he shall reveal the covenants to seal the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. 11-anointing & sealing-called elected and made sure 12 without father &c. 13 a priesthood which holds the priesthood by right from the Eternal Gods.-and not by descent from father and mother 14

2d Priesthood, patriarchal authority finish that temple and god will fill it with power. 15

3d Priesthood. Levitical 16

Priests made without an oath but the Priesthood of Melchisedek is by oath and covenant. 17 Holy Ghost. 18

Jesus Christ-men have to suffer that they might come up on Mt. Zion. exalted above the heavens 19-I know a man that has been caught up to the 3d heaven 20-& saw.

Franklin D. Richards "Scriptural Items"

A sermon of Josephs Heb 7 chap Salem is Shiloam

Those who limit the designs of God as concerted by the grand council of H cannot obtain the Knowledge of God & I do not know but I may say they will drink in the Damnation of their souls-

I Prophecy that all the powers of Earth & Hell shall never be able to overthrow this Boy for I have obtained it by promise-

There are 3 grand principles or orders of Priesthood portrayed in this chapter

1st Levitical which was never able to administer a Blessing but only to bind heavy burdens which neither they nor their father able to bear

2 Abrahams Patriarchal power which is the greatest yet experienced in this church 21

3d That of Melchisedec who had still greater power even power of an endless life of which was our Lord Jesus Christ which also Abraham obtained by the offering of his son Isaac which was not the power of a Prophet nor apostle nor Patriarch only but of King & Priest 22 to God to open the windows of Heaven and pour out the peace & Law of endless Life to man 23 & No man can attain to the Joint heirship 24 with Jesus Christ with out being administered to by one having the same power & Authority of Melchisedec 25 Joseph also said that the Holy Ghost 26 is now in a state of Probation which if he should perform in righteousness he may pass through the same or a similar course of things that the Son has.

James Burgess Notebook

Hebrewes 7 chap. Paul is here treating of three different preisthoods, namely the preisthood of Aron, Abraham, and Melchizedeck, Abraham's preisthood was of greater power than Levi's and Melchizedeck's was of greater power than that of Abraham. The preisthood of Levi consisted of cursings and blessings carnal commandments and not of blessings and if the preisthood of this generation has no more power than that of Levi or Aron or of a bishhoprick it administers no blessings but cursings for it was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 27 I ask was there any sealing power attending this preisthood. Oh no that would admit a man into the presence of God. 28 Oh no, but Abraham's was a more exalted power or preisthood he could talk and walk with God and yet consider how great this man was when even this patriarch Abraham gave a tenth part of all his spoils and then received a blessing under the hands of Melchesideck 29 even the last law or a fulness of the law or preisthood 30 which constituted him a king and preist after the order of Melchesideck or an endless life Now if Abraham had been like the sectarian world and would not have received any more revelation, what would have been the consequence it would have damned him. Book of Covenants. 31 The levitical preisthood was an appendage to the Melchesideck preisthood or the whole law of God when in full face or power in all its parts and bearings on the earth. 32 It is understood by many by reading this chapter that Melchesedeck was king of some country or nation on the earth, but it was not so, In the original it reads king of Shaloam which signifies king of peace or righteousness and not of any country or nation. 33

Malachi says that the sons of Levi shall in the last days offer an offering in rightousness. 34

Men will set up stakes and say thus far will we go and no farther, did Abraham when called upon to offer his son, 35 did the Saviour, 36 no, view him fulfiling all rightousness again on the banks of jordon, 37 also on the Mount transfigured before Peter and John there receiving the fulness of preisthood or the law of God, 38 setting up no stake but coming right up to the mark in all things here him after he returned from the Mount, did ever language of such magnitude fall from the lips of any man, hearken him. All power is given is given unto me both in heaven and the earth. 39 Offering's sacrifice's and carnal commandments, was added in consequence of transgression and they that did them should live by them. 40 View him the Son of God at saying it behoveth me to fulfil all rightousness 41 also in a garden saying if it be possible let this cup pass from me nevertheless thy will be done. 42 What was the design of the Almighty in making man, it was to exalt him to be as God, 43 the scripture says yet are Gods and it cannot be broken, 44 heirs of God and joint heirs I with Jesus Christ equal with him possesing all power &c. 45 The mystery power and glory of the preisthood is so great and glorious that the angels desired to understand it and cannot: why, because of the tradition of them and their fathers in setting up stakes and not coming up to the mark in their probationary state. 46

William Clayton Diary

A.M. at the Grove. Prest. J. preached on Hebrews c 7. After reading a letter from Thos. Carlin to S. Rigdon and making some remarks about it. 47 He shewed that the word "Salem" is a wrong translation it should be "Shalome" signifying peace. 48 He prophecied that "not all the powers of hell or earth combined can ever overthrow this boy" for he had a promise from the eternal God. He spoke concerning the priesthood of Melchisedek shewing that the sectarians never propossed to have it consequently never could save any one and would all be damned together. He showed that the power of the Melchisek P'd was to have the power of an "endless lives." 49 he showed that the everlasting covenants could not be broken, and by the sacrifice required of Abraham the fact that when God offers a blessing or knowledge to a man and he refuses to receive it he will be damned. 50-mentioning the case of the Israelites praying that God would speak to Moses & not to Them-in consequense of which he cursed them with a carnal law. 51

Levi Richards Diary

27 Aug attended meeting at Temple Grove-Letter from Governor Ca[r]lin to Sidney Rigdon read by Joseph Smith attended with remarks on it by J. Smith who afterwards preached from Hebrews 7 upon the priesthood Aaronic, Patriarchal, & Melchisedec.

Willard Richards Diary

Joseph preached.

The following annotations for this sermon were written by Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, compilers and editors of The Words of Joseph Smith.

1. See History of the Church, 5:553-56, and Teachings, pp. 321-23. The original source for the reports of this discourse in History of the Church and Teachings is the Joseph Smith Diary, by Willard Richards and the William Clayton Diary. The accounts of Franklin D. Richards, James Burgess, Levi Richards, and Willard Richards (personal diary) are here published for the first time.

2. William Marks, president of the Nauvoo Stake.

3. Orson Hyde. See 13 August 1843 (2), note 10.

4. Since the King James Version of the New Testament comes from Greek manuscripts, the transliteration of [Greek word] (given as Salem) in Hebrews 7:1-2 is correct. However, Greek does not have a sh equivalent, thus when Sh-lm (pronounced shaw-lame') was transliterated from the Hebrew manuscript to the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, the h was lost. Nevertheless, while authorities say Sh-lm means peaceful, they also say that it may stand for "an early name for Jerusalem." It is this latter point which Joseph Smith disputed.

5. See 5 October 1840, note 24.

6. That is, in Hebrews 7:1-12.

7. See D&C 84:19-25 and JST Exodus 34:1-2. See also 5 October 1840, note 24.

8. That is, when Abraham offered up Isaac (Genesis 22), as repulsive a request as this was, Abraham went ahead and proved his integrity and faith. Consequently God bestowed upon him the highest blessing available to man, the fulness of the priesthood. See D&C 132:36 and note 21, this discourse.

9. At no time before in the history of the Church had the Prophet talked so freely in public of ordinances whereby men were ordained kings and priests. These ordinances were not introduced in Kirtland because Elijah had not come to confer the fulness of the priesthood upon the Prophet before he administered the Kirtland Temple ordinances. Obviously the Prophet could only administer temple ordinances as he then understood them. See 13 August 1843 (1), note 8, 21 and 22, this discourse.

10. The "kingly powers" of the fulness of the priesthood would be conferred by an "anointing." See notes 21, 22, this discourse, and 13 August 1843 (1), note 8.

11. Malachi 4:5-6*.

12. "Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). See 27 June 1839, note 11. Apparently it is one thing to receive the anointing and sealing blessings of the priesthood and another thing for them to be called, elected, and made sure.

13. Hebrews 7:3.

14. That is, the fulness of the Priesthood comes "not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God" (JST Genesis 14:28). See also JST Hebrews 7:3.

15. See note 21, this discourse.

16. See note 22, this discourse.

17. Hebrews 7:20-22, 28 (19-28); D&C 84:40 (33-41).

18. See text of this discourse at note 26 & for Joseph Smith's comments on the Holy Ghost.

19. Obadiah 21; Revelation 14:1; D&C 76:66.

20. 2 Corinthians 12:1-4.

21. The Prophet here teaches that though Abraham had not yet received the fulness of the priesthood, he had received from the Lord the promise of an innumerable posterity both for this world and in the world to come (D&C 132:28-31). Joseph Smith, however, clarifies that Abraham's endowment (Abraham facsimile Number 2, figures 3 and 7) was greater than that which his descendants Aaron and Levi would be allowed; and thus "Abraham's" Patriarchal Priesthood (the ordinances of the endowment and patriarchal marriage for time and eternity) comprehended the Aaronic portion of the endowment. Additionally, the Prophet here clarifies that the Patriarchal Priesthood was not the same as the crowning ordinances of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Elias returned the authority of promising innumerable posterity, but Elijah restored the authority of the fulness of the priesthood (D&C 110:12-16).

Aside from this theological commentary, it is important to point out that the Prophet's teachings fit perfectly within a historical context. Joseph Smith administered the first ordinances of the Patriarchal Priesthood on 4 May 1842 when he gave both the Aaronic and Melchizedek portions of the endowment to nine men in his store in Nauvoo (see History of the Church, 5:1-2, or Teachings, p. 137; and H. W. Mills, "De Tal Palo Tal Astilla," Annual Publications-Historical Society of Southern California 10 [Los Angeles: McBride Printing Company, 1917]: 120-21). By a year later, most of the nine received the ordinances of marriage for time and eternity. In particular, the Prophet and his wife, Emma, and James and Harriet Adams were sealed on 28 May 1843 (Joseph Smith Diary, Church Archives). Similarly, Hyrum Smith and his wife, Mary Fielding, Brigham Young and his wife, Mary Ann, and Willard Richards and his wife, Jennetta, were all sealed the next day. But the higher ordinances that confer the fulness of the priesthood had not as yet been administered. However one month and a day after this 27 August 1843 discourse, Joseph and Emma received the anointing and ordination "of the highest and holiest order of the priesthood" (Joseph Smith Diary, 28 September 1843, Church Archives). Hence by 27 August 1843, "Abrahams patriarchal power [was] the greatest yet experienced in [the] church." As abstract as this may seem, the Prophet was not the only one who understood the relationship between these three orders of priesthood blessings that he said were illustrated in Hebrews 7; they who received these ordinances also understood these relationships. For example, Brigham Young later discussed in public discourse the relationship between the Aaronic and Patriarchal orders of the endowment as follows:

When we give the brethren their endowments, we confer upon them the Melchizedek Priesthood; but I expect to see the day, when we shall say to a company of brethren, you can go and receive the [endowment] ordinances pertaining to the Aaronic order of Priesthood, and then you can go into the world and preach the Gospel, or do something that will prove whether you will honor that Priesthood before you receive more. Now we pass them through the [temple] ordinances of both Priesthoods in one day. (Journal of Discourses, 10:309, quoted in John A. Widstoe, Discourses of Brigham Young [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973], p. 396).

Perhaps more important than his later understanding of the relationship between the Aaronic and Melchizedek portions of the endowment is the fact that three weeks before this 27 August 1843 discourse, Brigham Young demonstrated that the Prophet made clear to those who had received the endowment and patriarchal marriage ordinances, that they had not as yet received the fulness of the priesthood. On 6 August 1843, Brigham Young said, "If any in the church [have] the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood [I do] not know it. For any person to have the fullness of that priesthood, he must be a king and priest." Since he had received, with eight others, an anointing in 1842 promising him he would, if faithful, eventually receive another anointing actually ordaining him a king and a priest, Brigham Young therefore added, "A person may be anointed king and priest long before he receives his kingdom" (History of the Church, 5:527, which is quoted verbatim from the contemporary account kept by Wilford Woodruff). Based on his understanding from Joseph the Prophet, Brigham Young said of this third order of priesthood blessings, "Those who come in here [the Nauvoo Temple] and have received their washing & anointing will [later, if faithful], be ordained Kings & Priests, and will then have received the fullness of the Priesthood, all that can be given on earth. For Brother Joseph said he had given us all that could be given to man on the earth" (Heber C. Kimball Journal, kept by William Clayton, 26 December 1845, Church Archives, italics added). This is the theological and historical context for the Prophet's comments on the three orders of temple blessings outlined in this extremely important discourse.

22. As high and important to the Church as the offices of prophet, apostle and patriarch are, nevertheless, these highest ecclesiastical ordinations do not confer the authority of Elijah, the sealing power of the priesthood, or the power of a king and priest. As President Joseph Fielding Smith expressed it best in our own century,

I do not care what office you hold in the Church-you may be an apostle, you may be a patriarch, a high priest, or anything else-but you cannot receive the fullness of the priesthood and the fullness of eternal reward unless you receive the ordinances of the house of the Lord. Then [the door is] open so you can obtain all the blessings which any man can gain. You can have ["the fullness of the Lord's blessings"] sealed upon you as an elder, if you are faithful; and when you receive them, and live faithfully and keep these covenants, you then have all that any man can get. There is no exaltation in the kingdom of God without the fullness of the priesthood" (Joseph Fielding Smith, first address to the Priesthood as President of the Church, 4 April 1970, The Improvement Era 73 [June 1970]: 65-66).

Regarding Abraham's receiving the "power of an endless life" after he offered his son Isaac, see note 29, this discourse.

23. Regarding the power "to open the windows of Heaven" (Malachi 3:10), see 5 October 1840, note 19, 32.

24. Romans 8:17 (14-17).

25. See note 38, this discourse.

26. George Laub's report of the 16 June 1844 discourse includes the following similar statement: "But the Holy Ghost is yet a Spiritual body and waiting to take to himself a body, as the Savior did or as God did, or the gods before them took bodies." Franklin D. Richards's account is less vague and represents the clearest statement on the personal identity of the Holy Ghost.

27. Matthew 5:38.

28. While the Levitical order of the endowment would admit only one man, the high priest, within the veil, through the Melchizedek order, all men who prove worthy may be admitted into the presence of the Lord (D&C 107:18-19; see 23 July 1843, note 21).

29. The apparent discrepancy between the Franklin D. Richards and Martha Coray reports on this point may be reconciled in light of the Prophet's distinction between a man's ordination to the priesthood and his possessing power in the priesthood. Priesthood ordination does not, by itself, assure a man that God will ratify all his acts as a priesthood bearer. Perhaps Abraham received the "anointing and sealing" (the priesthood ordination of king and priest) under the hands of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-24 and JST Genesis 14:25-40), but the "election sure"-the absolute assurance of power in the priesthood-came directly from God only after Abraham indicated his willingness to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14).

30. One of the major milestones, if not the major milestone, of the Latter-day work was to be the restoration of the fulness of the priesthood (D&C 124:28). The Prophet's "mission [was to] firmly [establish] the dispensation of the fullness of the priesthood in the last days, that all the powers of earth and hell [could] never prevail against it" (History of the Church, 5:140, or Teachings, p. 258). What was this fulness of the priesthood? The most concise but inclusive definition of the authority of the fulness of the priesthood was given by Joseph Smith in his 10 March 1844 discourse when he said, "Now for Elijah; the spirit, power and calling of Elijah is that ye have power to hold the keys 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 [to] have power to seal on earth and in heaven." However, the Prophet had not as yet administered the ordinances that made men kings and priests. Brigham Young said three weeks before this discourse that no one yet in the Church had the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, "For any person to have the fullness of that priesthood, he must be a king and priest" (History of the Church, 5:527, which is quoted verbatim from the original source kept by Wilford Woodruff, Church Archives). These ordinances were instituted on 28 September 1843 and in the next five months were conferred on twenty men (and their wives, except for those whose names are asterisked): Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Newel K. Whitney, William Marks, John Taylor, John Smith, Reynolds Cahoon, Alpheus Cutler, Orson Spencer, Orson Hyde*, Parley P. Pratt*, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Levi Richards*, Cornelius P. Lott, William W. Phelps Isaac Morley, and Orson Pratt.* As George Q. Cannon later said,

Previous to his death. the Prophet Joseph manifested great anxiety to see the temple completed, as most of you who were with the Church during his day, well know. "Hurry up the work, brethren," he used to say, "let us finish the temple; the Lord has a great endowment in store for you, and I am anxious that the brethren should have their endowments and receive the fullness of the Priesthood. Then," said he, "the Kingdom will be established, and I do not care what shall become of me."

Prior to the completion of the Temple, [Joseph Smith] took the Twelve and certain other men, who were chosen, and bestowed upon them a holy anointing, similar to that which was received on the day of Pentecost by the Twelve, who had been told to tarry at Jerusalem. This endowment was bestowed upon the chosen few whom Joseph anointed and ordained, giving unto them the keys of the holy Priesthood, the power and authority which he himself held, to build up the Kingdom of God in all the earth and accomplish the great purposes of our Heavenly Father.

Knowing that Sidney Rigdon was the only member of the First Presidency to survive the martyrdom but knowing too that he had not received the ordinances of the fulness of the priesthood, George Q. Cannon added this significant comment: "It was by virtue of this authority, on the death of Joseph, that President Young, as President of the quorum of the Twelve, presided over the Church" (Journal of Discourses, 13:49). Joseph Smith's followers did believe he "firmly established the dispensation of the fullness of the priesthood that all earth and hell [could] never prevail against it." See notes 21, 22, 29, 38, this discourse.

31. D&C 107:5, 14.

32. D&C 107:13-14.

33. See note 4, this discourse.

34. Malachi 3:1-3.

35. Genesis 22:1-14.

36. For example, Matthew 26:36-46.

37. Matthew 3:15 (13-17).

38. This is the only known record of when, according to Joseph Smith, the Savior received the fulness of the priesthood. Wilford Woodruff's report of the Prophet's 11 June 1843 discourse recorded a significant comment by Joseph Smith regarding this subject: "If a man gets the fulness of God ["priesthood" as in the published version], he has to get [it] in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, by keeping all the ordinances of the house of the Lord" (see 11 June 1843, note 9). To Joseph Smith, however, it was not the Lord's will that all have Elijah confer upon them the sealing power of the fulness of the priesthood, for as Franklin D. Richards expressed it, we receive the fulness by "being administered to by one having the same power and Authority of Melchizedek" (D&C 132:7).

Joseph Smith distinguished between the ordination of the twelve disciples as apostles (in Matthew 10) and the bestowal of the sealing power of Elijah upon three of the twelve (in Matthew 17), for he himself received the authority of the apostleship in 1829 (Joseph Smith-History, 1:72; D&C 27:12), but did not receive the sealing power of the fulness of the priesthood until 3 April 1836 (D&C 110:13-16; also text at notes 13-20 & of the 10 March 1844 discourse).

39. Matthew 28:18.

40. Galatians 3:12, 19.

41. Matthew 3:15 (13-17).

42. Matthew 26:39 (36-46).

43. In his 21 May 1843 discourse (at note 12 &), the Prophet, without elaborating on his statement, said he would "keep in [his] own bosom the design of the great God in sending us into this world and organizing us to prepare us for the Eternal world." Joseph Smith did hint though that the doctrine of eternal marriage was related to the implicit question. Here in the James Burgess account of the 27 August 1843 discourse (three months later), the Prophet finally answers his own question: "What was the design of the Almighty in making man? It was to exalt him to be as God." Given that the Prophet would have answered the question similarly in May, this is remarkable confirmation of the then unwritten revelation on eternal marriage. When it was written seven and a half weeks later (12 July 1843), this revelation asserted that if couples were sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise through the authority of the sealing power of the priesthood and were also given the promise that they would come forth in the first resurrection, and if they should continue without committing the unpardonable sin, "Then shall they be gods because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them" (D&C 132:19-20).

44. John 10:34-35 (32-39).

45. Romans 8:17 and Matthew 28:18.

46. That is Joseph Smith taught that when people deny some commands of God because of their pre-conceived notions and traditions, they actually close the door to their own salvation and exaltation. Given the perplexity he had in teaching certain doctrines at this time of his ministry, it is not hard to understand why he often referred to this characteristic of men and women. Even those within the church had difficulties accepting some of his teachings. See 5 October 1840, note 24, 19 and note 5, this discourse.

47. See 13 August 1843 (2), note 10.

48. See note 4, this discourse.

49. D&C 132:19-24. To have the power of "endless lives" is to have secured before the time of resurrection the promise of exaltation in eternity with the accompanying promise of a continuation of the lives or seed-that is to have the power to have children after the resurrection (see History of the Church, 5:391-92).

50. Genesis 22:1-19.

51. Exodus 19, 20:18-21; D&C 84:19-27.