The Holy Order According to the LDS Church

Last week in my introductory post about the doctrine of the Holy Order, I noted this would be a series. In today’s post, after pondering what I could possibly add to the subject that was so masterfully covered by Denver Snuffer in his latest paper, “The Holy Order, Part 2,” I wondered what I would get from official sources of the LDS Church on the same subject.

I always like to start my search where I assume any regular member of the church would start: from the search page of the official church web site. I was surprised that the first entry returned was a reference to the Anointed Quorum, which, according to the official summary, was a temporary group of individuals who first received the endowment in Joseph’s Red Brick store.

Memories of the Endowment

I have warm memories of the endowment. I have written about my experiences in the temple in several posts over the years. I grew up with the LA temple a regular part of our family worship experience. I was endowed at age 19 before my mission to Central America in 1976-1978. I loved doing family history work and research with my mother, a tradition I carry on today with my wife.

When I served on the High Council, my assignment was the temple, including preparation classes for those being endowed for the first time. I recall a visit with a member of the temple presidency shortly after I was ordained a High Priest in 1995 and called to serve in a Bishopric. I asked him about having an altar at home and conducting prayer circles outside the temple at home.

Prayer Circles Outside the Temple

You can imagine his response. He seemed a little surprised by my question, but very carefully stated, “The Brethren have advised us … no, directed us, that there shall be no altars or prayer circles outside the temples.” I reminded him that prayer circles had been held in stake centers and ward buildings for much of the history of the church in Utah, and only discontinued in 1978.

Since this was nearly thirty years ago, I don’t remember the additional specific details of the conversation, as I only recorded it briefly in my journal, but I do remember he became emphatic in stating that attempting to participate in any temple ordinance outside a dedicated LDS temple would inevitably subject the participants to the ministrations of deceiving spirits. Our interview was over.

An Early Temporary Group of Endowed Members

I suppose that’s the biggest and most common response I get from members of the church any time the subject of personal revelatory experiences comes up. There seems to be this fear of being deceived. That’s why whenever I am asked where I get some of the things I write about and I indicate my source, they say I have been deceived, since the doctrine is different from orthodox Mormonism.

However, when I read the official summary from the LDS Church about the Holy Order, I get a whole different impression about what it is in comparison to what I read from Denver. According to the church, it was a temporary group of people who were endowed and administered the endowment in Nauvoo. Yet even the quote from Orson Hyde cited in the LDS church article is misleading.

The Endowment is not the Holy Order

Quoting the article, “Joseph explained, I don’t know what it is, but the Lord bids me to hasten and give you your endowment before the temple is finished.” Is the endowment that Joseph administered in the Red Brick Store the same as what the Lord intended to give to the Saints once the Nauvoo temple was completed (which it never was)? Was that ever administered to the Saints?

No, it was not, according to Denver’s paper. As he explained, the Fullness of the Priesthood was never given by the Lord to the church. It is not something that was restored to the church Joseph Smith organized, nor is it publicly available, nor is it intended for everyone. In other words, the Fullness of the Priesthood includes rites of the Holy Order that are only administered directly by the Lord.

What the Holy Order is Not

Quoting now from pages 3 and 4 of Denver’s paper: “The Holy Order is not synonymous with having calling and election made sure. You can have your calling and election made sure without having the Holy Order. The Holy Order is not synonymous with being redeemed from the fall and returning to God’s presence. That also can happen without having the Holy Order.

“Nor is the Holy Order synonymous with having the fullness of revelations from before the creation of the world through the end of this cycle of creation. That, also, can be given to a person while they still lack the Holy Order.

Covenants Offered Through the Holy Order

“An individual does not need to possess the Holy Order to be able to enter into a covenant. Covenants have been offered mankind by God through the Holy Order. Once offered, covenants are still honored even if the Holy Order is no longer present. The condition for a covenant to remain in effect requires only that the covenant never change.

“If officiators make changes, the covenant is broken and is no longer in effect. Further, it is not required for you to be initiated into the Holy Order to become a member of the eternal Family of God. All those who will be exalted will be members. Only a tiny fraction of the Family will experience that in mortality.

The Holy Order Must Return

“Finally, any position in the Holy Order here may change after this life. Christ reminded the mother of Jacob (James) and John that positions in the afterlife will be assigned by His Father. The Holy Order must return before the Second Coming to re-establish God’s ‘house of order.’

“But organizing and ordering for the afterlife will not happen until some time after the Lord’s return. Restoring and organizing God’s Family is necessary because of the disorder caused by the fall of Adam. That disorder has been compounded by additional repeated apostasies from the periodic restorations of the Holy Order.”

Restoring That Which Was Lost

My purpose in sharing my commentary on this paper is solely to get you to read the paper for yourself. I have quoted only through the first four pages of a 71-page paper. You may ask yourself, “Why do I need an understanding of the Holy Order? I have been endowed in the temple. The church has provided for me everything required to ensure my eventual exaltation.”

I disagree. “For there is not place found on the earth that he may come and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he has taken away, even the fullness of the Priesthood.” (D&C 124:28) Denver’s paper clarifies that the Holy Order was restored and conferred upon Hyrum Smith in 1841. It was not transferrable and ended with the deaths of Hyrum and Joseph.

To be continued …

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