High Priests were only in the church before Christ; and to have this office in the “Church of Christ” is not according to the teachings of Christ in either of the sacred books: Christ himself is our great and last High Priest. Brethren — I will tell you one thing which alone should settle this matter in your minds; it is this: you cannot find in the New Testament part of the Bible or Book of Mormon where one single high priest was ever in the Church of Christ. The office of an Elder is spoken of in many many places, but not one word about a High Priest being in the church. This alone should convince any one, and will convince any one who is without prejudice, that the office of High Priests was established in the church almost two years after its beginning by men who had drifted into error. You must admit that the church which was to be established in this dispensation, must be “like unto the church which was taught by Christ’s disciples of old.” Then the Church of Latter Day Saints is unlike the Church of Christ of old, because you have the office of High Priests in the church. The office of a High Priest as you have it, is of more importance than the office of an Elder; then why is not something said about this high office being in the Church which Christ came on earth to establish at Jerusalem and upon this land? Why is there not something said about this important office, and so much said about an Elder?
Brethren, it is strange — very strange — that you will continue to cling to the man, Joseph Smith, and measure the written word of God by his revelations. So has it been in all ages past. You are in spiritual blindness. Hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand; seeing ye shall see and not perceive. And this too when Christ has given us the Book of Mormon with the plain and precious things therein.
When Christ came into the world upon this land, Nephi was a great High Priest who had done many mighty works. Now Nephi had to lay down his robe of a High Priest just outside the door and come into the Church of Christ by baptism, to the office of an Elder, and not once after that is Nephi called a High Priest. At this time the Church of Christ was established upon this land. Christ comes into the world and preaches to them as he had to those at Jerusalem, giving them instructions concerning his Church and the New Covenant which he made with them, as he had with those on the eastern continent, telling them they were no longer under the old law of Moses, but from that time were under him. He chooses twelve disciples who were called Elders, to minister unto that people, and after giving them full instructions concerning the establishing of his church, he ascends into heaven. Elders, Priests and Teachers were ordained in his church, and full instructions given concerning their duties. Christ told his disciples to write his teachings, for they were to be hid up to come down to us as his teachings to us. Now this being the case, why are not some instructions given in the new covenant of that book concerning the office of High Priests? Of course there was no such an office in the Church of Christ upon this land, nor in the Church of Christ upon the eastern continent, nor should there be such an office in the Church to-day. It is a grievous sin to have such an office in the church. As well might you add to the teachings of Christ — circumcision — offering up the sacrifice of animals — or break the ordinances of Christ in any other way by going back to the old law of Moses.
We will now go to the New Testament in the Bible. In no place therein does it mention one single High Priest as being in the Church of Christ. High Priests are spoken of in Hebrews iv to ix, but only to explain that Jesus Christ is our great High Priest after the order of Melchisedec. It speaks of High Priests that offered up sacrifices under the old law, showing that Christ himself was after that order, but not once does it speak of the office of a High Priest continuing after Christ, except only in Christ himself; He being “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession; … our great High Priest that has passed into the heavens; … a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.” “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest (and the only one) … let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, etc.” This being the fulfillment of the old order of High Priests which was a type of Christ’s order. Before Christ, the people came to the High Priest for mercy and forgiveness, through him offering up sacrifices for their sins; but now the people have the great High Priest even Jesus Christ to go to “that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need:” He having offered up his body a sacrifice for the sins of the world. “And having an High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,” etc. This matter is plainly set forth in Hebrews, iv chapter. Brethren, it is solemn mockery before God to have established in the church to-day this important office of which Christ alone is worthy. The office of Elder is spoken of all through the New Testament as being in the church, but not one High Priest; then of course they had no High Priests in the church upon the eastern continent.
Now Brethren, seeing they had no High Priests in the church of Christ of old, and none in the church of Christ in these last days until almost two years after its beginning — when the leaders began to drift into error; remembering the fact of the revelation being changed two years after it was given to include High Priests; taking these things into consideration, how is it that any one can say that the office of High Priest should be in the church of Christ to-day? I can account for it only on the grounds of your spiritual blindness. This matter is so plain and self-evident that any one should see and understand it. Brethren, your blindness must be utter blindness. May God have mercy on you is my prayer.
In no place in the word of God does it say that an Elder is after the order of Melchisedec, or after the order of the Melchisedec Priesthood. An Elder is after the order of Christ. This matter of “priesthood,” since the days of Sydney Rigdon, has been the great hobby and stumbling-block of the Latter Day Saints. Priesthood means authority; and authority is the word we should use. I do not think the word priesthood is mentioned in the New Covenant of the Book of Mormon. Authority is the word we used for the first two years in the church — until Sydney Rigdon’s days in Ohio. This matter of the two orders of priesthood in the Church of Christ, and lineal priesthood of the old law being in the church, all originated in the mind of Sydney Rigdon. He explained these things to Brother Joseph in his way, out of the old Scriptures, and got Brother Joseph to inquire, etc. He would inquire, and as mouthpiece speak out the revelations just as they had it fixed up in their hearts. As I have said before, according to the desires of the heart, the inspiration comes, but it may be the spirit of man that gives it. How easily a man can receive some other spirit, appearing as an Angel of Light, believing at the time that he is giving the revealed will of God; a doubt never entering his mind but what he is doing God’s will. Of course I believe that Brother Joseph gave every revelation — including the one on polygamy — in all good conscience before God. This is the way the High Priests and the “priesthood” as you have it, was introduced into the Church of Christ almost two years after its beginning — and after we had baptized and confirmed about two thousand souls into the church.
When the Church of Christ was established at Jerusalem, and upon this continent, and in 1829, the officers which were to be in the church were made known at its beginning, and not two years afterwards.
In Kirtland, Ohio, in June, 1831, at a conference of the church, the first High Priests were ordained into the church. Brother Joseph ordained Lyman Wight, John Murdock, Harvey Whitlock, Hyrum Smith, Reynolds Cahoon and others to the office of a High Priest. When they were ordained, right there at the time, the devil caught and bound Harvey Whitlock so he could not speak, his face being twisted into demon-like shape. Also John Murdock and others were caught by the devil in a similar manner. Now brethren, do you not see that the displeasure of the Lord was upon their proceedings in ordaining High Priests? Of course it was. These facts are recorded in the History of the Church — written by my brother, John Whitmer, who was the regularly appointed church historian. I was not at that conference, being then in Hiram, which is near Kirtland, Ohio. I also have the testimony of Harvey Whitlock whom the devil caught and bound: also John Whitmer, who was present, and others who were present at the time, so I know it is true. John Whitmer wrote this in the church history when he was in full fellowship with the church. As a faithful historian he speaks of this matter, and tries to explain it away by saying, “While the Lord poured out his spirit, the devil took occasion to make his power known; he bound Harvey Whitlock so that he could not speak, and others were affected, but the Lord showed to Joseph the seer, the design of this thing: He commanded the devil in the name of Christ and he departed to our joy and comfort.” It was not given to Brother John nor any of them at that time to understand this matter of the devil entering into the first High Priests that were ordained in the church. They were all blind as to the design of that thing, and did not see what it meant. Of course it was given to Brother Joseph to cast the devil out, but what was the design of the devil entering into these men just as soon as they were ordained the first High Priests ever ordained in the church? Of course it was to show that God’s sore displeasure was upon their erring works of ordaining High Priests into the Church of Christ. Any spiritual man can see this. Brother John was himself ordained a High Priest at that time, so he was in error and could not see it; but he saw it very clearly in 1848, when the Lord opened our eyes to see and understand it. Prejudiced persons are blind and do not want to see and understand except their own preconceived way. There is none so blind as those who will not see. In Brother John’s history he speaks of the Spirit of God being poured out in abundance upon that occasion, some seeing visions, etc., but brethren, you will learn in the next world, if you do not know it already, that the devil can give visions, appearing as an Angel of Light. Brother John gives an account of a prophecy uttered by Lyman Wight just after Brother Joseph ordained him a High Priest, which prophecy will prove to be a false prophecy. Brother John’s history of the church says as follows: “He (Joseph) laid his hands upon Lyman Wight and ordained him to the high priesthood after the holy order of God. And the spirit fell upon Lyman, and he prophesied concerning the coming of Christ. He said that there were some in this congregation that should live until the Savior should descend from Heaven with a shout, with all the holy angels with him, etc.” The early future will determine as to whether this prophecy was true or false.
Some of the brethren have gone outside of the written word of God, and accepted as evidence, histories that were written 350 to 400 years after Christ, to prove that High Priests were in the Church of Christ.. This seems strange to me. They have quoted from the history of St. Jerome, who was Secretary to the Pope at Rome, about 382 years after Christ. I should not wonder if the apostolic church did have High Priests and many other offices and ordinances that were abominable before God, after they drifted into error like the Latter Day Saints have. They have also quoted from Theodoret who died 457 years after Christ. His writings extend from A.D. 325 to A.D. 429. My authority for the above is Lippincott’s Biographical Dictionary. Now shall we take such evidence as this to prove the office of High Priests being in the church when it was in its purity, when the written word of God mentions all the church officers in many places and says nothing about a single High Priest? Nay verily. As for me, I must take the Scriptures for my authority. I cannot understand how any person can claim that an important office like High Priests should be, or was in the Church of Christ when it was in the true faith, when nothing is said in the Scriptures about it. The Scriptures were given by inspiration of God: and do you suppose that God would leave out of his word the great office of a High Priest, if they were to be in the Church of Christ? Of course not. It is charging God foolishly to believe that he would leave out of his word this office or any other office that he intended should be in his church.
Some of the brethren have referred to 1 Peter ii:5-9 and Rev. i:6 to prove that there were High Priests in the Church of Christ, but the word High Priest is not mentioned in either passage. These two passages are all they have referred to in the whole of the New Testament, and no passage can be found in the New Testament part of the Book of Mormon to refer to, because High Priests are not even mentioned therein. In the above two passages there is no reference whatever to this office. In 1 Peter ii:5, 9, Peter is addressing the whole church, and says, “Ye also, as lively stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ; … Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, etc.” How any person can pretend to claim that this passage refers to the office of High Priest, is more than I can understand. If it does, then every member of the church holds this office, because Peter is addressing the whole church as you can see from the first of his epistle. Of course there is no reference made here to this office.
Rev. i:6 reads as follows: “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” This has no reference to the office of a High Priest. It refers to the time when we will be in the Spirit, and can say as John then said, he being in the Spirit, unto Jesus Christ who hath redeemed us and hath made us kings and priests unto God, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Some of the brethren have misunderstood the Old Testament part of the Book of Mormon concerning High Priests, and refer to Alma 9-6: Alma says, “This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world: or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things.” Here it is speaking of the order of the High Priests before Christ: their order being after the order of the Son of God, and this order being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity. This being Christ’s order, He being from eternity to all eternity, has held this holy order of priesthood from eternity and will hold it to all eternity. Those High Priests before Christ came into the world, held this holy order of priesthood as a type of Christ’s order; but when Christ came into the world, he then claimed his own holy order of priesthood and power on earth, doing away with all types and shadows under the old law, himself alone being our great and last High Priest unto whom we can go to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Brethren, I am constrained to say as Alma says at his conclusion of this matter: He ends his writing in the tenth chapter, 2d paragraph, by these words: “Now I need not rehearse the matter; what I have said, may suffice. Behold, the scriptures are before you; if ye will wrest them it shall be to your own destruction.”