Friday, November 16, 2012

Moroni Finishes His Record, Part 4

Moroni wrote a "few more things" at the end of his record, after finishing his abridgment of the record of the Jaredites.  The things he wrote were intended to be of worth unto "the Lamanites" in the last days, but are beneficial to us as well (Moro. 1:4).

The first thing about which he wrote was the manner in which Christ gave his disciples power to give the Holy Ghost.  He explains that Christ called them by name and said the following words as he laid hands upon them:

"Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles" (Moro. 2:2).

These were instructions specific to the disciples and not heard by the multitude who had gathered to view the Savior.  Before the disciples went about giving the Holy Ghost, they were to call upon the Father in mighty prayer, in order that they may receive "power."  Is "mighty prayer" a part of the receipt of this power in our day?  If not, why does it seem it was of primary importance anciently?  Are we to understand the phrase "for thus do mine apostles" as also applying to our day, or just the ancient apostles?

Moroni then gives the manner in which ordination was performed in that ancient church.  He explained how those disciples, who where called "elders of the church," ordained both priests and teachers.  They first prayed unto the Father in the name of Christ, and laying their hands upon them, said:

"In the name of Jesus Christ I ordain you to be a priest, (or, if he be a teacher) I ordain you to be a teacher, to preach repentance and remission of sins through Jesus Christ, by the endurance of faith on his name to the end.  Amen" (Moro. 3:3).

This was the manner of ordination.  Moroni makes the point that those ordained were done so "according to the gifts and callings of God unto men" (Moro. 3:4).  The offices of priest and teacher were given to men, not according to age or duration of church activity, but according to the gifts and callings of God unto men.  How do you suppose that was determined?

These ordinations were performed by the "power of the Holy Ghost, which was in them" (ibid.).  There is no mention of priesthood here.  Why does Moroni not say instead, that these ordinations were performed "by the power of the priesthood, which was in them"?  Does ordination to church office require priesthood?  Are the offices of priest and teacher offices of the priesthood, or offices in the church?  Is this manner of ordination of priests and teachers consistent with earlier ordinations in the Book of Mormon to those same offices?

Though the reader may assume these priests and teachers were given priesthood before or at the time of their ordination, there is no mention of conferral of priesthood authority prior to their ordination.  They are merely "ordained" to be a priest or teacher.  

Our practice is to first confer the authority of the priesthood, and then ordain to an office therein, the two being connected.  Wholly removed from our tradition is that the offices to which men are ordained are actually offices within the Church, not priesthood offices.  D&C 20 makes the original intent clear, though there is quickly thereafter conflation of church office and priesthood (this also makes me think on the early disputes between Heber J. Grant, Joseph F. Smith, and others about whether or not men needed to have priesthood "conferred" as a part of their ordination to offices.  Once Heber J. Grant became president of the Church he changed the manner of ordination.  That change remained in place for decades before being changed back).  

Here then is the dilemma we find in the text.  If you choose to interpret Moroni's words through the lens of Mormon tradition, and you think you thereby understand what is going on in this ancient church, you of necessity have to choose to ignore the specifics of the verses.  You must look at it as a whole and assume it is all just the same today as it was then, even though the wording and manner are different.  You convince yourself that, "even though the wording is a little strange, I know exactly what was going on back then."  You can take that approach, OR you can read the text exactly as it stands and ask yourself whether or not you're able to discover the truth about how things were done anciently.

We will get a more accurate look into the past taking the text at its word, than by insisting it looks and sounds exactly like modern Mormonism while ignoring the details.  This idea will be continued in the next post.    

No comments:

Post a Comment