The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power

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Signature Books, 1994 - Religion - 685 pages
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 Converts to Joseph Smith's 1828 restoration of primitive Christianity were attracted to the non-hierarchical nature of the movement. It was precisely because there were no priests, ordinances, or dogma that people joined in such numbers. Smith intended everyone to be a prophet, and anyone who felt called was invited to minister freely without formal office.

Not until seven years later did Mormons first learn that authority had been restored by angels or of the need for a hierarchy mirroring the Pauline model. That same year (1835) a Quorum of Twelve Apostles was organized, but their jurisdiction was limited to areas outside established stakes (dioceses). Stakes were led by a president, who oversaw spiritual development, and by a bishop, who supervised temporal needs.

At Smith's martyrdom in 1844, the church had five leading quorums of authority. The most obvious successor to Smith, Illinois stake president William Marks, opposed the secret rites of polygamy, anointing, endowments, and the clandestine political activity that had characterized the church in Illinois. The secret Council of Fifty had recently ordained Smith as King on Earth and sent ambassadors abroad to form alliances against the United States.

The majority of church members knew nothing of these developments, but they followed Brigham Young, head of the Quorum of the Twelve, who spoke forcefully and moved decisively to eliminate contenders for the presidency. He continued to build on Smith's political and doctrinal innovations and social stratification. Young's twentieth-century legacy is a well-defined structure without the charismatic spontaneity or egalitarian chaos of the early church.

Historian D. Michael Quinn examines the contradictions and confusion of the first two tumultuous decades of LDS history. He demonstrates how events and doctrines were silently, retroactively inserted into the published form of scriptures and records to smooth out the stormy, haphazard development. The bureaucratization of Mormonism was inevitable, but the manner in which it occurred was unpredictable and will be, for readers, fascinating.

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User Review  - AuntieCatherine - LibraryThing

Interesting, detailed and fully-documented examination of the power structure of the early Mormon Church. Never academically challenged, the author's conclusions led him to be excommunicated by the ... Read full review

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D. Michael Quinn, a former research assistant to the Church Historian's Office, has accumulated many sources to paint the history he portrays. He shows the reader that the "church" as it is structured today with defined Priesthood offices and responsibilities was not how it always was. These offices evolved over time and as such required previous revelations to be revised and events from the past to be retroactively documented to fit Joseph Smith's evolving concept of "church" and authority.
Quinn then moves onto the succession crisis after the death of Joseph Smith and how there were MANY valid succession claims, each with considered merit. The problem being that Joseph Smith never felt the need to declare his replacement as he believed he would usher in the millennium and there would be no need to prepare a replacement any time soon (despite the fact he named various men as his successor over the years). This section ends with the manoeuvring of Brigham Young in making the Twelve the ultimate in authority and in establishing succession of future presidents.
Half the book (as with all Quinn books) is made up of footnotes and sources. As Joseph Smith himself stated "No man knows my history" and this rendition is Quinn's (informed) version and subject to rare cases of personal conjecture. However, whatever your view, you cannot fault his research efforts.
In summary, this book, provides evidence that the early LDS church had no qualms in rewriting history to hide or change previously recorded events that either contradict the current doctrinal standpoint, or past accounts that undermine their authority claims as God's true church.


The Evolution of Authority
The First Five Presiding Priesthood Quorums
Theocratic Beginnings
The Kingdom of God in Nauvoo Illinois
Freemasonry the Anointed Quorum and Danites
The Council of Fifty and Its King
The Kingdoms NonMormons and MasonicDanite
The National and International Reach of the Kingdom
The Nature of Apostolic Succession
General Officers of the Church of Jesus Christ
A Partial List
Meetings and Initiations of the Anointed Quorum
Members of the Council of Fifty 184445
Biographical Sketches of General Officers
Selected Chronology of the Church

The 1844 Succession Crisis and the Twelve
Other Succession Options

About the author (1994)

D. Michael Quinn (Ph.D., history, Yale University) is an Affiliated Scholar at the University of Southern California's Center for Feminist Research. He has been a full-time researcher and writer, a professor of history at Brigham Young University, and a visiting professor of history (2002-03) at Yale. His accolades include Best Book awards from the American Historical Association and the Mormon History Association.

His major works include Early Mormonism and the Magic World ViewElder Statesman: A Biography of J. Reuben Clark, the two-volume Mormon Hierarchy series (Origins of PowerExtensions of Power), and Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example. He is the editor of The New Mormon History: Revisionist Essays on the Past and a contributor to American National Biography;Encyclopedia of New York StateFundamentalisms and Society: Reclaiming the Sciences, the Family, and Education; the New Encyclopedia of the American WestUnder an Open Sky: Rethinking America's Western Past; and others.

He has also received honors--fellowships and grants--from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Henry E. Huntington Library, Indiana-Purdue University, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In addition, he has been a keynote speaker at the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, the Chicago Humanities Symposium, Claremont Graduate University, University of Paris (France), Washington State Historical Society, and elsewhere, and a consultant for television documentaries carried by the Arts and Entertainment Channel, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the History Channel, and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

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