Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » I Have a Question, 1890

I Have a Question, 1890

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 16, 2009

Although unsigned, these questions published in the Juvenile Instructor were almost certainly answered by George Q. Cannon, or at least under his supervision and with his approval as editor:

In a communication that has been received, it is stated that at funeral services which were held in one of the wards, one of the brethren, in speaking of the resurrection, conveyed the idea that the being who rolled the stone from the sepulchre which held the body of our Savior was a celestial personage who held the keys of the resurrection, and that he came to the earth to resurrect the body of Jesus. Another elder, in speaking upon the same subject, stated his belief to the effect that it was our heavenly Father who came to the earth, rolled away the stone, and resurrected the Son.

In dealing with this subject, care should be taken not to advance mere opinions. It is a very important subject, and one that should be treated with the utmost seriousness, and no one should indulge in theories, outside of the written word, concerning it. There is plenty written upon this subject to give food for reflection and to furnish comfort for mankind, and there is not the least necessity to go beyond that which the Lord has made plain upon it.

Enlighten me as to the reason why Joseph and Oliver Cowdery should ordain each other to the Priesthood they received under the hands of both John the Baptist and Peter, James and John. I understand, of course, that they were commanded so to do of God; but why this should be done in this single case alone, and not in similar other cases is what puzzles me.

There is nothing in writing or that has come to us orally, that I know of, which gives any explanation of this action. But the reason which appears plain to the First Presidency, with whom I have conversed on the subject, is that it was necessary, after the Priesthood had been restored from heaven by the administration of holy angels, that mortal men should ordain each other, and baptize each other, and lay hands upon each other for the reception of the Holy Ghost. This appears to be a sufficient reason for this action on the part of the Prophet Joseph and Oliver Cowdery. To Joseph the keys were given. He stood at the head. And it was proper that the ordination of all who belonged to the dispensation should come through him; and it appeared to be just as necessary that he himself should be ordained by a mortal, in order to observe the order of heaven.

Do you know of any case on record in any of the standard books of the Church, or in any history of God’s people, where men holding a lesser degree or office in the Priesthood are authorized, under any circumstances, to ordain to the greater offices in the Priesthood, and it be lawful and right; and if so, where may it be found?

There is no record, or book, or history, which I know anything of, which authorizes or justifies such action. A stream cannot rise higher than its fountain. In the affairs of the Kingdom of God a man cannot bestow that which he has not received. This is illustrated in the history of all religious movements since the days when the true Priesthood was taken from the earth. Men have endeavored to ordain their fellow-men to an authority which they themselves did not hold. The result has been failure. God does not acknowledge the bestowal of any authority which He does not authorize; and before a man can legally, in the sight of heaven, ordain his fellow-man to an office, he must have the authority himself from God.

A question asked is concerning the written form of baptism. The reason for asking this question is that some of the Elders insert in the form “for the remission of your sins,” others “for the renewal of your covenants,” and formerly in some instances, the words “into the United Order,” were inserted.

The form of baptism given by the Lord for the baptism of those who are entering into the Church is found in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. This is the form which should be followed in the baptism of all who present themselves for admission into the Church.

Under President Young’s administration, when action was being taken in regard to the United Order, he taught some of the brethren to use the words “into the United Order” in the ceremony of baptism. In the same way the words “for the renewal of your covenants” were used at the time of the Reformation in 1856.

It is always safe, however, for those who officiate in baptisms to confine themselves to the written word. The Lord has given the form, and unless there is some special occasion, when the man holding the keys suggests another form, it is unsafe and unwarranted to depart therefrom.

It is said that many say that tea and coffee are not meant by the “hot drinks” mentioned in that Word [of Wisdom], and that if they let their tea and coffee get cold before drinking, they are not violating that Word.

Tea and coffee were the beverages in use at the time the Word of Wisdom was given, and though these articles are not specifically mentioned, the word of the Lord referred to them. …

The Word of Wisdom should be taken in the spirit in which it was given. It is not difficult to understand. There is no hidden meaning, beyond the reach of the capacity of a child. The Lord has given us excellent counsel concerning our food and drink, and the testimony of those who have observed it is that it is attended with the blessings that He has promised. …

There have been various opinions as to whether it is now a commandment or not. But what difference is there, in a case of this kind, whether it is a commandment or only counsel? The man who would not take the counsel of the Lord in regard to matters of this character, would not be likely to obey a commandment.

We are informed by an esteemed correspondent who lives in one of our remote wards, that a visitor who recently was in the settlement and who spoke at one of the ward meetings, had set all the Saints talking concerning the doctrine that he preached. He advanced the idea that the day would come when the Holy Ghost would have a resurrected celestial body.

It is most unwise for Elders who attempt to teach, to advance such ideas as these. There is so much truth that is clear, and concerning which there can be no question, and that is appropriate to the condition of the people, that there is no necessity to indulge in such a flight of imagination as this elder has indulged in while making this statement concerning the Holy Ghost.

Such teaching is prompted by an itching desire to advance mysteries – a most unsafe practice for anyone to indulge in.



  1. We have so much truth, yet so much is still open to speculation! I have my own sneaking suspicions about some of these matters which I, in the spirit which these answers are given, will not share.

    I just can’t wait for the new expanded edition of the Book of Mormon to be published (the one with all the sealed portions revealed) that will answer every remaining question we have about doctrine. Certainty will be so comfortable and will eliminate all our problems.

    Comment by Eric Boysen — July 16, 2009 @ 7:34 am

  2. I just can’t wait for the first commenter who takes you seriously, Eric. :)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 16, 2009 @ 7:38 am

  3. Oh my. It’s the “I Have a Question: Speculation” edition.

    One of my g-g-grandmothers carefully preserved several pages of these sorts of anecdotes. (So and so said that … the Ten Tribes … blah blah blah … )

    It’s too bad she didn’t spend the time writing down family memories instead, since that would have been so much more valuable than this sort of sub-doctrinal musing.

    Comment by Researcher — July 16, 2009 @ 7:49 am

  4. I think George Q. Cannon (arriving to the present by time-machine) would have a heyday reacting to all the LDS speculations posted on the Bloggernacle. Anyway, I appreciate his conservative approach to doctrine.

    Comment by S.Faux — July 16, 2009 @ 7:58 am

  5. Says Bro. Cannon, “There is not the least necessity to go beyond that which the Lord has made plain.” That may be true, but as #4 pointed out, the funnest topics and posts in the bloggernacle are precisely this type of musing. I think he protests the “musings presented as fact” that seem quite common in the 19th Century.

    Another thing that never changes: The “hot drinks” prohibition. Who knew member were using the “iced cappachino excuse” 100 years ago? And he didn’t clear up the Diet Coke controversy either…

    Comment by Clark — July 16, 2009 @ 9:43 am

  6. Fun stuff. I love the Baptismal prayer question and answer. The latest instruction on alternative prayers which I have is 1877 by John Taylor. He indicated that hte re-baptismal prayer was to include the words, “for the remission of your sins, and for the renewal of your covenants.”

    I have found GQC through this feature in the Juvenile Instructor to be tremendously reasonable.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 16, 2009 @ 11:11 am

  7. Reformation in 1856? Can someone jog my memory or do I have to go look it up?

    Comment by queuno — July 16, 2009 @ 11:35 am

  8. queuno, ironically enough, I just wrote a short encyclopedia entry on the Reformation an hour ago …

    The Reformation was a brief period during the winter of 1856-57 when the church in Utah had a sort of fiery revival — lots of sermons about recommitting yourself to the gospel. All the blood atonement sermons were given at this time. There was a catechism for people to examine their lives — have you commmitted adultery? have you borrowed anything from your neighbor without returning it? how frequently do you bathe? Everyone who was willing to recommit to Mormonism was rebaptized as a sign of their starting over in a new life. Plural marriages went way up. So did the payment of tithing. A lot of people left the territory, either out of fear or because they just didn’t fit in anymore. Today when anybody speaks of the Reformation, they usually remember the revivalist excesses. It was intended, though, only to stir people up to a remembrance of their religious duties.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — July 16, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

  9. The 1856 “reformation” was an effort to get the Saints to reform their lives and rededicate themselves to the Church. It was led by Jedediah M. Grant on assignment from Brigham Young. Many people were rebaptized and there was a new fervor among the Saints that had some good and bad results. Some historians even feel that it had an effect on the decisions in Cedar City that led to the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The strenuous efforts of Elder Grant may have contributed to his death in December of that year.

    Comment by Curt A. — July 16, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

  10. Queuno, the 1856 Reformation was the 19th century version of the “Strengthening the Membership” committee of the late 20th century…:)

    Actually, Ardis knows much more about this than I, but rebaptisms were common as a part of renewing covenants as church leadership at the time was concerned about slacker Saints.

    Comment by kevinf — July 16, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

  11. Ah, looks like everybody was typing at the same time. I spent too much time trying to get my smiley face to work.

    Comment by kevinf — July 16, 2009 @ 12:10 pm

  12. Good stuff. Love it.

    Comment by Hunter — July 16, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

  13. Paul H. Peterson wrote his dissertation for a Phd. at BYU on the Mormon Reformation. It is printed. I got mine through BYU Studies, I think. I have used this several times.

    Comment by Maurine — July 16, 2009 @ 1:32 pm

  14. I’m not sure what Hunter was applauding (probably the post), but I would like to applaud simultaneous comments 8 through 10 all stating the same answer in three different ways. Wonderful! That’s really fun to read how Ardis, Curt A., and kevinf answered the question in three different ways, all with a very personal touch.

    (Perhaps I should ask more questions on Keepa, just for the interesting responses. Or do I mean, “Should I ask more questions on Keepa to see the interesting responses?”)

    Comment by Researcher — July 16, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

  15. You know, Researcher, that could be a fun exercise. We could announce in advance that a gospel question would be posed at, say, 10:00 on Tuesday, and ask for as many responses as could be submitted in ten minutes, which wouldn’t give us time to review each other’s answers before submitting our own. The point wouldn’t be to stump people or trick anyone into giving the wrong answer, just to see how many different ways we might describe a baptism, say, to a stranger.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — July 16, 2009 @ 3:49 pm

  16. I’m astounded by the very first question. I can’t believe I’ve never given any thought to who rolled the stone away and actually performed (?) the resurrection of Jesus. I must have assumed that He did it Himself. That is really interesting to ponder. (Can’t wait to read the rest of it now!)

    Comment by FHL — July 16, 2009 @ 4:26 pm

  17. I had no idea that the “hot drinks” == “tea and coffee” excuse was already being promulgated that far back. I figured it had showed up around the time of the repeal of Prohibition, with the other changes to the WoW.
    I’ve always found it amusing that, from such a plain and simple section of the D&C can come so many explanations as to what God “really meant.”
    Ask a die-hard Mormon why they are eating meat when it is not wintertime or a time of famine, since that is pleasing to God, and watch them explain what God really meant. :-)

    Comment by Mel — July 16, 2009 @ 4:59 pm

  18. Well to me, famine is whan I am hungry, and winter is when I turn the thermostat down.

    Comment by Eric Boysen — July 17, 2009 @ 6:28 am

  19. Eric, you’re a hoot.

    Comment by Alison — July 17, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

  20. My eyes are playing tricks on me. At first glance, I thought Alison said “Eric, you’re hot.” Which may be true, for all I know!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 17, 2009 @ 4:33 pm

  21. Thanks. I was reading the recent MMM book this weekend (I noticed they gave a shoutout to Ardis in it) and there was a brief treatment of the Reformation in it. That, plus the comments above, filled in the hole in my understanding.

    Comment by queuno — July 19, 2009 @ 3:39 pm

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