Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » I Have More Questions, 1896

I Have More Questions, 1896

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 17, 2010

George Q. Cannon provided the answers to these questions from correspondents in 1896:

A case is submitted to us of this character: It seems that a child was ordained when he was four days old to the office of an Elder. On the strength of this ordination, when grown up, he connected himself with a quorum of Elders, and has recently applied for a recommendation to another quorum. Objection is made to this recommendation being given on the ground that it may not be proper to recognize that ordination at that early age as binding; and this question is propounded:

First. – Is an ordination to any office of the Priesthood valid before a person has become a member by baptism?

Second. – Must a person so ordained be re-ordained before officiating in any of the duties pertaining to that office or calling?

Third. – Can we as a quorum refuse rightfully to grant a recommendation to such person, he being in all other respects worthy of such recommendation?

The ordination of a child under such circumstances would not empower him when grown up to act in the office to which he is ordained without further ordination. he would necessarily, in order to make his standing entirely valid, have to be ordained again.

This answers the first and second questions.

The third question depends upon the answer already given, and, of course, it follows that if re-ordination is necessary, and that has not been attended to, the quorum can rightfully refuse to grant a recommendation to such a person, whatever his worthiness may be in other respects.

We are informed that some question has arisen in some of the Stakes as to the proper manner of ordaining priests or teachers. Some have referred to the manner of ordination which “the disciples who were called the elders of the church ordained priests and teachers” among the Nephites, as given in the Book of Mormon, and think that the form there given is not applicable to this dispensation, but that they should be ordained with greater fullness of language.

There certainly would be no harm in adopting the form that is given in the Book of Mormon; neither would there be any harm, if the Spirit so led, in using greater fullness of language. If, however, the language used in the Book of Mormon was sufficient to ordain priests and teachers, and they were ordained adopting the form that is given in the Book of Mormon; neither would there be any harm, if the Spirit so led, in using greater fullness of language. If, however, the language used in the Book of Mormon was sufficient to ordain priests and teachers, and they were ordained “according to the gifts and callings of God unto men” and “by the power of the Holy Ghost which was in” the men who ordained them, in the days when the Lord had a church on the earth before, that language is certainly sufficient to convey the same authority at the present time.

Our readers will notice that the form which is given in administering the sacrament, in blessing the bread and in blessing the wine, is exactly the same that has been given to us by revelation in our day; and while we are not told that this form of ordination is to be followed by us in ordaining priests and teachers, the object in it being recorded as it is in the Book of Mormon was for our benefit, that we might see the manner in which ordinations were attended to in that day.

We are asked, Is the Church of God and the Kingdom of God the same organization? and we are informed that some of the brethren hold that they are separate.

This is the correct view to take. The Kingdom of God is a separate organization from the Church of God. There may be men acting as officers in the Kingdom of God who will not be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On this point the Prophet Joseph gave particular instructions before his death, and gave an example, which he asked the younger Elders who were present to always remember. It was to the effect that men might be chosen to officiate as members of the Kingdom of God who had no standing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Kingdom of God when established will not be for the protection of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints alone, but for the protection of all men, whatever their religious views or opinions may be. Under its rule, no one will be permitted to overstep the proper bounds or to interfere with the rights of others.

We are asked, “Should consecrated oil be administered to non-members of the Church?”

We suppose the question is: Can this oil be administered properly to one not a member of the Church in the ordinance of laying on of hands for the healing of the sick?

No doubt, every Elder who has had much experience in the ministry has had occasion to administer the ordinance of laying on of hands for the restoration of the sick to persons who were not members of the Church; for there were people who had faith in that ordinance and who had not been baptized. The rule generally adopted by all Elders under such circumstances, as far as we understand, has been to require the sick person, before being administered to, to make a covenant that he or she would obey the ordinances of the Gospel, and upon this promise being made the Elders felt justified in administering the ordinance for the healing of the sick.

In a Sunday school theological class the question arose, so a correspondent informs us, as to whether, when the law of consecration is established among the people, the law of tithing will be observed by them. Our friend says there are some members of the class who think it will, while others of the class think it will not, as they look upon tithing as the lesser law, and that it will be swallowed up in the law of consecration.

While it is true that tithing is what may be called a lesser law than consecration, still whenever consecration comes into operation there will undoubtedly be a necessity for the existence of some fund that will be set apart for the uses to which tithing is now devoted; not for the sustaining of the poor, because if the law of consecration be practically carried out, the necessity for administering to the poor as we now do will be obviated; but for other purposes of a public character, such as public works of various kinds. Of course, at this time it is difficult to tell what conditions may arise when consecration is practiced, and whenever that happy period shall arrive the Lord will then give revelations to the living oracles, as he does now, in relation to all these matters. It is not easy to foreshadow what changes will take place and how business of this kind will be conducted, as the necessity for this knowledge has not at present arisen.



  1. Dang it, Ardis. Those were the cool days when priesthood quorums had *power.* You could reject some guy or even kick him out. Yeah!

    Comment by WVS — August 17, 2010 @ 8:17 am

  2. Ordaining an infant an Elder? Wow! What were they thinking?

    I read that some men were ordained apostles but were not put in the quorum of the twelve in the anticipation it would grant them seniority if they ever became members of that quorum. But I don’t think the same holds true in any other quorum, like Elders.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — August 17, 2010 @ 10:09 am

  3. WVS, *snicker*

    Bruce, I’m aware of priesthood ordinations when it looked like a baby might not survive (I guess parents were trying to equip their sons for roles in the next life), which proved a little awkward when the baby *did* survive. If infants were ever ordained as elders for some other purpose, I don’t know of it. It really seems odd that the situation could have occurred often enough for it to merit public discussion in the press instead of a private letter to handle a peculiarity, doesn’t it?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 17, 2010 @ 10:48 am

  4. Yes, evidently this practice of ordaining infants to the priesthood was stopped after one overzealous couple arranged to have their infant son sealed to another infant in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage.

    [continues the snickers]

    Comment by David Y. — August 17, 2010 @ 11:26 am

  5. You snicker, David, but this is at least a third of the way there: Ned Desaules, the Swiss man whose life and family I’ve posted about several times, was a life-long bachelor, who in middle age had himself sealed as husband to his deceased cousin, who had died as a young girl years before her family heard anything about the gospel. This was done at either the request of or with permission of the girl’s mother. Just to be sure that neither of them were, you know, doomed to be ministering angels in the next life.

    I don’t know but wonder how widespread this practice was, and how far it might have been pushed in extreme cases.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 17, 2010 @ 11:41 am

  6. Sheesh! Well, I tried three different draft responses to your comment #5, Ardis. But none of them seemed appropriate. I will, therefore, decline comment.

    [shaking head]

    Comment by David Y. — August 17, 2010 @ 11:55 am

  7. It was just folks taking D&C 84:28 literally–if John could be ordained at eight days, what’s to say you can’t do an ordination at any age. (And it sounds as if the parents of that boy were just trying to one-up John.)

    And maybe someone thought that the old joke about solving the unruly Sunbeam’s behavior problems by ordaining him a high priest was a true story.

    Comment by Mark B. — August 17, 2010 @ 11:58 am

  8. Hayden Wells Church (a Tennesse native and later missionary to Tennessee) was sealed to two of his converts who died before they could receive the temple blessings. When did the practice of sealing living people to deceased people for which they had no relationship end? Was this also stopped in 1894 by Wilford Woodruff?

    Comment by Bruce Crow — August 17, 2010 @ 12:22 pm

  9. I don’t have any idea, Bruce — anyone else?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 17, 2010 @ 12:29 pm

  10. This is chalk full of awesomeness. I’ve seen baby ordinations back to the 1840s an it appears to have been significantly common that it pops up in the debates of the higher quorums in the 1890s.

    And the Council of Fifty!

    The sealing of dead female relatives to living male members was very, very common. Off hand I can think of several general authorities and average members that had hundreds of such women sealed to them. As far as I can tell, this practice ended with Woodruff’s adoption revelation (though it isn’t necessarily an explicitly logical consequence).

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 17, 2010 @ 1:49 pm

  11. er, chock full.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 17, 2010 @ 1:49 pm

  12. J., do you think the motive for such sealings was usually concern about the women being single in the eternities, or more about kingdom building on the part of the men? I know which I would prefer it to have been, but I’ve read enough greedy comments by a few that I feel justified for the teeniest bit of cynicism.

    The Woodruff revelation does say “seal women to their husbands rather than to apostles” without saying anything about women who don’t have husbands to be sealed to, so I understand your “not necessarily an explicitly logical consequence.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 17, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

  13. Re#8 When was the policy instituted that sealings could take place before endowments?

    Love the questions. Love the answers. It proves there have always been goofballs in the church!

    Comment by Clark — August 17, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

  14. I had a great aunt who was sealed to a man a year and a half after he died. This was in 1938, but I think even then it was an exception to the normal rules. The explanation as I heard it (which may or may not bear any resemblance to the truth) was that they had intended to marry, but he died while on a mission.

    Comment by Confutus — August 17, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

  15. Ardis, it is hard to tell. Woodruff appears to have reluctantly (as much as one can be reluctant when doing hundreds) participated at the direction of Brigham Young. He sort of indicates that he is not quite sure about the practice in some correspondence. Others seem to have been very happily engaged. James Henry Martineau for example was pretty excited and even was sealed to Joan of Arc. I hesitate to judge any of these folks; but Brigham Young was frequently pessimistic of the motivations of people wanting lots of sealings.

    Clark, extra-temple sealings (and by consequence sealings before endowments) were authorized from 1841 or so to 1904 or so.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 17, 2010 @ 2:36 pm

  16. Thanks, J. I suppose it’s of special interest to me as a single woman. Depending on the era, we’ve been seen as nuisances, highly sought after assets, disposable, or pitiful, and I’m always wondering how I would have been treated in this era or that one.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 17, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

  17. I’ve never forgotten my grandmother telling me about her grandparents. Her paternal grandfather was a polygamist with two wives, both of whom my grandmother knew well as a little girl. On her maternal side, she only knew her own grandmother. One day she asked Grandma Petersen why she never let Grandpa take another wife. Grandma replied, Oh, but I did. I let him marry a couple of dead ones!”

    These sealings were performed in the Manti Temple in the 1890s. The two women just happened to be inmates of the insane asylum in Aarhus, Denmark, where both Grandpa and Grandma had worked when they were young and where, in fact, they met each other.

    Comment by blueagleranch — August 17, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

  18. If Keepa had an award for comment of the day (week?), I think we would have found our winner.

    Oh. My. Word.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 17, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

  19. Hmmm. Is insanity cured immediately upon entry into the Spirit World, or do you have to wait until the resurrection?

    I can see all sorts of promissory contracts for sealings. Suppose man “A” and woman “B” wouldn’t be able to stand each other living together in mortality. But they have a written agreement, such that when one of them dies, the living one has permission to seal himself/herself to the deceased party.

    If you think of it, there has to be some sort of post-mortal sealings for singles, because of all the deceased infants who are guaranteed exaltation. And in order to be exalted, they’re going to get sealed to someone, so at least the mechanism is going to be in place.

    I’ve thought of similar “release forms” for temple ordinances for non-member friends. “Here, fill out your vital statistics and sign this, it gives permission to the LDS church to do a proxy baptism (and other ordinances) for you after you die.”

    The only problem with distributing such a form, would be that the antis would come up with a form _denying_ the church permission for proxy ordinances, and they’d get other people to bombard the church with such enjoinders.

    Comment by Bookslinger — August 17, 2010 @ 5:42 pm

  20. On of my 2nd great grandfathers was sealed to three deceased single women in 1893 and 1894.

    Comment by Maurine — August 17, 2010 @ 10:25 pm

  21. Oops. Should have read one of . . .

    Comment by Maurine — August 17, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

  22. I know of a very recent case. A single woman who died in her 90s was sealed after her death to a man, also in his 90s and still very much living. Neither had married. He convinced the “authorities” that he would have married her. They had known each other since childhood. The sealing was performed by an apostle, a relative of the woman.

    Comment by Jeff Johnson — August 17, 2010 @ 11:14 pm

  23. That he would have married her? Like, when he got around to it, when they had time, when they were in their 100s? That’s almost as good as blueagleranch’s case!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 17, 2010 @ 11:21 pm

  24. I still think the incident in comment 5 is the winner — Just say it aloud one time and you’ll see what I mean: “marrying your dead cousin.” Yeah.

    (You’re teasing us, Jeff Johnson. I will refrain from asking which apostle, but you have to at least give us a little more than “very recent.” How very recent?)

    Comment by David Y. — August 17, 2010 @ 11:28 pm

  25. He “would have married her”! Yeah, right!

    What was he waiting for? Trying to get established in his career before taking the fateful step? : )

    If this were By Common Consent, we could spend the next 100 comments coming up with excuses:

    “I would have married her, but . . . .”

    Fill in the blank. The winner gets a free dinner at the next Keepa snacker in New York.

    Comment by Mark B. — August 18, 2010 @ 8:57 am

  26. I think you’re all looking at this backwards.

    How about… he would have married her, but she wouldn’t have him.

    (Kind of puts a different spin on the entire event, doesn’t it?! What does she think about the sealing!?)

    Comment by Researcher — August 18, 2010 @ 9:56 am

  27. #19 The doctrine, as I understand it, for post-mortal marriages is that such things must be done by proxy in the temple. (The rational is based on Mark 12:25).

    No wonder we’ll need thousands of temples in the Millenium…

    I tend to think the incident in #22 was invented by a troll looking for a reaction. I’m happy to be proven wrong, though…

    Comment by Clark — August 18, 2010 @ 10:18 am

  28. Jeff is absolutely no troll. I know him in real life, and he’s a respected scholar-archivist (among other areas of expertise, he knows more about the wives of Brigham Young than anybody since Brigham himself, and he has made a specialty of identifying and studying the lives of never-married or childless Mormon men). I am surprised to hear of such a recent case of the kind of sealing we’re talking about, but if Jeff says it’s so, it’s so.

    And I guess I shouldn’t have let that story tickle me so much. Researcher may well be right, or there could be another logical explanation. It just struck my funny bone. I thought of those pacts between best friends who say “If we’re both still single when we’re 50, let’s marry each other,” but in my fantasy that couple had set the date at 100. Notice what time I was laughing — it was way past my bedtime.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 18, 2010 @ 10:30 am

  29. Of course Jeff Johnson is telling the truth! That’s why what he said is all the more intriguing. I said that he was teasing us because he was purposefully vague on some of the details.

    But I will let my impertinent questioning go. Apologies . . .

    Comment by David Y. — August 18, 2010 @ 10:55 am

  30. I had a great aunt who died single, with a standing offer a marriage from a man who lived in the same apartment building. They knew each other for years and were “great friends.” We met him when we cleaned out her place after she died. He offered and she always turned him down. Hey, Jeff, where did you say this happened?

    Comment by Bruce Crow — August 18, 2010 @ 10:55 am

  31. Ooh! I didn’t mean to put a damper on the fun! It does remind one of the old poem:

    The bride, white of hair, is stooped on her cane,
    Her footsteps, uncertain, need guiding,
    While down the church aisle, with a wan, toothless smile,
    The groom in a wheelchair comes riding.
    And who is this elderly couple you ask?
    You’ll find when you’ve closely explored it,
    That here is that rare, most conservative pair,
    Who waited till they could afford it!

    Comment by Researcher — August 18, 2010 @ 10:59 am

  32. Things like this bring to light why there will have to be a thousand years of life on earth without the veil.

    Comment by SilverRain — August 18, 2010 @ 12:03 pm

  33. This makes me think of the old adage, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, but I’m trying to put a spirit world/posthumous sealing spin on it, and not having any luck. Based on the concept that we are raised in the resurrection with the same spirit as we left this world in, why would we think someone who had refused us in this life would be any more inclined to marry us in the next?

    I also am inclined wondering if the parents of the child ordained at 4 days were ancestors of the creators of the “Baby Einstein” stuff? Getting a jump on your peers in a competitive world, and all that, even in infancy.

    Just more reasons why the 19th century is more interesting in many ways than our own. Fun stuff.

    Comment by kevinf — August 18, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

  34. Jeff–
    Please accept my apologies!

    Comment by Clark — August 18, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

  35. And, we could turn the screw another quarter turn and tell the story of the couple in their 90s who walked into the lawyer’s office and announced they wanted a divorce.

    “But why? You’ve been married 55 years, etc. etc.” said the lawyer.

    “We wanted to wait ’til the children were dead.”

    Comment by Mark B. — August 18, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

  36. I don’t know why, Mark B., but that one really made me laugh! Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by David Y. — August 18, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

  37. I’m still waiting for more entries in the “I would have married her, but . . . ” contest. So far, all we’ve got is Researcher suggesting that the lady refused him.

    If there are no other entries, I’ll gonna have to buy Researcher dinner. By default.

    Comment by Mark B. — August 18, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

  38. Well, if that’s the case, I’m going to have to unilaterally declare the contest closed. : )

    So when’s the next New York Keepa snacker? Anyone else going to show up? Ardis?

    Comment by Researcher — August 18, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

  39. I’m kind of curious about the question of pre-baptismal ordinations because we know of at least two in this dispensation, and there are suggestions in the scriptures of some other oddities in other dispensations. It would be difficult to pull off an infant ordination today or even a Joseph F. Smith early mission because the software wouldn’t let you record it, though I suppose such things could be authorized by the Firt Presidency if they thought it necessary.

    Comment by Eric Boysen — August 19, 2010 @ 3:52 am

  40. Re sealings to deceased people: There is a man in my ward who requested from the 1st Pres., and was granted, permission to be sealed to woman he had cared for while she died of MS. The sealing was performed in the London Temple.

    I am probably not as trusted as Jeff but this is accurate also.

    Comment by Aaron R. — August 19, 2010 @ 7:15 am

  41. No reason to doubt you, either, Aaron. This question has been very enlightening — I had no idea that such sealings were happenings today, or apparently so frequently, but I’m glad to know.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 19, 2010 @ 7:31 am

  42. I had no idea there would be so much comment on my comment. I usually make a comment late and nobody reads it. Thanks Ardis for you kind words. I can tell you that the man was my dentist when I was a child and I learned to hate him. The woman was a relative of one of my relatives. The story from her relatives is that she really liked him and they are glad that she was sealed to someone. I think he had heard all the talk about single men going to hell. (Remember I hated him for the tooth pain he caused me and also I have heard the talk) And he thought he better step up and get married/sealed.

    Comment by Jeff Johnson — August 20, 2010 @ 11:57 pm

  43. In my stack of baptisms to do is a card for my grandfather’s childhood girlfriend. They were engaged to be married, but she died that spring before the wedding. In his grief, my grandfather first became a cowboy, then joined the CCC (that should tell you how long ago this has been) before finally deciding to go to college.

    While in college, he met my grandmother, and they two were married after graduation. A few years later they joined the Church, and were sealed in the temple. My grandmother passed away, and grandfather married a second time, also in the temple. He has been gone for over ten years now.

    I have put off doing the girlfriend’s baptism waiting until the required time has passed to do a non-family member’s work. As far as I have been able to tell, she’s a stub on her family’s tree, died so long before her younger siblings grew up and had families (only great-great nephews and nieces would remain at this point) that her memory seems to be forgotten except in our family lore. There’s a romantic part of me that would like to have her sealed to my grandfather. But I guess that will have to wait until the millenium.

    Comment by Anon today — August 22, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

  44. As one of those stubs who won’t appear on anybody’s pedigree chart, I pay special attention to the aunts and uncles who are apt to be forgotten by everybody else, and I teared up at reading that you remember this young woman and have done or will be doing her temple work. I suppose you’re right, that any sealing will have to wait for the future, but thank you for remembering her.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 22, 2010 @ 4:35 pm

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