Foundations of Reorganization .... Joseph Smith III

We have frequently been tempted to place some thoughts before the Saints, in defense of the Reorganization; and one principal reason why we have not done so long ere this, has been that it would, in some respects, savor of self defense. Some things lately occurring, have determined us to offer something for the consideration of some who claim to be thinkers, and are some what disturbed by their thoughts, and what they seem to think the anomalous position of the Reorganized Church.

First, In reply to the question, Is it not a new dispensation, requiring a new delegation of priesthood and ministerial power?

We answer this at once. It is not a new dispensation, as contradistinguished from the church established in 1830. Nor is a new delegation of priesthood required; other than a commandment to those already empowered to move in given directions, to the magnifying of that already given.

Second, If it is not a new dispensation, requiring a relegation of priesthood authority; what is it?

To this we answer, that it is what its name implies, a reorganization of elements that remained after a disorganization of an organized body had taken place.

Third, To whom belonged the duty of reorganizing these elements?

Clearly to that portion of them that remained within the rule of faith and practice, given of God to govern the body when organized: or to such portion as many have once left that rule, and had returned thereto.

Fourth, The question, Where was the Church during the lapse of time between the disorganization and the reorganization?

It was with the remnant scattered abroad, who remained true to the principles first given as the gospel of Christ; and with any body of such remnant, numbering six or more, under the pastoral charge of an elder, priest, teacher, or deacon.

Fifth, How could the church reorganize itself? "Can a stream rise higher than its fountain?" If the priesthood was disorganized, did not paramount right remain with some one holding the highest authority, upon whom the duty rested, to "set the house of God in order" to ordain men to the higher offices in the priesthood and organize the quorums; and to whom the prerogative to ordain all other belonged; and without whose sanction nothing could legally be done to build up the kingdom of God upon the earth?

The Church was organized in 1830 with six members, upon two of whom the eldership had been conferred by command of God; these two being called the first and second elders of the church. (D. & C. 17:1) From this beginning grew in fourteen years, a church numbering nearly two hundred thousand members, all the officers in which held their respective offices by reason of ordinations received under the hands of these two men, directly or indirectly, by virtue of the command of God, the call of the Spirit of Christ and the publicly confessed acknowledgment of the people, who by their votes said: "So let it be." The fountain whence this stream flowed, was the "will and commandments of God;" (D. & C. 17:1) the stream, (as many apply it who object to the position of the Reorganized Church,) was the priesthood, the Melchisedek, in which is comprised all grades of authority, and anyone of which is competent to the regulating and setting in order all the rest, under, and by reason of the force and power derived from the fountain. A command of God to do anything always conveys the right to do it, and guarantees to those commanded the powers necessary to carry into effect the command; hence, the command originally given to organize the church, conveyed the right, and vouchsafed the necessary power to do it. No attempt to cause the "stream to rise higher than its fountain" has ever been made by the reorganization. All that it has ever attempted to do has been carry into effect the command originally given, and subsequently supplemented by command to the remnants, to "establish the church," by the preaching of the gospel, the doctrine revealed to the first elder. The mistake that those who so frequently use this axiom, "a stream cannot rise higher than its fountain," have always and persistently made is, that they have located this fountain in a man,—authority attaching as a personal perquisite,—and, therefore, he could confer nothing he himself did not hold; forgetting the important fact that the law, the command, the Holy Ghost was, and is the fountain, the priesthood the stream, men the channels in which the stream runs. If the exclusive right and prerogative had been vested in one, precluding the directing, controlling and governing power from acting unless through that one, then did God singularly put the work in jeopardy, and divest himself of that right which reason suggests that he has always reserved unto himself, to act independently; to take into his own hands at any time the measures for carrying out his designs.

The provisions of the law given of God seemed to have been ample; but, for some unexplained reason, the church were not prepared by an intimate acquaintance with those provisions, for the emergency that occurred; or else they strangely mistook the nature of the command, and the powers necessary to carry it into effect. One of the provisions, states that "an apostle is an elder;" hence those two called of God apostles were ordained to be called the "first and second elders of the church." No higher priesthood attached to them than was couched in the word elder; the whole body of the Melchisedek order being referred to time after time in the commands given to the church as "elders," "the elders of my church," "ye elders of my church." (D. & C. 17:9,13; 42:1; 43:1,4)

Another provision of the law declares that "the office of an elder comes under the priesthood of Melchisedek." This priesthood has "power and authority over all the officers of the church." (D. & C. 104:3) Another clause provides that, "an elder has a right to officiate in his stead when the high priest is not present." (D. & C. 104:6) Another still more specific provides that "the high priest and elder are to administer in spiritual things, agreeably to the covenants and commandments of the church; and they have a right to officiate in all these offices of the church when there are no higher authorities present." (0. & C. 104:7) Again, another, pointing still more clearly to the comprehensive character of the word elder, "the power and authority of the higher, or Melchisedek priesthood, is to hold the keys [right to act] of all the spiritual blessings of the church." (D. & C. 104:9)

This conveys to us, clearly, that if the Melchisedek priesthood is present in any of its offices, the right to organize, or to reorganize; the power to establish, build up, and confirm all the church are there; and, if directed by command of God, to perform all the work necessary. If it be urged that an elder cannot receive commands to do this work, we reply, that the case is covered by the following: "to have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; to have the heavens opened unto them; to commune with the assembly and church of the first born; and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant" (D. & C. 104:9); which appertains to and applies of right to all officers of that priesthood, that an elder being one of them.

Again, it is provided that growing out of organization there is a necessity for presiding officers; and these are to be chosen "out of, or from among" their peers, the priesthood which they respectively hold being equal, the fact of one being chosen to preside not changing that held by him. Hence, when organization required these officers at the beginning, authority was found in the body, by command, to ordain them; and when reorganization again demanded similar officers, authority was again found in the body, by command, and the work was done.

If there was one, and one only, to whom the prerogative attached, and whose assent or dissent, made void, or legalized all acts done in the progress of building the kingdom, so-called; then this one, whoever he might have been, took the place of, "Thou shalt take the things which thou hast received which have been given unto thee in my Scriptures for a law, to be my law to govern my church." (D. & C. 42:16) This has been objected to by the Reorganization; which has insisted that the law, and he who gave it, are the first authorities in the church. Hence, to assume that no act could be legal if unqualified by the approval of this person who was supposed to have been invested with supreme priesthood authority, was to deny the sanctioning power of the law and its giver, as exemplified in the cases, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul"; and "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." The ground occupied by the church has been; what God clearly commands must be done; what the Spirit confirms, though it might be dictated by human wisdom, that is correct. "Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto." (Gal. 3:15)

The Reorganization early took the position that morality, honesty, virtue and obedience would insure equal blessings to all; that there were no individuals exempt from the operation of the saving efficacy of the gospel, neither by reason of place, birth, nor importance; and therefore, the work of God could not and would not depend for an existence upon the earth to some privileged repository of priesthood, who, no matter what his acts or teaching, held, or could hold other co-workers in abeyance.

To admit the theory that some one man did hold the only priesthood prerogative and right to act, without whom no organization could be legally effected, is to place the existence of the church as a visible aid and tangible help to the salvation of the human race, upon a precarious chance,—the chance that this one man should live, be wise, good, a worthy example, a willing, ready and active worker; and if any one of these qualities should be lacking, then the work would be frustrated, no church could be established; man's hand would turn the keys upon Emmanuel, the anointed one, the Christ. Human sagacity might so have arranged the affairs of an earthly kingdom; but divine wisdom could surely have made no such mistake. There may be men in existence who claim that they are the ones who thus stand in the place of the axis upon which the spiritual world and work of God turn for poor humanity; and that unless the Lord and his human instrumentalities choose to arrange the wheel, and wheels within a wheel, of church government, organization and gospel labor, upon and with reference to this axis, the whole business must stop; but we sincerely hope there are none of them in the Reorganization. If there were such a man and he should die, churchly learning and gospel wisdom would die with him, and human hopes must be buried in his grave. "But," it is urged, "such a man would not die; God would not let him die!"

Moses was the man who led his people out of bondage, and gave emancipated Israel the tables of the law; yet Moses died, not entering the promised land. David disenthralled Israel from the Philistine yoke, yet David was not permitted to build the temple. Jesus fulfilled the law, and gave the crowning means of redemption to man, yet he died, and all hope of the many died with him, to rise only when by his resurrection the disciples were made to know that in his rising life had been given to his body, the church. Joseph Smith, to whom the fact was made known that Christ had a people upon the earth, whom he would call by republication of the gospel message, and who was permitted to live to organize, by command, co-workers fitted and qualified for the dispensation in which they lived, died long before the work which the church must necessarily accomplish to fill the grand mission claimed for it had been done. Did wisdom die with Moses, David, or Joseph Smith? We apprehend not.

Upon Joshua fell the labor left when Moses was taken away; upon Solomon rested the burden of building the temple; upon James, Peter and John and all the disciples was cast the propagation of the gospel of peace, with Jesus as the Christ, after the tragedy of the cross and the triumph of the resurrection. While those upon whom depended the work left by each of these, prosecuted their labors in accordance with the genius of the work as begun, and in keeping with the message entrusted to them, so long there seemed to follow great success; but Israel went widely astray after Moses and Joshua; the church was gradually submerged in departure from the faith after Christ and the disciples.

When Joseph Smith died, he left a work which was to be proved a grand one. Those upon whom the first burden of the labor fell, had ample opportunity and means to know what the genius of that work was. An organization had been created by command, and growth, that challenged respect and admiration. Its spiritual power for good was being felt wherever its co-working laborers went. The life-pulses of that work, everywhere gave token that the Spirit of Christ was following the message; and that his supervising care was watching over it. So long as the workers kept within the lines of their message, the power that built them at the beginning built with them. But change came; the fabric began to shake. Ambition and lust of power and the flesh, usurped the places where single-heartedness and devotion had been; prosperity turned the leaders giddy; with giddiness came folly; hundreds of the honest and faithful, who, like Joshua, had testified truthfully, grew faint, remonstrated, then rebelled and scattered like sheep upon the mountains. Valiant men sprang out of the ranks, and essayed to stop the current of spiritual retrogression in vain; they were swept aside. Some kept battling away, calling upon modern Israel to return to the Word, to stay and inquire what the work demanded at their hands; but few heeded the call. The only body of any number that remained together for any considerable length of time was one that had incorporated into the doctrines originally received something in spirit and practice foreign to them. The result was, that large numbers of those who had received the first teachings were to be found in almost every quarter of the land, isolated and in groups, differing widely from the prevailing faction, and differing more or less from each other; all bewailing the scattered and fallen condition of the church, and anxiously enquiring of each other and the Lord, "What shall we do?"

At length the united, or strangely unanimous cry of these scattered and suffering ones was heard; almost simultaneous inquiries received separate but agreeing replies. The Lord, true to his promise and his care of his people, sent out the Spirit to fulfill his word. The people that were left thus scattered began to gather themselves together, and in conferring began to consider the law by which the church was to be governed. The Spirit aided them, a command was received, and history repeated itself. Those whose purposes were to serve God and him only; whose hearts were set to do his will, waiting only his direction, were shown that there was a remnant remaining, with whom was left a sufficient degree of authority to do what was commanded, and the Reorganization was a fact, an existent, tangible reality. The question of authority to organize was sprung at an early day, thoroughly discussed, and agreement finally reached. It was found that in several instances branch organization, which had been established in the days of Joseph, the Martyr, under the ruling of the church as then organized, still remained, retaining their organization, form of worship, and declaration of belief, unbroken and undisturbed. This simplified the character of the defense set up by the elders, who were elders of the church before the death of Joseph and elders of the reorganized one, elementary fragments, remnants of the people of God. The principle was announced, Sunday, June 13th, 1852. "We believe that the Church of Christ, organized on the 6th day of April, A. D. 1830, exists as on that day, wherever six or more Saints are organized according to the pattern in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants." - Hist. of R. p. 3.

This principle became one of the underlying sills upon which the church fabric rested; and when it was supplemented by what followed, the ground work for success was laid.

Resolved "That the whole law of the Church of Jesus Christ is contained in the Bible, Book of Mormon and Book of Doctrine and Covenants." - Hist. of R. p. 4.

Here is an element of strength that must enter into the discussion of the claims of the Reorganization. If one or more of the branches of the church, organized between the years 1830 and 1844, were found to have retained their organization untouched by the spirit of apostasy, and unbroken by the assaults of false doctrine, there was found a witness, who, like Joshua, had testified truthfully, and was found sufficient to the work of reorganizing the hosts of Israel. We believe it to be susceptible of proof that there were two, if not three, one at Beloit, one at Zarahemla, Wisconsin, and one at Jeffersonville, Illinois. The latter was built up by Elder Thomas P. Green, who was sent into that region of the country by Joseph Smith the Martyr , himself, and was there at the death of Joseph and Hyrum, in 1844, retaining his branch in the truth.

Here, as in 1830, the elements from which the Church was created, existed; here, as then, commandment guaranteed authority; the channels of manifestation existed, priesthood having already been conferred, the right to act was given and the duty of the priesthood made clear. The charter of their Christian liberty was declared to be the law which had been accepted by the whole Church in solemn assembly, and each and every claim not in harmony and keeping with that charter were denied. The result of constant adhesion to that line of policy, that rule of conduct, faith and practice is clearly seen. The tide of prosperity that rolled unchecked from April, 1830, to June, 1844, gradually receded before the "iniquity" that came in "like a flood," until almost everywhere the name of Mormon stank and was a synonym for evil; until scarcely an organized branch of the polygamic faction was found in America, except in Deseret. Further on, the tocsin of reorganization was heard. It sounded faintly feebly over the wastes of spiritual Babylon; but here and there it reached the ears of scattered captives, who took up the cry, until it reverberated from hill top and valley, until from three lone, solitary folds, the number had grown to many hundred folds; the "Spirit of the Lord raised up the standard," and it has been carried by earnest men along the front of the battle, cheering the wayworn and weary, and making firm the strong. One by one the claimants to the royal place have passed away, until only the polygamic departure and the Reorganization stand face to face upon the field. Which shall yield remains for the future to determine.

Sixth, Where was the present leader of the Reorganization? and why did he not come into notice before 1860? What of the interval? Where was the priesthood during the time from 1844 to 1860?

These questions are easily answered in the light of what has already been presented. The present Joseph Smith was where his father had left him; a member of Christ's body, properly baptized and confirmed, dwelling in the city where reposed the ashes of his father and uncle, ready to perform his life work when pointed out to him The reason why he did not come into notice sooner is that he was not sooner made aware of his duty. When his duty was pointed out in the winter of 1859 and "60 he did not tarry longer; and in obedience to call, in fulfillment of prophecy and in accordance with the wisdom directing the reorganizing effort, he put himself in the way of the work. He could not have come sooner in consistency, and he makes no apology for the delay.

It is the belief of the writer that no effort would have been successful in resisting the tide of evil which was creeping over the Church prior to the Reorganization. The spirit of confusion and adultery seemed to have a period of undisputed sway. Men would not listen to the voice of faith; and although the apparently ruling majority were boldly met and their abominations denounced by faithful, warning witnesses, who knew and know the truth, they were laughed at and derided,—the time had not yet come. The Spirit of the Lord was at work among the faithful; the spirit of mischief among the unfaithful. The Lord was watching over his own. In June, 1852, a public assembly in which the unbroken branches—the remnants—were represented, was held; and there the ground of hope for the Latter Day Saints was retaken and reaffirmed. This declaration of the principles was opportune, for on August 29th of the same year, the dogma of "plural marriage" was announced in Utah. That which had been at work in the hearts of the children of disobedience until secrecy was no longer possible, now raised its formal head. Untruth put on the livery of heaven to shield its devotees; but truth though seemingly slow, had recorded her solemn and dignified protest months before. The quiet grandeur of righteousness was now arrayed against the brazen effrontery of crime against the law of the land and transgression of the law of God, as given to his Church in 1830 and 1831, "a righteous law" and sacred then. All this was taking place during the interval; the powers of church organization and government conferred by the divine mind for the last time, "incapable of annihilation" had remained with the people; and in their exercise, by the command of God, at the opportune time, provided the means of escape and defense. Eight years from the death of Joseph and Hyrum the Apostasy was completed in the public declaration of its shame. At the same time the standard against iniquity was raised; the enemy was now an open one, and was declared against by the Church, the faithful remnant. Two months before the polygamic faction had submitted to the shackles of error put on the people by Brigham Young, the affirmation of the principles of safety had been completed; and thus a solemn protest against that enslavement had been made. This we believe to have been wisely provided for by the Lord, that the Reorganization might have the surer foundation. Eight years after this, the son of the Martyr, by divine direction, became identified with the Church, the body remaining true to the doctrines of the Church into which he [had] been baptized, and the spirit of which he had received under the hands of his father. The conditions of the work seemingly demanded him and he was added to its workers .

The priesthood, so far as ordained men constitute the priesthood, was scattered here and there over the whole land; some in transgression willfully, some ignorantly and some innocently; some in despair; some in suspense and anxiety; some in hope; some dejected; some in infidelity, rank and gross; some in doubt, and some in confident expectation; but so far as delegated authority from God makes priesthood, the priesthood right to act in the name of the Church as ministers for Christ, remained with the faithful elder, priest, teacher and deacon, who had not bowed to Baal, nor spotted his garments with, unholy lust. And if there had been no more than a Joshua, the son of Nun, and a Caleb the son of Jephunneh, there would have been enough; but as there were more, there were more than enough.

The powers of government, and the "law, to be my law, to govern my church." (D. & C. 42:16,) had been conferred; divine wisdom had dictated both. The purpose for which they had been conferred had been clearly set forth; the design unmistakably stated. Neither design nor purpose contemplated a hierarchy of priestcraft and oppression, of lust, wealth, priestly aristocracy, or power. When, therefore, leading men, ordained men, either knowingly and willfully, ignorantly and blunderingly, or themselves innocently deceived and deceiving, introduced that which subverted the design and turned aside the purpose, their right to act ceased; the "amen" was spoken "to their priesthood," and they unchurched themselves; they had spoken that which the Lord had not declared, and had spoken presumptuously, they were not to be feared. Hence, the design and purpose remaining unchanged, those to whom had fallen the lot to be instrumental in carrying them out who remained faithful to their trust, must be acknowledged of God. That they were and are so acknowledged of God. That they were and are so acknowledged of God in the Reorganization we are most certainly assured.

This then answers the query as to where the priesthood was during the period between June, 1844, and April, 1860. The Reorganization had not claimed a new dispensation; has denied that one was necessary: and anyone reading the Doctrine and Covenants, must discover, that a claim to a new dispensation, a new revelation other than a direction to already authorized messengers, disposes of the question of succession of work and creates a new body of Christ; and fond and slow as many fancy that the Reorganized Church has been, it has not been foolish as that. The men properly received into the Church prior to 1844, who present themselves to the Reorganization for identification with that body, are only asked to verify their original reception, and state their desire for affiliation; these are held to justify their reception and fellowship. The position they occupied, within the rule of organization provided for in the law, is accorded to them as of right, upon a proper confession of faith. No other body of believers growing out of the latter day work has, as we believe, ever taken this ground; but all have held it essential that all applicants must be baptized into the specific order to which their application was made. It was not the individual that they feared, it was the application and working of the principle. They supposed some precious prerogative would be jeopardized by the acknowledgment of a principle that might possibly take in a wide range that might involve the return, in mass, of other bodies holding similar offices and officers to fill them. The reorganization stated and affirmed the principle, and has abided by its just issues.

The question is rapidly nearing the solution. The Reorganization is occupying the ground it first assumed, and morally and socially is standing more firmly than ever before. The blows it could strike but feebly at the first are being restruck with earnestness and force. The energizing forces of gospel truth are at work; and except for internal dissensions, private brawls, priestly jealously and contentions, alike contemptible and disgraceful, an era of spiritual prosperity is again upon and before us. The issues are being fairly made; the refuge of lies is being uncovered; the day at hand when it may be properly said to Latter Day Saints of every shade of belief and unbelief, "choose ye, this day, whom ye will serve;" decide ye, upon which side you will be found, the side of primitive Mormonism, the law, virtue and ultimate peace; or the side of rebellion, subverted law, lust, and ultimate disgrace.

Joseph Smith.
Plano, February, 1879.