Deacons anointing

By December 14, 2015

I’m currently working on a chapter for my book on Mormon liturgy and cosmology that focuses on healing as lens to look at shifts in authority throughout Mormon history. A while back, I picked up a 1941 edition (fourth printing) of the Aaronic Priesthood Handbook, and recently read through. Page 45 has this fascinating bit in the section for deacons under “Caring for the Poor”:

Pres. Francis M. Lyman of the quorum of the Apostles speaking at the general assembly of the Latter-day Saints University, Nov. 30, 1904, gave the following instruction:

The speaker read from the book of Doctrine and Covenants on the duties of the Lesser and Greater Priesthood. The duty of a Deacon, it was explained, is not limited to keeping the meetinghouse in order, or to chopping wood for the poor, or to passing the Sacrament under the Priest who officiates in fast meetings. Deacons have authority in the absence of higher authority, to anoint the sick with oil and to pray for them. All Priesthood, including the Lesser Priesthood, is the authority of God. It is therefore not a small matter to bear the Aaronic Priesthood…

While I have accumulated probably a couple thousand examples of women healing in the church, I think I only have a couple examples of children, and only one where the administrator is a deacon (from the 1890s as I remember). I’ve tried to locate the sermon text, to no avail, but I did find that this handbook was largely taken verbatim from a book published in 1904 by Joseph B. Keeler, who was apparently on faculty at BYU and a member of the Utah County Stake Presidency (he was later called as Stake President). The book: The Lesser Priesthood and Notes on Church Government, also a Concordance of the Doctrine and Covenants for the Use of Church Schools and Priesthood Quorums (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1904) seems to have been pretty popular and exists in several editions. I’ve gotten access to the 1904 edition and the 1929 edition.

Keeler’s editions have the same text in the same place, but it is part footnote in his editions, whereas it is moved to the main body in the Presiding Bishopric’s edition. I need to do some digging, but it appears that the Handbook was in use into the 1950s. I’d really love to be able to determine if this teaching were more than an odd line in a handbook, but I think finding evidence in Mormon lived religion, is just going to boil down to luck.

Bonus fun:

Perhaps the biggest surprise to me is a difference between the 1904 and 1929 editions of Keeler’s volume. The 1904 edition indicates the deacons can ordain deacons, and that teachers can ordain teachers and deacons. The text of those sections are removed in the 1929 edition. Next time I’m at the CHL, I’ll be sure to verify how long those ordination rules were in place.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. Now I know what you taught the deacons in my absence on Sunday.

    Comment by Matt Jacobsen — December 14, 2015 @ 11:17 pm

  2. J, are you aware of the letter from John R. Winder and Anthon H. Lund (in behalf of First Presidency) to elder S. H. Jones, where they write:

    “The doctrine taught in Keeler’s Lesser Priesthood to the effect that a Deacon
    may ordain a Deacon, and a Teacher may ordain a Teacher, is correct; but it
    should be understood that while this doctrine is true, circumstances may never
    arise in the history of our Church rendering it necessary for a Deacon to
    ordain a Deacon, or a Teacher to ordain a Teacher, as it would not be at all
    proper for either a Deacon or Teacher to officiate in these ordinations unless
    instructed to do so by proper authority.”

    The letter is dated Feb. 19th 1909. I’ve only seen a transcript of the letter (in an old compilation of so-called gospel mysteries), so I can’t verify it.

    Comment by Niklas — December 15, 2015 @ 1:13 am

  3. This is great stuff, J. And Niklas, I’ve got a bunch of files like that. Now I’ll have to search for this.

    Comment by WVS — December 15, 2015 @ 2:11 am

  4. “While I have accumulated probably a couple thousand examples of women healing in the church, I think I only have a couple examples of children, and only one where the administrator is a deacon (from the 1890s as I remember).”

    This raised the question in my mind concerning when the position of Deacon became prominently a young men’s office, as the early ones were adults. Had the transition to 12-14 yo’s been made by 1904 or could this have been directed to adult deacons?

    Comment by larryco_ — December 15, 2015 @ 6:56 am

  5. If I remember correctly, the push to ordain all young men to some priesthood office began in the later years of Brigham Young’s life, but the systematization of offices corresponding to ages, and an effort to define priesthood duties for teachers and deacons didn’t really happen until just after the turn of the century. Hartley’s book “My Fellow Servants” has a few good articles on this. 1904, if I’m not mistaken, would have been right in the middle of the transition from adult arronic priesthood to youth aaronic priesthood.

    Comment by JKC — December 15, 2015 @ 7:45 am

  6. I had the same question about how the timing of this 1904 related to the transition “from men to boys.” I agree that it was sort of in the middle of the transition, so perhaps it was not yet unusual to still have adult deacons.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — December 15, 2015 @ 7:55 am

  7. Thanks all. And Matt, it just comes with the territory.

    Niklas, if that letter were extant, it would likely be in the FP Letterpress. I don’t have it in my notes, but I’ll check the Kenney transcripts next time I am able. Thanks for the pointer.

    I didn’t reproduce the entire report of Lyman’s sermon as published in the volumes. It is clear from the entire report that his words are directed to 12 and 13 year old boys. Moreover it appears to have been reproduced in the principle instructional manual for the Aaronic Priesthood for almost 50 years.

    Comment by J. Stapley — December 15, 2015 @ 8:35 am

  8. The rather spurious source I have for the letter groups it together with other documents coming from “Historical Department–Confidential Research Files 1950–1974”. I don’t know if this helps to locate it.

    Comment by Niklas — December 15, 2015 @ 8:51 am

  9. I guess you know about the article on Joseph Keeler and his publications BYU Studies published not long ago?

    Comment by Lew Scannon — December 15, 2015 @ 10:27 am

  10. Lew, I hadn’t read that issue yet (it is in my ever increasing pile), but I’ll pull it out right away. Thanks for the pointer.

    Comment by J. Stapley — December 15, 2015 @ 11:00 am

  11. Great to see research on the lesser-known periods of Church history and how we got from Joseph Smith to now. I’ve enjoyed your work on LDS funerary and healing ritual, J.
    Here’s the link to the article about Keeler and his priesthood manuals, in BYU Studies. http://byustudies.byu.edu/content/joseph-b-keeler-print-culture-and-modernization-mormonism-1885%E2%80%931918
    The article is free, as are all BYU Studies articles, for a limited time (until the BYU Studies website revamping is done).
    Here’s Hartley’s article “The Priesthood Reform movement, 1908-1922.” https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/priesthood-reform-movement-1908-1922
    There are copies of Keeler’s priesthood books for young men in the BYU library.

    Comment by Jennifer — December 15, 2015 @ 10:51 pm

  12. And those of us who don’t have access to BYU library can read Keeler’s book here: https://archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3A%22Keeler%2C%20Joseph%20B.%22

    Comment by Niklas — December 16, 2015 @ 12:38 am

  13. Fantastic, J. A lot more needs to be done on the history of children and childhood in Mormonism.

    Comment by Christopher — December 16, 2015 @ 12:25 pm

  14. This reminds me of a reading from Joseph Fielding Smith’s Doctrines of Salvation, Vol 3 (1956, quote is same in 1976 edition):

    LAYING ON OF HANDS BY WOMEN IN ADMINISTRATIONS. If a man and his wife were alone with a sick person, could he anoint with the oil and then seal the anointing with his wife assisting using the priesthood she holds jointly with her husband? President Joseph F. Smith answered this question as follows:

    “Does a wife hold the priesthood with her husband, and may she lay hands on the sick with him, with authority? A wife does not hold the priesthood with her husband, but she enjoys the benefits thereof with him; and if she is requested to lay hands on the sick with him, or with any other officer holding the Melchizedek Priesthood, she may do so with perfect propriety. It is no uncommon thing for a man and wife unitedly to administer to their children.” (41)

    When this is done the wife is adding her faith to the administration of her husband. The wife would lay on hands just as would a member of the Aaronic Priesthood, or a faithful brother without the priesthood, she in this manner giving support by faith to the ordinance performed by her husband. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Respecting females administering for the healing of the sick, . . . there could be no evil in it, if God gave his sanction by healing; that there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on and praying for the sick, than in wetting the face with water; it is no sin for anybody to administer that has faith, or if the sick have faith to be healed by their administration.” (42) Such an administration would not be by virtue of the priesthood, but a manifestation of faith.

    WOMEN NOT TO ANOINT OR SEAL BLESSINGS. The Brethren do not consider it necessary or wise for the women of the Relief Society to wash and anoint women who are sick. The Lord has given us directions in matters of this kind; we are to call in the elders, and they are to anoint with oil on the head and bless by the laying on of hands.

    The Church teaches that a woman may lay on hands upon the head of a sick child and ask the Lord to bless it, in the case when those holding the priesthood cannot be present. A man might under such conditions invite his wife to lay on hands with him in blessing their sick child. This would be merely to exercise her faith and not be, cause of any inherent right to lay on hands. A woman would have no authority to anoint or seal a blessing, and where elders can be called in, that would be the proper way to have an administration performed.

    When I first read this on my mission, it was an eye-opener that women or children might appropriately stand in the circle of a priesthood blessing. I just looked at the footnotes, and thought I’d pass them along.

    41: Improvement Era, Vol. 10, p. 308 (February 1907)

    Doea a wife hold the priesthood in connection with her husband? and may she lay hands on the sick with Lim, with authority?

    A wife does not hold the priesthood in connection with her husband, but she enjoys the benefits thereof with him; and if she is requested to lay hands on the sick with him, or with any other ofiicer holding the Melchizedek priesthood, she may do so with perfect propriety. It is no uncommon thing for a man and wife unitedly to administer to their children, and the husband being mouth, he may properly say out of courtesy, “By authority of the holy priesthood in us vested.”

    42: Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith

    Comment by rich jj — December 20, 2015 @ 10:33 pm

  15. rich, if that is a topic that is interesting to you, this article is worth checking out.

    Comment by J. Stapley — December 21, 2015 @ 12:48 pm

  16. J., I certainly should have read your article on Female Ritual Healing by now, but my ever increasing pile seems to mostly gather dust. I am very interested and have some loose awareness from a couple podcasts (after Doctrines of Salvation had already broached the subject). Thanks for the link. I wonder if it discusses the treatment by Doctrines of Salvation (still sold today at Deseret Book) which surgically quotes from the turn-of-the-century coordinated disavowal of female blessings, but in doing so acknowledges its very existence.

    But I excerpted this reading because of this line: “The wife would lay on hands just as would a member of the Aaronic Priesthood, or a faithful brother without the priesthood, she in this manner giving support by faith to the ordinance performed by her husband.” As a missionary reading that, I imagined going on splits with a prospective elder and finding ourselves needed to give a blessing. Joseph Fielding Smith put that image into my head in the 21st century, long after the Church had overturned it.

    Comment by rich jj — December 21, 2015 @ 9:19 pm

  17. Yeah, similarly Answers to Gospel Questions has a section and that is still sold by Deseret Book (I hadn’t realized that the Doctrines of Salvation was still in print). There is a lot in those two sets that are wildly different than church practice and belief today. Love it.

    Comment by J. Stapley — December 21, 2015 @ 9:42 pm


Series

Recent Comments

n8c on Guest Post: Introducing Foundational: “Excellent Sale! I ordered this and J. Stapley's new book as well! Excellent Christmas gift to myself:). THANKS for the heads up!”


Curtis C on Guest Post: Introducing Foundational: “Thanks for this post, Mark. I've been excited about this book ever since I read about it on the Benchmark Books blog, and this post…”


Steve Taysom on Guest Post: Introducing Foundational: “This looks amazing”


Jacob H. on Guest Post: Introducing Foundational: “The authors and topics all look fantastic”


Ben P on Guest Post: Introducing Foundational: “Really looking forward to this, Mark.”


H. Michael Marquardt on Guest Post: Introducing Foundational: “Thanks Mark. I ordered a copy of the book on December 1.”

Topics


juvenileinstructor.org