March 17, 2008

Priesthood: "The chain that reaches from heaven to earth"

Heber C. Kimball
June 29, 1856

Some quotes from the Journal of Discourses have become regular proof-texts for critics of the Church. These quotes are found on most "anti-Mormon" or otherwise critical websites. This quote from Brigham Young, October 9, 1859, is one of the favorites:

No man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith...He reigns there as supreme a being in his sphere, capacity, and calling, as God does in heaven. Many will exclaim—“Oh, that is very disagreeable! It is preposterous! We cannot bear the thought!” But it is true (JD 7:289).
Indeed, people find it very disagreeable. They find it even more disagreeable when it is coupled with this April 8, 1844 quote from Joseph Smith:

God made Aaron to be the mouth piece for the children of Israel, and He will make me be a god to you in His stead, and the Elders to be mouth for me; and if you don’t like it, you must lump it (DHC 6:318-320).
This concept, as Joseph implies, has Biblical precedence, and ought not shock Latter-day Saints. Joseph refers to Exodus 7, putting himself in the place of Moses, and the elders of the Church in the place of Aaron:

So the LORD said to Moses: See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet (Exodus 7:1).
Lest anyone explain this correlation away as an "Old Testament" phenomenon, there is further precedence regarding the "permission" of Joseph Smith and the afterlife found in the New Testament. First, though, we'll see how Heber C. Kimball's sermons ties into this.

The early Saints (and many today) viewed the chain of Priesthood as extending from God, through the apostles, through Joseph Smith, through the Church.

Heber C. Kimball described the priesthood as a great chain leading to God:

This is my place and my calling, and this is my wish and the wish of brother Jedediah, of brother Amasa, of brother Parley, and of every other Apostle that God has appointed and called upon this earth, or ever will while we remain here.[1]

It is for brother Brigham to do the will of Joseph, and for Joseph to do the will of Peter, for Peter to do the will of Jesus, and for Jesus to do the will of his Father. That is the chain that reaches from heaven to earth, and do you not understand that it is so?
If you will keep hold of that chain and keep your hands strongly fastened in the links, you can reach into the vail [sic].

But you must hold on firm and fast to the cable-why?
Because there is an anchor at the end of the cable, and that cable is fastened to the ship so that it is made sure at both ends. That is the way it is in a ship, and it is so with the kingdom of God.
Heber believed Brigham Young, their current leader, would remain a prophet to them in the eternities:
My feelings are for you to learn to follow our leader, our Prophet, our President. He will be our President in eternity, and Joseph is his President and will counsel him, and you need not trouble yourselves, but do as you are told and you will obtain salvation and go into the celestial glory.

You will then dwell in the same glory with Joseph, with father Smith, with the Apostles and Saints; and by taking such a course not one of you will fall, and I know it.
As found in the New Testament, Christ also taught Priesthood authority would extend into the "eternity", at least as far as the judgment was concerned:

Then answered Peter and said unto [Jesus], Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?

And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:27-28; see also Luke 22:28-30).
When Christ visited the Americas and called twelve disciples, he bestowed similar authority (this account is from Nephi's vision of future Nephite generations):

And [the angel] said unto me: Thou rememberest the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb? Behold they are they who shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel; wherefore, the twelve ministers of thy seed shall be judged of them; for ye are of the house of Israel.

And these twelve ministers whom thou beholdest shall judge thy seed. And, behold, they are righteous forever; for because of their faith in the Lamb of God their garments are made white in his blood (1 Ne. 12:9-10).
In light of these verse, the Gospel Principles manual says:

The Apostle John taught that “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22). The Son, in turn, will call upon others to assist in the Judgment.

The Twelve who were with him in his ministry will judge the twelve tribes of Israel (see Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30). The Nephite Twelve will judge the Nephite and Lamanite people (see 1 Nephi 12:9–10; Mormon 3:18–19).

President John Taylor said the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles in our own dispensation will also judge us (see The Mediation and Atonement, p. 157;
Gospel PrinciplesChapter 46: The Last Judgment,” 294).
Peter standing at the "Pearly Gates" admitting souls into heaven has become something of a cultural stock character. I believe this has roots in the New Testament account of Christ giving the "keys of the kingdom of Heaven" to Peter in Matthew 16:19.

I am unsure if the selection from Gospel Principles indicates that Joseph Smith, the first prophet of our dispensation, will be in the position of "Peter at the gates" for us, or if a prophet who presides during our own lifetime would fill that role. I suspect the former. The manual is also ambiguous in stating the apostles who were with Christ during His mortal ministry will judge the twelve tribes of Israel. Is this limited to the twelve tribes living at the time, or all of those adopted into the house of Israel from the beginning until the end?

At any rate, I believe the concept of Priesthood holders assisting somehow in the final judgment has sufficient Biblical precedence to allow for the comments of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Heber C. Kimball on the subject; though I am unsure of the exact nature of priesthood involvement.



Kimball is naming current apostles, Jedediah M. Grant, Amasa Lyman, Parley P. Pratt.

Thanks to "Casslan" from for some of these references.Also see JD 5:331.

On the authority of prophets in our time, see He That Receiveth You Receiveth Me.

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