[Council of 12] Minutes and Discourses, 27 February 1835–B

Okay, this one is really interesting. Here I will be providing some extracts, with questions. This is in order of the record, with some of the most interesting concepts nearer the end. (see here)

Recording the Quorum of the Twelve Meetings

This may be the first such record, as the record begins with an admonition to keep a record (highlights mine).

It is a truth that if I now had in my possession every decision which has been given had upon important items of doctrine and duties since the rise of this church, they would be of incalculable worth to the saints, but we have neglected to keep record [p. 1] of such things, thinking that prehaps that they would never benefit us afterwards, wh[i]ch had we now, would decide  almost any point that might be agitated; and now we cannot bear record to the church nor unto the world of the great and glorious manifestations that have been made to us with that degree of power and authority whi[c]h we otherwise could if we had those decisions to publish abroad. … keep a record of your proceedings and on the decision of every important item, be it what it may, let such decision be noted down, and they will ever after remain upon record as law, covenants and doctrine. …God may be angry, and here is a fountain of intelligence or knowledge of infinite importance which is lost. What was the cause of this? The answer is slothfulness [p. 2] or a neglect to appoint a man to occupy a few moments  in writing. … it will be one of the most important and interesting records ever seen.

Decisions of the Quorum of the Twelve will be “as law, covenants and doctrine?” Is it implicit that this record should be published (as is this record)? Is such a record kept? Is it considered too sacred to share? If kept secret, how could it have the explicit worth to the saints and to the world? If not kept….

Authority/Responsibility of the Quorum of the Twelve

The following question was then proposed by president J  Smith Jun. (viz) What importance is attached to the callings of  these twelve apostles differrent from the other callings and  offices of the chu[r]ch. After some discussion by Elders [David W.] Patten, [Brigham] Young, M’cLellin and W[illiam] Smith, the following decision was given by President Smith, the Prophet of God.

Is said decision then binding on the Church? Continuing…

“They are the twelve apostles who are called to a travelling high council to preside over all the churches of the saints among the gentiles when there is no presidency established.

It seems that there are two ways this might be interpreted.

  1. The Twelve Apostles preside over all the churches of the saints when there is no First Presidency (common LDS interpretation).
  2. The Twelve Apostles preside wherever there is a church not presided over by a High Council (Stake President).
    • Could the President of the Aaronic Priesthood (i.e., Bishop) be considered a presidency in this regard?

Taking a very literal interpretation, we would choose the second since there is no further qualification. Wouldn’t we parse “no presidency” to mean “not any presidency,” implying that any kind of presidency would be sufficient to not need to be presided over by a Traveling High Council? The fact that they are called a “travelling [sic] high council” would also imply the 2nd interpretation is preferred. Nevertheless, following the death of Joseph Smith Jr and the breakup of the local stake(s), the twelve apostles having taken over presiding over all the church does not contradict either interpretation. But, once stakes and high councils were again established, wouldn’t this be in conflict with the 2nd?

Selection of the 1st interpretation requires the First Presidency qualification be presumed. There appears to be neither logical or contextual basis. For example, we have no record of a discussion concerning succession (in point of fact, we seem to have historical indications that Joseph Smith intended orderly transfer of authority in an entirely different way).

Continuing…

It is all important that the twelve should understand the power and authority of [p. 3] the priesthoods, for without this knowledge they can do nothing to profit. In the first place God manifested himself to me and gave me authority to establish his church, and you have received your authority from God through me; and now it is your duty to go and unlock the kingdom of heaven to foreign nations, for no man can do that thing but yourselves. Neither has any man authority or a right to go to other nations before you; and you, twelve, stand in the same relation to those nations that I stand in to you, that is, as a minister; and you have each the same authority in other nations that I have in this nation.

Interesting, Joseph is saying that the authority of God was given through him. It did not come directly from God, like it did in the first case to him. Wish we had a record of that! Maybe we would know specifically what authority was given?

It is interesting that there is a contextual tie between the keys the twelve received and the unlocking of the kingdom of heaven to foreign nations. Implicitly, did Joseph receive the authority to unlock the US and establish churches therein? But, explicitly, Joseph presided over them in the same way they would preside over the other nations. Does this mean that Joseph only presided (directly?) over churches that had no presidency established?

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