Fiftieth Semi-Annual Conference.

Friday, 2 p.m.

Elder Orson Pratt read a promise that was given by our Lord in May, 1833, to every person in the Church both male and female, found in Doctrine and Covenants on page 300.  This, he said, was one of the great promises to the Saints of the last days.  It was given on certain conditions.  Those who keep my commandments saith the Lord shall see my face and know that I am, and that I am the true light that lighteth every one that cometh into the world.  Another revelation given in September 1832 (Doc. & Cov. 266) speaking of the priesthood shows that in the priesthood and the ordinances thereof the power of godliness is manifest to men in the flesh and without it no man can see the face of God and live.

Moses held the Melchisedek priesthood, but the children of Israel not abiding the law of that priesthood, it was taken away from them, and they were only permitted to have among them the priesthood of Aaron.  In every dispensation where the Melchisedek priesthood was given the same blessings were enjoyed as contained in the revelation just now read.  Adam was taught by the Spirit the plan of salvation, after the fall, and was shown that he and his children should be born of water and of the Spirit, and thus become adopted as citizens in the kingdom of God.  Adam received the word of the Lord and was obedient, and the Spirit of God caught up Adam and took him where there was water, and baptized him, after which he received the high priesthood, after the order of him who is eternal.  After he had received much instruction pertaining to the everlasting priesthood and patriarchal power and laws and ordinances which he taught to his posterity, books were written among them containing the genealogies of the ancient fathers.  Abel received the priesthood and offered a sacrifice that was acceptable fore the Lord, but Cain’s sacrifice was not accepted, not being offered in faith, he would not repent, but indulged in all manner of wickedness, and built up a secret combination that practiced every species of evil, in which he was the chief or Master Mahan, and finally he murdered his brother Abel.  In the course of time Seth was born, and he also received the priesthood.  After this Enos was born, who took a course of righteousness, and was also ordained to the priesthood.  Elder Pratt continued to dwell upon the early history of the priesthood in relation to the dealings of God with the children of men, and how that a portion of the human family became very wicked, and the righteous, including Seth and Enos, were commanded to go to a country called Canaan.  He also introduced Enoch and other prominent servants of God living in those far off days, and showed that in all their wanderings, they were led by the spirit of revelation under the guidance of the holy priesthood.  Enoch succeeded in building up many churches unto the Lord God, in various cities and countries, and finally gathered them all together in the land of Zion, the place of which has not been revealed, so as to be placed on record.  He was engaged in preaching to and gathering the people to the place where the City of Zion was built.  The speaker dilated upon the great work performed by Enoch and the length of time that he was engaged in it under the power of that same high and holy priesthood.

He then spoke of Father Adam meeting with and standing up in the midst of his righteous posterity, in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, which is in the State of Missouri, and predicting many important prophecies of events that should occur through future generations down to the latest period of time.

He then spoke of the glorious visions that were shown to Enoch, including the sufferings of the ungodly and the glories of the righteous, awaiting those behind the vail, and the ushering in of the gospel in the latter days as righteousness coming down out of heaven.  After Enoch and his city had been translated, Methusaleh still held the priesthood, and it was bestowed upon succeeding ones until it reached Moses.  He continued to trace the subject of the priesthood, which is without beginning of days or end of years, from one channel of lineage to another, throughout the generations of men, not only on the eastern but also on the western continent.  He then dwelt on the inestimable blessings that were conferred upon the saints in our day, and the responsibilities consequently resting upon all those who have received the holy priesthood, and showed that the promise of God to unveil his face to the faithful extended to the sisters as well as the brethren.


Sunday, October 10th, 1880.  10 a.m.

Elder Orson Pratt said there are thousands of male members of this Church, who hold, as we all testify, divine authority, to act in their several callings in the holy priesthood.  If we are destitute of that authority as the world say we are, then we are in the same position as they and there is no authority from God vested in man upon the earth.  But we affirm that God bestowed divine authority upon Joseph Smith and that by divine commandment he bestowed it upon others.  Joseph Smith received power to translate the Book of Mormon from the plates before he was ordained to the holy priesthood in the flesh.  But he did hold the priesthood in eternity, being ordained before the foundations of the world, in common with others who were reserved to come forth in the last days, to hold the priesthood with authority and power to administer the plan of salvation to the children of men in the flesh.  There is no beginning to the priesthood.  It always existed, being from all eternity to all eternity, but there is a beginning to the time when each individual receives that everlasting priesthood.

He then referred to the first vision of Joseph Smith when but a boy.  He saw two personages, the Father and the Son, and yet the sight did not consume him, although it is written that without the priesthood no man can see the face of God and live.  The reason why he was enabled to look upon the face of God and live was because he was chosen and ordained in the spirit world to the holy priesthood, and was selected to come forth in this age to usher in the dispensation of the fulness of times.  In due time however, on the 15th of May, 1829, John the Baptist came and conferred upon him the priesthood of Aaron, which gave him authority to preach the gospel and baptize for the remission of sins.  Subsequently, Peter, James and John ordained him to the Melchisedec priesthood, which gave him authority to still further carry on the work of God, and administer in the higher ordinances of the plan of redemption.  In a short time God revealed to him the necessity of a quorum of Twelve Apostles, after which the Quorum of Seventies was pointed out to him, and as the number of converts increased, God gradually made known to him one principle and authority after another as the necessity of the Church required.  God dealt with his servant Joseph just the same as a wise earthly parent does with his children, adapting his instructions according to their growth and capacity.

In the course of time men were appointed to take charge of attend to the temporal properties of the Church; this was done before there was any Bishop appointed.  This circumstance clearly proves that God adapts his course with his children according to their condition and requirements.  And what is essential under one set of circumstances, may not be suitable under other circumstances, hence we find that God reveals his mind and will to his children, according to their needs and his own good pleasure.  And because something is done in one age of the world, that is no reason why it should be repeated in another.

He traced the history of the church in its various organizations, especially illustrating the difference in the duties of Bishops Edward Partridge and Newel K. Whitney, who were general Bishops over large districts, and the Bishops over wards whose duties are entirely local.  The first presiding Bishop of the Church was Vinson Knight, who with his Counselors had presidency over all the other Bishops.  In process of time, as the number of Saints multiplied, and cities and settlements increased, it became necessary to have local or ward Bishops, as at the present time, whose authority is strictly confined to their own particular ward.  He then defined the several duties of a Traveling Bishop and Bishop’s Agent, both of whom should hold the Bishopric, because their duties are connected with temporal things.  The time will come when the prophecy of Isaiah will be fulfilled concerning every one that dwells on this continent, who will not believe the Book of Mormon, who will not repent and obey the word of the Lord and hearken to the voice of his priesthood—God will cut them off from among the people, and the remnants that are left will bow to the laws of Zion.

He dwelt at some length on the future glory and advancement of the kingdom of God.  He also spoke of the several duties and responsibilities that attach to the First Presidency of the Church and to the Twelve, who are a traveling High Council, authorized to set in order the quorums and authorities of the Church throughout the world.  He spoke of the occasions when the quorum of the First Presidency was lacking in consequence of the death of the First President and showed that the duties of guiding the Church then necessarily rested upon the Twelve.  It was deemed wisdom to again fill up that important quorum, viz. the First Presidency, at this conference, which had been acted upon by the Twelve and also by a great body of the priesthood at their meeting last evening.  This change will take three from the quorum of the Twelve and their vacancies have to be filled, all of which will be presented before the Conference this afternoon and both male and female members will be called to vote thereon.

[Deseret News, Oct. 13, 1880]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, Aug. 2006]

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