[The record of this event is not found in the manuscript history of the Church and was apparently added to the history text by B. H. Roberts. The original source is unknown. A search of diaries and journals of the period do not reveal the contents of this meeting, however a record appears in the Messenger and Advocate vol. 3 (April 1837), 486-487; History of the Church 2:475-477. The meeting recalled those presidents of the seventy who were high priests and new presidents were selected in their stead. We refer the reader to the above records for these events. The remarks of Joseph Smith at this meeting follow. They may have been recorded by Warren A. Cowdery, brother of Oliver Cowdery. We give the Messenger and Advocate text here.]
Joseph Smith jr. rose and spoke on the subject of the Priesthood. The Melchisedec High priesthood,1 he said was no other than the priesthood of the Son of God. There are certain ordinances which belong to the priesthood, and certain results flow from it.
The presidents, or presidency are over the church, and revelations of the mind and will of God to the church are to come through the presidency. This is the order of heaven and the power and privilege of this priesthood. It is also the privilege of any officer in this church, to obtain revelations so far as relates to his particular calling or duty in the church. All are bound by the principles of virtue and happiness, but one great privilege of this priesthood is to obtain revelations, as before observed, of the mind and will of God. It is also the privilege of the Melchisedec priesthood, to reprove, rebuke and admonish, as well as to receive revelations.
He here remarked something concerning the will of God, and said, that what God commanded, the one half of the church would condemn.2 -A high Priest, is a member of the same Melchisedec priesthood, with the presidency, but not of the same power or authority in the church. The seventies are also members of the same priesthood, are a sort of travelling council, or priesthood, and may preside over a church or churches until a high priest can be had. The seventies are to be taken from the quorum of elders and are not to be high priests. They are subject to the direction and dictation of the twelve, who have the keys of the ministry. All are to preach the gospel, by the power and influence of the Holy Ghost, and no man, said he, can preach the gospel without the Holy Ghost.
The Bishop was a high priest, and necessarily so, because he is to preside over that particular branch of church affairs that are denominated the lesser priesthood,3 and because we have no direct lineal descendant of Aaron to whom it would of right belong. He remarked that this was the same, or a branch of the same priesthood; and illustrated his position by the figure of the human body, which has different members, which have different offices to perform: all are necessary in their place, and the body is not complete without all the members. From a view of the requirements of the servants of God to preach the gospel, he remarked that few were qualified even to be priests, and if a priest understood his duty, his calling and ministry and preached by the Holy Ghost, his enjoyment is as great as if he were one of the presidency; and his services are necessary in the body, as are also those of teachers and deacons. Therefore in viewing the church as whole, we may strictly denominate it one priesthood.
He remarked that he rebuked and admonished his brethren frequently, and that because he loved them; not because he wished to incur their displeasure or mar their happiness.
Such a course of conduct was not calculated to gain the good will of all, but rather the ill will of many, and thereby the situation in which he stood was an important one. So you see, brethren the higher the authority, the greater the difficulty of the station. But these rebukes and admonitions became necessary from the perverseness of brethren, for their temporal as well as spiritual welfare. They actually constituted a part of the duties of his station and calling. 4
Others had other duties to perform that were important and far less enviable, and might be just as good, like the feet or hands in their relation to the human body, neither could claim priority, or say to the other I have no need of you. After all that has been said the greatest duty and the most important is, to preach the gospel.
He then alluded to the temporal affairs of the church in this place, stating the causes of the embarrassments of a pecuniary nature that were now pressing upon the heads of the church. He observed they began poor, were needy, destitute, and were truly afflicted by their enemies; yet the Lord commanded them to go forth and preach the gospel, to sacrifice their time, their talents, their good name and jeopardize their lives, and in addition to this, they were to build a house for the Lord, and prepare for the gathering of the saints.
Thus it was easy to see this must involve them. They had no temporal means in the beginning commensurate with such an undertaking, but this work must be done, this place had to be built up. He further remarked that it must yet be built up, that more houses must be built. He observed that large contracts had been entered into for land on all sides where our enemies had signed away their right. We are indebted to them to be sure, but our brethren abroad have only to come with their money, take these contracts, relieve their brethren of the pecuniary embarrassments under which they now labor, and procure for themselves a peaceable place of rest among us. He then closed at about 4 P. M. by uttering a prophesy saying this place must be built up, and would be built up, and that every brother that would take hold and help secure and discharge those contracts that had been made, should be rich.
1. The term "high priesthood" in Joseph's discourse and in the revelations he gave always refers to the office of "high priest." (Christ is the Great High Priest, etc.) Thus, Melchizedek high priesthood suggests high priest of the Melchizedek order. The 1833 plans of the temples in Zion use a similar terminology "high priesthood after the order of Melchizedek." See also the JST insertion at Genesis 14:24. However, the context given by the rest of the remarks suggests a somewhat broader interpretation, as he remarks "we may strictly denominate it [all the offices] one priesthood." The 1835 [D&C 107] revelation gives us a window into Joseph Smith's mind on these matters. The spelling "Melchisedec" has been standarized in LDS literature as Melchizedek. See notes at 8Apr41. Apparently a considerable number of the Seventy had purposely first been ordained as high priests. For example see Journal of Wilford Woodruff, December 20, 1836 and 8Apr41 and notes there.
2. Cp. 21Jan44.
3. Here we have the same terminological shift as with the high priesthood.
4. During this year financial troubles would plague the Church and the banking institution established by Church leaders, the Kirtland Safety Society. The problems were not local to Northern Ohio, but were part of recessionary trends nationally. Many members felt that the banking institution could not fail since it was advocated by Joseph Smith. But the times and actions of the institution and the duplicity of some of its officers led to its demise and the loss of faith by many prominent Church members in Ohio. The forces of dissatisfaction are already apparent at this point and Joseph hopes to explain his course so that priesthood officers in the Church will support him. The presidency of the Church had incurred significant debt on themselves in behalf of Church building and property acquisition efforts. Because of financial conditions in Kirtland they hoped for quick debt relief from Church members. The Church Firm, (formerly the United Firm) attempted to seek relief through the efforts of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery but the debt alone to material suppliers on the temple was $13,000.00, a huge sum at this period. By January 1838, dissent over this and other matters in the Church threatened the personal safety of the Church leaders and their families; they were forced to move to Far West, Missouri where many Church members had gathered. See Max H. Parkin, "Conflict at Kirtland," MA thesis, BYU, 1966; Parkin, "The History of Latter-day Saints in Clay County, Missouri, From 1833 to 1837," Ph.D. diss, BYU 1976; Richard L. Bushman, "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling," (Knopf, 2005); Dean C. Jessee, "The Kirtland Diary of Wilford Woodruff,"BYUS 12, no. 4 (1972). See also 6Apr37(2)