Quotes altered and/or distorted in Mormon manual on Brigham Young

Quotes altered and/or distorted in Mormon manual on Brigham Young

Brian received the following query from someone who happened upon his “Brigham Young, Chapter 4” web pages.


Do you have any suggestions for Chapter 20; Church Organization and Government? I have to teach the relief society on November 16th and would really appreciate any suggestions that you might have!

I only meant to say, “No, I haven’t studied that chapter,” but as I began to write my reply, I found some interesting things that I sent to her as follows:

I only studied that one chapter, and I haven’t cracked open the study manual since. I’ve been really tempted to do another study like the one I did for Chapter 4, but I just haven’t had time for it.

Too bad you didn’t ask me about Chapter 19, though. On page 135 there’s a lengthy quote about how women are capable of pursuing careers such as business, law and medicine. There’s a really interesting sentence that the correlation committee elected to leave out of that paragraph, which says that women who do so “fulfill the measure of their creation”. I’ve always thought that was a telling omission, in light of the Proclamation on the Family‘s attempt to canonize Leave It To Beaver-style family patterns.

But Chapter 20? I haven’t studied it, and so nothing jumps to mind. In glancing over it, I notice that it reiterates the idea that the first presidency and the Q12 are infallible (esp. the third paragraph on page 138), and that’s very interesting considering that famous quotation from BY (and many more like it) about how he wants the Saints to trust in God first, and the leadership second, because he fears that they will become complacent followers, rather than having the spirit of God for themselves. I notice that that quotation *isn’t* here, which is also telling. (Can you see what the correlation committee wants you to believe about Brigham Young, from what gets included and what doesn’t get included???)

Here’s an interesting change, at the bottom of page 139:

The original text in the JD, and also the text in DBY, reads:

You read in the revelation alluded to that when the Twelve were called and ordained, they possessed the same power and authority as the three First Presidents; and in reading further you find that there must needs be appendages and helps growing out of this Priesthood. The Seventies possess the same power and authority; they hold the keys of establishing, building up, regulating, ordaining, and setting in order the kingdom of God in all its perfections upon the earth. We have a Quorum of High Priests, and there are a great many of them. They are a local body–they tarry at home; but the Seventies travel and preach; so also do the High Priests, when they are called upon. They possess precisely the same Priesthood that the Seventies and the Twelve and the First Presidency possess; but are they ordained to officiate in all the authority, powers, and keys of this Priesthood? No, they are not. Still they are High Priests of God; and if they magnify their Priesthood, they will receive at some time all the authority and power that it is possible for man to receive.

Interestingly, the correlation committee elected to alter the sentence “The Seventies possess the same power and authority; they hold the keys of establishing, building up, regulating, ordaining, and setting in order the kingdom of God in all its perfections upon the earth.” so that it reads:

The Seventies possess the same power and authority; [they receive delegated authority by assignment for the] establishing, building up, regulating, ordaining and setting in order the Kingdom of God in all its perfections upon the earth.

Now, why do you suppose the committee would want to make that change? Clearly they want to minimize the scope of the authority of the lesser quorums. But why? D&C section 107 verse 26 does say that the seventies quorum has all the same authority as the Q12 (see also verses 22 and 24). So Brigham was right in what he said. Why does the committee feel the need to water him down? I have my guesses, but I’ll leave it to you to come up with ones of your own.

On page 140, the word “Presiding” was inserted by the committee, for no ascertainable reason. Brigham was not talking about the office of “Presiding Bishop” in his original remarks — he was talking about bishops of wards. It is dishonest of the committee to assert that Brigham meant “Presiding Bishop”. The committee has also removed from this sentence the fact that the Bishop has the authority to use the “Urim and Thummim”. If we put these two changes together, I can only conclude that the committee is uncomfortable with the idea that the Bishop of a ward can do something (use the Urim and Thummim) which is no longer part of the twentieth-century church’s mindset or way of thinking. Therefore, they have deliberately removed the U&T from the quotation, and changed the remainder to make it look as if the quotation is not about the ordinary Bishop of an ordinary ward. I consider this alteration to be historically dishonest.

Read D&C 107:87-88 to see that the Bishop is the “president over the Priesthood of Aaron”. To see that a *ward* Bishop rather than a Presiding Bishop is what is meant, read those verses in context, starting with verse 85. Then finally, read Brigham Young’s comments as they appeared originally — before the committee doctored them up — as follows:

When brother Miller was at the Seventies’ meeting in the city, a week ago last Saturday, I made some remarks on the items of doctrine before us, and the clerk wrote down a few of them. I took, I think, the purport of these remarks, and published them in the last week’s News. I then and there stated that a Bishop, and his Bishopric, cannot try any individual for error in doctrine. In reflecting upon this, let me ask, how do we understand doctrine? By revelation. What are the privileges of a Bishop? Has he the privilege of the administration of angels? Yes; this belongs to the lesser Priesthood. Has he the privilege of using the Urim and Thummim? Yes. The breastplate of Aaron that you read of in the Scriptures was a Urim and Thummim, fixed in bows similar to the one Joseph Smith found. Aaron wore this Urim and Thummim on his breast, and looked into it like looking on a mirror, and the information he needed was there obtained. This earth, when it becomes purified and sanctified, or celestialized, will become like a sea of glass; and a person, by looking into it, can know things past, present, and to come; though none but celestialized beings can enjoy this privilege. They will look into the earth, and the things they desire to know will be exhibited to them, the same as the face is seen by looking into a mirror.

The office of a Bishop belongs to the lesser Priesthood. He is the highest officer in the Aaronic Priesthood, and has the privilege of using the Urim and Thummim–has the administration of angels, if he has faith, and lives so that he can receive and enjoy all the blessings Aaron enjoyed. At the same time, could Aaron rise up and say, “I have as much power and authority as you, Moses?” No; for Moses held the keys and authority above all the rest upon the earth. He holds the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which is the Priesthood of the Son of God, which holds the keys of all these Priesthoods, dispensing the blessings and privileges of both Priesthoods to the people, as he did in the days of the children of Israel when he led them out of Egypt. This Priesthood has been on the earth at various times. Adam had it, Seth had it, Enoch had it, Noah had it, Abraham and Lot had it, and it was handed down to the days of the Prophets, long after the days of the ancients. But the people would not receive the Prophets, but persecuted them, stoned them and thrust them out of their cities, and they had to wander in the wilderness and make dens and caves their homes. The children of Israel never received the Melchizedek Priesthood; they went into bondage to enjoy it in part, but all its privileges and blessings they never would receive in full, until Jesus came, and then but a few of them would receive it. This High Priesthood rules, directs, governs, and controls all the Priesthoods, because it is the highest of all.

Near the bottom of page 140, there is a comment to bishops to be informed about the goings-on in their wards. The original quotation contains an interesting dig at the bishops of the church (“many of [them] are sleepy and good for nothing”) which, not surprisingly, didn’t get added to the study guide:

I will now refer to a portion of the discourse delivered here this afternoon, and say to the Bishops, that it would be highly gratifying to me, and to all of us, if you would prove yourselves wise stewards. You have a good opportunity to exhibit your abilities, and I say to the Bishop who has just addressed us, won’t you do as I have formerly directed you, and appoint good, wise, judicious men to go through your Ward, to find out what is in that Ward, and the situation of every family, whether they have money, flour, or costly clothing, or whether they are destitute and suffering? This is your business and calling. But many of our Bishops are sleepy and good for nothing, and if I were going to cleanse the Church, knowing the character of individuals, I think I should commence with the Bishops. Theirs is one of the most laborious and responsible offices in the whole Church; it is an office which requires men of the best skill, judgment and talent, to fill, and is one of the greatest importance. Bishops, will you take hold and try to make men of yourselves? After all I have said now and heretofore, if you were going to search your Wards, you would be very apt to come to me to inquire what you should do. I will tell you, do not let there be one place, in the habitations of the Saints in your Wards, about which you are uninformed. Brother Wooley has reported the circumstance of a Bishop finding a woman who had been living upon the charity of her neighbors, and who, at the same time, had valuable property, and money hid up. I can refer you to scores of like circumstances, and what is more, to some of the Elders, those who are supposed to be among the best of our Elders, who have been preaching abroad and brought their hundreds into the Church, who come here with a lie in their hearts and on their tongues, with regard to their means, and declare, emphatically, that they have no means to help themselves with, neither money nor goods.

Now look, you’ve gone and gotten me going, and now I have spent half an hour on this. I could probably come up with lots more if I spent more time on it. I think I’ll stop now, because this ought to be enough for starters.

Brian C. Madsen (I could be wrong about any of the assertions that I’ve made here, and would welcome corrections.)

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