I finished up my conversation with Greg Prince this week, and we hit on several topics.  Here are some interesting snippets.   Concerning Priesthood structure, Greg tells why women were no longer allowed to bless the sick by laying on of hands.

Greg:  That really coincided with the effort to try to get the men to function in their priesthood quorums because by the turn of the 20th century, and even before that, most of the quorums didn’t function in any meaningful fashion.

So if you look at any priesthood manuals, particularly in the ‘20s and ‘30s, the focus year after year was to try to get quorums to function.  Try to get men to understand what priesthood is and to try to do something about it.  Well if the women are doing the same thing that you want the men to be doing, that muddies the water.  So the answer was, women quit doing it.

GT:  Oh really?  Is that why?

Greg:  Yes.

GT:  You think that’s why.  So that’s why the church took away blessing of the sick from the women and essentially gave it to males.

Greg:  Yes.  If you go back to one of the early issues of Sunstone, the cover article on that is called A Gift Given, a Gift Taken.[1]  Linda Newell is one of the authors.

I asked him when the LDS started ordaining young men?

  • Greg:  My recollection is that I think it was 1904.  Joseph Keeler published a book under the direction of the First Presidency, that’s stated in the preface, and I’m blocking on what the name of it was but it was almost a general handbook of instructions.  I think it was Lesser Priesthood and Church Governance (or something like that.)  It went through two editions and he changed the title later on.  But as far as I can tell, that was the first time when ages were prescribed for ordination into the Aaronic Priesthood.  Initially it was 12, 15, and 18 for Deacon, Teacher, and Priest.

He also told an interesting story where a non-LDS young man was allowed to pass the sacrament!  Concerning the Teachers quorum,  Greg said,

  • “In the 19th century, the boys weren’t part of priesthood.  The Teachers were really the glue that held the church together, because the Teachers were now what we would call the home teachers, but they were adult men.  If you go back and look at the records of wards in the 19th century, one of the richest records, and a fascinating record is the record of Teachers meetings.  I looked through the 8th ward, because Elijah Sheets was the bishop of that ward for 48 years.  I think it’s safe to say that record will never be broken.”

Concerning priesthood, did you know that the church was organized with only 3 priesthood offices?  Greg said,

  • “The Nephite Christian Church described in the latter chapters of the Book of Mormon had only three offices:  teachers, priests, and elders, and there’s minimal description in there, but there was a differentiation between the teachers and priests on the one hand, and elders on the other hand.  The word “priesthood” was not used.  In fact “priesthood” was more likely to be interpreted as “priestcraft” in the Book of Mormon, the evil priests.”

He said bishops and deacons were added until after Sidney Rigdon’s baptism.  Sidney converted from the Campbellite tradition, and felt those two offices needed to be added.  Sidney ordained the first bishop of the church, Edward Partridge.

But some of my favorite quotes came when he talked about the Word of Wisdom.  One commenter asked on Sunday, “Ice tea isn’t OK?”

Greg:  When they said “hot drinks,” it mean drinks that were hot.  It wasn’t what was in them.

GT:  Including hot chocolate?

Greg:  People didn’t drink hot chocolate.  They only drank two hot drinks:  coffee and tea.  But it wasn’t the content, it was the temperature.  It moved you out of that zone of moderation, out of temperance.

If there had been iced drinks, probably the Word of Wisdom would have said no hot drinks and no iced drinks because the whole notion was temperance, moderation.

GT:  Some would say, is that really revelation then, or is that just the thinking of the day?

Greg:  Well you get into the circular argument on that.  Is something revelation because we call it revelation, or is the nature of the something what later qualifies it as being revelation?  If you’re looking for the splitting the ceiling and the voice of the Lord dropping through-type revelation, how many instances of that do we have within the LDS Church tradition?

Hear what he has to say about meat and grains, and the Temperance Movement!  Prince also tells some stories about President McKay.  You may have heard his story about drinking Coca-Cola, but one person disputed that story.  Did McKay prefer Coke or Pepsi?

Some questions:

  • Were you aware that there were only 3 priesthood offices on April 6, 1830?
  • Do you think the Word of Wisdom has a better naturalistic explanation than miraculous?
  • Is ordaining boys a good idea?
  • What are your thoughts regarding women no longer blessing with laying on of hands?

[1] A PDF of the article where women couldn’t lay hands on the sick anymore can be found at https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/029-16-25.pdf