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The Melchizedec priesthood consists of high priests and elders, who take charge of all spiritual affairs, hold the spiritual keys, receive heavenly mysteries, commune with the general assembly and church of the firstborn, &c., and the high priests have a right to officiate in the office of an elder, priest, &c. of the Levitical priesthood, which deals with temporalities. But there are official distinctions—(1.) a presidency or high council of three high priests residing at Zion, or the centre, now Great Salt Lake City. (2.) Twelve apostles or special witnesses, and (3.) seventy evangelists. The apostles act under the direction of the presidency, and the evangelists under that of the apostles ; and though the theory is that each of these orders is equal in authority to the others, practically the chief power is in the high council at Zion ; for the apostles and evangelists at the “Stakes," or foreign stations, are only able to act with equal authority when a majority of them are assembled,--and when those thus met are unanimous; a double concurrence, seldom likely to happen.
The Aaronic priesthood consists of bishops, priests, teachers and deacons, who administer the ordinances, and conduct the temporal affairs of the church. But a bishop, unless a literal descendant of Aaron (!) must be a high priest also of the Melchizedec priesthood ; a significant proviso.
Superadded to these distinctions is a general law of presidency viz., one president over twenty-four teachers; one, (who must be a bishop) over fortyeight priests ; one over ninety-six elders ; one out of the twelve apostles ; and one out of the three
high priest presidents, who thus becomes in fact, Pontifex Maximus, or Pope. One order yet remains, viz., the seventy elders belonging to the Melchizedec priesthood, who have seven presidents out of their own number, the seventh of whom presides over the other six ; and these seven are empowered to choose seventy times their own number, or 490, not included in the original seventy, and who are reserved for domestic rather than for foreign service.
II. THE SPIRITUAL WIFE QUESTION, must now be referred to at some length, as betokening the social tendencies which Mormonism has not only speculatively but practically developed. Not very remotely it was the cause of Smith's assassination, and brought his church to the verge of dissolution. “The Books of Doctrines and Covenants" seem not to sanction, but forbid the practice,—which is a mere euphonism for polygamy-and the earlier official addresses were emphatic in the negative; but there is now reason to know that Snuith's creed was no better than his conduct, and that excesses under that equivocal name were committed and sought to be concealed. If dependance is to be placed on testinony respecting the present President, Brigham Young, he glories in his shame, so as to make every friend of modesty and morality blush for him, and sigh over his evil example, which must " corrupt good manners.”
The policy of the Mormon leaders, in relation to this subject, has been characterized by a crookedness and want of practical truth, savouring more of hu. man craft than of sacred simplicity. We have seen how Foster and Law were expelled from Nauvoo for asserting that Smith acted upon Rigdon's doctrine of spiritual wifeship, which less than a year ago, Young spoke of as a fact long and notoriously known! By carefully perusing what is said in the Book of Covenants' on Marriage, &c., it will be observed that the regulations there prescribed are so worded as to appear in their letter and tenor opposed to anything bearing the likeness of licentiousness, as commonly understood, and yet permitting the introduction of those doctrines which are now shamelessly announced. Adultery and fornication are vehemently condemned; and referring to marriage, it is said “ Marriage is ordained of God unto man; wherefore it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh;" (yet not distinctly affirming tliat many wives would be unlawful ;) and still more cunningly,—"Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife, (but mark ! not one only) and one woman but one husband ; (here the limitation is defined,) except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again." This guilesome phraseology has imposed on authors and reviewers, and inclined some who wished to err on the side of lenity, to hold their minds in abeyance, notwithstanding the numerous confessions and exposures which had been volunteered and published. But the hands which assisted to weave the veil have torn it off, and the imposition in its unveiled meretricious infamy is now made visible to the world.
The evidence relative to this point is direct and redundant ; shewing how “evil men and seducers" are sure "to wax worse and worse.”
The two Judges and Secretary appointed by the Supreme Government of the United States to administer justice in Utah, and who were compelled to make a retreat from the disaffected community they found at Salt Lake City, say in their report to the President at Washington, “We deem it our duty to state in this official communication, that polygamy, or plurality of wives, is openly avowed and practised in the territory, under the sanction, and in obedience to the direct commands of the church. So universal is this practice, that very few, if any, of the leading members in that community can be found who have not more than one wife each. The prominent men in the church, whose example in all things, it is the ambition of the more humble to imitate, have each many wives ; some, we are credibly informed, and believe, as many as twenty or thirty, and Brigham Young the Governor, even a greater number. It is not uncommon to find two or more sisters married to the same man; and in one instance, a mother and her two daughters are among the wives of a leading member of the church. This practice, regarded and punished as a high and revolting crime in all civilized countries, could of course never be made a statuary offence by a Mormon Legislature ; and if a crime at common law, the Court would be powerless to correct the evil with Mormon Juries."
From this incontestable testimony, nothing is more certain than the appalling social demoralization and degradation, into which Mormonism, like a monster whirlpool, is drawing its myriads of members.
It might almost seem as if the situation of the capital near the Great Salt Lake, which resembles in many remarkable particulars the Dead Sea in Palestine, was selected as a local signal of the intention to make it rival in audacious iniquity, those guilty cities which perished under a deluge of fire, and now lie concealed in a grave of stagnant brine. The analogical coincidence is, to say the least, of a very noticeable kind.
The above report of the learned Judges was presented rather more than a year ago ; and that the morality of the “Church" has not improved since that period, is too evident from the proceedings at the Great Conference held in Salt Lake City, no farther back than August 28th, 1852.
The Millennial Star, the English weekly organ of the body, has published an extraordinary supplement, reporting the proceedings of this Conference, at which the First Presidency, the Presiding Patriarch, and seven of the twelve • Apostles' took part, with about 2000 elders' around them. On Sunday, the 29th, Mr. Orson Pratt the premier of the Apostle-hood, as official oracle of thie highest powers, made a long and elaborate speech, in which the doctrine of polygamy, or plurality of wives, was explained, defended, and enforced, as one of the cardinal Articles of the Mormon Creed, as it is to be. Every art of special pleading was adopted to give the dogma a speculative and theological aspect, and one wonderfully accrodant with the Old and New Testament scriptures. The impression however, will hang upon the reader, that the dogma has produced the speculation, and not the speculation the dogma. It is but too certain, at least, that the people will worship the abominable idol without