On Joseph's teachings on temples:
Is it a coincidence that three weeks after becoming a Mason JS founded the LDS temple ceremony and it was a 90% Masonic temple ceremony replica (washing & anointing, handshakes, clothing, signs and; tokens, covenants)?
The church claims that the Masonic temple ceremonies were carried down from Solomon's temple (from the masons who worked on that temple), and therefore the similarities (sadly this catch phrase is what I used as a missionary).
Um, well, the temples of old (Moses' tabernacle, Solomon's, Herod's), only talk about animal sacrifice (there were no personal endowments or baptisms for the dead).
The temple ceremony was perfect for Joseph, as a way to have secrecy around plural marriages, which he and the Qof12 and some of the Council of 50 were involved in (just the elites). A person in the ceremony is sworn to secrecy, under penalty of death (that Death Oath was only removed by the LDS church in 1990). Polygamy is taught plainly in D and C 132, still in the modern D and C. Now, we just call it temple marriage, or celestial marriage, and it's a main mantra of missionary work and testimonies of members, that it is the only way to be together forever, and all other marriages by any other minister or method are just for this life, they won't be valid in the eternities. Wow, it's hard to now even write this, as that is how I once believed.
When WW had the First Manifesto in 1890, polygamy dropped (not exactly, but here for brevity yes), and "forever families" became the mantra, and that's when genealogy for distant generations began. At that time the last person a family could find (the last generation) was sealed to Joseph Smith. Up until the 1890s temple sealings would take place for families to be sealed to the Princely Kingdom of Joseph Smith, or BY, or HCK, etc. That practice of "dyanstic sealings" ended in 1894, and now we're just sealed to each other (not to JS).
We are not together forever b/c of a temple literalistic, physical ceremony -- we are together forever b/c of God. Religions create rites and rituals -- it's what they do.
Sacraments are symbolic (not literal, e.g. there is no transubstantiation of the bread into a body or the water into blood -- and the same with baptism).
A secret temple ceremony was exactly what Joseph needed to conceal polygamy. ps, Emma was about his 13th wife sealed to him (b/c he was marrying other women w/out her knowledge). I try and look at polygamy from Emma's eyes, and all polygamy from the victims (women's) eyes.
On Joseph's teaching about priesthood:
a) there is only one scripture in the NT that talks about Melichizidek, and it was Paul saying there was an ancient King by that name who paid tithes to the temple. Okay, there was a king 3k years prior by that name.
b) If there was a higher Melchizidek priesthood of OT times, this would have been passed down in self-interest by the temple priests and the Pharisees of NT times would have used it to their advantage.
c) Circumstance: Joseph was in a tough time in Kirtland where people were starting to question his authority, so he kept expanding priesthood offices and giving himself and people close to him, higher offices. It was a remarkably changing and complex governance structure for such a small church, but it fit Joseph's needs to keeping giving more positions and elevating people, as Joseph's integrity and authority was being questioned by many
d) Changing Nature in modern times, e.g. originally a High Priest was Aaronic, but became Melchizidek. Even BY changed the priesthood offices, e.g. in JS's times tje High Council was charged with governance for where Zion was located at the time (Kirtland, Far West, Nauvoo), and the Qof12 were the travelling missionaries (which is why so many converts followed their missionaries/apostles west). Brigham though needed the Qof12 to be the governing council of SLC (not the HC), so he made the HC part of stakes (where it was more ubiquitous in nature, vs being responsible for governing the church as it had been). Also e.g., in JS' times a Bishop had responsibility to govern the finances of the church, but b/c BY wanted that control he switched that to the Qof12, and he was the President of the Qof12 (President of the church). This inured to his/Qof12's favor, you can see a fascinating financial ledger of the church, as the Qof12 in SLC would have financial interests in businesses co-owned by the church.
This financial mess of Qof12/church co-ownership (control inuring to the benefit of the leaders) got cleaned up in 1890 when the church was under threat from the federal government (Wilford talks about it in D and C) and assets were threatened to be seized b/c of polygamy (Edmunds-Tucker Act made that possible for the federal government). The church got a San Francisco law firm, which formed the Corporation of the CoJCoLDS, which is the entity that still exists today (that is how the church is still officially registered with the federal government). The changing nature of offices was a tool to grant others offices, control and self-benefit.
f) 1 Peter 2:9-10 calls the people of the church a royal priesthood. Hebrews 7: 26-28 makes clear that Jesus is the one High Priest.
Priesthood poorly applied is about control, and it's always been a tool of patriarchy. I respect churches that now allow women to have priesthood. Joseph Smith abused his authority (his priesthood in Mormon terms), by his abuse of women. When you read the accounts of some of the women (a few did write) about how they were approached, you see very clearly Joseph's grooming behavior of often young women, often his friends' wives (10-12 of his plural wives were already married), and of other women. Some did stand up to him, remarkable for the time, and said, No. Joseph's pattern on anyone who crossed him was to publicly shame theme (excommunications in IL, MO, OH) (e.g. he blamed all of polygamy, as did the RS in a written, signed statement of many women on John C Benett). Nancy Rigdon was one of a handful of women who had the courage to stand up to Joseph and to write about it. Joseph then called her a harlot, etc. We see priesthood abuses in modern times, across multiple churches. Authority and humans, usually don't mesh well.
The truth is priesthood is a type of is religious practice, but it's disguised in religions. Priesthood at its good core is service and intention, faith and visualization and law of attraction. It's that simple. We all have that God-endowed power, male and female -- the power to transcend, to heal, to do what is good -- is within each of us. You can experience the beauty of transcendent actualization by connecting directly to the Divine and the Universe. The blessings of the "priesthood" are real, I've experienced them -- but it's not b/c of a literal event (versions of which JS and OC changed and always differed on). Beauty is b/c of God, and your relationship and one'ness. Refinement is to see you as your higher self, you as endless energy, and we are all in this together.
Religions are a kind of insurance policy to the mind, and those that use priesthood as "the way" are using that as a means of control and dependence. You have control of you; You have the Power in you.
God does not authorize certain people to speak for Him. Yes there are writings of apostles and prophets, and they were inspired at their time. We can individually be inspired by God. We can listen to people whom we feel are inspired and we can discern to know if that's a belief or spiritual practice that will help us. We can't give our authority away to someone else. Prophets and teachers are simply guides to help us inwardly connect. The inward journey is the space of sacredness (not the churches and temples, the symbolic ceremonies, the literalistic teachings, the testimonies of others, etc.)
Yes I've seen good things happen with priesthood, and I've heard non-Mormon friends similarly talk about their good things that have come from prayer. It is intention and faith that fuels good things. If the Mormon priesthood had magic to it, there would be thousands of faith-healing stories (cancer healings, etc.) -- as there are thousands of daily blessings given.
The literalistic view of God giving 12 men his authority -- is not what Jesus said. Jesus simply asked those who followed him to go forth and teach. How many times did Paul talk about priesthood? How many times do you see the word priesthood appear in Christ's beatitudes? Jesus did not teach church, he taught a way of life. Paul taught and brought about a church in Corinth, in Galitia, in Rome, etc. Paul was right and wrong about some things (including the idea of centralized power). the Church of Jerusalem (Jesus' two brothers and one other apostle) likely had some things right and wrong as well.
Some "priesthood leaders" (Christian leaders of old or new) used words to state their understanding of Jesus. In the case of the disciples who walked with Jesus, only one NT author, perhaps Mark, can be attributed for original writing -- the rest (it shocked me to learn) is all writing of Paul (who never met Jesus), and of mostly Paul's followers -- decades later (up to 110 AD, but most writing of the NT done in 50-60 AD. What people wrote (their understanding) became "canonized" scripture, i.e. the Jesus Movement became Christology, which became churches, which eventually sync'd into one holy Roman church.
It's not about about priesthood or what guys 2-5k years wrote, or even 200 years ago (BOM, BoA, BoM, D&C), nor is it even about what good men say now from a pulpit in SLC or elsewhere (and some things they sat are still tragically caught in a past time). GOD is Source, and we can connect directly. If a church gives us structure that's great, but we can't let comfort (surrounding ourselves with people who worship the same we do, who bear testimonies like platitudes like we do), take away our inner authority and power. Does a child need church to live a life of good choices -- or can those teachings come from the parent, to guide the child's nature from within? Does an adult need to be told what to do, or can we seek the Lord's guidance from inner connection? (is that not moments of spirituality, of connection to the Divine?)
If we lend our inner authority to outside "authority," (churches and men are glad to play this role for you, and they require your money and time and emotional investment), then we are bound to repeat these hard lessons in a next-existence.
Joseph Smith was FASCINATED, as many religious contemporaries of his time were, with restoring the NT church. Joseph wanted to go deeper though into OT times, so he read the one scripture in NT and OT that talks about a King named Melchiziked, and he created a priesthood from that (which not even the Jews or the NT disciples wrote about). Joseph was fascinated with rites and rituals and ancient things. Recall that the Smiths were known treasure seekers, that the magic worldview was common for the early 1800s, and that treasure seeking by nature is a set of incantations, recitations, rituals, etc. so the treasure can be found (so the guardian of the treasure won't cause it to be slippery). Having a higher order of knowledge and rites gave Joseph what he wanted, the mystique, the ability to give offices to those loyal to him, etc. Mormonism stands alone among religions in its temple rites (especially for dead people), and its view of priesthood (other than Catholics).
Joseph changed his version of May 1829 priesthood restoration three times, and he never spoke of it until 1832, two years after the church was formed. Oliver Cowdery's version always said there was an "angel" (singular). Sydney Rigdon was a trained theologian and his Stone-Campbell tradition there as speculation about an ancient, other/higher priesthood .
Yes there was a Levitical Priesthood in OT and NT times to administer the rites (animal sacrifice) of the temple. Christ is the High Priest. It was the Catholic church that continued the idea of priesthood, and it's been churches throughout protestant time that have used that for authoritative advantage.
The LDS church had 1830s/40s success in England for example, as any rank and file man could be made a priest and have the same sacramental authority of the stuffy Anglican priests -- it was empowering and ubiquitious.
Priesthood is simply service, those who serve others (not a literal hand-down of OT authority or something renewed in 1829). It is service to others, and I admire the churches that have priesthood as part of their doctrinal observance, to have women as priests (In LDS temple women are only endowed to become priestesses in the next life).
We are together forever not because of a litaralistic event in May 1829 at the banks of the Sasquehanna river, but because of GOD. The idea that eternal togetherness only happens if you have a sealing in Mormon temple, takes away from the all-powerfullness of God (and creates the idea that God needs humans to save humans and to keep them together for eternity).
On Joseph's teachings of women:
Joseph always publicly preached against polygamy (he did teach it privately in Council of 50 though). Public statements against polygamy include his Times and Seasons articles, statements he made to the Relief Society (when 4-5 of the women in the audience were already his plural wives), the former D and C 101:4 revelation which defined marriage between one man and one woman, etc.) (Brigham later had it removed in SLC and replaced with D&C 132).
It was a giant contradiction that Joseph publicly preached against polygamy, yet he and key leaders privately practiced it and he privately taught it. I believe polygamy was secretive in Nauvoo b/c it would have been a death nail for Joseph. These were Victorian times and religious polygamy was considered obscene. The first time the church made polygamy official publicly was in the safe confines of SLC in 1852, by BY. After that, missionary work in England and elsewhere decline -- people not wanting to join a polygamous church.
Church members should be concerned for the victims of polygamy (not trying to defend past leaders). Religious polygamy was patriarchal abuse of women. There's a reason it was only practiced by about 5% of the male population of the church (b/c they were the leaders and in a 50/50 birth rate situation, you have to have numbers).
Religious polygamy was male elitism, it was perniciously wrong, and its legacy is still around today:
1) FLDS and other fundamentalist groups. LDS folks like to disassociate themselves from FLDS folks, but polygamy was practiced by the same, first prophets that both groups claim: JS, BY, JT, WW
2) LDS Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints still believes in polygamy in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom (no longer taught in the watered down manuals), and still practices spiritual wifery (a man can be sealed to more than one woman still today, e.g. a widow, or a divorcee (in some cases).
In summary, Joseph was inspired in many ways, but priesthood became misuse of authority (authority always does in men's hands -- which was polygamy). LDS priesthood is still misused (patriarchy, piousness, etc.) LDS temple rites are unnecessary and a means Joseph used to advance the secrecy he needed for polygamy, and to create the exclusivity claims he desired. We don't need underwear with Masonic marks (compass, square) in them for our protection or spiritual reminding. LDS temple rites take away from the power of God (God Almighty doesn't need humans to save humans -- it's good, don't worry about it like Joseph worried about Alvin and then took one NT scripture and made it a new religious practice). And, women are not just equal, in most ways they are superior. It's about damn time that women have their place in society as leaders, I love seeing nations like New Zealand (former Mormon), Denmark and Finland led by women. We'd be much better off if women led the world, I guarantee it. Mormons would be much better off the same (90% of GC talks are still male, and there are 0% GAs and 0% women in priesthood); patriarchy is a dangerous social relic (and that's what male-only priesthood is).