Ask class members for reasons why they are grateful to be
members of the Church.
Ask, which of these things would be possible without
priesthood? The answer, of course, is none.
Today we discuss the oath and covenant of the
priesthood and the principles for exercising priesthood power. Why is this
lesson given in Sunday School and not Priesthood Meeting? Because it is applicable to both men and
women – men as active priesthood holders, responsible for the administration of
ordinances and governance of the Church; women in a passive priesthood role,
all of their good works being done through the power of godliness, or the
priesthood. The roles are different, but all are members of the same team. Therefore
all the principles for exercise of the priesthood must also be applied by women
as they carry out their roles as family members, teachers, and sisters in Zion.
Order of the Restoration of the Priesthood and its
Bill Beardall’s excellent Gospel Doctrine Class
website (which saved me many times many years ago when I began teaching) has great detail on this so I won't add anything here.
The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood
Elder Carlos E. Asay: “Of all the holy agreements
pertaining to the gospel of Jesus Christ, few, if any, would transcend in
importance the oath and covenant of the priesthood." (General Conference, Oct.
For whoso is faithful unto the
obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying
their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.
They become the sons of Moses and
of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of
And also all they who receive this priesthood
receive me, saith the Lord;
For he that receiveth my servants
And he that receiveth me
receiveth my Father;
And he that receiveth my Father
receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given
And this is according to the oath
and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.
Therefore, all those who receive
the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break,
neither can it be moved.
But whoso breaketh this covenant
after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have
forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.
And wo unto all those who come
not unto this priesthood which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you
who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens; and even I have
given the heavenly hosts and mine angels charge concerning you.
And I now give unto you a
commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words
of eternal life.
For you shall live by every word
that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.
Principles for Using the Priesthood Using The Example
of John Murdock
(All page references are to John Murdock: His Life and Legacy, by S. Reed Murdock.)
I enjoy hearing about some of the unsung heroes of the Restoration. Although most of us know that Joseph and Emma
Smith adopted twin babies whose mother had died, very few of us know much
about their birth father, what he did, how he felt, whether he was
faithful. I felt sympathetic enough
toward him to read his biography, and found his life very inspiring. From his journals, I find an example of
a man who, through troubles and trials, magnified his priesthood.
D&C 84:45-48: For the word of the Lord is truth, and
whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the
Spirit of Jesus Christ. And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh
into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that
hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit. And every one that hearkeneth to the
voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father. And the Father teacheth
him of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you, which is
confirmed upon you for your sakes, and not for your sakes only, but for the
sake of the whole world.
Brother Murdock searched for and recognized the true Church:
Through considerable religious
exploration, John had developed some essential points to which a religion must
subscribe: First, Baptism must be by immersion and a proper candidate for
baptism must be one who has faith that Jesus Christ died for our sins—therefore
infant baptism was not proper; second, because current churches had lost all
authority, “the Lord must either send an angel to baptize the first man, or he
must give special command to some one man to baptize another;” third, the Holy
Spirit must attend the “ministration” of the ordinances. (JMLL pg. 54)
“I read [the
Book of Mormon] till it was late and went into father Morley’s chamber to bed
and had not been long in bed, before [the family] returned [from a meeting confirming new members], and some half dozen or more
came into the same house, and as soon as they came into the house, although I
was in bed…the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, witnessing to me the truth of
the work.” (JMLL pg. 58)
John and his wife (Julia Clapp) had three small children, and had endured the death of an infant, when their twins were born and his wife died.
Late in his life, John revealed his real feelings in a
letter to his daughter Julia: “The anguish of soul that I felt at this time you
may try to imagine. I was bereft of a tender companion, a feeling mother, a
good housekeeper and one that I love and yet love the memory of her.” John’s
letter describes that the twins were born without any “great agony or pain to
the mother” and all appeared to be in order when Julia called for John and told
him she was going. She shook hands with John and all in the room and then quietly
died. “She took me by the hand and bid me farewell and also all in the room and
folded her arms acrost her breast peacably and sweetly went to sleep in Jesus
in hope of a glorius resurrection.” (JMLL pg. 68)
Of necessity, children in such situations in those days were often placed in other
families since there was no such thing as daycare. The newborns, of course, needed a lactating mother.
So the twins were placed with the Smiths, and
Orrice, 7, John R., 5, and Phebe, 3 with other families.
Brother Murdock paid for their keep as he
left on the mission he was called to in D&C 52.
D&C 84:65-68 “And these signs
shall follow them that believe— In my name they shall do many wonderful works;
In my name they shall cast out devils; In my name they shall heal the sick.”
John Murdock and Parley P. Pratt were mission companions.
After Parley and John left St. Louis, they experienced sore
trials. Parley was so sick he could not go on; he lay down in the prairie. John
spoke to Parley: "I said Bro. P. Can you travel any further, said ‘he could
not.’ I asked ‘Do you believe the Son will heal you. He said the Son would heal
him according to his Faith but my faith is small. I said do you want me to lay
hands on you. He said, ‘yes.’ I fell on my knees and with many tears laid my
hands on him in the name of the Lord Jesus, and prayed for him and we both
arose and traveled and gave glory to God for his goodness and Bro. P. gained
health and strength from that time.” (JMLL pg. 87)
While on the mission, baby Joseph died. Between missions
Brother Murdock boarded (probably) with one of the families keeping his
children. He also boarded with the Smiths (who had Julia, not yet 2) for a
short time, while attending the School of the Prophets. He did not reveal his
identity to Julia. She was not told
until she was 5 that she was adopted.
D&C 99:6-7: And now, verily I
say unto you, that it is not expedient that you should go until your children
are provided for, and sent up kindly unto the bishop of Zion. And after a few
years, if thou desirest of me, thou mayest go up also unto the goodly land, to
possess thine inheritance; Otherwise thou shalt continue proclaiming my gospel
until thou be taken. Amen.
He was called on another mission, but first “kindly
placed” his children.
March 18, 1833
D&C 107:18-19: The power and
authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all
the spiritual blessings of the church— To have the privilege of receiving the
mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to
commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the
communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new
Brother Murdock was privileged to see a vision of the
Heavens while at the School of the Prophets. “We had a number of prayer meetings in
the Prophet’s chamber, in which we obtained great blessings. In one of these
meetings the Prophet told us if we cold humble ourselves before God, and
exercise strong faith, we should see the face of the Lord. And about midday the
visions of my mind were opened, and the eyes of my understanding were
enlightened, and I saw the form of a man, most lovely, the visage of his face
was sound and fair as the sun. His hair a great silver grey, curled in most
majestic form. His eyes a keen penetrating blue, and the skin of his neck a
most beautiful white and he was covered from the neck to the feel with a loose
garment, pure white, whiter than any garment I have ever before seen. His
countenance was most penetrating, and yet most lovely. And while I was
endeavoring to comprehend the whole personage from head to feet it slipped from
me and the vision was closed up. But it left on my mind the impression of love
for months, that I never felt before to the degree.” (JMLL, pgs. 96-97)
Brother Murdock paid a church member $10 each to deliver
his children to Bishop Partridge in Zion, who placed each in a different home.
D&C 107:30-31: The decisions
of these quorums, or either of them, are to be made in all righteousness, in
holiness, and lowliness of heart, meekness and long-suffering, and in faith,
and virtue, and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness
and charity; Because the promise is, if these things abound in them they shall
not be unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord.
While on his second mission, Brother Murdock had to stand
for what was right and correct a priesthood leader, Ezra Landon.
“Landon was invited to meet with four of the high priests
privately [concerning the Vision of the Heavens]. The meeting was commenced
with prayer. Orson Pratt opened the conference, by stating that Brother Landon
had said, “The vision was of the Devil.” Landon responded by saying that he
would not have the revelation taught in the church “for one thousand dollars.”
Landon then rose and stressed the sacrifices he had made for the church and the
good he had done for the cause. John reminded Brother Landon that there were
many who had similarly sacrificed including Ezra Booth, who had suffered
privations and hardship, traveled to Missouri and had afterward denied the
revelations. Brother Landon was encouraged to repent: “Bro. Orson led in
explanation of the vision…Myself and Bro. Lyman followed….Bro. Landen confessed
that he had talked hard to the brethren, asked them for forgiveness, said that
he heartily received all that he taught and would teach it to the church, and
said he would not for two thousand dollars be set back where he was when we
came to him. We allowed him to stand in his office and a good portion of the
church met that afternoon and we taught the same things to the church….”
John Murdock joined with Zion’s Camp from the mission
field. Upon arriving in Jackson County, cholera broke out among the camp. The
members in the two homes nearest the camps took in the sick, although the
disease was extremely contagious. One of those homes was Sidney Gilbert’s.
Sidney Gilbert was one of the few men in the Church older than John Murdock,
Sidney being 43 and John 40. Sidney and his wife were childless, but had taken
in three children: Mary Elizabeth and Catherine Rollins, their nieces, the same
girls who saved the Book of Commandments. The other child was John’s own little
girl, Phebe, now 6. Both Sidney and Phebe got the disease, and Phebe died.
Fortunately, her father was there to sit with her through the end.
John Murdock took
to Phebe and attended her night and day for the next six days until early
morning on July 6th: “when the Spirit left the body at the break of
day…Two young brethren namely Reid Peck & Henry C. Rawlings assisted me and
we buried her by little after sun rise in the morning. She was decently laid
out, and they dug a grace and we laid 2 split shakes in the bottom and each
size and laid in some straw, and laid the corpse on it, laid to sticks across
and covered it over, and that was her coffin.” Phebe was 6 years old. (JMLL pg. 126) She was buried quickly at
night to avoid alarm among the Clay County citizens.
John remarried (Amoranda Turner) and gathered his two boys
home again. They had been so lovingly cared for, John in particular, that they
didn’t really want to leave the homes they had been placed in for the past
several years. Orrice was 12; John was 10. Amoranda died after only 1 year of
Remarried (Electa Allen). Three more children, two boys,
Gideon and Hyrum, and a baby girl who died.
D&C 121:45 Let thy bowels
also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let
virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong
in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon
thy soul as the dews from heaven.
John Murdock’s courage and peaceable demeaner ended a
confrontation with a mob near Adam-Ondi-Ahman.
“…when we were there [at Adam-Ondi-Ahman]
3 men, armed with rifles, came on horseback into the road forward of us, and
cocked their rifles…the forward one whose name was Elijah Frost, cried out
‘Damn you who are you and where are you going?’ Said I ‘Who are you and where
are you going?’ And I discovered they were Ruffians and as there was three of
them and two of us, I thought we would not give up so easy and put my hand to
my pistol, but at the same time discovered more of the same company, coming
over the ridge. I did not draw my pistol, and they soon were all round the
wagon, and I felt very safe, for the Lord took all fear from me. …I said to
them ‘gentlemen show me two men among you that shall be traveling the road
peaceably on their own business as we were doing, and let them be attacked by 3
ruffians, as we supposed we were and if they will not defend themselves, I will
show you two cowards and scoundrels’…I asked him if we could pass peaceable
without being ill treated. He said we should. I told him our brethren had the
same promise in Jackson Co. and then were driven out the next day at the point
of the sword and bayonet. They then with one consent cried out ‘Damn you’ and
cocked their rifles…I surrendered my pistol and Bro. Rufus his rifle and Frost
wished us well & wanted to shake hands with me. I did so, and told him
before he could do well, he must repent…”
D&C 84:76: But, verily I say
unto all those to whom the kingdom has been given—from you it must be preached
unto them, that they shall repent of their former evil works; for they are to
be upbraided for their evil hearts of unbelief, and your brethren in Zion for
their rebellion against you at the time I sent you.
"...They again cried out ‘damn you’ we do
not repent, again cocked their rifles, but after a little uncocked them, and I
said to them gentlemen if you are done with me, and have no further business
with me, I want you to open up right and left, and give me room to drive for I
will neither drive through you, or around you. And they opened up right and
left and I drove off on a walk…”
John endured the death of his third wife!
Remarried (Sarah Zufelt) and adopted her little boy, George.
Called as Bishop in Nauvoo.
September 19, 1846
While at Winter Quarters, little 2-year-old Hyrum died
and was buried in a cottonwood log for a coffin. The Murdocks took in 2 little
orphan girls whose parents also had died there.
John R. and Orrice both joined the Mormon Battalion. Rest
of the family traveled to Salt Lake Valley in the 2nd wagon train,
6-year-old Gideon driving the family’s second wagon the entire way. (This same
little boy was assigned to stand guard against Indians in Utah when he was 13,
armed with a very heavily loaded musket. He said, “I did not know which I was most afraid
of: the gun or the Indians.” Pg. 324) 19 wards were established upon
arrival at the Valley; John was Bishop of the 14th.
As John R. and Orrice both married, John & his fourth
wife Sarah had a new baby, Brigham Young Murdock. This numbered 13 children for John: 10 biological, two adopted (Sarah’s George and a little girl named Mary Cooper) and one
foster child (Martha Henderson). Orrice,
John, Julia-now-Smith, Gideon, and George are the only ones known to survive
childhood. George only lived to be 35.
D&C 84:33: For whoso is
faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and
the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of
On February 20, 1835 he had received his Patriarchal
Blessing at the hands of Joseph Smith, Sr. “…thy Children shall be blessed of the
Lord, and the Holy Priesthood, after the holy order of God shall be established
with thy children, and thy children’s children unto the end of the earth…thou
shalt have power to bring souls unto Jesus, by proclaiming the gospel till the
coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, in power and glory…” (JMLL pg. 135)
John Murdock magnified his callings outlined in the
He always desired to be a
missionary and requested a call to serve once again before he was too old and
infirm (he’d had bad health his whole adult life). He was called as one of the
first full-time missionaries to Australia, and president of the mission there. His
Letter of Recommendation from Brigham Young reads: “We invite all saints & honorable
men of the earth to receive this our beloved brother as a servant of the living
God—listen to his counsel & believe & practice his words & inasmuch
as you do these things ministering to his temporal necessities with joyful
hearts, you shall be blessed in time & in eternity.”
A month after his return, he was called as a patriarch,
in which capacity he served for 13 years.
He tried to live polygamy, but the 2nd wife
hated being in their household and would never move in, although she would come
over and help. After 2-1/2 years, the
marriage was dissolved. John never
stated any animosity whatsoever toward this wife.
Reunited through letter with Julia. After all those years, what did John relate
to her? His conversion story and
testimony of the gospel, as well as his reason for placing her with the Smiths
(none of his family were members).
John Murdock died at age 79, two days before Christmas. “John’s life became the gospel of Jesus Christ and
if there were a single word to capture the core of his relationship to the
gospel, it would be ‘constant.’ From
start to finish, John stayed true to the faith, he persevered to the end of his
mortal ability to do so." (JMLL
pg. 329). Hundreds of thousands of
members of the Church are the result of his missionary labors.
In the posterity of John Murdock, we see the blessing
fulfilled which the Lord promised to those who honor their priesthood.
Very few details are available about his three
adopted/foster children, and Julia, of course, left the church with her mother
Emma Smith, but his three biological sons were great contributors to the building of the Kingdom. Besides
serving in the Mormon Battalion, John R. helped rescue the Martin and Willie
handcart companies and became a great philanthropist when he became
wealthy. Orrice and John R. both
sheltered and raised others’ children during times of trial, as had been done
for them. They shared a great brotherhood their entire lives. When John R. died at age 87,
Orrice, then 89, held his hand in his casket, with tears running down his
face. He died within two years.
The younger son, Gideon, who was only six when his
brothers joined the Mormon Battalion, became a bishop and a sheriff and a
temple worker. He was well-known for his
lengthy prayers. “When Uncle Gideon would
come for dinner, the hostess would not put the potatoes on to cook until it was
time for Gideon to say the blessing on the food. When Gideon was through with the blessing,
the potatoes would be done as well.”
These three sons stood by their father and helped him all
his life, taking him into their homes in his old age. On the day of his death, Orrice wrote in his
journal, “My father departed this life.
He had born the heat and burden of the day. He has gone to reap the reward of a righteous
man.” May we keep the oath and covenant
of the Priesthood, and bear the heat and burden of the day to remain constant
to the Gospel cause as did John Murdock.