Joseph Smith's 1840 General Conference Talk
President Joseph Smith
1st President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
10th Semiannual Conference
"There are many things which belong to the powers of the priesthood and the keys thereof that have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world."
(***NOTE*** Joseph gave talks at earlier conferences, but most were not recorded in their entirety. Notes or summations were made of his remarks and were published in church newspapers, like The Times and Seasons. Other conference address transcripts -- like this one -- came from attendees journals and personal writings. I chose to use this discourse as his "earliest conference talk" because it was the oldest one I could find that included a full transcript. To preserve the time period flavor of the transcription I didn't edit the spelling or grammar. This one was recorded by Robert B. Thompson)
In order to investigate the subject of the Priesthood so important to this as well as every succeeding generation, I shall proceed to trace the subject as far as I possibly can from the Old and new Testament.
There are two Priesthoods spoken of in the Scriptures, viz the Melchisadeck and the Aaronic or Levitical Altho there are two Priesthoods, yet the Melchisadeck Priesthood comprehends the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood and is the Grand head, and holds the highest Authority which pertains to the Priesthood the keys of the Kingdom of God in all ages of the world to the latest posterity on the earth and is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation and every important matter is revealed from heaven. Its institution was prior to "the foundation of this earth or the morning stars sang together or the Sons of God shouted for joy," and is the highest and holiest Priesthood and is after the order of the Son [of] God, and all other Priesthoods are only parts, ramifications, powers and blessings belonging to the same and are held controlled and directed by it. It is the channel through which the Almighty commenced revealing his glory at the beginning of the creation of this earth and through which he has continued to reveal himself to the children of men to the present time and through which he will make known his purposes to the end of time—Commencing with Adam who was the first man who is spoken of in Daniel as being the "Antient of days" or in other words the first and oldest of all, the great grand progenitor of whom it is said in another place he is Michael because he was the first and father of all, not only by progeny, but he was the first to hold the spiritual blessings, the plan to whom was made known the plan of ordinances for the Salvation of his posterity unto the end, and to whom Christ was first revealed, and through whom Christ has been revealed from heaven and will continue to be revealed from henceforth. Adam holds the Keys of the dispensation of the fulness of times, i.e. the dispensation of all the times have been and will be revealed through him from the begining to Christ and from Christ to the end of all world the dispensations that have [been and] are to be revealed
Ephesians 1st Chap 9 & 10 verses. "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he has purposed in himself that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ both which are in heaven and which are on earth in him" Now the purpose in himself in the winding up scene of the last dispensation is, that all things pertaining to that dispensation should be conducted precisely in accordance with the preceeding dispensations. And again, God purposed in himself that there should not be an eternal fulness until every dispensation should be fulfilled and gathered together in one and that all things whatsoever that should be gathered together in one in those dispensations unto the same fulness and eternal glory should be in Christ Jesus, therefore he set the ordinances to be the same for Ever and ever and set Adam to watch over them to reveal them from heaven to man or to send Angels to reveal them Heb 1 Chap. 16 verse. Are they not all ministring spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of Salvation. These angels are under the direction of Michael or Adam who acts under the direction of Christ.
From the above quotation we learn that Paul perfectly understood the purpose of God in relation to his connexion with man, and that glorious and perfect order which he established in himself whereby he sent forth power revelations and glory. God will not acknowledge that which he has not called, ordained, and chosen. In the begining God called Adam by his own voice See Genesis 3 Chap 9 & 10 verses. And the Lord called unto Adam and said unto him where art thou, and he said I heard thy voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked and hid myself. Adam received commandments and instruction from God. this was the order from the begining: that he received revelations, Commandments, and ordinances at the begining is beyond the power of controversy, else, how did they begin to offer Sacrifices to God in an acceptable manner? And if they offered sacrifices they must be authorized by ordination. We read in Gen 4th Chap. v. 4 That Abel brought of the firstlings of the flock and the fat thereof and the Lord had respect to Abel and to his offring. And again Heb 11 Chap 4 verse. By Faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent Sacrifice than Cain by which he obtained witness that he was righteous God testifying of his gifts and by it he being dead yet speaketh. how doth ye yet speak? Why he magnified the Priesthood which was confired upon him and died a righteous man, and therefore has become a righteous man an angel of God by receiving his body from the dead, therefore holding still the keys of his dispensation and was sent down from heaven unto Paul to minister consoling words & to commit unto him a knowledge of the mysteries of Godliness and if this was not the case I would ask how did Paul know so much about Abel and why should he talk about his speaking after he was dead. How that he spoke after he was dead must be, by being sent down out of heaven, to administer.
This then is the nature of the priesthood, every man holding the presidency of his dispensation and one man holding the presidency of them all even Adam, and Adam receiving his presidency and authority from Christ, but cannot receive a fulness, untill Christ shall present. the kingdom to the Father which shall be at the end of the last dispensation. The power, glory, and blessings of the priesthood could not continue with those who received ordination only as their righteousness continued, for Cain also being authorized to offer sacrifice but not offering it in righteousness, therefore he was cursed. It signifies then, that the ordinances must be kept in the very way God has appointed, otherwise their priesthood will prove a cursing instead of a blessing. If Cain had fulfilled the law of righteousness as did Enoch he could have walked with God all the days of his life and never failed of a blessing. Gen [5:22] And Enock walked with God after he begat Mathusalah 300 years and begat Sons and Daughters and all the days of Enoch were 365 years and Enoch walked with God and he was not for God took him. Now this Enoch God reserved unto himself that he shoud not die at that time and appointed unto him a ministry unto terrestiral bodies of whom there has been but little revealed, He is reserved also unto the presidency of a dispensation. and more shall be said of him and terrestrial bodies in another treaties. He is a ministring Angel to minister to those who shall be heirs of Salvation and appered unto Jude as Abel did unto Paul. therefore Jude spoke of him 14 & 15 verses in Jude. and Enoch the seventh revealed these sayings. Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints Paul was also aquainted with this character and received instructions from him. Heb Chap. 5 ver By Faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death, and was not found because God had translated him for before his translation he had this testimony that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please God, for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a revealer to those who diligently seek him.
Now the doctrine of translation is a power which belongs to this priesthood, there are many things which belong to the powers of the priesthood and the keys thereof that have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world. They are hid from the wise and prudent to be revealed in the last times many may have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God and into an Eternal fulness but this is a mistaken idea. There place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order and a place prepared for such characters, he had in he held in reserve to be ministring angels unto many planets, and who as yet have not entered into so great a fulness as those who are resurrected from the dead. See Heb 11 Chap part of the 35 verse "others were tortured not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection". Now it was evident, that there was a better resurrection or else God would not have revealed it unto Paul [p.42] wherein then can it be said a better ressurrection? This distinction is made between the doctrine of the actual ressurrection and the doctrine of translation, the doctrine of translation obtains deliverance from the tortures and sufferings of the body but their existence will prolong as to their labors and toils of the ministry before they can enter into so great a rest and glory, but on the other hand those who were tortured not accepting deliverance received an immediate rest from their labors, See Rev [14:13] And I heard a voice from heaven saying blessed are the dead who die in the Lord for from henceforth they do rest from their labors and their works do follow them—They rest from their labors for a long time and yet their work is held in reserve for them, that they are permitted to do the same works after they receive a ressurection for their bodies, but we shall leave this subject and the subject of the terresteal bodies for another time in order to treat upon them more fully. The next great grand patriarch who held the Keys of the priesthood was Lamech. See Gen 5 Chap 28 & 29 verses—And Lamech lived 182 years and begat a Son and he called his name Noah saying this same shall comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands because of the ground which the Lord has curst.
The priesthood continued from Lamech to Noah Gen 6 Chap 13 verse. And God said unto Noah the end of all flesh is before me, for the earth is filled with violence through them, and behold I will destroy them with the earth," thus we behold the Keys of this priesthood consisted in obtaining the voice of Jehovah that he talked with him in a familiar and friendly manner, that he continued to him the Keys, the Covenants, the power and the glory with which he blessed Adam at the beginning and the offring of Sacrifice which also shall be continued at the last time, for all the ordinances and duties that ever have been required by the priesthood under the direction and commandments of the Almighty in the last dispensation at the end thereof in any of the dispensations, shall all be had in the last dispensation. Therefore all things had under the Authority of the Priesthood at any former period shall be had again—bringing to pass the restoration spoken of by the mouth of all the Holy Prophets. Malachi 3 then shall the sons of Levi offer unto the Lord an acceptable offring then shall the sons of Levi offer an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord Se[e] Malichi 3 Chap. 3 & 4 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of Silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord.
It will be necessary here to make a few observations on the doctrine, set forth in the above quotation, As it is generally supposed that Sacrifice was entirely done away when the great sacrife was offered up—and that there will be no necessity for the ordinance of Sacrifice in future, but those who assert this, are certainly not aquainted with the duties, privileges and authority of the priesthood. or with the prophets The offering of Sacrifice has ever been connected and forms a part of the duties of the priesthood. It began with the prieshood and will be continued untill after the coming of Christ from generation to generation—We freequently have mention made of the offering of Sacrifice by the servants of the most high in antient days prior to the law of moses, See which ordinances will be continued when the priesthood is restored with all its authority power and blessings. Elijah was the last prophet that held the keys of this priesthood, and who will, before the last dispensation, restore the authority and delive[r] the Keys of this priesthood in order that all the ordinances may be attended to in righteousness.
It is true that the Savior had authoritity and power to bestow this blessing but the Sons of Levi were too predjudi[ced]
And I will send Elijah the Prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord &c &c.
Why send Elijah because he holds the Keys of the Authority to administer in all the ordinances of the priesthood and without the authority is given the ordinances could not be administered in righteousness.
It is a very prevalent opinion that in the sacrifices of sacrifices which were offered were entirely consumed, this was not the case if you read Leviticus  Chap [2-3] verses you will observe that the priests took a part as a memorial and offered it up before the Lord, while the remainder was kept for the benefit maintenance of the priests. So that the offerings and sacrifices are not all consumed upon the Alter, but the blood is sprinkled and the fat and certain other portions are consumed. These sacrifices as well as every ordinance belonging to the priesthood will when the temple of the Lord shall be built and the Sons Levi be purified be fully restored and attended to then all their powers ramifications and blessings—this the Sons of Levi shall be purified. ever was and will exist when the powers of the Melchisid Priesthood are sufficientIy manifest. Else how can the restitution of all things spoken of by all the Holy Prophets be brought to pass. It is not to be understood that, the law of moses will be established again with all it rights and variety of ceremonies, ceremonies, this had never been spoken of by the prophets but those things which existed prior Mose's day viz Sacrifice will be continued —It may be asked by some what necessity for Sacrifice since the great Sacrifice was offered? In answer to which if Repentance Baptism and faith were necessary to Salvation existed prior to the days of Christ what necessity for them since that time —
The priesthood has descended in a regular line from Father to Son through their succeeding generations