40 years ago today - Mar 26, 1979-Monday

[Leonard Arrington]
Further on Second Anointings

In conversation with a number of [Historical Department] staff members about Second Anointings, this morning, I learned the following things:

1. There were a considerable number of Second Anointings given in the Nauvoo Temple in 1846, also a number that were given by the Prophet [Joseph Smith] outside the Nauvoo Temple before it was completed, presumably in the upper story of his store. By the time of the departure from Nauvoo in February 1846, there were probably several dozen persons who had received Second Anointings. Then there was a hiatus and no Second Anointings were performed until 1866-67. Likewise, no adoptions were performed during that period. It is quite probable that Brigham Young took the attitude that these ordinances could be performed only in a completed, dedicated temple and he was awaiting the completion of the Salt Lake Temple. Then for some reason there was a decision to begin conferring them again in the Endowment House [in Salt Lake City], because the completion of the temple was too far away and there were a number of new apostles who had not received Second Anointings and should have them-examples, Joseph F. Smith, George Q. Cannon, Brigham Young, Jr., etc. But they still held off any adoption ordinances, awaiting the completion of the temple. Then finally there was Wilford Woodruff's revelation of the 1890s that no more adoptions should be performed.

2. In the original ceremony they conferred the sealing power, which they spoke of in shorthand terms as "the fullness." In the 1920s when we began to have trouble with the [Mormon] Fundamentalists, President [Heber J.] Grant changed the ceremony to the extent of leaving out "the fullness" or the conveying of this, which might have given authority to those receiving it (some of whom might be or might become Fundamentalists) to have this power.

3. There have been few Second Anointings granted in the present generation, but a temple worker told one of the staff that President [Spencer W.] Kimball recently revived the practice and has been administering Second Anointings to selected people.

4. The ceremony involved both women and men; originally it was given to the men in the temple and then they went through the second part of the ordinance in their own homes in a sacred room set aside for the purpose. In Utah it appears to have been performed only in temples and the Endowment House, with the husband and wife together. The ceremony involves making priests and priestesses equal to gods and goddesses of the recipients. The husband is anointed by the presiding official-almost always the president of the Church-and then there is a portion of the ceremony in which the wife goes through a symbolic ceremony of preparing the husband's body for burial and for resurrection, and she uses her equivalent to the priesthood to anoint him and to seal him up for the resurrection. Because of this portion, some women in pioneer Utah, on the basis of their diaries and histories, apparently thought that the priesthood was being conferred upon them. This is apparently not something which women in this century have assumed. But there must be something to the idea, since they are not only sharing in the symbolic ceremony as recipients but also actively performing an ordinance which involves sealing-performing this on authority which they receive during the ceremony.

5. It is my understanding that this is one of the most sacred of all ordinances performed in the temple-that it is comparatively rare-and that it is a most secret ceremony. I am told the Church officials do not wish the term Second Anointings to appear in print. If it needs to be spoken of in some context, then the shorthand term "the fullness" is usually referred to, and that might appear in print occasionally, although rarely.

6. It is my understanding that much of the trouble between Brigham Young and [Joseph Smith's brother] William Smith was over the issue of the authority which William Smith had been given in his Second Anointing. He thought he had the sealing power and wanted to seal people on his own authority. Brigham Young responded to him in a letter in our possession which recalls to him a conversation on the second floor of Joseph's store about the matter, in which Joseph said that there was a difference between being granted a potential power as gods and goddesses, and being granted the keys of Elijah; only one person on earth, the prophet, has the keys of Elijah-this is not shared by a number of people and is not conveyed except potentially in the Second Anointing ceremony. And even the potential authority and power, which often could lead to misunderstanding, was removed in the 1920s by President Grant.

I asked Ron Walker, who is a bishop, if Second Anointings are mentioned in the bishop's handbook. He said no. He said it was his understanding that neither a bishop nor a stake president may recommend persons to receive Second Anointings-this must come from a General Authority, and the only instances he knows of have come from the president of the Church. He said that in his ward there are probably no more than six who have received Second Anointings. Of these, two are General Authorities; one is the surviving widow of a former stake president who was a personal friend of one of the presidents of the Church; another is the surviving widow of a person who is a personal friend of another president of the Church. He said there may be two others, but he's not completely sure. That's out of a ward of 500 or 600 people. He said he had the impression that there were not many granted during the last 30 years but that there is some slight resumption since President Kimball became president.

[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]

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