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Have You Considered? Priesthood Office Of Seventy

Saints of the Restoration
“Have You Considered?”
Published April 19th, 2008
 

There has been a fair amount of discussion recently about whether a Restoration organization should or should not call and ordain seventy. There has also been discussion about whether the seventy are elders or “beyond” elders.  The entire discussion centers on what is written about seventy in the Doctrine & Covenants. But what does the fullness of the gospel as contained in the Inspired Version and Book of Mormon say about seventy?

 

In the entire Book of Mormon, the only uses of the word “seventy” are in the context of the number of years that have passed since some event, the number of people associated with an event, or someone’s age.  So, there is no support in the Book of Mormon for ordaining anyone as a seventy.

 

Like the Book of Mormon, most uses of the word “seventy” in the Inspired Version are in the context of numbering years, age, people, things, etc.  However, there are a few instances that are worth more careful examination.

 

In Exodus chapter 24, the Lord invites seventy elders of Israel to worship “afar off” while Moses is on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights. During the 40 days and nights that Moses is on Mount Sinai, the Israelites make a golden calf to worship. Consequently, this reference to seventy elders would be a poor one to use as the basis for calling priesthood to be “traveling ministers unto the Gentiles, first, and also unto the Jews” (D&C 104:43c) and “traveling ministers and preachers of the gospel, to persuade men to obey the truth” (D&C 120:3b). “Elders” in this context can be judged as meaning those that are leaders in the tribes of Israel but not those that have a calling to ministry.

 

In Numbers chapter 11, when the Israelites are tired of manna, the Lord has Moses gather seventy elders of Israel to stand as witnesses round about the tabernacle. When the Lord comes to the tabernacle, he gives them a portion of his Spirit and these elders prophesy. Ultimately the Lord gives the Israelites quail to eat but recall that the Lord was extremely displeased with the Israelites for complaining about the manna he provided as a gift. Additionally, there is no mention that these seventy elders were sent as “traveling ministers and preachers”. Consequently, this reference can’t be used as the basis for ordaining anyone as a seventy who performs that function. So again, this reference would be a poor one to use as the basis for justifying the seventy as defined in the D&C.

 

Luke chapter 10 twice refers to a group of seventy who have been given priesthood authority; specifically:

 

Luke 10:1-2

 

1 After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face, into every city and place where he himself would come.

2 And he said unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.

 

and

 

Luke 10:18

 

18 And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us through thy name.

 

The Restoration holds that the seventy in Luke 10 were elders. But what evidence is there that they were actually elders?  Why couldn’t they be priests?  For example, the book of Acts tells us that the apostles were not given the power to give the gift of the Holy Spirit until after Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:4-5 and 8; Acts 2:1-4 and 37-38). Consequently, it would appear that while Jesus was on earth, the apostles had the authority of a priest since we know from John 4:3 that they baptized with water but they did not have the authority of an elder to baptize with the gift of the Holy Ghost until after Jesus ascended into heaven.

 

It might be argued that the seventy in Luke must have been elders because they cast out devils (Luke 10:18). But, consider Phillip in the book of Acts, who performed miracles including casting out devils (Acts 8:7). It is plain that Phillip was a priest since he baptized with water (Acts 8:12-13) but Peter and John had to come from Jerusalem to give the baptism of the Holy Ghost (Acts 8:14-17). So, the authority to perform miracles and cast out devils is not limited to elders and apostles.

 

Similarly, it might be argued that the seventy in Luke were set apart from other priesthood because they were sent by the Lord and traveled. But, consider again Philip who traveled to Samaria (Acts 8:5), Gaza (Acts 8:26), and Azotus, Caesarea, and other cities (Acts 8:40) as commanded by an angel (Acts 8:26) and as led by the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:39). Consequently, it isn’t just seventy that are commanded or led to travel and spread the gospel.

 

The Restoration also holds that there is direction via latter day revelation for seven presidents of seventy (D&C 104: 43a) with the possibility of calling “other Seventy until seven times seventy, if the labor in the vineyard of necessity requires it” (D&C 104:43b). While Jesus told the seventy he sent in Luke that they were to pray for more laborers to reap the harvest, there is nothing to indicate a structure of seven presidents or seven quorums of seventy.

 

Would the need to pray for more laborers stop if there ever were 490 seventy? No, because God will call priesthood as necessary to fulfill his purpose whether that number is more or less than seventy.  But what God does not do is call men to an office that can’t be supported by the fullness of the gospel and is thus a manmade office, which is exactly what the Restoration has created in “the seventy”.

 

The Restoration keeps asking what it can do to achieve unity, to further the work of God, and to set the church in order for the return of Jesus. The most important things the Restoration can do in that respect are:

 

  • Accept the fullness of the gospel as contained in the Inspired Version and the Book of Mormon as the standards (Genesis 50:31, Ezekiel 37:15-19, 2 Nephi 2:19-23, BofC 44:13-14 – D&C 42:5a-b)
  • Study the fullness of the gospel so that the word of truth can be rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15)
  • Use these standards to judge whether the latter day revelations are in harmony with the fullness of the gospel

 

If the Restoration will do this, then they will receive the wonderful promises that will allow them to achieve a unity of faith, to confound false doctrines, to lay down contentions, to establish piece, to bring them to a knowledge of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the covenants God made with the House of Israel (2 Nephi 2:19-23 and Genesis 50:31).

 

But if the Restoration refuses to do this, they will continue to stumble on their way, dwindling in unbelief until they entirely lose the light and truth they once had.

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