Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Seventies in the Eighties

William G. Hartley, "The Seventies in the 1880s: Revelations and Reorganizing," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Volume 16, Number 1, Spring 1983, pp 62-88.

The decade of the 1880s was a time of transition for the institution of the Seventies.

Quorums existed in local wards and stakes and seven Presidents of the Seventies presided over all the quorums. In the beginning of the 1880s, the presidents were aged, and the duties of the local seventies were in some confusion, understanding their scriptural injunction to share the gospel, but with questions as to how this should be done, but as the 1880s progressed, the older presidents passed on and were replaced by younger men. Some of the major efforts of the time included revitalizing the seventies quorums for the purpose of spreading the gospel by training and providing missionaries and supporting the families of those on missions, and encouraging adherence to the Word of Wisdom, which was seen as an optional church program back then by some members (kind of like food storage or getting out of debt is now). The article records a revelation given to John Taylor dealing with the reorganization.

It was at this time (October 7, 1884) that John Morgan was called as one of the Seven Presidents of the Seventy. He was assigned the responsibility for overseeing the First District, a group of twenty-six quorums of seventies.

Hartley noted that Joseph Smith made a statement that if he lived to be 85, he would see the Savior come. Based on that statement, some Mormons expected the Second Coming in 1890. The Fourth Quorum minutes from September 8, 1890 records the following:
John Morgan said there are likely to be many more quorums of 70s organized (there were now over 100), there are many erroneous notions entertained by the 70s in regard to preaching the Gospel, that their missions would necessarily be short; that the end is very near and the Elders about to be called home &c, but in such things they are mistaken, as the Gospel is to be preached to all nations and will necessarily take a long time; the work has hardly commenced....not half the counties in the United States (Southern States especially) have ever heard the Gospel preached.

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