The School of the Prophets

By Richard and Pamela Price

The Kirtland Temple
Kirtland Temple

When God restored His New Testament Church in the 1830's, He not only restored its doctrines, ordinances, and priesthood offices, which make up the fullness of the gospel, but He also restored the Church's spiritual power. This power is often called "the endowment."

It is the receiving of an outpouring of the Holy Ghost to the extent that the priesthood has the power to exercise the gifts of the Spirit to a much greater extent and to enter into the actual presence of angels and of the Lord. Priesthood members who receive this blessing are able, through the ordinances, to perform miracles and healings and to bring many to Christ.

After His resurrection, Christ returned to the New Testament Church and gave it the endowment. He did this by visiting the apostles and saints in person and bestowing upon them special spiritual power. His sudden appearance in His glorious, celestial state, caused them to be "terrified and affrighted" (Luke 24:36). But after ministering to them, He "breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (John 20:22). He then told them to "tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:48).

This power came on the day of Pentecost, and thereafter the Church was so endowed that much of the population of the Near East and Europe was converted to Christ in a relatively short time. The power of this endowment was such that "by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people . . . insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets . . . that at the least the shadow of Peter passing might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits; and they were healed every one" (Acts 5:12–16).

It was this spiritual power, along with correct doctrine, that made the Church of Jesus Christ spiritually superior to the other denominations of that day.

The Endowment Promised to the Early Church

Very early in the Restoration Movement the Lord indicated that the endowment was also to be restored to the Church in modern times. In January, 1831, only nine months after the Church was organized, the Lord instructed the saints that "You should go to the [ state of ] Ohio . . . and there you shall be endowed with power from on high . . . for I have a great work laid up in store" (Doctrine and Covenants 38:7b–d).

A month later the Lord repeated this promise, saying, "Hearken ye elders of my church whom I have appointed; ye are not sent forth to be taught, but to teach the children of men the things which I have put into your hands by the power of my Spirit; and ye are to be taught from on high. Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power" (Doctrine and Covenants 43:4a–d).

By June of 1834 the Church had not yet received the endowment, because the elders had not sufficiently sanctified themselves. But they were assured in the inspiring "Fishing River Revelation" that "I have prepared a great endowment and blessing to be poured out upon them, inasmuch as they are faithful, and continue in humility before me" (Doctrine and Covenants 102:3c). They were also informed in this same passage that Zion cannot be redeemed unless the elders have the endowment.

The School of the Prophets Established

In order that the leaders and missionaries of the Church could be taught the gospel more completely, and so they could become sanctified sufficiently to receive the endowment, the Lord instructed that the School of the Prophets be established at Kirtland in December, 1832 (Doctrine and Covenants 85:36-46). This school was for "all the officers of the church . . . beginning at the high priests, even down to the deacons" (Doctrine and Covenants 85:39a–b).

The School of the Prophets was taught by the leaders of the Church—especially Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. They used such powerful texts as the "Lectures on Faith" (which originally was the "doctrine" part of the Doctrine and Covenants).

The Beginning of the Endowment

In January of 1836, those attending the School of the Prophets began experiencing marvelous outpourings of the Holy Spirit, or the endowment. These experiences occurred in the Temple at Kirtland, which was now sufficiently finished to be used for class work and worship. Even before the School of the Prophets moved into the Temple, Joseph began instructing the priesthood members concerning the mechanics of the coming endowment.

On January 15, 1836, Joseph "made some observations respecting the order of the day, and the great responsibility we are under, to transact all our business in righteousness before God, inasmuch as our decisions will have a bearing upon all mankind and upon all generations to come" (Journal of History 18:54). The brethren of the School of the Prophets, as a result of months of study, labor, and worship together, had reached the spiritual height of having the true gift of tongues manifest.

The record states that on January 17, 1836, "The gift of tongues came on us also, like the rushing of a mighty wind" (Ibid., 18:57).

On January 18, 1836, Joseph recorded in his journal that "This day the elders' school was removed into the temple" (Ibid., 18:58).

Three days later the first ordinance of endowment was conducted when the First Presidency met with Patriarch Joseph Smith, Sr. That first Temple ordinance resulted in a marvelous outpouring of visions and spiritual power.

Joseph recorded:

At early candlelight I met with the Presidency at the west schoolroom, in the temple, to attend to the ordinance of anointing our heads with holy oil; also the councils of Kirtland and Zion met in the two adjoining rooms, who waited in prayer while we attended to the ordinance. I took the oil in my left hand, Father Smith being seated before me, and the remainder of the Presidency encircled him round about. We then stretched our right hands towards heaven, and blessed the oil and consecrated it in the name of Jesus Christ.

We then laid our hands upon our aged Father Smith and invoked the blessings of heaven. I then anointed his head with the consecrated oil and sealed many blessings upon him. The Presidency then in turn laid their hands upon his head, beginning at the eldest, until they had all laid their hands upon him and pronounced such blessings upon his head as the Lord put into their hearts, all blessing him to be our patriarch, to anoint our heads, and attend to all duties that pertain to that office. (Ibid., 18:60)

It must be remembered that Joseph Smith Sr., had been ordained to be the Church's first patriarch on December 18,1833, and that Joseph the Prophet had received his patriarchal blessing under his father's hands on December 9, 1834. Therefore, the blessings given on January 21, 1836, were not patriarchal blessings, but were temple blessings for the receiving of the endowment. Joseph Smith, Sr.'s blessing at this time "to be our patriarch, to anoint our heads, and to attend to all the duties that pertain to that office" was an act of reaffirming his ordination as presiding patriarch, and also an extension of authority to function as the first Temple minister, so that he could give blessings of endowment.

Immediately after being blessed and ordained, Joseph, Sr., blessed the others with the endowmental blessing. Joseph the Prophet recorded that:

The Presidency then took the seat in their turn, according to their age, beginning at the eldest, and received their anointing and blessing under the hands of Father Smith. And in turn, my father anointed my head, and sealed upon me the blessings of Moses, to lead Israel in the latter days, even as Moses led him in days of old; also the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. All the Presidency laid their hands upon me, and pronounced upon my head many prophecies and blessings, many of which I shall not notice at this time. But as Paul said, so say I, let us come to visions and revelations. (Ibid., 18:60)

The Endowment Experiences of the Early Church

Joseph continued to describe the great outpouring of the endowment that accompanied this initial meeting by candle light, in the western-most room on the third floor of the Temple on January 21—wherein it might be said that the great endowment of 1836 began.

He recorded:

Many of my brethren who received the ordinance (of anointing) with me saw glorious visions also. Angels ministered unto them as well as myself, and the power of the Highest rested upon us. The house was filled with the glory of God, and we shouted Hosanna to God and the Lamb. . . .

The bishop of Kirtland with his counselors, and the Bishop of Zion with his counselors, were present with us and received their anointings under the hands of Father Smith and were confirmed by the Presidency, and the glories of heaven were unfolded to them also. . . . We then invited the counselors of Kirtland and Zion into our room, and President Hyrum Smith anointed the head of the president of the counselors in Kirtland, and President David Whitmer the head of the president of Counselors of Zion. The president of each quorum then anointed the heads of his colleagues, each in his turn, beginning at, the eldest.

The visions of heaven were opened to them also. Some of them saw the face of the Savior, and others were ministered unto by holy angels, and the spirit of prophecy and revelation was poured out in mighty power. (Journal of History 18:62-63)

Joseph recorded that the next day, Friday, January 22, 1836, the School of the Prophets "spent the time in rehearsing to each other the glorious scenes that transpired on the proceeding evening, while attending to the ordinance of holy anointing" (Ibid., 18:63).

The apostles received their endowmental anointings, and then,

in the evening of Saturday, 30th, [Joseph] went to the upper rooms of the Lord's house and set the different quorums in order. Instructed the presidents of the Seventy concerning the order of their anointing and requested them to proceed and anoint the Seventy. Having set all the quorums in order, I returned to my house, being weary with continual anxiety and labor in putting all the authorities in order and in trying to purify them for the solemn assembly, according to the commandment of the Lord. (Ibid., 18:66–67)

During the days that followed the other priesthood men in the School of the Prophets also received the ordinance of anointing and blessing.

The ordinance of anointing and blessing was followed by a second prayer which was accompanied by the laying on of hands, which was called the confirmation or sealing of the endowment. In the first endowment meeting of January 21, the bishops and their counselors "received their anointings under the hands of Father Smith and were confirmed by the Presidency" (Ibid., 18:62).

Upon another occasion Joseph explained,

I found the Twelve Apostles assembled with this quorum, and I proceeded, with the Quorum of the Presidency, to instruct them, and also the seven presidents of the seventy elders, to call upon God with uplifted hands to seal the blessings which had been promised to them by the holy anointing. As I organized this quorum, with the Presidency in this room, President Sylvester Smith [of the Seventy] saw a pillar of fire rest down and abide upon the heads of the quorum [of the Presidency] as we stood in the midst of the Twelve. (Ibid., 18:65)

The receiving of the Temple ordinances of endow-mental anointing and sealing caused a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. When the men in the Quorum of Seventy, for instance, received their sealing prayers, they "enjoyed a great flow of the Holy Spirit." Many arose and spoke, testifying that they were filled with the Holy Ghost, which was like fire in their bones, so that they could not hold their peace, but were constrained to cry hosannah to God and the Lamb, and glory in the highest.

President William Smith, one of the Twelve, saw a vision of Twelve and Seven (the twelve apostles and seventy) in council together in old England, and prophesied that a great work would be done by them in the old countries, and God was already beginning to work in the hearts of his people.

President Zebedee Coltrin, one of the Seven [Presidents of Seventy], saw a vision of the Lord's host. And others were filled with the Spirit, and spoke with tongues and prophesied. This was a time of rejoicing long to be remembered. (Ibid., 18:68–69)

In order to bestow the blessings of anointing and sealing, which prepared the men of the School of the Prophets to receive the endowment, the leaders were set apart for this purpose. Patriarch Joseph Smith, Sr., received this authority at the first endowmental meeting on January 21, as previously noted.

Other examples of the bestowal of this authority to act as special Temple ministers occurred when Apostle Marsh and the presidents of Seventy were set apart. Joseph recorded, "We then laid our hands on Elder Thomas B. Marsh, who is president of the Twelve, and ordained him to the authority of anointing his brethren." As this blessing of the Twelve proceeded, "the heavens were opened, and angels ministered unto us" (Ibid., 18:63).

After they were anointed and blessed, "The Twelve then proceeded to anoint and bless the presidency of the Seventy and seal upon their heads the power and authority to anoint their brethren" (Ibid., 18:63-64).

The Endowment Continued

These experiences of anointing and blessing occurred in January and February of 1836. The theological training which the priesthood received at this time was of great value to the Church, for it unified the ministry to a great degree, and taught them the true points of Christ's doctrine, which are still important today. The worship experiences which were enjoyed during this time were also of greatest value. For though the School of the Prophets failed to reach the spiritual height in which the men could have been "honored with a visit of His [Christ's] own presence," they did have many spiritual experiences which brought them closer to the celestial level and made them ministers of power.

Another example of these great spiritual experiences occurred on January 22, when "President Rigdon arose to conclude the services of the evening by invoking the benediction of heaven upon the Lord's anointed, which he did in an eloquent manner; . . . the gift of tongues fell upon us in mighty power, angels mingled their voices with ours, while their presence was in our midst, and unceasing praises swelled our bosoms for the space of half an hour.

"I then observed to the brethren that it was time to retire. We accordingly closed our interview and returned home at about two o'clock in the morning, and the Spirit and visions of God attended me through the night" (Journal of History 18:64).

These marvelous endowmental experiences continued through the weeks that followed, preceding the dedication of the Temple. While the men of the priesthood studied in the School of the Prophets, they also worked on the building of the Temple, until it was ready for dedication late in March, 1836.

The School of the Prophets and the endowment which the brethren enjoyed, combined with the early spiritual experiences of Joseph Smith to make these early years of the Restoration Movement the Church's most significant time of spiritual and numerical growth.

(Vision 84[March 2015]: 3–5)