“I’m glad you are doing priesthood history,” a prominent LDS historian once told me, “because it bores me to tears.” True, studies of priesthood development aren’t ripsnorting reading, but they are fundamental for understanding early Mormonism and are literally foundational for LDS and RIDS history. In this expansion of his 1993 volume on priesthood origins, Gregory Prince gives us a carefully researched, thoughtfully interpreted, and measured exposition about the vital foundational years of LDS and RIDS priesthood theory and practice. This is a solid, finely sawed and sanded first plank in what needs to be a three-plank floor for fully understanding early priesthood restoration, development, and operations.
Responsible priesthood history studies are rare, primarily because they require meticulous textual analyses that ultimately produce interpretations wrapped in qualifiers. Not only is the Joseph Smith period a big time span through which to research any topic, but the priesthood’s growth occurred so subtly that some of it can only be glimpsed, and not clearly seen, in oblique and ambiguous statements too often tucked inside obscure sources.