“Anointed Quorum (‘Holy Order’),” Church History Topics
On May 4, 1842, Joseph Smith introduced the temple endowment to a group of nine close associates in an upper room of his Nauvoo store. Over the next two years, Joseph administered this ordinance to more than 50 additional men and women. This group received a ceremonial washing and anointing as part of the endowment, and were later called the “anointed Quorum,” “the Quorum,” the “council,” or the “Holy Order.”1
An 1841 revelation to Joseph Smith taught that the endowment was to be given to Church members in the completed Nauvoo Temple.2 But according to Orson Hyde, Joseph explained, “I don’t know what it is, but the Lord bids me to hasten and give you your endowment before the temple is finished.”3 He selected men and women whom he trusted would treat the sacred ordinances of the temple with reverence and confidentiality. Heber C. Kimball, one of the original members of the Anointed Quorum, explained that Joseph “got a small company” that “he can open his bosom to and feel himself safe.”4
Although Joseph initially invited only a few people to participate in the endowment, he clearly intended to open the temple ceremonies broadly to worthy Latter-day Saints. Describing the introduction of the endowment in the official Church history in 1845, Willard Richards explained, “There was nothing made known to [us], but what will be made known to all the Saints of the last days, so soon as they are prepared to receive, and a proper place is prepared to communicate them.”5 Joseph Smith urged the completion of the Nauvoo Temple so that the rest of the Saints would have a place to receive their endowment. George Q. Cannon, who was a teenager when he moved to Nauvoo in 1843, later recalled, “When [Joseph] did communicate the endowments to a few persons before the Temple was completed, the whole people were moved with desire to complete the Temple, in order that they might receive these great blessings.”6
Members of the Anointed Quorum met together sporadically between May 1842 and September 1843 and then more regularly until December 1845, typically in the upper room of Joseph’s store or in the homes of members. At their meetings, they introduced temple ceremonies to new quorum members, sealed marriages for eternity, counseled with and received instruction from Joseph Smith, and prayed together as a group. Consequently, these gatherings were often called “prayer meetings” or “council meetings.” As they met, the men and women of the quorum gained experience administering the endowment to others.
After Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, participation in the Anointed Quorum figured prominently in the debate over who would succeed the Prophet. One powerful aspect of the case made by the Quorum of the Twelve in the weeks following Joseph’s death was that they, unlike rival claimant Sidney Rigdon, had received all the temple ordinances and had been authorized by Joseph Smith to give them to others.7
Between August 1844 and December 1845, Brigham Young, as President of the Twelve, led the Anointed Quorum, inviting more men and women to join. Late in 1845, Quorum members prepared the attic story of the Nauvoo Temple for the administration of the endowment, and in mid-December, Brigham Young and others began to invite large companies of Saints to receive their endowment.
The men and women of the Anointed Quorum were the first temple workers, administering to over 5,000 Saints the ordinances they had received from Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and their fellow quorum members. They also met with newly endowed Saints in the temple to pass on temple teachings they had received from Joseph Smith. Their work in the temple continued until February 1846, when the first companies of Saints were forced to leave Nauvoo to travel west. With a significant number of members now endowed, the Anointed Quorum effectively ceased to exist.