When readers finish William Hartley's newest book, they will know more about the priesthood in early Mormon history than they thought there was to know.
“My Fellow Servants: Essays on the History of the Priesthood” tells the story of the priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and details the restoration as well as the evolution of the priesthood's organization and functions.
Every chapter has information that would be new to most readers and shed light on how the church adapted to changing needs until it reached its current organization.
For nearly 40 years, Hartley's career involved researching and writing about church history. In 1972, he was hired as a research historian for the church. Later, his department became a part of Brigham Young University where he continued historical research and also taught classes.
Hartley focused most of his research on how the church functioned “at grass-roots levels,” he explains in the introduction. “Because the church has been guided by revelation, … ward operations, priesthood assignments and quorum structures have seen significant alterations and redirections since the church was first organized,” he writes.
The first two chapters explain the restoration of the priesthood and the missionary duties assumed by early converts.
The next set of essays explores the history and organization of Aaronic Priesthood and Melchizedek Priesthood quorums. It was only about 100 years ago that the church set up a formal structure in which adolescent boys advance through priesthood ranks based on age. Hartley adeptly explains how and why men filled those lower priesthood officers before then.
He also provides great insight into the way bishops learned to manage tithing and tithing settlements when tithing consisted of farm animals, produce and donated labor.
One of the more interesting chapters tells about the “common people” of the early church — those who were not leaders. Hartley paints a picture of a church before there were comfortable meetinghouses that could seat an entire ward; before there was a Primary; and before there were small, individual sacrament cups. He explains how church members lived and how the church developed to allow more participation and meet members' needs.
Being a collection of essays, rather than one cohesive volume, the book repeats itself often. Because of that, it might not lend itself to cover-to-cover reading in a short span of time. However, it also has an index that lists dozens of topics ranging from “Aaronic Priesthood” to “Zarahemla Stake.”
It is an informative read and a highly useful reference for anyone with an interest in church history.
Bryan Gentry lives in Lynchburg, Va., where he writes for a daily newspaper. He is a native of North Carolina and a graduate of Southern Virginia University. He blogs at bryangentry.wordpress.com.
- Frances Monson, wife of LDS prophet, passes away
- Watch a video tribute to Sister Frances B....
- LDS missionary 'stable' following hit-and-run...
- Mormon NFL safety Eric Weddle: Balancing...
- A firsthand perspective: Reflecting on the...
- Wright Words: An open letter from a dad to...
- LDS missionary from Sweden suffers aneurysm,...
- Members recall Sister Monson's quiet devotion
- Mormon NFL safety Eric Weddle:... 65
- Frances Monson, wife of LDS prophet,... 63
- Wright Words: An open letter from a dad... 46
- New Harmony: The mainstreaming of... 45
- Elder Oaks promotes strengthening the... 26
- Utahn, castaway Dawn Meehan reflects on... 15
- Hundreds watch as Angel Moroni statue... 15
- Community of Christ recommends... 14