School of the Prophets

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In the early Latter Day Saint movement, the School of the Prophets (also called the "school of the elders" or "school for the Prophets") was a select group of early leaders who began meeting on January 23, 1833 in Kirtland, Ohio under the direction of Joseph Smith for both theological and secular learning.

Etymology[edit]

The phrase "the School of the Prophets" has been identified[1] as the naioath or "dwellings" in Ramah in 1 Samuel 19:18-24 where the fellowship or "school of the prophets" assembled to worship, pray, and ask God for wisdom. It was also applied to Harvard University in 1655 when the Reverend Thomas Shepard asked the United Colonies Commissioners to find "some way of comfortable maintenance for that School of the Prophets that now is" and suggested that each family in New England give one-quarter bushel of wheat to the college.[2] It was more commonly applied in the 18th century to Yale University,[3] and it was the title of a history of Yale from 1701 to 1740 by Richard Warch.[4]

Historian Joseph F. Darowski has called attention to earlier Old Testament and Protestant precedents, stating that Harvard and Yale were both once commonly called schools of the prophets.[5]

History[edit]

Creation[edit]

A revelation in the "Doctrine and Covenants" begins by commanding that a house be prepared for the Presidency of the School of the Prophets. (D&C 88:127-141) The School is to instruct all the officers of the Church in all things expedient. This revelation goes on to describe how the meetings of the School are to begin—including a special salutation and the washing of the feet of all members of the School. Another D&C revelation (D&C 90) reveals that the "keys" of the School of the Prophets have been given to the church Presidency "That thereby they [the church] may be perfected in their ministry for the salvation of Zion, and of the nations of Israel, and of the Gentiles, as many as will believe. That through your administration they may receive the word, and through their administration the word may go forth unto the ends of the earth, unto the Gentiles first, and then, behold, and lo, they shall turn unto the Jews. And then cometh the day when the arm of the Lord shall be revealed in power in convincing the nations, the heathen nations, the house of Joseph, of the gospel of their salvation."

The first meeting of the school was held on January 24, 1833 at the home-based store owned by Newel K. Whitney in Kirtland, Ohio. The school provided a setting for spiritual experiences and in-depth discussions of gospel principles, as preparation for those who would preach as missionaries.[6] One such experience was the revelation now known as the Word of Wisdom. In April 1833 the school was disbanded as missionaries embarked.[7]

Other early schools[edit]

In summer 1833, another branch of this school was created under the direction of Parley P. Pratt in Independence, Missouri, called the School in Zion. This school was praised in revelation (D&C 97:3), and met weekly with about 60 students in an outdoor setting.[8][9] After the Mormons were expelled from Independence, the school was reconstituted in Kirtland in November 1834-35, as the School of the Elders. A series of seven lectures presented at the school were published as part of the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835 and later came to be known as the "Lectures on Faith."[9] In 1836 the school was again called the School of the Prophets.[9] Though the school went into recess, it is apparent Joseph Smith planned to revive it after the completion of the Kirtland Temple.[10]

The Utah period[edit]

Brigham Young began several schools of the Prophets during his tenure as church president, beginning in 1867 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Initially, it was a forum to discuss church issues among church leaders and selected priesthood holders, under the auspices of the University of Deseret. Later, branches were opened in the larger LDS communities under the direction of local priesthood leaders, and discussion expanded into religion, economics, and civic matters.[11] Branches opened in Provo, Logan, Brigham City, Spanish Fork, Nephi, Ephraim, American Fork, and Ogden.[citation needed]

These confidential, invitation-only classes were closed in 1872, before a reorganized School of the Prophets was created in Salt Lake City for General Authorities and other church leaders. This school worked toward creating economic cooperatives in the church, and when United Orders were incorporated in 1874, the school was dissolved.[12]

Young's successor, John Taylor, also organized Schools of the Prophets in Salt Lake City and St. George in 1883, following the model of the original school in Missouri, but these were short-lived and probably dissolved in early 1884.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wiersbe, Warren W., The Bible Exposition Commentary, Volume 1, David C Cook, 2004, ISBN 0896936597, 9780896936591, p. 260
  2. ^ New England’s First Fruits (London, 1643), quoted in Samuel Eliot Morison, The Founding of Harvard College, p. 432; ibid., p. 315.
  3. ^ Warch, Richard, School of the Prophets: Yale College, 1701-1740, Yale University Press, 1973, Chapter 11 – “The Liberal, & Religious Education of Suitable Youth". Warch notes as his sources, Stephen Buckingham, The Unreasonableness and Danger of a People's renouncing their subjection to God, p. 21; Jonathan Marsh, An Essay, To Prove the Thorough Reformation of a Sinning People is not to be Expected (New London, 1721), p, 46; Eleazar Williams, An Essay To Prove That when God once enters upon a Controversy, With His Professing People; He will Manage and Issue it (New London, 1723), P. 37: Phineas Fiske, The Good Subject's Wish Or, The Desirableness Of The Divine Presence With Civil Rulers (New London, 1726), P. 32; Eliphalet Adams, A Discourse Showing That so long as there is any Prospect of a Sinful People's yielding good Fruit hereafter, there is hope that they may be Spared, New-London [Conn.]: Printed and sold by T. Green, printer to the governour and Company, 1734, p. 73
  4. ^ Warch, Richard, School of the Prophets: Yale College, 1701-1740, Yale University Press, 1973
  5. ^ Darowski, Joseph F. (Spring 2008), "Schools of the Prophets: An Early American Tradition" (PDF), Mormon Historical Studies, 9 (1): 1–13 
  6. ^ Keith W. Perkins (2000). "School of the Prophets". Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History. Deseret Book. 
  7. ^ Sorensen 1992
  8. ^ Clark V. Johnson (2000). "School in Zion". Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History. Deseret Book. 
  9. ^ a b c C. Robert Line (2000). "School of the Elders". Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History. Deseret Book. 
  10. ^ Joseph Smith, "5 October 1835, Journals, Volume 1: Journal, 1835–1836", The Joseph Smith Papers, Church History Department, LDS Church 
  11. ^ Sorensen 1992
  12. ^ Sorensen 1992
  13. ^ Sorensen 1992

Sources[edit]