Second anointing

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In the Latter Day Saint movement, the second anointing, also known historically and in Latter Day Saint scripture as the fullness of the priesthood, is an obscure and relatively rare ordinance usually conducted in temples as an extension of the Nauvoo endowment ceremony. Founder Joseph Smith cited the "fulness of the priesthood" as one of the reasons for building the Nauvoo Temple.[1] In the ordinance, a participant is anointed as a "priest and king" or a "priestess and queen", and is sealed to the highest degree of salvation available in Mormon theology. Those who participate in this ordinance are said to have their "calling and election made sure",[2][3] and their celestial marriage "sealed by the holy spirit of promise".[4] They are said to have received the "more sure word of prophecy".

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the largest Latter Day Saint denomination, performed the ceremony for nominated couples from the 1840s to at least the mid-1900s.[5] Current official information about the practice by that denomination, or whether the ordinance is still in use, has not been made public. The ordinance is also performed by many Mormon fundamentalist groups. However, it is not performed by denominations such as the Community of Christ,[6] who historically never practiced the Nauvoo endowment ceremony.


Although Joseph Smith introduced the Nauvoo endowment in 1842, he stated that his work in establishing the "fullness of the priesthood" was not yet complete.[7] In August 1843, church apostle Brigham Young stated that "[i]f any in the Church had the fullness of the priesthood, he did not know it". Young understood that the "fullness of the priesthood" involved an anointing as "king and priest", with the actual kingdom to be given after resurrection.[8]

The first time a second anointing was performed was on September 28, 1843, when Smith and his wife Emma received it.[9][10] During Smith's lifetime, the second anointing was performed on at least 20 men and 17 women.[11]:22–23 After Smith's death, Brigham Young was selected by the majority of Latter Day Saints as the church's leader, and in January 1846, he began administering the second anointing in the nearly completed Nauvoo Temple. Young re-administered the ordinance to many of those who had received it under Smith, and he delegated his authority to others, who performed nearly 600 second anointings (some to polygamous unions) before the temple was closed on February 7, 1846.[11]:26

After migration to the Salt Lake Valley, the LDS Church did not conduct further second anointings until late 1866.[12] Beginning in the 1870s, second anointings began to be performed vicariously for dead members of the church.[11]:30 In the 1880s, church president John Taylor was concerned that too many second anointings were being performed, and he instituted a series of procedural safeguards, requiring recommendation by a stake president, and a guideline that the ordinance "belonged particularly to old men".[11]:32–33 In 1901, church president Lorenzo Snow further limited accessibility to the ordinance by outlining stringent criteria for worthiness.[11]:33–34

By 1918, over 14,000 second anointings had been performed for the living and the dead.[11]:39 During the administration of Heber J. Grant in the 1920s, the frequency of second anointings was dramatically reduced. Stake presidents were no longer permitted to recommend candidates for the ordinance; rather, recommendations could only be made by members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.[11]:39–40 By 1941, just under 15,000 second anointings had been performed for the living, and just over 6,000 for the dead.[11]:41 The church has not allowed historians to have access to second anointing records subsequent to 1941; therefore, the current frequency of second anointings is unknown. It is known that in 1942, 13 of the church's 32 general authorities had not received the second anointing.[11]:41 By 1949, the practice had been "practically discontinued" by the LDS Church,[5] though until 1981 it may have continued "to be performed—albeit on a small scale".[11]:42–43


According to 19th-century journal entries, the second anointing ceremony consisted of two parts. The first part consisted of a washing and anointing of the bodies of the participants by an officiator. The second part took place some time later, and was conducted without an officiator in a private ceremony between a married couple, in which the wife symbolically prepared her husband for his death and resurrection.[11]:26–27

Meaning and symbolism[edit]

The "first anointing" refers to the washing and anointing part of the endowment ceremony, in which a person is anointed to become a king and priest or a queen and priestess unto God. In the second anointing, on the other hand, participants are anointed as a king and priest, or queen and priestess. When the anointing is given, according to Brigham Young, the participant "will then have received the fulness of the Priesthood, all that can be given on earth."[13]

The "first anointing" promises blessings in the afterlife contingent on the patron's faithfulness, while the second anointing actually bestows those blessings. According to prominent 20th-century LDS Church apostle Bruce R. McConkie, those who have their calling and election made sure "receive the more sure word of prophecy, which means that the Lord seals their exaltation upon them while they are yet in this life. ... [T]heir exaltation is assured."[14]

The second anointing may have been intended to fulfill scriptural references to the "fulness of the priesthood", such as that in Doctrine and Covenants, Doctrine and Covenants 124:28, a revelation by Joseph Smith commanding the building of a temple in Nauvoo, Illinois, in part, because "there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood" (emphasis added). LDS Church leaders have connected this ordinance with a statement by Peter in his second Epistle. In 2 Peter 1:10, he talks about making one's "calling and election sure," and further remarks, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy" (2 Peter 1:19). Smith referenced this process in saying, "When the Lord has thoroughly proved [a person], and finds that the [person] is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the [person] will find his calling and election made sure".[15][16]

The second anointing is performed only on married couples. A few writers have argued that because of this, women who receive the second anointing, in which they are anointed queens and priestesses, are ordained to the "fulness of the priesthood" in the same manner as their husbands. These scholars suggest that Smith may have considered these women to have, in fact, received the power of the priesthood, though not necessarily a specific priesthood office.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 124:28
  2. ^ Smith 1976, pp. 322–23: "The anointing and sealing is to be called, elected and made sure"
  3. ^ Doxey 1992 (discussing the result of "calling and election", but not referring to second anointing).
  4. ^ Flake 1992 (defining "holy spirit of promise").
  5. ^ a b Buerger 1983, p. 42: "Judging from his remarks seven years later, however, in a 1949 letter presented to the Council of the First Presidency and Twelve, [George F.] Richards still express frustration: 'For a long time I felt that I would like to express to you the disappointment I feel in that we have practically discontinued the administration of Second Anointing in the church'".
  6. ^ Elbert A. Smith, Differences That Persist between the RLDS and LDS Churches, (1950), website accessed 2008-06-11.
  7. ^ History of the Church, 5:139–40 (August 31, 1842), speaking to the Relief Society.
  8. ^ Journal of Wilford Woodruff, August 6, 1843; also in History of the Church 5:527.[full citation needed]
  9. ^ Prince, Greg (15 August 1995). "Ordinances: The Second Anointing". Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood. Salt Lake City: Signature Books. p. 189. ISBN 978-1560850717.
  10. ^ Diary of Joseph Smith, 28 September 1843; Wilford Woodruff, Historian's Private Journal (1858), p. 24 (LDS Church archives).[full citation needed]
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Buerger 1983
  12. ^ Journal of Wilford Woodruff, December 30, 31, 1866.[full citation needed]
  13. ^ Journal of Heber C. Kimball, 26 December 1845 (quoting Brigham Young).[full citation needed]
  14. ^ McConkie 1966, pp. 109–10
  15. ^ Smith 1976, p. 150
  16. ^ Doxey 1992, p. 248
  17. ^ Quinn 1992, chapter 17