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Second anointing

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Holy of Holies in the Salt Lake Temple, a room where second anointings have taken place.

In the Latter Day Saint movement the second anointing is the pinnacle ordinance of the temple and an extension of the endowment ceremony.[1][2]: 11 Founder Joseph Smith taught that the function of the ordinance was to ensure salvation, guarantee exaltation, and confer godhood.[5] 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.[6]: 286 

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), Mormonism's largest denomination, the ordinance is currently only given in secret to select couples whom top leaders say God has chosen.[7] The LDS Church regularly performed the ceremony for nominated couples from the 1840s to the 1920s, and continued less regularly into the 1940s.[2]: 40  By 1941, about 15,000 second anointings had been performed for the living, and over 6,000 for the dead.[2]: 41  The practice became much less common thereafter,[2]: 42 but has continued into modern times.[9] Most modern LDS adherents are unaware of the ritual's existence.[10] Instructors in the church's institutes of religion are told, "Do not attempt in any way to discuss or answer questions about the second anointing." (emphasis in the original).[11] The ordinance is also performed by many Mormon fundamentalist groups. However, it is not performed by denominations such as the Community of Christ, who historically did not practice the Nauvoo endowment ceremony.[12][13][14]


Under Smith (1833–1844)[edit]

First Performance of the Ritual[edit]

Joseph Smith performed the earliest known version of the Second Anointing in January 1833. In a multi-day ceremony, Joseph Smith "guirded himself with a towel" and washed the feet of all 12 other men in attendance. The group included Sidney Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams, Hyrum Smith, and Joseph Smith Sr.[15]

Towards the conclusion of the ceremony, Joseph taught that they had been "sealed up unto eternal life," and that if they willfully sinned, they "should be given over unto the buffettings of Satan until the day of redemption."[15]

Nauvoo Version of the Ritual[edit]

Joseph later introduced the Nauvoo endowment in 1842, but stated that his work in establishing the "fullness of the priesthood" was not yet complete.[16]: 139–140  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.[18] The first time the Nauvoo version of the Second Anointing was performed was on September 28, 1843, when Smith and one of his wives, Emma received it.[20] During Smith's lifetime, the second anointing was performed on at least 20 men and 17 women.[2]: 22–23  Historian Gary James Bergera stated that the ordinance functioned as a de facto marriage sealing, though recipient Alpheus Cutler (founder of the Cutlerite branch of Mormonism) and two of his five wives (Abigail Andrews and Sally Cox) who also received the ordinance were not sealed at the time.[21][22]: 10  Additionally, Orson Pratt and Parley P. Pratt received the ordinance without their wives.[22]: 10  Many of the Anointed Quorum and Council of Fifty received their second anointing under Smith. About 40% of all male recipients of the ordinance in Smith's lifetime were in polygamous marriages.[22]: 48 

LDS practice under Young (1842–1877)[edit]

After Smith's death, and the subsequent succession crisis, Young became leader for the majority of Smith's adherents. 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.[2]: 26  After migration to the Salt Lake Valley, records don't show the administration of further LDS second anointings for two decades (until 1866).[23][24] Beginning in the 1870s, second anointings began to be performed vicariously for dead members of the church.[2]: 30 

LDS practice under Taylor and after (1877–1950)[edit]

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".[2]: 32–33  In 1901, church president Lorenzo Snow further limited accessibility to the ordinance by outlining stringent criteria for worthiness.[2]: 33–34 

By 1918, over 14,000 second anointings had been performed for the living and the dead.[2]: 39  During the administration of church president Heber J. Grant in the 1920s, the frequency of second anointings was dramatically reduced.[25] Stake presidents at the local congregation level were no longer permitted to recommend candidates for the ordinance; rather, recommendations could only be made by higher-ranking leaders in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.[2]: 39–40  By 1941, just under 15,000 second anointings had been performed for the living, and just over 6,000 for the dead.[2]: 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.[2]: 41  In 1949, one apostle wrote the rite had been "practically discontinued".

Modern LDS practice[edit]

Second anointings continue to be practiced in the modern-day church.[26] For example, Russell M. Nelson (the church's president since 2018) mentioned in a 1979 autobiography that he and his wife attended "a special meeting [in the temple] at the invitation of President Spencer W. Kimball" in 1974 that could possibly have been for the Nelsons to receive the second anointing: "The sacred nature of this event precludes our mentioning more about it here other than to say that it did take place, but this experience is of the greatest importance to us and to our family."[28] The modern Latter-Day Saint practice is kept absolutely secret and is only given to a very small number of adherents, usually after a lifetime of loyal service to the church.[7] One British former stake president and former area executive secretary, Tom Phillips, said his spouse and he had received the ordinance before his public disaffiliation.[29][30]


Some members of the church were historically or are currently ineligible for the second anointing ordinance. All candidates for the rite cannot be single and must be temple married before receiving it,[7] and between 1847 and 1978 all LDS endowment-related temple ordinances including the second anointing were denied to all members with African-American heritage.[34] All temple ordinances continue to be denied for non-heterosexual couples and transgender couples as of 2023.[35][36][37]


The ordinance is currently only given confidentially to select couples,[7] and most current LDS adherents are unaware of the ritual's existence.[10] Additionally, church class instructors are emphatically told not to discuss the ceremony at all.[11] Historically, the church's newspaper openly discussed the rite's occurrence in print,[38][39][40] and at least one obituary from a largely LDS Utah city mentioned the ordinance in 1909.[41] In response to a researcher publishing an academic article on the topic in the 1980s the church banned him from future access to its historical archives and increased restrictions on public access.[42] In 1978 Mark Hofmann forged a handwritten document purporting to be a historical description of the secret ordinance and sold it to Utah State University.[43]


Part of the ceremony consists of a feet washing similar to a Bickertonite Latter Day Saint feet washing shown here.

According to 19th-century journal entries and contemporary sources, the LDS second anointing ceremony consists of three parts:

  1. Prayer and Washing - First the couple and an officiator or two participate in a prayer circle (conducted by the husband) in a dedicated temple room, and then a male officiator washes only the husband's feet.[44][45]
  2. Anointing - Next the officiator anoints the husband as a king and priest to God, and then anoints the wife as a queen and priestess to her husband.[6]: 286[4]: 66 For example, the following words were used by Heber C. Kimball during the second anointing of Brigham Young in the Nauvoo temple in 1846: "Brother Brigham Young, I pour this holy consecrated oil upon your head and anoint thee a king and a priest of the most high God, over the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and unto all Israel. ... And I seal thee up unto eternal life, that thou shalt come forth in the morn of the first resurrection ... and thou shalt attain unto the eternal Godhead and receive a fulness of joy, and glory, and power; and that thou mayest do all things whatsoever is wisdom that thou shouldst do, even if it be to create worlds and redeem them."[4]: 88 [46][47]
  3. Washing of the Husband - Later,the wife symbolically prepares her husband for his death and resurrection as his priestess by washing and anointing the husband's feet and then laying her hands on his head to give a blessing. This portion of the ceremony was historically done at home, in a room dedicated by the husband. [48] In modern times, this portion of the ceremony is done inside the Temple.[49] Elder Hans Mattsson, and his wife Birgitta described that they were led into a private room that would normally be used for the Temple endowment, where a bowl of water and towel were prepared for Birgitta to wash Han's feet and give him a Priesthood blessing.[50] Tom Phillips said that this practice is linked to Mary washing and anointing Christ prior to his death.[51]

Before 1846 the woman was also anointed as a "priestess unto God," but Brigham Young changed the ceremony and readministered the rite such that the wife would now be a "queen and priestess unto thine husband." The woman would also be exalted through her husband instead of through God, but only if she "dost obey [her husband’s] counsel."[52]

Meaning and symbolism[edit]

First anointing meanings[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."[2]: 24 [53] The "first anointing" promises blessings in the afterlife contingent on the patron's faithfulness, while the second anointing actually bestows those blessings.[54]

Second anointing meanings[edit]

Church leaders have stated that those who participate in the second anointing ordinance have received the "fullness of the priesthood", their "calling and election made sure", their eternal temple marriage "sealed by the holy spirit of promise", and received the "more sure word of prophecy", "higher blessing," or "second endowment".[55][56][2]: 11 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."[57]: 109–110 

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).[citation needed] LDS Church leaders have connected this ordinance with a statement by Peter in his second Epistle.[citation needed] 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).[citation needed] 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".[58]: 150 [59]

Feminine priestesshood[edit]

The second anointing is performed only on married, heterosexual couples. Some writers have argued that because of this, women who receive the second anointing (in which they are anointed as "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.[8]

Controversy and criticism[edit]

The ceremony has been criticized and viewed as controversial. One former member stated that learning of the elitism and secrecy around the second anointing started him questioning LDS church authority.[60] A 1910 Salt Lake Tribune editor's criticism of LDS temple practices stated in a negative tone that one LDS leader who had received his "second anointings" prayed in 1867 for the damnation of all Americans.[61]

The Second Anointing is the most secretive ritual in the LDS Church. Most members of the LDS Church are unaware of the ritual's existence, and members who receive this anointing are instructed that they can never divulge any information about the ceremony.[62]

Elder Hans Mattsson, a former member of the quorum of the seventy spoke publicly about his experience receiving the Second Anointing from Elder M. Russell Ballard in the Frankfurt Temple, confirming much of the speculation around the secretive ritual.[63]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Blythe, Christopher James (May 2011). Recreating Religion: The Response to Joseph Smith Innovations in the Second Prophetic Generation of Mormonism (MA). Utah State University. p. 31. Smith revealed the pinnacle ordinance of Mormonism, the second anointing .... Through this ceremony, Joseph Smith ordained [Alpheus] Cutler to the office of king and priest, a position that contained the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Buerger, David John (1983). "'The Fulness of the Priesthood': The Second Anointing in Latter-day Saint Theology and Practice" (PDF). Dialogue. 16 (1). University of Illinois Press: 10–44. doi:10.2307/45225125. JSTOR 45225125.
  3. ^ a b c Prince, Greg (August 15, 1995). "Ordinances: The Second Anointing". Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood. Salt Lake City: Signature Books. ISBN 978-1560850717. Archived from the original on August 17, 2022 – via Internet Archive.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Buerger, David J. (December 15, 2002). "Joseph Smith's Ritual". The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship. Signature Books. ISBN 978-1560851769 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ [3]: 189, 191[2]: 21, 36–37[4]: 89
  6. ^ a b c d Hammond, Elizabeth (November 2, 2015). "The Mormon Priestess: A Theology of Womanhood in the LDS Temple". In Brooks, Joanna; Hunt Steenblik, Rachel; Wheelwright, Hannah (eds.). Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings (1st ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0190248031.
  7. ^ a b c d Kramer, Bradley H. (2014). Keeping the Sacred: Structured Silence in the Enactment of Priesthood Authority, Gendered Worship, and Sacramental Kinship in Mormonism (PDF) (PhD). University of Michigan. p. 33. The public/open secrecy of temple-work in general stands in contrast to the actual and absolute secrecy of one particular feature of its ritual corpus: the ordinance known variously as the Second Anointing (or Second Anointings), second endowment, or the Fullness of the Priesthood. The blessings of this ordinance are conferred onto only a very small number of Mormons, usually after the better part of a lifetime of faithful and loyal service. ... These rites are a closed, absolute secret. Only those Mormons considered most trustworthy by high Church leadership are invited to participate, and they are expressly instructed not to disclose anything about the ordinance, including their own participation in it, to anyone, including family (only married couples participate in the rite).
  8. ^ a b c d Quinn, D. Michael (1992). "Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843". In Hanks, Maxine (ed.). Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism. Salt Lake City: Signature Books. p. 377. ISBN 1-56085-014-0. Archived from the original on February 9, 2022 – via Internet Archive. Currently some women have received this 'fullness of the priesthood' with their husbands. In the Salt Lake temple, the second anointing still occurs in the 'Holy of Holies' room which James E. Talmage wrote 'is reserved for the higher ordinances in the Priesthood...' The second anointing for both men and women is distinct from ordination to church priesthood offices.
  9. ^ [8][2]: 42–43[4]: 66
  10. ^ a b Brooke, John L. (May 31, 1996). The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 294. ISBN 978-0521565646. The frequency of second anointings declined after the turn of the century, and they were virtually eliminated under the authority of Heber J. Grant in the 1920s, to the point that modern Mormons are generally unaware of the rituals existence ....
  11. ^ a b "Chapter 19: Eternal Life". Doctrines of the Gospel Teacher Manual (Religion 430 and 431). Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church. 2000 [1987]. Archived from the original on February 28, 2023. Retrieved April 7, 2023 – via Internet Archive. Caution: Exercise caution while discussing the doctrine of having our calling and election made sure. Avoid speculation. Use only the sources given here and in the student manual. Do not attempt in any way to discuss or answer questions about the second anointing.
  12. ^ Rich, Ben E. (August 5, 2018). "The 'Reorganized' Church vs. Salvation for the Dead by Joseph F. Smith, Jr. 1905". Scrapbook of Mormon Literature, Vol. 1: Religious Tracts (Classic Reprint ed.). London, UK: Forgotten Books. p. 82. ISBN 978-1331622215.
  13. ^ Compilation of General Conference Resolutions, 1852-1907. Lamoni, Iowa: Community of Christ. 1908. pp. 82–83 – via Google Books. Adopted April 9, 1886 ... No. 308 ... 3. ... That as to the alleged 'temple building and ceremonial endowments therein,' that we know of no temple building, except as edifices wherein to worship God, and no endowment except the endowment of the Holy Spirit of the kind experienced by the early saints on Pentecost Day.
  14. ^ Smith, Elbert A. (1949). Differences That Persist Between the RLDS and the Utah Mormon Church (PDF). Independence, Missouri: Herald Publishing House. p. 12. Retrieved April 7, 2023. In the Kirtland Temple of the Reorganized Church [Community of Christ], there are no secret meetings of any kind, no secret rites, ceremonies, oaths, or practices. All meetings are open to the public, and no parts of the building are closed to the public; everything may be visited under guide service. ... Not one of the sacraments and ordinances ... is secret. Their nature may be freely revealed to the world. They are not guarded by secret oaths or obligations or secret covenants.
  15. ^ a b Williams, Frederick G. (January 22–23, 1833). "Minutes, 22–23 January 1833". Joseph Smith Papers. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved June 19, 2024.
  16. ^ a b History of the Church. Vol. 5. LDS Church. 1902. pp. 139–40 – via Brigham Young University.
  17. ^ Kenney, Scott G. (ed.). Journal of Wilford Woodruff Typescript. Vol. 2. p. 169 – via Internet Archive.
  18. ^ [17]: 169 [16]: 527 
  19. ^ Diary of Joseph Smith. September 28, 1843. p. 110 – via Joseph Smith Papers.
  20. ^ [3]: 189 [2]: 22 [19]
  21. ^ Jorgensen, Danny L.; Leary, Andrew (2018). "Anointed Queens and Priestesses: Alpheus Cutler's Plural Wives". The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal. 38 (1). John Whitmer Historical Association: 61. ISSN 0739-7852. JSTOR 26583439.
  22. ^ a b c Bergera, Gary James (October 1, 2005). "Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841-44". Dialogue. 38 (3). University of Illinois Press: 10. doi:10.2307/45227374. ISSN 0012-2157. JSTOR 45227374.
  23. ^ Kenney, Scott G. (ed.). Journal of Wilford Woodruff Typescript. Vol. 6. p. 195 – via Internet Archive.
  24. ^ "The Journal of Anson Call". Davis County Clipper. Woods Cross, Utah. August 11, 1987. p. 17. Retrieved April 14, 2023 – via University of Utah. March 5, [18]67 ... received our Second anointing wish [sic] gave us great joy. This was promised me in Nauvoo 21 years before I received it.
  25. ^ Buerger, David John (1987). "The Development of the Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony". Dialogue. 20 (4). University of Illinois Press: 60. doi:10.2307/45228107. JSTOR 45228107.
  26. ^ [8][2]: 42–43[4]: 66
  27. ^ Nelson, Russell (1979). "Highlights of 1974". From Heart to Heart: An Autobiography. p. 360 – via Internet Archive.
  28. ^ [8]: Footnote 71 [27]
  29. ^ Beverley, James A. (2013). Mormon Crisis: Anatomy of a Failing Religion. Pickering, Ontario: Castle Quay Books. p. 190. ISBN 9781927355336 – via Google Books.
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  31. ^ White, O. Kendall Jr. (March 1995). "Integrating Religious and Racial Identities: An Analysis of LDS African American Explanations of the Priesthood Ban". Review of Religious Research. 36 (3): 296–297. doi:10.2307/3511536. JSTOR 3511536. 'Celestial' or 'temple' marriage is a necessary condition for 'exaltation' ... Without the priesthood, Black men and women ... were denied complete exaltation, the ultimate goal of Mormonism.
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  34. ^ [31][32]: 164 [33]: 261 
  35. ^ Simmons, Brian (December 2017). Coming out Mormon: An examination of religious orientation, spiritual trauma, and PTSD among Mormon and ex-Morman LGBTQQA adults (PDF). University of Georgia Theses and Dissertations (PhD). Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia. p. 65. [A] current temple recommend [allows one] to participate in temple ordinances. In order to hold a current temple recommend, a person must attest to their ecclesiastical leaders that they maintain faith in the LDS Church, and live according to the standards (including no sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage and abstaining from coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs).
  36. ^ "Gospel Topics: Temples". LDS Church. June 2019. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
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  40. ^ "Christmas Assembly in St. George". Deseret News. Salt Lake City: LDS Church. January 13, 1875. p. 15. Retrieved April 14, 2023 – via University of Utah.
  41. ^ "Death of Christina Elizabeth Christensen". Emery County Progress. Castle Dale, Utah: LDS Church. May 29, 1909. p. 1. Retrieved April 14, 2023 – via University of Utah.
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  44. ^ [6]: 286[4]: 66[2]: 42–43
  45. ^ Birgitta, Mattsson. "Truth Seeking with Hans and Birgitta Mattsson Pt. 2 - Mormon Stories #985". 14:20: Mormon Stories Podcast. I don't remember by myself that the woman's feet were washed{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  46. ^ Richards, Willard (January 11, 1846). The Book of Anointings. Nauvoo, Illinois: LDS Church.
  47. ^ Brown, Lisle G (January 25, 2006). Nauvoo Sealings, Adoptions, And Anointings: A Comprehensive Register of Persons Receiving LDS Temple Ordinances 1841-1846. Signature Books. p. 348. ISBN 1560851988 – via Internet Archive.
  48. ^ [2]: 26–27 [6]: 286–287[4]: 66
  49. ^ Phillips, Tom (January 21, 2008). "Tom Phillips Second Anointing Account". The second part of the second anointing was explained to us. We (my wife and I) were to go to another sealing room where we would be alone as a couple.
  50. ^ Birgitta, Mattsson (September 27, 2018). "Truth Seeking with Hans and Birgitta Mattsson Pt. 2 - Mormon Stories #985". 16:30 - 17:38: Mormon Stories Podcast. also after this anointing every couple had there had to 16:37 go to their own room second part of it and we came in in this room for a 16:46 session in the temple and there was a water in the bowl of water on the floor 16:54 and a towel and I was supposed to keep clean my husband's feet ... I was supposed to 17:13 give him a blessing and that felt so weird ... I put my hands on his head.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  51. ^ Tom, Phillips (January 21, 2008). "Tom Phillips Second Anointing Account". My wife was to wash my feet (as Mary did to Jesus) and dry them.
  52. ^ Hanks, Maxine (February 25, 2019). "LDS Women's Authority and the Temple: A Feminist FHE Discussion with Maxine Hanks" (PDF). Dialogue. 52 (1). University of Illinois Press: 71. doi:10.5406/dialjmormthou.52.1.0045. S2CID 246628694.
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  55. ^ Smith, Joseph Fielding, ed. (1976). Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Deseret Book Co. pp. 322–323. ISBN 0-87747-626-8. OCLC 22984603. The anointing and sealing is to be called, elected and made sure.
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  60. ^ Jindra, Ines W. (June 2022). "Deconversion from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Quest for Identity". Pastoral Psychology. 71 (3). Springer Publishing: 337. doi:10.1007/s11089-022-01001-7. ISSN 0031-2789. PMC 8930479. PMID 35317008.
  61. ^ "Where Destruction Was Invoked". The Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City. August 31, 1910. p. 5. Retrieved April 14, 2023 – via University of Utah.
  62. ^ "Truth Seeking with Hans and Birgitta Mattsson Pt. 2 - Mormon Stories #985". 3:00-4:30; 6:30-7:00; 23:30-24:00: Mormon Stories Podcast. September 27, 2018. Retrieved June 18, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  63. ^ Mattsson, Hans (September 27, 2018). "Truth Seeking with Hans and Birgitta Mattsson Pt. 2 - Mormon Stories #985". Mormon Stories Podcast.