I’ve been reading through a new compilation of early patriarchal blessings, given by the first Mormon Presiding Patriarchs: Joseph Smith Sr., Hyrum Smith and William Smith. These revelations can be mined for any number of treasures — enriching our understanding of the expectations and beliefs of our early Mormon ancestors.
The early Latter Day Saints believed that Christ would return in their lifetimes to usher in the Millennium, so I was not surprised at all to see that so many of the blessings included the promise that the recipient would live to see that day. For example, Joseph Sr. blessed future LDS church president Wilford Woodruff that “Thou shalt stand in the flesh and see the winding up of this generation. Thou shalt remain on the earth to behold the Savior come in the clouds of heaven.” (Blessing given on 13 April 1837).
Much more surprising were the specific priesthood powers Joseph Sr. mentioned. I have often heard of the ability to move mountains as an example of a potential priesthood power, but in a blessing to Joseph Cooper, Joseph Sr. predicts Br. Cooper will excercise that power: “Thou… shall do many miracles, Mountains shall remove at thy word, prisons shall not hold thee…”
The power that comes next in the blessing is even more interesting, as Joseph Sr. states: “thou shalt translate thyself from planet to planet…” (Blessing given on 14 May 1836).
Joseph Cooper is not alone in his ability to “translate” (teleport) himself. Ethan Barrows was similarly promised: “Thou shalt have power to translate thyself from land to land, and from country to country, from one end of heaven to the other, & when thy work is done, thou shalt be translated from earth to heaven.” (Blessing given by Joseph Smith Sr. on 23 March 1836).
William Harris meanwhile was promised the power “to translate thyself and change into a shadow, so that if any shall smite at thee they shall only hit thy shadow and thou shall be in another place.” (Blessing given by Joseph Smith Sr. on 2 May 1836).
These are some pretty exciting priesthood powers! And I think the belief in these powers illustrates the excitement of the early Mormons. There was nothing separating them from the miraculous stories recounted in the Bible and Book of Mormon. They were living out the verses of a new book of scriptures — the last few pages of the last book that would be written before the world’s end.