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By Benjamin Seeker
I started a thread earlier this year addressing some verses in D&C 86 on Joseph Smith and lineal priesthood. I recently followed up on it and put the puzzle pieces together.
D&C 86:8-10 appears to state that Joseph Smith had the priesthood through birthright. An early hint of JS' beliefs about his lineage come from 2 Ne 3, which teaches that JS is a descendant of Joseph (11th son of Israel), and though the lineage of Ephraim is one of leadership, it's not apparent that there is a lineal priesthood associated with it like there is for the Levites or the sons of Aaron. However, a Smith family lineal priesthood authority is actually well attested. JS established the position of Patriarch of the church, which originally was something akin to second in command, as a lineal position given to the eldest in a direct line from Joseph Smith Sr. This clear example of a lineal priesthood eventually disappeared when the position of church Patriarch was done away with due to conflict between the church Patriarch and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (EDIT: Robert points out later in this thread that the absence of the Church Patriarch can be seen as a result of the homosexual status of the second to last patriarch, and that the position may still be filled at a future point. Radio Free Mormon, and others I'm sure, have made other arguments, but this point is pretty peripheral to the discussion).
The position of Patriarch to the church is only half of the story. D&C 113 states, "What is the rod spoken of in the first verse of the 11th chapter of Isaiah, that should come of the Stem of Jesse? Behold, thus saith the Lord: It is a servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, or of the house of Joseph, on whom there is laid much power." It is common in Mormon thought to believe these verses apply to Joseph Smith, and that seems to be a correct assumption. The line of Jesse refers to the kingly line of David, and significantly, JS prophesied "the throne and kingdom of David is to be taken from him and given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his lineage," which apparently referred to one of JS' offspring. He made this clear when he prophesied that his unborn son, David, would be a "church president and king over Israel."
In Mormon theology, a King in the kingdom of Israel is a priesthood position. Notably, JS himself was ordained as a King in this sense in the Council of Fifty, also known in revelation as the "The Kingdom of God and His Laws with the Keys and Power thereof, and Judgment in the Hands of His Servants, Ahman Christ." According to Nauvoo theology the priesthood role of King was the ultimate leader of the Church, and according to contemporary accounts, Hyrum Smith was to fill JS' shoes should he die. All of this together gives a pretty clear answer to the lineal priesthood mentioned in D&C 86. The Smith family was a royal family in Israel destined to lead the restoration.
Since King David had his general set up to be murdered, is he limited in is eternal destiny to the Telestial Kingdom? I've heard this suggested, based on the LDS teaching that murderers can only receive grace sufficient for entry into the lowest heavenly kingdom. I find the idea troubling.