True Order of Prayer

18 The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church

19 To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.  (D&C 107:18-19)

I assure the Saints that truth, in reference to these matters, can and may be known through the revelations of God in the way of His ordinances, and in answer to prayer.  The Hebrew Church “came unto the spirits of just men made perfect, and unto an innumerable company of angels, unto God the Father of all, and to Jesus Christ the Mediator of the new covenant.”  What did they learn by coming to the spirits of just men made perfect?  Is it written?  No.  What they learned has not been and could not have been written.  What object was gained by this communication with the spirits of the just?  It was the established order of the kingdom of God:  The keys of power and knowledge were with them to communicate to the Saints.  Hence the importance of understanding the distinction between the spirits of the just and angels.  (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 325)

But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.  (Hebrews 12:22-24)

If, on the other hand, we deny the philosophy or the fact of spiritual communication between the living and those who have died, we deny the very fountain from which emanated the great truths or principles which were the foundation of both the ancient and modern Church.  * * *

Again—How do the Saints expect the necessary information by which to complete the ministrations for the salvation and exaltation of their friends who have died?  By one holding the keys of the oracles of God, as a medium through which the living can hear from the dead.  Shall we, then, deny the principle, the philosophy, the fact of communication between worlds?  No! verily no!  * * *

The spiritual philosophy of the present age was introduced to the modern world by Joseph Smith.  The people of the United States abandoned him to martyrdom, and his followers to fire, and sword, and plunder, and imprisonment, and final banishment to these far-off mountains and deserts, simply because a medium of communication with the invisible world had been found, whereby the living could hear from the dead.  No sooner had the people and nation, thus guilty of innocent blood, completed the banishment of the Saints from their midst, than they began to adopt some of the same principles of spiritual philosophy, although in a perverted sense of the word. * * *

An important point is gained, a victory won, and a countless host of opposing powers vanquished, on one of the leading or fundamental truths of “Mormon” philosophy, viz.—“That the living may hear from the dead.”

But, notwithstanding these great victories of truth over error, ignorance, and superstition, in certain points of spiritual philosophy, yet much remains to be done, ere pure, uncontaminated truth will reign triumphant, and darkness and error surrender their last stronghold on the earth.

The fact of spiritual communications being established, by which the living hear from the dead—being no longer a question of controversy with the well informed, we drop that point, and call attention to the means of discriminating or judging between the lawful and the unlawful mediums or channels of communication—between the holy and impure, the truths and falsehoods, thus communicated. * * *

And moreover, the Lord has appointed a Holy Priesthood on the earth, and in the heavens, and also in the world of spirits; which Priesthood is after the order or similitude of His Son; and has committed to this Priesthood the keys of holy and divine revelation, and of correspondence, or communication between angels, spirits, and men, and between all the holy departments, principalities, and powers of His government in all worlds.  (Parley P. Pratt, “Spiritual Communication,” On the occasion of laying the cornerstones of the Salt Lake Temple, April 6, 1853, JD 2:43)

And when they shall say unto you: Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and mutter—should not a people seek unto their God for the living to hear from the dead?  (2 Nephi 18:19, JST Isaiah 8:9)

19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.

20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.

21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;

22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.  (D&C 84:19-22)

95 That he [Hyrum Smith] may act in concert also with my servant Joseph; and that he shall receive counsel from my servant Joseph, who shall show unto him the keys whereby he may ask and receive, and be crowned with the same blessing, and glory, and honor, and priesthood, and gifts of the priesthood, that once were put upon him that was my servant Oliver Cowdery;

* * *

97 Let my servant William Law also receive the keys by which he may ask and receive blessings; let him be humble before me, and be without guile, and he shall receive of my Spirit, even the Comforter, which shall manifest unto him the truth of all things, and shall give him, in the very hour, what he shall say.  (D&C 124:95, 97)

It was a long time after the Prophet Joseph Smith had received the keys of the kingdom of God, and after Hyrum and others had received many blessings, that the Lord gave Joseph a revelation, to show him and others how they could ask for and receive certain blessings.  We read in the revelations of St. John, that the Saints are to receive a white stone, “and in the stone a new name, which no man knoweth save him that receiveth it.”  Joseph tells us that this new name is a key-word, which can only be obtained through the endowments.  This is one of the keys and blessings that will be bestowed upon the Saints in these last days, for which we should be very thankful. (Apostle Charles C. Rich, February 10, 1878, JD 19:250)

Thus we behold the Keys of this priesthood consisted in obtaining the voice of Jehovah that he talked with him [Noah] in a familiar and friendly manner, that he continued to him the Keys, the Covenants, the power and the glory with which he blessed Adam at the beginning and the offering of Sacrifice which also shall be continued at the last time; for all the ordinances and duties that ever have been required by the Priesthood, under the directions and commandments of the Almighty in any of the dispensations, shall all be had in the last dispensation, therefore all things had under the authority of the Priesthood at any former period, shall be had again, bringing to pass the restoration spoken of by the mouth of all the Holy Prophets. (Joseph Smith, Discourse on Priesthood, Robert B. Thompson Manuscript, 5 October 1840, “Words of Joseph Smith,” Ehat/Cook, Religious Studies Center, BYU, Grandin Publishing, 1980. p. 42)

Having thus conferred the keys and form of the true order of prayer, Joseph Smith apparently also authorized members of the Anointed Quorum to practice the order of prayer apart the rest of the prayer circle. While Heber C. Kimball was campaigning for Joseph Smith’s presidential candidacy in Washington, DC, he recorded in his journal on 6 June 1844: “Last nite I clothed my self and offerd up the Sines [sic] of the Holy Preasthood—and called one the name of the Lord he hurd me fore my heart was mad comfortable” [sic — original spellings], and a month later he and Apostle Lyman Wight obtained confirmation of the actuality of the martyrdom in answer to the order of prayer. * * *

The special prayer circles of the 1850s were not restricted to Salt Lake City or even to Utah. Although data are insufficient to identify the locations of all special prayer circles during this period, it is possible that they were functioning in each of the major Mormon settlements established in the American West.  The Mormon colony in San Bernardino, California, and the St. Louis (Missouri) Stake were both far distant from Church headquarters, yet the former had a prayer circle as early as 1854 and the latter organized a prayer circle in 1857. * * *

In 1851 these special prayer circles met in dedicated rooms of residences, but subsequently convened in the Lion House or in the Salt Lake Endowment House (1855-1889), in the Gardo House or private residences (1889-1893), and in the Salt Lake Temple (1893-1929). In some cases, prayer circles distant from a temple met in residences rather than in chapels. It was common for the circle president to admit his relatives since these special prayer circles included men irrespective of priesthood calling. Moreover, these special prayer circles often included men from various wards and stakes in the Salt Lake Valley. Men were released from a special prayer circle only in the event of unwillingness to attend regularly or if they ceased to be members of the Church in good standing. * * *

In addition to stake prayer circles, ecclesiastical prayer circles have been conducted by wards, priesthood quorums (e.g., the Salt Lake Stake Elders’ Quorum, 1893-1929), and by temple presidencies and temple workers. Usually, these ecclesiastical prayer circles, even in local wards, were organized by members of the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. For example on 18 December 1880 the President of the Church, his counselors and two apostles organized prayer circles in each of the Ogden, Utah, wards. Nevertheless, the presence of an apostle was not always required, since in 1937 Edward J. Wood, president of the Alberta (Canada) Stake and president of the Cardston Temple, organized a prayer circle in the Hillspring Ward. The number of ward prayer circles is not readily apparent, but in 1900 Apostle Reed Smoot said: “I hope that there will not be a ward but what will have a prayer circle inaugurated for it is a strength to the Church.” With such encouragement, it is probable that ward prayer circles have been as common by proportion as stake circles. * * *

The conducting of separate prayer circles has continued until recently in some wards and stakes. However, on 3 May 1978, the First Presidency announced that all prayer circles except those conducted as part of the endowment ceremony in the temples were to be immediately discontinued. As the number of stakes in the LDS Church reached nearly a thousand, the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles decided that it would be too difficult to comply with all the requests for new prayer circles.  (BYU Studies 19:1:91-103)

 “A Prayer Answered:”  I am standing on what to me is sacred ground. My grandparents and my parents and many other relatives lived here in Provo and some still live here. My father as a young man came near losing his life in the Provo river, not far from where we are now. His father, who was in Salt Lake City, felt impressed to go into a room that had been set apart for prayer. He clothed himself in Temple robes, knelt down at the altar and said: “Heavenly Father, I feel that there is something seriously wrong with my family in Provo. Thou knowest that I can not be with them there and be here. Heavenly Father, wilt thou preserve and safeguard them, and I will be grateful to thee and honor thee.”

At the time when he was praying, just as near as it was possible to indicate by checking the time, my father had fallen into the river. It was at flood time. Logs and rocks were pouring down from the canyon, and he was helpless. Those who were near saw his predicament, but they could not reach him. The turbulence of the water was such that nobody could live in it. They just stood there in horror. Father was doing everything he could to keep his head above water, but he was being thrown up and down and being dashed against the rocks and logs. All at once a wave lifted him bodily from the water and threw him upon the shore. It was a direct answer of the prayer of a servant of the Lord.  (George Albert Smith, Sharing the Gospel With Others, p. 83-84)

The family altar should be in every man’s house; he is the patriarch of the family, and everything should be done under his direction. He should offer prayer; his wife and children also should offer prayer in turn around the family altar. You cannot be a Saint without the fellowship of the Spirit of God; and you should train your children that they also may know the benefit of having its fellowship.  (Apostle George Teasdale, Conference Report, October 5, 1903)

Let a Quorum of High Priests go into an upper room, and there appear before the Lord in the garments of the holy Priesthood, and offer up before the Father, in the name of Jesus, the signs of the holy Priesthood, and then ask God to give a revelation concerning that doctrine, and they have a right to receive it. If you cannot get the information in any other way, suppose you were upon the islands of the sea, far away from the main body of the Church, you are entitled, to the administration of angels who administer in the terrestrial kingdom; and they have a right to receive administrations from the celestial. In this capacity you could ask for revelations pertaining to doctrine.  (Brigham Young, May 7, 1861, JD 9:91)

President Young said the family altar was the same as an altar in the prayer circle.  It is for parents and children to join hands over the altar and pray. (Journal of Wilford Woodruff; April 25, 1858)

When we begin to learn this way, we begin to have a knowledge and to understand the character of the only true God.  When we begin to know how to approach Him to ask, He begins to unfold the Heavens to us and to tell us all about it before our prayers get to his ears.  When we are ready to come to him, He is ready to receive us.  (Joseph Smith, 7 April 1844, “King Follett Discourse,” amalgamation of records of Wilford Woodruff, Thomas Bullock, Willard Richards, and William Clayton.)

He [Joseph Smith] spoke of delivering the Keys of the Priesthood to the Church, and said that the faithful members of the Relief Society should receive them with their husbands, and the Saints whose integrity has been tried and proved faithful, might know how to ask and receive an answer. (TPJS, pg. 226)

When speaking in one of our general fast meetings, he [Joseph Smith] said that we did not know how to pray and have our prayers answered.  But when I and my husband had our endowments… Joseph Smith presiding, he taught us the order of prayer. (Bathsheba W. Smith, “Juvenile Instructor” 27:345, “Words of Joseph Smith,” Ehat/Cook, Religious Studies Center, BYU, Grandin Publishing, 1980, p. 54)

It will be recollected that this Gospel message proposed to give us divine manifestations through our doing certain specified acts; we have performed those acts in precisely the manner indicated.  None but ourselves have attempted to conform to this arrangement; consequently, no other people are prepared to be witnesses either for or against this system.  (Lorenzo Snow, JD 26:378, as reported in the Deseret News, March 6, 1886)

I attended the Prayer Circle in the evening. . . . (Journal of Wilford Woodruff, August 5, 1855)

Having a knowledge of God, we begin to know how to approach him, and how to ask so as to receive an answer.  When we understand the character of God, and how to come to him, he begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it.  When we are ready to come to him, he is ready to come to us.  (Joseph Smith, “King Follett Discourse, April 7, 1844, TPJS, p. 350)

3 May 1978 LDS First Presidency Letter Directing True Order of Prayer to Cease:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Office of the First Presidency

Salt Lake City, Utah

May 3, 1978


      Over the years special permission has been given from time to time  for special prayer circles to be held either in the temples of the Church  or in special rooms designated for that purpose in stake, ward, or other buildings.

      Because of the increasing number of requests for such prayer circles, viewed in light of the rapid growth of the Church, and because of the complications that holding prayer circles in temples on Sunday have created  and their tendency to take the participants away from their families and their other Church responsibilities, the Council of the First Presidency  and the Quorum of the Twelve has decided that all such prayer circles, whether held in the temples or outside the temples, be discontinued immediately.

      However, recognizing the value of these prayer circles in developing spirituality, commitment, and unity among those participating in them, we suggest that in lieu of such prayer circles, stake leaders may wish to consider the following:  (1) that periodically stake leaders and their wives attend a temple session together in connection with which arrangements be made with the temple presidency for the prayer circle held during the endowment session to be composed of several stake leaders and their wives; and

(2) that periodically stake leaders and their companions be called together in a special meeting where opportunity be given to those present to express themselves by way of testimony or exhortation.

 Sincerely yours,

  Spencer W. Kimball      

   N. Eldon Tanner

    M.G. Romney 

[The First Presidency]