The LDS Second Anointing

Second anointing

In the LDS church the temple ordinances, which include the Endowment and Sealing, are thought of as the crowning ordinances in the gospel. However, there is an additional ordinance that is specifically concealed from members, that of the second anointing. This is in fact the single crowning ordinance in the LDS church, however it is never discussed, and members are even directly told not to discuss it.

The Second Anointing

In the LDS church, ordinances such as the Endowment and the sealing of a married couple are performed with an understanding that they are conditional in nature. The ordinances are performed, but it is up to the individuals to live a life of worthiness so the blessings can be made permanent by God. Essentially, they would have no promises, in this life, and must rely on the mercy of Christ until the end.

However, there is an additional ordinance referred to as a second anointing, a second endowment, or a special blessing that changes things. This ordinance promises exaltation to an individual or a couple, in this life, so that there is nothing that will prevent them from receiving all the blessings of God in the next life except murder. This would then be the highest and holiest promise anyone can ever receive in mortality as it promises them godhood in the next life. This second anointing then seals all the blessings, which the first anointing or the endowment made conditional upon the individual.

The actual origins of this ordinance are obscured with academics pointing to cryptic journal entries or statements as proof of one thing or another. Certainly, there is some evidence which we will consider, however with subjects like this it is important to not assume one thing implies another just because someone, who is paid by the LDS church, said it does.

Early Church

Previously we analyzed what it meant to be sealed to God. This was a special status that God gave the individual as they entered into his kingdom and became his people. If we chose not to be sealed to God, then as a default we would be sealed to Satan. There was no in between status. We were either in one camp or the other and must decide where our loyalty was. It is important to emphasize that scripturally being sealed to God was a status that God bestowed on his people and was never something man bestowed on man.

In the early church the concept of sealing changed through several forms and appears to have started with pure intentions. Shortly after the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the office of High Priest, were introduced at the Morley Farm Conference the high priesthood started to permeate through the church and many changes were introduced. Among those changes was a much higher focus on priesthood and ordinances instead of simple faith in Christ.

In an October 1831 conference at Far West, Joseph Smith is recorded to have said:

The order of the High priesthood is that they have power given them to seal up the Saints unto eternal life. And [that] it was the privilege of every Elder present to be ordained to the High Priesthood.

Joseph Smith

Naturally, as soon as the concept of being permanently sealed to God was introduced then it became something that many sought after. It certainly makes sense that people would want an unconditional promise of all the blessings God has to offer. I am not sure of many religious people that would shun the promise.

At this time there was no formal definition of sealing or how to seal individuals and therefore we have records such as from Zebedee Coltrin’s 1831 missionary journal where missionaries were sealing up entire congregations to eternal life.

Tuesday came to Shalersville held a meeting in the Evening with the [Brethren] and after laboring with them some length of time [Brother] David seeled them up unto Eternal life

Zebedee Coltrin (Diary, 15 Nov 1831, LDS Church Archives)

In church history this is just one of many accounts where entire congregations were sealed to eternal life. In the journal of Joseph Knight, it is recorded that Joseph Smith would go from congregation to congregation in 1831 and seal the entire group up to eternal life. This practice seemed to be very widespread through numerous missionaries such as Jared Carter, Lyman Johnson, and Orson Pratt who all sealed entire congregations through a verbal prayer.

From the records we have, being sealed up unto eternal life appears to have been a generic prayer or pronouncement upon the individual or group. It didn’t require any physical contact between individuals like we would think of as a blessing today would require. Today this would be very similar to an apostolic blessing which is a general pronouncement upon the entire group and also doesn’t require any kind of physical contact or specific language. For instance, earlier this year in a worldwide devotional, Elder Holland gave an apostolic blessing of faith and knowledge to help ward off a crisis of faith he said.

The next evolution in this concept was first introduced in the School of the Prophets which is described in D&C 88. In this school, Joseph was told to admit the members with a new “ordinance of the washing of feet” which was specifically to be performed by Joseph himself. These chosen individuals were to already be “clean from the blood of this generation” therefore, from the revelation itself, there is no indication that the act of washing their feet changed their status with God at all.

About three weeks after D&C 88 was received, Joseph clarified in a statement that those who attended the school of the prophets were sealed up unto eternal life and clean from the blood of this generation. This sealing appeared to be unconditional since Joseph further clarified:

If any of them should sin wilfully after they were thus cleansed, and sealed up unto life eternal, they should be given over unto the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption.

Joseph Smith

Joseph makes no mention of losing the blessing if they sinned, but just being turned over to Satan for a period of time if the individual didn’t fully live up to their promises to God. Therefore, this status would be as unconditional as we can obtain in this life. This is very similar language to D&C 132:26-27 which also promises unconditional exaltation with a possibility of being turned over to Satan for a time based on disobedience.

Certainly, God can give unconditional promises to specific special individuals, and he has in the scriptures. However general statements that mention willful disobedience will be overlooked by God reminds me of 2 Nephi 28.

And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.

2 Nephi 28:8

Certainly, we are all imperfect and are struggling. I am in no way suggesting otherwise. However, there is a fundamental difference between a disciple of Christ that gets up after struggling and one that excuses themselves because they have an “assurance” of future blessings. We are the sum of our struggles and not the sum of our assurances.

Starting in Nauvoo, the concept that we know today as the second anointing really began to materialize. Joseph created what was called the Anointed Quorum or the Quorum of the Anointed and administered to these individuals the first version of the masonic influenced temple ordinances the LDS church knows today, which included the second anointing. These individuals were all either prominent members in Mormonism or the wives of prominent individuals.

In Joseph’s journal, speaking of the Anointed Quorum, it records that on September 28th, 1843, he and Emma were:

By common consent. & unanimous voice chosen president of the quorum. & anointed & ordained to the highest and holiest order of the priesthood

Joseph Smith

Wilford Woodruff in his journal for that day records, that “President Joseph Smith received his second Anointing this day”. This insertion does appear to be a later addition, however it fits all the other records we have of this event. It does beg the question though of why in Mormonism would Joseph, who talked with God and angels on many occasions, need a special ordinance to be sealed to God? Shouldn’t he already have had an incredibly favored status with God? Wasn’t he also the only one on Earth with the sealing authority of God? How then could he have sealed others or authorized the sealing of others if he was in an unknown state with God?

I am not suggesting you have to be a perfect vessel for God to use you. However, it does appear to be problematic that the early church experienced multiple levels of “fullness”. For instance, Joseph would announce that everything was revealed, and the church was complete, only then to reveal more and make more changes. This continued well into the Nauvoo era until the time of his death.


Immediately after the death of Joseph and Hyrum the church was in a state of shock and didn’t really know which direction to continue. Many thought that since they didn’t complete the Nauvoo temple or the Nauvoo house in time then they were rejected by God. This would certainly seem to apply since in D&C 124:32, God says that if they didn’t build the Nauvoo house in time then they would be rejected as a church. We know today that they didn’t build it in time and instead chose to prioritize building of the three-story Nauvoo masonic lodge.

However, after the succession crisis, which saw the members choosing the apostles to govern the church, they doubled down on the construction of the Nauvoo temple which greatly sped up efforts. Beginning in December 1845 small portions of the temple were dedicated, and the general membership was able to enter the temple to go through the first version of the Endowment ceremony. (HC 7:543-580)

On January 7th, 1846, a small altar was dedicated in the attic of the Nauvoo temple. This alter was used to seal couples together as well as perform the second anointing ceremony. From the records we have, it appears that many people who previously received the second anointing from Joseph also received it from Brigham Young in the Nauvoo Temple. There is no indication as to why this was needed, however it appears to be a rather common occurrence for the leadership of the church at that time. (HC 7:566)

Upon the closure of the Nauvoo temple, it was recorded in a dedicated journal, that almost 600 people had received their Second Anointing with many more others receiving sealings or endowments. It was also at this time that we have in the journal of Heber C. Kimball a description of the full second anointing ordinance which was composed of two parts.

The first part was an individual blessing, in the temple, which would seal all the conditional promises upon the recipient. The second part was then done at a future time in a private setting where the wife would wash the feet of the husband and then give him a priesthood blessing. According to Heber C. Kimball, this would give the wife a claim on her husband in the next life. Without this washing of feet ordinance, then she would have no direct claim on him.

Late 1800’s

After the Nauvoo temple was officially closed and the members moved west, they of course were initially very focused on their survival instead of the comforts of Nauvoo that they left behind. This resulted in many years with no recorded temple activity of any kind. However, starting in 1855 the Endowment House was dedicated which allowed the membership to undergo the, then all day Endowment ceremony.

It was however not until 1867 that Second Anointings were reinstated starting in the Endowment House. The reason for the long break in acceptable temple ordinances in unclear. However, Brigham Young did give clear instructions, which Wilford Woodruff recorded, that the individuals should be dressed in temple clothes while the administrator could be dressed as they pleased. He also clarified that if multiple people were receiving their second anointing, then each must be anointed in a separate meeting:

The Administrator may be dressed in his usual clothing or in his Priestly Robes as he may see fit. … There should be but one man anointed at any one meeting, if more than one man is anointed in a day, they should come together and open by Prayer as though their had not been any meeting before and thus continue to the end

Wilford Woodruff – Journal

The first recorded Second Anointing we have, in the Endowment House, is of Daniel H. Wells who was anointed along with his four wives. At this event Wilford Woodruff recorded:

The brethren rejoiced at the commencement again of the administration of these ordinances which had not been administered since they were in the Temple at Nauvoo

Wilford Woodruff – Journal

After a few days of polygamous couples receiving their anointings, Brigham Young made a small tweak to the ordinance which required the administrator to dress in temple clothes, offer the signs of the priesthood, and only perform one anointing in a day. Wilford Woodruff recorded:

It was decided by Presidet Young that we dress & offer up the signs of the Holy Priesthood before we give the 2d anointing & only anoint one man & his wives in one day at one place.

Wilford Woodruff – Journal

Again approximately 8 weeks later President Young changed things to allow for more than a single anointing per day. After this initial flurry of changes, it appears that the ordinance stabilized and was finally recorded along with the Endowment in 1877 shortly before Brigham’s death.

In 1883, President John Taylor speaking of the temple ordinances, which included the Second Anointing, remarked that many who were entering the temple were not worthy to do so and not taking the ordinances seriously afterwards. He mentioned:

It would seem to be necessary that there should be more care taken in the administration of the ordinances to the Saints in order that those who had not proven themselves worthy might not partake of the fulness of the anointings until they had proven themselves worthy thereof

John Taylor – School of the Prophets Minutes, 12 Oct. 1883

This is honestly interesting for a number of reasons. At this time the second anointing was seen as an unconditional promise, therefore how would it work if the person was unworthy to receive it as indicated? Is God still bound to accept the unworthy individual? According to the scriptures referenced earlier, shouldn’t God be the one to decide who is sealed to him? If this is the case, then how could the person be unworthy to receive it? Of course, if the promise is conditional then how is it any different than the first anointing or the Endowment as we would call it?

Early 1900’s

Shortly after Wilford Woodruff became President of the church in 1889, Stake Presidents were given the ability to judge who was worthy of receiving the Second Anointing. This was likely a result of the increased burden of the membership numbers, and the growing geographical diversity of the church. It just was too much of a burden for the First Presidency or the Apostles to be involved directly with the membership as they had previously been.

A First Presidency letter in 1891 however clarified that the President of the church still needed to give the final approval for all Second Anointing candidates. This final approval was likely just an acknowledgement that the President of the church held the authority, and the Stake Presidents did not.

It was however acknowledged by President Lorenzo Snow that candidates were still receiving their Second Anointing who were not worthy of this unconditional promise. In 1901, shortly before his death, President Snow remarked:

That persons who are recommended for second anointings should be those who have made an exceptional record, that they are persons who will never apostatize.

Lorenzo Snow – Anthony W. Ivins, Journal, typescript entry for 8 April 1901

Again, why should this matter if it is an unconditional promise from God. If it is not, then why was the LDS church doing it to begin with? Throughout various points of the 1900’s the First Presidency occasionally made small modifications to the requirements of the Second Anointing. These changes including various requirements for the candidate to be considered worthy:

  1. The individual needed to have an unquestionable testimony of the church and its work
  2. Their testimony needed to have been tested and tried over a period of time
  3. They needed to be obedient to the laws and teachings of the church such as tithing, chastity, and obedience to leaders.
  4. They needed to meet with the body of the Church.
  5. They must not be guilty of any serious sins. If an individual was guilty of adultery then they were permanently disqualified even after repentance.
  6. Vicarious Second Anointings could only be performed for individuals who received their Endowment in this life.

Starting in 1902, candidates were instructed to not discuss the second anointing ordinance outside of the temple and Stake Presidents were instructed to not send more than one candidate to the First Presidency per week. Both of these instructions were suggested as means to help maintain the confidentiality of the Second Anointing and prevent knowledge of the ordinance from becoming common.

Late 1900’s

In the 1900’s, the church started to expand more rapidly, and the administrative burdens started to increase upon the First Presidency and the President of the church. In response to this, and because of an incident where an individual openly discussed the Second Anointing, President Grant issued a policy change, in 1926, which disallowed Stake Presidents from recommending individuals for their Second Anointing:

Second Blessings are only given by the President of the Church upon recommendation of a member of the Council of the Twelve.

Heber J. Grant (Heber J. Grant to S. L. Chipman, 30 Jan. 1926, Heber J. Grant Letter Books)

The general policy was updated so that when an Apostle was visiting for a Stake’s quarterly meeting then recommendations from the Stake President were to be given to the Apostle who would then forward them to the President of the church if they desired. This change however effectively stopped all Second Anointings in the church. Prior to this point the records indicate a slow but steady decline in the recorded ordinances from 1000’s to 100’s per year. However, after this point a very sharp drop was recorded in the ordinances to less than 2 per year, on average.

This decline was so sharp and sudden that it appears that even the leaders of the church were no longer receiving their Second Anointing and the ordinance was discontinued. In 1934 George F. Richards, who was an apostle of the time, sent a letter to President Grant and mentioned that five leaders of the church had not received their anointing and he was recommending them to the President for the ordinance.

Another letter Elder Richards wrote, 8 years later in 1942 to President Grant mentioned that about 40% of the leaders of the time had not had their Second Anointing and he was recommending them for it. President Grant however seemed to have been very reluctant to reinstate the practice and did not make any modifications at the time. Elder Richards recorded in his journal that he was deeply saddened by this and feared that the church was losing something that was very important.

It was not until 7 years later in 1949, that Elder Richards made another impassioned plea, this time to President George Albert Smith, that things finally changed. He advocated very strongly that the ordinance should return and should become a common occurrence again. In his journal for that day, he wrote that the letter, and his conclusions, were accepted by the First Presidency for which he expressed great joy.

Modern Day

After this event, not much concerning the Second Anointing is known since the records are unavailable to researchers. In addition, as noted at the beginning, this entire topic is specifically mentioned as not to be discussed. This is another great hinderance in studying this topic and its occurrences in the church. Even today, large sections of journals from early leaders of the church, such as Wilford Woodruff, are redacted in reference to this topic and others.

It is clear though that attitudes concerning the Second Anointing being an unconditional promise from God have certainly changed from its initial inception. In a 1961 missionary meeting, Elder Harold B. Lee was asked about the Second Anointing, and whether it was required for exaltation, he mentioned:

You’ve received all the ordinances necessary for exaltation. … It is a special blessing given by the President of the Church to men who have been called. It is not necessary to receive it, however. You have all the endowment you need to be exalted

Harold B. Lee (John A. Tvedtnes, Journal, 30 June 1961)

Today, the Second Anointing is still a closely guarded secret in the church however with the proliferation of social media, information is slowly being disseminated. In addition, a few people who have reportedly received their second anointing have publicly shared their experiences. The ordinance is still however kept very secret and not discussed at all in any form. We know it is still practiced in the church, however the extent is definitely unknown.


The Second Anointing as an unconditional ordinance sealing an individual to eternal life is very problematic to be sure. Certainly, God can seal individuals to himself and definitely has done so. However, what does it mean when an individual does so presumably in the name of God? There is no reason to assume that the ordinance would be binding on God just because a well-intentioned person said it was. If that was the case, then wouldn’t the person be controlling God? Can a man force God to accept someone into his kingdom that shouldn’t be there?

It is also quite unclear as to how one individual can recommend another for the ordinance when the scriptures are clear that man sees the outward appearance and God sees the inward. Without the assistance of God, it is impossible for us to know the true thoughts and feelings of anyone. We are all at different points and have different reasons and motives for our actions. There is no one that fully understands us except God.

In addition, it seems great care has been taken in the church to ensure that “unworthy” individuals have not received the ordinance. This is confusing because if the ordinance is unconditional then this shouldn’t be possible. This would be like Adam and Eve eating the fruit from the Tree of Life after they were cast out of the Garden. God mentioned if they did so then they would have been permanently banished and unclean forever. God avoided this possibly by causing the tree to be constantly guarded. If the ordinance is conditional though, then what is the purpose of it? The first anointing should be sufficient, should it not? What is the purpose of the same conditional promise again?

Historically, it seems the ordinance started as a special and sacred means of replicating what Christ did to his apostles. However, it appears now to be an initiation into the inner circle of an elite group. There is no scriptural reason to establish it as necessary for our journey back to God. There is also no reason to conclude that receiving it, puts anyone into a more favored status with God.

Today, there is only one way to be favored of God and that is to do the will of God. Many will try to short cut this process, however no amount of wishful thinking or promises from men will get us back to God. It is only through a full trust and reliance on Christ that we can be saved. We must all constantly seek to seal ourselves to God. No promise from anyone other than God has any efficacy in this life or the next. If we are always seeking to do the will of God and understand our relationship with him more fully, then we will be admitted into the kingdom of God whether we get a special ordinance or not. There is only one way to God and that is through Christ and his simple doctrine.

Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.

2 Nephi 9:41
Author: Patrick