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Restoring The Lost Priesthood Keys — Part II   Go to > (part I) or (Part III)

Rich Kelsey

Kolob

A Marvelous Work and a Wonder?   

At one point in time, Joseph Smith began telling a story of John the Baptist, who was now an angel, appearing to him and Oliver Cowdery, and ordaining them to the Aaronic Priesthood:

"The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this [Aaronic] Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood, he said, would in due time be conferred on us... It was on the fifteenth day of May, 1829, that we were ordained under the hand of this messenger, and baptized. (Joseph Smith— 1838 History, 2:72)

Although Smith claimed this event happened in 1829, there is no record of it during the Church's formative years.  The first revelation to mention that the Aaronic and/or Melchizedek Priesthood were offices to be conferred on members,

"in the church,"

is found in section III of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants:

"There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely: the Melchizedek, and the Aaronic, including the Levitical priest-hood. Why the first is called the Melchizedek priesthood, is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest: before his  day it was called the holy priesthood, after the order of the Son of God; but out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek priesthood. (1835 Doctrine and Covenants p. 82 — view original document)

Today the LDS Church touts the restoration of the Priesthood as a foundational teaching.  Yet, the term Priesthood cannot be found in the 1833 Book of Commandments; which was a forerunner to the Doctrine and Covenants, neither can the story of John the Baptist appearing to Joseph Smith and/or Oliver Cowdery:

"The important details that are missing from the 'full history' of 1834 are likewise missing from the Book of Commandments in 1833. The student would expect to find all the particulars of the Restoration in this first treasured set of 65 revelations, the dates of which encompassed the bestowals of the two Priesthoods, but they are conspicuously absent.... The notable revelations on Priesthood in the Doctrine and Covenants before referred to, Sections 2 and 13, are missing, and Chapter 28 gives no hint of the Restoration which, if actual, had been known for four years. More than four hundred words were added to this revelation of August 1829 in Section 27 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the additions made to include the names of heavenly visitors and two separate ordinations. The Book of Commandments gives the duties of Elders, Priests, Teachers, and Deacons and refers to Joseph's apostolic calling but there is no mention of Melchizedek Priesthood, High Priesthood, Seventies, High Priests, nor High Councilors. These words were later inserted into the revelation on Church organization and government of April, 1830, making it appear that they were known at that date, but they do not appear in the original, Chapter 24 of the Book of Commandments three years later. Similar interpolations were made in the revelations known as Sections 42 and 68" (Problems In Mormon Text, by LaMar Petersen, pp. 7-8).

The 1833 Book of Commandments contains the first 65 of Joseph's Smith's revelations, dating from July 1828, to September 1831. The revelations from the Book of Commandments were reprinted in the Doctrine and Covenants. Beginning with the fourth edition in 1876, an additional revelation was inserted between revelation #1 and #2: 

1833 Book of Commandments 

Chapter I

Harken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all men....

 

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Chapter II

The works, and the designs, and the purpose of God, can not be frustrated, neither can they come to nought, for God doth not walk in crooked paths...

2012  Doctrine and Covenants

Section  1

1 Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all men....

========================================

 Section  2

1 Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promise made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.

If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.

========================================

Section  3

1 The works, and the designs, and the purpose of God, can not be frustrated, neither can they come to nought.

2 For God doth not walk in crooked paths...

One might wonder if a revelation mentioning the Priesthood should rightfully have its place amongst the Church's foundational works? While addressing this issue, scholars from Brigham Young University spelled out:

"Details regarding the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, including John the Baptist's role in the event, were seldom if ever shared prior to 1832..." (Priesthood Restoration Documents, Brian Q. Cannon and BYU Studies Staff, BYU Studies 35. no. 4, 1995-96, p. 164)

We can get some idea as to when this Priesthood doctrine was shared with the Church by comparing Joseph Smith's 1838 History, with his 1832-33 translation of the Old Testament book of Malachi: 

Joseph Smith—History 1838

Vol. 1

38 And again, he [the angel Moroni] quoted the fifth verse thus: 

Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

39 He also quoted the next verse differently:

And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming. (Joseph Smith—History 1:38-39)

Joseph Smith Translation  1832-33

Malachi Chapter 4

 

5 "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; 

 

6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. 

The quote from Smith's 1838 History does mention the Priesthood. Yet, in the JST, there is no mention of the Priesthood. So, it appears the Priesthood doctrine was introduced sometime between 1832 and 1838. One thing is certain, the 1838 History is worded the same as the revelation in question:

Joseph Smith—History 1838

Vol. 1

38 And again, he [the angel Moroni] quoted the fifth verse thus: 

Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

39 He also quoted the next verse differently:

And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming. (Joseph Smith—History 1:38-39)

2012 Doctrine and Covenants

Section  2

 

1 Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

 

And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promise made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.

If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming. 

If the Priesthood was not introduced until a year or more after the formation of the Church, this would invalidate the LDS doctrine[1]  which maintains that a true Church could not be established until the priesthood was first restored.  On this subject, David Whitmer, who was a witness[2] to early Mormon history, wrote:

"This matter of two orders of priesthood in the Church of Christ, and lineal priesthood of the old law being in the church, all originated in the mind of Sydney Rigdon. He explained these things to Brother Joseph in his way, out of the old Scriptures, and got Brother Joseph to inquire, etc. He would inquire, and as mouthpiece speak out the revelations just as they had it fixed in their hearts. As I have said before, according to the desires of the heart, the inspiration comes, but it may be the spirit of man that gives it.... This is the way the High Priests and the 'priesthood' as you have it, was introduced into the Church of Christ almost two years after its beginning—and after we had baptized and confirmed about two thousand souls into the church" (An Address To All Believers In Christ, David Whitmer, p. 64).

Based upon the evidence, it's clear that the LDS doctrines of both the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood were introduced[3] into the Church about two years after its formation, then backdated to appear as if they were known from the beginning.

Conclusion:

1. The story of the Priesthood being restored in 1829, not only lacks a verifiable record; the records which do exist deny its legitimacy.

 


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Endnotes:

[1] "... Peter, James and John, apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the Melchizedek Priesthood, including the holy apostleship as promised by John the Baptist, which gave them the necessary authority to organize the church and kingdom of God upon the earth in this dispensation. Accordingly, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints was organized with six members at Fayette, Seneca County, New York, on the sixth day of April, 1830." (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, Legrand Richards, p.83, 1976)  

Also,  

"In this, the modern Church of Christ, the priesthood is structured in several different stages or offices. The first degree of authority is called the Aaronic Priesthood, after Aaron of the Old Testament. Men who hold this degree are in the office of a deacon, teacher, or priest, progressively. The completeness of divine authority is bestowed in the form of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and has offices including elder, high priest, seventy, and apostle. These various offices are in place so that the individual priesthood holder can find personal growth and development as he performs increasing duties and service for others in an organized manner." (Priesthood Authority, Mormon.org, 2012) 

[2] "David Whitmer, like Joseph Smith, Lucy Mack Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, has greatly influenced our perceptions of Mormon beginnings. Interviewed on more than fifty occasions, Whitmer related over and over again what he knew about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the organization of the church, and his experience as a restoration witness." (David Whitmer and the Shaping of Latter-day Saint History, Kenneth W. Godfrey, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute) 

[3] "Brethren, it is solemn mockery before God to have established in the church to-day this important office of which Christ alone is worthy. The office of Elder is spoken of all through the New Testament as being in the church, but not one High Priest; then of course they had no High Priests in the church upon the eastern continent.

Now Brethren, seeing they had no High Priests in the church of Christ of old, and none in the church of Christ in these last days until almost two years after its beginning--when the leaders began to drift into error; remembering the fact of the revelation being changed two years after it was given to include High Priests; taking these things into consideration, how is it that any one can say that the office of High Priest should be in the church of Christ to-day? I can account for it only on the grounds of your spiritual blindness. This matter is so plain and self-evident that any one should see and understand it. Brethren, your blindness must be utter blindness. May God have mercy on you is my prayer.

In no place in the word of God does it say that an Elder is after the order of Melchisedec, or after the order of the Melchisedec Priesthood. An Elder is after the order of Christ. This matter of 'priesthood,' since the days of Sydney Rigdon, has been the great hobby and stumbling-block of the Latter Day Saints." (An Address To All Believers In Christ, David Whitmer, p. 64)

 

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