Mormonism and priesthood/Restoration/Melchizedek/Date
|Joseph Smith, Jr.|
|FAIR Wiki Topical Guide|
|FAIR web site|
|FARMS web site|
- Critics claim that the restoration of the priesthood was "back dated" later by Joseph Smith to justify his desire to dominate the Church.
- Critics claim that no one seems to know "when or how" Joseph Smith received the Melchizedek priesthood.
When all the circumstantial evidence is studied, the approximate time of the Melchizedek priesthood' restoration can be plausibly narrowed down. Although the exact date is not known, the window that is known is small enough to preclude a later fabrication of events by the Prophet to "increase his authority."
Although historical documents do not give an exact date for the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood we can pinpoint its occurrence to a 17 day window between the 15 and 31 of May, 1829.
Joseph learned from Moroni in 1823 that “when [the golden plates] are interpreted the Lord will give the holy priesthood to some, and they shall begin to proclaim this gospel and baptize by water, and after that they shall have power to give the Holy Ghost by the laying on of their hands.” Two years later the first part of that pronouncement occurred when John the Baptist visited Joseph and Oliver:
- He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter...The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this 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. We know that the Melchizedek priesthood therefore had not yet been given and must be given either later that day or sometime following that day.
Joseph and Oliver Cowdery were told to re-ordain each other to the priesthood after being baptized. This was to follow proper rules of being a member before receiving the priesthood, but in their case they couldn't become members until having the priesthood to baptize each other.
Similar to this origination complication of baptism and membership, the ordination to the office of Elder via the higher priesthood could not occur until the church had been established. After the church was officially established we have the following evidences that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had already received the higher priesthood:
- Aug 1830, the Lord spoke to the Prophet Joseph Smith of “Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them.” DC 27:12
- Apr 1830, “And to Oliver Cowdery, who was also called of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to be the second elder of this church, and ordained under his hand.” DC 20:2-3
- “Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery sought after this higher authority, and the Lord gave it to them, before the rise of this Church, sending to them Peter, James and John. What for? To bestow upon them the Apostleship.” -Elder Parley P. Pratt 
- Hiram Page, a son-in-law of Peter Whitmer Sr., and one who was present on the day of the Church’s 6 April 1830 organization, later confirmed that “Peter, James and John” had come and bestowed the Holy Priesthood “before the 6th of April 1830.” 
- “I know that Joseph received his Apostleship from Peter, James, and John, before a revelation on the subject was printed, and he never had a right to organize a Church before he was an Apostle.” -Brigham Young 
Knowing that the prophet already had the Melchizedek priesthood prior to the organization of the church we can look at the following clues of the May 15 to 30, 1829 ordination window in order of progressively narrowed parameters:
- Year 1829: There is a manuscript in Oliver Cowdery’s handwriting recording part of DC 18: saying, “Written in the year of our Lord & Saviour 1829.” 
- June 1829: In DC 18:9 we read “And now, Oliver Cowdery, I speak unto you, and also unto David Whitmer, by the way of commandment; for, behold, I command all men everywhere to repent, and I speak unto you, even as unto Paul mine apostle, for you are called even with that same calling with which he was called.”
- Before June 14, 1829: Oliver Cowdery wrote a letter to Hyrum Smith. The letter has some wording that quotes and refers to section 18 in the D&C. 
- Before June 1, 1829:
- Joseph Smith said that he, Emma, Oliver and David Whitmer traveled to the home of Peter Whitmer Sr. “In the beginning of the month of June.” 
- David Whitmer is quoted as saying “The translation at my father’s farm, Fayette Township, Seneca County, New York occupied about one month, that is from June 1, to July 1, 1829.”  If those dates are exact then the Prophet was in New York during the entire month of June.
- Orson Pratt asked David Whitmer, “Can you tell the date of the bestowal of the Apostleship upon Joseph, by Peter, James and John?” To which he replied: “I do not know, Joseph never told me.” From this we can tell that the visitation either:
- Happened during the traveling when Joseph and Oliver were away from David and did not tell him about the occurrence (their trusted friend with whom they shared many other events).
- Happened at another time than their travel from Harmony to Fayette.
Critics also raise the issue of where the Melchizedek priesthood restoration occurred.
The bestowal of the Melchizedek priesthood occurred in Harmony, Pennsylvania.  The time of travel between Harmony, PA and the Whitmer farm would have been three days. The likely hood of the men traveling back to Harmony at the same time as they did the following is near impossible:
- Finished the translation
- Secured the copyright on June 11
- Oliver's letter to Hyrum on June 14
- Joseph's details of how busy they were during this time period at the farm 
As shown above, after receiving the priesthood they were not yet allowed to ordain each other to the offices within that priesthood. They were told to “defer this our ordination until such times as it should be practicable to have our brethren, who had been and who should be baptized, assembled together, when we must have their sanction to our proceeding to ordain each other.” 
Other early mentions
Some have claimed that Joseph only began to mention apostolic ordination to the priesthood several years after the Church's organization. This claim is belied by the fact that in March of 1833, the Reverend Richmond Taggart wrote a letter to a ministerial friend, regarding the activities of Joseph Smith himself in Ohio: "The following Curious occurrance occurred last week in Newburg [Ohio] about 6 miles from this Place [Cleveland]. Joe Smith the great Mormonosity was there and held forth, and among other things he told them he had seen Jesus Christ and the Apostles and conversed with them, and that he could perform Miracles."
Here, then, is a clear reference to Joseph Smith stating he had seen Jesus Christ. Joseph’s ‘conversations’ with the Apostles could be a reference to having seen, spoken to, and been ordained to the Priesthood by the early Apostles Peter, James, and John. Having received that Priesthood Joseph Smith was now qualified to perform healings, and other ‘miracles’.
- [note] As quoted by Oliver Cowdery in a letter to W. W. Phelps printed in (October 1835) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 2:199..
- [note] JS-H 1:70-72
- [note] Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History, 27th ed. (1974), 58.
- [note] Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 16:294-295.
- [note] Letter of Hiram Page to “Brother Wm. [William E. McLellin],” 4 March 1848, Fishing River, Missouri, Second Part, RLDS Archives, Independence, Missouri.
- [note] Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:137.; emphasis added.
- [note] Oliver Cowdery, “Written in the year of our Lord & Savior 1829—A true copy of the articles of the Church of Christ,” MS 1829, LDS Church Archives.
- [note] Letter of Oliver Cowdery to Hyrum Smith, 14 June 1829, Fayette, New York, LDS Church Archives.
- [note] Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:48–49. BYU Studies link; Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:293.
- [note] Kansas City Daily Journal, 5 June 1881.
- [note] DC 128:20; Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:40–41. BYU Studies link
- [note] Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:51–51. BYU Studies link
- [note] Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:60–61. BYU Studies link; emphasis added.
- [note] Reuben Miller Journal, 21 Oct. 1848, MS 1392, LDS Church Archives.
- [note] Statement of Oliver Cowdery to Samuel W. Richards, 13 Jan. 1849, quoted in Deseret Evening News, 22 March 1884, 2.
- [note] Richmond Taggart to the Reverend Jonathan Goings, 2 March 1833, 2, Jonathon Goings Papers, American Baptist Historical Society, Rochester, New York, quoted in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:205. See also Gregory A. Prince, Power from on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1995), 8.