.:DID JOSEPH SMITH POSSESS THE PROPER PRIESTHOOD AUTHORITY TO RESTORE CHRIST’S CHURCH IN 1830? —11 Questions for Mormons concerning Priesthood Authority in Early LDS History
1. Do you believe that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were required to have the authority of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods in order to organize the LDS Church April 6, 1830?“In restoring the gospel, God again gave the priesthood to men. John the Baptist came in 1829 to ordain Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Aaronic Priesthood (see D&C 13; 27:8). Then Peter, James, and John, the presidency of the Church in ancient times, came and gave Joseph and Oliver the Melchizedek Priesthood and the keys of the Kingdom of God (see D&C 27:12-13). …Through the Restoration the priesthood was returned to the earth. Those who hold this priesthood today have the authority to perform ordinances such as baptism. They also have the authority to direct the Lord’s kingdom on earth. …On 6 April 1830, the Savior again directed the organization of his Church on earth (see D&C 20:1).”— Gospel Principles, p. 1112. According to the testimony of David Whitmer, how was the “Melchizedek Priesthood” revealed and when was it FIRST given to LDS leaders?
“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… This matter of ‘priesthood,’ since the days of Sydney Rigdon, has been the great hobby and stumbling-block of the Latter Day Saints… Authority is the word we used for the first two years in the church—until Sydney Rigdon’s days in Ohio. This matter of the two orders of priesthood in the church of Christ, and lineal priesthood of the older 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… 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… In Kirtland, Ohio, in June, 1831, at a conference of the church, the first High Priests were ordained into the church”—An Address to All Believers in Christ, David Whitmer, 1887, p. 64
3. If David Whitmer is correct that the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood authority was completely missing from the first year of the LDS Church’s administration, doesn’t this mean that Joseph Smith and his leaders were performing gospel ordinances WITHOUT the proper authority to do so? Doesn’t this make the baptisms of nearly “two thousand souls” invalid?
4. The LDS Church’s publication Gospel Principles correctly notes that Doctrine and Covenants Section 20 provides details on the “Church Government” when it was first organized in 1830. Can you find any reference to “Aaronic” and “Melchizedek” Priesthood authority in the original version of this 1830 revelation? Why are the terms “high priest” and “High Priesthood” (verse 67) missing from the original version of this revelation published in the Book of Commandments in 1833? Could it be that Whitmer is correct in claiming that this priesthood authority was completely missing from the first year of LDS Church history?
“A Revelation on Church Government… Doctrine and Covenants, section xx… Verses 65, 66 and 67 were added by the Prophet some time after the rest of the revelation was given.” —History of the Church, vol. 1, pp. 64, 68, notes (See also our photocopy comparison of D&C 20 with the original version published in chapter 24 of The Book of Commandments, pp. 47-55.)
5. Does the testimony of George A. Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church in 1864 agree with the testimony of Whitmer regarding the “High Priesthood” not being conferred upon LDS leadership until 1831?
“Among the early baptisms in Northern Ohio, was a Methodist minister by the name of Ezra Booth. He was present when the Elders first received the ordination of the High Priesthood. They met together in June, 1831. …While they were there, the manifestation of the power of God being on Joseph, he set apart some of the Elders to the High Priesthood. …The Priesthood was conferred on a number of the Elders.”—Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 4
6. According to History of the Church, when was the priesthood “conferred for the first time” upon the Elders of the LDS Church?
“On the 3rd of June , the Elders from the various parts of the country where they were laboring, came in. …the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the Elders.”—History of the Church, vol. 1, pp. 175-176
7. Since Priesthood authority was not conferred upon LDS Church leaders until June of 1831 (over a year after the Church was organized), how do we know that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery held the proper authority to organize the Church in 1830? What two sections in Doctrine and Covenants does B.H. Roberts provide in his notes in History of the Church to try to excuse away the evidence that Joseph Smith and his leaders did not have the proper authority to organized the Church?
“A misapprehension has arisen in the minds of some respecting the statement—‘The authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the Elders.’ It has been supposed that this passage meant that the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood was now for the first time conferred upon men in this dispensation. This of course is an error, since even before the Church was organized, the Apostleship, the highest authority in the Melchizedek Priesthood, was conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and very probably upon David Whitmer also. …RESTORATION OF THE MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD. – The promise to confer upon Joseph and Oliver the Melchizedek Priesthood was fulfilled; but as there is no definite account of the event in the history of the Prophet Joseph, or, for matter of that, in any of our annals, the evidence of the fact of their ordination to the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood… are presented now. …The Prophet Joseph, in a communication to the Church, under date of September 6, 1842,makes undoubted allusion to the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood… (Doctrine and Covenants, sec. cxxviii: 20.) In one of the early revelations given to the Prophet Joseph, the Lord makes most direct reference to the restoration of the higher Priesthood… (Doctrine and Covenants, sec. xxvii). This revelation was given some time early in August, 1830, but only the first four verses were written at that time. The rest of it was written in September of that year. …These two allusions—the one by the Prophet and the other by the Lord—to the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood not only make clear the fact that the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored in accordance with the promise of John the Baptist when conferring the Aaronic Priesthood, but they make it possible to fix upon the place where, and approximately the time when, the event occurred.”—History of the Church, pp. 176, 40 notes
8. Where in Doctrine and Covenants 128:20 (the first statement B.H. Roberts provides) is there any evidence that Joseph Smith received Melchizedek Priesthood authority BEFORE he organized the Church and that he conferred this priesthood upon the elders BEFORE 1831?
“…And again, what do we hear?… The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome County, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and the dispensation of the fullness of times!”—Doctrine and Covenants 128:20, dated September 6, 1842
9. How can D&C 128:20 prove that Joseph Smith received the priesthood BEFORE he organized the LDS Church when this revelation itself is dated 12 years AFTER the organization of the LDS Church, makes NO mention of Joseph Smith receiving the priesthood from “Peter, James, and John,” nor does it give a DATE for this event?
10. How can D&C 27 (the other revelation B.H. Roberts provides as evidence against the 1831 date) prove that Joseph Smith received the Melchizedek Priesthood BEFORE the LDS Church was organized in April 1830? Even B.H. Roberts admits that “only the first four verses of this revelation,” were written in August 1830. He claims that the rest of the revelation was written in September of 1830, yet when one views the ORIGINAL version of this revelation published in the 1833 Book of Commandments, only seven verses of this revelation appear under the date September 4, 1830 and NONE of these verses make any reference whatsoever to priesthood authority! It appears that sometime between the 1833 edition of Book of Commandments and the 1835 edition of Doctrine and Covenants somebody ADDED all of the verses dealing with the administration of priesthood authority and the ordination of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the text. So again, we must ask how this revelation could possibly prove that Joseph Smith and other LDS leaders possessed the proper priesthood authority to organize the LDS Church when ALL reference to this authority was COMPLETELY missing from church records and revelations of the time? In writing to LDS, David Whitmer warned:
“You have changed the revelations from the way they were first given and as they are to-day in the Book of Commandments, to support the error of Brother Joseph in taking upon himself the office of Seer to the church. You have changed the revelations to support the error of high priests. You have changed the revelations to support the error of a President of the high priesthood, high counselors, etc. You have altered the revelations to support you in going beyond the plain teachings of Christ in the new covenant part of the Book of Mormon.”—An Address to All Believers in Christ, David Whitmer, 1887, p. 49 (See our photocopy comparison of D&C 27 with the original version published in chapter 28 of The Book of Commandments, p. 60. Also, D&C 13, the revelation about the conferring of the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph and Oliver, is completely missing from The Book of Commandments, so even this revelation’s validity is questionable as well.)
11. Do you agree with Joseph Smith’s teaching concerning those who falsely claim spiritual authority?
“All men are liars who say they are of the true Church without the revelations of Jesus Christ and the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which is after the order of the Son of God.” —Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 375
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