Question: In what manner was the Melchizedek Priesthood restored?

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Question: In what manner was the Melchizedek Priesthood restored?

The ordination to the office of Elder via the higher priesthood could not occur until the church had been established

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:

1.April-June 1829, The Book of Mormon records information about the "high priesthood after the order of Melchizedek" in verses such as Mosiah 18:17; Alma 4:20; 5:3; 3 Nephi 11:25; and 3 Nephi 12:1.

2. Apparently in April 1829 during the translation of the Book of Mormon. , Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had a dispute as to what happened with John the Apostle that they settled by revelation see John 21:20. This revelation is canonized as Doctrine and Covenants 7. In that revelation it states:

5 I say unto thee, Peter, this was a good desire; but my beloved has desired that he might do more, or a greater work yet among men than what he has before done.
6 Yea, he has undertaken a greater work; therefore I will make him as flaming fire and a ministering angel; he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth.
7 And I will make thee to minister for him and for thy brother James; and unto you three I will give this power and the keys of this ministry until I come.

This revelation was included as part of Joseph Smith's History in 1838. It was originally part of the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants as section 33. Some might be tempted to say that Joseph just made this revelation up with the circumstances. But as the Joseph Smith Papers note: "JS and Oliver Cowdery's discussion of this issue possibly arose when they encountered a passage in the translation of the plates describing the biblical prophet Moses and the Book of Mormon prophet Alma as having been 'taken up by the spirit, or buried by the hand of the Lord'".[1]Additionally, possibly just several weeks after recording this revelation, they translated a similar account in the Book of Mormon in which Jesus asks the twelve Nephite disciples, "What is it that ye desire of me, after that I am gone to the Father?" The Joseph Smith papers notes: "All be three echo Peter's request to 'speedily come' to the Lord. To the three, however, Jesus declares, 'Ye have desired the thing which John my beloved,...desired of me.'" [2]. So Joseph had this revelation that he received with Oliver Cowdery that he conspired to place into the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, making it up on the spot, and had no one call him out on it including Oliver? It seems like a convoluted explanation to say the least. Critics would have to believe that there was no revelation recorded (which it seems there was. Again, why make one up on the spot?), and/or that Oliver conspired with Joseph to create this revelation at the time of canonization. But why? Wouldn't they be seen? Why wouldn't Oliver expose Joseph then when he was separated from and embittered towards the Church? We have a plausible historical context for a revelation to come forth and a revelation. The smoothest explanation seems to be that the revelation was dictated at that time.

3. 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.” D&C 27:12

4. 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.” D&C 20:2-3

5. “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 [3]

6. 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.” [4]

7. “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 [5]


  1. Michael Hubbard MacKay, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Grant Underwoord, Robert J. Woodford, and William G. Hartley, eds., "Documents Volume 1: July 1828-June 1831" in The Joseph Smith Papers (Salt Lake City: The Church Historian's Press, 2013), 48. Citing Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 349 [Alma 45:19].
  2. Ibid, citation 130. Citing (Book of Mormon 1830 ed., 509-510 [3 Nephi 28:1-2, 6].
  3. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 16:294-295.
  4. Letter of Hiram Page to “Brother Wm. [William E. McLellin],” 4 March 1848, Fishing River, Missouri, Second Part, RLDS Archives, Independence, Missouri.
  5. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:137.; emphasis added.