Part 44: CES Letter Priesthood Restoration Questions [Section B]
By Sarah Allen
In today’s post, we’ll be talking about the fact that Joseph updated many of the revelations between the aborted publication attempt of the Book of Commandments in 1833 and the publication of the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835. Jeremy’s main focus, which comprises his questions 3–5, is about Section 27, which I referenced briefly last week. It’s a lot of ground to cover, particularly if I want to try to include question #6 which is the last question in this section. Rather than write a more lengthy introduction, I’m just going to pick up where we left off.
Question/point #3 is a long one, comprising an entire page and a half of the CES Letter. It begins:
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery changed the wording of an earlier revelation when they compiled the 1835 Doctrine & Covenants, adding verses about the appearances of Elijah, John the Baptist, and Peter, James, and John as if those appearances were mentioned in the earlier revelation in the Book of Commandments, which they weren’t.
As is often the case with these comments, there’s an issue with this sentence—namely, that nobody ever tried to pretend that the revelation wasn’t altered. You see, in the early days of the Church, before there was a published book of revelations, those revelations would be copied down for missionaries to take out with them while they were proselytizing:
As he recorded more revelations, interest in them grew, and early converts made copies by hand either for personal reference or for use in proselytizing. The limitations of hand copying ensured that, even without an official policy, only Smith’s closest associates had regular and unrestricted access to the revelations.
As the early recorded revelations were disseminated, written texts were accompanied by oral contexts. When possible, traveling missionaries made handwritten copies of revelations for themselves and then showed or read these texts to others while verbally conveying information about the origins or meaning of the texts. Early church leader Orson Hyde referenced the interplay between oral and written texts in his journal. Shortly after ordaining Simeon Waymouth an elder, Hyde wrote, “[I] instructed him[,] wrote the articles Laws and commands for him and gave him all the information [I] could.” Orson Pratt, another early convert, described the same interplay in a reminiscent account: “We often had access to the manuscripts [of the revelations] when boarding with the Prophet; and it was our delight to read them over and over again, before they were printed … and a few we copied for the purpose of reference in our absence on missions; and also to read them to the saints for their edification.”
Some of these revelations were also printed in The Evening and Morning Star, a newspaper W.W. Phelps ran in Missouri. Those copies would be passed around and shared with others. The early Saints would pore over them and memorize portions of them, just like we do with our scriptures today.
According to the Joseph Smith Papers Project, “Latter-day Saint missionaries valued the revelations and tried to use them in their ministry, but they had to rely on handwritten copies that they could obtain only at church headquarters or from other missionaries who had copies. As the number of converts increased, so did the need to publish the revelations.”
The context of this is important: the Church was growing, and people were joining who didn’t know Joseph personally and who weren’t privy to his private conversations and memories. Revelations were being shared, but it was done via handwritten copies and oral recollections. Inaccuracies were creeping in, and they needed a way to easily and accurately disseminate information to the new members.
Many revelation texts were recorded in such a way that their message could not have been fully understood without additional information. … Including surnames was unnecessary because those within the small community of believers were personally acquainted with the individuals being referenced. … Later, if Pratt and others shared the written text outside the community, they would have verbally communicated the missing or implied information. Before print publication and while the Mormon community remained intimate, oral subtext or context conveyed more information than was actually written on paper.
Printing the revelations put greater distance between the reader of the text and the persons who originally dictated and recorded it. Before publication, hearers or readers likely would have learned about a text’s creation or accepted interpretation from Joseph Smith or from his close associates. Once the text was printed, however, it generally had to stand on its own. Those who prepared the revelations for publication, therefore, sometimes provided additional contextual information.
That’s why, in 1831, a conference was held during which they decided to publish a copy of the Revelation Book where they kept written copies of the revelations (many copied from other sources that are no longer extant). At this conference it was decided that, “Br Joseph Smith Jr correct those errors or mistakes which he may discover by the holy Spirit while reviewing the revelations & commandments & also the fulness of the scriptures.”
Because problems had developed when handwritten copies of the revelations were shared and recopied, publishing the revelations gave the leaders assurance of accuracy. Some of these errors crept in through inaccurate copying and poor handwriting or through spelling and punctuation errors; unfortunately, however, there were also questions connected with the originals. When the decision was made to print them in the Book of Commandments, it was “Resolved by this conference that Br. Joseph Smith Jr correct those errors or mistakes which he may discover by the holy Spirit while … reviewing the revelations & commandments.” There was also a need to bring some of the former revelations up to date with later ones as the Church grew and matured.
… Alteration of the revelations is a fact, but various reasons are behind such changes. Obvious scribal errors (most often mistakes in spelling and grammar) had to be corrected. Similarly, typographical and typesetting errors were common and were corrected in later editions. Because English is a fluid language and the rules and because accepted practices regarding punctuation, spelling, and grammar have changed over the years, the text of the revelations has been modernized. Joseph Smith updated some revelations as the Church grew and expanded. On occasion, portions of some revelations were disguised to protect the Church and its members from enemies, but most of these passages have been brought back to their original text in later editions….
On pages 173–174 of Rough Stone Rolling, Richard Bushman gives some fuller context of the events that took place during that conference:
Because they were so important, the revelations were bound to be criticized. During the November conference a question arose about their language. Was the simple language of Joseph Smith worthy of the voice of God? “Some conversation was had concerning Revelations and language,” Joseph noted in his history. The inquiry could have come from Phelps, who wrote with considerable elevation, or the eloquent Rigdon, or William E. McLellin, a schoolteacher. A revelation brought the matter into the open: “Your eyes have been upon my servant Joseph Smith, jun.: and his language you have known; and his imperfections you have known.” While all were believers in the Prophet, a few wondered about the capacity of an uneducated young man to do justice to his own revelations. “You have sought in your hearts knowledge,” they were told, “that you might express beyond his language.”
The question was not trivial. The revelations’ style could have brought Joseph’s revelatory powers into question. The beauty of the Qur’an’s language convinced many believers of its divinity; ragged language from Joseph Smith might have led to doubts. The November revelation side-stepped the issue by challenging the conference to appoint “the most wise among you” to manufacture an imitation. Take the least of the revelations, it offered, and try to “make one like unto it.” William McLellin took up the challenge, “having more learning than sense,” as Joseph put it. McLellin’s failure to produce a revelation settled the question, and the elders bore testimony of the book.
Not long after this attempt, the issue arose again. A conference on November 8 instructed Joseph Smith to review the commandments and “correct those errors or mistakes which he may discover by the holy Spirit.” Correcting “errors” in language supposedly spoken by God again raised the question of authenticity. If from God, how could the language be corrected? Correction implied Joseph’s human mind had introduced errors; if so, were the revelations really his productions?
The editing process uncovered Joseph’s anomalous assumptions about the nature of revealed words. He never considered the wording infallible. God’s language stood in an indefinite relationship to the human language coming through the Prophet. The revealed preface to the Book of Commandments specified that the language of the revelations was Joseph Smith’s: “These commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.” The revelations were not God’s diction, dialect, or native language. They were couched in language suitable to Joseph’s time. The idioms, the grammar, even the tone had to be comprehensible to 1830s Americans. Recognizing the pliability of the revealed words, Joseph freely edited the revelations “by the holy Spirit,” making emendations with each new edition. He thought of his revelations as imprinted on his mind, not graven in stone. With each edition, he patched pieces together and altered the wording to clarify meaning. The words were both his and God’s.
So, at the very conference where they decided to publish the revelations, they also tasked Joseph with editing, correcting, and updating them. They knew all along that they’d be somewhat different, and never expected otherwise. Nobody ever tried to pretend they weren’t, or tried to hide the fact that it’d been done. The early versions of the revelations were known to the Saints. The updates were known to the Saints, too.
The question to many then becomes, why was Joseph so comfortable with editing his revelations? Well, for a lot of reasons. As given in a 2013 Ensign article by Gerrit Dirkmaat, it says:
Over the course of the first five years of the Church, Joseph and others under his direction made changes and corrections to some of the early revelation texts in an attempt to more closely portray the intent of the revelation. Other times, especially as the revelations were being prepared for publication, Joseph was inspired to update the contents of the revelations to reflect a growing Church structure and new circumstances. At times this process resulted in substantial additions to the original text. … Some of the needed changes stemmed from errors made by scribes as Joseph dictated the revelation to them. Other changes were made as later revelations incorporated more teachings that had not been a part of the initial revelation. The revelation now known as Doctrine and Covenants section 27 is an example. Joseph Smith’s history explained that the first part of the revelation was received and written down in August 1830 and “the remainder in the September following.” In the earliest manuscripts, only verses 1–5 and parts of 15 and 18 were included, but as the text of the revelation was being prepared for publication in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, the second portion of the revelation was added, nearly tripling the size of the revelation.
In fact, most of the changes to the revelations were made as they were prepared for publication, particularly in 1833 and 1835. Many of these changes made the revelations easier to read and understand; others clarified and expanded upon ideas in the previous revelations as a result of continued revelation on the topic. For instance, when the revelation explaining multiple priesthood offices now found in Doctrine and Covenants section 107 was initially received in late 1831, the office of the Seventy had not yet been restored to the Church. By the time the revelation was first published in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, the office of the Seventy had been revealed, and numerous verses were added to section 107 in order to explain and define the duties of that office (see D&C 107:93–98).
While many members today may look at the revelations as being static and unchanging, the Prophet Joseph Smith saw the revelations as living and subject to change as the Lord revealed more of His will. Members of the Church relied upon Joseph to receive continued revelations for the Church. As former Church Historian Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy has explained: “Joseph seemed to regard the manuscript revelations as his best efforts to capture the voice of the Lord condescending to communicate in what Joseph called the ‘crooked, broken, scattered, and imperfect language’ of men.”
That last paragraph is important, and it’s something that many early Church leaders have commented on. D&C 1:24 tells us that the Lord gives us commandments after the manner of language, because of our weakness, so that we can understand it. Brigham Young further expounded on that when he said:
… I do not even believe that there is a single revelation, among the many God has given to the Church, that is perfect in its fulness. The revelations of God contain correct doctrine and principle, so far as they go; but it is impossible for the poor, weak, low, grovelling, sinful inhabitants of the earth to receive a revelation from the Almighty in all its perfections. He has to speak to us in a manner to meet the extent of our capacities…. If an angel should come into this congregation, or visit any individual of it, and use the language he uses in heaven, what would we be benefitted? Not any, because we could not understand a word he said. When angels come to visit mortals, they have to condescend to and assume, more or less, the condition of mortals, they have to descend to our capacities in order to communicate with us.
That quote is taken from the Journal of Discourses, so as always, remember that it may be word-for-word accurate to what he actually said. His point is a good one, though—that God has to condescend to our level when He communicates with us, and that means that impressions we receive aren’t always easy to put into words.
Joseph himself agreed with that. In the Manuscript History of the Church, it quotes him as saying, “[I]t was an awful responsibility to write in the name of the Lord.”
And Orson Pratt once explained that Joseph “received the ideas from God, but clothed those ideas with such words as came to his mind.”
In that same document, the former RLDS/Community of Christ historian Richard Howard stated, “It is important to note that we have always distinguished between the experience of revelation and the recording of the experience. The record is not the revelation! But the record does preserve the verbal interpretation of the experience, enriching the understanding of those who study the record and offering guidance to those who share in the spirit of the original experience.”
The Saints have never believed in inerrant prophets or inerrant scripture. The editing and modification of the revelations was never a secret; it was well known to the Church of Joseph’s day, and it has been discussed repeatedly in modern Church publications, as well as extensive studies in Masters’ and PhD theses at BYU.
If Joseph could receive the Doctrine and Covenants by revelation, then he could also receive revelation to improve, modify, revise, and expand his revelatory product. The question remains the same—was Joseph Smith a prophet? If he was, then his action is completely legitimate. If he was not, then it makes little difference whether his pretended revelations were altered or not.
Compare the 1833 Book of Commandments Chapter 28 (XXVIII) to the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants Section 50 (L). The chapter in modern Doctrine and Covenants is D&C 27. This section claims to be a revelation from the Lord to Joseph Smith in August 1830.
Half of it was given in August of 1830. The other half, according to Newel Knight, was given in September of 1830, one month later. As explained by Robert Woodford, Joseph considered both halves of the revelation to be one:
Newel Knight said that the first part of section 27 was revealed by a heavenly messenger in August 1830, and the remainder was given in September of the same year. Joseph Smith considered it to be one revelation. (History of the Church, 1:106.) Verses 1–5, 14, the first portion of verse 15, and the middle portion of verse 18 [D&C 27:1–5, 14, 15, 18] were first published in the Evening and Morning Star as a complete revelation. When Joseph Smith arranged the revelations for publication in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, he and the committee who worked with him included the verses that now make up the remaining portion of the section.
Both halves of this revelation were from late summer/early autumn, 1830. The restoration of the Priesthood took place in 1829, just the year before, and those visitations still would have been fresh on Joseph’s mind. I feel it’s worth pointing out here as well that Newel Knight was one of Joseph’s very best friends. Newel’s father, Joseph Knight, Sr., met Joseph while he was working for Josiah Stowell and hired him to help out on his four farms. Joseph stayed with the Knights while he dated Emma, and it was Joseph Knight’s wagon that Joseph borrowed when he went to get the plates. Newel was only a few years older than Joseph and they became fast friends. After his first wife died, Newel’s second marriage was the very first marriage Joseph ever performed. While we don’t have contemporaneous proof that he knew the details of the Priesthood restoration prior to that revelation being printed, if anyone other than Oliver and Emma did know them, it would have been Newel Knight.
In his next paragraph, Jeremy displays more of those tone problems he was supposedly trying to correct in this version of his Letter:
The following text is what Joseph and Oliver added to the 1830 revelation in 1835 while presenting it as if this was already part of the original revelation given to Joseph by the Lord in August 1830. Notice how it’s packed with miraculous claims of visitations and receptions of authority by these resurrected beings that the original 1830 revelation does not contain.
Before I post those paragraphs, I just wanted to address this really quickly. Again, nobody “present[ed] it as if this was already part of the original revelation given to Joseph by the Lord in August 1830.” They were fully open about the fact that Joseph was editing and updating the revelations.
The “original 1830 revelation” was also not the original copy, as we stated above. Moreover, the Book of Commandments was not finished when the press was destroyed and most of the copies were burned before it was ever bound. While a few dozen copies were bound later and sold from what remained, they were incomplete.
And again, Joseph considered those verses to be two halves of one revelation. When he was updating them for the publication of the Doctrine and Covenants, he combined many sections as part of that editing process. He added new information to some, and deleted some from others. He replaced some outdated ones with new revelations that superseded the old ones. That’s what you should expect from an open canon.
The version of that revelation printed in the Book of Commandments was incomplete. We discussed last week the reasons why Joseph would have kept the details of the Priesthood restoration quiet, but there’s more to it than that. Joseph had earlier been commanded not to share some of his revelations publicly:
Early revelations cautioned leaders against sharing the texts widely. A circa Summer 1829 revelation, for example, gave the explicit command to “shew not these things neither speak these things unto the World.” A 3 November 1831 revelation, dictated immediately following the aforementioned conference, reminded listeners that Smith’s revelations had been “commanded to be kept from the world in the day that they were given.” With the newly authorized publication, however, the revelations were now “to go forth unto all flesh & this according to the mind & the will of the Lord.”
Once he was authorized to share more of his revelations, he did so when the Spirit encouraged him to. While he was updating the revelation for the Doctrine and Covenants, by the Holy Spirit like he was charged to do, he included some additional details of his revelations.
So, what was added? A list of his heavenly visitors and the keys they held:
- …and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel; to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim; and also with Elias, to whom I have committed the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things, or the restorer of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, concerning the last days: and also John the son of Zacharias, which Zachari as he (Elias) visited and gave promise that he should have a son, and his name should be John, and he should be filled with the spirit of Elias; which John I have sent unto you, my servants, Joseph Smith, jr. and Oliver Cowdery, to ordain you unto this first priesthood which you have received, that you might be called and ordained even as Aaron: and also Elijah, unto whom I have committed the keys of the power of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers, that the whole earth may not be smitten with a curse: and also, with Joseph, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham your fathers; by whom the promises remain; and also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days:
- And also with 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: unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things both which are in heaven and which are on earth: and also with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world: wherefore lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all ye may be able to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth; having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace which I have sent mine angels to commit unto you, taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my Spirit, which I will pour out upon you, and my word which I reveal unto you, and be agreed as touching all things whatsoever ye ask of me, and be faithful until I come, and ye shall be caught up that where I am ye shall be also. Amen.
You can see and compare for yourself on the Joseph Smith Papers (LDS owned and operated) website. The direct links are above.
Yes. It’s funny how the Church is hiding this information from everyone by posting it on their affiliated websites like that, isn’t it?
Had the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood under the hand of John the Baptist been recorded prior to 1833, it would have been expected to appear in the Book of Commandments. However, nowhere in the Book of Commandments is this miraculous and doctrinally vital event recorded.
Had the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood under the hands of Peter, James, and John been recorded prior to 1833, it likewise would have been expected to appear in the Book of Commandments. However, nowhere in the Book of Commandments is this miraculous and doctrinally vital event recorded.
Well, no. A lot of revelations weren’t included in the Book of Commandments. There was a paper shortage and the pages themselves were about 4 ½ x 3 ⅛
inches. These were tiny books and space was limited. And, according to Orson Pratt, Joseph was selective about which revelations went into the book:
“Joseph, the Prophet, in selecting the revelations from the Manuscripts, and arranging them for publication, did not arrange them according to the order of the date in which they were given, neither did he think it necessary to publish them all in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, but left them to be published more fully in his History. Hence, paragraphs taken from the revelations of a later date, are, in a few instances, incorporated with those of an earlier date. Indeed, at the time of compilation, the Prophet was inspired in several instances to write additional sentences and paragraphs to the earlier revelations. In this manner the Lord did truly give ‘line upon line, here a little and there a little,’ the same as He did to a revelation that Jeremiah received. And even though this revelation was burned by the wicked king of Israel, the Lord revealed the central message again with great numbers of additional content. (See Jeremiah 36:32)” (Millennial Star 17 [25 Apr. 1857]: 260.)
The Book of Commandments was more limited in scope than the Doctrine and Covenants was. It didn’t include much in the way of Church history. And, as Jim Bennett pointed out, even today something as momentous as the First Vision is not included in the Doctrine and Covenants. It was inserted later as part of the Pearl of Great Price in the Joseph Smith — History, but there are only oblique references to it in the D&C.
It wasn’t until the 1835 edition Doctrine & Covenants that Joseph and Oliver backdated and retrofitted Priesthood restoration events to an 1829-30 time period – none of which existed in any previous Church records; including Doctrine & Covenants’ precursor, Book of Commandments, nor the original Church history as published in The Evening and Morning Star.
As we went over last week, there were several references to it in early Church records, including Joseph Smith’s personal history and the copy of the Articles of the Church from 1829 in Oliver’s handwriting. Additionally, the The Evening and Morning Star printed some revelations as they came out, but mostly it reported news and included articles about theology, letters to the Saints living different states, and notices about upcoming events. The Church history it published was brief and lacking detail. It was mostly to give background information on the Church’s movement to Ohio, then Missouri, so that the members would be able to see how the Church was spreading and growing. It wasn’t meant to be a comprehensive history.
Melchizedek Priesthood given by Lyman Wight – not Peter, James, and John:
“During the turbulent meeting, Joseph ordained five men to the high priesthood, and Lyman Wight ordained eighteen others, including Joseph. The ordinations to the high priesthood marked a milestone in Mormon ecclesiology. Until that time, the word ‘priesthood,’ although it appeared in the Book of Mormon, had not been used in Mormon sermonizing or modern revelations. Later accounts applied the term retroactively, but the June 1831 conference marked its first appearance in contemporary records…
The Melchizedek Priesthood, Mormons now believe, had been bestowed a year or two earlier with the visit of Peter, James, and John. If so, why did contemporaries say the high priesthood was given for the first time in June 1831? Joseph Smith himself was ordained to this ‘high priesthood’ by Lyman Wight. If Joseph was already an elder and apostle, what was the necessity of being ordained again?” — Rough Stone Rolling, p.157-158
IF PETER, JAMES, AND JOHN ORDAINED JOSEPH SMITH TO THE MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD IN 1829, WHY DID LYMAN WIGHT ORDAIN JOSEPH SMITH TO THE MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD AGAIN IN 1831?
The actual minutes of this June 1831 conference showing “Joseph Smith jr. & Sidney Rigdon were ordained to the High Priesthood under the hand of br. Lyman Wight” can be viewed on the official Joseph Smith Papers website.
This question is so absurd. If Lyman Wight was the one who first ordained Joseph, where did he get the authority from? Who ordained Lyman Wight in the first place? Guess what those minutes from the meeting say just the paragraph above the one where Wight re-ordained Joseph?
Brs. Lyman Wight, John Murdock Reynolds Cahoon, Harvey Whitlock, & Hyrum Smith were ordained to the high Priesthood under the hand of br. Joseph Smith jr.
Yep, he was ordained by Joseph. Beyond that, Rough Stone Rolling answers the question as to why in the two paragraphs directly following this quote of Jeremy’s. From page 158:
The usual explanation is that Joseph meant to say “high priest,” one of the offices in the Melchizedek Priesthood, not “high priesthood.” By this interpretation, high priests, officers in the priesthood, were ordained for the first time at the conference, though the Melchizedek Priesthood was received earlier. But that is not what Joseph said. He said the Melchizedek Priesthood was conferred for the first time. Men close to him put it the same way. Parley Pratt, who was present, later recalled that “several were then selected by revelation, through president Smith, and ordained to the High Priesthood after the order of the Son of God; which is after the order of Melchisedec. This was the first occasion in which this priesthood had been revealed and conferred upon the Elders in this dispensation.”
The confusion may indicate that the division into two priesthoods, with elders in the higher and priests and teachers in the lower, was not clear before 1831. Joseph may not have realized that elders were part of the Melchizedek Priesthood already and were being ordained to the office of high priest rather than receiving the powers of the high priesthood. Although he understood the distinction by the 1840s, he seems to have fallen back into the confusion of those early years when he wrote about the ordinations. In this case, experience may have outrun comprehension. Because he knew so little about priesthood at the beginning, Joseph could no more grasp its meaning than he comprehended the full significance of the First Vision as a teenager. Although he understood such Church offices as teacher and elder, it took time to comprehend that the powers of priesthood were included in the authority that went with those offices.
Remember, Joseph was learning all of this line by line and revelation by revelation just like the rest of us. He had no experience with the Priesthood until it was given to him. He had to try to understand it in steps as it was revealed. He didn’t always understand every nuance of every revelation immediately and took time to work it out, just like the rest of us do. He had to learn how to receive revelation and be a prophet. It wasn’t something he was able to turn on with the flip of a switch. Understanding what he was learning was a gradual process.
The “Historical Introduction” to those conference minutes, by the way, backs up Bushman’s theory:
Although those ordained to the high priesthood at this conference were still listed as elders in the minutes of conferences that followed over the next four months, the minutes of the 25 October 1831 conference recorded the “names of those ordained to the High priesthood” separately from the elders, priests, teachers, and deacons, suggesting that the high priesthood was by then recognized as a distinct office in the church. Accounts suggest that the participants at the time of the June conference believed the ordination carried with it additional power. Jared Carter, for instance, associated the ability to perform miraculous healings with those ordained to the high priesthood. By October 1831, JS taught that “the order of the High priesthood is that they have power given them to seal up the Saints unto eternal life.”
As both FAIR and Jim Bennett point out, this was clearly an ordination to an office in the High Priesthood, rather than the Priesthood itself they were receiving. The office of a high priest, and the High Priesthood itself, is detailed at length in the Book of Mormon—particularly, as Bennett adds, in Alma 13, where it specifically links that Priesthood with Melchizedek. It wasn’t something Joseph was inventing as he went along, but it was something he was learning as he went along.
So, that wraps up the Priesthood Restoration section. Next week, we’re going to dive into the Book of Mormon witnesses and other semi-related topics. It’s the longest section of the CES Letter, so there’ll apparently be quite a lot to go over. I’m looking forward to it, though. I love the testimonies of the witnesses.
In closing, I just wanted to highlight one more time the importance of checking the sources when it comes to something like this. In every single quote Jeremy gave us in this section, he left out (or in one case, deliberately removed) the exact answers to his questions from the very texts he was quoting. Make sure you’re following up on that and doing your due diligence. It’s easy to be manipulated when you only have part of the information, so please don’t let yourselves fall into that trap.
Sources in this entry:
Sarah Allen is brand new in her affiliation with FAIR. By profession, she works in mortgage compliance and is a freelance copyeditor. A voracious reader, she loves studying the Gospel and the history of the restored Church. After watching some of her lose their testimonies, she became interested in helping others through their faith crises and began sharing what she learned through her studies. She’s grateful to those at FAIR who have given her the opportunity to share her testimony with a wider audience.