Juvenile Instructor » Dating the Melchizedek Priesthood Restoration
 


Dating the Melchizedek Priesthood Restoration

By: Ben P - August 04, 2008

Limiting the time-frame of when Joseph Smith was visited by Peter, James, and John to a specific period has been problematic for Mormon historians. This mostly results from Joseph’s (almost) complete silence regarding the event. His statements on it are both very rare and quite ambiguous. Here, I will give a brief outline of the debate, a couple of the most relevant arguments, and then leave it open for discussion on some important questions. If you are very familiar with this topic’s historiography, you can go ahead and just skip to the questions.

Overview and Timeline Bookends

Just like many of Joseph’s other supernatural experiences, personal recollections are both rare and vague.[1] But, they are still important in laying down key boundaries in this exploration. In his 1839 history, Joseph noted that John the Baptist “acted under the direction <of> Peter, James, and John, who held the keys of the priesthood of Melchisedek, whi[c]h priesthood he said should in due time be conferred on us.” He also recorded that he “should be called the first Elder of the Church and [Oliver] the second.”[2] So, this tells us that the second priesthood restoration must have happened after May 15, 1829.

The next bookend for the possible time period comes the next year in September. During that month, Joseph received a revelation speaking 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).[3] This means that the visitation must have occurred before September, 1830. This time frame allows a year and a half where this event could have taken place.

The only other concrete detail Joseph gives concerning the date was in a letter he wrote to the Saints in 1842. While rejoicing in the Angelic manifestations he had experienced, he recollected experiencing

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 of the dispensation of the fulness of times. (D&C 128:20)[4]

If Joseph’s recollection is correct, then, the event must have taken place along the Susquehanna River. The verbiage also appears to allude to the possibility of it happening during a trip between Harmony and Colesville. This narrows the possibilities down quite a bit, because there are only a handful of recorded trips Joseph and Oliver took between these two towns within the time framework we have.

Theory 1: April (or Early May), 1829

This is the traditional position of the Church. Argued most articulately by Larry Porter, this theory states that it happened shortly (within weeks) after John the Baptist appeared on May 15. This position usually assumes a trip to Colesville from Harmony during a break from translation where they could have been visited by the ancient apostles. Porter further argues that it must have happened before the move to Fayette because David Whitmer later claimed Joseph and Oliver had ordained each other elders before he met them.[5] Also, this position is seen as almost necessary for those who hold that they had to be ordained before the organization of the Church since Joseph and Oliver are then called first and second elders, respectively. They also point to a May 1829 revelation that calls Oliver an “apostle.”

The main problem I have with this position is one piece of Joseph Smith’s writings seems to argue against a pre-May visitation. In 1839, he wrote the following concerning a mid-May 1829 experience in Fayette:

We now became anxious to have that promise realized to us, which the Angel that conferred upon us the Aaronick Priesthood had given us, viz: that provided we continued faithful; we should also have the melchesidec Priesthood, which holds the authority of the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

To me, Joseph’s language seems very clear that they had not received the Melchizedek priesthood yet, and therefore had not yet been visited by Peter, James, and John. Porter argues that the ancient apostles had already restored the priesthood, and that they were just waiting to be told to ordain each other.[6] However, I do not find any early documentation backing this up, and it seems like this logic is a result of trying to mesh a previous ordination with this later command. In this account, Joseph specifically says that it was John the Baptist who told him to wait, not Peter, James, and John. He also says that they were waiting to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, not waiting to confirm each other to a priesthood already restored. To summarize, this account makes no hint to a previous Melchizedek Priesthood restoration.

To continue Joseph’s account, he wrote that they “for some time made this matter a subject of humble prayer,” and eventually “got together in the Chamber of Mr Whitmer’s house in order more particularly to seek the Lord what we now so earnestly desired.” As an answer, the word of the Lord came to Joseph commanding him to “ordain Oliver Cowdery to be an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ, and that he also should ordain [Joseph] to the same office, and then <to> ordain others as it should be made known unto us, from time to time.”[7]

They then received what is now D&C 18, which Joseph wrote “will further illustrate the nature of our calling to this Priesthood as well as that of others who were yet to be sought after.”[8] Besides giving an admonition to search out and call twelve apostles, an interesting statement is made comparing Oliver to “Paul mine apostle, for you are called even with that same calling with which he was called” (D&C 18:9). While this does specifically refer to Oliver as an apostle, the comparison to Paul rather than someone like Peter, James, or John is quite unique. In the Bible, from which Joseph and Oliver appeared to never diverge far from, Paul’s call to the ministry is not connected to ordination by the laying on of hands.[9] Instead, he is assumed to be an apostle because of an oral admonition from the Savior–just like it appears Joseph and Oliver had just received.

Theory 2: Early July, 1830

Argued most notably by Quinn and Bushman, this position holds that the visitation did not occur until several months after the organization of the Church in 1830. They rely on this date primarily due to Addison Everett’s later account where he reminisced about a conversation he overheard between Joseph and Hyrum in Nauvoo. Everett remembered Joseph saying he and Oliver were visited while fleeing from a mob as a result of a trial in Colesville which involved a Mr. Reed. The historical sources say that a trial did occur, and Joseph was defended by a Mr. Reed, but it places the trial in late June, 1830. Therefore, some conclude, the restoration of the higher priesthood must have happened shortly after that.

However, I see some major flaws in relying on Everett’s account. For one, the trial was not the only event he associated with the angelic visitation; Everett’s second account also connected it to the translation of the Book of Mormon. Both are specific events, but they each took place over a year apart from each other. I do not think one event associated with the recollection should be privileged over another just because it fits in with the authors desired framework.[10]

The second problem I find with the Everett account is that it states Joseph and Oliver immediately fled from a court mob back to Harmony, which contradicts Joseph’s own account of the experience where he said that after he was “enabled to escape,” he made his way in safety to his wife’s sister’s house, and then traveled home with Emma at his side.[11] However, both Bushman and Quinn realize this, so they push back the possible restoration date to a few days later in July when Joseph makes another trip to and from Colesville. But, even though this date is more believable, it shows that they are being selective from drawing from Everett’s account, and therefore make their reliance on Everett’s memory less stable.

The third and final problem I find with relying on Addison Everett’s reminiscence is that nothing he presents is backed up by prior statements. While both Bushman and Quinn mention that Erastus Snow stated that Peter, James, and John appeared “at a period when [Joseph and Oliver] were being pursued by their enemies,”[12] and Quinn references Franklin D. Richards explaining this theory to the Quorum of the Twelve,[13] both of these accounts come after Everett’s letters are known and are therefore most likely influenced by them. I could not find any other sources associating the Melchizedek Priesthood restoration with fleeing from a mob before Everett’s accounts. However, I think there is still quite a bit of evidence allowing for a possible 1830 restoration date even when one discards the problematic Everett reminiscences.

Conclusion and Questions

I am at the point where I don’t think we can definitively conclude a specific time period where this event happened. If I were forced to decide, however, I would have to point to a date after mid-May 1829 for reasons explained above. I view the oral command given in the Whitmer home as the divine authorization needed to act with the “higher priesthood,” and then the visitation from the New Testament Apostles as “confirming” (Joseph’s word) that power upon him and Oliver.[14] This allows the visitation to occur any time between then and their departure from the New York/Pennsylvania region, and allows Joseph to have the Apostolic authority when he organized the Church in April 1830.

Now here, after this overly-long post, are my important questions for JI readers: What theory (or related theories) do you subscribe to? What problems do you see in reconstructing this narrative? And, most importantly, beyond the mere polemics of “the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood didn’t occur because of these problematic sources…” and “the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood did occur because of these trustworthy sources…” what makes this issue important? What can we learn from the fact that Joseph was very reluctant of sharing this important experience? Why did missionaries not dwell on this point when trying to persuade potential converts?[15] Simply: what important insights into early Mormonism can we gain from study of this issue?


[1] In 1839, Joseph wrote one possible reason why this was so: “In the meantime we were forced to keep secret the circumstances of having been baptized, and having received this Priesthood; owing to a spirit of persecution which had already manifested itself in the neighborhood.” Smith, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:291.[2] ibid, 1:290-291.[3] It should be noted that the original version of this revelation printed in The Evening and the Morning Star and the 1833 Book of Commandments is missing the reference to Peter, James, and John. Woodford’s “Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants” also notes that it is missing from the earliest manuscript (1:393-403). This is possibly in part due to the “spirit of persecution” already mentioned above. It is also possible that Joseph began opening up more about the “higher” priesthood in connection with the hierarchical developments taking place in 1835 in Kirtland. Dan Vogel, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, 521.

[4] Please forgive my laziness for not quoting from a primary source in this instance (I don’t have the info with me on my laptop like I do the other sources I’m quoting from). It should be noted that some scholars, most notably Marvin Hill, argue that the visitation did not take place until 1831 in Kirtland, relying on a quote from Brigham Young.

[5] This David Whitmer recollection, like many of his others, must be understood in the context of his later agendas. He desired to be distanced from the Melchizedek Priesthood, so it makes sense that he wished to place that claim of authority to before his involvement.

[6] Larry Porter, “The Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchezidek Priesthoods,” 39.

[7] Smith, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:299.

[8] ibid, 300.

[9] 1 Timothy 2:7 does quote Paul saying that he was ordained preacher and apostle, but this could be interpreted as happening later, after his initial call. Quinn, in Mormon Hierarchy, does argue that early ecclesiastical positions were seen as charismatic, rather than by ordination, callings.

[10] It should be noted that Everett wrote two letters detailing this event, and that only the secont mentions that the visitation took place during the translation of the Book of Mormon. However, I do not find evidence to support the notion that Everett was pressured into altering his account; rather, it seems he just wanted to make a fuller remembrance. When Bushman rightly points out that Everett “seems to mix up events in 1829 and 1830,” it seems rather selective to accept the evidence that points to the visitation occurring in 1830 and not the evidence that points to 1829. Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 588, fn. 35.

[11] Smith, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:317.

[12] Journal of Discourses 23:183 (May 6, 1882).

[13] Anthon H. Lund Diary, 30 Mar. 1897, in Danish Apostle: The Diaries of Anthon H. Lund, 1890-1920, 28. This entry is easily connected to the Everett letter, because Quinn mentions that Richards summarized the letter in his diary on 15 June 1883, proving that the apostle learned this visitation theory directly from Everett. Quinn, Mormon Hierarchy: Origin of Powers, 287, fn. 120.

[14] I think it is significant that in two of Joseph’s rare references to the NT Apostles visit, he used the term “confirm” rather than “ordain.” The first reference is the D&C 27 addition mentioned above. The second reference comes from JS’s 1832 attempt at writing his history: “a confirmation and reception of the high Priesthood after the holy order of the son of the living God…” Smith, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:3.

[15] It seems the Pratt brothers would present all the facts and then just fail to connect the dots. For example, when Orson Pratt explained that the Mormons had power to give the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and then connected it to the same power the New Testament Apostles had, he failed to just take it one step further and say that JS received this power from Peter, James and John. Orson Pratt, “Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records,” 1840, in The Essential Orson Pratt, 17, 21-22. This could be a result of his not knowing how the power was restored, or because he was reluctant to talk about it. It is also important to remember that Hiram Page did know about this claim to priesthood restoration, and he left the Church in 1838, so he must have learned about it somewhere. Hiram Page to William Smith, March 4, 1848, in Welch, Opening the Heavens, 256.



35 Comments

  1. A point that I haven’t seen anyone address is when the first laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost occurred. Since John the Baptist said that the Aaronic Priesthood did not have this power, the Melchizedek priesthood must have been received before this was done. Doesn’t that provide a second bookend bracketing the possible date?

    Comment by Confutus — August 4, 2008 @ 6:29 am

  2. Confutus: Good question. That is one of the primary ideas that those who hold to the first theory try to prove.

    Quinn argues that the office of Elder, and therefore the power of giving the gift of the Holy Ghost, was originally understood to be a part of the Aaronic Priesthood. That is how he solves it in his mind.

    I think that if you consider the verbal command given in the Fayette home as a divine authorization to use that authority. Then, the higher priesthood could have been conferred upon them without the physical ordination at first, which could have been confirmed upon them later. I think JS’s 1839 history seems quite clear that they at least had the authority to give the gift of the Holy Ghost after that experience.

    Comment by Ben — August 4, 2008 @ 8:05 am

  3. I find your reasoning surrounding footnote three to be pretty sketchy. That said, and going from memory, it seems to me that Prince had quite a bit of evidence on Cowdery’s apostolic call in his Power from on high (like a chronology or something). I also think it is important to note that “apostle” was a designation that was used, if I remember correctly, in 1829-1830 quite malleably. Another document that doesn’t give a timing to it, but is interesting as a mention of the angels, is the Cowdery Patriarchal blessing.

    I’m also trying to remember what it was in the William McClellin diaries that one of the authors found so controverting to Prince’s ideas…I guess I should wait and look stuff up before commenting.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 4, 2008 @ 10:16 am

  4. J: Thanks for chiming in. Your right: Prince does come down heavily on the “Cowdery’s call as an Apostle was a vocal command like Paul” side of the debate. I also strongly agree, though I may not present it clearly enough in the post, that the term “apsotle” was probably quite malleable even until a couple years into the Kirtland era.

    Here is the Cowdery excerpt from the Patriarchal Blessing Book:

    After this we received the high and holy priesthood: but an account of this will be given elsewhere, or in another place.

    Too bad that other place never came.

    Comment by Ben — August 4, 2008 @ 10:38 am

  5. I just remembered Keller’s write up of the Addison Everett account back when he wrote at M*. It is worth checking out.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 4, 2008 @ 10:52 am

  6. J: Holy lots of information Batman! Keller’s post does give a lot more important details and comparative anaylysis to the Everett accounts, so thanks for linking to it.

    I agree with him in that that specific account does not give enough cement detail to dispel “room for uncertainty.”

    Comment by Ben — August 4, 2008 @ 11:12 am

  7. J: Here is the entry from the McLellin Journals that you were trying to remember (it helps to work in an office that contains a large LDS history library):

    Gregory Prince’s recent study of the historical development of LDS priesthood makes at least two assertions that McLellin’s journal changes. Prince states that in June 1831 men were ordained to a new order called both the Order of Melchizedek and the High Priesthood. however, he asserts, “this did not yet refer to the office of high priest which, though appearing in the book of Mormon, was not yet applied to individuals in the Restoration,” and it was not until November 1831 that a revelation (D&C 68) established for the first time the office of high priest. Second, Prince asserts that, prior to September 1832, the term “priesthood” was used “exclusively in conjunction with High Priesthood.”

    William G. Hartley, “The McLellin Journals and Early Mormon History,” in The Journals of William E. McLellin, 283.

    Comment by Ben — August 4, 2008 @ 11:24 am

  8. (clears throat)

    ahem. Is it possible that the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood did not occur in a single discrete event? I understand that such is not how it was subsequently passed on.

    Comment by Steve Evans — August 4, 2008 @ 11:34 am

  9. Steve: I agree that the “restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood,” should be seen as a series of events. First, in May ’29, the vocal command giving authority. Sometime after, a confirmation by Angels. Then, in June 1831, the first conferral of the “high priesthood” to those in attendance.

    And, whether the specific restorative events took place in ’29, ’30, or ’31, it is obvious that their understanding of what it actually meant didn’t gell until much time had passed and experience was gained.

    Comment by Ben — August 4, 2008 @ 11:51 am

  10. Ben, totally right. It was the same, IMHO, with every significant dispensation of power or doctrine in the Restoration — it took a little while for Joseph Smith and the others to really understand what lightning they’d just captured in their bottles.

    Comment by Steve Evans — August 4, 2008 @ 4:55 pm

  11. I am glad to see this topic getting more discussion on the ‘nacle.

    I would like to throw at least one idea I have been puzzling over. I wonder if a distinction can be made between being called and being ordained. Some of the inserts to D&C 5 are interesting in this light. Calls can be received by revelation and an ordination is received by the laying on of hands. Calls strictly follow a top down channel, where as ordinations might not (for example priesthood officers need to accepted by common consent and officers lower in the hierarchy can ordain higher officers (Oliver ordaining Joseph for example). A point I read into the D&C additions is that there can be a delay between receiving the revelatory call and being ordained: “you must wait yet a little while, for ye are not yet ordained”

    Under this classification the revelation at Father Whitmer’s and the references in D&C 18 take the form of a call to the office of elder and apostle/disciple with hints at a deferred ordination that will take place when common consent can be achieved.

    Comment by Keller — August 4, 2008 @ 11:30 pm

  12. Keller: I like the call/ordained distinction you make. Maybe some day I will use it and claim it as my own ;)…..just kidding.

    Comment by Ben — August 4, 2008 @ 11:57 pm

  13. Whitmer claims in his An Address to All Believers in Christ that he was ordained when he was baptized in 1829, the third person to be so. He does get his formal license to preach at the first General Conf in 1830, though, which states that he is an apostle.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 5, 2008 @ 8:23 am

  14. J: I kind of allude to Whitmer’s claims in the post, but definitely don’t go into detail. I think it is important to note that Whitmer was aching to push anything related to the “higher priesthood” to happening before his involvement.

    Comment by Ben — August 5, 2008 @ 1:39 pm

  15. I am not sure what to make of some of David Whitmer’s claims about the priesthood. He makes a couple of mistakes on the page J. pointed to. 1. David would have been the 4th person baptized after JS,OC, and SS. 2. Hyrum Smith was not an Elder in August as DW claims, he was still a Priest in the June 9, 1830 minutes in the Far West Record. I suppose DW is realiable as far as reporting things he personally experienced and less so about others.

    There are strange things going on between Aug. 1829 and April 1830, when DW indicates more Elders were ordained and they already effectively have a church in place. First, IIRC correctly Joseph left for PA at the end of August and spends most of the time away from the Fayette/Palmyra area (a couple of trips are required to think about selling the copyright and protecting it against theft). Second, Oliver has his Articles of Covenant revelation that declares he is an apostle and not just called to be one. Reports are that Joseph was upset with this revelation (even though it was expanded in D&C 20). There are various theories why Joseph had to humble Oliver, so let me propose one: Oliver and those left behind ran before they were sent and tried to presumptuously organize a church in Joseph’s absence. Third, Larry Porter and R.L. Anderson believe everyone was re-baptized to coincide with the official organization of the Church in April.

    So I am not sure on how to put all these ideas together in terms of how the 1829 and 1830 theories accomodate these anomalies. I see 1829ers in print make the argument that the June revelation of Section 18 mentions apostles therefore and apostolic conferral of keys had to have happened prior to that point is a weak argument (one the distinction of called first -ordained later easily handles).

    Comment by Keller — August 5, 2008 @ 2:50 pm

  16. By the way, wouldn’t spelling it as Melchizedek instead of Melchezidek help this essay do a little better in the search engines? This blog is a valuable resource for those who may be investigating this subject.

    [admin: done. thanks.]

    Comment by Keller — August 6, 2008 @ 3:11 pm

  17. If only we could have named the priesthood after a prophet with an easier name to remember how to spell…

    Comment by Ben — August 6, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

  18. I’m puzzled by your Theory I, which you entitle April (or Early May) 1829, since this follows immediately after your description of the “bookends” between which the restoration must have occurred, and since the first of those bookends is fixed at May 15, 1829. Is the year wrong in your Theory I heading, or are the months wrong?

    Someone has referred to the malleability of the term “apostle” during that period. Isn’t it likely that “elder” was used just as loosely? Couldn’t the presiding officer of the church be called an elder, given the understanding of the term among the biblically literate in 1830 (the KJV nowhere uses “elder” as a designation of a specific Melchizedek Priesthood office)? So, the designation of Joseph and Oliver as first and second elders of the church does not seem to require that they held the office of elder in the
    Melchizedek Priesthood.

    Comment by Mark B. — August 13, 2008 @ 11:19 am

  19. Mark B.,

    Conversely, that “Melchizedek Priesthood” is not used in 1829-30 does not mean that they they did not have it, nor that they did not understand that they had it.

    Whatever they in 1829-30 understood “elder” to signify, the idea that a different, higher authority was needed to bestow the Holy Ghost was present since the translation of 3 Nephi (wherein this doctrine clearly appears). Then, Joseph and Oliver are commanded to ordain each other as first and second elder in direct response to their praying for that promised authority to lay on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost (HC 1:62). So the revelation in Father Whitmer’s chamber shows that the term “elder” and the existence of a higher authority are linked, even if they did not precisely refer to it then–as an office of the Melchizedek Priesthood–as they would later.

    (I here note that the priesthood was to be “revealed” and not simply bestowed–language that contemplates progression in understanding.)

    The authority to lay on hands, the title “elder” and the “Melchizedek Priesthood” are clearly connected in Joseph’s mind in 1838 (when HC 1 was recorded); but 3 Nephi, D&C 20 (in which Joseph and Oliver are referred to as first and second elders, and in which many priesthood offices are mentioned) and the fact that they are laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost in 1830, all attest that the 1838 explanation is not necessarily a later theological construction or innovation. The only real issue seems to me to be what they called their higher authority (they seem not to have called it the Melchizedek Priesthood), if indeed they even saw any need to refer to it in some other way than merely the title “elder”.

    I see no reason to believe that they didn’t understand at some fundamental level the concepts of both degrees of authority (i.e. the difference between the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods) and priesthood offices by April 1830 and probably even May-June of 1829.

    Comment by Curtis Weber — August 13, 2008 @ 5:41 pm

  20. Mark B.: I do agree that I don’t buy into the 1st theory, and hense the point that it doesn’t fit within the bookends I would place. But I figured I needed to put that theory down because many smart scholars do hold to an April/early May visitation.

    Your thoughts on the term “elder” are also quite appropriate. Quinn for one argues that the office of elder was considered an Aaronic Priesthood office for the first while. Though I do not fully subscribe to his analysis, that theory is definitely out there.

    Curtis: Thanks for your elaboration; I would agree that some form of distinction existed early on between the two levels of authority–but the issues like how they understood the difference between them, what offices were assigned to each, and the relation to angelic conferrals are quite blurry. It was definitely a progression in understanding, as discussed earlier.

    Comment by Ben — August 13, 2008 @ 5:55 pm

  21. Ben, I think Mark was suggesting that “April (early May)” should read “May (early June)”.

    Comment by Curtis Weber — August 14, 2008 @ 9:31 am

  22. Actually, the traditional approach held by Larry Porter, Bill Hartley, among others, is that it happened late April, 1829, before the move Fayette. Thus, their theory is outside of my bookends.

    Comment by Ben — August 14, 2008 @ 10:09 am

  23. The traditional approach holds that the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored before the Aaronic, before 15 May 1829? I really think it should read “May (early June)”.

    Porter: “Evidence suggests a date [for the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood] within the 13-day period from 16 May to 28 May 1829″ (Ensign, Dec. 1996, p.33).

    The “early June” end of the range is determined by the approximate dating of the revelation in Father Whitmer’s chamber (which is no later than 15 June because Oliver Cowdery writes a letter on that date which includes language from D&C 18).

    Comment by Curtis Weber — August 14, 2008 @ 11:20 am

  24. Curtis: I must be off my rocker this morning. You are right.

    I swear i can keep my dates straight every once and a while.

    Comment by Ben — August 14, 2008 @ 12:18 pm

  25. […] a great post discussing the dating of Peter, James, and John’s visit to JS, see here. Comments (0) […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » On Higher, and Lesser, Priesthoods — November 24, 2010 @ 9:52 am

  26. Ben, given the clarification of the dates for Theory I (in the 13 days between May 16 and May 28), what specifically weighs against this dating for the visitation of Peter, James and John?

    (I’m picking this up after linking here from David’s post today.)

    Comment by john f. — November 24, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

  27. John: It’s a good question, though I think the rest of the problems I lay out against Theory I still holds claim. I haven’t thought of this issue since 2008, but off the top of my head I still find difficulty correlating a late May date with 1) Joseph Smith’s statement that it took place on the Susquehanna river, and B) Addison Everett’s account that it correlated with the court case in Colesville. (Though, as I outlined in the post, I see Everett’s account as highly problematic. But it should be neither of the events that Everett mentioned–the translation of the Book of Mormon, and the Colesville trial–would work with late May, as the BoM translation finished in mid-May.)

    That said, I still hold that both theories have serious problems. If there is a definitive argument out there–and I hope there eventually will be–I haven’t seen it yet. Further, since this was such a dynamic process of understanding the priesthood, as David’s post today persuasively shows, I really don’t think a precise date matters.

    Comment by Ben — November 24, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

  28. Ben that is a good point. What would a restoration of the “Melchizedek Priesthood” have even meant in 1830?

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 24, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

  29. J, that’s true, but I think the concern from a modern perspective is the idea that these aren’t purely evolving ideas but reflect and objective structures. If so, then wouldn’t there have to be a Melchizedek Priesthood to be restored? If there isn’t and it’s all evolutionary then that has significant theological implications.

    Comment by Clark — November 24, 2010 @ 3:25 pm

  30. Clark: I don’t think any of us here are saying there wasn’t an actual event of physical ordination. We are just saying it isn’t important to locate when the actual event occurred–any of the options presented above would work fine with our objective structures. In lieu of a definitive date, however, we can only focus on what we can reconstruct: the development of their understanding of this priesthood.

    If we had more historical evidence, things would be different.

    Comment by Ben — November 24, 2010 @ 3:47 pm

  31. Right, I’m just saying it is important even if the particular date isn’t that important. On the other hand I don’t buy the theological (rather than historical) argument that the MP was necessary to organize the Church. (Which just never made much sense to me) I’m more just saying that whatever the historical answers turn out to be they have big theological implications. (IMO)

    Comment by Clark — November 24, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

  32. I think the Peter, James, and John visitation presents significant challenges. Not only are we faced with late source material, that material is couched in language and concepts that were (apparently) foreign to 1829-1830 contexts. And, as I indicated in my post today, we’ve had the tendency of reading those later statements through post-1835 definitions of priesthood. I think we need more work on the discursive contexts from which the accounts of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John emerged, and how these accounts negotiated prior frameworks, such as those found in D&C 20 (1830), the June 3-6, 1831 and October 25, 1831 conferences, the November 11, 1831 revelation, D&C 84 (1832), and the 1835 portions of D&C 107. This type of analysis would perhaps benefit from a memory studies approach, as we’d be asking how the Baptist and Peter, James, and John fit into the narratives being shared by JS and OC after 1834.

    Comment by David G. — November 24, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

  33. I was under the understanding that the second on July 1830 was when was ordained to an apostle not when he received the Melchizedek Priesthood see here

    “Joseph & oliver went into the woods in a few rods, it being night, and they traveled until Oliver was exhausted & Joseph almost Carried him through mud and water. They traveled all night and just at the break of day Olive[r] gave out entirely and exclaimed O! Lord! How long Brother Joseph have we got to endure this thing; Brother Joseph said that at that very time Peter James & John came to them and Ordained them to the Apostleship.”
    So I typed this just as it did in the Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling in page 118(except for the bold) . Now notice it said Apostleship not Elder or Melchizedek Priesthood, they are different events which Peter, James and John appeared to them and ordained them and later ordained them to an Apostle. These are my thoughts on this topic. please don’t delete this.

    Comment by Chris n. — January 31, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

  34. here
    copy: http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=4fba615b01a6b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1
    However, in relation to the fleeing from enemies, Elder Erastus Snow gave a similar account as he addressed a Logan, Utah, conference in 1882:

    “In the due course of time, as we read in the history which he [Joseph] has left, Peter, James and John appeared to him—it was at a period when they were being pursued by their enemies and they had to travel all night, and in the dawn of the coming day when they were weary and worn, who should appear to them but Peter, James and John, for the purpose of conferring upon them the Apostleship, the keys of which they themselves had held while upon the earth, which had been bestowed upon them by the Savior. This Priesthood conferred upon them by those three messengers embraces within it all offices of the Priesthood from the highest to the lowest.” (Journal of Discourses, 23:183.

    Comment by Chris n. — January 31, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

  35. Please note also when a Apostle is ordained today they first ordained an Apostle then they are set-apart to the member of the twelve and given the keys, here July 1830 is when the keys were given, because section 20 they weren’t given yet. Then much later First Presidency was organized and later the Quorum of the Twelve was then organized 1835, Feb 14

    Comment by Chris n. — January 31, 2011 @ 4:24 pm