In other essays on this website, we have argued that Mormonism’s teachings were in error in teaching that the only true church had to be run by high priests holding the priesthood of Melchizedek, in that this doctrine is completely at odds with Bible and Book of Mormon teachings. Some of those essays can be read here, here, and here. We have also argued that the priesthood held by the descendants of Aaron was solely a relic of the Law of Moses, and that when Jesus fulfilled and brought to an end the Mosaic law following his resurrection and appearance to the Nephites, the priesthood of Aaron also ceased to exist and was not to be revived. See, e.g., The Righteous Offering of the Sons of Levi–2000 Years Ago elsewhere on this website. This essay will focus, not on the doctrinal problems of Mormonism’s belief in the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods in our time, but on whether the historical evidence demonstrates the authority of the Aaronic and Melchizedek “priesthoods”, as Mormons called them, were restored by resurrected heavenly messengers to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. In other words, does purely historical analysis show that these events actually occurred, or not?
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are taught that on May 15, 1829, John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as a resurrected being and conferred upon them the authority to baptize. There are two versions of the words he purportedly spoke on that occasion, and both versions, while not entirely consistent with each other, are canonized. The first version, written by Oliver Cowdery, is found on page 59 at the end of “Joseph Smith–History” in the canonized Pearl of Great Price. Cowdery said he and Joseph were translating the Book of Mormon. Having decided that since the full gospel of Christ contained within that book had been hidden from the world up to that point, and that the authority to run the church of Christ must also be missing, such authority must be restored before anyone could bring the gospel and the church back again. Joseph and Oliver desired this authority. One day, Oliver reports, they heard the voice of Jesus speaking peace to them, after which an angel of the Lord, who in Cowdery’s 1834 account goes unnamed but in 1835 was identified as John the Baptist, descended from above, laid his hands on both men, and conferred the “Holy Priesthood” by saying these words: “I am thy fellow servant. . . Upon you my fellow-servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer this Priesthood and this authority, which shall remain upon earth, that the Sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness!” This account first appeared in the Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1, pp. 14-16 in October of 1834.
The second version, authored by Joseph Smith, was published eight years later in 1842 in the Times and Seasons, and is now found in Joseph Smith–History 1:68-74. The angel’s reported words on that occasion were later canonized in 1876 as Doctrine and Covenants (hereafter “D&C”) 13. This version added many significant details which are so theologically important, it’s difficult to fathom that Oliver Cowdery would omit them from his own account if they really happened. This conclusion seems expecially justified when one considers that Oliver’s description of the events had already been floridly poetic and no details therein had gone unmagnified. But Joseph’s version was different not only in style, but in content:
. . .[A] messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying:
Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness. . .
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; and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me. . .
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, and that I should be called the first Elder of the Church, and he (Oliver Cowdery) the second. It was on the fifteenth day of May, 1829, that we were ordained under the hand of this messenger, and baptized. . .
. . .In the meantime we were forced to keep secret the circumstances of having received the Priesthood and our having been baptized, owing to a spirit of persecution which had already manifested itself in the neighborhood.
Although the above account of the appearance of John the Baptist is found in the church’s own version of its own history, that same history contains no such account of the predicted later appearance of Peter, James and John to confer the Melchizedek Priesthood. Nevertheless, words spoken in revelations Joseph Smith claimed to receive over the years after 1829 gradually implied that the conferral of the higher priesthood of Melchizedek by Peter, James and John had indeed taken place as predicted, but provided no specific date of occurrence or any words actually spoken by the three apostles. Despite this conspicuous hole in the historical record, Mormons have accepted the words in Joseph’s revelations implying the prophecy was eventually fulfilled as sufficient evidence that it was. A statue now stands prominently on Temple Square in Salt Lake City commemorating the event, and Peter, James and John are depicted with their hands on the heads of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. A few feet away is a statue of John the Baptist with his hands on the heads of Joseph and Oliver, conferring the Aaronic Priesthood. Still, the evidence that these two supposed priesthood restorations really took place consists solely in the later assertions, suggestions or words of implication made by these two men.
We will therefore attempt to judge the credibility of what these two men said about these two events, without regard to the merit or lack of merit in other claims one or both of them might have made on other subjects, and at other times. In other words, we will not assume they were telling the truth about these two events just because we believe almost all of their claims regarding the Book of Mormon, because though we accept the Book of Mormon as being exactly what it purports to be, the weight of evidence proving its authenticity is of a vastly superior quantity and quality than that which supports the claims of priesthood restoration. We will also not assume Joseph’s and Oliver’s claims are false, merely because we initially observe, unlike with the Book of Mormon, a surprising lack of corroborative intrinsic or extrinsic evidence.
Additionally, while many non-Mormons or former Mormons will argue these priesthood restoration events could not have happened simply because they don’t believe resurrected beings could descend out of heaven to appear to mortals on earth for any purpose, we will not argue such a point. We don’t agree with the reasoning behind the point; it’s decidedly unscientific. The fact that we ourselves haven’t personally experienced such a visitation from a heavenly being, doesn’t logically force the conclusion that such an occurrence isn’t a factual possibility with any other human being on any other occasion. In fact, we do steadfastly believe, and assert, that the Book of Mormon was brought forth to the earth by the gift and power of God, and that heavenly messengers were an integral part of bringing it to pass. For an example of our views on this point, see, Who Translated the Book of Mormon Text into English for Joseph Smith to Read? elsewhere on this website.
That being said, what evidence, if any, suggests these two prieshood restoration events did not actually occur, despite Joseph’s and Oliver’s representations to the contrary?
Relevant Historical Facts Surrounding Priesthood Restoration
The first three pieces of evidence to be considered are interrelated: They are, first, the fact that even though the visit of John the Baptist was claimed to have occured on May 15, 1829, nothing was ever said about this event by Oliver or Joseph until late in 1834; second, Oliver’s first account of priesthood restoration by John the Baptist, quoted above, as well as others’ accounts of the baptisms of Joseph and Oliver, differed greatly from Joseph Smith’s later version on several material points; and third, by late 1834 the church had already taught and embraced a whole different narrative about how Joseph and Oliver had received authority to administer the ordinances of the church.
A. The Delay in Reporting the Heavenly Visitations
Regarding the first issue, the significance of the more than five-year delay in reporting the visit of the heavenly messenger, and the six-year delay in naming him, cannot be overstated. By the time Oliver wrote about the event, the Church had already been organized and running for four and a half years, thousands had been baptized into it, and no Mormon had ever heard that the authority to baptize, or do anything else, came to the church by way of the laying on of hands by some unnamed heavenly messenger in 1829. The concept that authority to run the church of Christ had to come from some heavenly messenger in order to be recognized by God was not contained in the Bible or Book of Mormon. (For more on this point, see Why the “Lines of Priesthood Authority” Concept is Missing from the Book of Mormon, and How Authority was Obtained to Found the First Known Church of Christ Why the “Lines of Priesthood Authority” Concept is Missing from the Book of Mormon, and How Authority was Obtained to Found the First Known Church of Christ, elsewhere on this website.) All of a sudden, anyone who read the Messenger and Advocate learned, late in 1834, not only of a previously unheard-of need for authority from a heavenly messenger to perform proper baptisms, but also, that said need had been met by the previously undisclosed visit of an “angel of glory” five and a half years earlier.
The timing of such a disclosure, October of 1834, should not be considered without looking at what else was happening around Kirtland, Ohio in October of 1834. Joseph Smith had been under heavy criticism from members of his own church and those outside the faith. The Zion’s Camp march from Kirtland to Missouri, consisting of 207 men, 11 women and 11 children, and led by Joseph Smith, had utterly failed to accomplish its stated purpose of reclaiming land Mormons had lost to antagonistic non-Mormons in western Missouri. Fourteen of the 68 men who had contracted cholera during the march had lost their lives. Upon arriving in Missouri and determining that his military force was too weak to overcome the Missouri adversaries, Joseph disbanded the expedition, leaving its participants to return on their own however they could. (The Zion’s Camp expedition is today portrayed by orthodox Mormon writers as a success because its hardships and endurance prepared some participants to be future church leaders. The precise military objective of the march, and the death toll, are almost always ignored, as is the loss of confidence in Joseph Smith that other participants experienced.) During this same time, Philastus Hurlbut and E.D. Howe had been very vocal in criticizing Joseph for feigning piety, revelations and divine authority, and Howe’s book Mormonism Unvailed had just been published months earlier. It was in this context that Oliver Cowdery’s and Joseph Smith’s unprecedented claims of physical conferrals of authority from John the Baptist and Peter, James and John emerged. If believed, these claims would place divine sanction on Joseph’s claims to heavenly recognition.
B. Material Disparities Between Joseph’s and Others’ Baptismal Accounts
Regarding the difference between Oliver Cowdery’s account and Joseph’s version several years later, in Oliver Cowdery’s account, the messenger from heaven was not identified as John the Baptist, the date of the event was not given, the “Aaronic Priesthood” was not said to have been conferred, but instead, the “Holy Priesthood”, and no mention was made of the need for Peter, James and John to come later and confer additional authority.1 And, despite his expressions of joy over every single aspect of the words reportedly said to him and Joseph by the angel, Oliver’s version also omitted that the angel told Joseph he was to be the church’s first elder, and Oliver the second elder. Again, why would he omit the angel’s prophecy about Joseph’s and his own status in the church, if it indeed occurred?
In fact, Oliver said the very reason the messenger came was in response to Joseph’s and Oliver’s desire to receive “authority from God to administer the ordinances of the Gospel.” There was not even a hint in Oliver’s account that afterwards, he didn’t think he got exactly what he and Joseph had been seeking. From what he wrote, he doesn’t appear to have thought he received a “lesser” authority, or that he contemplated that such authority was insufficient to perform any ordinance contemplated by Mormonism in 1834. Nor did he indicate he believed there would be any reason to expect later messengers would be necessary to confer any higher, more important authority. In fact, the event described by Oliver appears to describe one event wherein all authority to run the church was conferred at one time. Even the term “Holy Priesthood”–which in the canonized Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price is used exclusively to describe the Melchizedek Priesthood–was employed to describe what was conferred by the heavenly messenger. Thus Oliver Cowdery’s description of what the angel conferred on himself and Joseph differs drastically from Joseph Smith’s description of it.
Another reason the unprecedented, late-1834 disclosure by Oliver Cowdery would have raised eyebrows was that both Oliver and Joseph in 1829 had already told many people the story of how they had come to be baptized, and their stories had made no mention of having received authority to do so from a heavenly messenger. Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph’s mother, who years after her son’s death wrote an exhaustive (and flattering) family history in which she chronicled virtually every dream, conversation or occurrence she deemed significant in the lives of her family members, said nothing about an appearance to Joseph from John the Baptist or Peter, James and John. She did include many events of far less importance, however. This fact suggests that if something of the magnitude of these famous heavenly messengers visiting her son to confer priesthood authority would have happened, she would not only have heard of it, she would have written much about it, just as she did the visits of the angel heralding the Book of Mormon. (Nor did her history contain any reference to Joseph’s claimed First Vision, or its aftermath; see Whether Joseph Smith’s Canonized First Vision Account is Authentic History, elsewhere on this website, for more on this issue.)
In fact, Lucy remembered the occasion of Joseph’s and Oliver’s baptism well. As she related in her history, Joseph told her that as he and Oliver learned of the need to be baptized while translating the Book of Mormon, they went down to the nearby Susquehanna River and baptized each other. Lucy’s son Samuel followed them and watched from afar. As the two men returned from the river and heard Samuel praying, and adjudging him a fit candidate, they decided to baptize him immediately. This they did that same day.2
David Whitmer, who was Oliver Cowdery’s brother-in-law, and one the three primary witnesses to the Book of Mormon who had actually reported angelic confirmation of the book’s authenticity, responded to the story of John the Baptist’s visitation with more than just skepticism. He insisted that–
neither did I ever hear of such a thing as an angel ordaining them until I got into Ohio about the year 1834–or later . . . Oliver stated to me in Joseph’s presence that they had baptized each other seeking by that to fulfill the command [to be baptized as contained in within the Savior’s instructions in 3 Nephi 11]. And after our arrival at Father’s sometime in June 1829, Joseph ordained Oliver to be an Elder, and Oliver ordained Joseph to be an Elder in the Church of Christ . . .I do not believe that John the Baptist ever ordained Joseph and Oliver as stated and believed by some.”3
William E. McLellin made a similar statement, stating that in 1831 he had heard Joseph tell about “angel visits” many times in connection with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, but had “never heard one word” of John the Baptist or Peter, James and John having visited Joseph, or ordained him, until some later year in Ohio.4
Joseph Knight, who had been a close friend of Joseph Smith since the early 1820s, sometime after 1833 wrote a history of important events of Mormonism leading up to that year. Though his history demonstrated Knight was eager to discuss the ministrations of heavenly messengers, it made no reference to any visitation from John the Baptist or Peter, James and John. It did, however, contain details about the visits of the angel Joseph dealt with in connection with the golden plates between 1823 and 1827 which are not contained anywhere else.5 Like Lucy Mack Smith, if Joseph Knight had heard about, or believed, that Joseph Smith had experienced these heavenly manifestations, presumably he would have been eager to write about it in his history.
Mormonism’s Book of Commandments, compiled by Joseph Smith himself, which when published in 1833 purported to contain the important revelations given to him up to that time and listed chronologically, had no reference to these presumably all-important visitations.
And finally, not a single journal or diary reference, or account of any discourse by anyone regarding the appearances of John the Baptist or Peter, James and John has been found to exist prior to Cowdery’s 1834 account in the 1834 Messenger and Advocate regarding the unnamed messenger who descended to confer baptismal authority.
Joseph seems to have been aware of this gap in the historical record, if not the gap between his and Oliver Cowdery’s versions, when he claimed, as quoted above, he hadn’t divulged these events at the time they occurred because of a spirit of persecution in his neighborhood at that time. This explanation is hard to swallow, to say the least. It comes from a man who in his 1842 First Vision account, also published in the same year as his John the Baptist account, touted his courage as a young boy in divulging to the whole world that the Father and the Son had appeared to him, and that he had refused to recant in the face of great persecution. And we know he’d later endured much persecution (properly documented, we might add) over his claims about the golden plates, So, why would persecution over this matter scare him, if he’d already stalwartly endured years of it? Besides, though there is no record of persecution in May of 1829, even if there had been, there wasn’t any reported persecution in 1830 when the church was founded, and it didn’t come from Mormons, or even non-Mormons, for another two or three years. The existence of great persecution in 1829 or 1830 appears uncorroborated by the historical record.
Moreover, Joseph’s explanation of why he kept silent about the priesthood restoration visitations is further invalidated by the fact that during the five-plus years of non-disclosure from May 1829 to Cowdery’s article in October 1834, Joseph continued to make spectacular claims of heavenly revelations, such as that in 1832, now contained in D&C 76, wherein he claimed he and Sidney Rigdon saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God.
C. Conflicting Church History Which Pre-dated Priesthood Restoration Claims
The third piece of evidence, that Mormonism’s own official origins-of-authority narrative had already been well-established along different lines when the priesthood restoration claims began to emerge in late 1834, was probably harder to defend than the long delay in reporting, or the huge holes in, and disparities between, contempory records. The texts of Joseph Smith’s own alleged prior revelations themselves contradicted his new claims. Joseph’s earliest narrative had been that the authority to preach repentance and baptize had come from the spiritual call he received by bringing forth the Book of Mormon. Because of the ministering of the angel(s) who had helped him through the momentous Book of Mormon translation project, and his permissive use of the “interpreters”, a divinely prepared translation instrument, the Lord’s endorsement of his efforts to organize and help run a new denomination practicing Book of Mormon Christianity the seemed implicit. Since the 1829 baptisms of Joseph and Oliver, several others had been baptized that same year by those two men as well, though the church had yet to be formally organized. These early converts, such as the Whitmer brothers, had heard nothing of John the Baptist having come, and wouldn’t for another five years, but had no doubt that their baptisms were accepted by the Lord. In about 1839, Joseph described how in 1830 he received the authority to run the church (with further commentary on this account contained later in this essay):
We had for some time made this matter a subject of humble prayer, and at length we got together in the Chamber [upper story] of Mr Whitmer’s house in order more particularly to seek of the Lord what we now so earnestly desired … [w]e had not long been engaged in solemn and fervent prayer, when the word of the Lord, came unto us in the Chamber, commanding us; that I should ordain Oliver Cowdery to be an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ, And that he also should ordain me to the same office, and then to ordain others … [W]e were however commanded to defer this our ordination untill, such times, as it should be practicable to have our brethren, who had been and who should be baptized, assembled together . . .6
As Mormons already had been taught in June of 1830, this meeting, and the anticipated ordinations took place on 6 April 1830, the day the church was organized.7 Two months thereafter, a purported revelation, which was later published in the Book of Commandments in Chapter 24, referred back to that occasion when Joseph and Oliver had exercised their new authority. The revelation affirmed that “commandments were given to Joseph, who was called of God and ordained an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of this church; And also to Oliver, who was also called of God an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of this church, and ordained under his [Joseph’s] hand.” In other words, the two men had spiritually perceived the word of God in the Whitmer home, and in response to the calling they believed they’d received therefrom, had ordained each other on the day of the church’s founding. This authorized the two men to function as elders; no angelic ordinations were mentioned.
The same Book of Commandments (hereafter “BoC” in citations) revelation went on to explain that an elder, the office to which they’d ordained each other, holds the authority to preside, ordain other elders, and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost.8 The idea that the position of elder, which existed in Christ’s church among the Nephites, had some connection to the “Melchizedek Priesthood”, was of course not mentioned; the concept didn’t exist yet.
The term elder was also at this time synonymous with the term apostle. Apostles were also not yet associated with the Melchizedek priesthood, or with the keys of presiding over the whole church. This made sense, since neither the New Testament nor Book of Mormon suggested that apostles were Melchizedek high priests. That concept was not to be introduced until early 1835. In these early days, anyone who was ordained an elder was considered to be an apostle. As Chapter 24 of the Book of Commandments (now D&C 20) stated, “An apostle is an elder.”9
This same revelation outlined authority to found the church. Dated June 1830, it stated that Joseph: (1) “received a remission of his sins”; (2) received a “call … to his holy work” from an angel who gave him the means to translate the Book of Mormon; (3) that angels showed the book to others and thus “confirmed” it to them; (4) that the Church of Christ was organized on 6 April 1830; and that (5) on that same day, Joseph and Oliver ordained each other elders, having been “called of God” to do so. The church’s leadership structure was thus at that point almost identical to the Book of Mormon model, consisting solely of elders, priests and teachers, though it had also borrowed and added the biblical office of deacon. As elders, Joseph and Oliver would have the authority to do the same as the elders described in Moroni 6 of the Book of Mormon–to baptize, ordain others to be elders, priests and teachers, bless the sacrament, teach the gospel, protect the church’s integrity, and direct all affairs by the power of the Holy Ghost.10 So, two months after the church was founded and organized, nothing yet suggested that Joseph and Oliver had received authority by angelic ordination, nor that elders, priests, teachers or deacons were in any way related to “priesthood,” let alone two separate priesthoods.
And then things began to change. At a June 1831 conference of church leaders in Kirtland, Joseph was ordained to the “high priesthood” (which at that time signified only an ordination to be a high priest) by Lyman Wight. Over twenty other men were also ordained, most by Lyman but a few by Joseph. This is the earliest occurrence of the word “priesthood” in modern Mormon teachings or revelations.11
David Whitmer felt very strongly that the sudden emergence of high priests into the church was due, not to revelation from God, but to Sidney Rigdon’s vainglorious personal ambitions and his influence over Joseph Smith. As Whitmer put it,
The next grievous error which crept into the church was in ordaining high priests in June, 1831. This error was introduced at the instigation of Sydney Rigdon. The office of high priests was never spoken of, and never thought of being established in the church until Rigdon came in. Remember that we had been preaching from August, 1829, until June, 1831—almost two years—and had baptized about 2,000 members into the Church of Christ, and had not one high priest. During 1829, several times we were told by Brother Joseph that an elder was the highest office in the church. In December, 1830, Sydney Rigdon and Edward Partridge came from Kirtland, Ohio, to Fayette, N.Y., to see Brother Joseph, and in the latter part of the winter they returned to Kirtland. In February, 1831, Brother Joseph came to Kirtland where Rigdon was. Rigdon was a thorough Bible scholar, a man of fine education, and a powerful orator. He soon worked himself deep into Brother Joseph’s affections, and had more influence over him than any other man living. He was Brother Joseph’s private counsellor, and his most intimate friend and brother for some time after they met. Brother Joseph rejoiced, believing that the Lord had sent to him this great and mighty man Sydney Rigdon, to help him in the work. Poor Brother Joseph! He was mistaken about this, and likewise all of the brethren were mistaken; for we thought at that time just as Brother Joseph did about it. But alas! in a few years we found out different. Sydney Rigdon was the cause of almost all the errors which were introduced while he was in the church. I believe Rigdon to have been the instigator of the secret organization known as the “Danites” which was formed in Far West Missouri in June, 1838. In Kirtland, Ohio, in 1831, Rigdon would expound the Old Testament scriptures of the Bible and Book of Mormon (in his way) to Joseph, concerning the priesthood, high priests, etc., and would persuade Brother Joseph to inquire of the Lord about this doctrine and that doctrine, and of course a revelation would always come just as they desired it. Rigdon finally persuaded Brother Joseph to believe that the high priests which had such great power in ancient times, should be in the Church of Christ to-day. He had Brother Joseph inquire of the Lord about it, and they received an answer according to their erring desires. Remember that this revelation came like the one to ordain Brother Joseph “Prophet Seer and Revelator” to the church—through Brother Joseph as mouthpiece, and not through the stone [the Urim and Thummin, interpreters, or seer stone through which Whitmer believed Joseph Smith had received all prior revelations before the Book of Mormon was published]. Remember also [Joseph Smith’s prior explanation for why his claimed revelation that the church should attempt to sell the Book of Mormon copyright in Canada had proved uninspired] that “some revelations are of God; some revelations are of man; and some revelations are of the devil.”12
The narrative continued to change. In February of 1832, Joseph claimed he and Sidney Rigdon received a vision (now part of D&C 76) in which those “who come forth in the resurrection of the just” are described as “priests of the most high after the order of Melchesadeck which was after the order of Enoch which was after the order of the of the only begotten son.” Later in September of that year, Joseph dictated a purported revelation (which later became D&C 84) that discussed two orders of priesthood: a “Holy Priesthood” once supposedly possessed by Moses but lost from the earth until Jesus’s ministry (which creates an enormous doctrinal problem for Mormonism since Elijah, who Mormons teach held the Melchizedek priesthood, lived after Moses and before Jesus), and a “lesser priesthood” associated with Aaron. Virtually every piece of doctrinal or historical information asserted by this revelation is uncorroborated, and in many cases, contradicted by the Bible or Book of Mormon. We will not delve into these doctrinal and historical issues here, except to say that after dictating this claimed revelation, Joseph may have begun realizing the need to create his own physical line of authority, distinct from the spiritual inspiration he had originally claimed, since he was now teaching physical conferral of such priesthood authority to be a prerequisite of receiving it.
Then, when Joseph Smith began privately writing his first unpublished history in November 1832 (partially in the third person voice), it was evident he had moved still further toward describing his received authority with different wording and “”higher priesthood” concepts–
the reception of the holy Priesthood by the ministering of Aangels [sic] to administer the letter of the Gospel and the ordinencs [sic], [and] a confirmation and reception of the high Priesthood after the holy order of the son of the living God power and ordinence from on high to preach the gospel in the administration and demonstration of the spirit the Kees of the Kingdom of God conferred upon him…13
After Oliver Cowdery asserted in October 1834 that the authority to baptize had been passed on to himself and Joseph Smith by an angel who descended from heaven to confer the “holy priesthood,” he modified that narrative somewhat two months later to suggest full authority had been promised, but not yet been received. On December 5, he wrote about a promise “made by the angel while in company with President Smith, at the time they [i.e., he and Joseph] received the office of the lesser priesthood.”14
The next steps were massive, involving the wholesale rewriting of scriptures which had heretofore been regarded as immutable revelations from God. In 1835, Book of Commandments 24 was retrofitted with added language referring to the “high priesthood” and the offices of traveling bishop, high councilor, and high priest. The new version was published that year as Section 20 of the replacement scripture Doctrine and Covenants. Additionally, the original Book of Commandments Chapter 28 was rendered mostly unrecognizable by adding a host of new, previously-unknown heavenly visitations and doctrines and falsely representing it all to have been part of the original September 1830 revelation. The massively overhauled version now appears as Section 27 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The LDS Church’s caption in today’s scripture makes no mention of the fact that the most famous and doctrinally significant parts of the purported revelation were added in 1835. The retroactive supplementation consisted of the latter part of verse 5, through the last verse, verse 18, in which verses Moroni, Elias, Zacharias, John the Baptist, Elijah, Joseph, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Michael, Peter, James and John were now mentioned. The portion referring to John the Baptist and Peter, James and John, which, as always, purport to be the words of the Lord spoken in the first person, reads:
Which John I have sent unto you, my servants, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Oliver Cowdery, to ordain you unto the first priesthood which you have received, that you might be called and ordained even as Aaron . . . And also with Peter, 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.15
Thus appeared in 1835, for the first time in Mormonism’s history, the reference identifying John the Baptist as the angel Oliver Cowdery had described in his 1834 account, and the first reference of any kind to Peter, James and John having also been sent to Joseph and Oliver. At this point, John the Baptist’s claimed visit was well over six years in the past.
But the transformation to a new “priesthood restoration” narrative also involved dramatic supplementation of other previous claimed revelations. In D&C Section 22 (now Section 68), two previously unpublished revelations, first recorded in 1831, were massively overhauled and added to the new 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. The overhauled version combined the two revelations into one and added all the language regarding Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthood presidencies, and their powers and jurisdictions, as well as the right of a literal descendant of Aaron to be a bishop if he can prove his lineage. These additions to the original verses are now found in D&C 68:14-21, with some other phrases added in verses 22-26.16 As in the case of D&C 27, D&C 68 today fails to inform the reader that the verses concerning Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods were added four years after the first iteration of the text.
As such, D&C Sections 27 and 68 contain blatant anachronisms, with their most salient verses addressing doctrines and history not yet existing on the dates for said revelations provided in the LDS scriptures. It’s not hard to see why the Church might desire to conceal the actual chronologies. If it’s known that the most important part of a revelation was added several years later, inevitably, thorny questions arise. Why would the Lord leave out the most important parts out of his revelations in the first place? Why would the Lord add new parts to old revelations, when the new parts contradicted previous revelations on the same subjects? Are we supposed to believe the Lord changes his mind as to what the true doctrine is?
The LDS church today adds more fuel to the fire by trying to explain why Joseph felt free to supplement, and reverse the meanings of, revelations he claimed had originally come from God. In a 2009 article introducing the Manuscript Revelation Books in the Joseph Smith Papers, then church historian Marlin K. Jensen wrote in the LDS church magazine Ensign that on occasions,
the Prophet edited the earlier written revelation to reflect the new understanding. Thus, as his doctrinal knowledge clarified and expanded, so did the recorded revelations. They were characterized by the changing nature of his understanding of the sacred subject matter. The Prophet did not believe that revelations, once recorded, could not be changed by further revelation.17
We find this explanation troubling. Since when does God “change” revelations, or even “update” them? If it was the word of God to begin with, it doesn’t need amendment; God doesn’t work that way. He expects us to study what he said and learn what he meant, not re-write or add huge blocks of text unrelated to the original words as our own views or desires change. Even if Joseph Smith’s understanding of some divinely-revealed words might change, that would in no way mean that the revelation needed to be massively overhauled; it should be left intact, since it came from God. Besides, the retroactive addition of new events to a purported revelation from God doesn’t suggest Joseph acquired new understanding of a doctrinal concept; instead, it impeaches Joseph, and erodes confidence not only in the credibility of the revised version, but often, the original version as well. It creates the impression that Joseph Smith is making it up as he goes along. His “understanding” of whether John the Baptist came to him in 1829 and gave him the Priesthood of Aaron possessed by the descendants of Levi should not change. Nor should his understanding of whether God really said those words about John the Baptist and Peter, James and John recorded in D&C 27 that he added to the original revelation five years later. If he claims his “understanding” of these things changed (Joseph himself never explained why he rewrote Mormonism’s historical narratives; Marlin K. Jensen’s explanation here appears to be Jensen’s attempt to cover for him), he’s simply not believable. Richard Bushman described this weird tendency to amend purported revelations by noting that Joseph revised them, “adding new material and splicing one to another, altering the wording as he saw fit.”18
By 1839, LDS church history had become hopelessly muddled. That year, Joseph wrote concerning his origianal reception of authority to govern the church. Notice that in the following excerpt, which is a fuller version of the one appearing above immediately preceding Footnote 6, he refers to the history of Mormonism as of June of 1829. The authority had supposedly already been received from John the Baptist, and the higher Melchizedek priesthood authority was still being sought, but had not been yet received, to organize and run the church. Such references to the Baptist and the Melchizedek priesthood are again anachronisms, since mention of all of these things was in 1829 still years into the future. We have already discussed above the fact that in the following excerpt, Joseph admitted being ordained an elder without mentioning any angelic visitation to authorize it. But additionally, the reader should notice Joseph’s baffling disregard of historical events he’d referenced in 1835, and which he would later reference in 1842. Not only was he suggesting below that the authority for himself and Oliver to ordain each other elders (which in Mormonism are considered Melchizedek Priesthood offices), came merely from the word of God he perceived in 1830, but also, that it didn’t come from Peter, James and John as was asserted in 1835, and wasn’t recieved on the banks of the Susquehanna River, which would eventually be asserted in 1842 (see D&C 128:20):
We now became anxious to have that promise realized to us, which the Angel that conferred upon the Aaronick Priesthood had given us, viz: that provided we continued faithful; whe should also have the Melchesidec [sic] Priesthood, which holds the authority of the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost[a concept lacking any scriptural basis in the Bible or Book of Mormon]. We had for some time made this matter a subject of humble prayer, and at length we got together in the Chamber [upper story] of Mr[.] Whitmer’s house in order more particularly to seek of the Lord what we now so earnestly desired … [w]e had not long been engaged in solemn and fervent prayer, when the word of the Lord, came unto us in the Chamber, commanding us; that I should ordain Oliver Cowdery to be an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ, And [sic] that he also should ordain me to the same office, and then ordain others … [W]e were however commanded to defer this our ordination untill, such times, as it should be practicable to have our brethren, who had been and who should be baptized, assembled together . . .19
Unfortunately, the conclusion we reach today is very strong, though we wish it were different: Joseph Smith was making up Mormon history as he went along, and taking little care to harmonize his ever-evolving versions.
D. LDS History’s Missing Account of Melchizedek Priesthood Restoration
In an epistle written to the church in 1842, Joseph Smith waxed poetic with gratitude while alluding to past significant occurrences which he implied had then become part of church history. One of these allusions is to the collective church hearing “the voice of Peter, James and John in the wilderness . . . on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times!” (See D&C 128:20. The overall subject matter in Joseph’s letter is directions on ritual of baptism for the dead, the doctrinal merits of which we address elsewhere on this website, see Baptism for the Dead: True Christian Doctrine and Practice, or LDS Construction?) As discussed above, Joseph had already introduced into Mormonism the notion that Peter, James and John had come by retroactively inserting it into D&C 27 five years after the revelation had been dictated and six years after the event had supposedly occurred. But neither Joseph nor Oliver Cowdery ever did record any actual history of this event happening, in stark contrast to their detailed (albeit dissimilar and much belated) descriptions of John the Baptist’s visit and the precise words spoken on that occasion. Nor did they provide a time frame, nor an explanation for why nothing was said about it at the time, or why they had already taught something completely different as to the source of their authority in 1830. There simply exists no plausible explanation for this omission which is consistent with authenticity. The event, if it truly occurred, would have been supremely important, much more so than the supposed restoration of the lesser priesthood preceding it. Given the later doctrinal changes which transformed reception of the Melchizedek Priesthood into a newly-conceived precondition for church existence and governance, the absence of this history is even more significant than if there were no account of how Mormonism got the Book of Mormon. Its absence from LDS Church history, the doctrinal errors upon which its necessity was premised, and the previous contradictory narratives by Joseph, Oliver and several others, compel the conclusion that it simply didn’t happen.
E. Regarding Oliver Cowdery, and Reuben Miller’s Account of his 1848 Speech
We have a theory about why Cowdery’s and Smith’s priesthood restoration accounts emerged with both similarities and significant disparities, and why Oliver never did corroborate Joseph’s chronology nor his “Peter, James and John” claims. (For the purpose of this discussion, we will assume Oliver was the author of the priesthood restoration account attributed to him in the Pearl of Great Price, though we have no rough draft document in his handwriting to prove this fact.) It’s evident from Church history that no one in the church had heard, prior to the fall of 1834, that priesthood authority had been bestowed on anyone by ancient resurrected beings. Oliver was only recently familiar with the claim that even one visitation had occurred, and had never before spoken about it, because he himself did not remember it, and was relying on Joseph’s description of it to write such a glowing account. He had already told close associates about his own baptism, and it had included nothing about John the Baptist. He already knew he had been ordained as the the second elder of the church on April 6, 1830, and that nothing had been said about visitations by heavenly messengers conferring authority at that time. Certainly he didn’t want to embarrass or discredit Joseph Smith by confessing that he remembered nothing about such a supposedly auspicious event. So, perhaps because he’d always deferred to Joseph Smith’s pronouncements in the past, he deferred again. Maybe he even convinced himself that this new priesthood authority concept Joseph was promoting was a higher level of authority he didn’t understand, and which he hadn’t known was needed.
We theorize that Oliver Cowdery didn’t foresee in 1834 that Joseph Smith was eventually going to claim two separate visitations from heavenly messengers had occurred for two separate priesthoods restorations, since Joseph had not yet made such a claim. Writing in October of 1834, Oliver appears to have tailored his own historical narrative about the unidentified messenger coming to authorize baptism to match what Joseph was telling him had happened, even though Joseph was describing an experience that he and Oliver had supposedly shared. Oliver made the mistake of simply writing what he’d been told to write, and had added his own literary flourishes throughout.
What Oliver didn’t yet appreciate fully was that Joseph’s method of relating historical events, ever fluid, allowed him to change previous narrations without apology and to assume no one would notice or care. In October 1834 Joseph’s account of some unnamed heavenly messenger having brought the “Holy Priesthood” to the two men was deemed sufficient at the time. But soon thereafter, Joseph’s story of that first event became more elaborate. It’s probable that Oliver ascertained that Joseph had begun claiming two priesthood restoration events occurred, instead of one, when Joseph gave him a patriarchal blessing in September or October of 1835. In the blessing, Joseph stated that both men had been ordained “by the hand of the angel in the bush[?], unto the lesser priesthood and after received the holy priesthood under the hands of they who had been held in reserve for a long season, even those who received it under the hand of the Messiah.”20 But in 1834 he was describing the restoration of all priesthood, and had heard of no other event. He never did describe the second supposed restoration at all, or claim to remember any of its details. Thereafter, Oliver was never able to keep up with the evolving chain of events being related by Joseph. The more time passed, the more the descriptions of what had occurred changed, so Oliver stopped writing about priesthood restoration, after late 1834. In fact, as explained below, Oliver never did return to the practice of writing about experiences Joseph Smith claimed to have shared with him.
Still, why Oliver would initially describe an event so effusively that he had never before mentioned, and which his own prior conversations with close Mormon friends had pre-emptively refuted, is hard to explain. However, the most reasonable explanation is that he did it out of loyalty to Joseph Smith during a time of mounting criticism from within the Church and without, and because he cherished, and didn’t want to lose, the respect he’d enjoyed as one of the two founders of the church. The last thing Joseph needed in 1834, with the Zion’s Camp tragedies, Philastus Hurlbut and E.D. Howe putting pressure on him, was for Oliver to reveal to the world that Joseph was propounding a false narrative as to the source of his religious authority, and asking Oliver write it for him with the latter’s characteristic flair. Oliver knew Joseph’s Book of Mormon claims were true, and he couldn’t afford to have the Book of Mormon’s authenticity called into question just because of Joseph’s growing tendency to embellish or fabricate other previous events. Similarly, to refuse Joseph’s request, or direction, whichever it was, to write the first narrative could very well jeopardize Oliver’s own position of LDS Church stature. In fact, when Oliver was eventually excommunicated in 1838, one of the charges against him was that he had accused Joseph Smith of adultery with Fanny Alger. This charge against him was true, and he steadfastly refused to retract it. Though the accusation against Joseph was completely true, countering Joseph Smith had never been allowed in Mormonism.
Of course, we cannot prove our theory as to why Oliver didn’t initially refute Joseph’s spectacular priesthood restoration assertions, or why he later discontinued writing or speaking about non-Book of Mormon-related history. The merits of this essay’s assertions should not be judged on whether or not we’ve conclusively proven our theory as to Oliver Cowdery’s motivations. But we do place considerable weight on the fact that Oliver never corroborated Joseph Smith’s post-1834 allegation that the two of them and seen and and heard the voice of Jesus Christ in the Kirtland Temple, though he wrote several pages about other experiences reported there. As we argued above, if this event had actually happened, it would have eclipsed all other experiences in Oliver’s life, and if he wrote about anything, he would written about that. It appears he had reached his limit in corroborating spectacular claims he didn’t actually remember.
After he left the church in 1838, Oliver never did attempt to reunite with it until Joseph Smith had been dead for four years. Certainly he felt hurt that Joseph had failed to prevent him from being excommunicated for absurd, unsubstantiated reasons by cult-like, inquisition-minded Missouri church leaders (which will be the subject of a future essay on this website). But we theorize he was also embarrassed that he’d been duped by Joseph, and had sacrificed some his own integrity in acquiescing or participating in some revisionist church history. This sentiment was common, and frequently expressed after 1838.21 The process of publishing the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, which he knew had so significantly altered the original manuscripts of purported revelations,22 might have troubled him.
F. Reuben Miller’s Purported Transcript of Oliver Cowdery’s Priesthood Restoration Remarks in 1848
Much is made by Mormon apologist scholars of Reuben Miller’s account of what Oliver said in a speech at Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1848. Miller’s account was published in the 1859 LDS Millennial Star, vol. 21, (20 Aug. 1859), p. 544, after Miller made his journals available for quotations for the periodical. The occasion from which Miller’s supposed transcript was drawn was a church conference of Saints traveling west. Oliver was at that time attempting to have his reputation cleared and rejoin the church. He had traveled from his home in Wisconsin to meet with the Saints who were now spending the next several months in Kanesville (later Council Bluffs), Iowa. Reuben Miller, who lived a few miles from Oliver in Wisconsin was also trying to regain his own membership in the church, and had financed Oliver’s travel to the conference. Miller had left Mormonism a few years earlier and had joined the Strangites, having believed James Strang’s claim that Joseph Smith had annointed him as his successor, with exclusive priesthood authority to lead the LDS Church, shortly before his death. Having become disillusioned by Strang, and convinced his claims were illegitimate, he then embarked on a letter-writing campaign to demonstrate to LDS church leaders that he now accepted their claims to priesthood authority over Strang’s. For a detailed account of Miller’s history of leaving the LDS Church, and his later efforts to regain respectability among Mormon leaders and rejoin the church, see Richard Lloyd Anderson’s article Reuben Miller, Recorder of Oliver Cowdery’s Reaffirmations.23
Miller purported to record Oliver’s words to the conference verbatim, based on contemporaneously written notes. According to him, Oliver averred that he had been present when Joseph and he received the lesser priesthood from an unnamed heavenly messenger, and when they recieved the higher priesthood from unnamed angels. They can be read online here. His quotations from Oliver allowed him to argue that hearing Oliver’s assertions had convinced him priesthood authority had always resided within Mormonism. His account of what Oliver said is unique, because, of the many journal accounts by others who attended that conference, none have corroborated Miller’s account except to note that Oliver spoke. We have reviewed Miller’s handwritten journal with utmost care to determine how much reliability Miller’s transcript deserves. For the following reasons, we have concluded it’s not a reliable source of Oliver Cowdery actually said.
It is discernible that Miller retroactively inserted the purported words of Oliver Cowdery into the middle of his journal long after he had stopped writing in it, and long after Oliver Cowdery’s conference talk. Miller started writing in his 1848 journal on September 12, 1848. He recorded daily entries until October 15, after which there is a mostly blank page. The next entry is for October 21, and it is the purported word-for-word transcript of Oliver Cowdery’s talk. The handwriting is smaller, neater and more legible than the entries preceding it, due to the ink being darker and the penmanship more careful. The first observation about the handwriting is that is virtually impossible that the writing could have been done simultaneously with Oliver’s speaking; it is far too neat, unabbreviated and errorless. Having more than 30 years of courtroom experience, we know that even certified court reporters who type shorthand at 200 words per minute occasionally have to ask a witness on the stand to repeat a few words so they can keep up. There are no notes or abbreviations for this talk elsewhere in the journal.
The next entry in the journal bolsters the conclusion of retroactive insertion. It purports to be Oliver Cowdery’s address to “before high priests quorum in the tabernacle November,” which would place it in the next month, in Kanesville (later renamed Council Bluffs), Iowa, but still in 1848. Once again, it is word-for-word. Therein, Oliver purportedly argues for his reinstatement to the church. It is written the same way as the preceding entry, in darker ink and more careful penmanship. Following this entry, there are two short entries listing commodities either purchased or sold. The next entry, on the back of the page bearing the end of Oliver’s speech to the high priests quorum, is dated almost a year later, September 27, 1849, a few days after Miller’s arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. Following that are several entries listing commodities bought or sold, after which the narrative goes back in time to descriptions of the travels on the trail to the Great Salt Lake Valley in May and June of 1849. After several entries of this nature, the entries then skip ahead to November and December of 1849, showing commercial transactions time spent on unidentified tasks, and continue into 1850 through the end of January. Then, at the end of the journal is a messy, much-corrected rough draft of the speech to the high priests’ quorum which had ostensibly been delivered fourteen months earlier. The rough draft contains lined out and reworked phrases which went into the final draft found in the middle of the journal.
In other words, the rough draft of a speech purportedly delivered in November 1848 is found after numerous entries in the same journal from May, June, September, November and December of 1849 and January of 1850. The final draft, written in a darker ink than that employed in the rest of the journal, appears in the middle of the journal, anachronistically placed to make it appear that it represents Oliver Cowdery’s exact words spoken in November 1848.
It thus appears that Miller wrote a few entries in his 1848 journal in September and October of 1848, and ceasing this activity on October 15, six days before the Cowdery address to the conference at Council Bluffs. After that, he appears to have next recommenced writing in the 1848 journal, after skipping many pages, in late May of 1849. After recording therein two weeks or so worth of entries from the trek to Salt Lake, he continues writing about the rest of the trek in a separate journal for 1849. He uses the second, 1849 journal to chronicle his company’s travel west and eventual arrival in Salt Lake in September 1849. But at different times in 1849, while engaged in business transactions and needing to use the the blank paper of the 1848 journal to record many business transactions, he appears to go back to the blank pages between his October 15, 1848 entry and his May 29, 1849 entry to record his buying, selling or trading. At some point after arriving in Salt Lake, whether it be months or years, he composes the words which he wants to quote Oliver Cowdery as having said, then writes two separate Oliver Cowdery speeches retroactively into his 1848 journal using seven blank pages still available between the October 15, 1848 entry and the September 29, 1849 entry. But there can be no doubt that the rough draft of Oliver’s speech to the high priests’ quorum found at the back of the 1848 journal preceded the final draft found in the middle of the journal. Neither journal contains a rough draft of Oliver’s speech to the conference, but the speech appears in the journal already longer and more polished than Oliver’s second speech, which did have a rough draft. There can also be no doubt that neither speech was simultaneously recorded, much less a verbatim transcript of what Oliver really said on those two occasions.
Our finding of unreliability is thus based on first, Miller’s well chronicled desire and efforts to create a narrative which would justify his change of heart as to which church held priesthood authority; second, the absence of mention of Oliver Cowdery’s priesthood restoration claims in any other account of the conference talks; third, the physical impossibility of Miller having provided a verbatim transcript of Oliver’s words; fourth, the existence of a rough draft at the end of Miller’s 1848 journal demonstrating that Miller planned Oliver’s second speech before writing it in the journal in its final form; fifth, the gaps and lack of chronological sequence in the 1848 journal shows the time frame for various entries doesn’t correspond to the placement of those entries in Miller’s journal.
For all of the above reasons, and the doctrinal reasons explained in other essays on this website, we conclude that the priesthood restoration accounts purportedly involving John the Baptist and Peter, James and John did not actually occur.
1. In the first paragraph of this essay, we provided links to other essays on this website wherein we have argued that Peter, James and John were not themselves high priests after the order of Melchizedek, and that nobody was a high priest under this holy order after Jesus himself. But we see this as a doctrinal problem with Joseph’s account, as opposed to a historical problem which this essay is meant to address.
2. Lucy’s Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir, Lavina Fielding Anderson, ed. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001), 439. 3. David Whitmer interview by Zenas H. Gurley, 14 Jan. 1885, questions 13 and 14 in Lyndon W. Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews (Orem: Grandin Book Company, 1991), 154, as quoted in D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), 19. It should be remembered, in connection with this statement by David Whitmer, that he was no longer in the LDS Church after 1838, and thuse was gone by the time Joseph included in his 1842 church history the story of John the Baptist’s visitation. He was therefore unaware of the extent to which members of the LDS had accepted the account as factual as of 1885.
4. Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, Ibid. at 19.
5. Ibid., 19, 20. See also, Dean Jessee (1977) “Joseph Knight’s Recollection of Early Mormon History,” BYU Studies Quarterly: Vol. 17: Iss. 1, Article 4.
6. Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith: Autobiographical and Historical Writings (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989), 1:299.
7. Ibid., 302-03.
8. BoC 24:3-4, 32-35; cf. D&C 20:2-3, 38-45.
9. BoC 24:32; cf. D&C 20:38; 21:1, 10-11.
10. BoC 24: 1-12, 31-34; see also D&C 20:1-13, 38-44, which erroneously dates this revelation as April 1830.
11. Richard Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), pp. 157-58.
12. David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Richmond, Mo.: 1887) p. 35.
13. Jessee, Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:3.
14. Ibid., 1:21, 5 Dec. 1834.
15. See D&C 27:8, 12. For the earliest text, the subsequent extensive revision five years later, and commentary on this revelation, see H. Michael Marquardt, The Joseph Smith Revelations: Text and Commentary (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999), 72-80.
16. Ibid., 169-172.
17. Marlin K. Jensen, “The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Books,” in July 2009 Ensign, p. 51.
18. Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, Ibid., p. 285.
19. Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith, Ibid., 1:299.
20. Patriarchal Blessing Book 1, LDS Archives, 2 Oct. 1835, typed copy, as quoted in H. Michael Marquardt, “Priesthood Restoration,” 1999, p. 2, available online.
21. Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Ibid., p. 35. By the end of the first decade of the LDS church, five of its twelve original apostles had left the church over Joseph Smith’s post-Book of Mormon teachings and behavior, as had Oliver Cowdery, the Whitmer brothers and Hiram Page. See also, online Wikipedia article “Chronology of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (LDS Church).”
22. Marquardt, The Joseph Smith Revelations, Ibid., 3-19.
23. Anderson, Richard Lloyd (1968) “Reuben Miller, Recorder of Oliver Cowdery’s Reaffirmations,” BYU Studies Quarterly: Vol. 8 : Iss. 3 , Article 5.