AFTER the thrilling events related in the last chapter occurred another of the most important events of this dispensation; of elder in the higher or Melchisedec priesthood; which priesthood, according to a subsequent revelation, holds "the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church; to have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; to have the heavens opened unto them; to commune with the general assembly and church of the first-born; and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant."-Doctrine and Covenants 104: 9
What transports of peace, what exultant praise, what overwhelming joy must have filled their souls, if they realized the import of all the promises enumerated here! But probably they did not; but few men, if any, ever do. It furnishes food for a lifetime of careful thought. It gives occasion for a lifetime of the most triumphant joy that the mind of humanity can experience. It causes man to feel that heaven is nearer, and earth more blessed. It gives him a higher regard for honor and purity; and yet it admonishes him to be virtuous and humble, lest he be unworthy of such exalted and desirable privileges.
Let us again hear Joseph while he relates this remarkable event:-
"Meantime we continued to translate, at intervals, when not necessitated to attend to the numerous inquirers, that now began to visit us; some for the sake of finding the truth, others for the purpose of putting hard questions, and trying to confound us. Among the latter class were several learned priests who generally came for the purpose of disputation: however the Lord continued to pour out upon us his Holy Spirit, and as often as we had need, he gave us in that moment what to say; so that although unlearned, and inexperienced in religious controversies, yet were we able to confound those learned Rabbis of the day, whilst at the same time, we were enabled to convince the honest in heart, that we had obtained (through the mercy of God) to the true and everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, so that almost daily we administered the ordinance of baptism for the remission of sins, to such as believed. We now became anxious to have that promise realized to us, which the angel that conferred upon us the Aaronic priesthood had given us; viz., that provided we continued faithful we should also have the Melchisedec priesthood, which holds the authority of the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. We had for some time made this matter a subject of humble prayer, and at length we got together in the chamber of Mr. Whitmer's house in order more particularly to seek of the Lord what we now so earnestly desired: and here to our unspeakable satisfaction did we realize the truth of the Savior's promise; 'Ask, and you shall receive, seek, and you shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you;' for we 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 as it should be made known unto us, from time to time: we were, however, commanded to defer this our ordination until such times as it should be practicable to have our brethren, who had been and who should be baptized, assembled together, when we must have their sanction to our thus proceeding to ordain each other and have them
decide by vote whether they were willing to accept us as spiritual teachers, or not, when also we were commanded to bless bread and break it with them, and to take wine, bless it, and drink it with them, afterward proceed to ordain each other according to commandment, then call out such men as the Spirit should dictate, and ordain them, and then attend to the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost upon all those whom we had previously baptized; doing all things in the name of the Lord."-Times and Seasons
, vol. 3, p. 915.
On this occasion was received the revelation providing for the choosing of twelve apostles. 1
One provision mentioned in the above instruction is of peculiar importance. Notwithstanding the Lord appoints these men to a high and responsible position, he recognizes the rights of the people, and shows no disposition to force
upon them a man not indorsed [endorsed] by them. He instructs them not to carry out his direction until they present the same before their brethren for indorsement [endorsement]. Is not this a grand condescension upon the part of God, that having called men to be colaborers he recognizes their right to a voice in the things done? But he is just, and this is justice. This principle, if true, ought to admonish men who aspire to be coworkers "together with God" that it is necessary to work in the same spirit in which he works, and with the same motives to purify and bless mankind; other wise they will not be worthy to retain their standing, and, in harmony with the inexorable laws of justice, must fall. Further; they should be admonished that as God recognizes
them, and their rights of voice and vote, they should recognize their brethren. Again; as God permits man the privilege of ratifying his choice, is it not disrespectful for men to select and ordain, without consulting him and obtaining his will? Another indorsement [endorsement] of this principle is found in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, section 107, paragraph 46
, where, after giving names for all the important offices of the church, it is said:-
"I give unto you that you should fill all these offices and approve of those names which I have mentioned or else disapprove of them at my general conference," etc.
O f course, as God is always right, it would be disastrous to reject his counsel; but is it not right that the body should have the right to invite disastrous consequences if it choose?
But, reader, is it not inconsistent to charge a man with seeking to be a dictator and an arbitrary ruler, who revealed the principle that the right was inherent in the body to even reject the revelations of God himself, if they so choose, subject, of course, to the consequences of such rejection?
Another thing worthy of note, and especial consideration, in the above quotation, is the manner of ordaining. Some have concluded from the language found in Doctrine and Covenants 26:3, "And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles and especial witnesses of my name," etc., that Peter, James, and John literally laid their own hand on the heads of Joseph and Oliver. But this commandment was to the effect that they should ordain
each other. This they afterwards did, as Joseph Smith relates in his history. (See Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 945.) In regard to this event Oliver Cowdery is reported by George Reynolds in his "Myth of the Manuscript Found," page 80 before referred to), as saying:-
"I was also present with Joseph when the higher or Melchisedec priesthood was conferred by the holy angel from on high. This priesthood was then conferred on each other, by the will and commandment of God."
Joseph and Oliver agree as to their being commanded of God to ordain each other; also as to the fact that they did so ordain. Joseph states in an epistle written at Nauvoo, September 6, 1842, that he heard the voice of Peter, James, and John, but says nothing of such an event as their laying hands on them. His statement is as follows:-
"And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings of Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfillment of the prophets-the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca County, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book. The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the Devil when he appeared as an angel of light. 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 fullness of times. And again, the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca County," etc.-Doctrine and Covenants 110: 20, 21. (See also Times and Seasons, vol. 3, pp. 935, 936.
Some have supposed that they received two ordinations; one under the hands of Peter, James, and John, and one by each other; but it is scarcely supposable that they would fail to mention so important an item. There is no historical evidence of such an event. Nor is there any evidence that
Peter, James, and John were present, either when the instruction was given to ordain or when the ordination actually took place. The only historical account of their appearance is in the epistle quoted from above, and the place of that appearance is definitely given as between Harmony, Susquehanna County (Pennsylvania), and Colesville, Broome County (New York) while the place of instruction concerning ordination, as also the ordination itself, was at Fayette, Seneca County (New York). It is not safe then to write historically that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ever ordained literally under the hands of Peter, James, and John. He who does so writes recklessly and without sufficient evidence upon which to base his conclusion.
The words of the revelation, "by whom I have ordained you," do not furnish the proof; to claim that they do would be putting a strained construction on the word "ordained." To be sure, if they did lay their hands on them it would have been an ordination, but there are other meanings to the word "ordained," and hence to say they ordained, is no evidence they did so by the imposition of their own hands. Webster defines ordain:-
"To set in order; to arrange according to rule; to regulate; to set; to establish.
"To regulate, or establish. by appointment, decree, or law; to constitute; to decree; to appoint; to institute.
"To set apart for an office; to appoint.
"(Eccl.) To invest with ministerial or sacerdotal functions; to introduce into the office of the Christian ministry, by the laying on of hands, or other forms; to set apart by the ceremony of ordination."
Hence Peter, James, and John could have ordained holding and exercising the power to direct, set in order, arrange, regulate, establish, appoint, decree, enact, or institute, etc. In the absence of any evidence that Peter, James, and John ordained according to Webster's fourth definition, we are not justified as historians in saying that Joseph and Oliver were so ordained. It is fair to presume that they
were not, for the reason that so important an event certainly would have been mentioned by the parties concerned. It establishes the principle that a command of God is sufficient authority for any man to perform the ordinance of ordination.
It is evident that the inherent right to the priesthood by virtue of their lives being "hid with Christ in God," was recognized; and because of this they were authorized by command to do the work.
(from page 61
1. Now, behold, because of the thing which you, my servant Oliver Cowdery, have desired to know of me, I give unto you these words: Behold, I have manifested unto you, by my Spirit in many instances, that the thing which you have written are true; wherefore you know that they are true; and if you know that they are true, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written; for in them are all things written concerning the foundation of my church, my gospel, and my rock; wherefore, if you shall build up my church upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you..
2. Behold, the world is ripening in iniquity, and it must needs be that the children of men are stirred up unto repentance, both the Gentiles, and also the house of Israel; wherefore, as thou hast been baptized by the hand of my servant, Joseph Smith, Jr., according to that which I have commanded him, he hath fulfilled the thing which I commanded him. And now marvel not that I have called him unto mine own purpose, which purpose is known in me; wherefore, if he shall be diligent in keeping my commandments, he shall be blessed unto eternal life, and his name is Joseph.
3. And now, Oliver Cowdery, I speak unto you and also unto David Whitmer, by the way of commandment; for, behold, I command all men everywhere to repent, and I speak unto you, even as unto Paul mine apostle, for you are called even with that same calling with which he was called. Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God, for, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him on conditions of repentance. And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth. Wherefore you are called to cry repentance unto this people. And if it so be that you should labor all your days, in crying repentance unto this people, and bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
4. And now, if your jog will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy, if you should bring many souls unto me! Behold you have my gospel
(From page 62
before you, and my rock, and my salvation. Ask the Father in my name, in faith believing that you shall receive, and you shall have the Holy Ghost which manifesteth all things, which is expedient unto the children of men. And if you have not faith, hope, and charity, you can do nothing. Contend against no church, save it be the church of the Devil. Take upon you the name of Christ, and speak the truth in soberness, and as many as repent, and are baptized in my name, which is Jesus Christ, and endure to the end, the same shall be saved. Behold, Jesus Christ is the name which is given of the Father, and there is none other name given whereby man can be saved; wherefore, all men must take upon them the name which is given of the Father, for in that name shall they be called at the last day; wherefore, if they know not the name by which they are called, they cannot have place in the kingdom of my Father.
5. And now, behold, there are others who are called to declare my gospel, both unto Gentile and unto Jew; yea, even twelve; and the twelve shall be my disciples, and they shall take upon them my name; and the twelve are they who shall desire to take upon them my name, with full purpose of heart; and if they desire to take upon them my name, with full purpose of heart they are called to go into all the world to preach my gospel unto every creature; and they are they who are ordained of me to baptize in my name, according to that which is written; and you have that which is written before you; wherefore you must perform it according to the words which are written. And now I speak unto the twelve: Behold, my grace is sufficient for you; you must walk uprightly before me and sin not. And, behold, you are they who are ordained of me to ordain priests and teachers to declare my gospel, according to the power of the Holy Ghost which is in you, and according to the callings and gifts of God unto men; and I, Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God, have spoken it. These words are not of men, nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me, and not of man; for it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you; and by my power you can read them one to another, and save it were by my power, you could not have them; wherefore you can testify that you have heard my voice and know my words.
6. And now, behold, I give unto you, Oliver Cowdery, and also unto David Whitmer, that you shall search out the twelve who shall have the
(From page 63
desires of which I have spoken; and by their desires and their works, you shall know them; and when you have found them you shall show these things unto them. And you shall fall down and worship the Father in my name; and you must preach unto the world, saying, You must repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ; for all men must repent and be baptized, and not only men, but women; and children who have arrived to the years of accountability.
7. And now, after that you have received this, you must keep my commandments in all things; and by your hands I will work a marvelous work among the children of men, unto the convincing of many of their sins, that they may come unto repentance, and that they may come unto the kingdom of my Father; wherefore, the blessings which I give unto
(From page 64
you are above all things. And after that you have received this, if you keep not my commandments, you cannot be saved in the kingdom of my Father. Behold, I, Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God, and your Redeemer, by the power of Spirit, have spoken it. Amen.