Joseph Smith-History (Part 5)

This is a continuation of the previous post (Joseph Smith-History Part 4).

So far in this history, Joseph had the first vision and visits from angels including angel Moroni. Joseph was given the gold plates to translate them into what we know now as The Book of Mormon. Martin Harris, who had been his scribe for the first part of the translation, had lost pages of the translation and had been released from his duty as scribe. This record continues:

66 On the 5th day of April, 1829, Oliver Cowdery came to my house, until which time I had never seen him. He stated to me that having been teaching school in the neighborhood where my father resided, and my father being one of those who sent to the school, he went to board for a season at his house, and while there the family related to him the circumstances of my having received the plates, and accordingly he had come to make inquiries of me.
67 Two days after the arrival of Mr. Cowdery (being the 7th of April) I commenced to translate the Book of Mormon, and he began to write for me.

Joseph was once again able to translate the Book of Mormon, with the help of Oliver Cowdery. I just love the account of how Oliver came to be there, because in my study I have learned that he was fully led by the inspiration of the spirit and he came right when Joseph was in need of his help. In Doctrine and Covenants 6, we learn that Oliver had received an answer to the desires of his heart, and this answer led him to assist the prophet. I am sure that this experience of working with the prophet, to assist in translating a sacred record by the power of God, was unforgettable and life-changing. All righteous leaders need the support of faithful members in order to do the work of the Lord. This reminds me that we each have a value in the gospel and we all can have the chance to be instruments in the Lord’s hands, if we are doing what is right and follow the inspiration of the spirit.

Baptism

68 We still continued the work of translation, when, in the ensuing month (May, 1829), we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying:
69 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.
70 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.

While translating the gold plates, Joseph and Oliver had questions about the gospel. There are many teachings in the scriptures of the ordinances that we must partake of in order to partake of Eternal Life. The prophets have taught many times of the basic principles of the gospel and Joseph and Oliver knew that they did not have these things, but should. More importantly, the Savior himself, taught these principles when he visited the people in the Americas. One of the questions they had from reading the teachings of Jesus, was related to baptism for the remission of sins, so they decided to take their question to the Lord. In response, they were visited by an angel who conferred upon them the Aaronic priesthood and the power to baptize in the name of Christ. This was the next step in the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The priesthood power, which had not been on the earth since the time of the apostles, was restored to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. This priesthood power and authority to baptize people in the name of Christ, continues to be on the earth today.

71 Accordingly we went and were baptized. I baptized him first, and afterwards he baptized me—after which I laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and afterwards he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same Priesthood—for so we were commanded.*
72 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.

Now that they had the priesthood, Joseph and Oliver were able to baptize and ordain one another. The ordinance of baptism, through this proper priesthood authority, is the gateway for our acceptance into the presence of our Heavenly Father. We cannot enter without it. I am so grateful for my own baptism and for the blessings that have filled my life because of it.

The angel revealed that he was John the Baptist and that Peter, James, and John would bring them the Melchizedek Priesthood in due time. Joseph and Oliver did not act outside of the priesthood authority they had been given, and eventually they had the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred upon them as well. Before this happened though, they did receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the power of God.

73 Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father. No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation.

Neither of these men had been able to prophesy before this experience. Joseph was able to witness and testify of the things that he had been taught and seen, but it was not until he had been baptized and was worthy to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, that he was able to prophesy of things to come. I am sure that this was an amazing experience and gave them a greater strength and courage to go on in the face of the ongoing persecution and adversity.

74 Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of. 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.
75 We had been threatened with being mobbed, from time to time, and this, too, by professors of religion. And their intentions of mobbing us were only counteracted by the influence of my wife’s father’s family (under Divine providence), who had become very friendly to me, and who were opposed to mobs, and were willing that I should be allowed to continue the work of translation without interruption; and therefore offered and promised us protection from all unlawful proceedings, as far as in them lay.

Now that they had the precious gift of the Holy Ghost, they were able to receive great understanding of the scriptures as they worked to translate them. I am touched by the softening of the hearts of the Hale family. They had previously been against Emma marrying Joseph, so much so that it seems that Joseph feared for her safety and removed her from them. However, by the hand of God, the work of translation was continued, because her family had been changed. It is another example to me, that hearts can be changed for the better, even when it seems things will never be different.

* Oliver Cowdery describes these events thus: “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’
“To notice, in even few words, the interesting account given by Mormon and his faithful son, Moroni, of a people once beloved and favored of heaven, would supersede my present design; I shall therefore defer this to a future period, and, as I said in the introduction, pass more directly to some few incidents immediately connected with the rise of this Church, which may be entertaining to some thousands who have stepped forward, amid the frowns of bigots and the calumny of hypocrites, and embraced the Gospel of Christ.
“No men, in their sober senses, could translate and write the directions given to the Nephites from the mouth of the Savior, of the precise manner in which men should build up His Church, and especially when corruption had spread an uncertainty over all forms and systems practiced among men, without desiring a privilege of showing the willingness of the heart by being buried in the liquid grave, to answer a ‘good conscience by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.’
“After writing the account given of the Savior’s ministry to the remnant of the seed of Jacob, upon this continent, it was easy to be seen, as the prophet said it would be, that darkness covered the earth and gross darkness the minds of the people. On reflecting further it was as easy to be seen that amid the great strife and noise concerning religion, none had authority from God to administer the ordinances of the Gospel. For the question might be asked, have men authority to administer in the name of Christ, who deny revelations, when His testimony is no less than the spirit of prophecy, and His religion based, built, and sustained by immediate revelations, in all ages of the world when He has had a people on earth? If these facts were buried, and carefully concealed by men whose craft would have been in danger if once permitted to shine in the faces of men, they were no longer to us; and we only waited for the commandment to be given ‘Arise and be baptized.’

Oliver’s writing is very poetic and can seem a bit difficult to understand, but what I get from this is that Oliver wanted to share his testimony of his experience. He truly sat and wrote as the prophet of the Lord acted as an instrument of God and translated the gold plates with the help of the Urim and Thummim. He testifies that no person could have written the words of the Savior about his gospel and not have the desire to be baptized. He says that mankind had been in darkness, but they did not need to be any longer. He and Joseph were anxiously waiting for the commandment to be baptized.

“This was not long desired before it was realized. The Lord, who is rich in mercy, and ever willing to answer the consistent prayer of the humble, after we had called upon Him in a fervent manner, aside from the abodes of men, condescended to manifest to us His will. On a sudden, as from the midst of eternity, the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us, while the veil was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory, and delivered the anxiously looked for message, and the keys of the Gospel of repentance. What joy! what wonder! what amazement! While the world was racked and distracted—while millions were groping as the blind for the wall, and while all men were resting upon uncertainty, as a general mass, our eyes beheld, our ears heard, as in the ‘blaze of day’; yes, more—above the glitter of the May sunbeam, which then shed its brilliancy over the face of nature! Then his voice, though mild, pierced to the center, and his words, ‘I am thy fellow-servant,’ dispelled every fear. We listened, we gazed, we admired! ’Twas the voice of an angel from glory, ’twas a message from the Most High! And as we heard we rejoiced, while His love enkindled upon our souls, and we were wrapped in the vision of the Almighty! Where was room for doubt? Nowhere; uncertainty had fled, doubt had sunk no more to rise, while fiction and deception had fled forever!

Oliver and Joseph did not have to wait long to be told to be baptized. He testifies that the Lord answers the prayers of the humble, and that they in fact had their own prayer answered. He testifies of the experience of witnessing the glory of John the Baptist and hearing his soul-piercing voice and knowing, without any doubts, that he was a messenger from God.

“But, dear brother, think, further think for a moment, what joy filled our hearts, and with what surprise we must have bowed, (for who would not have bowed the knee for such a blessing?) when we received under his hand the Holy Priesthood as he said, ‘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!’
“I shall not attempt to paint to you the feelings of this heart, nor the majestic beauty and glory which surrounded us on this occasion; but you will believe me when I say, that earth, nor men, with the eloquence of time, cannot begin to clothe language in as interesting and sublime a manner as this holy personage. No; nor has this earth power to give the joy, to bestow the peace, or comprehend the wisdom which was contained in each sentence as they were delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit! Man may deceive his fellow-men, deception may follow deception, and the children of the wicked one may have power to seduce the foolish and untaught, till naught but fiction feeds the many, and the fruit of falsehood carries in its current the giddy to the grave; but one touch with the finger of his love, yes, one ray of glory from the upper world, or one word from the mouth of the Savior, from the bosom of eternity, strikes it all into insignificance, and blots it forever from the mind. The assurance that we were in the presence of an angel, the certainty that we heard the voice of Jesus, and the truth unsullied as it flowed from a pure personage, dictated by the will of God, is to me past description, and I shall ever look upon this expression of the Savior’s goodness with wonder and thanksgiving while I am permitted to tarry; and in those mansions where perfection dwells and sin never comes, I hope to adore in that day which shall never cease.”—Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1 (October 1834), pp. 14–16.

Oliver and Joseph bowed to the glory of John the Baptist who called himself their fellow servant. It must have been amazing to realize that they were in the same service to God, as an angel from heaven. Oliver testifies that John the Baptist conferred the Priesthood of Aaron upon them. Oliver says that no trial, tribulation, deception, or wicked influence could stand in the mind, when one ray of glory from God has been received in the mind. He could not adequately describe the glorious experience that he had at that time.

I am grateful for the testimony of Oliver Cowdery. Again, the Lord has said ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses’ and this is another example of that. We could have just had the testimony of Joseph to believe, but here we have two witnesses of the same experience and now this will stand as a witness against those who say that it could not be true. I believe that the priesthood was truly restored to these great men. I believe that it remains on the earth today and that worthy men of the true gospel and church of Jesus Christ, can hold and use that priesthood. I have been greatly blessed by the priesthood in my life and I do not ever want to be without its influence. I am grateful to be married to a worthy man who honors his priesthood and brings its blessings into my home.

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I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the scriptures, but I am not a scriptorian. I've been told that I'm too "deep" for some, but if you are willing, I'd love to have others join me in my quest for a greater understanding of the gospel. Please feel free to leave me comments and hopefully we can help each other to learn.
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