The restoration of the priesthood can be somewhat difficult to approach because there have been so many layers of re-reading. For example, we often say that John the Baptist restored the Aaronic Priesthood and later Peter, James, and John restored the Melchizedek Priesthood. The thing is, those terms and their meanings didn’t exist for another five or six years after the events occurred.
A good place to start if you want the deep dive is WVS’s “Early Mormon Priesthood Revelations: Text, Impact, and Evolution,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 46, no. 4 (Winter 2013), 1–84. There is a lot to work through there, but a fundamental idea to think about is what priesthood is. I know we can repeat the modern catechismal values, but what is priesthood in 1829? What about 1832? And then in 1835?
Worth checking out is Oliver Cowdery’s account of the experience with the Baptist. Remember this was written several years before what we have in the Pearl of Great Price, and even the folks over at BYU Studies suggest that it is probably more accurate. The editors of the JSP describe it:
In the first letter, Oliver Cowdery recounted his experiences with JS beginning when the two first met in April 1829. The letter includes an account of the vision he and JS had of John the Baptist, who gave them the authority to baptize.
Why would they describe it that way? How does the Book of Mormon talk about it?
A fun game: In what order were the priesthood offices revealed?
Some of the implications of the chronology are interesting. For example D&C 84:19-22 (Earliest Text):
19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. 20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. 21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; 22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
What are the ordinances of the high priesthood? Remember this is 1832, so the “Melchizedek Priesthood” has not been revealed yet. Are the “ordinances” in any way a function of what we talked about last week?
The printing of the 1835 D&C crystallize things pretty well, but there are other things happening, only some of which get’s a textual footprint. Some things that I am not touching on is keys, because I don’t have a good thing to point to, and it isn’t nearly as tidy as many think. But the lineal priesthood is interesting. It is there in the post-1835 revs, but I don’t think there is time in this lesson to do much with constructively.
By the time the Saints arrived in Nauvoo, pretty much all the priesthood offices we are familiar with had been revealed. The basic structure of presidencies and councils as well. Still when JS arrived in Nauvoo he gave a revelation (D&C 124), including this bit:
28 For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.
What priesthood had been taken away and had yet to be restored in 1841?