Archive for October, 2012

Today is October 31st, “Reformation Day”, 2012.

Martin Luther hanging the The Ninety-Five Theses unto the door of The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany
(scene taken from the 2003 MGM movie “Luther”)

It was on this day 495 years ago that Martin Luther nailed the “Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” (commonly known as “The Ninety-Five Theses”) unto the door of The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. “The Ninety-Five Theses” is widely regarded as the primary catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.

And while readily acknowledging that I’m no Martin Luther, it is with a hopeful spirit for reformation in our lifetime that I offer these Ninety-Five Theses to a modern church that, in my opinion (as well as in the opinion of many others) is badly in need of it.

And while  I offer these theses to the public in general for discussion, debate, and consideration, I offer them even more specifically to the LdS Church and its members in light of  Joseph Smith’s challenge …
“… call upon them [Mormon Critics] to meet you both in public and in private; and inasmuch as ye are faithful their shame shall be made manifest. Wherefore, let them bring forth their strong reasons against …”
(Doctrine & Covenants 71:7)

… in accordance with the exhortation of Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt who said…
“… convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will ever have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds.”
(Orson Pratt, “The Seer”, pp. 15-16)

… and finally in agreement with third LdS Church President John Taylor who said:
“I think a full, free talk is frequently of great use; we want nothing secret nor underhanded, and I for one want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation.” 
(John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 20, p. 264)

So with no further adieu we present . . .
The Disputation of Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Ninety-Five Theses for consideration, discussion, and action regarding a modern church badly in need of reform
(aka “What’s Wrong With The Mormon Church?”)

What’s Wrong With The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

1) It lies to and attempts to deceive its own members and investigators regarding Mormon History and Theology.

2) It focuses on the needs and interests of the institution over the needs and interests of the members.

3) It villainizes critics – even constructive critics – both within and without its ranks.

4) It engages in Mind Control tactics and techniques in indoctrinating and retaining members.

5) It suppresses its financial records eliminating full accountability in terms of how member contributions are used.

Mormon Apostle Boyd K. Packer

6) It tolerates abuse of ecclesiastical power by LdS Church Leaders.

7) It suppresses loyal dissent from within its ranks via disciplinary action up to and including excommunication.

8) It forces members to choose between the LdS Church and apostate spouses.

9) LdS Church Leaders denounce and shun former members and encourages members to do the same.

9) It keeps members so busy with LdS Church related activities that they don’t have time for personal reflection and self-autonomy. This is especially true of men as the demands of lay leadership tend to deprive them of real, regular, authentic family time.

10) It deceptively claims to be “Christian” when in reality it has taken Christian words, terms and forms and then changed the underlying meaning and content to an extent that they’re no longer congruent with historic, mainstream, Christian orthodoxy.

11) It erroneously asserts that former members didn’t leave the LdS Church for any thoughtful or legitimate reasons but rather that they were thin skinned reactive, malcontents who left the LdS Church because they wanted to sin with impunity, or because of a perceived offense.

12) It drives a wedge between member and non-member family members. Ex-Mormon family members in particular are to be avoided but the LdS Church also encourages members to avoid “Never Mormon” family members who are openly critical of the LdS Church.

13) It encourages arrogance and self-righteousness in members by preaching that they’re more enlightened and morally superior relative to the general population – including other people of faith.

14) It suppresses – and has even destroyed – LdS Church owned documents and artifacts that would expose #1.

LdS Church Handbook of Instruction (2010 edition)

15) It restricts distribution of the LdS “Church Handbook of Instruction Book 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops” (aka “Handbook 1”) to only the Bishopric level and higher. This eliminates transparent “bottom up” accountability enabling ecclesiastical abuse because lay members can’t confront local leaders and/or report policy violations to higher authorities for rectification.

16) It practices graceless, merciless, condemning, legalistic disciplinary extremes – far beyond Biblical standards – in regard to those who have engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage that, as been reported by many, often leads to a  “no-win” double-bind spiral into hopeless despair.

17) It uses guilt as a means of controlling members.

18) It puts its untrained clergy in a position where they must give counsel on vital life issues that they are not qualified or equipped to competently address. The result, all too often, is ecclesiastical malpractice. `

19) It preaches doctrine that leads to unhealthy, aberrant, dating and courtship behavior.

20) It uses the LdS Temple system (via the Temple Recommend process) as a means of coercing members into compliance with the will of the extant Mormon leaders.

21) It discourages intellectual self-autonomy and self-responsibility and encourages dependency on LdS Church Leaders.

22) It puts undue financial strain on member families via manipulative doctrine and coercive policy that makes tithing mandatory rather than voluntary.

23) It drives a wedge between member and non-member family members via exclusionary and highly restrictive American LdS Church marriage policies – which, paradoxically, are more flexible and inclusionary outside of the United States.

24) It teaches an irrational and subjective epistemological system while simultaneously belittling epistemology based on reason, objectivity, and empiricism.

25) When it claims, “No tithing dollars were used for this, the funds came from for-profit, church-owned entities” it ignores and/or obfuscates the fact that the seed, start-up, or acquisition funds logically and ultimately came from member tithes – a fact which negates the original claim.

26) It uses LdS Priesthood Authority dogma to devalue women thus subordinating them to “second class” status in the LdS Church.

27) It values and praises “total obedience to leaders” as one of its more important core values even though this is the first symptom that a group is a Mind Control Cult.

28) It imposes discredited and unbiblical 19th Century dietary regulations on members.

29) It contrives man created “revelations” and claims that they are of divine origin.

30) It uses employment in LdS Church and member owned institutions and businesses to coerce obedience to its dogma and leaders.

31) It quells and compromises good scholarship within its rank by shunning, dis-fellowshipping and excommunicating members who produce scholarly works discussing Mormon History, Theology, or culture that have scholastic integrity.

32) It rewards inauthentic compliance and punishes authentic self-autonomy.

33) It punishes doubt and questioning – especially when it’s publicly expressed – and rewards blind compliance.

The LdS Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah

34) LdS Church Missionary training and policies employ Mind Control techniques and tactics.

35) It wavers on whether its ultimate authority for doctrine is the Bible, Mormon scriptures, statements of former Mormon prophets, statements of living Mormon prophets, and individual “revelation” even though these sources are often mutually contradictory.

36) It requires members to remain in a “snapped” psychological state in order to remain believing members.

37) Its leaders and members use ad-hominems, insults, slurs, derogatories, labeling, and character assassination in their dealings with critics and apostates and then deny that they do so – often going so far as to claim that those who call them on this behavior are persecuting them.

38) It “love bombs” investigators and new converts as a means of drawing them in.

39) It allows members to privately believe whatever they want – even if it’s atheistic or contradicts LdS orthodoxy – as long as they publicly “toe the party line” and continue to contribute their time and money to the LdS Church.

40) It damages member psychology via the use of manipulative fear and unachievable standards of “worthiness”.

Mountain Meadows Massacre drawing by T.B.H. Stenhouse, 1873

41) It refuses to acknowledge and apologize for the role of church leaders in the massacre of 120 innocent people in 1857 at Mountain Meadows.

42) It makes extraordinary – even outrageous – truth claims that are easily discredited by science, history, and the Bible.

43) It requires members to adhere to moral and intellectual relativism in order to create the delusion that its incongruous and inconsistent belief system works, has integrity, and is both moral and ethical.

44) It excuses, rationalizes, justifies, and white washes the crimes of its founder, famous members, and past leaders.

45) It refuses to acknowledge and apologize for the fact that until 1978 as a point of official doctrine and policy the church excluded from the priesthood and from the temple any member who had “Negro” blood.

46) It privately judges and abandons members that have life problems rather than patiently, encouraging, undergirding, supporting, and attempting to restore them to a healthy, productive place. This while publicly declaring that the LdS Church treats all such cases with benevolent kindness.

47) It tends to view any doubt, character flaw, or personal deficiency as “sin” rather than as a normal expression of the human condition and life experience. Thus it has created an implied and unstated expectation that members must always be perfect and/or “all together” or they’re in sin and unworthy of advancement within the organization.

48) It tries to expose, quarantine, isolate, shun – and if necessary expel – those who doubt rather than creating a safe place when they can honestly and openly work through their doubts and questions.

49) It asserts in the strongest language that doctrinal differences, criticisms, or questions about LdS Church policies and/or leaders are sin, for the ‘prophet’ is always right. Those who engage in such behaviors – or refuse to comply with the status quo – are subject to discipline up to and including ex-communication.

50) It has used home teachers and the “Strengthening Church Members Committee” as a means of spying on members.

The LdS “Quorum of Twelve Apostles”
The Celestial Polygamists: Dallin H. Oaks, front row, third from right; L. Tom Perry, front row, second from left; Russell M. Nelson, front row, third from left

51) It hypocritically claims that polygamy has no place in the contemporary LdS Church even though Joseph Smith’s revelation on polygamy (Doctrine & Covenants 132) is still canonized scripture and “Celestial Polygamy” (being eternally married to at least one more woman after being widowed or divorced) is practiced. Currently, three widowed Mormon Apostles (Dallin H. Oaks, L. Tom Perry, and Russell M. Nelson) are Celestial Polygamists.

52) It uses arbitrary, capricious, and ever changing criteria for Temple Recommend “worthiness”.

53) It preaches extreme, legalistic, and arbitrary sexual standards regarding masturbation that are not Biblically or Scientifically supportable.

54) It has created a clannish and elitist “authority” system via its unbiblical Temple and Priesthood system that results in unhealthy elitist pride in men and their wives.

55) It claims that the LdS Church is patterned after the early church of Jesus’ apostles, but there are major differences.

56) It encourages arrogant, condescending pride in members at all levels by telling them that they “have the whole and restored truth” that “apostates” only have in part and “gentiles” lack entirely.

57) Via the Correlation Program it tries to turn everyone into a Utah Mormon and every Chapel, Ward, and Stake into a Utah Chapel, Ward, and Stake rather than encouraging – even celebrating – each culture’s unique distinctives.

58) It has so exalted things over people that, in the words of a former LdS Bishop, “The Mormon Church would leave you dead by the side of the road if that’s what it took to protect the institution.”

Former LdS First Presidency member, William Law who was excommunicated in 1844 for publicly exposing uncomfortable truths about Joseph Smith

59) It dis-fellowships and excommunicates its true prophets.

60) It mandates that LdS Church History be presented by members to members (even in private) in a manner that’s uplifting and only presents the LdS Church in a favorable light – even if the resulting narrative is no longer factual and/or supported by the body of evidence.

61) It rationalizes and excuses the sin, bad behavior, errors of judgment, and disastrous decisions its prophets. They are buried, ignored, or ‘spun’ as “well-meaning human error with no need for apology or confession”.

62) It rationalizes away the revelations – even those that were fully canonized – of present or past “Living Prophets” that contradict contemporary LdS Church teachings and culture. The no-longer-in-vogue revelations are buried, ignored, or recast as “opinion not divine”. The “He was speaking as a man not a prophet” apologetic is typically used as the rationalization in these cases.

63) It rationalizes the failed prophecies of future events by past “Living Prophets” by burying, ignoring, or spin doctoring them as “just his opinion”, or as requiring more time for fulfillment.

64) It employs circular logic in its core truth claim: “The only true church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says it’s the only true church.”

65) It tolerates the chronic practice of eisegesis (injecting words and ideas into the text that the author did not intend, use or mean) by LdS Church Leaders as their standard hermeneutic in interpreting the Biblical, historical, and scientific record.

“Also far-reaching is the effect of the loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest… It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.”
– Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, “The Miracle of Forgiveness”, p.196

66) It teaches that a rape victim has “lost her chastity” and that a woman should fight off her attacker or be killed in the attempt. Thus, young Mormon women are taught that their chastity is more valuable than their life. The result is that a Mormon woman who survives a rape is made to feel guilty, and is thus victimized again, this time by her church.

67) It undermines intellectual integrity when, by following the example learned from LdS Church Leaders and Church Educational System (CES) curriculum  members engage in eisegesis as a lifestyle in all areas of life.

68) It poisons members who leave the LdS Church against all other Theistic religions.

69) It uses the term “official doctrine” as a means of silencing critics and dissents even though there is no formal, codified definition for constitutes “official doctrine”.

70) It tolerates an untenable situation whereby the canonization process isn’t officially defined or codified yet is used to deny past publications, prophetic revelations, and other utterances from past Mormon Leaders that are no longer in vogue.

71) Its behavior throughout history demonstrates that there are no unchanging, absolute, objective truths in the LdS Church. Rather, “truth” is subjective, relative, in flux, and subject to change.

72) It has allowed Mormon folklore to take on pseudo-scriptural equivalency.

73) It has created a culture whereby fear of their family’s reaction forces disenchanted LdS Missionaries to continue with their missions whether they want to or not.

74) It has created a culture whereby a man or a woman who decides to leave the LdS Church must also be willing to give up his or her family.

75) It so thoroughly indoctrinates members that their highest loyalty is to the LdS Church (not to a husband, wife, son, daughter, or even to the truth) that a member who associates or sympathizes with an “apostate” or a non-Mormon family member who is critical of the LdS Church risks failing his or her temple recommend interview.

76) It preaches a soteriological system that incentivizes converts to Mormonism to divorce their unbelieving spouse and marry a believing Mormon instead.

A LdS Temple Sealing Room where the Mormon marriage ceremony is performed and where only “Temple Worthy” Mormon adults can attend

77) It doesn’t allow young Mormon siblings (usually under 18) to see an older sister or brother get married in an LdS Temple – even if the younger person is a faithful Mormon in good standing.

78) It claims to be “pro-family” while simultaneous creating a culture that breaks up both Mormon and non-Mormon families via the aforementioned.

79) It has failed to officially, publicly, and directly address the ever mounting discrepancies between the claims of The Book of Mormon and the archaeological, historical, theological, and scientific body of evidence.

80) It has failed to explain the incriminating consistency between the claims of The Book of Mormon and the empirical 19th Century, political, literary, cultural and theological record.

81) It has failed to provide an adequate, rational explanation for how Joseph Smith could “translate” the Book of Abraham from a set of Egyptian Book of Breathings papyri.

82) It has failed to reasonably explain how Joseph Smith could, via The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, append the Bible with “translations” of entire new books and chapters that have utterly no manuscripts backing them while simultaneously purging words, verses – even entire books – that are substantially supported by the extant manuscript base.

83) It compensates leaders via employment in LdS Church owned businesses, generous honoraria, stipends, grants, scholarships, gifts, company cars, free travel and lodging, housing and other non-cash contributions then deceptively claims that “The LdS Church has no paid clergy”. This is nothing more than deception via manipulative semantics and a sophisticated financial “shell game”.

“The Book of Mammon” by former LdS Church employee Daymon M Smith exposes how the Mormon Church’s “Unpaid Clergy” are indirectly compensated

84) It bestows the title “Elder” onto adolescent men (typically 18-years old) with little to no real life experience, thus puffing them up with arrogance and deluding them with prideful ignorance.

85) It hypocritically denounces those who claim to bring forth new scripture and revelations using the same methods and means that Joseph Smith did because they fail to conform to established LdS Church orthodoxy. This, while simultaneously criticizing the mainstream Christian Church for rejecting Mormonism because the revelations and scripture of its founder and subsequent “prophets” fail to conform to established Christian orthodoxy.

86) It hypocritically rails against all sound logic and reason as “the hollow and vain philosophies of men, not God” and then hypocritically attempts to (albeit poorly and inconsistently) employ logic and reason in its arguments and rhetoric.

87) It hypocritically defines polemic arguments as “persecution” and then engages in polemics with its critics.

88) It allows LdS Church leaders and the Church Educational System (CES), to distance themselves from the work of LdS Apologists so as – it is believed – to create a “plausible deniability” escape hatch should the work of said Apologists be discredited by more qualified, objective scholarship. Never-the-less, both cite from the work of LdS Apologists (albeit typically not credited) while allowing the LdS Church to quietly fund the work of said apologists through indirect cash flows.

89) It engages in political action via direct and indirect cash flows and privately exhorts members to organize and engage in particular causes and then publicly denies any involvement. California’s Propositions 22 (circa 2000) and 8 (circa 2008) are two cases in point.

90) It publicly (and loudly) trumpets its philanthropic work when compared to other churches its per capita outlay is less than what smaller, less wealthy, less organized religious organizations spend.

The First Presidency of the LdS Church at the City Creek Center ribbon cutting

91) It sent the wrong message in 2003 by pledging to spend $1-Billion US dollars to redevelop downtown Salt Lake City (via the City Creek Center mall and housing redevelopment project). Due to cost over runs the final project cost is now forecast to be around $8-Billion US dollars.

92) It has a double standard for treating non-members with charitable benevolence (as a means of proselytizing and public relations) while exacting, high, often unattainable standards that members must meet to receive the same levels of attention, aid, and assistance.

93) It fails to recognize the over sixty (60) active Latter Day Saint movement denominations (aka “splinter groups”) while hypocritically condemning the denominationalism of Christianity as a proof of apostasy and lack of divine legitimacy. This hypocrisy is even more pronounced when one considers that over the 180+ year history of the LDS movement there have been over 200 Latter Day Saint denominations in total with new ones forming at a rate will be eventually far exceed and out pace the total number of Christian denominations.

94) Based on its observed behavior its core unifying principle seems to be “Image over truth always and in all things.”

95) It creates undue demands as well as mental, emotional, and spiritual stress and strain on members via all the above.

Compiled by Fred W. Anson, with the generous aid and assistance of current and former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as knowledgeable outsiders, all whom long to see the Mormon Church reform for the sake of all its members – but especially for the sake of their Latter-day Saint friends and family members.

O God of the highest heaven,
occupy the throne of my heart,
take full possession and reign supreme,
lay low every rebel lust,
let no vile passion resist thy holy war;
manifest thy mighty power,
and make me thine forever.

Thou art worthy to be
praised with my every breath,
loved with my every faculty of soul,
served with my every act of life.

Thou hast loved me, espoused me, received me,
purchased, washed, favored, clothed,
adorned me,
when I was a worthless, vile soiled, polluted.

I was dead in iniquities,
having no eyes to see thee,
no ears to hear thee,
no taste to relish thy joys,
no intelligence to know thee;
But thy Spirit has quickened me,
has brought me into a new world as a
new creature,
has given me spiritual perception,
has opened to me thy Word as light, guide, solace, joy.

Thy presence is to me a treasure of unending peace;
No provocation can part me from thy sympathy,
for thou hast drawn me with cords of love,
and dost forgive me daily, hourly.

O help me then to walk worthy of thy love,
of my hopes, and my vocation.

Keep me, for I cannot keep myself;
Protect me that no evil befall me;
Let me lay aside every sin admired of many;
Help me to walk by thy side, lean on thy arm,
hold converse with thee,
That I may be salt of the earth
and a blessing to all.

(text from “The Valley of Vision” devotional)

by Keith Walker
Billy Graham,

I want to thank you for your many years of serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You came to Rochester, New York in September of 1988. A friend invited me to the crusade and I went three times that week. On Friday evening the 16th, I surrendered my life to Christ at the Crusade and have been serving Him since. A short time after I was saved, a couple of Jehovah’s Witness ladies came to my door and challenged my new faith. That incident led me to become a missionary to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. My wife and I founded Evidence Ministries in 1992 and I have been a full-time missionary to these two cults since 1999.

This morning I read an online article which stated that you endorsed Mitt Romney, and then your ministry took down some information from your web site which describes Mormonism as a cult. The article can be read here.

I am writing because I wanted to get your side of the story and make an appeal to you. I understand the hesitancy of Christians to vote for a Mormon and I also understand why Christians would like to see him become the next President of the United States. What I do not understand is why a ministry would take down information which correctly identifies Mormonism as a cult.

I believe it is possible to be a Christian, understand that Mormonism is a cult, yet still in good conscience vote for Mitt Romney. Mr. Graham, I believe this is what you are doing. Please, correct me if I am wrong, but I also believe that the reason the critical information about Mormonism was taken off of your site is because you do not want to dissuade Christians from voting for Romney, even though he is a cult member. This is problematic for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, it sends a message that Christians must focus on perceived threats to their earthly kingdom more so than on threats to the Kingdom of God. Let’s face it. Many Christians believe that a second Obama Presidency could destroy the Constitution of this great nation. I have even had misguided Christians tell me that if we don’t vote for Romney, we will not be able to preach the gospel because it will become illegal. It has never occurred to them that a significant portion of our New Testament was written by a prisoner named Paul who was imprisoned precisely because he refused to stop preaching the gospel.

Some Christians are so fearful of Obama that they have allowed themselves to be fooled into thinking that our votes alone will be responsible for placing the president of their liking into the Whitehouse. They have forgotten that God told us in Romans 13:1-7 that He is the one who establishes governing authorities. I believe that as Christians we have a responsibility to vote for the person who best represents and will protect Godly values, but at the same time, I am not overlooking the fact that God alone is in control of the results of this election.

I can’t help but wonder if you have forgotten that. What other reason would you have for taking down information that is critical of Mormonism right after you endorsed Mitt Romney? Are you afraid that you may sway someone not to vote for Romney because he belongs to a pseudo-Christian cult? I don’t know if this is true of you (thus my purpose for writing), but I do know that many Christians are so fearful of a second term for Obama that they are willing to ignore the spiritual dangers of Mormonism.

A friend of mine visited a Family Christian bookstore after Church this past Sunday. He noticed that all of the books about Mormonism had been removed from the comparative religions section even though books on the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology and Islam were still there. When he asked a clerk about the books on Mormonism, he was informed that they had been removed until the election. My friend asked what was going to happen if Romney is elected. He was told that if Romney won, the books would most likely not be returned to the shelves.

The policy of this book store may seem absurd, but I do not see much difference between what they did and what has been done to your web site. Are Christians now going to give Mormonism legitimacy for the sake of their patriotism? Which dangers should concern Christians more, temporal or spiritual dangers? I can’t help but wonder which is more important to Christians who make policies like this, their country or the souls of men? Given your many years of preaching the gospel, I pray that you are not led astray like these other Christians who have allowed their patriotism to become an idol worshiped in Jesus’ name.

If you believe that God is leading you to endorse Mitt Romney for President, then by all means do so, Just, please do not indirectly endorse Mormonism in the process. I humbly ask that you put the critical information about Mormonism back on your web site. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is very adept at fooling people into thinking that Mormonism is a legitimate expression of Christianity. They do not need your assistance.


Keith Walker

President, Evidence Ministries

(used with the permission of the author whose original version of this letter can be found here)

I’ve felt the pressure of temptation
I’ve heard the screaming lies of accusation
I know the world can be distracting
But if I keep one foot there
I’m just acting

Well I can’t think of a reason why I should look back
And I don’t intend to start now
Gonna set my face like flint to Jesus and His word
And I’m keeping my hand to the plow

I’ll felt the weight of condemnation
And how the devil twists my situation
My brother if you feel defeated
Let me remind you friend
That you’ve been cheated

Well I can’t think of a reason why I should look back
And I don’t intend to start now
Gonna set my face like flint to Jesus and His word
And I’m keeping my hand to the plow

 (from the album “Hand To The Plow” by Paul Clark; words & music by Paul Clark)

by John Farkas

One of the unique doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons or LDS) is their Aaronic and Melchizedek [1](This is an endnote) Priesthoods, one of which is held by most male members 12 years and older. The Mormon church teaches that this is their authority from God to act in his name and do his work.[2] The Aaronic Priesthood was allegedly given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by John the Baptist on May 15, 1829, and sometime later, but before August 1830, they received the Melchizedek Priesthood from Apostles Peter, James and John. The exact date for this important event is not known (for more on this see the last part of end note #4).

There are seven revelations in the Doctrine & Covenants (D&C) (a Mormon Scripture) on these priesthoods. Although five of them were allegedly received before October 1832, one as early as 1823, and one as late as September 1832, none of these five were included in the 1833 Book of Commandments.[3] Two of them did not showup in the D&C until the 1876 edition, three were first included the 1835 edition.

The Doctrine and Covenants (1981 edition) has the following about the early history of the LDS priesthoods. These revelations are in their chronological order.

“Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah [4] the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” 
(Sept. 21, 1823, Doctrine and Covenants 2:1)

Even though this revelation is dated September 21, 1823 it was not in the 1833 Book of Commandments or the 1835 and 1844 Doctrine and Covenants. It did not get into Scripture until the 1876 D&C and was not approved by the membership until 1880 (Robert J. Woodford, “The Story of the Doctrine and Covenants”, Ensign, Dec. 1984, pages 37-39).

A 19th century depiction of John the Baptist conferring the Aaronic priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery

A second alleged revelation has:
“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 [5]; 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.”
(May 15, 1829, Doctrine and Covenants 13).

The first written account of this revelation does not have the phrase the “Priesthood of Aaron.” There is more on this below under “LDS Leaders On The Priesthood” and “Differences In Description.” It also was not included in LDS Scripture until the 1876 D&C even though it is dated May 15, 1829. It also was not approved by the membership until 1880
(Ensign, Dec. 1984, pages 37-39).

A third alleged revelation has:
“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 [6];…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, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them;”
(August & September, 1830, Doctrine and Covenants 27:8, 12)

This revelation was not in the 1833 Book of Commandments. It is first found in the 1835 D&C, section 50, page 179. There is more on this below under “Historical Evidence.”

A fourth alleged revelation has:
“There remain hereafter, in the due time of the Lord, other bishops to be set apart unto the church, to minister even according to the first; Wherefore they shall be high priests who are worthy, and they shall be appointed by the First Presidency of the Melchizedek Priesthood, except they be literal descendants of Aaron. Wherefore they shall be high priests who are worthy, and they shall be appointed by the First Presidency of the Melchizedek Priesthood, except they be literal descendants of Aaron. And if they be literal descendants of Aaron they have a legal right to the bishopric, if they are the firstborn among the sons of Aaron; For the firstborn holds the right of the presidency over this priesthood, and the keys or authority of the same. No man has a legal right to this office, to hold the keys of this priesthood, except he be a literal descendant and the firstborn of Aaron. But, as a high priest of the Melchizedek Priesthood has authority to officiate in all the lesser offices he may officiate in the office of bishop when no literal descendant of Aaron can be found, provided he is called and set apart and ordained unto this power, under the hands of the First Presidency of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
(Nov. 1831, Doctrine and Covenants 68:14-19)

Bronze statue in Temple Square, Salt Lake City, representing Peter, James, and John in the act of conferring the Melchizedek priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, as envisioned by most modern Latter-day Saints

The first account of this revelation was in the LDS newspaper Evening and Morning Star, Oct. 1832, page 35. Even then It did not include any of the bolded words. It was not in the 1833 Book of Commandments but was included in the 1835 D&C, section 22, page 147.

A fifth alleged revelation has:
“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. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;

For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live [7]…And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb…

And again, the offices of elder and bishop are necessary appendages belonging unto the high priesthood…

And again, the offices of teacher and deacon are necessary appendages belonging to the lesser priesthood, which priesthood was confirmed upon Aaron and his sons…

For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.

And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.

Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.”
(Nov. 22-23, 1832, Doctrine and Covenants 84:19-22, 26, 27, 29, 30, 33-40).
[NOTE: modern paragraphing added to improve legibility – editor]

Even though this is dated November 1832 it was not in the 1833 Book of Commandments. It was in the 1835 D&C, section 4, page 89.

A sixth alleged revelation has:
“There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic, including the Levitical Priesthood.”
(March 28, 1835, Doctrine and Covenants 107:1).

This was first in the 1835 D&C, section 3, page 82.

A seventh alleged revelation has:

“And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah!

Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfillment of the prophets–the book to be revealed.

Title page from an open 1835 edition of Doctrine And Covenants

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 fulness of times!

And again, the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca county, and at sundry times, and in divers places through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!”
(Sept. 6, 1842, Doctrine and Covenants 128:20-21).
[NOTE: modern paragraphing added to improve legibility – editor]

Note the date this revelation was given and that it includes a summary of the two priesthoods. Also note that there is no support found for these statements in the two early “new Scriptures” of the Mormon church, the Book of Mormon and the 1833 Book of Commandments.

William Phelps, as the editor of the Mormon newspaper Evening and Morning Star (Independence, Missouri), provides the first public evidence of the two priesthoods, the Aaronic and Melchizedek.

William Wines Phelps (February 17, 1792 – March 7, 1872) was an early leader of the Latter Day Saint movement. He was an assistant president of the church in Missouri, scribe to Joseph Smith, Jr., and a church printer, editor, and song-writer

After the high priesthood comes elders, priests, teachers, and deacons. Now the offices are separate, for the edification and benefit of the whole church, and, though the elders and bishops are appendages to the high priesthood, & the teachers and deacons are appendages to the lesser priesthood, yet these offices are important to their places, and regular in their gradation: from deacon to teacher, from teacher to priest, from priest to elder, from elder to high priest.
(March, 1833, page 74)

While not directly named, this is the first apparent mention together of the two LDS priesthoods in an official Mormon publication. The Book of Mormon, in the book of Alma, does mention the “high priesthood,” but the “lesser priesthood” is not mentioned at all in the Book of Mormon.

Phelps’ article does require the reader to know the meaning of “high priesthood” and “lesser priesthood.” The priesthood revelations from God were allegedly received in 1823, 1829, 1830, 1831 and September 1832. The Evening and Morning Star was first published June 1832, so there was a nine-month opportunity to mention all of them sooner than Phelps’ article.

Oliver Cowdery, the only other human participant with Smith in the restoration of the priesthood,[8] as the editor of a Mormon newspaper in Kirtland, Ohio (near present day Cleveland) said:

“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 [John the Baptist] 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 [9] in righteousness!”‘
(Messenger and Advocate, Oct., 1834, pages 15 and 16 and Joseph Smith-History page 59, footnote by Oliver Cowdery)

The reliability of this statement by Mr. Cowdery is supported by an earlier statement in this same paper.

“That our narrative may be correct, and particularly the introduction, it is proper to inform our patrons, that our brother J. Smith jr. has offered to assist us…With his labor and with authentic documents now in our possession, we hope to render this a pleasing and agreeable narrative well worth the examination and perusal of the Saints.”
(ibid, page 13)

Now compare the statement just above by Oliver Cowdery on the priesthood to the following LDS Scripture:

Photograph of Oliver Cowdery found in the Library of Congress, taken in the 1840s by James Presley Ball

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 [10]; 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.”
(Doctrine and Covenants 13, May 15, 1829 and Joseph Smith-History 1:39)

“I confer the Priesthood of Aaron” is not the same as “I confer this priesthood and this authority.” As will be shown below, Oliver Cowdery’s quotation is consistent with the claim of David Whittmer, another top leader in the early Mormon church.

It should be evident by now that the scriptural foundation for the bestowal of the priesthoods is on shaky ground. To give you a sense of the changes made and the confusion in the revelations on the priesthood let us look at one of them, Doctrine and Covenants 27, as it appeared chronologically in LDS Scripture. The 1833 Book of Commandments has:

“A Commandment to the church of Christ, given in Harmony, Pennsylvania, September 4, 1830,
“LISTEN to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Lord, your God, and your Redeemer, whose word is quick and powerful.

2 For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory;

3 Remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins:

4 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine, neither strong drink of your enemies:

5 Wherefore, you shall partake of none, except it is made new among you, yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth.

6 Behold this is wisdom in me, wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you, on the earth, and with, all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world:

7 Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and be faithful until I come:- even so. Amen.”
(Book of Commandments, chapter 28, verses 1-7, page 60)

Notice that this alleged revelation has nothing about the LDS priesthood. It was later changed. The 1835 Doctrine and Covenants has the following for the same revelation. The bold type words are the added ones; the ones in brackets { } were removed.

Revelation given, {A Commandment to the church of Christ, given in Harmony, Pennsylvania,} September {4}, 1830.

1 Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Lord, your God, and your Redeemer, whose word is quick and powerful. For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory–remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins. Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies; Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you; yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth.

LdS President (March 1, 1807 – September 2, 1898) Wilford Woodruff’s copy of The Book of Commandments

2 Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim; And also with Elias, to whom I have committed the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, concerning the last days; And also John the son of Zacharias, which Zacharias he (Elias) visited and gave promise that he should have a son, and his name should be John, and he should be filled with the spirit of Elias; 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 Elijah, unto whom I have committed the keys of the power of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, that the whole earth may not be smitten with a curse; And also with Joseph and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, your fathers, by whom the promises remain; And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days:

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, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them; Unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the

Image from the LdS Church Educational System Institute Manual “Gospel Doctrines” with this caption, “Righteousness is the key to priesthood power and eternal life.”

which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; And also with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world. Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which I have sent mine angels to commit unto you; Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my Spirit, which I will pour out upon you, and my word which I reveal unto you, and be agreed as touching all things whatsoever ye ask of me, and be faithful until I come, and ye shall be caught up, that where I am ye shall be also. {even so.} Amen.”
(1835 Doctrine and Covenants 50:1-3, pages 179-180. The present 1981 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants 27:1-18 reads the same except for the heading, verse numbering and some punctuation.)

Note that the historical heading of this revelation was changed, the day was omitted and many significant additions were made in the text with no notes or comments of any kind as to why.

Some Mormons may point to Doctrine and Covenants 13 to support the restoration of the Mormon priesthood, it has:

“Ordination of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Aaronic Priesthood along the bank of the Susquehanna River, near Harmony, Pennsylvania, May 15, 1829. HC 1:39-42. The ordination was done by the hands of an angel, who announced himself as John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament. The angel explained that he was acting under the direction of Peter, James, and John, the ancient apostles, who held the keys of the higher priesthood, which was called the Priesthood of Melchizedek. The promise was given to Joseph and Oliver that in due time the Priesthood of Melchizedek would be conferred upon them. See also Section 27:7, 9, 12…..

Contemporary painting of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood

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.”
(Doctrine and Covenants 13, May 15, 1829)

As stated at the start of this article, this revelation was not in the Mormon Scriptures until the 1876 edition, and not accepted “by common consent” until 1880. The same idea is also in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith – History, verses 68-69, which was also not in LDS scripture until 1876.

There are no reasons given why it was not in the two earlier collections of LDS revelations, A Book of Commandments (1833) and the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. I believe the historical reliability of these verses is significantly in question because of their late canonization.

These are key foundational revelations. If they existed they should have been in the first collection of new revelation.

Joseph Smith was killed in 1844. In 1846 Brigham Young lead many of the Mormons on their way to what was to become Salt Lake City. Not all Mormons chose to go, including Joseph Smith’s wife and children. In 1860 Joseph Smith’s oldest son, Joseph Smith III, became the president and prophet of a newly founded church, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS). They claim to be the true continuation of the Church Joseph Smith founded. They deny that Peter, James and John “restored” the Melchizedek Priesthood to Joseph Smith. The following statement by Mormon historian and then Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith explains their position:

Was the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by Peter, James, and John?

In the History of the Church, no account is given of the date when the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored. For this reason certain parties not of the Church, who profess to believe in the divine mission of the martyred Seer, in order to bolster up their weak position, have made the claim that this priesthood was not restored by those heavenly messengers, but that it grew out of the Aaronic Priesthood, which was restored by John the Baptist on the 15th day of May 1829. According to this claim, the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery, having received the Aaronic Priesthood, did, by virtue of that priesthood, on the 6th day of April 1830, ordain each other elders, and that this eldership ordained high priests and apostles.”[a]

The actual statement, as officially published by the so-called “Reorganized” Church, is:

“In justification of the course taken, and the principles involved on `the question of authority,’ we have ever courted, and still do, investigation of the rigid character of the facts in the first organization. Here they are: Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ordained to the lesser priesthood by an angel; then, by this authority and a commandment they, on the 6th day of April, ordained each other elders, and this eldership ordained high priests and apostles, and this high priesthood ordained, by commandment, the President of the High Priesthood — the highest office in the church; so that the alleged lesser ordained [sic][11] the greater, is common to both the first organization and the Reorganization alike. The same class of facts justify both or condemn both.”
(Doctrines of Salvation, 3:95)

The “three witnesses” to the Book of Mormon: Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris

David Whitmer, one of the “Three Witnesses” (found right after the Introduction of the Book of Mormon) of the Book of Mormon and an early leader in the Mormon church, had this to say about the priesthoods in the Mormon Church.

“Now Brethren, seeing they had no High Priests in the church of Christ of old, and none in the church of Christ [12] in these last days until almost two years after its beginning [13] — when the leaders began to drift into error; remembering the fact of the revelation being changed two years after it was given to include High Priests;…

In no place in the word of God does it say that an Elder is after the order of Melchisedec, or after the order of the Melchisedec Priesthood….This matter of ‘priesthood,’ since the days of Sydney [sic] [Sidney] Rigdon[14], has been the great hobby and stumbling-block of the Latter Day Saints. …This matter of the two orders of priesthood….all originated in the mind of Sydney Rigdon. He explained these things to Brother Joseph in his way, out of the old Scriptures, and got Brother Joseph to inquire, etc. He would inquire and as mouthpiece speak out the revelations just as they had it fixed up in their hearts…How easily a man can receive some other spirit, appearing as an Angel of Light, believing at the time that he is giving the revealed will of God…..”
(An Address to All Believers in Christ, pages 64)

The RLDS’ and David Whitmer’s position are supported by the historical evidence previously presented and support the idea that the high priesthood was first given at the Kirtland conference of June 3-7, 1831 (D&C 52 historical heading; 1833 Book of Commandments 54, page 123; Far West Record, page 7 and end notes 4 and 5 on page 8; Deseret Book Co., 1983, edited by D. Q. Cannon & L. W. Cook. ).[15]

It also seems reasonable to believe that the priesthood, if it really existed, would also clearly and frequently show up in many of the other publications by the Mormon Church. Those to be examined below are the Book of Mormon, The Holy Bible, Book of Commandments and a collection of early teachings called the Lectures on Faith.

The Book of Mormon, one of the unique scriptures of the Mormon Church, also does not show the present day Mormon priesthood. The following terms and phrases used in describing their priesthood could not be found in a search of the text of the Book of Mormon.

A first edition 1830 Book of Mormon open to the Book of Alma

a. “Aaronic Priesthood”, with of without capitals.
b. “Melchizedek/Melchisedec Priesthood,” with or without capitals.
c. “the fulness of the everlasting gospel,” except in the Introduction of the current edition of the Book of Mormon. The term is also not in the 1830 edition.
d. “new and everlasting covenant”
e. “married”, “marriage”, “marry”, “marrying”, “divorce”.
f. “wife and husband,” or “husbands and wife,” or “husband and wives” in the same paragraph.
g. “gospel of salvation”
h. “fulness of salvation”
i. “fulness of eternal glory”
j. “celestial”
k. “Aaronic,” with or without capitals.
l. “deacon”
m. “seventy,” or “seventies” as an office in the Melchizedek Priesthood.
n. “highpriest” as one word.

It is interesting to find the Book of Mormon has nothing on the Aaronic Priesthood and deacons. It does have teachers and priests, positions/offices that a present day Mormon would recognize, which are ordained by the laying on of hands (Moroni 3). But nothing is said through the one thousand years plus period of the Book of Mormon about the priesthood (and the term “lesser priesthood), that these offices are part of in present day Mormonism. Moroni 3 would have been a logical place to include instructions on conferring the Priesthood, but nothing is given.

Similarly, there is no direct wording in the Book of Mormon on the Melchizedek Priesthood. It does describe a priesthood, but it is different from the present day Mormon Church’s priesthood.

Terms like Melchizedek (as the name), order of God, order of his Son and high priesthood are used, but then only in the Book of Alma, which only covers the time period of about 91 BC to about 52 BC. Moroni 3; Alma 13 and 6:1 and Mosiah 18:18 give instructions for ordaining teachers, priests, elders, and high priests but there is nothing about conferring a priesthood. These would have been logical places for this, but they only give instruction for ordination to an office.

It seems reasonable to think that the Melchizedek Priesthood, at the very least using the terminology used in the Book of Alma, would be frequently mentioned in all parts of the Book of Mormon, especially during Jesus Christ’s visit to the New World (3 Nephi 8 and following chapters) and in the period of peace and tranquility that supposedly followed it (4 Nephi 1). Not only are they not mentioned in these books, but there is little said in other parts of the Book of Mormon (except Alma).

Simulated LdS Temple scene with examples of full LdS Temple Garments attire from the “Big Love” television show

It appears, in almost all uses, that the terms high priest, high priesthood and high priests are only used as part of the Mosaic law that the first Book of Mormon people would have brought with them when they traveled from Jerusalem to the New World (see 1 Nephi chapters 1-18). But they are surprisingly missing once the alleged visit of Jesus Christ occurs as related in 3 Nephi. 3 Nephi 12:1 does say: “…now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize was twelve…I have given power that they may baptize you…”.

While a present day Mormon may understand these words to mean the Melchizedek Priesthood and apostles, the text does not say this. How were the Book of Mormon people, or even non-Mormons now, to understand this?

The Book of Mormon is still considered to be “the most correct of any book on earth”! This idea and wording has been in use since 1844 and are still being used, and were clearly stated by the late President Benson (Ensign, October 1992, page 2).

Throughout the entire Book of Mormon nothing is said about the Melchizedek Priesthood offices of seventies, patriarchs, president and apostles. Jesus does appoint twelve men in the New World, but they are called disciples all the way through 3 and 4 Nephi. If New World disciples were also considered apostles by the Lord, this would have been the place to find it, not about 370 years later from Mormon. Mormon 9:18 may at first look like an exception, but this appears to be referring to apostles in the Old World, the one Jesus called in the Jerusalem area, as shown in verse 22.

Moroni 6:1 has a very unique statement on who may be baptized. He says:
“And now I speak concerning Baptism. Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.”

This has people who apparently held the priesthood, by present day Mormon Church teachings, in the offices mentioned, being baptized. In the present day Mormon Church men must be baptized before they receive a priesthood and an office in it!

All of this has to lead to the conclusion that the Book of Mormon has a different priesthood than currently taught by the Mormon Church. While this difference is significant now, it did not exist to the same extent in 1833 between the Book of Mormon and the Book of Commandments.

A close examination of each will show a close similarity in how the priesthood is described. There are only two significant differences. The Book of Mormon has twelve disciples, a high priesthood and no deacons while the Book of Commandments names apostles and deacons but no high priesthood. They both have nothing on the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood.

The following Mormon phrases and keywords could not be found in the text of the King James Version [16] of the Bible:

High Priest’s garments as described in the Bible

a. “Aaronic Priesthood,” with or without capitals.
b. “Melchizedek/Melchizedek Priesthood,” with or without capitals.
c. “fulness of the everlasting gospel”
d. “fulness of the gospel”
e. “fulness of eternal glory”
f. “fulness of salvation”
g. “new and everlasting covenant”
h. “gospel of salvation”
i. “holy order of God”
j. “highpriest,” as one word.
k. “high priesthood”

The New Testament is very clear that the Aaronic priesthood (including laws and ordinances) was abolished when our Lord died on the cross (Gal 3:19, 23-25; Col 2:14-17; Heb 10:1-10). There was in fact a change in the priesthood – it was abolished and even Christ did not hold the Aaronic priesthood (Heb 7:11-14). The New Testament tells us that all true born-again Christians are priests by the blood of Christ (Rev 1:5-6). This priesthood has nothing to do with the old Aaronic priesthood because it is far superior! It is a royal priesthood of believers in the Living Christ, our Great High Priest forever (1 Pet 2:9-10).

The Bible does say a little about Melchizedek (Gen 14:17-20, Ps 110:4, Heb 4:14 to 8:4). The only Melchizedek priest in the Old Testament was the King of Salem. In the New Testament only Jesus Christ has the Melchizedek priesthood and he was appointed by God (Heb 5:5-6, 10). No priestly succession is mentioned. These ideas were summarized in a paper given by David Crump, as published in Christian Institute for Mormon Studies, Proceedings and Papers, Vol 1, page 35, where he said:

“In the New Testament, Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews tells us what personal qualities are required to hold the Melchizedek priesthood:

Artist’s speculative depiction of Jesus Christ acting as High Priest in heaven

1. You must live forever. This does not mean that you have somehow gained eternal life; it means that you have no beginning as well as no end. You endure forever through the inherent, self-possessed power of your own indestructible, eternal life. (Is there anyone who still hopes to be in the market for this job?)

2. You need to have personally received an oath from God promising that he has made you the Messiah of the world.

3. You must be holy. Mind you, you are not just trying to be holy; you must already share in God’s own character, in his inherent perfection, which means that you are free of all sin. There can be no blemish of inadequacy in your life; you have never done anything even slightly wrong.

4. You must be the eternal Son of God who meets the seven qualifications of sonship outlined in Hebrews 1:1-4. In other words, you must be the eternal mediator of creation, who continues to sustain the creation through the power of your own spoken word.

The position of Melchizedek Priesthood is taken; it is held by God’s Son Jesus Christ, and he has chosen not to share it with us.”

The Lectures on Faith were prepared by Joseph Smith (probably with help from others) and delivered to a class of elders in Kirtland, Ohio in the winter of 1834-1835. [17] They were first included in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. The preface of this book has:

“The first part of the book will be found to contain a series of Lectures as delivered before a Theological class in this place, and in consequence of their embracing the important doctrine of salvation, we have arranged them into the following work.”
(Preface of 1835 D&C)

This preface was signed by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and F. G. Williams. These men were the top leaders (first presidency and assistant president) of the Mormon Church at that time. Note that they said the Lectures on Faith had the important doctrine of salvation.They thought them important enough to make them scripture.

The Lectures on Faith do not use any of the important terms and phrases used to describe the Mormon priesthood and its offices. This is amazing seeing they were to contain “the important doctrine of salvation.” For example, according to the present day Mormon Church, baptism is a necessary part of a Mormon’s “salvation.”[18] Without the priesthood no one has the authority to baptize, hence no “salvation.”

The 1833 Book of Commandments was the first published collection of alleged revelations received by Joseph Smith. In its time it was considered one of the three LDS Scriptures (the Holy Bible, Book of Mormon, Book of Commandments). As shown above it does not contain the Mormon priesthood as currently known.

Sidney Rigdon, founding member of the First Presidency, Joseph Smith’s First Counselor and the person suspected to be the chief fabricator of LdS Priesthood theology according to David Whitmer

Priesthood revelations that are now Doctrine and Covenants 2, 13, 27, 68 and 84 were not in it. Apostles were called elders (chapter 24:1-2, 22:1, 12, 14) and the only priesthood offices mentioned were elders, priests, teachers and deacons (chapter 24:31). There is nothing about the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood, lesser and higher priesthoods, seventies and high priests as currently exists.

God allegedly made it clear that the revelations were “true and faithful” (Book of Commandments 1:7), “neither doth he vary from that which he hath said” (Book of Commandments 2:1) and “now the decrees of God are unalterable” (Alma 41:8). We have God’s word that he would not change and alter what he had said. It should be clear by now that changes and additions were made. What then is the only possible conclusion?

We have shown how two key alleged revelations about the restoration of the LDS priesthood were not in the first and second published collections and two others were not in the first collection. David Whitmer and the RLDS church stated a similar view.

All this can only lead to the clear conclusion that the present day Mormon Church’s priesthood is not the same one that existed from 1829 to about 1833. It was changed about 1833 and then support was inserted into the LDS scriptures after the fact.[19] In some case this was done 43 years later.

Both 1 Cor 14:33 and Doctrine and Covenants 132:8 say that God is not the author of confusion. We are then left with the only conclusion possible, the confusion in the early LDS Church, particularly the teachings about the priesthood, can only be by man.

The Mormon response to this paper will probably be harsh, for it will be an emotional subject for most LDS, particularly men. This strikes at the heart of Mormonism.

Many will seem to be incredulous and just reject everything out right. On the other end of the spectrum others will take the information and seriously examine it in detail. Some to find reasons to reject it, but some to better understand it and grow from it. All anyone can do as they present the above information is to keep bringing the discussion back to the subject and the facts presented. You will need to dwell on the facts and their accuracy.

There is only one clear conclusion. The priesthood now taught by the Mormon Church is significantly different from the one taught by the Mormon Church from 1830 (their start date) to roughly 1835. It also appears that they tried to hide the changes by post dating the early alleged revelations and making new ones to support the change.

[1] Melchisedec is the New Testament spelling of the Old Testament Melchizedek. The Mormon Church uses this latter spelling.

[2] Gospel Principles, published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, 1978, page 73. The majority of Bible believing Christians, however, believe that only Jesus Christ held the Melchizedek Priesthood which is “unchangeable”; and that ALL true Christians, men and women, are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Heb. 4:14, 7:24, 6:20, 10:10; Rev 1:5-6).

[3] The Book of Commandments, a Scripture published in 1833, was the first collection of alleged revelations received by Joseph Smith. Following editions were titled The Doctrine and Covenants. In the early years of the Mormon church in the United States there were editions in 1833, 1835, 1844 and 1876. There were several British editions, with an 1854 printing that was sent to Utah (Ensign, December 1984, pages 36-37) .

[4] Joseph Smith-History 1:68-72 said it was John the Baptist that ordained them to the Aaronic Priesthood and Peter, James and John (who held the keys for this) ordained them to the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Aaronic Priesthood supposedly on May 15, 1829. The exact date for the Melchizedec Priesthood restoration is not know. The best date that most LDS scholars think this happened is between May 15, 1829 and April 1830, and one said, “probably June 1829” (A Joseph Smith Chronology, by J. Christopher Conkling, Deseret Book Co. 1979, page 10-11).

[5] Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 says we receive the remission of sins by faith in Jesus Christ, by repentance and service to the Lord, all before we are baptized. Which one is correct?

[6] From Lev 8:33 and Ex 29:37 we learn that Aaron’s ordination took 7 days. Mormon Aaronic Priesthood ordinations that I (John Farkas) saw or participated in took less than 15 minutes.

[7] Then how did Joseph Smith see the Father and Son in 1820 and live as he related in Joseph Smith-History 1:17. He did not, as officially taught, get the priesthood until May 1829 (Joseph Smith-History 1:72).

[8] Cowdery was the Second Elder (D&C 20:3 ) and assistant president of the High Priesthood. He was one of Smiths scribes during the alleged “translation” of the Book of Mormon from the “gold plate.” They were both together when the priesthood was allegedly restored.

[9] Mormons have said that these are animal sacrifices, as done in the Jerusalem temple, which are to be restored. (Mormon Doctrine, page 666).

[10] Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 says we receive the remission of sins by faith in Jesus Christ, by repentance and service to the Lord, all before we are baptized.

[a]  Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie, “Doctrines of Salvation Vol. 3” pp.94-95, (this citation was missing from Mr. Farkas’ original article — Editor)

[11] The bracket is in the quote.

[12] The Mormon Church since its beginning has had three names: Church of Christ, 1830-1834; Church of Latter Day Saints, 1834-1838; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1838 to the present.

[13] If David Whitmer by “beginning” means the formal start of the Mormon Church on April 6, 1830, them 1832 is the approximate start of High Priests.

[14] Sydney Rigdon probably came into the Mormon Church December, 1830 (The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness: Sidney Rigdon, Religious Reformer, 1793-1876, by F. Mark McKiernan, Herald House, 1979, pages 41-44). This is the earliest date for the change discussed by David Whitmer.

[15] While History of the Church 1:175-176 uses the term “authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood was manifested,” D&C 53 does not use the term at all or “high Priesthood.” The Far West Record, page 7, in the meeting minutes only uses the term “high Priesthood.”

[16] This is the version used by the Mormon Church.

[17] Doctrines of Salvation, by Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City, Bookcraft, 1955, 2:304; the book Lectures on Faith, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, page v.

[18] For the importance of baptism see: Mormon Doctrine, page 69. Salvation means spending eternity with God in the Celestial Kingdom (Gospel Principles, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, 1976, pages 124-130).

[19] This same idea of after the fact changes is also supported by D. Michael Quinn in his book The Mormon Hierarchy, Signature Books, 1994, pages 7-38.

About the Author
John R. Farkas (1932-2011) was a convert to Mormonism in 1975 and served in several callings up to and including Elder’s Quoruom President of  the Rochester 1st Ward, New York Stake. In 1984 he left the LdS Church and became involved with Berean Christian Ministries where he served until his death. Mr. Farkas is the author of several books on Mormonism and other subjects which can be found on his Author’s page on Amazon. Beggar’s Bread is grateful that before he passed Mr. Farkas granted us the permission to republish the articles from his now defunct website. 

John Farkas is of one the giants on whose shoulders we stand and to whom we owe a debt that we simply can never repay!  We look forward to thanking him again in heaven for the example of his life and treasure of wisdom that he left behind for our benefit.

[Please note that while this article has been very lightly reformatted and re-paragraphed to improve overall legibility no content has been changed from Mr. Farkas’ original, March 27, 1998 source article — Fred W. Anson, editor]