Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the Priesthood

The restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood is covered in the 1842 Times and Season found at the below link. It is Installment 1 dated 15 March 1842. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery had met on April 15, 1829. On May 29, 1829, an event took place that has changed to world to this day. Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith, Jr. where they together praying about baptism. They were in the process of translating the Book of Mormon. The book had very clear examples of baptism taking place among the people and statements about the need us to be baptized for the remission of sins. As Joseph and Oliver were desirous to learn more on the subject, they went into the woods to pray about it. They were visited by an angel who said his name was John. He was the same John known in the New Testament as John the Baptist. He laid his hands on their head and ordained them to the Priesthood of Aaron. He then commanded them to baptize each other. They then did so in the Susquehanna River.

Sequence of Events

April 15, 1829, Joseph Smith meets school teacher Oliver Cowdery for the first time.

April 17, 1829 Joseph and Oliver begin working the translation of the Book of Mormon.

Later in April 1829, Various revelations are given to Joseph Smith through the Urim and Thummim.

May 15, 1829, Angelic visitation to both Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.

May 1829, Joseph Smith’s brother Samuel was baptized.

May or June 1829 (most likely) Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery receive the Melchizedek Priesthood by the Laying on of Hands by Peter, James, and John.


We still continued the work of translation, when in the ensuing month, (May, eighteen hundred and twenty nine,) we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for remission of sins, as 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 unto us, “Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of the 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 again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.” He said this Aaronic preisthood had not the power of laying on of 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 afterwards that he should baptize me.

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.

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 Melchisedeck, which priesthood he said should in due time be conferred on us–and that I should be called the first elder, and he the second. It was on the fifteenth day of May, eighteen hundred and twenty nine, that we were baptized and ordained under the hand of the messenger.

Immediately upon our coming up out of the water, after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glourious blessings from our heavenly father. No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery than the Holy Ghost fell upon him and he stood up and prophecied 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 the 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.

Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning of the more mysterious passages revealed unto us, in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of. In the mean time we were forced to keep secret the circumstances of our having been baptized, and having received the priesthood; owing to a spirit of persecution which had already manifested itself in the neighborhood. 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 became very friendly to me, and 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.

After a few days however, feeling it to be our duty, we commenced to reason out of the scriptures, with our acquaintances and friends, as we happened to meet with them. About this time my brother Samuel H. Smith came to visit us. We informed him of what the Lord was about to do for the children of men; and to reason with him out of the bible. We also showed him that part of the work which we had translated, and labored to persuade him concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ which was now about to be revealed in its fulness. He was not however very easily persuaded of these things, but after much enquiry & explanation, he retired to the woods, in order that by secret and fervent prayer he might obtain of a merciful God, wisdom to enable him to judge for himself. The result was that he obtained revelations for himself sufficient to convince him of the trught or our assertations to him, and on the fifteenth day of that same month in which we had been baptized and ordained, Oliver Cowdery baptized him; and he returned to his father’s house greatly glorifying and praising God, being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Historical Account of the Melchizedek Priesthood

The historical account of the Peter, James, and John visiting Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery is not recored in the Times and Seasons publications. Only that it would soon happen is recorded as written above. However, the event is mentioned more than once in the Doctrine and Covenants. See below:

Doctrine and Covenant 27:12 – 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;

Doctrine and Covenants 128:20 – 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!

While neither Joseph Smith nor Oliver Cowdery seemed to have recorded the date, or exact circumstances, we have every reason to believe it did happen. Considering the question of when, since the location of their baptism was also on the Susquehanna River, it should easily be presumed to have been shortly after the ordination from John the Baptist – just as John the Baptist said it would. We only know for certain that it took place sometime between May 15, 1829 and April 6, 1830. And probably took place prior to the arrival of David and John Whitmer, whose friendship began in June of 1829. Once David and John met with Joseph and Oliver, Joseph and Oliver quickly moved to the home of Peter Whitmer Sr. in Fayette, New York, no longer placing Joseph and Oliver near the Susquehanna River.

When the church was officially organized on April 6, 1830, it is written in History of the Church – Joseph Smith the following:

I then laid my hands upon Oliver Cowdery, and ordained him an Elder of the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints;” after which, he ordained me also to the office of an Elder of said church.

It is important to note that both Joseph and Oliver already had the Melchizedek Priesthood at this time. This ordination was to the office of an Elder.

With this historical record, I give my personal testimony of the restoration of the priesthood of God restored to the earth. I, Brian Nettles, hold this priesthood. It was given to me by my father. It was passed to him by another holder of this priesthood and the priesthood lineage goes back to Joseph Smith. It goes back to Peter, James, and John. It goes back to Jesus Christ. Without this priesthood authority, no man has the rights to do God’s sacred ordinances. By this priesthood, God blesses the earth today. By this priesthood, I have baptized individuals. By this priesthood, I have given the gift of the Holy Ghost to individuals. By this priesthood, I have healed the sick and seen them healed instantly. The power of the priesthood is real. It is here with us today. There is power in the priesthood.