Special Feature | BYU Studies

Special Feature

Priesthood Restoration Documents
May 8, 2018
Special Feature
Priesthood Restoration Documents
Author Brian Q. Cannon, Author BYU Studies Staff,

We're looking forward to priesthood restoration day! On May 15, 1829, John the Baptist restored the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania.

"Priesthood Restoration Site," Church History Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints.
Information about the site and about circumstances surrounding the May 15 event.

"Priesthood Restoration Documents," Brian Q. Cannon, BYU Studies 35, no. 4.
Few events in the history of the Restoration are as consequential as the bestowal of the priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. The following excerpts from early Church documents recount all of the known direct statements from the first twenty years of Church history specifically concerning the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. In addition to compiling the descriptions that were written or dictated by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, this collection also includes the accounts by contemporaries of Joseph and Oliver up to the time of Cowdery's death in 1850. Reflecting information that was probably gleaned from conversations or unrecorded discourses of Joseph and Oliver, a few of these statements offer details unavailable elsewhere. Additionally, these statements help to reveal early Church members' understanding of the restoration of the priesthood and show how they described the priesthood restoration to others.

"Opening the Heavens: The Restoration of the Priesthood," Brian Q. Cannon, PDF of book chapter, $5.00
This PDF includes "The Earliest Accounts of the Restoration of the Priesthood" and "Documents of the Priesthood Restoration."

Here are seventy–one early Church documents that recount all the known direct statements from the first twenty years of Church history specifically concerning the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. The collection includes excerpts of revelations, statements by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, and accounts by contemporaries of Joseph and Oliver up to the time of Cowdery's death in 1850. These statements help to reveal early Church members' understanding of the restoration of the priesthood and show how they described the priesthood restoration to others.

The introduction explains that while the historical record is clear on the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, the date of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood is uncertain. Clues from the documents and surrounding events suggest that the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored around the end of May 1829, but that dating remains speculative. The documents strongly show that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery repeatedly testified that they received power from on high to perform ordinances, first from John the Baptist and then from Peter, James, and John.

"Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820–1844 (Second Edition)," John W. Welch, print book, $21.95, also available as ebook
Gathered here are the historical documents concerning the First Vision, the translation of the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the priesthood, the many visions of Joseph Smith, the outpouring of keys at the Kirtland Temple, and the mantle of Joseph Smith passing to Brigham Young. Each collection of documents is preceded by a chapter explaining the event.

As you read the accounts of divine manifestations in Opening the Heavens, the truth of the Restoration events becomes clearer. The original, eyewitness accounts will endure for generations, making this one of the most persuasive and influential Church history books you may ever read or own.