Peter and the Restored Priesthood

Steven C. Harper

Steven C. Harper, “Peter and the Rest​ored Priesthood,” in The Ministry of Peter, the Chief Apostle, ed. Frank F. Judd Jr., Eric D. Huntsman, and Shon D. Hopkin (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2014), 361–73.

Steven C. Harper was a historian for the Church History Department who has contributed to the Joseph Smith Papers Project when this was written.

Joseph Knight Sr. steered his wagon from the Susquehanna Valley, where spring had returned, upstate toward the Whitmers’ and the Smiths’ houses. Joseph Smith sat beside him, explaining that the time had come to organize the Savior’s church.[1]

“I will establish my Church,” the Lord had told Joseph a year earlier.[2] It had been an eventful year since. The translation of the Book of Mormon had ended, and printing had begun. Meanwhile, Joseph and Oliver Cowdery, both mindful of a promise they had received from John the Baptist that they would be ordained to more priesthood, prayed for it until it came. Both Joseph and Oliver testified that it came, the “reception of the holy Priesthood by the ministering of angels.”[3] According to a secondary account recorded in 1898, Joseph and Oliver arose from prayer as a heavenly light enveloped them and they saw three angels standing before them, dressed in white, their faces radiant.[4] “My name is Peter,” said one who was flanked by companions on each side. “And,” he continued, pointing to the others, “these are James and John. We have come here according to command from the Almighty to confer upon you the Apostleship to which we have been ordained.”[5]

Joseph remembered the sound of their voices, the wilderness setting, and their declaration that they possessed the keys of the kingdom and of the dispensation of the fulness of times (see D&C 128).[6] Oliver remembered having stood “in the presence of Peter,” and how, along with James and John, the resurrected fisherman-Apostle made Apostles of him and Joseph.[7] Neither Joseph nor Oliver is on record saying when this happened. The fragmentary historical record can and has been used to support varied interpretations, all of which necessarily rely on some supposition.[8] Each alternative that deals responsibly with the complexity of the historical record should be considered. None of them, without the addition of conclusive evidence, should be asserted dogmatically.

This chapter is not designed to discover the date on which Peter ordained Joseph Smith, but to explore some implications of that ordination for both Peter and for the Restoration. It will highlight not only contributions Peter made to the Restoration, especially the Melchizedek Priesthood, but also what the Restoration can teach us about Peter, especially the nature of the priesthood he exercised, emphasizing what Peter and Joseph Smith offer us regarding the fulness of priesthood ordinances available in temples.

Restored Knowledge about Peter

As a result of the Restoration, we have knowledge about Peter that significantly expands what is known from the relatively sparse ancient sources. For instance, there is a well-known paronomasia, or play on words, in Matthew 16:18 regarding Peter’s name.[9] “Thou art Peter,” the Lord says there, “and upon this rock I will build my church.” Petros, the Greek word the King James translators rendered in English as Peter, means “a small rock.” The Apostle we call Peter, Jesus called something like Simon the stone. In the King James Version of John 1, recording Jesus’ first encounter with Peter, the Savior says to him, “Thou shalt be called Cephas,” an Aramaic word meaning “a stone” (John 1:42). In his revision of the Bible, Joseph added seer, so that the Joseph Smith Translation of John 1:42 has Jesus renaming Simon, saying, “Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a seer, or a stone.” Given the textual links between Jesus’ name for Peter, a seer, a stone, and revelation, we might consider that the wordplay is richer than the King James Translation suggests and that we should regard Peter as a seer, a recipient of revelations, perhaps even by the use of a stone or stones used by other seers.[10]

Another rich insight into Peter’s priesthood ministry comes from an early church minute book, which records Joseph Smith’s report of a little-known vision. In February 1834, Joseph Smith organized the church’s first stake, basing the structure on a revelation he’d had about Peter. Joseph gathered twenty-four brethren and promised to “show the order of councils in ancient days as shown to him by vision.” He explained that “Jerusalem was the seat of the Church Council in ancient days” and added that “the apostle, Peter, was the president of the Council and held the keys of the Kingdom of God on the earth [and] was appointed to this office by the voice of the Savior and acknowledged in it by the voice of the Church. He had two men appointed as Counsellors with him.”[11] A later revelation to Joseph formally linked Peter’s roles as seer and president, saying that “the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church . . . ; yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church” (D&C 107:91–92).

So it was Peter, president of the church of Jesus Christ, seer, Apostle, keeper of the keys, who returned to earth and bestowed on Joseph Smith the priesthood and keys he had received “under the hand of the Messiah” (see D&C 7, 27, 128).[12] The idea that Peter is alive, that he could appear in the Susquehanna River Valley and bestow priesthood, is a fruit of the Restoration. For believers, the testimony of Joseph and Oliver is evidence of Peter’s historicity, and of the Savior’s, for Peter appeared to them as a resurrected being in his capacity as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. To testify of being ordained by Peter in the nineteenth century is to testify of the resurrected Christ and of continuity with his original church.

Such a testimony is characteristic of the concrete Restoration. Joseph and Oliver’s matter-of-fact story leaves little room to “spiritualize,” as Oliver called it, meaning to explain away as figurative or mythical Christianity’s bold claims of physical supernaturalism. In contrast to spiritualizing, a corporeal Peter appearing to Joseph and Oliver is what one scholar called “unflinching primitivism.” The resulting “resurrection of original structures and practices, is nothing short of the demystification of Christianity itself.”[13] To say it another way, “these ordinations by angelic ministrants grounded Joseph Smith’s claims to divine authority” even as they testified that the New Testament tells a true story of Jesus’ miraculous birth, choosing of twelve Apostles, death, and Resurrection. “Whereas Catholics claim an unbroken line of authority from the days of Peter,” wrote philosopher David Paulsen, “Joseph proclaimed that through apostasy the chain had been broken and the authority lost. Whereas Protestants claim that all believers hold priesthood authority, Joseph claimed that God restored divine authority by literal hand-to-head transfer by the very prophets and apostles whose lives and words are recounted in the Bible.”[14] So the testimony that Peter appeared at all is a witness that the Restoration was necessary, a witness that the Bible is generally true but insufficient, a witness that Christianity had lost its way and that no Christian in the modern era, however sincere, had authority to act for God until Peter and those acting under his direction restored it.

Peter’s Contribution to the Restoration

Peter gave Joseph and Oliver what Joseph (quite early in the historical record) described as “a confirmation and reception of the high Priesthood after the holy order of the son of the living God,” “power and ordinence from on high to preach the Gospel in the administration and demonstration of the spirit,” and the “Kees of the Kingdom of God.”[15] It’s not clear whether Joseph used the word confirmation here consistently with its later usage to mean the ordinance by which Saints are invited to receive the Holy Ghost and to join the church, but, if so, then Peter, James, and John not only ordained Joseph and Oliver after their baptisms, but also confirmed them, or at least bestowed the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Joseph’s testimony that the ministering angels conferred power to preach the gospel and administer its ordinances helps us understand the nature of priesthood. Whatever understanding of priesthood we have, including the ability to rattle off the fifth Article of Faith, such knowledge is a fruit of what Peter revealed. Before that, it was by no means obvious, or uniform throughout Christendom that, as Joseph taught, “no man can administer salvation through the gospel, to the souls of men, in the name of Jesus Christ, except he is authorized from God, by revelation, or by being ordained by some one whom God hath sent by revelation.”[16]

Priesthood keys were not a matter of much interest in Joseph Smith’s culture. It is true that even as Joseph Smith led the church, the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen sculpted Peter holding keys, basing his work on the Savior’s promise in Matthew 16:19 to give Peter keys of the kingdom of heaven. Catholic and Orthodox traditions value the keys Christ gave to Peter. Iconography from these traditions represents these keys frequently, and theologians have long debated their meaning.[17] But Latter-day Saints have made much of those keys compared to how little they were discussed and valued in the Protestant-dominated period and places of Joseph’s ministry.

A revelation given to Joseph in spring 1829 clarified that Jesus gave keys of the apostolic ministry to Peter, James, and John—keys for them to steward until his Second Coming (see D&C 7).[18] Later, after the ancient Apostles had appeared to Joseph, the Lord reminded him about “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” (D&C 27:12). Still later, Joseph reflected on the time he heard “the voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness . . . declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom” (D&C 128:20). In short, as Joseph’s contemporary, Latter-day Saint Benjamin Winchester, put it, “Joseph said . . . that the keys of the kingdom had been given to him through the angels, Peter, James, and John,” and that he used them to build the Church.[19]

Shortly before his death, Joseph gathered most of the Apostles, the same ones he had endowed, and emphasized to them that if he failed to confer on them the keys and powers he held, “they will be lost from the Earth.” He then laid his hands on their heads and confirmed the keys on each of them, saying “thus can this power and these keys be perpetuated in the Earth.” The Apostles subsequently testified solemnly “that Joseph Smith did declare that he had conferred upon the Twelve every key and every power that he ever held himself before God.”[20]

More than a century later, President Spencer W. Kimball stood with Elder Boyd K. Packer and others in the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen, Denmark, admiring Thorvaldsen’s Christus and his sculptures of the Twelve Apostles. “I stood with President Kimball . . . before the statue of Peter,” Elder Packer said. “In his hand, depicted in marble, is a set of heavy keys. President Kimball pointed to them and explained what they symbolized.”[21] President Kimball then charged Copenhagen stake president Johan Bentine to “tell every prelate in Denmark that they do not hold the keys. I hold the keys!” As the Apostles left the church, President Kimball shook hands with the caretaker, “expressed his appreciation, and explained earnestly, ‘These statues are of dead apostles,’” then, pointing to Elders Tanner, Monson, and Packer, added, “You are in the presence of living apostles.”[22]

Joseph’s Clarification of Peter’s Priesthood Keys

Joseph’s revelations and teachings not only declare that Peter restored keys, but they tell us how Peter got them and provide some information about their nature. The synoptic Gospels (see Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9) tell the story of Christ’s Transfiguration in the presence of Peter, James, and John. According to the account in Matthew, this occurred about a week after the Savior promised to give Peter keys of the kingdom. The Bible does not document the actual event of transmitting keys, but it records the Savior’s promise to do so in Matthew 16 and acknowledges in Matthew 18 that the Apostles have the keys. In between is the story of the Savior’s Transfiguration, a muddled story as we have it in the New Testament.

In a summer 1831 revelation to Joseph, the Savior explained at least part of the reason for the muddling. He described elements of the Transfiguration experience that are not recorded in the Bible and told Joseph that he had still not received a full account of what happened on the Mount (see D&C 63:20–23). The same revelation promised that those who were faithful would receive more of the mysteries, however, and Joseph apparently did. In an 1841 discourse, Joseph taught that the priesthood is everlasting, then traced how its keys came to him: “The Saviour, Moses, & Elias—gave the Keys to Peter, James & John on the Mount when they were transfigured before him. . . . How have we come at the priesthood in the last days? It came down, down in regular succession. Peter James & John had it given to them & they gave it up [to me].”[23]

Peter, Joseph Smith, and the Fulness of the Priesthood

According to the LDS Bible Dictionary, few biblical events rival the Transfiguration in importance.[24] Peter characterized what he received on the Mount or sometime subsequent to that experience, as a “more sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19), which Joseph defined, in the context of teaching about temple ordinances, as revealed knowledge of one’s election to eternal life. Joseph, in other words, taught that what Peter and the others received on the Mount included “the fulness of preisthood or the law of God.”[25] Joseph Fielding Smith took this kind of teaching to mean that “the Savior took the three disciples up on the mount, which is spoken of as the ‘Mount of Transfiguration,’ he there gave unto them the ordinances that pertain to the house of the Lord and . . . they were endowed.”[26]

Early in 1841, Joseph Smith received a revelation in Nauvoo (see D&C 124) that linked the priesthood, its keys, and the ordinances of the temple, much as his September 1832 revelation had done (see D&C 84). Whereas the 1832 revelation called for a temple to be built in Independence, Missouri, for the performance of priesthood ordinances, the 1841 revelation commanded the Saints to build a temple in Nauvoo for the same reason, “for there is not a place found on earth,” the revelation said, “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. . . .Let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people; for I deign to reveal unto my church . . . all things pertaining to this house, and the priesthood thereof”[27] (D&C 124:28, 40–42).

“It may seem to some, to be a very bold doctrine that we talk of,” Joseph wrote to the Saints in September 1842 regarding the idea of priesthood temple ordinances that would endow Saints with power over death, “a power which records or binds on earth and binds in heaven.” Even so, he added, this is what priesthood had always meant, and what the Lord meant when he told Peter, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Obtaining these “powers of the Holy Priesthood,” as Joseph called them, was imperative to saving the human family from sin and death, and he emphasized that such salvation extended to the dead, who could receive priesthood baptism vicariously (D&C 128:9–11).[28]

At almost the same time that he revealed how the priesthood and its keys enabled baptism for the dead, Joseph taught about the meaning and significance of the baptismal covenant generally, once again drawing on Peter. In making the point that the apostles fulfilled the Savior’s instructions by teaching the law of the gospel as described in Acts 2, Joseph reportedly said this concerning the matter:

They were to wait at Jerusalem till they were endowed with power from on high and then go and teach all nations whatsoever the Lord had commanded them. As Peter held the keys of the kingdom, we will examine him first. Now on the day of Pentecost, when there was a marvellous display of the gifts, according to the promise in Mark, many were pricked in the heart, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the Apostles, men and brethren what shall we do? Peter said unto them: Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, &c.—Here one of the witnesses says in so many words, repent and be baptised. And we are of the opinion that Peter having been taught by the Lord, and commissioned by the Lord, and endowed by the Lord, would be about as correct a counsellor, or ambassador as we or they could enquire of to know the right way to enter into the kingdom.[29]

It is possible that this editorial’s statement that Peter was “endowed by the Lord” should not be understood to refer to holy ordinances but to a less specific endowment of divine power, but probably not. Joseph had begun endowing Saints via holy ordinances a few months earlier. And a few months later he said specifically that “Peter was endowed,” meaning the recipient of temple-related ordinances.[30] Moreover, Joseph’s Nauvoo teachings strongly suggested that Peter’s more sure word of prophecy was a kind of knowledge he gained via a process of covenant making and keeping, mediated by templelike ordinances that led recipients ultimately to certainty of eternal life.

On May 4, 1842, Joseph spent the day with nine church leaders “giving certain instructions concerning the priesthood.” One of the participants, Willard Richards, documented the event in Joseph’s journal and elaborated for Joseph’s history, saying that Joseph endowed the men, giving them a version of the temple endowment. Teaching “the principles and order of the priesthood, [and] attending to washings & anointings, endowments, and the communication of keys, pertaining to the Aronic Priesthood, and so on to the highe[s]t order of Melchisedec Priesthood,” Joseph shared, “all those plans & principles by which any one is enabled to secure the fullness of those blessings which has been prepared for the chu[r]ch of the first-born, and come up, and abide in the prese[n]ce of Eloheim in the eternal worlds.”[31]

Willard emphasized that “there was nothing made known to these men but what will be made known to all saints . . . so soon as they are prepared to receive, and a proper place is prepared to communicate them . . . therefore let the saints be diligent in building the Temple.”[32] And as the Nauvoo Temple rose, Joseph worked to prepare the Saints for its ordinances, relying heavily on Peter’s teachings in 2 Peter 1 to do so.

On Sunday, May 14, 1843, at a settlement of Saints outside Nauvoo, Joseph rose to preach. He said, essentially, that God imparted knowledge by degrees, and then read from 2 Peter 1, emphasizing Peter’s admonition to add knowledge to faith. Joseph linked that idea to Peter’s more sure word of prophecy in the quest to make one’s election to eternal life certain, saying, “Their is some grand secret ther[e] & keys to unlock the subject.” Following the text of 2 Peter 1 back to the Mount of Transfiguration, Joseph highlighted Peter’s distinction between two revelations he had received. The first was the voice of God declaring the divine sonship of Jesus Christ. “And this voice which came from heaven we heard,” Peter wrote, “when we were with him in the holy mount.” Then Peter talked about another revelation, saying “We have also a more sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:16–19). “Now wherein could they have a more sure word of prophecy” Joseph asked provocatively, “than to hear the voice of God saying this is my Beloved Son”? Then Joseph answered his own question: “Now for the Secret & grand Key though they might hear the voice of God & know that Jesus was the Son of God this would be no evidence that their election & Calling was made shure that they had part with Christ & was a Joint heir with him, they then would want that more sure word of Prophecy that they were sealed in the heavens & had the promise of eternal live in the Kingdom of God.”[33] Throughout May 1843, Joseph continued preaching 2 Peter 1, restating Peter’s admonition for Saints to make eternal life a certainty for them by striving for the revelation of that “Knowledge through our Lord & savior Jesus Christ” and qualifying for the ordinances by which the promise of eternal life would be “sealed unto them.”[34]

Joseph visited Saints in Ramus, Illinois, later the same week and told them that “Peter penned the most sublime language of any of the apostles.” He preached again on 2 Peter 1, driving home the same temple-centered principles of progressing from one degree of knowledge to another in the quest for eternal life. According to his secretary, William Clayton, Joseph “shewed that knowledge is power & the man who has the most knowledge has the greatest power. Also that salvation means a mans being placed beyond the powers of all his enemies. He said the more sure word of prophecy meant a mans knowing that he is sealed up unto eternal life by revelation & the spirit of prophecy through the power of the Holy priesthood.”[35]

Joseph was back in Nauvoo for the Sabbath on May 21, 1843, and he preached the same doctrine there for about two hours.[36] Taking again as his text Peter’s teaching about the more sure word of prophecy (2 Peter 1), Joseph explained and elaborated, paraphrasing Peter throughout, especially verses 16–19. He taught that one’s calling and election to eternal life could be made sure by seeking and finally obtaining “a promise from God for yourselves that you shall have eternal life.”[37] Joseph stressed that Peter was teaching these doctrines to initiated Saints, those “of like precious faith,” and that the gist of his teaching was that one must make and keep the gospel covenants, beginning with baptism, until one receives power over death. Howard Coray recorded that Joseph spoke “On Election.” He noted that Joseph evoked Peter’s testimony of being an eyewitness of the transfigured Lord and also the recipient of a more sure word of prophecy. Then, according to Coray, Joseph asked, “who can explain this[?] no man be [but] he that has obtained these things in the same way that Peter did.” As he continued, Joseph said tantalizingly, “these are but hints of those things that were revealed to Peter, and verily brethren there are things in the bosom of the Father, that have been hid from the foundation of the world, that are not Known neither can be except by direct Revelation.” Joseph equated such revelation with the kind of knowledge that Peter had exhorted the Saints to add to their faith. Such knowledge, Joseph emphasized, makes one’s calling and election sure. “Knowledge is Revelation,” Joseph underscored. “Knowledge is the power of God unto Salvation.” He explained the kind of knowledge he and Peter had in mind: “It is one thing to receive knowledge by the voice of God, (this is my beloved Son &c.) & another to Know that you yourself will be saved, to have a positive promise of your own[.] Salvation is making your Calling and Election sure. [Namely] the voice of Jesus saying my beloved thou shalt have eternal life. Brethren,” Joseph implored, “never cease strug[g]ling until you get this evidence. . . . this more sure word of Prophecy.”[38]


Joseph Smith identified with Peter, having received the priesthood and its keys under his hands, having envisioned Peter as he led the church anciently, and sharing the challenge of teaching the Saints that they could and should strive to make and keep the covenants and receive the revelations of eternal life by receiving the fulness of priesthood ordinances. At one point in his historic May 21, 1843, sermon, Joseph appealed to the Apostle, “Oh Peter if they who were of like precious faith with thee were injoined to make their Calling & Election sure, how much more all we.”[39]

The Restoration depended on Peter. “The final triumph of Mormonism,” wrote Lorenzo Snow, “depends wholly on whether it be a fact that Joseph Smith was authorized of God, through the administration of Peter, James and John, to administer the ordinances of the Gospel.”[40] Joseph testified that he was, in fact, so authorized, so ordained. Ten-year-old Angus Cannon heard the Prophet bear that testimony and never forgot it.[41] Adding his witness, Oliver Cowdery testified, “upon this head has Peter James and John laid their hands and confer[r]ed the Holy Melchesdic Priesthood.”[42] On another occasion he testified that he had “stood in in the presence of Peter, to receive the Greater [priesthood]” and looked down through time to see its powerful effects.[43] Those effects include the fulness of the priesthood, temple ordinances that endow the faithful with power over sin and death, sealing and repairing relationships, and offering certainty of eternal life.

No wonder the early Saints sang praises to God that identified Joseph Smith as the esteemed Latter-day Seer who had received priesthood keys from Peter himself. It is a bold doctrine, and beautiful. May we sing, as the early Saints did:

The Priesthood is again restor’d,

For this let God be long ador’d.[44]


[1] Joseph Knight, Sr., Reminiscences, n.d., Church History Library, Salt Lake City, 6.

[2] Michael Hubbard MacKay, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Grant Underwood, Robert J. Woodford, William G. Hartley, eds., Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, vol. 1 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2013), 17.

[3] Karen Lynn Davidson, David J. Whittaker, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Richard L. Jensen, eds., Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844, vol. 1 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2012), 10. See also Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery, Blessing, December 18, 1833, recorded September 1835 in Patriarchal Blessings, Book 1, 12, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

[4] Charles M. Nielsen to Heber J. Grant, February 10, 1898, Church History Library, Salt Lake City. See also Nielsen to Grant, November 14, 1899.

[5] Nielsen to Grant, February 10, 1898. See also Nielson to Grant, November 14, 1899.

[6] Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., and Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations, vol. 2 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011), 680–90. See also Joseph Smith, “Letter from Joseph Smith,” Times and Seasons, October 1, 1842, 934–36.

[7] Oliver Cowdery to Phineas Young, March 23, 1846, Church History Library, Salt Lake City. See also Oliver Cowdery to Samuel W. Richards, January 13, 1849, Deseret Evening News, March 22, 1884, 2.

[8] See, most recently, MacKay et al., Documents, Volume 1, xxxvii–xxxix, 70–74. See also D&C 27 and 128. Other alternatives are summarized and the historical record set forth in Brian Q. Cannon and BYU Studies Staff, “Priesthood Restoration Documents,” BYU Studies 35, no. 4 (1995–96): 162–207. See also Larry C. Porter, “Dating the Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood,” Ensign, June 1979, 4–10. See also Richard E. Bennett, “The Circumference of the Apostleship,” in A Firm Foundation: Church Organization and Administration, ed. David J. Whittaker and Arnold K. Garr (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center: Salt Lake City; Deseret Book, 2011), 59–81.

[9] See Matthew 16:18, footnote a.

[10] See, for instance, Ether 3:23–24 and D&C 17:1. Regarding revelation as the rock to which Jesus referred, see Joseph Smith, Discourse, January 22, 1843, Nauvoo, Illinois, Wilford Woodruff, Journals, Church History Library, Salt Lake City. See also in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph, Religious Studies Monograph Series, no. 6 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, 1980), 156–59, where Joseph says, “Jesus in his teaching says upon this rock I will build my Church & the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. What rock? Revelation.” For a discussion of Joseph Smith’s use of seer stones, see Robin Scott Jensen, Robert J. Woodford, and Steven C. Harper, eds., Manuscript Revelation Books, facsimile edition, vol. 1 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2009), xxi. Also see “Book of Mormon Translation” (accessed December 31, 2013),

[11] Kirtland Minute Book, February 17–19, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

[12] Patriarchal Blessings, Book 1 (1835), 12, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

[13] Terryl L. Givens, Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 93.

[14] David L. Paulsen, “Joseph Smith Challenges the Theological World,” BYU Studies 44, no. 4, (2005): 184.

[15] Davidson et al., Histories, Volume 1, 10.

[16] Joseph Smith to Isaac Galland, March 22, 1839, Liberty, Missouri, Times and Seasons, February 1840, 54.

[17] George Joyce, “Power of the Keys,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 8 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910), (accessed September 26, 2013). See also John Higgitt, “The Iconography of Saint Peter in Anglo-Saxon England, and Saint Cuthbert's Coffin,” in St. Cuthbert, His Cult and His Community to A.D. 1200, ed. Gerald Bonner, David Rollason, and Clare Stancliffe (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 1989), 267–72. For an example of Catholic iconography, see “Saint Peter the Apostle,” (accessed September 26, 2013).

[18] John Taylor reportedly said in December 1876, “In speaking with the Prophet Joseph once on this subject, he traced it from the first down to the last, until he got to the Ancient of Days. He wished me to write something for him of this subject, but I found it a very difficult thing to do. He had to correct me several times. We are told that the ‘judgment shall sit and the books be opened.’ He spoke of the various dispensations and of those holding the keys thereof, and said there would then be a general giving up or accounting for. I wrote that each one holding the keys of the several dispensations would deliver them up to his predecessor, from one to another, until the whole kingdom should be delivered up to the Father, and then God would be ‘all in all.’ Said he, ‘That is not right.’ I wrote it again, and again he said it was not right. It is very difficult to find language suitable to convey the meaning of spiritual things. The idea was that they should deliver up or give an account of their administrations, in their several dispensations, but that they would all retain their several positions and Priesthood.” Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (London: LDS Booksellers Depot, 1855–86), 18:329–30.

[19] Benjamin Winchester, “Primitive Mormonism,” Salt Lake Daily Tribune, September 22, 1889, 2.

[20] Alexander L. Baugh and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, eds., “‘I Roll the Burthen and Responsibility of Leading This Church Off from My Shoulders on to Yours’: The 1844/1845 Declaration of the Quorum of the Twelve Regarding Apostolic Succession, BYU Studies 49, no. 3 (2010): 18–19.

[21] Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1980), 83.

[22] Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), 108, 327.

[23] Joseph Smith, discourse, May 16, 1841, Nauvoo, Illinois, William Clayton, Notebook, Church History Library, Salt Lake City. Also in Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 9.

[24] The experience on the Mount of Transfiguration was apparently similar in some ways to Joseph and Oliver’s on April 3, 1836. They received keys in the house of the Lord at Kirtland, where Joseph and Oliver were blessed by most if not all of the same ministering angels that appeared to Peter with the Savior on the Mount (see D&C 110 and LDS Bible Dictionary, “Transfiguration, Mount of”).

[25] Joseph Smith, discourse, August 27, 1843, Nauvoo, Illinois, James Burgess, Journals, 1841–48, vol. 2, Church History Library; original spelling is preserved. Also in Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 245–47.

[26] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols. comp. Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 2:165.

[27] “Extracts from a Revelation given to Joseph Smith, Jr., Jan. 19th 1841,” Times and Seasons, June 1, 1841, 424–29.

[28] Revelation, Joseph Smith to the Church, September 6, 1842, In Hiding (D&C 128), Joseph Smith, Papers, Journals, Book of the Law of the Lord, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, 196–201. Also in Smith, “Letter from Joseph Smith,” 934–36.

[29] Editorial, “Baptism,” Times and Seasons 3 (September 1, 1842): 904.

[30] Discourse, June 11, 1843, Nauvoo, Illinois, Joseph Smith, Papers, Journals, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

[31] Historian’s Office, JS History, draft notes, May 4, 1842, JS History, vol. C-1, 1328–29, Joseph Smith Papers; original spelling preserved.

[32] Historian’s Office, JS History, draft notes, May 4, 1842, JS History, vol. C-1, 1328–1329, Joseph Smith Papers.

[33] Discourse, May 14, 1843, Yelrome, Hancock County, Illinois, Wilford Woodruff, Journal, Church History Library, Salt Lake City. See also Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 201.

[34] Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 201.

[35] Discourse and Revelation (D&C 131:5–6), May 17, 1843, Ramus, Illinois, William Clayton, Diary, Church History Library, Salt Lake City. See also Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 202.

[36] Discourse, May 21, 1843, Nauvoo, Illinois, Levi Richards, Papers, 1837–67, Journal, MS. (MS 1284, box 1, folder 5, vol. 18), Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

[37] Discourse, May 21, 1843, Nauvoo, Illinois, James Burgess, Journals, 1841–48, vol. 2, (MS 1858), Church History Library, Salt Lake City. See also Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 334.

[38] Discourse, May 21, 1843, Nauvoo, Illinois, Howard Coray, in Howard and Martha Coray Notebook, Church History Library, Salt Lake City. See also Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 206–8.

[39] Discourse, May 21, 1843, Nauvoo, Illinois, Howard Coray 207–8.

[40] Lorenzo Snow, To my family, July 1, 1886, Utah Penitentiary, quoted in full in Dennis B. Horne, Latter Leaves in the Life of Lorenzo Snow (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 2012), 158–61.

[41] “He heard the Prophet Joseph testify regarding the appearance of Peter, James, and John. Though at this time Brother Cannon was a boy of ten years, the words of the Prophet made a deep impression upon him.” Statement, Salt Lake Stake, High Priest Quorum Minute Book, 1904–26, series 13, vol. 8A, August 27, 1911, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, 13.

[42] David H. Cannon, autobiography, March 13, 1917, 5; photocopy of holography in possession of Richard Lloyd Anderson; original spelling preserved.

[43] Oliver Cowdery to Phineas Young, March 23, 1846, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

[44] Emma Smith, A Collection of Sacred Hymns for the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Kirtland, OH: Frederick G. Williams and Company, 1835), hymn 72 and hymn 76.