Return to About Mormons home

Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood

Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood, by R. M. Hadi Pranato (1985, Indonesia, dyed fabric batik, 55" x 31"). This batik by LDS artist R. M. Hadi Pranato of Indonesia portrays Peter, James, and John appearing to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to restore the Melchizedek Priesthood. Church Museum of History and Art.

by Jae R. Ballif

To act for God in organizing his Church and administering all the ordinances, Joseph Smith received the Melchizedek Priesthood in the divinely established way. Authority and responsibility for specific assignments are essential (D&C 18:9, 27-32, 35-37; 27:12; see Keys). In addition, Joseph Smith and others received and taught the significance of each ordinance and key. Since no one on earth possessed that authority at the time, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his associate Oliver Cowdery received both instruction and ordination from God and from his messengers.

The Prophet and Oliver Cowdery received the Aaronic Priesthood on May 15, 1829, under the hands of John the Baptist. He informed them that he acted under the direction of Peter, James, and John, who held the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and that that priesthood would be given to them (JS—H 1:72). Although the precise date of this restoration is not known, it is certain that it occurred after May 15, 1829, and before August 1830 (D&C 27:12). The documents available and the date of the formal organization of the Church give support to a time of restoration before April 6, 1830. Many students have concluded that late May or early June 1829 is the most probable time frame (HC 1:40n-42n; Porter, pp. 5-10).

Sometime before June 14, 1829, the Lord instructed Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery concerning their ordination as elders, which is a Melchizedek Priesthood office (HC 1:60-61). Furthermore, when Peter, James, and John appeared to Joseph and Oliver, they ordained them also as apostles (D&C 27:12) and committed to them "the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times" (D&C 128:20; cf. 27:13).

Several records document the occurrence and significance of this visitation. An early confirmation of the receipt of apostolic powers is evidenced in an 1829 revelation recorded in the hand of Oliver Cowdery in which the Lord stated, "I command all men every where to repent & I speak unto you even as unto Paul mine apostle for ye are called even with that same calling with which he was called" (Cowdery, 1829; cf. D&C 18:9). In his 1832 History of the Church the Prophet Joseph Smith declared that he had received "the holy Priesthood by the ministering Angels to administer the letter of the Gospel" and that he had been given "a confirmation and reception of the high Priesthood after the holy order of the son of the living God power and ordinance from on high to preach the Gospel in the administration and demonstration of the spirit the Keys of the Kingdom of God conferred upon him and the continuation of the blessings of God to him" (Jessee, p. 3).

Oliver Cowdery on many occasions bore witness that he "was present with Joseph when an holy angel from God came down from heaven and conferred, or restored, the Aaronic Priesthood and…was also present with Joseph when the Melchizedek Priesthood was conferred on each other, by the will and commandment of God" (Anderson, p. 22).

Joseph Smith said that Peter, James, and John made their visit "in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river" (D&C 128:20).

On April 3, 1836, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery knelt in prayer in the Kirtland Temple and received another profoundly important vision in which certain Melchizedek Priesthood keys were restored. Moses appeared and committed the keys of the gathering of Israel. Elias gave to them keys of the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham. Finally, Elijah stood before them as promised by Malachi and Moroni and bestowed the keys of sealing families together (D&C 110:11-16; 2:1-3).


Anderson, Richard L. "The Second Witness of Priesthood Restoration." IE 71 (Sept. 1968):15-24.

Barney, Ronald O. "Priesthood Restoration Narratives in the Early LDS Church." Planned for BYU Studies 31 (Summer 1991).

Bushman, Richard L. Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism. Urbana, Ill., 1984.

Cowdery, Oliver. "Written in the year of our Lord & Savior 1829—A true copy of the articles of the Church of Christ." Ms. 1829. LDS Church Archives. Ms. in handwriting of Oliver Cowdery.

Hartley, William G. "Upon You My Fellow Servants: Restoration of the Priesthood." In The Prophet Joseph: Essays on the Life and Mission of Joseph Smith, ed. Larry C. Porter and Susan Easton Black, pp. 49-72. Salt Lake City, 1988.

Jessee, Dean C., ed. The Papers of Joseph Smith, Vol. 1. Salt Lake City, 1989.

Porter, Larry C. "Dating the Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood." Ensign 9 (June 1979):5-10.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, Melchizedek Preisthood, Restoraton of

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

All About Mormons