Revelation, not Peter, is the Rock Upon Which the Early Church was Built

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A wonderful talk given by Hyrum W. Smith in 1988 at Rick’s College (now BYU-Idaho), “Why 1820?”

PDF text:

audio on YouTube:

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From 1975 Ensign by Richard Lloyd Anderson:  Simon Peter

A few paragraphs below:

“Was Peter impulsive, pious, or vacillating? Was he the first pope?

These questions reflect distorted opinions of the personality and life of Christ’s chief apostle. The authentic Peter towers in the New Testament, where more information is found on this apostle than any other except Paul.

None of the first disciples is mentioned as frequently in the gospels and the Acts; Peter’s recorded speeches, letters, and deeds exceed what remains from any other original apostle.”

From Elder McConkie in 1981:

Key section of Elder McConkie’s talk:

“Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona,” Jesus says, “for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 16:17.)

Then again Jesus alludes to the difference in paternal ancestry between him and Peter and continues his words of blessing and doctrine by saying: “And upon this rock”—the rock of revelation—“I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18.)

And how could it be otherwise? There is no other foundation upon which the Lord could build his Church and kingdom. The things of God are known only by the power of his Spirit.

God stands revealed or he remains forever unknown. No man can know that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.

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From the LDS Student Manual on Matthew 16-18:

Matthew 16:18. Revelation Is the Rock upon Which the Church Is Built

As the Savior taught Peter about revelation, He used a wordplay on Peter’s name, declaring to Simon, “Thou art Peter [Petros], and upon this rock [petra] I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).

The Greek word petros means an isolated small rock or stone. The Greek word petra can also mean “a stone,” but in addition it can refer to stony soil, bedrock, or a large mass of rock.

From these words we learn that it was not upon Peter as a man that the Church would be built, but upon the bedrock of revelation.

To read about the significance of Peter’s name being changed from Cephas, see the commentary for John 1:42.

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President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95) taught: “‘And upon this rock I will build my church.’ Upon what rock? Peter? Upon a man?

No, not upon a man, upon the rock of revelation, the thing which they were talking about.

He had just said, ‘… flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.’ This revelation that Jesus is the Christ is the foundation upon which he would build his Church” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1965, 112; see also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 195)

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Gates if hell shall not prevail…

This talk discusses what this part of the verse means.  A few paragraphs below:

“The Greek word used to denote church in Matthew 16:18 is ecclesia, which literally means a “calling out” and originally referred to a civil assembly. Thus Jesus’ use of the phrase “my church” referred to an assembly “called” by him.

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In the present dispensation, the Lord used church in this same sense. He revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that “whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. …

“Behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.” (D&C 10:67, 69.)

In these instances the “church” is not so much an institution as it is a group of individuals who repent, come unto Christ through the ordinances of the gospel, and endure in faith to the end. Upon them the adversary has no claim.”

We all must be personally built upon the rock.  Read this 1992 Ensign talk:  Built Upon the Rock.

 

Restoration of the Priesthood: Aaronic and Melchezidek

President Kimball said years ago, pointing to a statue of St. Peter holding keys, “Today, I hold the keys.”

Both priesthoods were restored as Joseph and Oliver translated the Book of Mormon in Harmony, Pennsylvania.  Many details were provided about the Aaronic Priesthood.  Fewer details are known about the Melchizedek.

A summary from LDS.org:  Where was the Priesthood Restored?

A two-minute video about the Priesthood Restoration Site near Harmony (now Oakland), PA.

58-minute video below by Elder Nelson on the Restoration of the Priesthood.

President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated the Priesthood Restoration Site in Oakland Township, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, September 19, 2015.

It was in this area Joseph Smith received the priesthood, translated most of the Book of Mormon and received several additional revelations now canonized as scripture.

Another video, highlighting historical details of Joseph’s activities in and around Harmony, PA from late 1827 till June 1829.

April 15, 1829 John the Baptist restored the Aaronic Priesthood.  We know lots of details of this visitation.

The date and location of the Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood is not known with certainty. Several accounts were given later and scholars have provided general estimates about date and location.

Critics suggest that without a date & exact location the entire story is shown to be an obvious lie.  Does that logically follow?  No. That’s absurd!

Do we know when Jesus commissioned his Apostles?  No.

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Does it matter that we don’t know the specific dates of virtually anything in the Bible?  No.

How would it matter to know the dates?  It wouldn’t.

For many years we didn’t know that Martin Harris received payment for his $3000 loan for the Book of Mormon publication. Decades later, Church historians found a record, indicating Martin got 60 acres in exchange for this $3000 loan.

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Some things turn up in Church history. Some don’t.

Read this to get more background:  Dating the Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood

From this article, “The Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods” we get this range of dates:

“Historical records and the testimony of Joseph Smith’s associates tell the manner, order, and pattern of priesthood restoration and indicate that the time of the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood was probably within the 13-day period of 16 to 28 May 1829.”

Read descriptions of South Bainbridge, Colesville, and other locations pertinent to the Restoration of the Priesthood.

 

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After visiting friends in Colesville Township, NY near the end of May, 1829 mobs forced Oliver and Joseph to flee.  They traveled all night to return to Harmony, PA where they were actively translating the record into the Book of Mormon.

Oliver, much weaker physically than Joseph, collapsed during the night. Joseph carried the small Oliver for a time, but became exhausted himself.  Sometime in the morning Peter, James, and John appeared.

This video’s map is helpful, as are the scholars who fill in details:

Joseph and Oliver left that region (Harmony, PA) shortly after receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood, and moved to join with the Whitmers.  They arrived at the Whitmers’ home before the end of May 1829.

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Joseph and Oliver (and possibly a few other scribes) completed the translation in Fayette, NY.    The Golden Plates were shown to the 3 and 8 witnesses in Fayette, near the Whitmer farm.  And later, on 4/6/1830, the Church was organized in the Whitmer log cabin.

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Bushman, in his book “Rough Stone Rolling”, says that the Melchizedek Priesthood may have been restored in 1830.  Not 1829.  Start around the 15:00 mark:

A. William Lund, former Assistant Historian of the Church, gave this speech on the Melchizedek Priesthood Restoration in 1951 at BYU.  These aren’t new issues.  And Bro. Lund had a unique position from which to provide insight.

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Brother Lund worked at and was associated with the Church Historians Office from 1908 till his death in 1971.

When Brother Lund came to work at the Historian’s Office there were many veteran members of the Church who personally recalled experiences in Nauvoo and early Utah.

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He enjoyed talking with them, as well as visitors who streamed past his desk for more than the next sixty years.

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Brett McDonald discusses evidence relative to the priesthood restoration, starting around 44:40 in the below video.  The first part of this video focuses on the First Vision.

Oliver and Joseph didn’t regularly and publicly discuss the specifics of the restoration till 1834.  Oliver did refer to his own personal priesthood authority in 1829, however.  See video segment below at 47:05 for discussion of Oliver’s account in 1829.

 

As Brett explains in the video above, Oliver was a consistent and reliable witness throughout his life.  No conspiracy with Joseph — not during translation, restoration of the priesthood, or when he saw the angel and plates with the other witnesses.

It might be a good time to review this below video about Oliver’s role as a witness to the Golden Plates, among other objects and items (Sword of Laban, Liahona, Urim and Thummim, brass plates, etc).

 

Blacks, Race, the Priesthood, and the LDS Church

Starting with the 3 Mormons.  Subscribe to their channel if you haven’t already.

Wonderful podcast with Russell Stevenson:

Episode 83: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism – Russell W. Stevenson

Critics cite examples of racism in LDS Church history. It’s true. One can find them.

And?  Of course, LDS leaders were fallible and made mistakes. And not only on race. Joseph was much clearer (and better) on his practices with blacks than many contemporaries and subsequent LDS leaders.

Indeed, Brigham and other LDS leaders fell into practices we’re not proud of.  Most of their views and efforts were wonderful.  But a few were not.

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But let’s step back a minute.  Why didn’t God tell Moses about the value of all people, regardless of background, sex, ethnicity, race, etc?  Better still, why didn’t God program love for all mankind into Neanderthals?  Into their DNA or by direct visitation and prolonged training?

With such DNA intervention, we could have avoided all these social issues of race, gender, sexual orientation.

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So, the real question is why didn’t we get “poofed” with perfect DNA that allowed for nice, broad-minded, perfect hominids and homo sapiens?  Well, that just isn’t how we evolved.  Humans tend to be selfish, greedy, and mean.  Human nature is what we are to resist.  It’s what we’re working through.

Don’t forget people have been enslaving each other for nearly as long as people have existed.  Black people.  Brown people. White people.  Folks in Africa.  Europe.  Asia.  Australia.  The Americas.  On islands.  Everywhere.

This question of race, indeed, involves the entire plan of salvation — not just the white leaders in the last 2 centuries.

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Blacks were given the opportunity to hold the priesthood in 1978.  Whether we gave it to blacks in 1938 or 2008 — the first, middle, or last among churches to rid their faith of (obvious institutional) racism — the issue still remains: there was a ban.  That was a mistake.

The question is really one of prophet fallibility:  can prophets make mistakes?  Does God allow them to?  It seems like God allows them to.  Mormons believe in agency.

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Another item many members and (most likely) virtually all non-Mormons don’t understand is that the Quorum of the 12 Apostles operates on a principle of unanimity.

That is, without 100% agreement they don’t move forward.  At least 1 apostle took longer than his peers on the topic of priesthood going to those of all races.  If we had to wait for 100% agreement on race from either political party we would have waited much longer for progress on race relations.

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Old Testament prophets were wrong on astronomy and virtually every social issue with respect to today’s values.  Racism, sexism, LGBT issues, as well as answers to gastric reflux issues wouldn’t have gotten amazing answers 4000 years ago, 2000 years ago, and  100 years ago.  Any surprise?  No.

Paul instructed women to not speak in church.  Was that acceptable then?  Seems like it. Acceptable now?  No way!  Was Paul still a prophet?  I believe so.

Were these Bible prophets still inspired and God’s best available instruments?  I believe they were.  

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God uses mortals who are raised in a culture.  So far, no culture has been perfect.  Not even close, in fact.  All children are raised with biases and blind spots in judgment.  LDS prophets are no different.

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Is the restored Gospel still true?  Yes.  Did Joseph see God and Jesus, as well as translate the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God?  Yes.

 

Great video to start with:

 

Bro. Martins was the first black missionary to serve after the revelation in 1978.  Elijah Able, of course, served 3 missions in the early days of the Church after getting the Priesthood from Joseph Smith.

Bro. Martins was also one of the first blacks to become a High Priest.  This occurred in 1981.  Additionally, Bro. Martins was among the first to be a bishop, taking place in 1987.  And finally, he was one of the first blacks to work as a black professor at 3 Church universities.

Please listen to his valuable perspectives on this topic:

Darius Gray joined the LDS faith in the mid 60s.  Gray was a counselor in the presidency of the LDS Church’s Genesis Group  when it was formed in 1971.  He was president of the group from 1997 to 2003.  In 2007, he appeared in the PBS documentary “The Mormons”.  He is also featured in the BYU Television series Questions and Ancestors.

Gray has also served as a developer of the website blacklds.org and on the advisory board of Reach the Children, a humanitarian organization designed to help people in Africa.

Gray was among those involved in Developing the “Race and the Priesthood” essay published on the website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in December 2013. In 2014 Gray was given a special citation by the Mormon History Association for contributions to Mormon history.

Marvin Perkins gave this talk in 2007 in SLC.

Marvin talks about genetics (nobody is actually white or black — only shades of brown), scriptural basis that prophets can err, the Plan of Salvation, what is a curse, idioms in scripture (white is an idiom for purity; black is a Hebrew idiom for gloomy, somber, etc.) that do not mean black and white race.  Idioms are the basis of white and black in all scripture, according to Marvin, in the Bible and Book of Mormon.

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Martin quotes and discusses Job 30:30 & Lamentations 5:10 with idioms referring to blackness.  He engages 2 Nephi 5:21.  One verse with 10 idioms.  Not a literal curse.  An idiom.  And see the footnote to 2 Nephi 30:6, referring to “scales of darkness” to fall from their eyes.  

In Marvin’s view, the Lamanites never had darker skin than the Nephites.  He cites many scriptures that show Nephites and Lamanites were not distinguishable on the basis of skin color.  The colors used — black and white — were idioms for righteousness.  Just as the words were used in the Old Testament.

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In the first 22 years of the restored Gospel everyone got the priesthood.  Joseph was commanded to give the priesthood to all men.This (below video) is the core presentation Marvin gives globally. He continues to add to each presentation as he and the AAOP (African American Outreach Program) team continues to study, pray and receive.

Marvin Perkins’ 2014 Fair Conference talk:  “Blacks in the Scriptures”.    Watching this (maybe 2 or more times) will change how you talk about race to family, friends, LDS folks, and non-LDS folks.

 

Alex Boye’s 2004 FAIR Conference address:  “An International Perspective of a Black Member in a “White” Church”

 

LDS Perspectives Podcasts interview:   Discussing the Priesthood Ban with Members of the Genesis Group.

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“Don Harwell, Eddie Gist, and Wain Meyers make up the current Presidency of the Genesis Group of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Genesis Group was started in 1971 as a dependent branch of the LDS Church with the charge to fellowship and meet the needs of a growing number of African-American members. It was considered “dependent” because members were dependent on other members for the priesthood.

This policy changed in 1978 under Church President Spencer W. Kimball.”

 

Early in Church history, LDS members weren’t considered white enough by outsiders.  Paul Reeve in 2015:

Russell Stevenson discusses the life of the first black priesthood holder in this dispensation, Elijah Ables. We also discuss the Priesthood ban, it’s history and implications, and what it means for one struggling today.

 

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This white guy, John Tvedtnes, is a wonderful scholar and shares valuable insight on this topic.

John Tvedtnes also defends the Book of Mormon from racism.  However, Tvedtnes distinguishes between the curse (iniquity) and the mark of the curse (change in skin color).  Tvedtnes allows for a literal skin color change.  Marvin Perkins sees all references to white and black as idioms.    

I appreciate this video, as well as Perkins’.  Each has an interpretation.   No racism in the earliest days of the restored Gospel.

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Alma 3:14 (Mormon references Nephi and the Small Plates):

Thus the word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words which he said to Nephi: Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed, from this time henceforth and forever, except they repent of their wickedness and turn to me that I may have mercy upon them.

Curse:  not the skin color itself; instead, consistent rebellion against God; separated from God’s people; God’s prophet (Nephi) was taken from their midst

Mark of the curse: change in skin color; distinguished Lamanites from Nephites after Nephi and his people left; Tvedtnes posits intermarriage, followed by kids with different skin color; not immediate “poof” from white to black

The Book of Mormon text never says Laman and Lemuel had black skin or were “zapped.”  Instead, only their descendants were described with “skins of darkness.”

John wrote this paper for FARMS in 2003:  The Charge of “Racism” in the Book of Mormon

 

The 3 Mormons discuss the Book of Mormon and charges of racism:

 

This book isn’t hot off the presses, but I’ve always been proud of my uncle.  My mom’s brother was the mission president in South Africa in 1978 when the priesthood ban ended.  Uncle Dale has many marvelous stories to tell.

 

Do Latter-day Saints believe in perfect prophets?  Nope.

Popes are infallible.  LDS leaders are not.  They have and will continue to make mistakes, though they are humble, talented, kind, and loving leaders doing their best.

The Restoration of the (Melchizedek) Priesthood

Another great BYU speech.

A. William Lund, former Assistant Historian of the Church, gave this speech in 1951 at BYU. Brother Lund worked at and was associated with the Church Historians Office from 1908 till his death in 1971.

When Brother Lund came to work at the Historian’s Office there were many veteran members of the Church who personally recalled experiences in Nauvoo and early Utah. He enjoyed talking with them, as well as visitors who streamed past his desk for more than the next sixty years.

This link shares more about the extraordinary life of A. William Lund: https://www.lds.org/ensign/1971/03/in-memoriam-a-william-lund-18861971?lang=eng

The Restoration of the Priesthood

Dallin H. Oaks: The Only True and Living Church

Why do we claim to belong to the true church?

Elder Oaks shares 3 reasons:

  •  The fulness of the Gospel was restored.
  •  The power of the Priesthood was restored.
  •  We have a restored testimony of Jesus Christ, his true nature, and purposes.

Let us share this message with great humility.  As Elder Oaks says,

“Sometimes we do this in a way that gives great offense to people who belong to other churches or who subscribe to other philosophies. But God has not taught us anything that should cause us to feel superior to other people.

Certainly all churches and philosophies have elements of truth in them, some more than others. Certainly God loves all of His children. And certainly His gospel plan is for all of His children, all according to His own timetable.”

Click here to read complete talk.

 

We believe the priesthood and associated keys were restored to Joseph Smith.  However, unique truths and perspectives are found in every faith and people on earth.  No one organization has a monopoly on goodness or truth.